This Week’s Guest Blogger is Alison Hepworth

I am the regional manager covering Kent Surrey and London for the WFGA. There are 18 regional managers covering the length and breadth of the UK.

The WFGA is a registered charity, founded by women in 1899 concerned by the lack of education and employment opportunities for woman working on the land.

These days, the scheme is open to men and women looking to change careers or develop their horticultural knowledge. Alongside workshops and skill days, it operates a trainee scheme called WRAGs which has propelled many trainees to successful careers in horticulture. Currently we work with around 170 gardens across the United Kingdom. The majority have a WRAGs trainee, and there are many more hoping for a placement.

It is a brilliant scheme and I should know: it changed my life. This is my story:

I joined the police in 1986. This photo shows me sitting on a World War II Hermann Bomb weighing 2,200lb in 1987, which was unearthed by construction workers in Bermondsey, London. It was one of the largest types of bombs the Germans dropped on Britain during the Blitz. I was 21 years old.

I spent 30 happy years in the police, spending the last 11 years as a Detective inspector on a murder squad in South London before retiring in 2017. It was definitely time for a change.

I had always loved gardening and decided to do an RHS level 2 gardening course at Hever Castle. There I heard about the amazing, life-changing, WRAG scheme. I learnt that trainees are placed in a garden and trained by the head gardener or owner for two days week for 12 months and paid the national living wage.

I signed up and was very lucky to get a place within six months in a garden originally designed by the renowned horticulturalist Sir Harold Hillier. Significant features of the Hillier garden remain including box parterres, yew hedges, terracing and signature plants including Scots pine and camellias.

My first day of training was in February 2018. It was freezing cold and, by the end of the day, I was exhausted and barely able to move! Gradually my body got used to the physical work as I learnt about the garden throughout the seasons. The scheme ensures that trainees cover a variety of topics including pruning, pest disease and weed control, soil cultivation, propagation, and management of herbaceous borders. I was taught by two gardeners Helen McCready and Serena Crighton-Stuart. Both were very patient with me, guiding carefully at all times, even letting me loose on box balls which I tried very hard not to turn into a cube. Here is a picture of me pruning Jasminum. Probably just as risky as sitting on the bomb!

The year flew by and I was lucky enough to be taken on by the garden owners. I now work there two days a week. In addition, I was also employed by the WFGA as a regional manager. The garden has also taken on a new WRAGS trainee and plan to take more in future years.

The moral of my story is never be afraid to take a leap of faith. I left the police not knowing what I was going to do next, afraid of all the spare time I would have. Now I am occupied pretty much all of the time and have met some fantastic and interesting people along the way.

If you would like to join the WFGA and the WRAGS then the following link will give you all the information. We are also always on the lookout for extra gardens to place our growing list of hard-working and enthusiastic trainees.

A potted history of the WFGA

Originally, membership was open to anyone connected in any way with the land, in farming, gardening and allied industries, or those with a keen interest in these matters. Many of the founder members were professional women working in education, gardening, farming and small holdings.

At the outbreak of the First World War, a founder member Louisa Wilkins realised that there would be a shortage of labour on the land and the Women’s National Land Service Corps was launched offering work placements to women, both rural and urban. This movement was so successful that it soon outgrew a small voluntary organisation and was taken up by the Government and the first Women’s Land Army was born.

Between the wars there were difficult years of recession and the Association worked hard to improve the working conditions and status of women in land work and to open up employment opportunities to qualified trainees. The first training scheme in practical skills was set up during the Second World War giving valuable service to those seeking to work on the land. A Garden Apprentice Scheme for school leavers was set – this led to the development of Government Youth Training Schemes.

In 1993 the Association, established the ‘Women Returners to Amenity Gardening Scheme’. Designed to offer ‘returners’ who were considering a career in horticulture, training in practical gardening skills, within private and public gardens throughout the United Kingdom.

In 2014 the name was changed to reflect the change in the type of applicants applying – Work and Retrain As a Gardener Scheme.’

This Weeks Guest Blogger is Connor Smith, a Horticulturist at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

Seeds are phenomenal structures which have adapted incredible ways to disperse. One of the of the most eye catching seed pods in the garden at this time of year are the long, drooping blue fingers of Decaisnea insignis. The common name “Dead Man’s Fingers” originates from the supposed similarity of the fruit or ‘fruitlet’ feeling like a cold human finger.

These exotic fruits are in the Lardizabalaceae family, a rather small family of mostly climbers. Decaisnea insignis is native to China, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar with a small population in India. It grows at a range of altitudes and has a respectable hardiness of around -15C. It is a popular ornamental plant. Specimens can be seen in the Chinese Hillside and the west of the Rock Garden.

Now the exciting bit. The unusual seeds intrigued me when peeled open they reveal an odd translucent pulp which is surrounding the small flat black seeds. It reminded me of a jelly snake sweets you would purchase as a child. The pulp is edible although I did not find it particularly inviting to try i did, tasting of melon/ cucumber. The inner seed of the seed pod was also covered in a fascinating mosaic patterning.

Inside the seed

The small flat black seeds

A rather incredible pattern in the inners of the seed pod

Now the question, why did this plant evolve to have these incredible blue fruits and what animal dispersed it? The lure of edible pulp meant it must be an animal of some sort. A bird would be a valid option but red is the normal colour of attraction and plants know this. Many of the birds i looked at (Birds of China; Birds of the Himalaya) were very small and the 7-12 cm long fruit would present a big problem.

Why blue? Blue is rather scare in the plant kingdom, we have some familiar examples in the garden of Mahonia species, Vaccinium, Viburnum and Clerodendron trichotomum var. fargesii with its large red sepals. But it is still a relatively unusual trait to adopt, even more so in tropical parts of the world.

Interestingly when opening the fruit it did split like a banana which had a similar type of reward inside. A deal of dexterity would be required to open the fruit which i had almost failed at when I attempted opening it the first time. Sure enough, after some research it is reported in ‘Dispersal of Plants’ (RBGE Library FCVV) that some tropical trees with blueish fruits – Elaeocarpus, Symplocos fasciculatus & Eugenia acuminatissima have drupes dispersed by bats and monkeys. I then later found a paper on the dietary profile of the Snub nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus spp.) which confirmed Decaisnea insignis in the diet.

However this still does not explain the need for the blue colour. Monkeys see just like us and don’t require an attractive blue colour to attract them in. Decaisnea insignis has previously been spilt into two distinct species with Decaisnea fargesii having yellow to green fruit.

We may have just not found the true missing link in this Decaisnea insignis partnership or I fear we may have lost this pair forever.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Alexander Herbert

Our Blogger this week is Alexander Herbert from Archery Edge who is based in the USA so Tim Reeves who is in the UK has written the introduction for us just because our gardens in the UK tend to be smaller and crossbows may be unsuitable to use in them.

“Personally I would recommend people use a light (not powerful) traditional bow and arrows, bought from a reputable specialist shop after having taken a beginners course with a local club to learn the basics. A good shop won’t sell inappropriate gear to a customer. 
In a good sized garden or one neighbouring arable fields a crossbow could be used, but it’s easy to miss a target and lose bolts (arrows) safety is important when using any bow and arrows. 
At my various clubs, I have shot with various people with disabilities, so as mentioned archery is inclusive. For example one lady used a wheelchair and shot a compound bow, another chap had a prosthetic leg below the knee, another had PTSD, and others were old, struggled with arthritis, and one chap also took part in the transplant games. So give archery a go” 
Tim Reeves

Alexander Herbert writes If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, then you should make the most of it. There are many things you can do in a garden, from gardening to various different outdoor sports.

One sport that most gardens can accommodate is archery – the sport of using a bow to shoot arrows to hit a target. It’s a very inclusive sport that pretty much anybody can take part in – so keep reading for some tips on how you can play archery in your garden.


Archery can be an expensive sport, so it’s best to start out with the bare necessities. Luckily, there are some things you can do yourself to enhance the game.

The first step to having archery fun in your garden is getting the equipment. If you’re a beginner, there’s no point buying expensive equipment – you may not end up liking the sport (unlikely, but still a possibility), or you might want to build up your skills before splashing the cash.

Crossbow + Arrows

The main thing you need is a crossbow. A crossbow can set you back anything from $15 to $2000 – it all depends on the brand, quality, and the specs. If you’re a beginner, it’s best to get a crossbow that’s easy to operate – the lighter the better.

Some of the easiest crossbows to operate are pistol crossbows – they’re generally lightweight and they require a lot less effort to cock, but they tend to be less powerful.

Most crossbows tend to come with arrows, but if not, be sure the arrows you purchase are compatible with your choice of crossbow.

Crossbows are great for people who have disabilities because some of them have self-cocking devices and require less physical strength to use.


Targets tend to be cheaper than crossbows, but can still set you back a few dollars. If you have the time, it may be worth making your own target.

To make your own target, just fill a woven bag with plants or sawdust, tape it together, and paint a bullseye. This can be hung from your fence, or trees – and adjusted to match the height most convenient for you.

If you don’t fancy making your own, you can purchase one from your local archery supplies store, or online. If you’re purchasing one online, it’s best to get a durable target that can withstand the elements.

Getting Started

There are some things you should consider before you get shooting. At the end of the day, crossbows are weapons – and should be treated as such.

Make sure that the area around the target doesn’t have any valuables or animals nearby – you don’t want the target right next to the birdfeeder, as that won’t end well.

It’s probably best to make sure your next-door neighbors aren’t sunbathing in the garden next door too! Consider positioning your target at the end of your garden – especially if it backs up onto private land, woods, or fields.

Now you have the necessities, it’s time to start shooting some arrows!

Remember, stay safe and be aware of your surroundings.

Happy shooting!


This Week’s Guest Blogger is Lou Nicholls

Lou Nicholls is Head Gardener at Ulting Wick Garden and a Blogger that has worked in Horticulture for over 20 years. She gives talks around the country on Organic, vegetable growing and Ornamental plants and is a member of the Garden Media Guild and the Professional Gardeners Guild.

Twitter: @loujnicholls


To Peat or not to Peat?

I’ll make this short, don’t use Peat!

But why not? When it’s been successfully used for generations why change?

The answers is because you don’t need to, in the past we’ve used it for convenience. It’s lighter than loam and has better moisture retentive capabilities and that’s where its benefits end. However over the last 25 years various companies with an eye to the future, climate change, habitat loss and just generally caring about the environment and sustainability, have developed various Peat free composts that do exactly the same job without long term impact into our Peat wetlands.

Gardeners aren’t the most significant consumers of Peat I’ll grant you but it’s our attitudes that change the world as well as our actions. By rejecting Peat in your compost you are making a small but important stand to companies. It’s our pressure, our buying habits that change how companies work.

I’ve never used Peat in my professional career, I worked for Garden Organic and at that point Peat free was just starting to become an option. Since then the options available to the home gardener are so varied and easily available there is literally no reason to use Peat. You can even buy Vegan compost these days! That’s right Vegan, this is a brilliant example of how for the first time in history consumers are leading manufacturers in what they want to see and use as opposed to the other way round.

Peat wetlands are home to sundews, marsh violets and many species of wild orchids, plants that can’t grow anywhere else. This is an area we really can make a difference to and very quickly, by allowing water to re-flood peat wetlands the damage done by draining it can be quickly reversed.

So take a moment to check the bag of compost you’re thinking of picking up, make sure it says Peat free and know that in your own small way you are helping to save the planet.

I recommend in random order and in no way an indication of preference!

Dalefoot – their peat free range is excellent and has great moisture retention capabilities. They have also introduced a vegan compost.
Melcourt – They now have a reusable compost bag for people trying to avoid single use plastic.
New horizon – they do a lovely John Innis loam based compost now too.
Marshalls – recently introduced a peat free compost for vegetable growing.
T&M – Launched their own brand at the garden press event this spring which I haven’t yet tried but I’m sure will be of a good quality.
Fertile fibre – has a coir based range and has been producing for a decent amount of time.


This Week’s Guest Blogger is Mark Lamey

Mark trained in horticulture at the RHS Gardens Wisley and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.  He has been a Head Gardener to a large country estate and Gardens Adviser to the National Trust during which time he studied for and gained a Masters in the Conservation of Historic Gardens and Cultural Landscapes at University of Bath.  He is now working freelance in the design of gardens for private and commercial clients and as a mentor to professional horticulturists. 

Gardening must surely vie for a place as one of the oldest professions in the world.  In the UK there is a deep heritage of gardening, evident today in the many gardens associated with historic houses and country estates.  It is possible, as a visitor to an historic garden or as an owner, to experience and tread the ground upon which the activity of over five centuries of gardening, as far back as the medieval and monastic period, has occurred.

A common thread that weaves through this gardening heritage, is the skill of a gardener.  With a gentle and creative hand, skilled gardeners have built, cultivated and maintained gardens to meet the needs and desires of their owners for centuries.  Whether it was as a show case of the latest gardening taste, to cultivate a collection of rare plants or to reflect the owners own personality.

The gardens at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent, now in the ownership of the National Trust for over fifty years, were created together by Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicholson between 1930 and 1962.  They can be said to run through the veins of any gardener for their beauty and application of high horticultural practice.

The Orchard at Sissinghurst

But the gardens at Sissinghurst maintained by professionals were perhaps not the gardens that amateur gardener Vita created.  When Troy Scott-Smith took the role of Head Gardener for Sissinghurst in 2013, he started to question how closely the gardens reflected Vita.  He commissioned research to better understand her original vision and found that the gardens had evolved overtime as a series of small projects undertaken in-house and when finances allowed.

This reminder prompted a project to re-imagine the gardens as if Vita and Harold still owned them.  It has involved the completion of garden projects, such as Delos, a garden of Mediterranean plants inspired by their visit to Greece, which had been abandoned due to the cold aspect of the site and lack of available plants at the time.

Planting of Delos at Sissinghurst October 2019.  Designed by Dan Pearson Studio

Meadows around the Oast houses have been re-introduced, as have over a hundred rose cultivars that Vita had grown in the rose garden.  Most significant was the change that Troy had to instil in his garden team about how to garden at Sissinghurst.  This was to create the sense of a garden with plants that had colonised a ruin rather than one that had plants being cultivated within one.  Allowing rambling roses to billow with apparent freedom over walls, loosening the cutting regime of the box hedges and encouraging seedlings to grow in wall crevices and paving joints.

It had taken fifty years of Trust ownership, more than Harold and Vita’s 30-year tenure and three Head Gardeners for the decision at Sissinghurst to reinstate the gardens as a closer representation of their ownership, the significance of which had sparked their original acquisition for conservation by the Trust.

Renovation pruning of the weeping pear in the white garden Sissinghurst.

This doesn’t suggest that maintenance of the gardens during the intervening years had been wrong, as they were maintained to an exception standard of presentation.  It does highlight the role that research has in making informed decisions about a garden, the responsibility of any owner to carefully manage change and evidences the art and creativity of gardening in historic gardens.

To learn more about gardening in historic gardens or to find a gardener with experience of and training in historic gardens you might like to contact the following:

Garden Masterclasses –

Learning from the Experts –

Professional Gardeners Guild traineeship –

Historic and Botanic Garden Bursary Scheme –

Further Reading:

Gardens and Landscapes in Historic Garden Conservation Edited by Dr Marion Harney Published by Wiley-Blackwell 2014

Rooted in History: A Garden Conservation Manual Published by National Trust





This Week’s Guest Blogger is Connor Smith, a Horticulturist at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

All plants have stories. The Botanics over its 350 years has managed to create many, from intrepid tales of plant hunters to discovering plants new to science. Some you hear these stories during walk rounds as a student, others across the canteen table, uncovered in the library and latterly the internet with increasing ease. 

One of the rather unassuming plants newly planted by the monkey puzzles is Berberis empetrifolia. If you haven’t heard of it you are not missing much to be perfectly honest. Phenotypically it is distinctly lacking ornamental prowess to catch the eye. It’s low growing, prostrate habit shows a tough life of having to live in the subalpine to alpine areas in the rocky Andes. However, when you dig a little deeper you unveil a rather interesting story.

A recently planted wild collected specimen of Berberis empetrifolia

B. empetrifolia is often overshadowed by its distant cousin. Berberis darwinii. Which was found by Charles Darwin in 1835 during ‘the voyage of the Beagle’ and subsequently named after him by Joseph Hooker (Icones plantarum 7, 1844). The two species are naturally found in Chile although geographically separated. Therefore a possible hybrid could only be formed in artificial environment. Some say the two have crossed paths in some localities but this is not agreed upon. 

Berberis x stenophylla is the resulting hybrid of the two species B. darwinii and B. empetrifolia. After some digging into how the hybrid happen, the story got even more interesting. In this case a nursery owned by Messrs Fisher & Holmes of Handsworth near Sheffield in the 1860’s, it was Messrs who introduced B. empetrifolia into the trade in 1827 (International dendrological society, no date). His son found the hybrid 30+ years later in the garden.

They are rather “boring” species individually however, these two species have been hybridized to form a very ornamental, popular plant which can be easily grown, interpreted and of significance to the botanic garden.


This Week’s Guest Blogger is Anna Ingram a Head Gardener in South Devon

Hi all

Well what a year it has been so far especially for all the poor gardeners and horticulturalists out there!  I think we only had 2 completely dry days down here in South Devon since September last year until well in to Spring!! Apart from a brief respite over Christmas it was one hooligan storm after another. Now its dry this is where mulching your borders can pay dividends.

The main tasks in the Spring are pruning and mulching. I love mulching and encourage the team to be enthused about helping to spread tons of what I call ‘black gold’ over the recently cleared beds. I like a depth of at least 10cm and spread over any leaf debris is even better. The earth worms etc will work their magic and over time draw the organic matter down into the soil and feed the roots of the plants, create good bacteria and also aid drainage. If you mulch your beds regularly you will end up with wonderfully crumbly moist soil and will cut down massively on your watering during these drier months. Very important though to mulch over wet soil to lock in the moisture – which was not a problem this Spring!! Also mulch through November to late February depending whereabouts in the country you are before the new shoots appear. Your labours will be massively rewarded by lovely strong plants with good root structures and not a weed in sight!!

It is important to use weed free compost that has been heated to at least 80 degrees centigrade to kill off all the weed seeds otherwise you will just introduce weeds back into the soil which will compete for nutrients and water. Local councils usually make great mulch in this way by constantly turning massive windrows of the stuff but if you do  make your own (which is a great thing to do) even if you turn it it won’t build up enough heat to kill off the weed seeds but still great to spread around established and newly planted trees and hedges where it is easier to control the weeds.

Happy mulching

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Mairi MacPherson a Smallholder in the Scottish Highlands

I’m Dr Mairi MacPherson, and I’m a mini-smallholder in the Scottish Highlands, about an hour north of Inverness. I consider myself disabled – I have MECFS and POTS, and their impact on me has been enormous. I’ve grown veg for several years but when my chronic illnesses forced me to give up my job as an academic gardening became one of the few things I was still able to do, despite spending most of my time in bed. Gradually over the past year or so I’ve been able to do a bit more – pootling around the garden, and even wielding a wheelbarrow on occasion – and I’ve been lucky to be able to spend as much time and energy as I can in the garden. We’ve got about 1/3 acre of space: a third of which is currently vegetables, and then there’s quite a few fruit trees and bushes. We have three small polytunnels, and also keep chickens and ducks that spend their days wandering around our garden.

Over the last year or so gardening has turned into my job: a Highland Seedlings I teach others how to grow their own, grow veg seedlings for sale, and host tourists and other visitors on smallholding and chicken tours. The chicken tours in particular are really popular – we spend an hour drinking tea, eating cake, and feeding and cuddling chickens! I’m also involved in a few community projects – we’re setting up a ‘free food garden’ in our village this year where we’ll be growing food for the local community, and I’m working with a couple of local schools and nurseries to help them get their kids (and parents!) growing their own food. We’ve also got a homeschool group that comes every other week and grows veg on their own bed in the garden.

For us, gardening has to fit into our lives – in particular into my energy levels. So everything we do is designed to be as low-impact as possible. We grow in long ‘no dig’ beds on what used to be unkempt lawn, built from cardboard and horse manure, and surrounded by wood chips. We did away with wooden sides because we found there were lots of slugs and snails living in them. Weeding these beds is really easy – as the weeds are mostly only in the top layer (with the cardboard acting as mulch), they pull out easily and, as long as you get them before they flower, they don’t tend to spread. I sit down to weed and plant, so our paths and beds are designed with that in mind, and the paths are wide enough for two people so that I can hold on to someone else when my balance is a bit off. I sow seeds at the kitchen table – we’ve got a plastic tablecloth stapled to the table so the soil is easy to wipe off. I start my seeds in large multi-cell trays as it’s a lot less effort to fill and carry one of those than individual pots. I’ve got a sowing schedule on a spreadsheet (which is also available free from but as long as I sow sometime near the week noted on there it’s all good – I’ve given up on precision and neatness, and just go with the flow. Some weeks I’m too unwell to head out into the garden at all and that’s fine – the plants tend to do ok on their own.

I really enjoy being part of the veg growing / allotment community on Instagram. It’s friendly and folks are really helpful, and always up for celebrating those small and big successes. Your chillies germinated? Great! You grew a wonky carrot? Fabulous! It’s a genuine community, and it’s so interesting to see how other people grow their own. I’m @highlandseedlings there if anyone wants to say hello.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Dave Poulton the founder of Up the Garden Bath

Up the Garden Bath is a new and exciting non-profit making social enterprise in Cambridgeshire. We take old unwanted bathtubs and upcycle them into ready made garden planters. Old bathtubs have been reused on allotments for years but our project entails building a raised wooden surround for the bathtub – transforming it into a raised & contained growing
space at a height that is easily accessible for children, the elderly or disabled.
I’m Dave Poulton, the founder of Up The Garden Bath, I came up with the idea to turn old bathtubs into mini-gardens whilst recovering from a neurological illness last year. It started out as a little DIY project in my own back garden and is now a thriving business bringing gardening
to local people, young and old. “Our planters offer an instant, ready made and contained solution to growing your own flowers, fruit, vegetables and herbs. We use 100% recycled, unwanted wood and paint to ensure a quality finish in a range of wood styles and colours. The soil we use to fill the planters also comes from a sustainable source – it is bi-product of the generation of electricity from food waste.”
“We have designed fun, interactive and educational workshops to teach children all about recycling, sustainability, growing and eating healthily. We feel it is imperative to teach future generations the importance of sustainability and recycling. Our planters provide a practical and
cost effective solution to growing programmes at a time when school budgets are being reduced. Our products are also very popular with SEN schools as they make gardening more accessible to those with disabilities. Not everyone is able to get down to ground level so we like to think we are doing our bit to promote inclusivity for everyone.”

“We have devised themed planters including ‘Mini Allotments’ and ‘Pollen Paradises’. These are extremely popular with nurseries and primary schools. In fact, we’ve just secured a partnershipwith the national charity ‘Buglife’ to promote our Pollen Paradise planters further afield. We’re also working with the Co-operative so watch this space! “We give opportunities to people who need a chance. Our products are manufactured by individuals who have found themselves unable to access mainstream employment for a variety
of reasons. We are currently researching new premises to expand our operation and plan to start a “mentoring” scheme that will pair skilled semi-retired people with teenagers who aren’t in education or employment. Our aim is to give the young people we work with an opportunity to learn new skills, including woodwork, to improve their self esteem and enhance their career options.”
“Our project is community driven with any profits, after the deduction of operating costs, donated to local gardening projects. We hope our project makes a difference by reducing landfill, educating and giving opportunities.”
“It sounds like a cliché but we have encountered children that didn’t know that apples grow on trees! Reconnecting children with nature is so important & making it accessible to everyone regardless of ability is our main goal” Our motto is ‘Together we can grow and learn’. I really believe that passing on this knowledge is one of the most important jobs anyone can do.” You can find out more by visiting our website

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Justine Dixon a professional Nanny who founded Hook Gardening Club and opens her garden through the National Garden Scheme

Gardening can improve your Mental Health

The unseen disabilities can be ignored but throughout life we all can suffer regarding how strong we think we are….

The dark grey gloomy winter days can make us all feel low…. Spring seems so far away so how can we boost out mental health especially at this time of year but throughout the year?

I’ve been gardening all my life and now in my late 40’s it’s such a love and passion of mine I get impatient when the gales and driving rain stop me from pottering in my garden.

A friend told me how she feels ‘When I’m feeling low, getting outdoors into the fresh air and feeling the sun on my skin and the dirt on my hands I feel my troubles slip away. It gives me something positive to focus on and put my energy into and helps me get back to nature. Gardening makes you slow down and appreciate the beauty in things and the magic of nature’

So I’ve been sorting through seed packets, planning to visit NGS open gardens or plant fairs or redesigning a part of the garden this is the time of year for doing such things is the next best thing, but you are not alone. I’ve been keeping myself busy and over the last 18 months I was invited to write a bi-monthly gardening column in a local lifestyle magazine It gives me the opportunity to share my gardening knowledge with others. Our meetings run throughout the year except for the summer so on a dark autumn and winter evening our visitors often say how much they look forward to getting out of the house and catching up with friends they only see once and month at our meetings.

I also keep St. Mary’s Church Hook Garden tidy weeding, planting and generally tidy throughout the year from its array of dancing daffodils to the lovely summer dahlias and lavender hedge as walk up the church path…

Every 2 years I open my garden for the National Garden Scheme – Yorkshire something else that I never though anyone would like to see my garden but they do and although it takes lot of planning it is another thoroughly enjoyable day with almost 300 visitors raising around £1500 for charities.

Have you though of joining a local gardening club? they aren’t as ‘old school’ as you may think and I Founded Hook Gardening Club in East Yorkshire. We are celebrating our 10th Anniversary this year. I was approached from a villager who asked, ‘is there a local gardening club’?  So, I set about investigating what I needed to do to set one up and 10 years on we are ‘growing’ and visitors of all ages and gardening abilities come from a 20 mile radius to our meetings.  I could go on for ever but if you have chance have a look at our website we are very active on social media as well.  I make seasonal homemade preserves from villagers’ surplus fruits and sell them fundraising for club funds….

Oh yes and I work full time too I’ve been a Professional Nanny for 30 years….

And finally…… Life’s always busy but sitting down sometimes and just listening to the birds whether I’m wrapped up in many layers or swinging on my garden hammock on a warm sunny afternoon…  watching a small heard of deer that wander through the field at the end of my garden….I just love where I live ……

Find me on Social media Facebook & Twitter @avidgardener72 – Justine Dixon and Instagram avidgardener163