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This Week’s Guest Blogger is Andrew Fisher Tomlin

Andrew Fisher Tomlin

The power of a day in the garden

I’m not particularly nostalgic and I often feel that many of my childhood memories have come from the tales my sister tells of what I got up to but I do have a few very clear memories that, I think, put me on the path to where I am today.

Those memories are very clearly of helping my Dad in one of his three allotment plots that we got to in a 5-minute bike ride. Often on a Sunday morning when a good roast was calling we’d cycle up to the allotment where Dad was already there working. We’d help him dig up potatoes which were like treasure, pull up carrots and pick runner beans. Once we got older we were allowed to pick fruit for Chivers Farms in the village during the summer holidays. And of course there was a garden at home that my Mum tended too with an apple tree for climbing and plum trees around the corner to harvest for free.

I often think that my passion for gardening comes from not just my childhood but also that I like my food and my Mum taught me to cook. It’s as important a skill as gardening and perhaps these days we could all take a lesson from this. And today even though my mortgage is paid from working in gardens I still enjoy a day in my own garden.

In our business we design community gardens for vision impairment, for dementia and with young people, a huge range of ages and abilities. I see the power that both active gardening and passive enjoyment of a garden brings. When I get home and go out for half an hour to do some gardening, and then find it’s three hours later and its gone dark, when I put my feet up and look at what I’ve achieved I still get as big a buzz out of a garden as I did digging up the treasure of potatoes all those years ago.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Quentin Stark

Quentin Stark

Quentin Stark is the Head Gardener at Hole Park Gardens, Kent http://www.holepark.com

He is also the Plant Doctor for Plant Fairs Roadshow http://www.plant-fairs.co.uk

There is a Snowdrop and Plant Fair Roadshow on Sunday 10th February 2019 at Hole Park from 11am until 3 pm

One of my Favourite Plants

There are over twenty species of Cyclamen, growing across Southern Europe, West Asia and Northern Africa.

I was introduced to the tender florist Cyclamen persicum as a young boy by my mother. It wasn’t until I was working at Savill Gardens I met the charming hardy species in the woodland garden. I was lucky to move to my current job which was five minutes from the former specialist Cyclamen nursery Tile Barn. The nearest thing to Cyclamen heaven.

It is some of these hardy species that I want to mention next.

Cyclamen repandum

Cyclamen repandum one of the lesser known species and is definitely a woodland plant, as its foliage is less leathery than its cousins Cyclamen hederifolium and C. coum. Its leaves have a well-defined hastate pattern outlined in silver. The foliage comes up in spring with the arrival of warmer days to come, followed soon by the long elegant slightly twisting magenta petals.

Cyclamen repandum

Cyclamen  purpurescens

This Cyclamen is more of a challenge to grow well out in the garden, as it prefers a continental climate. It is worth trying by planting deeply in a humus shady spot, as this species flowers from June to October with pale pink to carmine and rarely white flowers with the most delightful sweet scent like violets, the best scent of any Cyclamen. It is in leaf almost all year around with heart to kidney shaped leaves that vary in colour from glossy green to entirely pewter coloured, usually has a hastate pattern highlighted in cream, silver or pewter

Cyclamen purpurescens

Cyclamen hederifolium

To me the end of hazy days of summer and the coming mellow fruitfulness of Autumn is signified with the appearance with the first blooms of the most accommodating and long-lived Cyclamen species.

Cyclamen hederifolium

Cyclamen hederifolium is one of the most common species grown, with its butterfly-like blooms that come in shades of rose-pink or white before the leaves, make their appearance. The foliage gives an added bonus to the beauty and another reason to grow these small hardy plants. These leathery leaves with hastate mark in the centre of the leaf, and marbled with shades of green, pewter and silver give rise to almost limitless patterns.

These pictures show the bank opposite my back door, on which Cyclamen hederifolium has appeared over the last 18 years and I’ve not planted one of them, so how did they come to be there?

The seeds of Cyclamen have a sweet coating on them and this is desirable to mice and ants. They collected the seeds from plants in other parts of my garden removed the sweet coating and left the seeds in their runs which seems to be a great place for germination.

Cyclamen coum

Cyclamen coum

Cyclamen coum arrives in winter it’s kidney shaped leaves fully expanded. These leaves like the autumn flowering C. hederifolium have a central hastate marking and can be as variable. The flowers are dumpy compared to other species of Cyclamen, I think this gives them a charm of their own. This delightful species starts to flower in December and continues well into February, with a range of colour from pure white through hints and shades of pink to carmine. This is my favourite species as it gives the most welcome colour in the depth of winter.

To find out more about these wonderful charming plants, the book by Christopher Grey-Wilson, Cyclamen A guide for gardeners, horticulturists and botanists. It has everything you need to know about growing Cyclamen.

The Cyclamen society is great to group to join to further your knowledge and increase your plants through their seed scheme.

‘I know of no other genus whose plants flower out of doors every day of the year. I know of no other genus with one or more species coming into bloom or growth, peaking or going dormant at every season.’ Nancy Goodwin

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Ian Scroggy

Ian W. Scroggy HNDH

Ian Scroggy works with his parents running Bali-Hai Mail Order Nursery.

SLUGS NO MORE!!!!

I have been experimenting with different controls to prevent Slug and Snail damage to our Hosta stock on the nursery.  I tried the usual beer traps or milk traps worked to a certain extent but only worked in a small area around the traps.

Hair clippings, egg shells, sharp grit, soot with little success if the slugs want to eat they will go over them.

Garlic extract now this is the one that gave the best results plus with added benefits.

The Garlic Recipe

You will need

2 Large Garlic bulbs Romanian Red is the best

Blender

2 pints of water

saucepan

Cloth to strain mixture

dark coloured bottle

 Get two large Garlic bulbs place in a blender.  Once finely crushed add contents to two pints of boiling water, let it boil for 2-3 minutes or until the garlic looks like it is blanched.  Let it cool best to do this outside it does smell a bit.  As soon as it is cooled get an old pair of stockings and place them over the saucepan and drain off the liquid into a dark plastic bottle the stockings help to filter out the small garlic pieces. Or pour into ice cube tray and freeze the concentrate. Now you have a concentrated liquid of garlic.  With this liquid put two tablespoons into your watering can, or two ice cubes, about two gallon size or 10 litres and with a fine spray rose on your watering can water this over the leaves of your hostas best to do it in later afternoon after the strong midday sun has passed over.  Spray your plants every 14 days during active growth i.e. from the first shoots starting to emerge to late August-September.

 I have found this mixture can be bought ready made called “Garlic Barrier”  if you search online you will find it.  As it is totally organic it does no harm to the air or soil it actually improves the vigour of the Hostas and gives the leaves a good sheen which also helps build up good root systems as if the leaves are healthy they are able to produce more food to put back into their roots therefore producing more “eyes” so your plants will bulk up better.  It also means you do not have to spray nasty chemicals so much only if you get a sudden outbreak of mildew or botrytis that you would need to spray with a fungicide.  Yes I still use commercial grade slug pellets especially before the plants start to emerge as the garlic only works on the foliage, it leaves the leaves a nasty taste for the slugs they will bypass them for a hosta not treated with garlic.  With slug pellets I only have to use 80% less than I did before I started using garlic so that is a marked improvement.

 Try making your own garlic spray and just do one or two plants to start with so as you can see the difference with the Hostas that you sprayed and ones you left alone.  Within a month you will see a good difference.  I know the smell puts people off making their own but it is worth it I can assure you.  Make sure when spraying the plants that the leaves are dry so as the spray will stay on the leaves and the liquid will dry on thus giving the protection.  I only spray every 14 days but weekly would be even better.  “Garlic Barrier” also do a granule form that you can mix in with the compost I tried this on 100 pots of Hostas but did not get the same results as I got from the liquid sprays but this was only a small scale trial it might work for you and there is hardly any smell of the granules

Bali-Hai Mail Order Nursery http://www.mailorderplants4me.com

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Tom Hart Dyke

My Gardening Journey!

By Tom Hart Dyke 

Curator  of The World Garden at Lullingstone Castle, Kent

Portrait of Tom Hart Dyke, Award Winning Plant Expert. Writer, Author, Television Presenter, Adventurer. Commissioned by: Mary Dawson http://www.dfmanagement.tv[/caption]

My passion for horticulture started from a young age, my influential and much loved Granny ‘Crac’ gave me a packet of carrot seeds at the age of three and from then on, I was captivated by plants!  Orchids were my first love and fascination; I would often persuade Granny after school to help me scour the long grass of our local golf course in search of wild orchid beauties. After I graduated from Sparsholt College my sense of adventure grew stronger and I followed my plant hunters dream of travelling the world to seek out rare orchids and plants.

Phragmipedum Orchid in the Orchid House at Lullingstone Castle. Photo Credit: Alan Graham

I’ve had some extremely exciting horticulturally endowed trips over my green filled lifetime. It’s been an absolute privilege following in the deep rooted traditions of plant hunters of past and present, travelling to the far flung corners of our green globe, risking life and limb in pursuit of some of the world’s most awe-inspiring plants. My travelling jaunts have taken me to places from the high endemism filled volcanic archipelago of both The Canary Islands & Cape Verde Islands, to down under in Tasmania, seed collecting for the Royal Horticultural Society & Kent Garden’s Trust.

You simply can’t beat observing plants in their native habitat to improve your plant husbandry back home. However not all my plant hunting trips have gone so ‘horticulturally swimmingly’. On March the 16th 2000, whilst Orchid hunting in the rainforest endowed Darien Gap, a friend and I found ourselves on the receiving end of an AK-47 stuck to our temples and were held hostage for 9-months before being released! On 16th June, during my Colombian kidnap ordeal, I opened my diary and began plans for my ‘World Garden’ which would contain plants from around the globe planted in their respective continents of origin. My vision for The World Garden was finally born on Easter Saturday 2005, all made possible by the support of family, friends and the community.  Each year we welcome so many visitors, sharing and inspiring new plant hunters, although I still manage to find time to go travelling to add to my never ending plant collection!

Tom Hart Dyke, Curator of The World Garden at Lullingstone Castle, Kent

www.lullingstonecastle.co.uk

Aerial Photograph of Lullingstone Castle by Stephen Sangster

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Sarah Owen-Hughes

A Career in Joy

Sarah Owen-Hughes at Tromso Botanic Garden

Gardening is a joyous activity. Whether inhaling the wet earth smell of promise when lifting the first potatoes to being passed a glimmer of optimism in a tissue-wrapped cutting, it is something that brings out the kindness and generosity of strangers, and a deeper closeness with friends who also share the love.

It is a love that changes every day, and one can never, ever learn enough. In a single week I can receive a text stating ‘My neighbour is cutting down their pear tree. Stop it.’; find a bag of golden quinces on my doorstep; visit a leading local horticultural research facility and arrange to travel to Spain with some students on an Erasmus Aquaponics project. It is a career or hobby that constantly enriches, even on the wettest and coldest days.

And yet horticulture is facing a recruitment crisis. The RHS Horticulture Matters report in 2014 found that 72% of surveyed businesses struggled to fill skilled vacancies (RHS, 2014). NFU Horticulture board chair Ali Capper recently identified a 29% shortage in the labour market, with fears that this will only increase as we negotiate the movement of labour post Brexit (HortWeek, 2018). I had a message from a former student recently about forestry work in Canada, where he told me that he could place up to 250 young people with arboriculture qualifications. This is an international issue.

I was also reading recently about the increase in mental health conditions in young adults, partially identified as being caused by societal pressures to succeed, and it struck me that horticulture could be part of a solution. Instead of directing them to financially ruinous degrees with the pressure of a high-income job at the end, why not teach youngsters to pursue a career in joy? I don’t want to say of my children “They work too hard” when they are older. I want to say, “They love their job”.

Creating Secret Gardens at the Deershed Festival.

Imagine leaving home every morning to visit different farms, nurseries and garden centres as a Plant Health Inspector; working with a team to grow and harvest microgreens or medicinal herbs in an LED facility; developing legislation with the government Pesticides authority; designing and building a garden for a local school, training to be a botanical artist or teaching students about the miracle of seeds breaking their dormancy? These are all jobs that former students have gone on to do, and nothing gives me greater joy than hearing where they are in the world and how much they love their lives. And let’s dismiss the idea that horticulture is only a low paid career for low skilled people – the Head of Gardens at the Eden Project is being advertised at £55k, which is hardly a job for someone who is “too thick to be an electrician” (former student, undated).

The next time you watch a cyclamen flowerhead spiral its way back down to the ground to deposit its seed, or you feel the crunch of dry leaves underfoot as you walk to the shed, please, please share the joy. Tell a child or a young adult about how that makes you feel, let them into the secret. It is a joy that will sustain them for the rest of their lives.

Installing a sedum roof at home

Sarah Owen-Hughes, MCIoH, Horticulture Lecturer, Askham Bryan College, York. Sarah is the External Examiner for the Horticulture degree programmes at the Eden Project, Cornwall & Kirkley Hall, Northumberland.

https://www.rhs.org.uk/Education-Learning/PDF/Training/1016-RHS-Hort-Careers-Brochure-V8.pdf

https://www.hortweek.com/labour-crisis-update-bad-shortage-season/fresh-produce/article/1497170

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Patrick Vickery

Patrick is a Horticulture/Newspaper Columnist and Author

A day in the life

It’s 6.30 in the morning, Scottish Highlands, a woolly hat sort of day, brittle ice, crispy coldness. I put the cackling ducks outside (they spent the night in the security of the kitchen on account of the sly fox that killed the unsuspecting hens and would almost certainly kill the cackling ducks given half a chance), fed the bleating goats, discussed the weather with the bristling cat as I guided her into the garden with a broom (useful for cat-guiding situations), checked the fat goldfish was still alive (old fish, still alive), then tied my boot laces at the exact moment the big-eared dog (Jasper) vigorously shook his head resulting in a sequence of rapid slaps across my face with his ears. Very painful.

                I de-iced the car in the twilight dawning of the early morning and set off for work accompanied by a flask of coffee, smarting cheeks from oscillating dog ears and a mobile phone in case someone should call requiring urgent assistance with an unforeseen shrubbery incident. I had not gone far when I stopped to allow three stern geese to cross the road, at which point they answered my consideration by attacking the car, vicious blighters, in stark contrast to the escaped cow further down the road who gave me nothing more than a cursory glance as I overtook her at a snail’s pace.

Geese often guarded whisky distilleries in the past, you know, and provided an effective alarm system with integral deterrent (pecking) should anyone attempt to make off with a barrel or two, although in more recent times they have fallen out of favour due to their complete disregard for the notion of intent. Intent to steal whisky – deserving of a good peck. Non intent to steal whisky – still deserving of a good peck. Not pleasant. On a par with oscillating dog ears across the face. Give me a casual cow any day.

The day had started badly. It could only get better. It did. A pleasant pruning, chopping and blethering sort of day ensued. I was half way up an apple tree when I took an urgent phone call requesting Jaffa cakes and something tasty for supper. A request for something tasty for supper is not unusual and often results in whatever I can lay my hands on in a hurry. A cheese and onion quiche, perhaps? Though Jaffa cakes are easier, more specific and to the point. Jaffa cakes, incidentally, have replaced traditional half-time oranges at football matches. Disappointing.

Shopping complete, I returned home as dusk was falling. The bristling cat sat on the doorstep with the cackling ducks waiting to be let in.

So there you have it, a day in the life of a full-time gardener in the Scottish Highlands. It is late evening as I sit at the kitchen table writing this, the house is relaxed and peaceful, the only sounds to be heard are the cackle of contented ducks, the snore of a satisfied and big eared dog and the light tapping of a grammatically challenged rural rambling man on the laptop computer

Please visit Patrick’s website to find out more about him

http://www.patrickvickery.com

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Colin Moat

 

Colin Moat is Chairman of Plant Fair Roadshow and owner of Pineview Plants

Plant Fairs Roadshow

Now with 10 events and brilliant venues lined up for our eighth year, it’s amazing to think back to our start in 2011. The catalyst was formed in 2010 with a few nursery owners having time to stand around chatting due to attending another poorly attended plant fair. They decided that instead of moaning they would do something about it, and organise their own. They identified that the problem, wasn’t the quality of the product, after all some of the leading independent nurseries in the South East had been there, but the marketing had been poor.
Initially, it started with just a couple of venues, Hall Place in Bexley, Kent and the Telegraph Hill Centre in New Cross, South London, only for a few hours, but the response from plant hungry gardeners to the exciting range of interesting, unusual and sometimes rare plants was overwhelming. This convinced them, that they were doing the right thing. They recruited a Plant Doctor (Quentin Stark Head Gardener at Hole Park) to attend their events to help visitors, by diagnosing or advising on plants, or, garden problems (or, as a personal plant shopper!). Over the years, mainly in response to enquiries from well respected garden owners, or, venues, who liked the idea of a readymade event; Plant Fairs Roadshow has become more established.
The fact it’s not run by an ‘Event Organiser’ company appeals, as it comes with its own energy, identity and passion of the nursery owners. They are keen for their precious plants to do well in the purchasers garden, and are happy to give advice to ensure it thrives, rather than treat it as just a commodity.
Over the intervening years they have formed a collective (an ‘Association’) of like-minded, independent specialist nurseries, of sufficient quality and variety. They now hold events across the South East of England, from Arundel Castle (29th April 2018) on the coast of West Sussex, Chawton House in Hampshire, Telegraph Hill Centre in South East London and in 2019, Canterbury Cathedral in Kent, plus many others.
Colin Moat, Chair and events coordinator comments ‘that 2018 seemed to be a breakthrough year with an exciting range of venues, but we wouldn’t be where we are now, without the outstanding range and quality of the plants offered by our participating growers. In addition to finding lots of great independent nurseries (a number being RHS exhibitors) all in one place, their plants are normally offered at about two thirds of the price of Garden Centres. So for visitors and nurseries alike it’s a ‘win, win’ situation that’s why I think it’s so successful. Plus, if they want advice for the right plant for the right place, they can ask our Plant Doctor.’

A list of Plant Fairs Roadshow events for 2019 can be found on our website, along with details of some of our brilliant nurseries,

visit http://www.plant-fairs.co.uk

 

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Flick Seton

Flick Seton (seated front right) chairing the committee meeting

Flick Seton is the Chairman of Gardening for Disabled Trust

2018 has been a significant anniversary for our small charity: we have survived 50 years in the tough world of fundraising!

In 1968 our founder Mrs Kinsey identified the benefit that gardening brings to body and soul, and set about raising money to help people with disabilities enjoy the feel of ‘soil under the fingernails’.  In this she was a true pioneer.

Half a century later, the health benefits of gardening are well-researched and documented: it’s even been estimated that every £1 spent on horticultural therapy brings £5 of health benefit.

For our clients, a little financial injection from the Trust can be life-changing.  We are endlessly humbled by our clients’ creativity and imagination in devising schemes to adapt their gardens, making them accessible and functional  in spite of their disabilities;  and it is a real privilege to be a small part of that journey.  Please do explore their stories on this website by clicking here.

http://www.gardeningfordisabledtrust.org.uk/services/case-studies/

Our small committee of 10 volunteers are tireless in their commitment to get more people back into their gardens and enjoy that exceptional pleasure that is gardening.  If you feel inspired to give us a hand – with a fundraising lunch, or a coffee morning, or signing up to become a Friend perhaps, then we would be so very grateful. Please click here for more information

http://www.gardeningfordisabledtrust.org.uk/get-involved/donate/

We look forward to hearing from you!

In the meantime, all of us at Gardening for Disabled send you every good wish for a happy, peaceful  and green-fingered 2019.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Andrew Fisher Tomlin

Gardening with Blind Veterans UK

Andrew Fisher Tomlin offers some design advice for the elderly with vision impairment and who want to carry on gardening.

Imagine a group of visually impaired people. Now imagine that within this group some will only visit the garden for just a few weeks in their lives whilst others may be regular visitors. Many are in their 70s and 80s and need assistance to get around a space whilst some are in their 20s and 30s and extremely fit and active. Some love gardening, others just want to be outdoors. There’s also sighted people and children involved. That’s the community that we designed a 4 acre garden for Blind Veterans UK in North Wales to celebrate their centenary in 2014. The garden has to fulfil the needs of both members, some of whom have very recently seen action in the armed forces, staff and a local community. The overused phrase of “sensory garden” doesn’t begin to cover all their needs and wants which are as wide-ranging as gardening, bird watching, cooking and gym training.

We’ve worked with Blind Veterans UK for almost 5 years now and developed an understanding of the requirements for the members of the charity who, although often in their 80s, remain very active. We’ve now created 3 gardens for their community training centres and as a result members often ask us what they can do in their own gardens. Here are some useful tips.

That first garden in Llandudno is structured along a simple flowing path with seats, glades, workshops and places to exercise along its route. The exploratory element is important, allowing someone to wander, to get a sense of place and not to be faced with dead ends, crossing lines and decisions about direction that might confuse them. This can be difficult in a small backyard but a simple layout approach can often be the best. And the path flows back to the start so that you can do a whole circuit safely on your own.
Our gardens are often deliberately intended to be for passive and active therapy (e.g. through gardening activities such as vegetable growing) and by taking this approach the garden might also be low maintenance. There are always plenty of places to sit and enjoy the garden, watch the wildlife (which we encourage through water, bird and wildlife houses). If you are interested in active therapy there are places like Thrive that can help with information and support. At Llandudno a regular “Gardens Week” not only has lots of gardening activities but allows both members and volunteers to try their hand at something new like taking cuttings or growing vegetables.

The simplicity of hard materials is important. For example the path surface is deliberately a single material choice so as not to confuse and encourage freedom to explore. The paths are non-slip meeting British Standards for slippage but also well-maintained so that they don’t become dangerous. The texture of other materials are often tactile with water and sculpture playing an important part here. Simple seating is comfortable, practical and, just because our needs have changed it remains stylish.
Plants provide a gentle sensory experience through texture, movement, fragrance and colour to stimulate the senses. Familiar native plants might be important in stimulating feelings of well being, planting comes right up to the path to give the opportunity to touch, smell and feel the planting.
Colour has been vital as many of those with vision impairment can still determine some colour. We also find that contrast is important and so yellows against blues and reds and pinks against greens are often seen. Indeed we also plant daffodils in large drifts alongside paths that help direct the visitor along those paths.

For the members of Blind Veterans UK the garden is a place to escape outside and enjoy the sun, get some Vitamin D and use as a place not just for gardening but also for music, play and eating. The gardens we have created are multi function and so we’ve encouraged people who’ve never gardened to get outside and be active whether it’s to hang out the washing, dig a kitchen garden or just enjoy the flowers. It can’t get better than that can it?!

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Nicki Conlon

Cordyline Success and failure.

Before I moved I had never had any Cordyline in the garden.

In the front garden were two lovely specimens standing sentry next to the front.

Cordylines in the front garden

My new friends where growing through gravel. Good idea as these characters like it moist but well drained. They don’t need much care, except for pulling off the tatty lower leaves. Result, I love a tough plant.

There were a lot of weeds growing through the gravel. I kept pulling and pulling them out and layered bark mulch over the gravel to keep the weeds away.

One day when I got home from work, I noticed something sticking out the ground between the Cordylines. A Cordyline baby!

I suspect the straight one at the back was the original, and the other was an off shoot. Taking away the weeds must have made them happy.

I love free plants, so I decied to gently remove the new addition.

I moved all the bark and gravel away. Annoying, but wait, what’s this? another baby!

Now this is where I should have only taken the larger off shoot to pot up. In the name of experimentation and laziness, I couldn’t be bothered to shift the bark and gravel again, I took both to pot up.

There’s life right yet.

As the above picture, the bigger one thrived and the little one didn’t make it. I likely hurt him when getting him out. Maybe I should have left him with mum to grow stronger before ripping him away.

You live and learn, at least I have one new free plant.

Nicki has gardened for many years in Sussex. You can find Nicki at https://twitter.com/makinggardens and https://instagram.com/makinggardens