June blesses us with the truly wonderful convenience of being able to sow seeds outside without any risk of frost culling seedlings or dashing our hopes.  Make the most of this wonderful moment: summer can feel endless, but speed is of the essence if you are to provide your courgettes, pumpkins, French beans, and runner bean plants with sufficient time to grow, mature, and produce a decent harvest.

Runner beans are miraculous vegetables that will comfortably fulfil any gardener’s lofty ambitions to grow stunning plants that look attractive, flower freely, and produce an abundant harvest of delicious beans within a small space!

I am a self-confessed runner bean fan.  For years, I’ve been running Runner Bean Trials searching for the best tasting and most productive runner bean varieties and the optimum growing methods to cultivate these vegetables. 

An Update from my Wildlife Pond in Late Summer

Hello, and welcome to my wildlife pond at the end of August.  I find peace and solace in nature and I love spending time by our wildlife pond.  Usually my visits are fleeting, lasting just a few minutes, but these short burst of connection with plants and wildlife revitalise and recharge me, instantly eliminating all the stresses of life. 

An Update from my Wildlife Pond in Midsummer

Hello, and welcome to my wildlife pond in midsummer.  I’ve got so much to show you, as this area of my garden is currently full of plants at all stages of growth.  I can’t wait for you to see the flowers, but what you can’t see is the scent.  I’ve only grown a few plants with perfumed flowers in this area, but they produce strongly scented flowers that fill this part of my garden with fragrance. 

At this time of year, foxglove flowers pulsate with the relaxing, soothing sound of summer, as bees hum happily whilst they disappear in and out of the tubular flowers.

Foxgloves are superb plants for bees; they’re fantastic plants for gardeners, too!  These obliging plants are self-supporting and rarely need any assistance.  Water your seedlings in dry weather until they’ve settled in; once they’re established, foxgloves are fairly drought tolerant and slug resistant.

An Update from my Wildlife Pond in Early Summer

Summer has finally arrived!  Hello and welcome to my wildlife pond in summertime.  It’s so lovely to be able to share my wildlife pond with you through these updates; I am looking forward to taking you on a tour of the aquatic and herbaceous plants growing in this area of my garden. 

Grow Phalaenopsis hybrids & enjoy an easier life, surrounded by flowers!

I hold two National Collections of orchids – a National Collection of Miniature Aerangis and Angraecum Species and a National Collection of Miniature Phalaenopsis Species.  I set up these collections to raise awareness of the dangers that these miniature orchid species (and other plants) are facing in the wild and to help conserve these fascinating plants.

I first grew Chinese Kale ‘Kailaan’ (also known as Gai lan or ‘Kai laan’) 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.   

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; I feel like algae is threatening to suffocate my pond at any moment.   The other ponds I’ve created in the past have never really suffered with algae to the same extent that my current pond has. 

In times of stress, our gardens and allotments become our refuge and remind us of the true value of plants and outside spaces.  For me, time in my garden is priceless; it lifts my spirits, leaving me feeling revitalised.  One of my favourite things to do is to grow my own food.

You don’t need a large garden to grow your own vegetables. 

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.

Creating a Wildlife Pond

I’ve always had a great interest in ponds, to me, the underwater world is fascinating.  I’ve been interested in aquatic plants since I was a young child.  I can still remember the feeling, as my heart leapt and did a little somersault when I discovered a clump of Marsh Marigolds (Caltha palustris) for the very first time, whilst I was out for a walk with my Grandparents; I was utterly captivated by the beauty of this large clump of Caltha palustris

Sweetly scented summer flowering shrubs

I relish plants that produce fragrant flowers.  Philadelphus aren’t the most memorable group of plants for ten or eleven months of the year, but while they’re in flower, these shrubs perfume the garden with their intoxicating and deliciously sweet scent.

Philadelphus

Philadelphus aren’t fussy plants, they’re fully hardy and flower reliably every year.  Plant in full sun or partial shade, in any well drained soil. 

Fabulous Florence Fennel

What a joyful month June is!  June’s warm sunshine seems to infuse every fibre of our beings, imbuing our souls with a feeling of uplifting bliss that can only be found outdoors.  June also brings us the gift of sweet summer rain to refresh our plants, and the excitement of a great many wonderful growing opportunities in the garden; it’s hard to beat this time of year!

Containers filled with your favourite coloured flowering plants can bring so much joy to you, and to the bees and butterflies in your garden.

Beautifully scented plants are always top of my list.   The dwarf, compact, lavender cultivars, known as Lavandula angustifolia, are such lovely options for containers in a sunny spot, where their calming, soothing fragrance can be welcomed and enjoyed by all.  

Protecting your plants from Slugs and Snails

For many gardeners, the slug and snail population seemed to explode last year, with many fraught and distressed gardeners asking for my advice on the best way to protect their plants from slugs and snails.  I am strongly opposed to slug pellets.  I wouldn’t wish to kill any of the slugs or snails in my garden, as I believe a healthy eco system is important.

I love hedgehogs!  Hedgehogs are so endearing and entertaining.  Every time I have encountered a hedgehog has been such a special and uplifting moment; each hedgehog I have seen shuffling along or snuffling about has touched my heart, lifted my spirits and brightened my day.

Sadly, nowadays there are many threats to hedgehogs – hedgehogs are in danger as they try to cross our busy roads, but even away from the roads, hedgehogs face many dangers in our own gardens, because of these dangers, hedgehogs are becoming more scarce. 

The garden is fascinating at this time of year.  I love the wonderful sound of the birds singing, and I just relish the scents of honeysuckle, roses, and other flowers; even the scent of the grass is so relaxing.

If you get time to put your feet up it’s the ideal time to pre-order bulbs, corms, and tubers from specialist nurseries to plant this autumn.  

I just love this time of year when everywhere is developing a beautiful shade of green!  Every year it’s like a revelation, as hedgerows, trees, lawns, everywhere, turn the most beautiful shade of fresh, new, positive, wonderful, green!  There are many jobs you can do now to keep your garden or allotment looking beautiful; here are some ideas to get you started…

The Chelsea chop, so called as it’s carried out around the time of the Chelsea Flower Show, is simply a term to describe cutting back herbaceous, perennial plants, reducing the plants’ height by to up to a half, before flowering.