Posts made in November, 2015

How To Grow Ornamental Japanese Maples In Containers

The Japanese maple (or Acer) is a popular ornamental tree grown for its pretty spring flowers, glorious autumn foliage and graceful lines.  Japanese maples are perfect for small gardens, and many of the varieties available at your local wholesale nursery can be grown in containers and thrive in sheltered sites like patios. 

Here’s how to grow and care for an ornamental Japanese maple in a container.

How to plant your Japanese maple

What you’ll need

  • Japanese maple sapling
  • large clay plant pot or urn and clay ‘feet’
  • loam-based compost (available from the nursery)
  • decorative mulch
  • broken crocks (old clay plant pots are fine for this)

How to do it

  1. Start by placing a layer of crocks in the bottom of the pot.  The crocks help the compost to drain so that it doesn’t become waterlogged around the tree’s roots.  
  2. Stand the container on clay ‘feet’ to help with drainage.  
  3. Fill the pot to half-way with compost.  Remove the maple from its container and place it in the centre of the pot.  
  4. Keeping the tree upright, infill around it with compost, firming down gently until the tree is stable.  
  5. Top-off the compost with a layer of mulch.  
  6. Water the maple thoroughly.

Care of your Japanese maple

Site your maple in a sheltered, semi-shaded spot.  Direct sunlight can be rather harsh and will cause leaf scorch, as can dry winds.  It’s important to keep your maple well-watered but not absolutely soaked.  The tree’s roots are vulnerable to frost damage, so wrap the container in bubble-wrap during the winter months.

Over time, compost loses its nutrients and you’ll need to bolster what it offers by feeding your tree.  Give the tree a feed with a slow-release fertiliser in the spring or early summer as the growing season begins. 

Maples are slow-growing, but you will need to re-pot your tree into a larger container every couple of years to keep it healthy.  Choose either the autumn or very early spring for this job, when the plant is ‘resting’.  Disturbance during the growing season can harm the plant.

You’ll need to prune your Japanese maple annually to keep it healthy and to encourage it to grow into a nice shape.  The best time of year for this job is during the winter months when the plant is dormant.  If you prune the tree during the growing season, it will ‘bleed’ sap, and this can damage it or allow disease to enter.

Maples naturally grow into a graceful, attractive shape, so keep pruning to a minimum.  All you really need to do is remove any crossing shoots or dead branches at the base where they join the trunk.

In conclusion

Japanese maples make lovely ornamental trees to grow in containers.  Follow the guidelines above to care for your tree, and contact your local wholesale nursery if you need any further advice.

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How to Give an Old Timber Floor a New Lease of Life

You may have bought an old home and you may be wondering what you can do to make its neglected floor attractive once again. This article discusses some measures that you can use to restore the attractive appearance of that wooden floor.  

Grime and Polish

Over time, wooden floors can accumulate layers of grime if the homeowner is not very particular about maintaining that floor. You may also wish to change the type of polish used on the wooden floor. Avoid sanding the timber floorboards, because the sanding machine will destroy the grain structure that the wood takes on as it ages. Instead, use turpentine, a cabinet scraper and wire wool to remove the layers of varnish, grime or polish. Use natural wax to enhance the beauty of that floor after you have cleaned it. For instance, you can use beeswax to polish it.  

Gaps in the Boards

Changes in humidity may have caused the floorboards to shrink, leaving gaps between the planks. Do not buy pieces of timber from a timber store and fill the different gaps in the floor. This will disrupt the uniformity of the planks, since the newly installed ones may not look identical to the original floor planks. Instead, remove all the floor panels and re-lay them so that they are close to each other. You can then use the purchased plank to fill the gap left at the end of the floor.

Cupping

Wooden floorboards can also curve upwards if their two sides (the lower side and the upper side) are exposed to varying levels of humidity. The best way to deal with this problem is to identify the source of the moisture (such as a leaking water pipe), and then fix it so that no extra moisture or humidity gets to the floorboards. Then, dry the wet side so that it contracts to the same extent as the dry side. For example, if the panel has the shape of an archery bow, the inner side of the bow “legs” is the dry side that contracted while the outside curve represents the wet side that absorbed moisture and expanded. Put the board outside so that the wet side is exposed to the sun. Keep observing the change in the cupping until the board regains a uniform level of straightness. You can use a carpentry plane to remove the last signs of cupping.

It may be advisable for you to contact a timber floor expert at the timber store near you for advice on the different restoration steps discussed above. He or she will be in the best position to give you suggestions on the best way to restore that wooden floor. For instance, he or she can tell you the best locally applicable way to restore cupped floorboards to their straight shape without causing any discoloration of your delicate timber.

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November 2015
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