Several traditional sayings relate to present gardening activities. ‘Don’t walk on wet soil’, ‘never move a paeony’, ‘clematis need a hot head and cold feet’.
Air spaces are important in soils. They encourage root development. But when it is compacted by your whole body weight concentrated on the surface area of footwear, the structure collapses.
Either stay off the land until it dries out or use a plank or broad board that will distribute bodyweight more evenly.
Paeonies need a humus-rich soil and sunny position. When they are in the right position and blooming annually, they will almost thrive on neglect, save for the generous autumn mulch. When their tubers are disturbed, say by digging up and dividing or moved to another spot, they can sulk for ages. If you are about to plant a clematis remember that the choice of site is important. The majority demand warmth and light on their top growth to ripen wood and encourage flowering, whilst maintaining a cool, moist root system.
This is why a flagstone or roofing tiles are often seen at the base of plants. To encourage basal shoot development and guard against clematis wilt, plant 10 to 15 cms deeper than the original soil mark from the container it came in.
Similar advice applies to roses. Plant them 5 to 10 cms deeper to encourage new stems from just below soil level.
‘Never keep flowers and fruit in the same room’ is sound advice because the chemical agent ethylene that speeds up maturity then senescence in both, is produced in abundance by a bowl of fruit. That’s why a vase of flowers in your kitchen doesn’t seem to last as long as it should. Even though it appears odd advice, it is true that ‘a handful of lime will keep hydrangea flowers pink.’ When you are testing the soil pH with litmus paper, pink indicates acid conditions, blue represents alkaline, but hydrangeas are just the opposite. Offer them an alkaline substance (lime) and the flowers record acid (pink). To gain blue flowers you add the acid aluminium sulphate.
Now you understand the old saying ‘rusty nails or copper wire at the roots for blooms the colour of a summer sky!’