This Week’s Guest Blogger is Michelle Irizarry, owner of Shellbie’s Garden

The Beauty of Dried Botanicals

I grow and sell fresh and dried flowers and botanical creations for gifts, crafts, and home décor.

I’ve always had a passion for flowers for as long as I can remember and is a special place in my heart for dried botanicals because they are everlasting. Dried flowers were popular in the ‘90s and they are making a huge comeback because of their unique beauty. Although I’ll always enjoy receiving a beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers from my husband (hint), or the smell of a fresh rose, there is something to be said about the ethereal quality of dried botanicals. Their colours are like nothing I’ve ever seen. They have many unique shades and hues and can be used throughout the year, for day-to-day crafts and items, as well as for holiday creations. The textures of dried flowers are interesting as well as they add dimension while having a light and airy look to them.

I love dried botanicals because I can enjoy the harvests of my garden without having to say goodbye to my precious flowers that I worked so hard to grow. By preserving them, I can enjoy the fruits (think dried berries) of my labour all year and can create everlasting, beautiful keepsakes to share with others. Another important thing to remember is that they are biodegradable, sustainable, and eco-friendly.

Some flowers I have decided to grow this season include: Centaurea, Artemisia, Strawflower, Gomphrena, Ageratum, Statice, Yarrow, Craspedia, Agastache, Matricaria, Love-In-A-Mist Nigella, Starflower Scabiosa, Sunflower, Zinnia, Marigold, Amaranthus, Celosia, Corn Poppy, Lavender, Hydrangea, and Dahlia, which I’m particularly looking forward to seeing in the garden.

In my upcoming blogs, I’ll share my garden experiences, what I’ve learned working with various flowers, and information on drying botanicals.

Keep Growing,

Shellbie’s Garden

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Mike Higgins Tree and Landscape Officer

Mike Higgins is a Chartered Horticulturist and Chartered Environmentalist working as a Tree and Landscape Officer at Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and Tree Consultant at Brecon Beacons National Park Authority. He is also involved with The Tree Council and Arboricultural Association, coordinates a volunteer tree warden scheme in Pembrokeshire and is a keen amateur photographer.

From an early age I had an interest in nature and the outdoors. Combining this with an academic interest in geology, biology and geography led to a desire to work for a National Park with a direct involvement in the landscape management side of horticulture.

My interest in horticulture began during my Geology degree when the relationship between plants and soils became apparent. This piqued my interest in horticulture and the environment and I subsequently completed a HNC in Habitat surveying for nature conservation which helped to further focus my horticultural interests towards the natural landscape.

Following on from my education I travelled and lived throughout the UK (including Scotland, Wales and England) for work and training opportunities, which provided me with an invaluable knowledge on different landscapes and land management techniques.

I am currently fortunate enough to work for the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority. This provides me with the opportunity to have a positive influence on landscape and horticultural matters in two of Wales’ three national parks. I also regularly work with like-minded individuals from various backgrounds, including: public bodies, professional bodies, private landowners, volunteers, gardeners and homeowners.

Although my academic qualifications are not directly relevant to horticulture; the horticultural industry in the UK has excellent opportunities to progress professionally through training, professional qualifications and membership to professional bodies. This can allow a person to learn and progress in the industry whilst still working.  There are also numerous courses available including degrees, diplomas and certificates with universities and colleges in all facets of the industry.

The horticultural industry is vast and varied with a wide range of specialisms available including gardening and arboriculture.  There are good career paths and structures that do not restrict the direction a person may wish to take; and as stated above, there are numerous opportunities to broaden knowledge and qualifications with related subjects. This can help to keep the job interesting and rewarding to the individual, as well as making it a career that can be tailored to your specific interests for the long term, and continue to be relevant.

Mike Higgins BSc(Hons) MArborA AssocRTPI CEnv MCIHort CHort


This Week’s Guest Blogger is Andrew Sinden, a plantaholic who runs his own business Andrew Sinden Gardening

Snail-proof Gardening

Visitors to my garden often point out snails and slugs and ask what I do to control them. I express concern that they are not getting enough food so they must be moving on to somewhere else in search of food.

The reality is that I don’t have any food plants for slugs so I don’t ever look to control them. Every evening or wet day I see hundreds of them climbing up the walls, presumably to escape.

I’m not one of those garden Nazis who spend hours of negative time in the garden finding irritants at the sight of slugs only to cut them in half using secateurs as a weapon. Treating any wildlife with such elitism shows no understanding of what happens in a garden.

Surely it’s better to see things from a different angle and think about the problem properly rather than chasing loose ends for the rest of your life. With good garden knowledge you can give up worrying about slugs and all the other pests and diseases to boot.

A while ago I planted a sumptuous Lupin plant from one of my favourite nurseries and each evening snails would dine out on my £3.50 bill which fed 29 of them. It looked like a completely overladen Christmas tree with 29 giant baubles of huge snails!

If you want to put your snails and slugs on a diet, here’s a list of plants that will only get nibbled in the most drought conditions.

• Tulipa whittallii

• Catananche caerulea

• Globularia cordifolia

• Gladiolus tristis

• Ferula communis

• Melianthus major

• Digitalis mertonensis

All Euphorbias and most grasses

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Anna Matthews who is a professional gardener and book lover

Why I think we all should make an effort to buy old gardening books.

I’ve been a professional gardener for over 30 years. When I started my career I couldn’t always afford expensive new gardening books so I often searched through charity shops, jumble sales and car boot sales for old books. Nowadays its much easier with the likes of Ebay and Facebook Marketplace for example.

As a result I have bookcases all over my home with hundreds of old gardening books. Most of them I’ve paid a few pence for or a couple of quid. A lot do not have dust jackets, just plain exteriors and most were published after the Second World War. I usually ignore the section on chemicals used for pest and disease control although there are some old fashioned home remedies that are still safe and legal to use!

I always recommend Percy Thrower’s ‘How to Grow Vegetables and Fruit‘ to new kitchen gardeners but I can’t include a photograph of the book here because someone has borrowed it! I’ve lost count of the numbers of copies of the book I’ve bought over the years and given away. I was very fond of Percy Thrower. I remember watching him gardening in the Blue Peter Garden on TV. I used to always pick up copies I saw but its getting harder to get hold of. There are some brilliant new fruit and vegetable varieties that aren’t mentioned in this book but many of the old tried and tested stalwarts are included. He writes in a way that is easy to understand, it doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or experienced. He encourages you have a go and offers solutions as to why things may have gone wrong.

When buying secondhand gardening books always find out who the author was. For example a favourite book I refer to frequently is ‘The Pruning of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers’ by George E Brown. My copy was published in 1995 and wasn’t cheap when I bought it. The original version was published in 1972 and my version is updated and the flush cut techniques found in the first edition had been replaced by more modern theories. George Brown worked for decades as an assistant curator at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, where he was in charge of the extensive arboretum. His knowledge was incredible and he wrote in an way that I understand and can visualise what I am trying to achieve.

Choosing a couple of random books from the shelves:

Popular Orchids‘ written by Brian and Wilma Rittershausen cost me 40p because the price is still inside the cover. The photos are black and white but the authors were the second generation to run the family orchid business so their knowledge is learned first-hand and not gleaned from information found on the internet which is sometimes what I have found in later published books that contain glossy colour photos but incorrect information. That’s not just true about orchid books but many other more recent gardening books.

Dahlias‘ by Philip Damp cost me 99p in 2015: it was published in 1987 and contains many colour photographs! I was amazed to learn how many varieties of dahlia that I thought were relatively new were in fact well- established when the book was written. Philip Damp was an international dahlia specialist and a long standing member of the National Dahlia Society. He wrote several other books about dahlias and received several honours from dahlia societies around the world.

Having read this blog I hope you will consider buying more second-hand gardening books and stop them disappearing into landfill or being recycled. They may be plainer than modern books, often missing a glossy cover and with no colour photographs inside, but the wealth of information we can learn from people who were in horticulture for decades and really knew their stuff still impresses me today with each new purchase: and my overloaded bookshelves are the proof of this!

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Evie Somers Lead Editor at Up Gardener

“Can I use coffee grounds in the garden?” is a common question. The answer? “It depends!” Here’s what you need to know about composting with coffee grounds

For many of us, a cup of coffee is an integral part of the morning routine. If you’re someone who enjoys making their brew from grounds rather than instant, then this post is for you. We’re going to teach you how to use coffee grounds for composting, and the benefits they’ll deliver.

Why use coffee grounds in the garden?

There are a few good reasons to use coffee grounds in your garden, which we’ll introduce below.

Reason 1: Sustainability

This one is simple: Coffee grounds can be used in the garden, so surely it’s better to do so than to throw them in the bin. Whether or not you’re a strictly organic gardener, reward yourself with the warm fuzzy glow of doing something small for the environment.

Reason 2: Nutrients

Coffee grounds are rich in essential nutrients, especially nitrogen. One of the main functions of compost is to nourish your plants and encourage growth, but not all compost is suitable for all situations. If you’re growing plants that need nitrogen-rich soil, compost containing coffee grounds will be helpful.

When composting, a general rule of thumb is to add ‘brown’ and ‘green’ ingredients, in a ratio of about 4:1. Brown ingredients provide carbon and help air to circulate in the compost pile, while green ingredients provide other nutrients, including nitrogen. While coffee grounds are brown in colour, they’re considered green compost ingredients. Chuck them in your pile along with other green ingredients like fruit and veg scraps, and brown ingredients like straw, newspaper, dried leaves and more, and your pile will start to develop nicely.

Reason 3: Versatility

If you’re not an enthusiastic composter, you may not know that there are several common composting systems. Coffee grounds can be used in all of them –

  • Cold composting: This is the most common, sling-it-all-in-a-pile method. The compost bins you see at the end of people’s gardens contain cold compost. You just chuck stuff in and leave nature to take its gradual course.
  • Hot composting: In hot composting, you mix the pile regularly to encourage aerobic breakdown. When done properly, the inside of a hot compost pile can get up to 70 degrees Celsius! At this temperature things break down a lot quicker.

Circulating compost speeds up the whole process!

  • Bokashi: Technically this is a fermentation process rather than a composting one, but many gardeners lump them together. Bokashi uses bran to provide enzymes that ferment all sorts of food, and coffee grounds can be used alongside or as an alternative to this bran.
  • Vermicomposting: ‘Vermi’ is the Latin root for ‘worm’, and in this method, worms play an active role in composting by processing whatever scraps you give them. Worms can’t tolerate many coffee grounds, so go easy.

A few caveats

You’ll notice we’ve focussed heavily on compost so far. Here’s why: Uncomposted coffee grounds can actually cause harm in your garden!

You may hear people recommend using coffee grounds directly, either by working them through the soil, or applying them as a top layer of mulch. Despite being fairly common advice, this should be avoided. Uncomposted grounds still have a high caffeine content, and caffeine has an allelopathic effect on some plants.

What does allelopathic mean?

Allelopathy is a process through which one plant inhibits growth in another plant. You hear about plants competing for sunlight, with the loser not getting the nutrients it needs to photosynthesise enough. Well, caffeine can have a similar impact. Some plants produce caffeine as a means of gaining a natural advantage over surrounding plants by stifling their growth. With this in mind, adding raw coffee grounds seems like less of a good idea!

How not to do it

What about using coffee grounds as mulch?

Maybe you’re wondering whether you can use coffee grounds as mulch for plants that you’re sure won’t be negatively affected by caffeine. Again, we’d advise not.

The reason here is that good mulch needs to have certain properties: It needs to keep moisture in the soil below, while also allowing air and new moisture in. Unfortunately the texture of coffee grounds leads them to compact into a layer that’s too dense to let enough air and water through.

Chuck them in the compost pile, though, and they’ll become part of a mixture that lends itself well to use around the garden!

Coffee and compost

There you have it: Three reasons why you should be using coffee in your compost, along with a couple of caveats to avoid common pitfalls.

Thanks for reading. It’s our hope that you’re now inspired to save your coffee grounds from the rubbish bin, and divert them to your compost pile instead. Whichever your preferred means of composting, coffee will make a fine addition.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Colin Skelly, A Regenerative Horticulturist at The Eden Project

I would like to persuade you, in the 2 or 3 minutes you take to read this, that there is a lot hanging on the way we think about nature. There is widespread agreement that being immersed in nature from time to time is good for us. But the very sense in which nature is understood here implies that humans exist outside of nature. I want to persuade you that, when you think of nature in future, you should include humans in it – that humans and our activities are not separate from but are an intrinsic part of the great complex set of interactions of all living things on earth.
Our lives are integrated, intertwined, interwoven within the biosphere of a planet spinning around a star that provides the energy source for life’s existence. The strange modern way of thinking of humans as separate from nature arose from the industrial revolution and urbanisation. This placed much of lived human experience in environments shaped by human activity, in contrast to the wilder landscapes where human control was yet to appear paramount.
Yet we are rediscovering through the science of ecology, that there is no such separation. Everything that is synthesised by humans derives from rock, water, air or other living organisms. Plastics and fossil fuels – to name a couple of contemporary environmentally damaging products – derive from the human manipulation and use of the remains of life on earth 300-350 million years ago, namely oil and coal. Even the boundary between human and non-human in our bodies isn’t clear cut, our health depending on the microbes that live on and in us.
We need to return, from a modern perspective, to an understanding of nature that includes humans within in it but with an ecological sensibility that puts the relationships and complex interactions between all living organisms and their external environment at its heart.
Likewise, the relationship between humans needs to become more ecological, bringing sociology, cultural studies and environmental science together. This social ecology at its most basic is an awareness that our actions have consequences that shape human society, and that this shapes our relationships with the land, water, air and other living things upon which we depend for our existence. In short, without a more equally balanced relationship with each other, a restorative relationship between humans, other living things and the earth’s resources is unlikely to be possible.
What, you may ask, has all of this got to do with gardening? Well, gardening is a microcosm of the relationships I have been talking about, the human relationship with plants, birds, insects and your friends, neighbours and community. When you are gardening, think about how you are impacting your fellow living things, the earth’s resources and your social relationships. If we aim to gain in all these areas and to avoid losses, then we not only move beyond being sustainable (making things no worse) to genuinely regenerating our patch of earth. I will leave you to consider the wider possibilities and opportunities. All I ask is that next time you hear or use the word nature you make sure that you include us humans as part of the picture, not separate from it.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Marty Reville the Head Gardener at Kilmokea Country Manor and Gardens

5 of my favourites from 2020

The strange season of 2020 has drawn to a close, with a closed garden for most of the year, Kilmokea Gardens in the South East of Ireland benefited from more time for experiment.

  1. Calendula officinalis ‘Sunset buff’

A plant easily done from seed, initially intended to be a one year annual to fill empty spots has grown on me massively and will definitely feature for years to come. From containers to larger herbaceous borders it fits in anywhere to add something different. The pale orange petals on top with dark centre, the underside totally changes with dark lines adding a different dimension to the plant.

  1. Dianthus ‘Pinball Wizard’

A Dianthus that catches the eye like no other. Takes very easy from cuttings and will instantly create its own feature in any container. The close relation of Dianthus ‘Chomley Farran’ can be a bit too much for some to be spectacular but ‘Pinball Wizard’ is as easy on the eye as a red rose.

  1. Chrysanthemum ‘Dixter Orange’

A lovely Chrysanthemum that just keeps on going. Very little needs to be said on this one. Just put it in and enjoy it for as long as possible.

  1. Cobaea scandens

A climber I did from seed this year. A real showstopper in a sunny position. Will flower for a long time and if sheltered with the fortune of a mild winter will overwinter and continue to add colour with its purple and white bell-shaped flowers. Fairly easy to train up string or wire supports.

  1. Rhododendron ‘Cynthia’

Kilmokea, for those who haven’t ever visited, is quite a mature garden. Created from the 1950s onwards many of the older plants that include Rhododendrons, camellias, Eucyrphias and a huge selection of other plants have matured and now preform year after year without fail. One of these that in particular caught my eye was ‘Cynthia’. A nice size, roughly 2-3 metres in height and width, was covered in clusters in dark pink/maroon like flowers. A definite for any who are lucky enough to come across it.

For those of you who wish to see more from the Garden I manage and my own personal garden, please follow my Instagram page; thewexigardener. I became a head gardener at 25 for a 7 acre garden with many beautiful features and some areas for improvement, please go to my Instagram to follow my journey and feel free to get in contact. We welcome visitors from the 17th of March to the 1st of November with accommodation on site.

Happy Christmas Everyone 2020 A Strange Year but here is our round up of the year

Keeping Gardeners Growing

by Heather Fooks a long- standing member of Gardening for Disabled Trust Charity Committee. December 2020.

Here we are, finding ourselves in the last month of the year. The
shortest days are on us and darkness descends soon after four o’clock.
A few strong gales have swept many of the leaves from the trees and
spread their luxurious golden colours over our lawns, in our ditches and
our flower beds , beneath the trees and, even, if we’re careless enough
to leave our doors open for short while , inside our homes!! Only the
oaks, the last bastions of these golden colours, cling on stubbornly to
their leaves, until the next storm tears them out completely and they too
bow to nature and fall to join their fellows.
Now is the time when evergreens have their day. Without their solid
shade of green, their shelter and, above all, their shape, their statement
of space, contour and structure, the winter garden would lose much of
its character.
Those of us who live in a rural area know that winter, as well as spring
has its own characteristic beauty. The trees , stripped of autumn
brilliance have their own beauty. Unclothed, we can see their true
individual forms, as their dark tracery stands out against the sky.
Many people ‘fidget ‘ (William Robinson’s description, not mine!!) at the
sight of beautiful leaves in autumn. Instead of enjoying them, as Shelley
did. They rush to sweep them up whilst there are still many left to fall
down. The invention of the ‘garden blower’ has revolutionised the job !
Using this device, we leave the clearing until all the trees are bare, blow
them into manageable heaps, load them on the trailer, and deposit them
in a place set aside for leaf mould, where they remain for three years,
and used therefore in rotation. Any that have fallen amongst trees or
shrubs, we leave to slowly enrich the soil as they decay.
There are plants to enjoy in these seemingly “barren ‘ months of winter.
Shrubs such as the wintersweet Chimonanthus praecox. The winter
honeysuckle Lonicera fragrantissima, witch hazels, Daphnes and azaras
are all easy to grow. The winter iris I.ungulates (stylosa) has been
flowering for some time now. It loves to be in poor soil against a wall in
full sun. This hot summer has encouraged it to flower earlier than usual,
which I think is why we’ve been enjoying them for some weeks. We
must not forget Helleborus niger, the Christmas rose. In High Dutch its
called Christ’s herb, ‘because it flowereth about the birth of our Lord’ .
They like a rather moist, semi-shady place in rich soil.
One of the brightest highlights in a winter garden can be Cyclamen
coum. In the right position, this bright, hardy cyclamen can delight us
with magenta, pink or white flowers from now through to spring. Their
round or slightly heart-shaped leaves begin tho grow in late summer
and autumn. They exhibit a huge range of colour, pattern , and designs.
They grow from underground tubers that go dormant in early summer ,
starting back into growth again in late summer. We grow them in
borders that are usually moist, under trees and shrubs, where they
appear to be happy and are seeding enthusiastically.
Christmas is looming and under the present uncertainties, our
celebrations may be seriously curtailed.  Whenever world events alarm
us and life becomes uncertain, gardeners should take comfort in
Voltaire’s words: ‘il faut cultiver notre jardin’. Literally translated that
means ‘We must cultivate our garden”.  He wrote this in a famous novel
called “Candide” which he was writing during the ‘Seven Years’ War.
This was a very nasty Europe-wide conflict. Things may be bad for us at
the moment , but, hopefully, they are not THAT bad!
What Voltaire was getting at was, that when confronted with un-looked
for national or world disasters, the best thing we can do is to deal, in
our personal way, with the things that really matter and that we CAN do
something about. So, whatever you do in the garden this winter, I hope
you enjoy those days of cold but crisp sunny weather, the changing
views and colours of our borders and the fun of looking ahead and
planning for next year.
May I wish you a Healthy and Happy Christmas from Heather


This year was a strange year, like so many charities we plan to hold various fundraising events throughout the year.  With Covid it meant we were unable to organise them.  Instead of the committee meetings being held at a kitchen table we were transported to virtual meetings and then Rosie on the committee suggested putting together a book of gardening tips to raise funds and suddenly we were all galvanised into action and a germ of an idea snowballed and now in December we are on our second print run and we have learned how to pack and post under tier 4 restrictions!! Its a shame we haven’t been able to share the excitement as a committee and trustees together but we are all pleased with how our book has been received and overwhelmed by people donating their gardening tips and then helping to promote it.

Our book is simply called ‘Cuttings – A Cornucopia of Gardening Tips from Famous, Expert and Green-fingered Friends’.  The foreword is by Alan Titchmarsh our President and with contributions from Julian Clary, Carol Klein, Mark Lane, Joanna Lumley, Dame Helen Mirren and many others.  It was great to receive tips from supporters who recognise the benefit of gardening to both our mental and physical wellbeing.  This year like no other has taught so many of us how valuable our gardens are.  The range of tips on offer in our book is incredible and encompasses a wide spectrum of horticultural subjects.

We were so pleased that Mark Lane, one our Trustees offered to launch our book for us please click on the link to hear Mark Lane talk about ‘Cuttings’.

Once launched the book has stood up to scrutiny and so many people have offered to help promote the book.  Gardening for Disabled Trust works on a shoestring budget –  we give out something in the region of £50,000 a year in grants but the charity is run by volunteers who give up their time and as a result our running costs are less than £2000 annually which is mainly spent on insurance, postage and printing.

If people promote our book on social media Gardening for Disabled Trust Charity is able to use the money on grants to get people gardening again rather than advertising.  We really can’t thank our loyal supporters enough, they really help us to promote the book and avoid advertising costs.

Thank you Melanie Reid for mentioning us in her column in The Times

Thank you Helen Yemm for mentioning us in your column in The Telegraph

Thank you James Fisher for mentioning us in Country Life Magazine

On Social Media we now have over 2800 followers on Twitter and we have been followed by BBC Gardeners World which has over 98,000 followers. If you want to follow us we are @Garden4Disabled. We have been in existence for over 50 years and we are really beginning to be noticed as the only charity in this field and the  vital  importance of the  work we do.

We have super supporters on Social  Media worldwide who really help us to get our message out there, here are a few of their lovely tweets about ‘Cuttings’

On Instagram we are @gardeningfordisabledtrust and have about 500 followers 

Here are few examples of lovely posts we have had on Instagram about ‘Cuttings’


Finally we also have a page on Facebook so please join us on Social media and keep up to date with our activities and how you can support us.

Thank you again to everyone who donated their gardening tips and helped us make a success of ‘Cuttings’ to date we have sold over 1700 copies

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Carol Horwitz

Honeybee Swarm Season in Northern New Mexico

The apple trees and wild plums are blooming. That means it is honeybee swarm season in Northern New Mexico. Swarm season occurs annually in the spring when our fruit trees are in full flower. A honeybee swarm, while it can look frightening, is really just a honeybee colony “giving birth.” This happens when the colony outgrows its home. Inside the hive the worker bees have come to consensus that it is time to move. They tell their queen to lay eggs for future queens and slim down a bit for flight. Concurrently the workers fill their stomachs with honey, enough to last a few days. Then half the colony and the queen leave en masse – usually parking for a short time in a nearby bush or tree or the veranda of your home. Scout honeybees go out to look for a new home location – a tree cavity, and old beehive, your canale. They return to the colony and dance the distance and direction to a possible new home location. Each scout tells a different story. Then, the ENTIRE colony discusses the pros and cons of future home sites. When they are in agreement they leave to their new home.

When in swarm a honeybee colony is at its most docile. The bees are not defending honey or brood and their stomachs are full.

If you see a swarm sitting on your favorite rose bush, simply wait a bit while the bees discuss future colony locations. Tell them you appreciate their work as pollinators of the many foods you enjoy. And if you see a swarm feel free to contact your local bee keeper, they maybe interested in giving your swarm a new home

This Week’s Guest Blogger is David Allan

In 2014/15 I became seriously ill and I spent the whole of 2015 in hospital. This experience left me disabled using a wheelchair and stairlift etc.

Since I became diagnosed I could not get into my garden as it was terraced.  I used to be a very keen traveller and I worked abroad as a teacher.  I love plants and growing your own food. I even used to keep chickens.  Being in hospital for over a year it dawned on me that life will be quite different moving forward.  Whilst in rehabilitation learning to walk and talk again I thought I would return to teaching so I completed my Master’s degree.

Still thinking of gardening I started to plan a small garden.  Time progressed and I had started a PhD just to have something to focus on.  Then I attended a  speech and language therapist who asked me what I wanted from the sessions.  I said I would love to return to teaching and casually she said “well that won’t happen”, that devastated me for a long time.  Then I acquired pneumonia again for the third time in November 2019. It hit me quite badly and it took a long time to recuperate.  I was housebound for three months and just as I was about to get out and about covid-19 appeared on the scene.  As I’m classed as extremely vulnerable and in the high risk group I was required to shield.  This would of driven me stir crazy if I did not have the disposition that I have.

I started to think about my garden and designing myself a shed/greenhouse that were joined.  I could not find any that I liked that were within my budget.

I had several builders to give me quotes and some were ridiculous and only one builder suggested that it would be cheaper to raise it instead of excavating it due to the access.

I thought about it and I researched equipment to enable me to have access.  I found that it was possible.

The builders were very good to start with but the main builders went missing for days at a time.  A seven day job soon turned into 7 weeks. But as I was shielding this was not a great problem.  The individual contractors for rendering and electrical work were great I have to say.

My raised beds went up in no time.

A local man we knew built sheds and I asked him if my design was possible and he said yes. When that day came it went up in a day and a half.

I tried to stay in budget but I needed a stairlift and balustrades.  Luckily I found a stairlift on market place for quite a bargain.

In total I was 50% over budget at £15,000 but I funded the whole project myself.

I’m extremely pleased with my garden, so much so that I have just started the front garden project.  Currently there is only a square lawn surrounded by a small wall which stops me from getting into it. I plan to have raised beds around the perimeter made with sleepers and I’ve calculated that I need 7 tons of soil and compost.  I have a handyman that used to be my ex pupil who has agreed to do it for me.  I’ve already started the seed planting and propagation from trees and bushes.

The only thing I would change about this project is that I would have electricity and lighting installed at the beginning.  Water taps would be closer to the shed/greenhouse too but overall I’m thrilled with my garden which is now useable and rewarding space.  My photos below show the project stage by stage