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! 

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. 

A favourite with garden designers, every year Angelica archangelica is one of the most admired and coveted plants at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show in May.  This is the perfect time to sow Angelica archangelica seeds; don’t miss out on this opportunity to introduce this glamorous and statuesque plant to your garden or allotment!

There’s no need to mess around with pots or compost, as Angelica archangelica become rather resentful if their roots are disturbed; therefore, sowing seeds directly where you want your plants to grow is both the easiest and most successful option. 

Meadows epitomise the picturesque idyllic summer garden that so many of us dream of.  However, creating a successful meadow is often more of a challenging project than we anticipate.  Whether you’re creating a new meadow or fixing a failed meadow, August and September are the months that meadow gardeners must spring into action!

Preparation is the key to success.  It’s easy to rush soil preparations, giddy with the excitement of sowing seeds – this is where most people fail. 

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.

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.

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. 

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

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

An Update from my Wildlife Pond in Winter

Hello and welcome to my wildlife pond in winter.  We’ve had a light sprinkling of snow here in Surrey just a few moments ago, which was very exciting!

Since my last update, my wildlife pond has changed considerably as the plants’ foliage has died back and retreated.  What once was a lush, leafy sanctuary is still just as important a refuge for wildlife, but this area is now resting until springtime.

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! 

Raspberries are one of our most delicious but expensive fruits.  The good news is that raspberries are also incredibly productive, easy to grow, and they don’t take up much room.  We can make huge savings by growing raspberries in our gardens and allotments.

I adore growing raspberries!  For over 25 years, I’ve grown a vast selection of raspberry cultivars in various sized gardens and allotments; I’m excited to share my knowledge and help you grow an abundance of raspberries. 

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. 

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. 

An Update from my Wildlife Pond in the Intense Heat of Summer & the Drought of 2022

Hello, and welcome to my wildlife pond during the heatwave and drought of 2022.  I’ve been anxiously watching the water level in my pond as it recedes.  I’ve invested in another water tank and I’ve been busy scouring the local area for any second-hand water butts and water tanks for sale.