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This Week’s Guest Blogger is Brandon George a Professional Horticulturist writing about how his career blossomed in the UK

A bit of Crambe in the garden…

Brandon George is a professional Horticulturist currently living in New England. He is a graduate of the Longwood Garden’s Professional Horticulture Program and has gone on to work and live in many places including London, England, U.K. and Jerusalem, Israel. Within the industry, his focus and strengths are in education and garden design. In additional to his interest in horticulture, he enjoys world travel and currently hosts Horticulture Rising, a horticulture-based podcast.

Sojurn: England: The birth of my career in Horticulture

Time is the concept always pulsing through the vein of horticulture, I can think of nothing that humbles me more. When I meet people in the horticulture industry, lighthearted conversations often begin with; how long until something will be in bloom, or when it’s best to experience a particular garden. When it comes to our careers in this industry, the time we invest is no exception. This year, it will be five years since I left the U.K. In that period of reflection, the thought that crosses my mind the most when I think of my time living there is quite simple, this is where my career in horticulture began.

In January 2013, I moved from Reading, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. to the southwest of London to begin a new life with my partner. It was an exciting adventure for me, and one that changed my life forever. I was fortunate enough to find a job working in the plant area of my local Squire’s Garden Centre quite quickly. Over the next 3 years, I was given the opportunity to go on courses at RHS Wisley, and began studying the RHS Levels 2 & 3 in the Principles of Horticulture on my own. I even got to help with the building of our company’s display garden for three years at the Hampton Court Flower Show. Beyond that, I began to travel extensively to gardens in greater London and all over Europe.

While that is a brief summary of my time in London, I want to make something clear. Before I came to England, I didn’t know where my career was heading. I graduated with a degree in Finance in 2011, but lacking the drive to continue on this path, I was unsure of my aspirations. This country gave me the opportunity to redefine myself and explore my passion for plants to the greatest degree. Perhaps it was partially to do with being in the right place at the right time, London certainly is one of the epicenters of horticulture in the world.

But gardening permeates through this country like no other I have seen or have visited before. From the most humble of plots to the grandest estates, I fell in love with this nation’s love of plants. On my days off, I’d often stroll through Bushy Park and in winter would patiently walk the borders and grounds of the Hampton Court Palace searching for signs of the coming spring, looking for budding snowdrops and daffodils. I’d visit the artsy boat gardens of Regents Canal and discovered the most beautiful pergola covered in roses in Hampstead Heath in June. Even the weedy daisies thriving in the cracks of stone walls could create magic in the otherwise ordinary. Here, for the first time, I realized the potential for people to find healing from working with plants, in part to charities such as Thrive, in Battersea Park. This particular experience has even begun to shape my career goals in the coming year.

Allowing gardening an opportunity to change someone’s life in the U.K. is without a doubt, of the reasons why I love this country so much; it certainly has shaped and inspired mine. The friends I have made here are some of my greatest and have helped me find my place within the industry and continue to do so. As an American, I consider myself to be a self-professed ambassador to the U.K. Jokes aside, however, I am proud of having lived here and am grateful for the opportunity I was given to work alongside so many wonderful and inspiring people. Each time I return I am reminded that this is where it all began for me. With that thought, I hope to inspire others through my love of the U.K. to go and see their gardens, and expect to come back with a greater appreciation for this kingdom of gardeners.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Charlotte Blome

A Garden Story

Recently, I interviewed for a head gardener position and the best question I was asked was if there was a favorite garden story I would like to share. That was not one of the many standard questions I had prepared for, so it caught me off guard, and impulsively I decided to tell them about my failure as a vegetable gardener last year. Odd choice of a story to tell in an interview for a horticulture position I really wanted, but I could not help myself. I like the story, so I went ahead with it.

I described how I had rearranged all my planting boxes to align with the path of the sun. How instead of winging it like I usually do, I made elaborate charts and graph paper diagrams. I chitted my organic potatoes. I cleared a space in our basement and started tomatoes and lettuces from seed  under grow-lights. I planned everything out so it would be my best vegetable garden ever. When spring came, I planted interesting beets and kale. And heirloom beans. I made my own clever bamboo trellises. It was all going so well. But something happened by late spring and overnight it seemed, my vegetable garden quietly went off the rails and chaos crept in.

“I don’t know what happened exactly,” I told them. “Let’s just blame it on the weather” one of my interviewers conspired helpfully. Truth be told, I had been working long hours and been distracted by other projects and the vegetable garden simply had gotten away from me. Much earlier than usual. The other truth is, it always gets away from me sooner or later. But I left that bit out.

I was reminded of my failure twice a day on my way to and from work, as the path to my vehicle goes past my vegetable garden. I was humiliated by the fact the lettuces I had grown indoors could not compare with the robust and colorful volunteers that had sprouted outdoors all on their own. The wild lettuces laughed at my grow-light seedlings who were struggling to catch up. Meantime, the cabbage worms were decimating my kale leaving behind pathetic green ribs. And it rained too much. And it was too cold. But, I had spread in a bed that had remained empty, a little paper bag full of milkweed seeds that I had collected the previous fall. Just to see what might happen.

Milkweed is the sole food a Monarch butterfly larva will eat. No milkweed- no Monarchs. It’s that simple.

In a matter of days a 1000 seeds or more sprouted and I now had this 4’ square bed of milkweed seedlings. A virtual Monarch Magnet I thought. Things were looking up! I stepped over my crowded and falling over worm-eaten crops daily to check for eggs or little caterpillars, but for weeks there was nothing. I contemplated cheating and importing a few from the local forest preserve. Would that be legal? Maybe not, so I dropped that angle. And then I went on vacation.

When I came back, I was delighted to find my milkweed patch had grown much taller and now hosted a dozen or more tiny Monarch larvae. What a thrill! I had always wished for Monarchs in my garden, and now I had some. I counted them daily but was frequently discouraged to find many missing in the morning… then, another batch would hatch to my relief.

One morning, I discovered a celadon green chrysalis hanging gracefully from a slender branch of dill from which a single drop of dew dangled in the sun. A natural mobile, I thought. It was SO perfectly perfect. I said to myself “I’m going to photograph this every single day until it becomes a butterfly and it’s going be just incredible!”  But, on about day seven, I awoke to find that a skunk or raccoon had had it for dinner. It was such a let down that I decided that the next time I found one- if I were to find one- I would intervene and rescue it.

A couple of days later, I did find one of my caterpillars far across the yard stiffly hanging upside down in the shape of a “J” patiently waiting to pupate- that’s when in two blinks of an eye it would wriggle off its yellow, black and white skin for the last time and reveal the chrysalis hidden underneath. It had chosen to do this right on the footpath of the neighborhood raccoon family. I knew it would not last one night in that spot, so I brought it indoors and carefully set it in a box. By the following morning it had transformed itself into a tiny green chrysalis and the two-week waiting period had begun.

Some days I would get worried because I would forget to check it before I went to work. I pictured the butterfly emerging in my absence only to have the cat get it. After all that. As it turned out though, I was home on the day that it was ready. I could see the black and orange of the wings clearly now, so I knew the time was getting close. I took the chrysalis and the scrap of leaf it was attached to back outdoors into the garden and gently attached it to a rusty rebar arch that was supposed to have been for beans. I then pulled up a garden chair to watch. When lunchtime came, I darted inside to make a quick sandwich. Alas! My timing was off and by the time I returned my butterfly had already hatched. I had missed the very moment- the big reveal- I had been waiting for.

The disappointment was momentary, however. ”Never mind,” I thought- and anyway, it was a girl! I am outnumbered by males in my family, so the appearance of a female- even a female butterfly- is exciting. (Female Monarch wings do not have scent glands so they are easily identified.)

Please click on the link below to see the video

https://youtu.be/6eYLeVMgWs4

For the remainder of the day I watched her unfurl her wings and pump them full of blood and then open and close them over and over and over as she prepared to fly… It was a process I had never before witnessed up close and it was mesmerizing. She- my Monarch- was absolutely the most exquisite butterfly I felt like I had ever seen. She was a Super Monarch- it being the end of the season- so she was extra large and extra beautiful. And strong enough, certainly, to make the 2000 mile journey to Mexico. I was sure if it.

As the day wore on, she was having trouble gripping the rebar I had put her on. It was too slippery. Once again, I intervened and I let her crawl up my sleeve instead. Slowly she scaled my arm flexing her wings more quickly as she went. Picking up speed she made her way up to my shoulder and over my ear touching my cheek with her wing. Then, into my hair to the top of my head where finally she launched herself into the air and fluttered across the yard to my birch tree- right above where she had made herself into a little “J” just two weeks prior. There she promptly folded up her wings for a good night’s rest. She had earned it.

She was still there in the morning, unharmed, but when I got home from work that evening she was gone and I was happy. I like to picture her hibernating on an Oyamel fir tree high in the mountains of central Mexico waiting for the moment in a month or two when she will wake up and  flutter north again in a cloud of other Monarchs to begin the cycle anew.

My little female Monarch was a lovely reminder that sometimes what we plant in our gardens is not what comes up, and sometimes what comes up is better that what we planned. I’ll be back to winging it again this year in my veggie garden, except for one thing: I will definitely be planting more milkweed. I can hardly wait to see what grows!

I did end up getting the job.

© Charlotte Blome 1/20/2020

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Liz Ware, a writer, photographer and initiator of the Silent Space project

Silent Space

 A not for profit project creating opportunities to be silent in some of our favourite green places

Do you enjoy being silent in your garden?  What about when you are visiting other gardens?  Many of us find it restful to stop for a minute and to enjoy the sounds of nature in silence. But in a world where non-stop communication is the norm, how easy is it to find five minutes when we won’t be disturbed, particularly if we live in an urban area?

The idea for Silent Space surfaced years ago through my work as a garden writer. I often spent time alone, in very beautiful gardens early in the morning. The peace I experienced would stay with me for the rest of my busy day.

What a joy and a privilege it was to be still and silent in gardens where I wasn’t responsible for anything.  Realising that it was something many people never experience, I wondered how the opportunity could be shared more widely.

Over the years, I developed a simple format that would make silent visiting possible, but without creating extra maintenance or expense for busy garden teams. Like many good ideas, it stayed in my head. It wasn’t until five years ago that those idle thoughts turned to action.

In 2015, I took a break from writing to help care for my mother after a dementia diagnosis.  Temporarily freed from deadlines, I followed the advice of Incredible Edible: ‘Don’t wait for permission or funding – just do something today, however small and the result will grow’.  With my mother for company, I started to look for suitable gardens.

By the summer of 2016, I was ready to pilot a not for profit project called Silent Space.  A handful of gardens open to the public reserved an area where people could be silent, rather like the Quiet Carriage on a train.  For a couple of hours each week, visitors to the quiet areas were invited to switch off their phones and to stop talking.

There were no other rules.  Visitors could spend as little or as much time in the space as they wanted.  They also had the option to avoid it all together. But the majority didn’t. We left notebooks on benches to collect feedback.  The most common response was gratitude.

The gardens and I planned to run the pilot for a month but the feedback was so positive and the project so easy to run that most of them extended to the end of the summer.  They are still part of the project today.

There are now over 40 gardens running a Silent Space around the UK – from Scotland to Cornwall.  In December 2019, Dunedin Botanic Garden in New Zealand joined the project, the first Silent Space in the Southern Hemisphere.

Silent Space is still run voluntarily and relies on the good will of all the beautiful gardens that take part. This year it will become a small charity. Thank you, Incredible Edible for your sage advice.  Silent Space continues to grow.

https://silentspace.org.uk/

photographs copyright Liz Ware

This Week’s Guest Blogger is by The Rev’d Canon Carl Fredrik Arvidsson

One day from being a very busy and active person I woke up and I new something was wrong. I was diagnosed within an a few months with an incurable cancer. Yippee! Working at Canterbury Cathedral and the King’s School I was very active and then for a year ended up in a wheelchair having had a stem cell transplant and now registered disabled.
Since being ill my healing garden has been my saviour in many ways and my fields where I created an acre for wild flowers. I remember reading that  ‘The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.’
Being in hospital for months and having very strong chemotherapy I started to plan my ‘Quiet Healing Pond Garden’ I am not in a wheelchair right now but I am in pain most of the day and can’t walk far and do much but with help I give orders and my wife and friends love me! I hope the do?
When diagnosed with cancer, your priorities in life have to change. It isn’t about work, money or how many branded goods you can buy any more.
It’s the simple things in life that can make you happy, like spending time in the garden, visiting NGS , enjoying delicious food that you grow from your vegetable patch and then sharing it with family and friends. I still have friends!
I am learning to accept my condition and move forward what ever time I have left be it a week or 10 years. Once you’ve changed your perspective, the hunger for fame or fortune diminishes or even disappears, and you realise you can be happy with much less.
It seems to me that cancer patients who live the longest have learnt how to be content. They have few wants and needs. They lead simple lives, they garden, eat simply and have zero stress.
I now don’t think of cancer as a death sentence. It’s not the end. There are many treatment options available today. Rather, treat it like a chronic illness. If you suffer a relapse, trust your doctor to keep it under control through surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
As as a priest my first priority is to be prescribe a proven medical treatment based on evidence. It’s only after I have received evidence-based help that I will try alternative treatments. The garden is now part of my healing treatment and a bit of Forrest Therapy. Nature never lets you down!
Of course, the process isn’t easy. It takes time to accept a cancer diagnosis, usually about six months after treatment. In the meantime, patients should not put things off. They should should get out in the garden or nature, live fulfilling lives, so that when the time comes – whether it is today, tomorrow, five or 10 years from now – they will pass on from this existence with no regrets. Get out in the Garden!

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Ilena Gilbert-Mays

My Love For Gardening

My love for gardening began at an early age and my mother was a huge influence. As a child I can remember her endlessly planting daffodils along the base of the fence, creating a border of yellow that was truly beautiful to the eyes of a young girl. I can also remember the many varieties of bearded irises she planted thru out the back yard that created islands of color every where that one would care to look. When I attended high school, I took as many horticulture classes that I could, and followed up with an associates degree in horticulture from Fayetteville Technical Institute

My husband and myself eat a a lot of fresh produce and growing organic vegetables in a raised no dig bed is very important to me. I live in coastal North Carolina, in growing zone eight so it is possible to grow vegetables year round. Right now I have celery, collards, kale,and a few carrots. I have a compost bin that is located inside my chicken run that not only supplies me with rich organic soil, but is also full of big, healthy worms. These worms help with the health of my garden and keep my chickens happy.

I also have a very large informal flower garden with lots of unusual flower varieties and some old favorites. I have several varieties of ginger, some of them edible. I also grow sugar cane and several different varieties banana plants, that are hardy. Not all my banana plants can live outside, some of them along with my Ponderosa Lemon Tree and Australian Finger Limes have to spend the winter in my greenhouse, which I will write about later. Another added benefit are the pollinators that visit my garden every spring and summer. So many different butterflies, bees and wasps.

After several years of looking at hobby greenhouses, my husband finally installed one three years ago. If I had known how much of difference it would make in what I could grow, and what it could do for me, I would have installed one years ago. Not only do I keep the finger lime trees and lemon trees here during the winter, this is where I keep my ever growing collection of cactus and succulents and exotic ginger plants. It has also been a great stress reliever at the end of a long day. My citrus trees bloom all winter long and citrus blooms are my favorite scent. To be able to sit and take in the calmness of the
greenhouse, the earthy, citrus smell at the end of a difficult day, is something I always look forward to.

Thank you for allowing me to share my joy of plants and gardening. Please feel free visit my twitter account, @ilenagm

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Mike Rogers, an allotmenteer, armchair gardener, blogger and sofa flying book buff who writes Flighty’s Plot

Pot Marigolds

Much as I like to grow soft fruit and vegetables on my Flighty’s plot allotment (https://flightplot.wordpress.com) it’s annual flowers that I really enjoy growing. In recent years I’ve grown California Poppies, Candytuft, Cornflowers, Cosmos, Love-in-a-Mist, Nasturtiums, Poached Egg Plants, Pot Marigolds and Sunflowers. As I don’t have a greenhouse and limited windowsill space at home I sow nearly all the seeds direct in the spring.  At the end of the season I collect and save seeds from most of them, let some self-seed and buy a few new ones.  My favourites are the pot marigolds which are a mix of varieties, to which I’ll be adding a packet of Playtime Mix  which won an award for consistent quality with a fine mix of single, semi-double and double flowers in bright, buff and pastel colours. I’ll also be trying the delightfully named Oopsy Daisy, which is a dwarf variety with bi-coloured flowers in a range of bright oranges and creamy yellows. The description for the Mixture of Varieties in the Chiltern Seeds Grow something new from seed catalogue says – To bring back fun into gardening, this is a jolly mixture to brighten gardens, lives and outlooks.  Who could ask for more?  My plot is rather exposed so I generally grow the knee-high sunflowers Musicbox.  This year I’ll also be growing the slightly taller variety Sonja, which has dark-centred, golden-orange blooms.  These are shown as being excellent for cutting, and I’m hoping that they’ll be good enough to exhibit at my local horticultural society’s annual show in early September.

Sunflower

I’m always a touch apprehensive when I sow the nasturtiums Tom Thumb Mixedas the Chiltern Seeds catalogue description states – If you can’t grow these then you’d better give up gardening as a hobby. Thankfully so far they’ve always germinated, grown and flowered.Have a floriferous 2020!

Nasturtiums

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Andrew Oldham who writes Life on Pig Row – down to earth gardening and cooking on a hillside with the Oldham family. He is A Garden Media Guild member and was a Finalist 2019

How Can You Be A Gardener?

www.lifeonpigrow.co.uk

The emphasis is often on the ‘you’ when this question is asked. It seems being disabled and a gardener confuses certain people. I became disabled after an accident in my late twenties and I was advised by consultant take up gardening but not to dig or lift. Digging and lifting had put me off gardening as a child. Back in the 1980s, I was an unwilling helper on my Dad’s allotment and gardening seemed to be all about weeding, spades, and heavy sacks of stuff that smelt funny. Gardening taught me patience during a dark period of my life where I had to come to terms with not being able to walk, run or even move without some sort of assistance. Being disabled felt like being back in school because I was learning a new way of life that I didn’t want. I felt helpless.

So, I sowed a pot of beans cursing my consultant in a series of four-letter words. The four-letter rant lasted as I read the seed packet instructions. I overflowed four-letter words from the tips of my fingers as I jammed them into pots brimming with compost. I dropped the four-letter bean seeds in the four-letter holes and covered them over with four-letter compost. I cringe now to think of how angry I was and how much my disability has brought to me. As the seed leaves broke the surface of the soil and spiralled up, I felt pride and for the first time in a long time, faith in my own ability to win. The seven pots I sowed in my rage all germinated. If I could grow beans then anyone could. If anyone could build a garden, so could I.

I built a garden that embraced all of me, my disability, my health and my well-being. If I couldn’t lift then I would start small, if I couldn’t dig then I would grow plants that kept care of themselves like rhubarb, geraniums and aquilegias; I would find joy in the self-seeding plant. This was how the cottage garden was born from seeds, cuttings and division. Small plants that swelled and covered the soil. Geoff’s Garden, the potager named after my late Dad took me two years to build. The garden comprises of six raised wooden beds surrounded by gravel paths. This is my sit down on a stool and think vegetable garden.

This year I start to build a teaching garden to show people who ask, ‘How can you be a gardener?’ that we all can be gardeners. It just takes patience and time.

This Week’s guest Blogger is Julie Dunn

A Garden to Sleep in

During the Spring of 2017 I had a prolonged period off work in order to recover from a hysterectomy. The procedure was planned and I was determined to use the ‘spare’ time productively. Planning a design for a show garden seemed like a good idea, it would be therapeutic for me and involve garden design and plants without having to leave the armchair. I had started a garden design business 8 years earlier (a career change from cancer research) but found it hard to juggle a busy job, bringing up daughters aged 6 and 8 and seeing potential garden design clients at weekends. I never expected my show garden design to be accepted let alone win a silver medal at RHS Tatton Park 2018! Fast forward to the garden, which combined my passion for ‘science/wellbeing’ and ‘gardens/design’: the garden (named ‘Sleep Well’) focussed on the importance of sleep and green spaces to a person’s mental health.

It’s big ask to make a garden that will serve as a form of therapy. In effect that’s what my brief was to myself and I thought how great it would be to be commissioned to make therapeutic gardens for anyone. With Lifestyle Medicine being a hot topic, I decided to focus on one the four pillars of Lifestyle Medicine (EAT, SLEEP, MOVE, RELAX)- the show garden would be about sleep. Furthermore, to add theatre for the show, my garden would have an actual double bed in it! I imagined a GP prescribing: “What you need madam is a private garden with a bed with comforting quilt, and space for yoga on some grass”. You might laugh but Lifestyle Medicine is at the forefront of current clinical practice. In 2018 the Royal College of General Practitioners ran a course for GPs to teach them the principles of Lifestyle Medicine and how to deliver it to the NHS.

Sleep Well’ Garden illustration for the application to design a show garden for RHS Tatton Park 2018

To begin, I considered how to make it possible to relax enough to fall asleep in the garden. I would need to feel warm, safe (from the Betterware man/whoever else rings the front doorbell, the PPI person on the phone, the sun, the rain); pleasant smells are also on the list. To unwind requires slowing down, being ‘in the moment’ and mindful of one’s surroundings (which must therefore be calming too). So, I need softness, wafting forms, faint rustling sound and maybe some water. I was getting sleepy already. To add to this, I wanted the sky to be part of the garden to remind me that I am but a small speck in a vast universe and nothing REALLY matters that much. I would feel part of the garden and I would slow to its pace.

The reflective pool and other plants including tumbling Echinacea ‘Milkshake’, soft Santolina, fragrant Salvia purpurescens (purple sage) and Agastache ‘Black Adder’, airy Verbena bonariensis and tall Eupatorium in the background behind the bed

The planting would help create the mood, being comforting, calming, dreamlike and scented. I chose a limited colour palette to reflect the mood, and a variety of leaf/flower shapes, textures and heights. I commissioned a bespoke quilt to dress the bed, designed by textile artist Janet Haigh, the colours of which reflected the planting. Plants were chosen for three main height groups: tall, medium and low. The tall planting should disguise the fencing and over time (in theory of course- this couldn’t happen during show week!) make the bed look like it had grown from the garden with the plants. Medium and low planting would create ‘cushion’ shapes as well as allow for viewing the garden from the boundaries. Plants of one type will be placed in ‘drifts’ or small groups, next to drifts of complementary types. For example, amongst the ‘Santolina cushions’ would be the ‘airy Sanguisorba ’ providing movement; similarly, loose airy grasses would be used in the tall sections to complement Salvia Amistad. Verbena officinalis planted in the gravel will create a delicious lemony aroma, and Santolinas and Sage will complement this. The colour palette is limited by design to be calming but there is a ‘pop’ of colour from Sanguisorba ‘Tanna’ in the low beds, and Sanguisorba officinalis in the medium beds.

Calming planting enclosing the fully dressed inviting bed. The bespoke quilt was designed and made by textile artist Janet Haigh using Kaffe Fassett fabrics chosen to echo the planting including airy Verbena bonariensis, the rustling grasses Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ and Deschampsia ‘Goldtau’, and fragrant Salvia ‘Amistad’..

The ‘Sleep Well’ garden turned out to have multiple therapeutic benefits. Firstly, for me and my recuperation, secondly for the visitors to the show garden (especially the ones who tried the bed out!), thirdly for the service users at the autism centre where I donated and rebuilt the garden (Wirral Autism Together, Bromborough Pool garden Centre) www.autismtogether.co.uk, and lastly for anyone who listened to my podcast entitled ‘How sleep and green space can help your mental health’ by Dr Julie Dunn.

www.mentalhealth.org.uk › podcasts-and-videos


“Oh, and you never know, the light-hearted blog I published whilst designing and building the ‘Sleep Well’ garden might also be helping other stressed out show garden creators!

https://juliedunntattonshowgarden.wordpress.com

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Greg Loades The Editor at The Alpine Garden Society

Five handy tips for starting a new garden

Greg Loades’ Garden in July 2018
I moved into a new house with a tiny backyard in February 2018, in Hull, UK. It was a blank canvas except for a poppy and a few stray bulbs that appeared in spring. The fun of starting a new, tiny garden from scratch is that you very quickly see results. Although you also very quickly run out of room too! 
 
I’m learning to change areas of planting each year to keep the garden interesting. I’m a ‘doing’ kind of gardener and I soon get itchy feet if there isn’t a small project to tackle in the garden!
 
Have you moved to a new garden and you don’t know where to start? If so, here are five tips for starting a new garden, based on my experiences of my tiny garden in Hull!

 

Be ruthless

If there is something that’s growing in your garden but you don’t like it then get rid of it! The plant may be beautiful in its own right but if you wouldn’t have chosen it and you don’t like the colour or the style of it then be ruthless! You may be able to give it away to a neighbour too. I had an red Oriental poppy that popped up in the first year after starting my garden. It was a nice plant but it was far too big for my garden and looked out of proportion. So I dug it up and planted something smaller in its place.

 

Start with the biggest plants

Make a list of the plants that you would like to grow and then seek out the biggest ones and the evergreens first. If you can position and plant these ‘backbone’ plants in the garden, it’s easy to fill in the remaining space with shorter, free-flowering plants that can ‘colour in’ the garden. Pay close attention to what the size of the plant is (check the label) and make sure you give it enough room

 

Don’t start digging until you’ve had a spring

If you take over a garden in the winter, then there is a chance that the garden is holding a treasure chest of plants below the soil surface. Herbaceous perennials (plants that die down in winter and grow back in spring) can take until mid spring to appear so leave the soil undisturbed until then to give them a chance. There may also be some beautiful bulbs still to emerge too.

 

Prioritise prominent areas

Check to see which parts of the garden are going to be viewed the most from the house and get these planted and organised first. Looking out of the window and seeing progress or transformation in the garden helps create an impetus and enthusiasm to tackle the rest of the garden.

 

Look at the surrounding gardens

Be nosy and have a good look at the plants that are growing very well in neighbouring gardens. This can give you an indication of what will do well in yours. If acid-loving camellias and rhododendrons are growing well, it is an indication that the soil is acidic. If you are not sure what the plants close by are, ask your neighbour if they know the name. Research the plants to see what makes them thrive and then you can look for plants that like similar conditions. Choosing plants that suit the growing conditions (soil, climate, aspect) that you have will make growing them much easier.

Greg Loades’ garden in July 2019

See more pictures and updates from the garden on Instagram @hull_urban_gardener

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Andy Lopez owns ‘The Invisible Gardener’ and Radio Talk Show Host of ‘Don’t Panic! It’s Organic!’ at BBS Radio

The Mycelium Intelligence

Chain of Life

We all understand the concept of The Chain of Life. We usually think about how one creature eats another animal which then gets eaten by another creature, which in turn gets eaten by another, until we get to us. We are at the top of the chain, or are we?

We understood that, but did you ever think as to the beginning of the chain? The start of the chain of Life starts with the fungi, bacteria, and protozoa. These are the real Master Gardeners of our planet. As I mentioned before, they have been at this for a very long time, much longer than we have. Their Gardening skills are honed to perfection. All living things depend upon the Mycelium, and its ability to recycle the essential minerals and resources needed for healthy growth.

As a kid, I was always interested in these mushrooms that would pop up almost everywhere. I noticed that after rain, they would appear overnight. Several times, I would sit and watch. Over a few hours, they would be fully grown and right in front of my eyes.

Beautiful. I am not talking about magic mushrooms (this is another story), but of the many varieties that grow in the lawn, in your garden, in the forest. It is these workers that take the minerals and other essential nutrients and convert them into an assimilable nutrient rich in minerals.

As I mentioned before, plants learned that they are better at growing if they grow with their roots intertwined with the Mycelium than if they tried it on their own. As a matter of fact, eventually, all plants evolved so that Mycelium grew in the root hairs of their roots. This became a particular type of Mycelium that is working for the plant, taking the nutrients from the Mycelium Colony and passing it on to the plants. While plants can grow in soil without Mycelium (plants produce the proper waste that helps Mycelium grow), they will use their roots to locate the underground Mycelium colony and make a connection. They plug into the conscious mind of the Mycelium. The Mycelium will then expand its web weave to include the plant! The plant communicates with the Mycelium Mind, and they exchange information. What does the Mycelium get from this relationship? When the plant dies, it will become food for the Mycelium. It will digest and return all the minerals and recycle it back to itself as food, and it also feeds others.

The Mycelium have evolved to farm for their “food source” plants and indirectly insects as well as animals and even humans. Anything that dies and is returned to the earth becomes food for the microbial life.

Mycelium has been around for hundreds of millions of years. They have evolved into a very efficient organism. They can communicate within all of the intertwined roots of plants. They communicate with trees through this network. Trees communicate with each other through this network. Insects and animals are attracted to these areas. Insects will eat other insects especially if the bugs are getting mineral-rich food sources. Animals, in turn, are attracted to other mineral rich animals and plants. Lots of animals only eat plants (mineral rich), and they are prime food for animals to eat them and get the minerals. Whatever dies will be eaten by the fungi.

It’s Alive is the name of one of my radio shows. I started this show way back in 1984 when I first moved to Malibu. In it, I try to express to folks how important this hidden life is. The top soil is the “skin” of the Mycelium. Just as the skin of animals, humans, insects, etc., acts as an interface between the inside and the outside of our bodies, so too does top soil act as an interface between plants, animals, insects, everything!

Plants have deep roots as well as deep roaming roots. They seek Mycelium and Mycelium seeks these roots. There is a definite interaction between the Mycelium and the roots of the plant. As the plant grows, its roots encounter this Mycelium which almost immediately starts to provide nourishment and communication with other plants directly through this network.

Humans, Plants, and Mycelium bacteria have evolved together over the millions of years and have developed many ways of communication with each other. Yes, humans can communicate too with this Mycelium. Together, they provide for each other. The key to healthy life is minerals. Lacking one or more minerals will eventually cause big problems, leading to an unhealthy state. This is not just true for plants but all living things especially trees and animals and humans. Whether plant, insect, animal, or human, being unhealthy is a magnet for pests and diseases.

The Mycelium of the world is one living being

The Mycelium of the world is one living being and is responsible for many things of which the growth of mushrooms is one. Mushrooms digest minerals found in decaying insects, plants, animals (and humans) and convert it to usable forms-which the plants can assimilate and we, in turn, can also assimilate.

You are what you eat is the old saying. The fungi eat the minerals, which is consumed by the plants, which are then eaten by the animals which in turn is eaten by us. Humans also eat the plants directly. These fungi will also eat and convert into the proper minerals (anything that dies and encounters the “skin”) of the Mycelium. In essence we are Mycelium.

Thus, the Mycelium is the very start and end of the food chain. Now how cool is that? I often talk about how we are damaging and disrupting the top soil. By damaging and or removing this “skin,” we are destroying the Mycelium and this in turn hurts everything else. The Mycelium is an important ally in the climate change war, one that we cannot ignore. So, it is very important to protect our top soil and in turn protect this amazing organism.

to find out more about Andy Lopez and his opinions visit his website invisiblegardener.com where you can download his ebook or if you have any questions listen to his radio show or email him at andylopez@invisiblegardener.com