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Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count 2020

I adore spending time immersed in nature, studying plants and butterflies.  Today I wanted to tell you about the Big Butterfly Counts I’ve taken at Bookham Common, in Surrey.

Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count runs from Friday the 17th July 2020 until Sunday 9th August 2020 – so you still have plenty of time to join in and enjoy taking your own Butterfly Count! 

Butterfly Conservation Big Butterfly Count 2020

Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count runs from Friday the 17th July 2020 until Sunday 9th August 2020.  A butterfly Count lasts for 15 minutes, it’s a fun, relaxing and easy thing to do.  You don’t need to know anything about butterflies to take part.

Why count butterflies?

The information gathered from all the Butterfly Counts across the nation, will help Butterfly Conservation identify the species of butterflies and day flying moths that are becoming more scarce. 

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2020 Compost Trial: Growing Broad Beans

I’m a peat-free gardener; I am a passionate advocate for peat-free composts.  I know from my own experience, that it’s not always easy to find a good quality peat-free compost.  I understand that gardeners who have used peat-based composts all their lives might be hesitant to switch to a peat-free compost and the gardeners who have purchased a poor performing peat-free compost would be reluctant to try peat-free compost again. 

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New Plants for Free

Would you like some free plants?  If you’ve got a gloriously healthy evergreen shrub or a magnificent tree growing in your garden, then why not take semi-ripe cuttings to increase your stock and share the joy of these beautiful plants with your neighbours, friends, and family?

Ivy (also known by its botanical name of Hedera)

Many plants can be propagated using semi-ripe cuttings, including ivy (Hedera). 

I first grew Chinese Kale ‘Kai lan’ (also known as Gai lan or ‘Kailaan’) in about 2006; I was really impressed by this vegetable’s speedy growth and the bounteous harvest my plants produced.  ‘Kai lan’ leaves, flower buds, and stems are all edible, but it’s the stems that provide the main harvest.  Try it raw, stir-fried, steamed, or boiled; ‘Kai lan’ is a little like broccoli.   

New English Roses from David Austin Roses for 2020

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a much anticipated event in the horticultural calendar.  It’s a week long celebration of plants that provides an opportunity to see plants face-to-face and discover nurseries’ new plant ranges.

I adore fragrant roses!  Each year, I relish meeting the new rose introductions from David Austin Roses, at the Chelsea Flower Show. 

Wildlife in my Wildlife Pond

The reason we created our wildlife pond was to support and encourage wildlife.  I’d love to be able to tell you about every creature that has ever visited my pond, but I am not able to visit my pond every day and I’m not the fastest mover, so I’ve only managed to capture a fraction of the wildlife I’ve seen in this area of my garden.

My Wildlife Pond in Springtime & Early Summer

I thought I’d share with you some photographs I’ve taken of my wildlife pond this spring and early summertime.  I’m not sure if you’ve seen my pond before; this pond was created last year (here’s the first article I wrote about this pond).  To guide you through the season, I’ve added my photographs to this article in date order. 

Trying to control blanket weed and algae in my pond

Over the past year, I’ve watched in despair as algae has wrapped its ever extending arms around my pond; it feels like algae is threatening to suffocate my pond.   The other ponds I’ve created have never really suffered with algae to the same extent that my current pond has.  The smaller pond that we built in our garden some years ago (this pond was installed in exact the same spot where my current pond stands – it was my current pond’s predecessor) experienced an algae bloom in late spring, each year, but it was far less noticeable than the algae is in my pond, now.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Decade

Today the Royal Horticultural Society launched a competition inviting the public to vote to decide the winner of the prestigious accolade of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Decade.  The nominated plants are all winners of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year Competition.  Here are the nominees……

Anemone ‘Wild Swan’

Back in 2010, Anemone ‘Wild Swan’ ‘Macane001’ was the winner of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year Competition. 

Growing tomatoes is so much fun!  Tomato plants will grow happily in a sunny border or in large containers of peat-free compost.

There are two types of tomatoes – cordon and bush tomatoes.  Cordon (also known as indeterminate) tomatoes can form tall plants, reaching 2m or more!  Don’t worry – you can ‘stop’ your plants from growing any taller by simply pinching out the tip of your plant’s stem, when your plants have reached your desired height.

Growing Aerangis citrata

This is Aerangis citrata, a miniature orchid species, that’s endemic to Madagascar.

Aerangis citrata naming

The genus ‘Aerangis’ gets its name from the Greek words aer (air) and angos (vessel or container), as plants grow in the air (epiphytically) using aerial roots, and the flowers each feature a nectar filled spur.  The second part of the name, (the specific epithet) ‘citrata’, refers to this orchid’s flowers, which are sometimes pale lemon in colour, when they first open. 

I feel a strong and passionate desire to protect our planet’s peat bogs.  This is an urgent matter, it’s not something we can keep putting off to consider again in the future, at a more convenient time – for the peat that is being extracted now can’t be saved and so if we continue as we have done in the past, the opportunities we have in our hands, right in front of us now, will be lost forever.

Brilliant plants for bees and butterflies!

The furry bees, colourful butterflies, mysterious moths, darting hoverflies, and other pollinating insects that visit my garden are just as fascinating as the plants I grow.  The sound of bees buzzing and the sight of butterflies fluttering relaxes and inspires me.  I want to help you find the best pollen and nectar-rich plants to attract insects and bring your garden to life!

What am I growing inside my Vegepod?

Since I first told you about my Vegepod much has changed.  Back in 2018, my Vegepod was set up in an area of my garden that enjoyed partial shade, but after trialling the Vegepod in this fairly beneficial position (vegetables thrive when they’re grown in sunny and partially shaded sites), I decided to move my Vegepod to a more shaded area of my garden, to see what I could grow successfully inside my Vegepod with more challenging growing conditions.

Peat free Compost Trial: Growing Broad Beans

Dalefoot Composts have produced the top performing peat free composts in all of the Compost Trials that I’ve run over the past seven years.  Rather than just continually highlighting every year that Dalefoot Composts are the best peat free composts to use, I designed this Compost Trial to demonstrate methods you could use to get the best results from one of their products, namely Dalefoot Double Strength Wool Compost.

Protecting peat bogs

Peatlands are extraordinary environments, which now cover just 2-3% of our planet’s surface.  These scarce ecosystems are very fragile; they depend on sufficient moisture being available, together with a slightly cooler temperature range, to enable sphagnum moss (which slowly forms peat) to grow, flourish, and reproduce.  If optimum conditions occur, a new layer of peat, (measuring up to one millimetre thick) can be created over the course of a year; consequently, this is not a resource that can be replaced in a hurry. 

Every year I run Compost Trials to discover the best quality peat-free composts on the market.  Dalefoot Composts have produced the top performing composts in all of my Trials over the past seven years.

One of my favourite products is Dalefoot’s Double Strength Wool Compost, a nutrient rich, organic compost, comprised of natural materials, including bracken and Herdwick sheep’s wool. 

2020 Calendar of Specialist Plant Fairs, Festivals, Sales, and Swaps

Happy new year!  Happy new plants!  Here are the dates and details of plant sales, plant festivals, plant swaps, seed swaps, and other super opportunities to buy wonderful, locally grown plants at fantastic prices; as well as details of events where you can swap plants or seeds for free!  Great quality, rare, hard to find, special, and unusual plants can be found at the specialist plant fairs and other events that I have listed for you below, in this, my 2020 Calendar of UK Specialist Plant Fairs, Festivals, Sales, and Swaps!

Things to look our for when you’re setting up a new Terrarium

I’m currently in the process of setting up a new terrarium, which is very exciting!  Don’t worry, I’ll take you on a tour of my new Tall Orchidarium in due course.  However, today I wanted to tell you about something unexpected that happened to me, while I was gathering together the materials for this new enclosure.