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Sow seeds of something different this spring!

April is the month for seed sowing.  We can sow hardy annuals and half-hardy annuals now, as well as the seeds of fruit and vegetables, but perhaps you’d like to grow something different?  Mistletoe berries are ripe now, so it’s the perfect time to gather berries and raise your own mistletoe plants!

Mistletoe (Viscum album)

Mistletoe doesn’t grow in the soil; it grows up in the branches of trees. 

The simple act of adding one or two houseplants to a room can revitalise the space making it feel more inviting, inspiring, and relaxing.  To succeed with houseplants, choose plants that are suited to the light levels and temperatures you can offer, and adapt your watering to suit each plant.

Tradescantias are houseplant superheroes that will grow in almost any light level. 

I’ve got a wonderful weekend of outdoor gardening lined up, as our lovely friends Ian and Martin are coming over to help us in the garden.  I am so grateful for their help and I can’t wait to see my friends and spend time together outside.  I am hoping we hear lots of birdsong.  I’ll be doing my best to remember to turn the Merlin Bird ID app on. 

Sow pea seeds now to enjoy decorative flowers and the sweet taste of delicious peas, pods, leaves and tendrils in late spring and summertime!

Homegrown peas are a taste sensation!  Peas are decorative plants that produce handsome flowers and tasty edible leaves, tendrils, pods, and peas.  You’ll need a bright and sunny area to grow these delicious vegetables (peas won’t grow in the shade). 

Aerangis hyaloides: an exquisite miniature orchid species

I’ve been caring for these miniature orchids for quite a few years now, so the chances are you’ll have seen both of these Aerangis hyaloides plants before, as they’re plants from the National Collection of Miniature Aerangis and Angraecum Species.  My plants are blooming now, so in this update I hope you’ll enjoy seeing these miniature orchids in flower.

I feel great affection for all the orchid species and indoor plants I grow, but I have a few individual plants in my collection that hold a very special place in my heart.  This is one of my favourite orchids, it’s an Angraecum equitans plant that I bought back in August 2015.  The photograph above shows my Angraecum equitans plant this week; let me show you what my plant looked like when it had been in my care for just a few weeks – here’s a picture below….

In my last pond update, I showed you the shape of our wildlife pond after it was dug out and explained my thinking behind the design for the contours of my new wildlife pond.  With the pond now all ready to set up, the next phase of our wildlife pond project is to prepare and install the equipment needed to make it all work!

Designing our new wildlife pond

Back in June I shared the first stage of my project to build a wildlife pond in our new garden.  We hoped to have our pond up and running this summer, but due to the cost of buying the liner, plants, and other equipment, plus the sheer monumental task of shifting so much concrete and the need to repeatedly dig up reappearing bamboo suckers, it has taken us longer to get everything in place. 

Trialling the new BiOrb AIR 30

I was very excited when BiOrb contacted me to see if I was interested in trialling their new BiOrb AIR 30.  This is a smaller sized terrarium than the BiOrb AIRs you’ve seen in my earlier BiOrb AIR Trials (see my Miniature Orchid BiOrb AIR Trial, my White Orchid BiOrb AIR Trial, my Madagascar BiOrb AIR Trial, and my Long-term BiOrb AIR Trial). 

Bring positivity to a dreary autumn day by forgetting the outside world and focussing on creating your own miniature plant world!  My step-by-step terrarium planting guide will help you plant your own long-lasting indoor centrepiece to enhance your home this autumn and winter.  Get ready to make the most of the longer evenings getting busy designing your own plant paradise!

Terrarium plants

A terrarium creates a perfect environment for small plants that thrive in low light levels and high humidity. 

I was both excited and incredibly relieved when I heard that the National Trust had purchased Munstead Wood, the Surrey home and eleven-acre garden of the legendary horticulturist, designer, writer, artist, photographer, and craftswoman, Gertrude Jekyll.

Gertrude lived at Munstead Wood in Busbridge, Godalming, from the 1890s until her death in 1932.  Having met the renowned architect Edwin Lutyens early in his career, long before he achieved fame and was knighted, Gertrude invited Edwin to design her an Arts and Crafts house to complement the garden. 

Butterfly Conservation report that in the UK, long-term trends show that 80% of our butterfly species have decreased in abundance or distribution – or both – since the 1970s.  Do you see many butterflies and moths in your garden?  I hope to inspire everyone to help butterflies and moths.  Please don’t allow any pesticides, insecticides, or herbicides to be used on your garden, allotment, or indeed on any area in your locality, as these products obliterate our bees, butterflies, and moths.

The Rose of the Year 2023 is Rosa ‘Peach Melba®’ (KORmelpea)

Every year I wait in anticipation to discover the newest winner of The Rose of the Year Competition.  I adore growing roses and I particularly enjoy trialling plants and finding new, naturally healthy roses I can recommend.  In February 2023, Roses UK sent me a new bare root rose to trial – the winner of the Rose of the Year 2023 Competition – Rosa ‘Peach Melba®’ (KORmelpea)

Since we moved house we’ve been so busy with life, work, and fixing things.  Our heating broke the day after we moved in and temperatures inside our home plummeted for a week during a particularly cold snap this winter; this wiped out a lot of my orchids and houseplants.  Since then I’ve been busy trying to revive and propagate the plants that survived.

June bestows blessings upon us – a final opportunity to grow incredibly productive and delicious vegetables this summer!  Savvy gardeners who sow cucumber and courgette seeds directly in the soil now avoid the hassle of washing up pots, the time needed to pot up seedlings, and the expense of buying compost.

All risk of frost has passed so you don’t need a greenhouse. 

I enjoy running horticultural trials; I spend much of my time searching for the most gorgeous plants that will produce a profusion of flowers and attract bees and pollinating insects.  I love to share the most successful plants from my trials with you to help you find top quality plants to enhance your garden.  The plants I recommend in this column need to be grown in a bright and sunny location, in well-drained soil or containers filled with peat-free compost.

I never purchase supermarket watermelons; I dislike their lack of flavour and irritating hard seeds.  However, after years of growing melons for Melon Trials, I hope I always spend spring and summertime growing watermelons!  The best watermelon I’ve grown so far is ‘Little Darling’.  I adore this watermelon’s sensationally sweet flavour and refreshingly crisp texture.  ‘Little Darling’ produces hardly any seeds, the few seeds that do materialise are soft and not noticeable. 

Vegepod Gardening in the Shade

Whether you garden in sunshine or shade, there are plants that will be perfectly suited to growing in your garden – it’s just a case of finding them!  In 2019, my Vegepod was moved from a sunny spot, to a new enclosed, deeply shaded area of my garden.  I am not exaggerating when I say that in its new position my Vegepod truly was shaded – my Vegepod was sandwiched in a tight space, wedged between a tall conifer hedge, a two storey high wall, a tall fence, and an 8ft tall pergola that was smothered with climbing plants – the plants growing in my Vegepod did not receive any direct sunshine whatsoever.

Many ornamental grasses hold onto their foliage overwinter; this provides a delightful structural softness, texture, and delicacy for our winter gardens.  Grasses will be producing new growth soon; therefore, this is the ideal moment to pop on some gardening gloves and use your fingers to comb through deciduous grasses, removing all the old stems ready for the arrival of fresh new growth.

Over the past ten years, we’ve experienced an increasing number of droughts in spring and summertime.  Applying a mulch now, while the ground is still moist from the autumn and winter rains will protect and enhance your soil, adding nutrients that will support soil microorganisims and feed your plants.  Mulching will suppress weeds, and help the soil retain moisture.  Early spring is the perfect time to apply an organic mulch of homemade garden compost, Strulch®, woodchip, well-rotted manure, or peat-free compost