Over 430,000 acres of the UK is segregated into gardens; precious sanctuaries where we indulge our horticultural desires and celebrate nature.  We are our gardens’ curators, creating personal oases, but have we included the essential habitats that wildlife need to survive?

After the punishing drought and intense temperatures this summer, many trees are dropping their leaves early.  Standard gardening advice recommends removing aquatic plants’ foliage in autumn, to prevent decaying leaves enriching the water. 

This month I am celebrating some of our succulent, soft fruit superstars: plums, damsons, and greengages!  This closely related group of fruits require less pruning than apples and pears and offer a contrasting range of flavours: from deliciously sharp and tart damsons, sweet-tasting plums, and syrupy, honey-flavoured gages.  Greengages, damsons, and plums all have different flavours, but tastes also vary from one named variety to another. 

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. 

Sunflowers bring such positive energy and welcome cheer to our gardens!  If you want to brighten up your garden with pollinator-friendly flowers in summertime, April is the ideal time to sow sunflower seeds.  There’s no need for any special equipment; sunflowers are hardy annuals that can be sown outdoors now.  Seeds can be started off in containers of peat-free compost and planted out after they have developed their first true leaves. 

Happy new year!  I want to help you create a positive and uplifting garden where you can relax, grow your favourite plants, and make real connections with nature.

Do you have a compost heap in your garden?  How about in your college or office garden?  Composting is such a wonderful thing to do; it’s great for the environment, good for wildlife, produces amazing compost, and saves money! 

Winter provides us with a wonderful opportunity to plant trees.  What could be a better Christmas gift than planting a tree with your family?  I’m a particular fan of planting bare-root trees: trees that are grown in the ground (not containers) and then lifted, dispatched, and planted while they’re dormant.  Bare-root trees are grown in the soil, they’re naturally peat-free, require less watering at the nursery, and can be grown plastic-free – as there’s no need for containers. 

Garden Designer Jackie Currie and Plant Heritage won a Gold Medal for their ‘National Plant Collections Everywhere!’ exhibit at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021!  This stunning exhibit showcased plants from National Plant Collections grown inside living rooms, glasshouses, gardens, and allotments, across the UK.

One of the stars of the exhibit was the Salvia caymanensis, grown by John and Linsey Pink who hold a National Collection of Salvias. 

Planting bulbs is rather like giving yourself a wonderful promise of future flowers and happiness.  What could be lovelier?  If you want to enjoy spring flowers, such as daffodils and crocus, and early summer-flowering bulbs, like alliums, then it’s time to start planting bulbs!

When purchasing bulbs, wherever possible choose top-sized bulbs, as larger bulbs are more floriferous than smaller bulbs. 

For the past fourteen years, I’ve grown a delicious harvest of Florence Fennel bulbs by going against traditional gardening advice; instead of ending my sowings of Florence Fennel seeds by June or July, I’ve continued sowing seed throughout August and September.  Gardeners in Northern regions of the UK would be unlikely to succeed following my advice, but in my Surrey garden’s sandy soil these later sown seeds have produced a wonderful last hurrah of medium-sized sweet tasting Florence Fennel bulbs.

Colourful Vegetables

Swiss Chard is one of the most strikingly beautiful garden plants. Its vibrant colourings and exquisite beauty earn Swiss Chard a deserving place in decorative gardens, as well as in kitchen gardens and potagers.  These magnificent vegetables produce fantastically colourful, edible stems which are best sautéed or steamed.  Swiss Chard’s lush green leaves can be eaten in a similar way to spinach or used as a vegetable wrap.

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.

I remember heading out on a sunny day in May, some years ago now.  My new raised bed was completed, so I was heading over to my allotment, filled with excitement and armed with an open packet of Hesperis matronalis var. albiflora seeds.  Somewhat comically, I tripped up en route, throwing myself and the entire contents of my seed packet down onto my neighbour, Caroline’s allotment.

April is a truly generous and forgiving time of year for gardeners.  This month provides us with numerous opportunities to grow an extensive range of exciting and exotic fruit and vegetables from seed.

Although there’s a wealth of seed choices on offer, not all of the unusual edibles we can grow are guaranteed to succeed in our variable climate and not every variety produces the best flavoured harvest. 

Sow these tomato seeds now to grow the tastiest tomatoes this summer!

Every year, I trial new plants and products in my quest to discover the top performing composts and the tastiest and most productive edible plants.

Last year, the Quadgrow Self Watering Planter performed exceptionally well in my Trials.  Growing tomatoes is easy with the Quadgrow; simply top up the Quadgrow’s 30l reservoir with Nutrigrow and water and the planter will automatically water and fertilise your plants for around two weeks. 

If you suffered any gardening disappointments last year, I want to help you improve your growing techniques, so you’ll experience the uplifting joy of gardening success, this year!

Gardening is such a positive hobby, growing plants truly enriches our lives; yet it can be utterly disheartening when seedlings die, our plants decline to flower or fruit, or don’t perform as well as we hoped. 

Chilli pepper seeds are usually sown from February to the end of April.  However, these vegetables command a long growing season, requiring sufficient time for the plants to mature and their fruit to develop and ripen.  Accordingly, I find that chilli peppers are best started from seed sown in January.

Nurseries stock a limited range of chilli pepper plants in springtime, but gardeners who grow chillies from seed are blessed with the choice of a vast range of varieties. 

Mistletoe is a prized plant at Christmas time, when it’s the custom to decorate our homes with the berries and foliage of holly, ivy, and mistletoe, in celebration of the season.

I’ve always greatly admired the evergreen spherical forms that mature mistletoe specimens hold high up in the treetops.  Mistletoe’s naturally forked growth and branching habit display a symmetrical form that enhances the plant’s beauty, highlighting its simple green leaves and white pearl-like berries.

Do you have enough houseplants? I don’t know about you, but I’m always willing to make room for more indoor plants.  If you’re considering purchasing a new houseplant and you’re keen to make a lasting purchase, hoping for the long-term, leafy love affair we all dream of, then I have some fabulous ideas for you…

Ceropegia linearis subsp. woodii is also known as String of Hearts or Hearts Entangled. 

October offers us many opportunities in the garden.  The soil is still warm, so it’s a great time for planting or moving plants that aren’t yet in their ideal position.  It’s worth taking time out to consider how your garden works for you.  Did you sustain any losses over the dry spring and summer?  Has this opened up any new planting opportunities?

Grasses form a fundamental part of many gardens.  The seed heads of ornamental grasses take on a magical quality as they shine in September’s golden sunlight.  September is a superb time to plant ornamental grasses, like: Deschampsia, Festuca, Heliotrichon, and Stipa.

Has your garden been hosting family sports tournaments this summer?  If your grass is worn through in places, it’s the perfect time to fill in those bare patches.