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 don’t manage to spend as much time here as I would like and I’m not the fastest mover, so I’ve only managed to capture a fraction of the wildlife that has visited 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; 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. 

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.

Grow your own figs and grapes

Holidaymakers buying plants or collecting plant material as holiday souvenirs often bring home more than they bargained for and unwittingly transport pests, diseases, or invasive species into the UK; causing lasting, and sometimes irreversible, problems for themselves and UK horticulture as a whole.

Instead, make your holiday excitement last all summer, every year, with UK grown plants that will flourish inside your conservatory or glasshouse, at your garden or allotment. 

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.

NB. I wrote this article about space2grow in Farnham, before the COVID-19 crisis started and quarantine measures were put in place.  Naturally, all of space2grow’s clubs and activities are closed at the moment, but this fantastic initiative will reopen when it is safe to do so.

Space2grow: community gardening in Farnham, Surrey

For every problem we experience in life, nature provides us with the ingredients we need to heal ourselves. 

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.

Making Meadows

Meadows present a natural, seemingly effortless beauty, with an undeniable allure.  For the most part, meadow guardians save much of the energy that gardeners spend repeatedly mowing and maintaining traditional lawns.  Nevertheless, meadows are not an easy option; creating a meadow requires endeavour, careful planning, and time, to ensure success.

Perennial meadow plants

Our native British, perennial meadow plants flourish in poor soils, where they grow contentedly alongside sedately-growing, fine-leaved grasses. 

Daffodil Shows and Competitions 2020

There are so many lovely daffodil shows and competition held by horticultural societies, plant societies, and gardening clubs in springtime.  I want to help you to find your local show, so I’ve compiled this calendar of daffodil shows and competitions.

NB. To quickly find all of the events held during a particular month: click on the monthly headings in red text, at the very top of the page.  

Acrobat ant update

Last year, I discovered Crematogaster scutellaris ants on the cork I purchased for my new Tall OrchidariumCrematogaster scutellaris ants are known as acrobat ants, but these ants are found in many different countries, so they’re bound to have many other common names, too.  With their distinctive amber coloured heads and pointed abdomens, these ants are easy to identify. 

This year, Mothering Sunday, also known as Mother’s Day, will be held on Sunday 22nd March 2020, in the UK.  If you’re looking for a special family day out, the following gardens and attractions are all offering special offers to celebrate Mother’s Day 2020.  The offers differ, so I’ve listed the details of each event for Mother’s Day 2020 offer separately for every venue. 

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.

Peatlands and peat bogs: precious environments that urgently need our protection

Peatlands are extraordinary environments, which now cover just 2-3% of our planet’s surface.  Home to a fascinating range of native plants and wildlife, peatlands form unique ecosystems that support incredible flora and fauna.  Many of the plants, insects, birds, and wildlife that have evolved in these boggy, acidic areas can’t survive anywhere else.