At this time of year one of my favourite plants is Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’, an absolutely gorgeous shrub that gives me everything I dream of but don’t expect to find in the midst of winter – namely enchantingly pretty flowers with an exquisite fragrance.  This delightful shrub was raised by Hillier’s legendary plant breeder, Alan Postill and named for his wife, Jacqueline back in 1982.

Rather than traipsing around the shops and frittering the weekend away in seemingly endless queues to buy gifts this December, I’d like to encourage you to head out into the garden to propagate your favourite plants and share the joy of home-grown gifts this Christmas!

Mint is a fast-growing and spreading plant.  I always recommend growing mint in containers to prevent this plant’s naturally assertive growth from taking over your garden, patio, and any nearby countryside! 

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. 

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)

June is a magical time for gardeners.  All risk of frost has passed now, which gives us an exciting opportunity to grow a wide range of tasty vegetables from seed.  Unless you have a balcony or patio garden, there’s no need to bother with pots and compost.  Seize the moment and sow seeds directly in the ground where you want you want your plants to grow. 

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. 

Grow Mint: Reinvigorate Your Life & Awaken Your Senses!

I adore mint and relish this herb’s energy.  Freshly harvested mint leaves can be used to make enticing cocktails, herbal teas, and an array of delicious savoury and dessert recipes.  Most people are familiar with peppermint or spearmint, but have you tried any other varieties?

A whole world of different flavoured mints is available to those who grow their own plants. 

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.

Featured

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.

In case you missed it, last week I posted my latest Compost Trial Report.  The top-performing composts in this trial were Heart of Eden All Purpose Natural Compost, Harmony Gardens Multipurpose Compost, and Bathgate Horticulture Peat-free Multi-Purpose Compost; these are all peat-free growing medias.  I’d urge everyone to use peat-free compost.  Peatlands are unique wetland nature reserves and habitats for rare plants and wildlife

2022 Compost Trial: Growing Dwarf French Beans

Going peat-free is a positive action that each of us can take to protect our peatlands, safeguard nature, and protect our planet.  When you are buying plants, before you make a purchase ask if the plants were raised in peat-free compost.  When buying compost, check the packaging to see whether the growing media contains any peat – look to buy growing media and composts that are 100% peat-free. 

Kick Start the Year by Growing Your Favourite Flavours: Sow these Red Chilli Pepper & Sweet Pepper Seeds Now!

Chilli pepper and sweet pepper plants grow slowly and can take longer than we expect to reach maturity and produce peppers.  January is my favourite time to sow chilli and sweet pepper seeds, as it gives the plants a longer growing season with extra time for fruit to develop and ripen, compared to the standard spring-sown plants. 

Celebrating Self-Watering Containers: Making Growing Edibles Easier for All & Saving Water too!

Spring and summer weather often leaves plants and gardeners wilting during punishing droughts and intense heatwaves.  Raising plants in containers requires far more water than growing plants in the ground.  If you’ve got a penchant for container gardening, I’d like to introduce you to self-watering containers: literal lifesavers for plants and gardeners! 

I love growing herbs.  I get such pleasure from growing plants with tantalising flavours to enhance our meals and drinks.  Just a small pot of mint can enhance cocktails, herbal teas, savoury dishes, fruit salads, and more decadent desserts.  With autumn‘s arrival, I’m mindful that I don’t want to waste the lovely fresh leaves that will soon wither when the weather changes and frosts arrive.

Traditionally, parsnips are left growing in the ground over winter to allow time for the frosty winter weather to improve their flavour.  However, parsnips tend to develop canker and become less appetising as they reach old age.  To achieve the healthiest harvest, lift your parsnips now, before decay sets in and store your parsnips in the freezer until you are ready to use them. 

2022 Compost Trial: Growing Broad Beans

I’m a peat-free gardener and a passionate advocate for peat-free gardening.  I want to help you be a successful gardener, so every year I run independent Compost Trials and share the results on my website.

I’ve included organic and vegan, peat-free composts in this Compost Trial.  All of the composts in this Compost Trial are 100% peat-free.

Rosa ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is a Wonderful Rose!

Last year, Roses UK and Dickson Roses kindly sent me a ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ rose; I was particularly excited to receive this plant, as ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ was the winner of the Rose of the Year Competition 2022.  A year has passed since my plant arrived and I can now tell you just how wonderful this rose really is! 

New English Roses from David Austin Roses for Autumn 2022/2023

One of the things I look forward to most at the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show is the opportunity to meet the new rose introductions face to face and discover their fragrances.  I was sorry to miss visiting the Chelsea this year.  David Austin Roses launched two brand-new roses at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022.