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Dorset ISSUE NO 161 APRIL 2018 FREE


the perfect tomato!

….juicy, tasty, organic and home grown

Make teas this summer from your own garden

It’s time to think summer




The best Easter gardening events throughout Dorset WHITE of WITCHAMPTON

P lus

How to fe ed your la wn, hyacinth d elights, growing ch ard, April gard ens to visit


Tel: 07966 258267 / 01258 840082



Poulner Hill, Ringwood, BH24 3HW Tel: 01425 473113

OPEN 7days Week

Open 9am–5.30pm Mon–Sat 10am–4pm Sun Open all Bank Holidays

OPEN every day over the Easter holidays

Stuckton, Fordingbridge SP6 2HG 10am - 4pm Tel: 01425 655150 ● Pansies & Violas: 6 packs £1.25 ● Primroses: (large, in pots) 60p ea. 18 for £8 ● Spring bedding packs: Polys, Bellis, Prims, Myosotis, rockery £2 pack ● Sennetti 2 litre £2.99 ea. ● Cottage Garden Plants: £1.99 6 for £9 ● Pansy/Viola baskets from £4.99 ● Basket plants: April 89p 18 for £15 ● Bush, Old, Specie and Climbing Roses: £5.99 in 3 litre pots. ● Seed Potatoes: range of new varieties & old favourites. £2.49 3 packs for £5 ● Huge range of baskets and containers from £4.99 ● Spring and summer bedding packs £1.99 (including geraniums) ● Seeds 99p per packet ● Shrubs from £2.99 For frequent special offers join our eMail list on our web site. 2 GREAT NEW PRODUCTS AND AMAZING DEALS! New season specimen plants now in stock 1Ltr Perennials £2.50 Spring Bedding Plants £2.50 (6pk) 9cm Wild Flowers £1.65 9cm Alpines & Herbs £1.65 Roses from £6.99 Aquatic plants from £4.99 Hedging plants from £5.99 Come and see our new revamped plantarea Looking fantastic

TIMBER AND PROJECTS • • • • • • • • • • • • •

6x6 Fence Panel only £20.95 6x5 Fence Panel only £18.95 6x4 Fence Panel only £16.95 6x3 Fence Panel only £14.95 Assorted plywood from £2.95 per sheet Tanalised 3x3 Post 2.4mtr £5.50 Tanalised 4x4 Post 2.4mtr £9.50 Tanalised Decking 120 x 32mm £1.95/mtr Tanalised 4x2 (100x47) 3mtr £6.00 Tanalised 3x2 (75x47) 3mtr £4.50 Garden Gates from £29.95 Tanalised Sleeper 250 x 125mm £27.50 Huge Trellis stock priced from £6.95

BESPOKE GATE MAKING SERVICE In-Excess are proud to offer a bespoke gate making service. We can produce virtually any type of gate or door, made to your specifications. For more details please see a member of staff in store.

Tea Room Opening Times Open 9.30am-4.30pm Mon–Sat, 10am–3.30pm Sun Country Gardener

Up Front!

“Every spring is the only spring - a perpetual astonishment.”

- Ellis Peters

“In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside twenty four hours.”


Dorset ISSUE NO 161 APRIL 2018



the perfect tomato! home ….juicy, tasty, organic and


summer Make teas this garden from your own

er bulbs

It’s time to think summ PRESERVING OUR NATIVE


ing events

The best Easter garden throughout Dorset


P lus

How to feed your lawn, hyacinth delights, growing chard, April gardens to visit



Tel: 07966 258267 / 01258 840082

Cover story

Our cover this month celebrates the search for the perfect tomato. It shows the increasingly popular ‘Sweet Cluster’ variety and while there are hundreds of varieties from marblesized grape or cherry tomatoes, to juicy salad tomatoes, meaty paste tomatoes, and huge, sweet, beefsteak tomatoes they all share the same hope of growers to find tomato perfection this summer.

Designer Mary Payne talks to Dorset Hardy Plant Society Garden designer Mary Payne MBE will make a welcome return visit to the Dorset branch of the Hardy Plant Society on Saturday, 28th April when she gives a talk entitled ‘Compton Acres Revisited’. The celebrated horticulturist and Chelsea and Hampton Court Flower Show Gold winner, who lives in Somerset and was awarded the MBE in 2004 for her services to horticulture in the South West, has been consulting at Compton Acres since its purchase by current owners Compton Acres Bernard and Kay Merna in 2003. Mary is a Royal Horticultural Society Master of Horticulture and a former Horticultural Director of the Eden Project. Alongside fellow former Eden Project Horticultural Director, Peter Thoday, the pair have helped to fully restore Compton Acres and breathe new life into the historic gardens. She continues to provide her expertise and advises Compton Acres on all the planting decisions made in the ten-acre garden. She is most celebrated for her pioneering planting at Lady Farm, south of Bristol The meeting on Saturday, 28th April starts at 2pm for 2.30 pm at Colehill Memorial Hall. There will be home-made teas, members plant sale and raffle. Visitors are most welcome.

- Mark Twain

Half price camellia sale at Trehane Nursery

Wimborne’s Trehane Nursery is holding its camellia sale with prices typically reduced by 50 per-cent or more and the chance to save on a wide range of varieties including many larger specimen plants. The sale at the Stapehill Rd nursery starts on Saturday, March 24th and runs throughout April. The larger plants are only available for sale at the nursery which opens from 8.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 4pm at weekends. Some smaller sized plants can be ordered online. Trehane Nursery, Staplehill Rd, Wimborne BH21 7ND Tel 01202 873490

Look out for the May edition of Country Gardener from April 14th onwards

April spring colour at Abbotsbury

A two day floral design show ‘Florilegium’ is being held on Friday, 13th April and Saturday, 14th April, from 10am to 4pm at Lytchett Minster School in Lytchett four miles outside of Poole. The show which is in support of the Dorset and Guernsey Area of NAFAS (National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies) has a £4 entrance fee. The two days include flower arranging competitions, plant stalls, gifts and home made preserves. Tea, coffee and light lunches will also be available. Lytchett Minster School, Post Green Rd, Lytchett Minster, Dorset BH16 6JD.

The spring splendours at Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens just a few miles outside of Weymouth runs through to April 30th so there’s still time to enjoy the delights of the sensational Dorset garden. The popular gardens with its camellia groves and magnolias features twenty acres of woodland valley plus exotic plants from all over the world. Open 10am to 5pm daily. Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, Buller’s Way, Abbotsbury, nr Weymouth, Dorset, DT3 4LA.


Two day f loral celebration at Lytchett

Mark Hinsley

MSc.Res.Man.(Arb), OND (Arb), F.Arbor.A

Arboricultural Consultants Ltd.

TREE ADVICE & REPORTING Established 1994

We are a Dorset based company offering a friendly, professional tree consultancy service for all areas of the South.

We specialise in:

Growing & Cooking with Herbs in the Kitchen Garden £120.00 Wednesday 25th April 2018 10am - 5pm A full day of growing and cooking with Alison Verrion & Lisa Osman All Hallows Farmhouse Wimborne St Giles Dorset BH21 5NJ Email Telephone 01725 55 11 85

■ Tree Condition Advice and Surveys

■ Tree Liability Assessments and

Management Plans


■ Tree Preservation Order Advice ■ Planning Applications - Advice and

Reports (to BS5837 standards)



01202 876177


Luxurious outdoor living

NEW SEASON’S RANGE Available now

Stewarts Christchurch Garden Centre, Lyndhurst Road, Christchurch, BH23 4SA Tel: 01425 272244 Stewarts Broomhill Garden Centre, God’s Blessing Lane, Broomhill, Nr Wimborne, BH21 7DF Tel: 01202 882462 Stewarts Abbey Garden Centre, Mill Lane, Titchfield, Fareham, PO15 5RB Tel: 01329 842225


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Hedgehogs on the edge in Dorset At least half the population of native hedgehogs has been lost from the countryside over the last two decades. The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2018, published by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and People’s Trust for Endangered Species is the only comprehensive review of the status of Britain’s hedgehogs. This report shows hedgehogs in rural areas are in severe decline. Dorset is known to have suffered a serious drop in numbers. “There are many reasons,� explains Emily Wilson, Hedgehog Officer for Hedgehog Street, “The intensification of agriculture through the loss of hedgerows and permanent grasslands, increased field sizes, and the use of pesticides which reduce the amount of prey available, are all associated with the plunge in numbers of hedgehogs in rural areas.� “It is exciting to think that the combined efforts of thousands

of volunteers who have joined Hedgehog Street and pledged to make their gardens more hedgehog-friendly, may be making a difference. Hedgehog Street was launched in 2011 to inspire the public to help hedgehogs that depend on their gardens and over 47,000 Hedgehog Champions have signed up. How to help hedgehogs - Become a ‘Hedgehog Champion’ and find simple advice on making your garden and neighbourhood more hedgehog-friendly. Pledge to make a small hole – no bigger than a CD case – in your garden fence, wall and other barriers so that hedgehogs can access different gardens in their search for food, shelter and mates.

Sell out celebration for anniversary festival

Gardening workshops at All Hallows All Hallows is a Georgian farmhouse located in the Cranborne Chase area of outstanding natural beauty within the historic village of Wimborne St Giles. This spring they are offering a range of gardening workshops alongside their AGA approved cookery school classes. You can discover their potager beside the walled garden alongside RHS trained gardener Alison Verrion and enjoy a culinary herb workshop for your propagating skills. There’s the chance to look at successful container growing, successional sowing and discover how to extend the growing season. You will also spend time discussing the best way to harvest herbs and to promote regrowth as well as how to preserve them for the winter months. Finally, enjoy a delicious vegetarian lunch using home grown and locally sourced produce that will be cooked especially by head tutor and founder Lisa Osman and then gather a handful of your favourite varieties to spend an afternoon making a herb oil or vinegar to take home. There will be homemade refreshments throughout the day, and afternoon tea inspired by edible flowers grown in the cutting garden. You can stay overnight and experience All Hallows Farmhouse spacious bedrooms and AGA cooked breakfast. All Hallows Farmhouse, All Hallows, Wimborne St Giles, Dorset BH21 5NJ. Tel: 01725 551185 Email:

The fifth anniversary of Toby Buckland’s Garden Festival at Powderham Castle in April is celebrating with a sell-out

number of exhibitors. The two-day festival on Friday, 27th and Saturday, 28th April welcomes over 65 new exhibitors to the hugely popular Devon event in Kenton just outside of Exeter. The speaker programme at the festival brings together a highprofile list of popular garden personalities including host Toby Buckland, ‘BBC Gardener’s World’ host and regular Rachel de Thame, gardening allotment expert Terry Walton from ‘BBC Radio 2’s’ Jeremy Vine show and RHS judge and festival regular Jim Buttress. Actor John Challis, better known as ‘Boycie’ from Only Fools and Horses will be interviewed on stage on both days and will be signing copies of his latest book: ‘Wigmore Abbey – The Treasure of Mortimer’. Other highlights include a new speaker venue, the Sow, Grow, Cook Tipi, the place if you’re keen to know more about growing your own fruit and vegetables and learning ways to store and use it in the kitchen. Topics will include fermenting, growing and using edible flowers, grafting fruit trees and new ways to use veg in everyday dishes. All talks are free. For more details and to buy online tickets visit



Gardens remembered in Anne Cotterill’s collection

The receipt of one of Anne Cotterill’s flower cards is always guaranteed to bring some spring hope into the lives of gardeners and wild flower lovers. There are new additions to the collection for 2018, taken from the extensive archive of work left by the artist on her death in 2010: snowdrops, hawthorn, honeysuckle, lilies, apple blossom… a delicious array of subject matter. The cards are faithful reproductions of Anne Cotterill’s oil paintings from the years that she lived and worked in Somerset, drawing her inspiration from the wild flowers in the surrounding farm land and her much-loved garden. The cards are illustrated in a mail order catalogue. The catalogue is free and can be ordered by telephoning, writing or emailing the address below. Mill House Fine Art Publishing Ltd, Bellflower Gallery, Market Place, Colyton, Devon, EX24 6JS. Tel: 01297 553100. Email:

Social enterprise set to develop Thorngrove Garden Centre Thorngrove Garden Centre is a hidden gem on the outskirts of Gillingham, Dorset. It was bought by social enterprise, Employ My Ability from Scope in October last year to extend their provision of special educational needs in the area. Employ My Ability already owns an existing site in Moreton, Dorchester which, like Thorngrove Garden Centre, combines plant growing expertise, and plant and gardening accoutrements sales with vocational training for young people aged 16-25 with special educational needs in the Dorset catchment area. The new courses will be available at the Thorngrove site in September. It’s not only its social credentials that sets Thorngrove Garden Centre apart, it’s the quality of the plants and service. Most plants are grown on site with roughly 90per-cent of the plants available to buy being homegrown. These healthy plants are grown in biologically-controlled greenhouses and on their nursery, by their team of four professionally qualified horticulturalists, each with several years’ experience. The staff are experts, the plants are well cared for with many unusual varieties on offer. Under the new ownership, the site is about to embark on an ambitious programme of regeneration, which will include a new café , a revamped shop and will provide space for a series of complementary local businesses in a newly developed retail centre and community hub. Opening Hours: Mon to Sat 9-5, Sun 10-5. Closed Easter Sunday. Thorngrove Garden Centre, Common Mead Lane, Gillingham SP8 4RE. Tel: 01747 822 242


Honey fungus number one garden health problem

Open house at Niwaki showrooms

Honey fungus and box tree caterpillar were the dominant plant health issues last year, according to analysis of Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Now in its 22nd year, the ranking is a guide to areas of concern for gardeners and includes a number of pests and diseases, such as kerria twig and leaf blight that features in the top ten for the first time this year. In 2017, box tree caterpillar returned to the number one spot after dropping to number seven in 2016. In what was a bad year for the box plant, it also battled box blight and volutella blight – both of which cause twig and leaf death. Honey fungus has retained the disease top spot for the 22nd year running.

Niwaki, the Japanese pruning tool and Tripod ladder specialists, are having an ‘Open House‘ event on Friday, 20th April, from10am to 6pm and Saturday, 21st April, 10am to 4pm. There will be short films from Sushi and Niwaki, special offers and ex-display ladders on sale on both days Experts will also demonstrate tool-sharpening technique this and more at the Niwaki showroom at Semley near Shaftesbury, Dorset. Niwaki, 8 Chaldicott Barns, Semley SP7 9AW

Country Gardener

L A N G TO N N U R S E R I E S CW Abbott & Son

Fruit Trees: Apple, Pear, Plums etc Trees, Shrubs, Perennials, Compost Bedding & Basket Plants Large selection of ceramic & terracotta pots

Franchi and Kings Seeds Langton Nurseries, Langton Long, Blandford Forum, Dorset, DT11 9HR Tel: 01258 452513


Eat Dorset


Abbotsbury Gardens

Saturday 31 March

10am - 4pm

A new food fair showcasing distinctively Dorset produce:

Cheese l Beer l Bakery l Coffee l Charcuterie Cider l Meats l Spirits l Wine & more ... Adults £5, includes entry to the gardens. Under 16’s free

Visit us for

Compost • Seeds • Pots • Tools • Gloves & Wellies • Watering Equipment • Garden Paints • Pet Supplies • Logs, Kindling & Coal • Plants and much much more...

Station Road, Sturminster Newton Dorset, DT10 1BD. 01258 472788

Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens DT3 4LA Info l

JAPANESE MAPLES Acer palmatum varieties We produce and grow the largest selection available in the UK. Plants are pot grown and suitable for garden, patio or bonsai.

Send SAE for descriptive catalogue. Visitors welcome Mon-Sat 9am-1pm & 2pm-5pm Barthelemy & Co (DCG), 262 Wimborne Rd West, Stapehill, Wimborne, Dorset BH21 2DZ

Tel: 01202 874283 ee le Tr t Sa rch y n a r er Pla M Ch ry 24th pm e rs ay to 3 Nu urd m t



Quality plants available all year Opening times: Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm Saturday and Sundays March to October 10am to 4pm Off New Road Roundabout, Northbourne, Bournemouth, BH10 7DA 01202 593537 Sheltered Work Opportunities Project

Registered Charity No 900325


Time to feed YOUR LAWN At this time of year, your lawn is actively growing and requires feeding so what’s the best and most cost effective way to go about it? It’s a fact that lawns benefit from regular feeding. So it’s important to accept that this spring your lawn will need an extra boost in order to maintain its vigour. Without extra nutrients, the grass soon uses up plant food reserves in the soil and then turns pale and thin. Without food to develop side shoots and thickness, the lawn seed is also open to invasion by weed seeds and moss, which thrive in low nutrient conditions. On the other hand, a regular supply of supplementary food makes your lawn thick and green. There a few types of lawn feed, so you may be a little confused about what to look out for. Which lawn feed should I use? Some lawn treatments just feed your garden lawn and are ideal if your lawn is weed and moss free, but others have added ingredients such as weed killers and/or moss killers. Furthermore, some are designed to use in the autumn to toughen up the grass ready for the winter and/or kill moss. The reason some lawn feeds are better than others, is because they can release nitrogen and feed over several weeks rather than in one rush soon after application. The best lawn feed (or fertiliser) to use is one that provides both protection from weeds while systematically feeding your lawn. Ideally, lawn feed should be applied between April and September with providing year-round feed when applied no more than twice a year. Spring and summer lawn feeding For spring feeding, use a product containing feed, weed killers and moss control. This will quickly help the grass to start growing again and control any weeds that are present, plus kill off the moss that might have invaded the lawn over the winter. Once the weeds and moss are under control later in the spring, move over to just a lawn feed to keep the grass looking thick and green. Liquid lawn feeds via a hose end feeder are ideal for using in late spring into summer as they water the lawn as well in dry periods. If the weather turns very hot, then the garden grass stops growing and will not use any feed. In addition to this, the 8

lawn will start to get ‘stressed’ during prolonged dry spells, making them more susceptible to damage by lawn fertilisers. This will result in you having to take extra care of your garden lawn from that point on. During these conditions stop feeding your lawn, wait until it has rained to let the water soak in for a few days, then start feeding again. Feed throughout the summer at six week intervals, weather permitting.

Three simple steps 1. Prepare your lawn for feeding: scarify, rake and mow the lawn at least three days before the application of lawn feed. 2. Apply lawn feed: spring feeds are the most important time to apply your lawn feed (for high maintenance lawns consider optional added weed and moss control product) 3. Maintenance: lightly water the feed in and repeat steps if necessary

Beware - the dangers of feeding your lawn • Do not assume chemicals can be mixed. For example iron and seaweed products do not mix with weed killers. • No fertiliser works on dry grass. Dry products will not be taken up but liquid products can damage dry leaves as they contain salts which may increase the drying effect causing scorch or burn. • Foliar feeding requires a sprayer or a watering can with a sprinkle bar; a rose is not very effective. Weedkillers and iron sulphate solutions can also be applied this way. • You can quite easily supply your lawn with all its nutrient requirements with dry slow release fertilisers. You may not have the flexibility you would by using a combination of dry and liquid fertilisers but what you lose in flexibility you gain in speed and convenience.

Over the hedge advice for easy garden care Experience the power of petrol with the convenience of cordless From mowing lawns and tidying lawn edges, to cutting brambles, trimming hedges, clearing paths, removing leaves, preparing seed beds, pruning trees and cutting firewood – the Mountfield Freedom48 range of garden tools makes light work of all types of garden task. With no fumes and no starting problems, these lightweight tools are a real pleasure to use. There is no constantly running petrol engine, power is only used when the trigger is pressed. Combined with the latest in battery and electric motor technology these machines deliver superb running times and are all incredibly energy efficient.













HEDGE TRIMMER T: 0800 669 6325




Investing in

summer You know that when the soil starts to warm up it’s time to start planning your summer bulbs and anticipating the blaze of colour which is only months away Summer-flowering bulbs add a punch of colour to your garden from late spring through to almost the onset of winter. So they are one of the best investments you can make in your garden. They provide often tall, showy plants that have rich colours and make great cut flowers. Summer bulbs illuminate borders and create wonderful container garden displays. And like all bulbs, they are also very easy to grow. Simply put them in the ground and leave them to it! Alliums, agapanthus, dahlias, gladioli, begonias, autumnflowering nerines – the list of plants that brighten borders and patio containers is almost endless. The ideal time to get bulbs in the ground is early spring, when the soil is starting to warm up. Most bulbs will grow happily in containers, especially those with large, showy flowers such as lilies, arum lilies, agapanthus and alliums. In open soil, plant bulbs in large groups for a real punch of colour.

WHEN TO PLANT SUMMER BULBS You have to replant tender perennial summer bulbs every spring. Unlike spring blooming bulbs planted ideally in the autumn, summer bulbs need to be planted in the spring when the soil starts to warm up. Summer bulbs need warm weather and warm soil. Unfortunately there’s no guaranteed planting date. Once the soil has dried out and warmed up to about 60° F (15.5° C) or more, it’s time to get summer bulbs in the ground. An easier rule of thumb to remember is, if it’s time for your tomatoes to go outdoors, it is also time to plant your summer bulbs. Boosting the soil with compost or manure will help the bulbs grow, bloom and store energy. Spreading a mulch of good garden compost or well-rotted manure over the soil a month before planting will help improve thin, poor soils, boosting fertility and improving drainage. Keep the area weed free. This is true for most plants, especially while they are getting established. Weeds will compete with your plants for nutrients and the weeds often win. If you’d like to get a quick start on growing your summer bulbs, you can pot them up indoors a month or two before it’s time to transplant them outdoors.

WHAT ARE SUMMER BULBS? When we say ‘summer bulbs’ we’re talking about flowering bulbs that grow and bloom during the summer, as opposed to spring and autumn blooming bulbs. These bulbs tend to be tender perennials that can’t survive a cold, snowy winter, so they are either grown as annuals or are dug and stored and then replanted every year. Summer bulbs include: begonias, caladium, cannas, dahlias, gladiola, gloriosa lilies, elephant ears, liatris, nerines, oxalis, 10

pineapple lilies, tuberose and tigridia. Technically, many plants grow from corms or tubers, not bulbs. The main difference is that bulbs are fleshy and have different layers, like onions. Corms and tubers are solid and the same all the way through. Many bulbs, including dahlias, gladioli and begonias, are damaged by frost and should be stored indoors over winter.

Country Gardener

LILIES Lilies are hungry plants and will need regular feeding. Add a high-potassium fertiliser like tomato feed every two weeks. Continue feeding after they have finished flowering to swell the bulbs for next year’s display. Deadhead blooms as they fade to prevent the plant from setting seed. Remove the flower at its base where it joins the stem.

IRISES The iris family has a huge range of colours, shapes and growing habits. Irises are technically rhizomes, which is a clump of fleshy root. This means they should be planted near the soil surface, rather than deep underground like traditional bulbs. Irises do not like to be crowded.

DAHLIAS Dahlias are frosttender plants so don’t plant them into the garden until all risk of frost has passed. Most people start dahlias off in pots indoors. Plant them up in March or early April in pots of general-purpose compost. You can plant dahlias directly in the ground. This is less work, but they will flower a little later and you will need to watch for frosts. Pinch out the growing tips back to a pair of leaves once the plants are around 40cm high. This makes the plant bushy and encourages vigorous flowering. If you want large flowers, remove all but three to five flowering stems. It seems brutal but it will work.

GLADIOLI Gladioli corms prefer light, sandy soils in full sun. You can add plenty of coarse grit if you have heavy soil, and line the bottom of the planting hole with a layer of grit too. Plant the corms deeply (10-15cm) and leave plenty of space between them. If you are growing gladioli for cutting, plant a few corms every couple of weeks for a continuous supply.

‘A rule of thumb to remember is, if it’s time for your tomatoes to go outdoors, it is also time to plant your summer bul bs’. BEGONIAS Plant begonias in containers filled with generalpurpose compost. They should be planted with the indentation on the top – this is where the tuber will sprout. Nestle the tubers just onto the surface without covering them with soil. Alternatively, plant begonias in borders by loosening the soil with a fork and nestling the tuber into place as above. Water well and keep the soil slightly damp but not soggy.

NERINES Nerines will flower for years once they have settled in. Plant your bulbs with a mixture of multipurpose compost and loam based potting compost, such as John Innes No 2. When planting, make sure that the roots are spread out and only the bottom half of the bulbs are below the compost level. The top half of the bulb must remain above it. They do best in a well-drained site with full sun and love it at the base of a sunny, south-facing wall.

CALADIUM Where most plants don’t tolerate shade very well - caladiums love shady areas! When your favourite flower will bloom for a week or two, caladiums will provide wonderful leaf colour and texture all summer.

CANNAS Cannas like a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH. More importantly, they prefer rich, moist soil and full sun. Since most of the newer varieties are hybrids, canna lilies are generally grown from rhizomes. Plant the rhizomes four inches deep, after all danger of frost. Keep the rhizomes moist, but not soaking wet. Once the plants are up and growing, they can handle wet soil.


Muscari armeniacum – the Armenium grape hyacinth

Good family CONNECTIONS Gill Heavens explores the many delights of hyacinths, the common name for 30 perennial flowering plants native to the eastern Mediterranean and a firm favourite in English gardens


Hyacinths are members of the wonderful and enthralling Asparagaceae family, a diverse selection of over 100 genera which include agave, Solomon’s seal, the spider plant and of course asparagus. To the uninitiated it is hard to see the family resemblance amongst them. However within this group is the subfamily Scilloideae. It is here that we find hyacinths and their close relatives, much loved by Gertrude Jekyll. She planted drifts of chiondoxa, scilla, puschinkinia, muscari, and white hyacinths in her spring garden, which must have been a sight to behold. The hyacinth, Hyacinthus, was named after the Spartan youth Hyakinthos who was accidently killed by Apollo. Hyacinthus orientalis is native to Central and Eastern Mediterranean and it is this plant that we have to thank for the over 2,000 named cultivars we have today. Since the 16th century plant breeders have worked to produce a myriad of colours whilst retaining its heady scent. Varieties that have received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society, include denim hued ‘Delft Blue’, the virginal ‘L’Innocence’ and dark stemmed and pinkish-purple flowered ‘Paul Hermann’. The species makes a good rock garden plant and is more delicate than the florists’ blooms. They will flower in April in white, pale mauve or deep mauve and will reach 35cm in height. Just as their cultivated cousins, they are extremely fragrant. All they need is good drainage and full sun. Country Gardener

The hyacinth’s diminutive cousins are the grape hyacinths or muscari. Muscari racemosum is a strong and vigorous species and can be considered a weed if planted in the wrong place. It is native to much of Europe and Asia Minor and has spires of grey/blue flowers edged with white. By dividing the clumps every three to four years and discarding any excess, you will keep a healthy community and dissuade them from world domination! The Armenian grape hyacinth, M. armeniacum, is far better behaved and flowers in mid spring. For this reason it has been widely bred, good varieties being the pale blue ‘Valerie Finis’, petite ‘Cantab’ and the early flowering ‘Christmas Pearl’. Other choices include M. azureum, which is bright blue striped with dark blue, and M. latifolium which has one broad leaf and whose blue flower is tipped with a sterile indigo “hat”. For those of you who would like to try something a little different, try the flamboyant M. comosum ‘Plumosum’ which produces violetpink, feather duster flowers from early to mid spring. My favourite however, is the wonderful Muscari macrocarpum, most specifically the cultivar ‘Golden Fragrance’. It is violet in bud, opening to yellow, deliciously perfumed, blooms. In the past I have grown these wonders in pots, placed on pillar or post, so you can appreciate a waft of scent as you walk past. The next cousin is chionodoxa, known as Glory of the Snow, because they come into flower when the snow begins to melt in the mountains of Crete, Cyprus and West Turkey. The most

s a broad Hyacinthus orientalis – the base of over 2,00 Muscari lat ifo lium halow 0 f e leaf and whose blu inderigois‘hat’ named cultivars tipped wit h a sterile Puschkinia – another ‘snow melt ‘plant sometimes called the Chionodoxa – striped squill another family ‘cousin’ known as ‘Glory of the Snow’

commonly found is C. siehei which is violetblue with a white eye. Each well sized bulb will produce several flowering stems and will also self-seed readily to form large colonies. C. forbesii is native to Turkey, and in early spring produces a raceme of up to 12 star shaped blue flowers with a white centre. A cultivar ‘Pink Giant’ has pale pink flowers and again with white centres. Although alpine plants, early flowering means they will tolerate woodland conditions. Plant beneath deciduous shrubs and in late winter to early spring they will produce a beautiful swathe of blue. The squill, or scilla, is widespread across Europe, Asia and Africa, with only the tropical areas excluded. The genus most likely to be seen in our gardens is S. siberica from Siberia and West Asia. This has nodding, bell-shaped, electric blue flowers throughout February and March. Another self-seeder it is a perfect plant for naturalising in grass or in deciduous woodland. The cultivar ‘Spring Beauty’ has darker flowers. Scilla peruviana is my favourite. Unlike the other delicate squills, this one is big and blousy. As it hales from South Western Europe and North Africa it is borderline hardy. In early summer large heads unfold, revealing up to 100 star shaped purple/blue flowers. It performs best in poor soil, which will promote more flowers and less leaves, and in a sunny sheltered position. There is also a white form, which I haven’t yet seen, but it is on my wish list! We must of course mention the bluebell, hyacinthoides. To walk through a wood of our

Muscari macr ocarpum ‘Golden Fragrance’

native Hyacinthoides non-scripta in May is one of life’s great pleasures. A carpet of arching stems of blue, sometimes pink or white, and the delightful aroma of late spring is a joy to behold. But there is a snake in paradise, albeit an innocent one. This is of course the demonised Spanish bluebell Hyacinthoides hispanica, introduced into this country 300 years ago. It is a much stouter plant, with broader leaves, bells on both sides of the stems and little if any scent. Unfortunately it has hybridised freely putting our indigenous bluebell at risk in the wild. Lastly we have puschkinia, named after, wait for it, Count Apollos Mussin-Puschkin, who was a Russian botanist in the early 19th century. This is another snow melt plant and is sometimes called the striped squill. Most plants in cultivation are Puschkinia scilloides or its cultivars. The flowers are bluish-white striped, with a deeper blue, and produced from March to April. Unlike many of its relatives it enjoys damp conditions, such as meadows, in full sun or part shade. You may wish to naturalise these bulbous beauties in wood or grassland where they can multiply freely. Perhaps you will use them in borders where a close eye can be kept upon them both to appreciate and rein in when necessary. Maybe you will display them in pots or planters which you can move in and out of position as they begin to shine or fade. Whichever is right for you and your garden, I am sure you will be able to find a place in your life for the hyacinth and its close relatives.



“Always grow three or four varieties - at least!”

Grow tomatoes

NOT FOLIAGE! Every tomato lover dreams of growing the ultimate tomato but too many of us forget to concentrate on the fruit and not all the greenery round it. Growing tomatoes is a tricky business. Unfortunately there are few vegetables that are prone to more problems than tomatoes. The trick to growing great tasting tomatoes is to choose the best varieties, start the plants off right, control problems before they happen- and concentrate on the fruit. The most common problem gardeners face is they grow great foliage on their plants at the detriment of the tomatoes themselves. Pruning, taking out lower leaves, pinching out suckers and restricting tomatoes on a plant will help get a much better balance. Always grow three or four varieties at least - some will suit your locality better than others, they may be differently susceptible to disease, and you may well prefer the taste of some varieties. GIVE SEEDLINGS PLENTY OF ROOM If you are starting tomatoes from seed, be sure to give the seedlings plenty of room to branch out. Crowded conditions inhibit their growth and lead to disease later on, so transplant them into their own individual four-inch pot. SHOW THEM THE SUN Tomato seedlings need strong, direct light. Days are short during winter, so even placing them near a very sunny window may not provide them with sufficient natural light. To ensure the plants grow stocky, not spindly, keep the young plants only a couple of inches from fluorescent grow lights. When you’re ready to plant them outside, choose the sunniest part of your garden. PUT A FAN ON YOUR SEEDLINGS It seems tomato plants need to move and sway in the breeze, to develop strong stems. That happens naturally 14

outdoors, but if you are growing your seedlings inside, you will need to provide air circulation. Create a breeze by turning a fan on them for five minutes twice a day. Another option is to ruffle them by gently rubbing your hand across their tops for a few minutes, several times a day. PRE HEAT THE SOIL Tomatoes love heat. Cover the planting area with black or red plastic a couple of weeks before you intend to plant. Those extra degrees of soil warmth will translate into earlier tomatoes. You can lift the plastic before you plant, but some research contends that plastic mulch has the added benefit of increasing your tomato yield. BURY THE PLANTS DEEP BURY DEEP Plant your tomato plants deeper than they come in the pot, all the way up to the top few leaves. When planted this way, tomatoes are able to develop roots all along their stems. And more roots will make for a stronger plant. You can either dig a deep hole or simply dig a shallow trench and lay the plant sideways. It will quickly straighten itself up and grow toward the sun. REMOVE THE BOTTOM LEAVES Once your tomato plants reach about three feet remove the leaves from the bottom one foot of stem. These are the oldest leaves and they are usually the first leaves to develop fungus problems. As the plants fill out, the bottom leaves get the least amount of sun and air flow. Spraying weekly with compost tea also seems to be effective at warding off fungus diseases. PINCH AND PRUNE FOR MORE FRUIT Pinch and remove suckers that develop in the crotch joint of two branches. They won’t bear fruit and will take energy away from the

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rest of the plant. However, go easy on pruning the rest of the plant. You can thin out a few leaves to allow the sun to reach the ripening fruit, but it’s the leaves that are photosynthesizing and creating the sugars that give flavour to your tomatoes. Fewer leaves will mean less sweet tomatoes. WATER REGULARLY AND PROPERLY Water deeply and regularly while the fruits are developing. Irregular watering - missing a week and trying to make up for it - leads to blossom end rot and cracking. The rule of thumb is to ensure your plants get at least one inch of water per week, but during hot, dry spells, they may need more. If your plants start to look wilted for most of the day, give them a drink. Once the fruit begins to ripen, you can ease up on watering. Lessening the water will coax the plant into concentrating its sugars, for better flavour.

Hanging baskets – a per fect t omat o o pt ion

Tomatoes can do well in hanging baskets, grow bags and contai ners in warm su mmers but you need to find a sh eltered position in good sun. Bush varieties, w hich give small ch erry fruits, are perfect for gr owing in grow ba gs. They are sometimes less baffl plants do not ne ing for beginners as the ed the side shoo ts pinching out. But care must be taken to keep th e fruit off the ground as tomat oes and some varietie are prone to slug damage s take up a lot of ground space.

Choosing the right variety is vital 1. BLIGHT-RESISTANT VARIETIES ‘Koralik’ is a heritage Russian bush variety that crops early enough to avoid the main August wave of blight. But it has also shown good tolerance to blight in three years of trials throughout the whole season. The foliage has remained healthy, the yield has been consistently high and all the small, bright-red tomatoes on each truss ripen together. ‘Premio’ is another disease-resistant tomato which has been extensively trialled and this also should be suitable for outdoor use. The flavour is excellent and the handsome red fruit has shiny red skin so it looks good on the vine. It shows high resistance to many tomato plant diseases. 2. CORDON VARIETIES ‘Sungold’ - small orange fruits, exceptionally sweet. Crops well. For greenhouse or outdoor culture. ‘Alicante’ AGM - excellent flavour, medium-sized round, red tomato with thin skin. Free-fruiting. ‘Moneymaker’ - a popular and reliable plant that remains a favourite. ‘Golden Sunrise’ - golden-yellow, medium-sized fruit of excellent and distinctive flavour. Ideal for greenhouse or outdoor growing. ‘Shirley’ AGM - early-maturing, heavy-cropping F1 variety for cold or slightly heated greenhouses with excellent quality fruit. Recommended for growbag culture with an open growing habit. Fleshy fruit popular with vegetable exhibitors. ‘Sweet Million’ AGM - a heavy yielding plant that produces sweet, round cherry tomatoes. 3. BUSH VARIETIES ‘Red Alert’ - very early with exceptional flavourful, one-inch wide red fruits. ‘Roma VF’ - thick fleshed, nearly seedless plum tomato for sauces, ketchup, tomato juice and soup. Disease resistant and heavy cropping - for outdoors or greenhouse use. ‘Tumbling Tom Yellow’ and ‘Tumbling Tom Red’ - sweet yellow or red, cherry-sized fruits that trail over baskets. Both are very flavourful. ‘Baby Doc’- a small speciality tomato grown that has been grown on the slopes of Vesurius for hundreds of years. 15

Return of the woodland lilies

Martagon lilies have made a bit of a comeback. For years, they had a bad reputation of being difficult to grow and too expensive. So they became difficult to obtain but now the beautiful, graceful lilies that are perfect for the woodland setting are back Planting wonderful martagon lilies in a woodland area will provide colour and attract butterflies and other pollinators. They take a bit of extra care with location selection and soil preparation, but they add unique interest to the garden. They provide a graceful presence that visitors are always in awe of, and they will bring you many years of enjoyment. Many lilies are too brash for the flower border and are far more successful in large containers, but the demure martagon lily is an exception. Its muted colours and swept-back petals blend seamlessly into the shade between shrubs and under deciduous trees. It is elegant, balanced and poised when flowering in June and July, and in autumn the upright seed heads provide a valuable silhouette. Not all lilies are successful in the ground and many will dwindle after three or four years. Ground slugs and winter wet are the problem, but a freely drained position and the contradiction of providing moisture in summer are a key to success. Always plant the bulbs in a layer of sharp grit for drainage, and incorporate leafmould rather than compost to remind them of their woodland origins. The alternative, of course, is to grow them in pots, which can be lifted into the comparative dryness of a leeward wall in the winter and out of sight when the flowers are over. The species varies very little in shape and form but colours range from dark maroon to mauve and white, with different 16

spotting on the petals, depending on where they’re growing. This was one of the first lilies to be grown in British gardens: Gerard described it in 1596. The common name comes from the style of turban adopted by the Turkish ruler, Sultan Mohammed 1, which was known as a martagon and had a similarly pendulous shape. Hence, too, the alternative alias - Turk’s cap lily. The dozen or so flowers on every stem have none of the heady lily fragrance; some even say they smell unpleasant, and sweet-smelling honeysuckle, Lonicera periclymenum, was often added to vases of them. But it is a survivor, colonising shady areas by self-seeding. Many lilies fade away within four years but this one will outlive the gardener who plants it. Spetchley Park, Worcester has thousands of them carpeting the quarter of a mile from the house to the lake. It’s thought that the owner’s great aunt, Ellen Willmott, started this magnificent colony in the 1880s. They are expensive and often dispatched in the spring, as lilies produce lots of roots after flowering and become dormant late in the year. Add plenty of humus to the soil when planting, cover with leaf mould and be patient, as they’re slow to get going. Don’t disturb the bulbs. As with all lilies, be careful not to splash the stems, leaves and flowers when watering to avoid disease. Lily beetles are the other problem. They attack bulbs so that the leaves drop off. The pupa, which look like bird droppings, also eat the lily foliage. If there are only a few insects, pick them off by hand and destroy them. Martagon lilies reach 4ft tall when happy. They’re best grown between deciduous shrubs as they tower over most woodlanders. Spring-flowering viburnums and winterflowering witch hazels provide a mid-green leafy background to the summer flowers.

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Berberis darwinii produces barberries which are an important ingredient in Iranian cookery


shrubbery ‘Taste’ is the first in a series for Country Gardener by popular writer Gill Heavens looking into the five human senses and how they relate to the garden. When it comes to taste the garden always has some surprises

Naturally I had to do a little research on this subject, which unfortunately did not entail eating cake but did mean swotting up on my biology. Taste, or the wonderfully named gustatory perception, occurs when receptor cells on the tongue send messages to the gustatory areas of the brain via the cranial nerves. This gives rise to the sweet, sour, salt, bitter and savoury or umami that we experience when we eat or drink. How does this relate to the garden? Aside from grand estates and monasteries, historically, domestic gardens were used for growing food and medicinal herbs with perhaps a few flowers for ornament. These would have been what we now call a kitchen garden or potager. Space, time and money was limited, so it was essential that everything grown had to have a practical purpose. The garden was no place for frippery. It performed a basic function of providing food from base vegetables to herbs, spices and whatever wonderful varieties could be created to bring pleasure to the taste buds. In this day and age, mixed planting such as this is less widespread, although it has had a recent revival. Modern living can bring similar restrictions on time and space as our forebears experienced, and growing fruit and vegetables 18

amongst your herbaceous perennials works well and is practical and colourful. The urge to cultivate useful spaces is returning, with forest gardening and permaculture becoming more popular. Many edibles, such as rainbow chard, lettuces, beans and peas, can be attractive in their own right, earning a place in your garden through aesthetic merit alone. There’s been a much wider interest in plants eaten raw which won’t mind having a few bits removed regularly, such as edible flowers; such as heartsease or cut-and-come-again lettuce such as salad bowl, rocket, purslane, chives and garlic chives, buckler-leaf sorrel, mangetouts and podding peas. If you have no desire to grow cabbages amongst the chrysanthemums, do not think that taste must be confined to the vegetable garden or allotment. There are many familiar plants which are edible, some of which might be a surprise to you. Fuchsia berries have a high vitamin C content and can be eaten raw or made into jelly. I have sampled many varieties and they are quite variable, some having a rather odd peppery after taste. The one I cannot fault is the exotic and beautiful Fuchsia boliviana, which is delicious. Fuchsias have other joys to offer. When I was Country Gardener

Canna edulis or the arrowroot plant has a starchy rhizome which can be baked or boiled

Hemerocallis fulva - it’s tubers, shoots and flower buds can all be eaten

a child I would break off the end of the flower, suck out the sweet nectar and discard them, what a hooligan! Another wonderful ornamental with a secret luscious side is the daylily, Hemerocallis fulva. Tubers, shoots and flower buds can all be eaten. It seems such a shame to snap off a bud, but they are scrumptious. Be careful not confuse this plant with other true lilies which are indeed poisonous. Close relations, berberis and mahonia, both have edible fruit. Berberis darwinii produces barberries which are an important ingredient in Iranian cookery, make good jam and have been deemed a “super food”. Mahonia aquifolium, known as the Oregon Grape, is face crumplingly sour, but with added sweetener also makes fabulous jam. For those of you with more exotic gardens, the Jelly Palm, Butia capitata, can be put to good use. If we have that long hot summer we have been dreaming of, the fruit can be used to make a fine wine. The edible canna, Canna edulis, known as achira in its native South America and West Indies, has a starchy rhizome which can be baked or boiled. The bright red flowers on lush foliage which grow to 3m in height, are an equally good reason to grow this giant. Dahlia tubers are also edible, in fact they were first introduced into this country as a food source rather than an ornamental. They were enjoyed as a staple by the Aztecs, the high carbohydrate content invaluable. Although I have never personally tasted them, it is said they can be eaten raw sliced into a salad or cooked just like a sweet potato. Many of our most loved flowers are edible, including primulas, calendula, peppery nasturtium and viola. In the past few years the pretty petals are often found decorating our plates in trendy restaurants. Nasturtium seed can be pickled to make caper-like treats. Rose petals can be candied, and rosehips make a nutritious and delicious syrup. Of course we must be cautious, as tragic mistakes do happen. There are many poisonous plants in the garden so make sure you are quite sure before you taste anything. Some are harmful to us but not to other creatures, so do not presume that just because the blackbird is eating it then it is fine for you to do so too. Often we will be given a clue as to a plant’s suitability for a meal. Plants are toxic, not out of spite or malice, but to avoid being eaten. As it would be pointless to kill your adversary after you had been killed yourself i.e eaten, many poisonous plants taste unpleasant. An acrid taste sends out the

message that this particular food is bad for you. One bite and any sensible herbivore is off to find something more palatable. Very clever. Conversely, parts that the plant would like to be eaten are often extremely palatable. The one thing that most living things wish to do is to reproduce, and it is no different with plants. Sweet fruit contains seed which, to ensure that it is not digested, is often covered with a protective coating or is indeed toxic. The delicious apple is eaten, the seeds are rejected and pass through the body, to be deposited away from the mother with its own source of fertiliser. Even cleverer. Taste is more relevant in the garden than you might initially have thought, and there are plenty of opportunities for a snacking amongst the shrubbery. You are responsible for what you eat, be sure what you are scoffing is what you think it is, and certainly don’t take my word for it. Now all we need is for someone to breed a chocolate brownie tree!

Top: Mahonia aquifolium, known as the Oregon Grape Middle: Peppery nasturtium – now a regular in salad bags 19

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13/01/2018 12:35:47

Planting schemes for

financial growth There are many connections between investing and gardeningthe process starts with a vision, involves patience and nurturing and needs a long-term approach to reap the rewards. John Crowley, chief executive of investment and fund management specialists Hawksmoor Investment Management explains “I have spent much of my career in investment, constructing and managing portfolios of investments for individual private clients, charities, trusts, etc. My wife is a garden designer. Often, when she shows me the planting schemes for the beds in her designs, and when I see the ideas in action in our own garden, I am struck by the similarities with what my colleagues and I do every day. A good planting scheme will be carefully constructed to please the eye and the soul for as much of the year as possible. Unless it’s one of those ‘single species’ ones designed for a particular effect, a bed is likely to contain plants and shrubs in a range of sizes, colours and textures. Each will be intended to complement its neighbours, perhaps with larger shrubs at the rear to act as a backdrop to smaller ones in the front, or a bold, large-leafed plant to set off a delicate one nearby. The colours and textures of the flowers and their foliage will sit harmoniously with each other. While some plants are bursting into bloom, the flowers of others will be fading; while the leaves of spring bulbs begin to tire, others will still be developing.

“Often, when I see the ideas in action in our own garden, I am struck by the similarities with what my colleagues and I do every day.” Even during the winter months, with little growth in evidence, the well-planned border will still provide interest and variety, and crucially will hint at the spring which always will return. An investment manager would recognise a lot of that. Through all the seasons, from the heat and dryness of summer to the cool and wet of winter, a good planting scheme provides ‘returns’ in terms of the pleasure of interesting and satisfying variety. As an investment manager, you don’t want your client’s

John Crowley

portfolio to contain holdings that all ‘point in the same direction’ – for example, that are all likely to fall in value if the FTSE 100 falls. • There will be stocks and funds aimed at doing different things at different times. • There will be ‘equities’ (company shares) from across the various industrial sectors and across the globe. Some are likely to be fast growing, others are more mature, paying a decent and sustainable dividend whatever the market or economic conditions. • Also, there are holdings in ‘bonds’ – i.e., government or company debt securities – which usually deliver returns mainly through a relatively high level of interest income (though UK government securities – gilts – have produced precious little of that recently). • In general, equities and bonds have historically behaved differently from each other in terms of their capital value. However, recent action by central banks to stimulate economies since the financial crisis of 2008-9, through ultra-low interest rates and so called ‘quantitative easing’, have caused that inverse relationship to break down to a degree. So increasingly, portfolios ideally need other ‘diversifiers’, such as property, commodities and funds which aim to make positive returns in all market conditions. In summary, a well-diversified portfolio will contain holdings designed to capture, and ideally beat, the growth of equity market indices, providing reliable, growing income returns. That way, a portfolio is more likely to deliver attractive returns over the longer term whatever the season, whether markets are bathed in summer sunshine or buffeted by winter storms”. Hawksmoor Investment Management specialises in providing discretionary management services for private clients including trusts, pension schemes and charities and has offices in Exeter, London, Taunton, Dorchester and Bury St Edmunds. They are sponsors of the Toby Buckland Garden Festival at Powderham Castle on Friday, 27th and Saturday, 28th April.


Waterdale House, East Knoyle, Wiltshire SP3 6BL

GARDEN Visits THE BEST GARDENS TO VISIT compiled by Vivienne Lewis

Everywhere looks fresh and green, with colourful spring flowers, so it’s time to get and about to visit lovely gardens opening for charity. Here’s a selection in the areas we cover. We advise checking wherever possible before starting out on a journey as circumstances can force cancellations.

We’re introducing a key to facilities on offer at the gardens: Refreshments available Plants usually for sale Wheelchair access to much of garden Partial wheelchair access

Unsuitable for wheelchairs Dogs on short leads Visitors welcome by arrangement Coaches welcome consult owners

LUCOMBE HOUSE 12 Druid Stoke Avenue, Stoke Bishop, Bristol BS9 1DD A garden for tree lovers, with the 250 year old Lucombe Oak, registered as one of the most significant trees in the South West, and more than 30 mature English trees, with ferns and bluebells, flowering beds and an untouched wild area. A landscape gardener will be available to answer questions. Open for the NGS: Sunday 15th April, 2pm-5.30pm. Admission £3.50, children free. Contact Malcolm Ravenscroft on 01179 682494 or email

WAYFORD MANOR Wayford, Crewkerne, Somerset TA18 8QG The mainly Elizabethan manor (not open) mentioned in the 17th century for its ‘fair and pleasant’ garden, redesigned by Harold Peto in 1902, has formal terraces, yew hedges and topiary, fine views, steps down between spring-fed ponds past mature and new plantings of blossoming trees and shrubs, spring bulbs, cyclamen, primula candelabra, arum lily, gunnera around lower ponds. Open for the NGS: Sunday 29th April, 2pm-5pm. Admission £5, children £2.50.


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THE DOWER HOUSE Springvale Road, Headbourne Worthy, Winchester, Hampshire SO23 7LD Wander among five and a half acres of gardens with meandering paths, a scented border, iris bed, geranium bed, shrubbery, a pond with fish and water lilies, bog garden, bluebell wood and secret courtyard garden. Open for the NGS: Sunday 29th April, 2.30pm-5.30pm. Admission £4.50, children free. Contact Mrs Judith Lywood on 01962 882848 or email


MARREN Holworth, Dorchester, Dorset DT2 8NJ

Rampisham, Dorchester, Dorset DT2 0PU

Fabulous sea views from this four-acre garden; from a National Trust car park down a steep public footpath and 64 grass steps find a woodland garden with chainsaw tree sculptures, a willow arbour, and Italianate garden around the house. Children’s summerhouse, hornbeam house. Open for the NGS: Saturday 28th/ Sunday 29th April, Saturday 9th June/Sunday 10th June, 2pm-5pm). Admission £5, children free. Contact Mr & Mrs Peter Cartwright on 01305 851503 or email

Once a farmyard now a delightful, tranquil garden set in one and a half acres, with island beds and mixed borders; lawns and paths lead to a large wildlife pond, meadow, shaded areas, bog garden and late summer border. Open for the NGS: Sundays 22nd April, 15th July, 12th August, 2pm-5pm. Admission £4.50, children free. Also opens as part of Rampisham Gardens on Sunday 10th June. Contact Mr & Mrs D Parry on 01935 83266 or email

WATERDALE HOUSE East Knoyle, Wiltshire SP3 6BL A four-acre mature woodland garden with rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, maples, magnolias, ornamental water, bog garden, herbaceous borders, bluebell walk, shrub border mixed with herbaceous. Opening for the NGS: Sunday 29th April, 2pm-6pm. Admission £5, children free. For other opening times and information, phone 01747 830262. Sensible footwear essential due to difficult surfaces, parts of garden very wet.



PYLEWELL PARK South Baddesley, Lymington, Hampshire SO41 5SJ A large parkland garden laid out in 1890 with distant views of the Isle of Wight across the Solent. Grass and moss paths, rhododendrons, magnolias, embothriums and cornus, giant gunnera bordering large lakes, wild daffodils in bloom at Easter and bluebells in May. Bring your own picnic and wear suitable footwear for muddy areas. Open for the NGS: Easter Sunday 1st April, Sunday 27th May, 2pm-5pm. Admission £4, children free.



Higher Park Road, Braunton, Devon EX33 2LG

Ashburton, Newton Abbot, Devon TQ13 7HU A new opening for the NGS, once a lost garden by a beautiful Dartmoor stream, overgrown and neglected, but since 2016 its mature magnolias, camellias, azaleas and other trees have been rescued, paths and ponds cleared, archaeology preserved, borders created, bridges and terraces repaired and over 5,000 bulbs planted. Wild daffodils and bluebells in the meadow. Open for the NGS: Saturday 21st & Sunday 22nd April, 11am4pm. Admission £3.50, child £1.

A sheltered, peaceful, gently sloping, south-facing artist’s garden with a thatched summerhouse leading down to herbaceous borders; winding crazy paving paths, many seating areas; shrubs, trees, fish ponds, grassy knoll, gravel areas, hens. Open gallery (arts & crafts). Open for the NGS: Sundays 15th April, 20th May, 17th June, 2pm-5.30pm. Admission £4, children free. Contact Dr W & Mrs Ros Bradford on 01271 813805 or email

ETHNEVAS COTTAGE Constantine, Falmouth, Cornwall TR11 5PY A granite cottage in two acres with flower and vegetable garden, bridge over stream to a large pond and primrose path through semi-wild bog area, hillside with grass paths among native and exotic trees; camellias and rhododendrons, mixed shrubs, spring bulbs, herbaceous beds, wild flower glade, and listen to a classical guitar recital. Open for the NGS: Sunday 29th April, 1pm-4pm. Admission £5, children free. Contact Lyn Watson & Ray Chun on 01326 340076. 24

Country Gardener

CHARLTON DOWN HOUSE Charlton Down, Tetbury, Gloucestershire GL8 8TZ A new opening for the NGS, in an 180-acre equestrian estate with extensive country house gardens, tulips nearing their peak with lovely colour contrasts, formal terraces, perennial borders, walled topiary garden, enclosed cut flower garden, large glasshouse and newly planted copse. Open on Sunday 22nd April, and on Sunday 10th June, 12pm-6pm. Admission: £5, children free.

CAMELEY HOUSE Cameley, Temple Cloud, Bristol, Somerset BS39 5AJ A new opening for the NGS for visitors wishing to visit by arrangement, this three-acre garden around an 18th century Gothic house (not open) has the Cam Brook running through it with woodland including ginkgo and tulip trees, borders with tulips, hellebores, geums, camassias and magnolias, a white garden, cherry orchard with topiary and sculpture and Alpine troughs. Contact Fiona & Jonathan Hayward on 01761 451111 or email

COPYHOLD HOLLOW Borde Hill, Haywards Heath, Sussex RH16 1XU The garden surrounding the 16th century house (not open) gives way to steep slopes up to a woodland garden. Species primulas, stumpery, dizzy crow’s nest viewing platform. Not a manicured plot but with a relaxed attitude to gardening. Open for the NGS: Monday 16th April, Tuesday 24th April, Monday 7th May, Tuesday 15th May, Friday 25th May, Monday 16th July, 2pm-4pm. Admission £4, children free. Contact Frances Druce on 01444 413265 or email

BARNSLEY HOUSE Barnsley,Gloucestershire GL7 5EE Now surrounding a boutique hotel, the garden was the creation of legendary designer Rosemary Verey, maintained to the same high standard since her death in 2001, with her Elizabethan-style knot garden, fine mixed borders, and potager, which reintroduced the idea of ornamental vegetable gardening to Britain. Assistance can be provided for wheelchair users. Open for the NGS: 10am-4pm. Admission: £5, children free. Tel: 01285 740000



Finally looking ahead to the

new gardening season The recent bad weather has only succeeded in raising the hopes and expectations for the new gardening season as gradually everything starts to come alive and with it the delights and excitement of stocking up with new plants, new designs and new accessories The great thing about gardening is that every new season captures our imagination with hopes and expectations of what is ahead. Timing is of course everything and the bad weather of recent weeks may have set back plans but gardeners young or old are always on the look out for something different- a new challenge and a new opportunity -whether it is designing a neglected area of the garden, creating fresh borders, agreeing vegetable planting plans or adding special plants or accessories into the garden. When the growing season really gets under way and you find yourself gazing on a garden which needs some inspiration then it becomes a challenge to find that new accessory or some inspiring new plants-just something special. The answer for many of us is a local specialist nursery or garden centre which will yield rich pickings of things in bloom that offer instant impact.

Get inspired with Miserden perennials The four-acre Nursery at Miserden outside of Stroud in Gloucestershire is known for its inspiring and comprehensive range of herbaceous perennials which it grows in a magical location in the Cotswold Hills. Set in the former kitchen garden to the Miserden estate, the nursery boasts a beautiful collection of 1920s glasshouses, one of which has been converted into a café serving excellent coffee and seasonal food. As well as perennials, the nursery offers David Austin roses, alpines, climbers and shrubs, herbs and scented pelargoniums. This year it’s extending its range of shrubby salvias and introducing a new type of daylily bred in the West Country. The nursery and café and Miserden estate gardens are open Tuesday to Sunday and Bank Holidays, 10am to 5pm. 26

Where should you shop? Specialist nurseries are always worth supporting because they grow plants you might not find elsewhere – be they pelargoniums, alpines or ferns, roses or camellias – and the advice you’ll get is first hand and reliable and the quality and value for money beyond question. It is important to support them whenever you can – they are usually run by talented and committed individuals who don’t make a vast profit and who do the job for love as much as anything else. They should be your first port of call. They are nurserymen, many of them specialising is either a specific varieties or ranges of plants and their knowledge is second to none and will certainly inspire you. They offer first hand knowledge of what to grow and you’ll often get caught up in their passion and enthusiasm. So as the season finally starts to capture that imagination we’re delighted to offer you some options of where to buy that something special.

Woodseaves Garden Plants and the legacy of roses Over thousands of years, roses have been enjoyed within our gardens, firstly starting from the humble native roses. Discoveries of roses and collected seeds from foreign lands including China were carried to Europe and Britain. These were the catalyst for breeders to immerse into and with their dedication and patience over the centuries and even today, they are the Brunel engineers in the field of roses and achieving a formidable range. Woodseaves Garden Plants of Shropshire grow examples of roses within the gardens and many are available in the nursery with their date era of introduction, being part of the legacy of roses. The nursery specialises in Tree Lupins and cultivating new hardy Linarias, traditional cottage plants some not widely known and of course roses. Woodseaves Garden Plants Market Drayton, Shropshire, TF9 2AS. Tel:01630 653161

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Mantis Tiller – the path to perfect soil Turning hard, compacted soil into workable gardens is the key throughout the gardening season. The Mantis Tiller is a versatile tool which helps create and maintain good soil. It weighs just 24 pounds and can be picked up with one hand. The corded petrol engine and the Tiller’s patented tines make preparing the soil for a new season straightforward and stress free. All manner of people have made it a bestselling sensation because it guarantees no hard work. And coming soon will be a compact, electric environment friendly version – set to be a sure winner. Complementing the Tiller is the Rotary Composter – another innovation from the respected Mantis brand. Developed in 1974, the drum is the perfect shape and size to create fast decomposition of all manner of organic materials when turned daily creating rich nutrient fertilizer in weeks rather than months without mess. Size options range from the typical garden 140 litre up to 700 litres. For further details of all Mantis products visit or call free 0800 988 4828.

WEST KINGTON NURSERIES BARGAIN BONANZA PLANT SALE WEEKEND West Kington Nurseries, the specialist herbaceous and alpine grower, based near Chippenham, is throwing open it’s gates for popular annual plant sale in support of local charities. The spring sale weekend is on Saturday April 28th from 9am to 5pm and Sunday 29th from 10am to 4pm. It’s a great weekend for tracking down bargains from a huge selection of perennials and shrubs, plus a selection of bedding plants, on sale at wholesale prices. Last year, the sale raised over £2,500 for local charities including Wiltshire Air Ambulance. Refreshments are available and experts will be there to answer any plant-related enquiries. Entrance and parking is free. Dogs on leads welcome. West Kington Nurseries, West Kington, Nr Chippenham, Wiltshire. Tel: 01249 782822.

ROSYBEE - PLANTS WHICH ARE GOOD FOR BEES Rosybee specialises in plants that attract both wild and honey bees. They know which plants are best because they also carry out research. Their simple mission is to help everyone make a difference to the future of UK pollinating insects. Rosybee sell all their plants in trays of six, to encourage you to plant a bold block of flowers which helps the bees forage more efficiently. The website provides masses of information and details of the research.

PROVIDING POWER TO A PLANTS ROOT SYSTEM If plants could talk they would choose rootgrow mycorrhizal fungi to be used when they are planted. In a matter of weeks they will benefit from a secondary fungal root system that will help them establish and grow away strong and healthy. When planting this season, why not harness the power of pure biology and treat your plants with the Empathy range of natural, sustainable, but above all else, highly effective gardening products designed for the caring UK gardener. Empathy products are licensed by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) so gardeners can be sure of outstanding quality and highly effective results.

Garden structures for a new look season One of the best ways to re-invigorate your garden is with a new garden building. Rustic Timber Structures Ltd design and create a range of beautiful unique, handcrafted rustic garden lodges, cabins and structures creating features from the natural shapes of the wood, inspired by the traditional English cottage garden. The timber including any tanalised timber is UK sourced and as much as possible from local sustainably managed woodlands. The native woods they use are ash and hazel, which have all been cut as part of a coppice cycle at local woodlands. The larch can be peeled if requested, depending on the desired appearance. For more information contact or phone Phil on 07443520040. 28

Country Gardener



u r s e r y

Quality Trees and Shrubs Amenity trees from whip to standard, fruit (including heritage apples) and hedging. Conifers and broadleaves. Range of choice shrubs. Advisory/design service.

Thornhayes Nursery, Dulford, Open 8am-4pm Mon to Fri also 9am-1pm Sat Cullompton, Devon EX15 2DF Tel: 01884 266746

Cerney House Gardens A Romantic English Garden in the UK Cotswolds 46 acres of Cotswold parkland Romantic secret garden

West Kington Nurseries West Kington, Nr Chippenham, Wiltshire SN14 7JQ Tel 01249 782822


* Wildlife and woodland walks * Plants for sale * A large variety of hellebores and tulips * Refreshments available at the old Bothy

“Probably the largest plant sale in the West!”

Open every day until 31st October 10-5pm Admission: £5 adults, £1 children

Telephone 01285 831300

• Huge range of plants • Bargain Prices • Professional advice • Refreshments

APRIL 28th & 29th

Saturday 9am-5pm Sunday 10am-4pm

Cerney House Gardens, North Cerney, Cirencester, Gloucestershire GL7 7BX

Free Entry

Over £2,500 raised last year for local charities

Whichford Pottery


Handmade British Flowerpots with a 10 Year Frostproof Guarantee

Spring Offer

Classic Hand-made English Flowerpots

10 Year Frostproof Guarantee

Viola Pot Free delivery (saving £29.50) £49.50 each Special price of £84 for a pair (saving a further £15) Viola Pot measures 22cm high x 35cm wide Free delivery applies to mainland UK only. Offer subject to availability. Offer ends 30/04/18. T&Cs apply.

To order call 01608 684416, visit or pop into see us!


THE RHODODENDRON & AZALEA CENTRE Visitors Welcome Mon-Fri 9.00am-4.30pm all year round Sat 10.00am-4.00pm Apr-May


Somerset Group Plant Fairs 2018


East Lambrook Manor TA13 5HH 24 March 10am-4pm Entry £4 (HPS & RHS £3.50)


West Monkton Village Hall TA2 8NE 28 April 10am-12.30pm Entry £1 - All Welcome

Koirin, Crossroads Nursery, Woodlands, Wimborne, Verwood Road, Dorset BH21 8LN (Near Verwood) Mail order available


Tel: 01202 824629 Sorry, we don’t accept credit/debit cards

Lower Severalls TA18 7NX 8 July 10am-4pm Entry £4.50 (HPS & RHS £3.50)

8th April The Old Rectory, Quenington, Cirencester GL7 5BN 11am – 4pm Specialist Plant Fair set in these beautiful gardens alongside the River Coln at The Old Rectory Please visit our website for full details of admission fees and times of opening.

Old Court Nurseries & The Picton Garden The Michaelmas Daisy Specialists since 1906 111 years of knowledge, passion and plants

It's a great time to plan your 2018 autumn displays. Mail order catalogue available on request or order online for delivery in May.

Open for the National Garden Scheme Sundays 8th & 22nd April 11am-5pm Admission £3.50 Tel: 01684 540416 Old Court Nurseries, Walwyn Road, Colwall WR13 6QE 30

Country Gardener

THE GARDENER’S BLACKSMITH 07770 720 373 Artist blacksmith with a forge in Axminster designing and manufacturing garden plant supports, structures and furniture. If you do not see what you want contact me with your ideas, drawings and photos for bespoke designs and commissions.


WHICHFORD POTTERY AND ITS WORLD-RENOWNED REPUTATION Established in 1976 by Jim and Dominique Keeling, Whichford Pottery is a family-run business with a worldrenowned reputation for making handmade British frostproof flowerpots. Whichford pots are designed, handthrown and decorated at the Pottery by over 25 highly skilled craftsmen and women. The flowerpots are practical as well as beautiful, from longtoms to seedpans, from huge jars to handpressed urns – all made from Whichford’s own clay blend, giving their pots a ten-year frostproof guarantee. A visit to Whichford Pottery is a real treat! You can choose from their full range, meet the team, be inspired by the romantic courtyard garden, shop British in The Octagon and enjoy home-cooked food at The Straw Kitchen re-opened for spring on Wednesday 14th March. Visit the website for pottery and café opening hours.

Slip on shoes are a gardener’s delight Backdoorshoes® are a gardener’s delight- ideal for keeping by the back door and slipping off and on and nipping outside to the garden, down to the allotment or out to feed the chickens - the reasons are endless. They are lightweight, waterproof, durable and easy to clean. No more ruined slippers or soggy socks, they are the most practical thing to keep by the door. Their range continues to grow with the introduction of the Chelsea ‘Jumpy’ Boot available in many stylish colours. The shoes comfortable to wear, perfect for walks, taking the dogs out. Tel:01202 232357

The romance of Cerney House Gardens Cerney House gardens is a romantic English garden for all seasons. There is a beautiful secluded Victorian walled garden which features herbaceous borders overflowing with colour. The informal planting in combination with the beautiful setting gives a unique and charming atmosphere. March and April will feature a wonderful display of tulips in the knot garden. Visitors can also enjoy the woodland walk and new for 2018, the extended ‘Squirrel Nutkin’ nature trail. Tea, coffee and homemade cakes are available. Dogs are also welcome. Open 10am to 5pm Cerney House Gardens, North Cerney, Cirencester, GL7 7BX. Email: Tel: 01285 831300

Indoor plant sale for Somerset group The Hardy Plant Society Somerset Group indoor plant sale takes place at West Monkton Village Hall, Monkton Heathfield, Taunton TA2 8NE on Saturday, 28th April from 10am to 12.30pm. The event showcases plants produced by members and local nurseries and will feature a wide range of interesting and uncommon herbaceous plants and shrubs. There will be refreshments available and on-site parking is free. Entry to the event is £1.

Design approach is key to Gardener’s Blacksmith garden products If you are looking for plants supports and structures which add style and architecture to your garden the answer could be in the range developed by Axminster based The Gardeners Blacksmith and husband and wife team Jonne and Tricia Ceserani. Says Jonne: ”My wife Tricia and I are gardeners who feel that well designed plant supports and structures can add enormously to the look, experience and enjoyment of your garden. They can also make maintenance simpler and more effective. “Garden plant supports should be designed to let the plant bloom while the support retires into the foliage. Use circular supports for all perennials, roses and delicate shrubs, half circles along walls and the front of borders. They are also useful if you are behind with your gardening and the plant is too big to place the circular support. “Towers allow you to plant two or three roses for a full column of flowers, intertwining with clematis and are also useful for honeysuckles and other climbers. “Use different heights to keep paths clear, support peonies, display dahlias, help delphiniums stay erect, keeping your plants better looking and healthier”. The full range is available to look at on Email: or call 07770 720 373.


Rare Plant Fair at The Old Rectory, Quenington Rare Plant Fair’s popular and long-running event will be returning to the beautiful gardens of The Old Rectory at Quenington, near Cirencester, on Sunday, 8th April. Set in a stunning Cotswold location alongside the River Coln, a great selection of specialist nurseries will be attending, including a number of National Collection holders, all experts in the plants they grow. There will be a range of plants for sale, including choice perennials; plants for shade; rare climbers; alpines; herbs and edibles; and unusual shrubs, all accompanied by expert advice.

Beautiful bespoke lodges, gazebos, cabins Arbours, pergolas, fencing, garden bars and much more BUILT FROM LOCALLY SOURCED, SUSTAINABLY MANAGED TIMBER

Call Phil on 07443520040 T: 01684 574865 E:

The fair runs from 11am to 4pm and entry is £5 for adults, and free for children under 16. A proportion of the proceeds will be donated to Cobalt, a medical charity based in Cheltenham that invests state of the art imaging equipment, research and education to support diagnosis in a wide range of medical conditions. Visit for details including accessibility information and a list of the exhibitors.


Everyone needs a pair of

AT M I S E R D E N Backdoorshoes® are lightweight, waterproof, durable and unique, great for slipping on when you need to nip outside. A range of Mens or Ladies available to include Chillis, Meadow, Chickens, Veg and Brogues. UK sizes 3-14 available.

To see our full range visit

Woodseaves Garden Plants Beautiful Garden • Superb Coffee Exceptional Plants Open 10am-5pm Tuesday - Sunday and Bank Holidays Miserden, Stroud, Gloucestershire GL6 7JA


Woodseaves, Market Drayton, Shropshire, TF9 2AS. Tel: 01630 653161

• Plant Nursery & Gardens • Shrubs, Climbers & Herbs • Vintage & modern Roses • Perennials, unusual & • •

traditional Speciality Tree Lupins Willow structure features

Country Gardener

Open weekends from Easter 10am to 5pm Also weekdays but best to telephone first

Groups welcome

Tours/talks, tea & cakes by arrangement.


Old Court Nurseries - passionate about Michaelmas daisies Old Court Nurseries have been specialist breeders and growers of Michaelmas daisies since 1906, the knowledge and passion for these super autumn plants has been handed down from generation to generation. A visit to the nursery and the adjoining one and a half acre Picton Garden is a great chance to explore a treasure trove of unusual plants from alpines, bulbs and ferns, to summer perennials and then the grand finale of the Michaelmas daisies in September and October. This year sees an increase in early season open days starting with two dates April 14th and April 30th to help make the most of the alterations that the latest generation has been working on over the last five years. Old Court Nurseries & Picton Garden, Walwyn Rd, Malvern, WR13 6QE. Tel: 01684 540416

KOIRIN, THE RHODODENDRON AND AZALEA SPECIALISTS Koirin Azalea Centre in Wimborne are specialist growers of azaleas and rhododendrons. They specialise in rare and unusual varieties including old varieties from family collectors such as the Rothschild family of Exbury. At the nursery they produce their own plants from their own cuttings. There’s over 800 varieties of plants including many scented varieties of deciduous azaleas and rhododendrons. Koirin have been established for over 20 years and the nursery is a total of three acres and in the spring is an abundance of colour from hot fiery reds, orange and yellows to all the pastel colours you can think of. The nursery is well worth a visit. Koirin, The Rhododendron & Azalea Centre, Woodlands, Verwood Road, Nr.Verwood, Wimborne. BH21 8LN. Tel: 01202 824629

Trehane Nursery Most gardeners are familiar with the colourful springtime blooms and glossy leaves of Camellia japonica, but many people are unaware that the tea they drink every day is in fact brewed from the dried leaves of another camellia species, Camellia sinensis. We naturally associate tea-growing with countries like India, but in fact tea plants, like any other camellia, can easily be grown in the UK. As well as providing the leaves that can be picked and dried for home-grown tea, Camellia sinensis also has attractive scented, white flowers in the autumn. Available, along with many other unusual camellias, from Trehane Nursery near Wimborne (01202 873490, Trehane Nursery, Staplehill Rd, Wimborne, BH21 7ND. Tel: 01202 873490

THORNHAYES - ‘QUALITY TREES FROM DEVON’ It is no surprise that the popular and well-known Thornhayes Nursery markets itself as ‘Quality trees from Devon’. The nursery’s customers, both amateur and professional, repeatedly comment on the consistent high quality of their range. It includes ornamental, amenity and fruit trees, hedging and choice shrubs, from large to small. Sound advice is always available from the experienced staff and Kevin offers an advisory and consultancy service to those requiring more in depth help. On site is an arboretum and orchards where customers are free to wander for inspiration. Training courses and guided walks are available during the year for customers to improve their knowledge. All container stock is grown in peat free compost. Thornhayes Nursery, St Andrews Wood, Dulford, Cullompton. EX15 2DF. Tel: 01884 266746




in the April garden

April, as they say, is the cruellest month with sun one minute and frosty mornings and bitter winds the next. Tender young leaves are prone to frostburn and judging what to do when is tricky. So even if it is warm enough to start sowing always keep to hand some horticultural fleece or bubble wrap to cover vulnerable young crops. But being more positive the arrival of spring can mean fast growth. On warm sunny days take things one step at a time and you’ll get it all done.

P lant dahlia tubers

Bringing dahlias in for the winter doesn’t just protect them against frost. It also allows them to dry out properly, and helps you bring them on a bit earlier. They’re then ready to be planted. Give tubers a sprinkling of water in early spring, and they’ll start to produce young shoots in April. Discard any tubers that look diseased or damaged. Dig a planting hole, making sure it isn’t too deep. The shoots are still delicate, and you don’t want to damage them. Gently pour coarse sand over the tubers; this prevents them from rotting and it’s also a great slug repellent. Write labels for each dahlia cultivar and place them correctly next to each plant; it is a foolproof way to remember what you’ve planted in a few months’ time.

Don’t forget... Forget-me-nots offer just the kind of froth every spring garden should provide, knitting over bare soil around spring bulbs and weaving a thread of sky blue through borders. They are vigorous self-seeders, and the most pretty of gatecrashers. Forget-me-nots do a wonderful job of covering all sorts of ills. But the wise thing to do is to pull up at least some once they have finished flowering and before they set seed. If left unchecked they will shade out other growth.


If you’ve had poor flowering from camellias, the problem could be dry roots as the buds are forming. Give them a really good drink now and mulch well; periodically move back the mulch and give a good soaking in summer.

Getting the timing right on sowing – look at the weeds! When is the right time to start sowing seeds? It’s all too easy to listen to the experts or blithely follow to the letter what it says on seed packets but given the variations in temperature in this country the only true way to tell whether the soil and conditions in your garden are ready for sowing is to look at the weeds. If the weeds are producing healthy happy seedlings then it’s going to be about the right time for you to sow seeds. Why bother with creating a fine tilth? Seed sowing instructions always stipulate that you need to first rake the soil until you have created a fine tilth. Why? If there are large lumps left in the soil when you drop in your seeds the emerging roots and stems are going to have to battle their way around these. Each seed has only so much start up energy and the roots are going to need water and stems will need to find light very soon. If the underground air pockets are too big the plant may struggle to find water and without it they will shrivel and die. 34

Country Gardener

THE MOST IMPORTANT TASK FOR YOUR TREES At the end of every winter it is almost certain the roots of your trees are covered in weeds. So the one job which will mean a lot to the health of your trees is clearing out and improving the structure of the soil around established trees, shrubs and perennials by spreading mulch. Mulch can take many forms - shredded bark and cocoa shells are readily available, or you could use homemade compost.

It’s time to start staking

FIRST HARVEST OF RHUBARB Its one of the highlights of the spring! Pick rhubarb that has been growing away under forcers. Do not over-pick and remember to lift the forcer off as soon as you have had your fill to allow the plant its right to light, so it may replenish its resources for next year.

In the fruit garden • Clean up your strawberry beds or pots and remove any dead or damaged leaves and old runners from the plants. If the plants are getting older, thin out the smaller crowns leaving three to four crowns per plant. Apply a fresh layer of straw if using as mulch. • All soft fruits, such as strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, and gooseberries will benefit from a mulch. Garden compost, leaf mould, organic manure, straw, hay and spent mushroom compost can all be used. Hay is more beneficial than straw as it breaks down more easily and releases more nutrients into the soil. • Apply an acidic mulch to blueberries and cranberries. These are acid loving plants, so mulch with a layer of acidic material such as bark or old pine needles (kept from your Christmas tree!). • To avoid risk of infection, stone fruits, such as plum, cherry, peach, nectarine and apricot should only be pruned during the growing season. Prune in late April, when the plants are in leaf and after flowering. Immediately seal all cuts greater than one centimetre with wound paint.

Start staking delphiniums and tall perennials. They’ll soon be tall enough to be knocked over by wind or heavy rain. If you can get your hands on some hazel or silver birch pea sticks, use them to weave a basket, which works just as well but looks so much nicer than metal or plastic. In general it’s a good idea to stake any plants early on to let them grow into their support rather than wade into the beds when growth is up and fragile. Staking late in the day is a fractious exercise and the plants always look bundled up if you stake too late. In an ideal world one would only grow a handful of plants that need support, but in small gardens and where plants are drawn up to reach for light, this will be necessary. Hazel twigs are excellent, but steel hoops are most easily installed. Make wigwams for sweet peas and climbing beans. Plant sweet peas now, but beans must wait until the RHS ‘Chelsea ‘week in May or later if the weather still hasn’t warmed up.


Something wonderful

is brewing Elizabeth McCorquodale looks into the delights of growing a fabulous range of herbs that will allow you to make your own teas all year long

Whether you have a penchant for delicate flavours or prefer something a little more robust, making teas and tisanes sourced from your own patch is a treat not to be missed. There is an elemental pleasure in picking leaves or flowers from your own garden, popping them in a cup and waiting while the boiling water draws the scents and flavours from your plants. Whether you are looking for something fresh and fruity or warm and spicy, even a tiny tea garden can supply all you need for year-round brewing pleasure, with endless possibilities for mixing and combining flavour combinations. It is a little bit of green-fingered alchemy. Tea garden herbs – with the notable exception of the mints –prefer a good, well-drained soil with sun for a good proportion of the day. The mints on the other hand prefer some afternoon shade and plenty of moisture around their roots, though they will cope pretty well wherever they are find themselves as long as it isn’t too dry. All these herbs can be grown among your shrubs, veggies or in patio tubs and because are pretty as well as tasty, they make delightful additions to the flower garden too. Having said that, there is something very satisfying about having little corners of a garden devoted to particular collections of plants and having a dedicated tea garden is no exception. Many of the tea plants listed below are rich sources of nectar as well as scent and flavour, and so attract insects in their droves. A strategically placed bench from which to enjoy the scents and sights will add to your enjoyment of your tea garden. The best time to pick your brewing herbs is in the morning after the sun has had a chance to excite the essential oils in the leaves and flowers. Those that are grown for their leaves will be most productive and flavourful if their growing


Country Gardener

tips are pinched out regularly to encourage lots of fresh new growth. Cut your herbs, then give them a shake to dislodge any hitchhikers (or a quick rinse under a cold tap, if you must) and pop them straight into a cup or tea pot. Pour over boiling water and leave for a few minutes for the flavours to develop. There are - literally - dozens of herbs and flowers to choose from, ranging in flavour from a rich chocolate mint to a refreshing lemon through hints of liquorice, pineapple and lavender. Start with a handful from the list below. All the plants listed here are hardy perennials unless otherwise stated.

Peppermint and spearmint (Mentha xpiperata, Mentha spicata) are probably the first plants that come to mind when thinking about home grown herbal teas and for good reason - there is nothing so immediately flavourful as a hot mint tea or a cool minty summer cup. Peppermint is used to make the oil that flavours sweets and cakes, while spearmint is the plant used to make mint sauce and to flavour new potatoes and peas. Apple and pineapple mints (Mentha suaveolens, Mentha rotundifolia) are pretty plants and both grow to about two feet tall. They are highly scented and well-flavoured and both add delicious fruity overtones to summer cups. Like all mints it is best to plant them in a bottomless bucket to contain their ruthless wandering.

Chocolate mint (Mentha x piperata ‘Chocolate’) has a surprisingly strong flavour which matches its delicious, rich scent, and a habit which makes it a good choice for the front of the herb border where it can be appreciated by passers-by. To fully enjoy the flavour, add at least eight to ten leaves for each cup of boiling water. Like many mint cultivars it needs to be grown from cuttings or division as it will not grow from seed.

Bergamont and lemon bergamont (Monarda didyma, Monarda citriodora) are real stunners in the tea garden with spicy flavoured leaves and beautiful, long-lasting blooms atop three foot stems in shades of red, pink, purple and white. This is the herb which gives Darjeeling its distinctive flavour, but it is also a fine drink all on its own. The tea made from the leaves of the traditional catnip plant, (Nepeta catera) make an unusual fragrant bedtime soother. The plant grows to two feet tall and while not as decorative as the Nepeta species that have been bred for the flower border, the scent and flavour of this plant are far superior.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), green or bronze, is the king of the tea garden, with its yellow umbels held seven foot tall over attractive ferny foliage. Use fennel seeds and leaves on their own where the lovely aniseed-liquorice flavour can be fully appreciated or use it as a base for a fruit tea. For a miniature version from the same flavour spectrum, choose anise (Pimpinella anisum), a two foot tall annual with white lacy umbels and delicate foliage. The last of the anise/liquorice flavours for the tea garden comes from the anise-hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), a very decorative four foot tall short-lived perennial which will add a splash of deep purple (or pink, or white, depending on the cultivar) to the back of the tea garden. It is well worth growing for the flowers alone though it is the leaves and stems that pack the most flavour. Harvest individual leaves or cut the entire plant and hang it in a warm place to dry. For a richly perfumed, classic herb tea you can’t

do any better than jasmine, (Jasminum officinalis). It is the richly scented and flavoured flower buds, harvested just before they open, which are used to make jasmine tea. Use them on their own or add a few to a cup of china tea for a more subdued flavour.

Lemon balm, (Mellisa officinalis) makes a wonderful addition to fruit cups, ice teas and china teas alike, and five leaves in a cup makes a delicious drink all on its own. This plant grows into a dense two foot tall clump of pretty yellow-splashed leaves that will add colour to the tea garden through the summer.

Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla) bears the strongest flavour of all the lemony herbs, reminiscent of a delicious lemon sherbert. This highly scented and flavoured herb is a tender, woody perennial and though it needs to be lifted and overwintered in a frost-free spot the flavour more than makes up for the bother. Sweet violet (Viola odorata) are one of our oldest tea herbs. The flowers and leaves have mild, sweet flavour reminiscent of parma violets. Add a cup of boiled water to two teaspoons of dried flowers and a drop of honey and garnish with a few whole fresh flowers. Other plants to grow in your herbal tea garden include the annuals dill and borage and pot marigolds as well as lavender, chamomile, wild strawberries (use both leaves and fruit), raspberries (leaves and fruit) and roses for their hips and their flowers. If you can source it, Hibiscus sabdariffa, makes a wonderfully sweet and fruity annual addition to the herbal tea garden.

There’s a great pleasure to be had from picking leaves and flowers from your garden - and brewing up


nature in balance It is possible to keep garden pests under control while giving a priority to wildlife in your garden

Controlling pests in a wildlife garden remains a worry for lots of gardeners. How do you keep those one or two voracious nuisances at bay without wiping out the whole gang of their relatives that you’re keen to encourage? It’s not an easy balance to strike, but with a bit of thought, principally about prevention, the good news is it can be done without resorting to pesticides. Preventing pests becoming a problem in the first place? When it comes to pests, that old proverb about an ounce of prevention is so true! Stopping pests getting a hold in the first place is doubly so for the wildlife gardener. The most straightforward way of doing this involves preventing them from getting to their intended targets – but that’s obviously a good deal easier said than done. Some kinds of plants can be protected physically – grown under cloches for instance – while some pests, such as slugs can be kept away by sharp gravel or copper rings around the base of the plant. These kinds of methods aren’t appropriate for everything, but where they are, they can be very effective. Natural, non-pesticide repellents can also sometimes be helpful. Cedar-wood chips and citronella oil, for example, can be used to keep insects away from particular areas and many people have found them especially effective at warding off mosquitoes and other biting insects that can be such a plague on summer evenings. Mint is another old country remedy that some gardeners swear by – grow it in your garden, or pack around any bulbs or seeds that you’re storing.

What plants will keep pests away? Generations of gardeners have grown pyrethrum to benefit from the natural insecticide it gives off, using it to protect vulnerable plants. It has a place in the wildlife garden, but it’s important to remember that although it’s ‘natural’ it’s still pretty potent and will deter all kinds of insects, not just the pest species, so where you plant it needs to be thought out carefully. Other plants known to be useful in keeping pests away are more selective. Sage, thyme and rosemary, for instance, will combat caterpillars, wormwood and rue keep down ticks, while aphids seem not to like members of the onion family.

What insects are good for pest control? The number one insect ‘good-guy’ is the ladybird – each one happily munching through a huge number of aphids over its 38

lifetime. The slightly less well known lacewing, at least as a larva, is another champion aphid-eater, as well as having a voracious appetite for a range of small caterpillars and insect eggs in general. The contribution of many other kinds of helpful bugs often goes largely unrecognised. Wasps and hornets – although seen as nuisances in their own right – consume large numbers of caterpillars and insect pests, while the fearsomelooking Devil’s Coachman has a real taste for slugs. Many common ground beetles share the Coachman’s love of slugs, adding weevils, leatherjackets and chafer grubs to the menu, and any hover flies you see in your garden will be doing their bit to keep aphids from getting out of hand.

Controlling slugs without slug pellets? Gardeners need no reminder of the ravages that slugs can reek on young, tender plants, but for the wildlife gardener the slug pellet remedy is a non-starter. Fortunately there are other options. Sharp sand and copper rings can help, while wool shoddy – a by-product of the textile industry - makes a great natural slug deterrent. The added bonus of this approach is that shoddy is also a slow release nitrogen fertiliser. Although you once needed a friendly sheep farmer or a local woollen mill to get the stuff, these days it is conveniently packaged and purpose-marketed for the job. The state-of-the-art in pesticide-free slug control, however, involves biological control, using a pre-packaged nematode worm. You simply make up the solution in your watering can and then water these microscopic creatures into the soil – the nematodes will do the rest. Highly specific, they only target slugs, passing on a lethal disease that doesn’t infect any other kinds of creatures and allowing your hostas to thrive without having huge chunks chewed out of them! Pest control presents a few challenges for the wildlife gardener, but it is possible to meet the needs of the wild creatures you’re pleased to see, without having to put up with too much damage from those that aren’t so welcome. It’s always going to be impossible to be entirely pest-free, so you’re bound to see the odd chewed stalk, but don’t forget that any unwanted bugs you do have will probably make the perfect meal for something you will be happy to have visit. Nature is nothing if not balanced!

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“Our experiences show children leave our sessions CALM, HAPPY and ENLIGHTENED with RENEWED ENERGY” The hugely successful scheme to involve schools with gardening is facing a critical year with challenges to now involve secondary schools and ensure young people embrace horticulture New research for a new gardening season suggests children perform better at school if they’re involved with gardening, and many will develop a greater interest in healthy eating if they get to grow their own veg. For children with learning or behavioural difficulties, fulfilling nonacademic tasks and roles seemed to be particular sources of achievement and worth. They also found gardens to be “peaceful places” conducive to Children can learn and have so much fun too meditation. The number of schools using gardens and the natural world to teach students continues to increase and the campaign is being stepped up in 2018. The programme run by the RHS, now has 20,000 school members, with 81per-cent growing plants specifically to attract wildlife and pollinators. The scheme has been inspirational in many schools but in 2018 is expected to see record numbers taking part and parents and teachers enthuse about the long and short-term benefits of gardening. 40

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The society has also found that children who get digging and watering build life skills such as confidence, teamwork and communication. Caroline Levitt, who founded the Diggers Forest School and Nursery near Midhurst, West Sussex, believes the benefits of outdoor work even for the smallest children are huge. She says: “Children can learn so much and have fun, too. “Gardening involves lots of different activities, such as design of the garden and choice of what to plant, and it can be a good team or friendship building exercise, as they take turns to water plants and share the weeding. This is also a good way to learn responsibility. “Gardening can also be a fantastic sensory experiment, handling dry earth or gloopy mud and even worms! It is a great way for children to naturally learn patience while they watch their produce grow.” Ms Levitt adds that gardening is useful for stimulating creativity. “We get them thinking about the design of the layout and in terms of how seeds are planted – for example, neatly in rows or thrown into a pot. “We plant flowers in addition to veg and discuss colours, and the height plants will grow to, plus point out the different smells of herbs.” Gardening for children is also closely linked to feelings of well-being. The healthcare think tank The King’s Fund produced the report ‘Gardening and Health’, which found that most qualitative studies in this area reported positive well-being effects on children, including in terms of personal achievement, pride and empowerment through growing food and being involved in gardening.

“We were no longer educating our children about food in schools”

Head teacher Alana Hubbard explains how she put into operation her belief that plenty of subjects could be taught in a garden I saw a garden as an opportunity for the “children to learn in a real way, in an outdoor context, while also instilling an understanding of where their food came from and the importance of eating fruit and vegetables. I’d just taken up the role of head teacher, and there was some derelict land on the school site. I’d seen the news reports about children lacking knowledge of where their food came from and felt that we as a society had become very detached about food. The reason for this was clear to me: we were no longer educating our children about food in schools. But I also wanted to use it to cover other topics: life cycles, flowering plants, pollination, adaptation, creative writing and report writing. I believed that plenty of subjects could be well taught in a garden, while increasing pupils’ activity levels and encouraging teamwork. There was a behavioural element, too. With many teachers facing comments from children such as ‘It wasn’t my fault’ and ‘It wasn’t only me’, here was our chance to develop a sense of responsibility. We took the pupils out to local gardens and allotments to give them inspiration for what they might want from a school garden, and asked them to play a practical role. From this, their ideas included areas to grow

fruit and vegetables, a wildlife pond complete with bridge for viewing, a hide to observe wildlife and a greenhouse set within a maze so that the garden didn’t reveal all of its secrets straight away. Four years on, gardening has become a central part of the curriculum. A recent creative writing task on buried treasure took on a whole new meaning with the garden as the backdrop, as pupils used the sights and sounds as inspiration. In maths measurement classes, children have mapped out flower beds rather than relying on small-scale drawings in textbooks. We’ve produced charts and graphs by measuring sprouting sunflowers, and recorded weather information from the weather station and charted its effects.

The schools and gardening longterm campaign Five years ago The RHS launched a document called ‘Horticulture Matters’ which detailed future plans – with Government assistance- to work with schools to embed horticulture in education for aged 5 to 16 years. Now more than six million children at more than 30,000 schools and youth groups across the country experience the fun of gardening at their place of learning as part of the RHS Campaign for School Gardening. The plan has always been long term to inspire children on a wider platform including the role of green spaces in communities, connecting with nature and caring for the environment. 41

Children end up taking responsibility for nurturing their own plants

It hasn’t all been plain sailing though. At the beginning, we struggled to get some of the staff on board, due to concerns that behavioural issues would worsen – because if they couldn’t trust the children in the classroom, wouldn’t they be worse outside? But once those teachers started making use of the garden there was recognisable behaviour change in those pupils. The children worked as a team, were engaged in their tasks, and took responsibility for nurturing the plants.

Search starts for school gardeners of the year The search is about to start for the most inspirational young gardeners, educators and gardening teams in schools. Prizes for finalists and winners in 2018 include a Gabriel Ash greenhouse worth £3,425, Gabriel Ash Coldframes, £500 in vouchers, garden tools and unique opportunities to work with RHS and TV gardeners. There are three categories:

YOUNG GARDENER OF THE YEAR An award for a young person, aged between five and16, who demonstrates a passion for gardening, has made an outstanding contribution to their school and local community and shows invaluable gardening skills. Nominees must be in attendance at a school registered to the RHS Campaign for School Gardening registered school or group. 42

We needed to think about funding, too. We’ve had to find money from the school fund for a full-time gardener – paid at the support staff rate, he’s employed all year round to plan and deliver lessons with the teachers. We also decided to enlist the help of a landscape architect, and we were lucky enough to have a school fundraiser to make this happen. Of course, there are other ways of doing it. Others have opted to build their gardens in local allotments and tap into the talents of the dedicated, local community. Community, in its various guises, is a big thing for us. Produce from the garden is sold in the school shop, run by the children on weekdays. We’ve also begun selling produce, such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggs and honey (from our chickens and beehives) to parents and others, and radishes, mint, honey and green salad to a local restaurant helping us to channel funds back into the garden. The extra funding has helped us to buy resources such as garden tools, bigger, costlier plants such as fruit trees and other basic materials to create things like raised beds.

GARDENING TEAM OF THE YEAR An award for an outstanding gardening team that has made a difference to their school environment. The winning group will be one that shares a passion for gardening and displays excellent teamwork.

GARDENING CHAMPION OF THE YEAR An award for an adult at a school (teacher, gardening club leader, volunteer etc.) who is an inspiration to the pupils they teach and has shown a passion for encouraging gardening in their school, as well as linking gardening to the curriculum. Applications must be submitted by 5pm on Wednesday 25th April, via the RHS website

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Country Gardener reader Tom Michaud wrote to us to explain how he has found a way to keep gardening with his arthritis -with simple common sense steps

I have become an arthritic gardener. I have chosen not to give up gardening - just adapt the way I go about it. Gardening is still good exercise, especially for those of us with arthritis. When done well, it keeps joints flexible, keeps me moving and gives me the quality of life I have always enjoyed through gardening. I have had to learn to go against my natural instinct, to pace myself, to not attempt to do things I wouldn’t think twice about five years ago and to rest. A good quality, easy to get in and out of deck chair is essential I have found. I work in the garden during the time of day I feel best. If I wake up stiff and find it difficult to get going then the garden will have to wait. I schedule garden tasks for the afternoon. I always, always do some gentle stretching to warm up muscles and flex my joints. It’s nothing too dramatic but I’ve

learned that at my age - bordering 70 - I can’t just go to the garden shed and start working. That hasn’t been true for some time. My doctor and my son insisted on it so some warm-up exercises; just bending stretching and pacing around for a few minutes, are now par for the course. I wear good quality gloves to protect my hands and cushion joints. ‘Less is more’ is my best advice for gardening with arthritis. Pace yourself. Change jobs and positions often. Switch tasks every 30 minutes or so and take breaks every hour. Weed a little, water a little, plant a little and walk a little. Take periodic stretch breaks to ease tension and reduce stiffness. The key is to garden more frequently in smaller blocks of time. And if it hurts, stop!

That’s your body telling you it has had enough. Good posture and movement make a big difference in how long and how comfortably I can garden. Lift by bending at the knees, not the back is great advice. Avoid pinching, squeezing or twisting motions that stress muscles and joints. If you need to work close to the ground, place only one knee on the ground and keep your back straight. I use a stool or kneeling bench to get closer to the task. Let your larger, stronger joints and muscles do the work. For example, use your palms instead of your fingers to push or pull and carry flats of plants on your forearms, not with your fingertips. The right tools can make gardening with arthritis much easier. I try and use the right tool for the task and keep all my tools sharp. Widen tool handles with foam tubing to make them easier to hold. I use a wheelbarrow or cart to haul tools and supplies around the garden. My next thing is going to be to buy new ergonomic tools designed to reduce stress. They have long extendable handles to limit bending or stooping, and ratcheting tools are easier on your hands and joints. Then there’s the plants. To make gardening easier, I look for low-maintenance plants, especially in hard-to-reach areas of the garden. I try to keep water sources close by so you don’t need to lug hoses and watering cans around the yard. I store tools and supplies close to the garden to lessen trips. Weed after it rains, when you can pull the nasty beasts with less resistance. Think outside the box — or at least the traditional garden bed — to make gardening with arthritis less challenging. Container gardens reduce bending and are limited only by your imagination. Tomatoes, strawberries, herbs, perennials, grasses and long-blooming annuals do well in containers. Then, look up. Vertical gardening is a great option. Grow plants on or over fences, walls, trellises or arbours for easy access. Raised beds are among the easiest for which to care. They drain well, warm quickly, produce earlier crops, allow you to make your own soil and let you work at a convenient height. You can keep gardening with arthritis. I’ve made a few simple changes, nothing dramatic just common sense and yes my arthritis is painful sometimes when I’m in the garden but I am determined that it won’t end my love of being outdoors and taking on nature. For a while longer anyway.



the quality Raised beds are very much in vogue, easy to build and have long benefits both in design and day-to-day ease of gardening

Raised garden beds are hugely popular at the moment, but they are nothing new and have been used passionately by gardeners for centuries. They offer many practical advantages to gardening and can help improve yields come harvest time. Although raised beds can be built at any time, most gardeners find it convenient to build them in the spring, as long as the soil is not too wet. Where waterlogging is a problem, build raised beds in April. When constructing them, you will need to consider how big your raised bed needs to be, and where you need it. Walking or stepping on raised beds is best avoided, so go for widths of less than 1.5m to allow access from the sides. Avoid long runs of beds so that people are not tempted to step Go for proper widths between on them to get beds to allow proper access to the other side. Pathways should be wide enough to wheel a barrow or accommodate special needs such as wheelchairs. Consider the materials: timber is cheap, but even when treated is the least long-lasting; sleepers are long-lasting but costly, bulky and difficult to cut; masonry (for example, brick, stone or paving slabs) is costly but permanent. Smaller scale projects might be accomplished using a readymade kit. Raised garden beds do not have to be plain old rectangular affairs all the same height and size. With a little thought and inspiration you can break with tradition and have something a little different to plant your vegetables in; your garden will thank you for it. Inspiration can occur from the strangest sources if you keep your mind open and receptive to ideas. Although raised beds constructed on free-draining soils 44

Raised beds are good f or:

• Improving draina ge • Increasing soil te mperature • Improving access • Growing plants in a different soil type

require no drainage layer, on poorly-drained soils, or on a solid base such as concrete or paving, raised beds should have drainage material laid in the base. This should be above ground level, and consist of at least three inches of coarse gravel, stones or hardcore, before filling with soil to prevent clogging up Where the topsoil is unsuitable for the crops or plants to be grown, leave it in place, but simply loosen it and fill up the bed with new soil. Small beds can be filled with John Innes No 2 or 3. A good general soil mix can be made by combining three parts organic matter and two parts sharp sand to seven parts topsoil.

COMMONLY USED MATERIALS TIMBER: Very versatile and pressure-treated also called ‘tanalised’ wood is available. As a shorter-term alternative, untreated wood can be painted with a preservative. To prevent wood preservative leaching into the soil, line wood exposed to soil within the bed with black plastic sheeting. Untreated wood will have a shorter life than treated, although untreated hardwoods such as oak and western red cedar will still last many years. RAILWAY SLEEPERS: It is no longer permitted to use railway sleepers impregnated with creosote in gardens, due to the risk associated with frequent skin contact. If you already have raised beds made from old railway sleepers and have this level of contact, then protective clothing should be worn. For new beds, use sleepers treated with other preservatives, or untreated hardwood sleepers. PAVING SLABS: Can be inserted on their side with 15cm of slab be buried in the ground for stability. As paving slabs often move over time, concrete haunchings can be laid for extra stability.

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The bluebell BATTLEFIELD If you grow bluebells or are getting ready to admire a swathe of blue at a wood near you, you may be aware that not all is as it seems again in our springtime woods. The typically British spectacle of a carpet of bluebells is not all calm and serene as again a campaign to kick out a Spanish invader and restore the UK’s native bluebell returns. The key to the battleground is the belief, led by the Woodland Trust, that native English bluebells are far more desirable than the Spanish type. The star of the show and centre stage again this spring is the UK’s native bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) which grows only in the moist conditions of western Europe, thriving in the British Isles. Elsewhere it is only common in the north and west of France and is rare and in some localities in Holland, Belgium and northwestern Germany. It flourishes in our damp, mild climate – in fact, we boast a significant proportion of the world’s population. It’s the quintessential plant of the woodland floor, its life cycle closely linked to that of the trees it’s often found beneath. Bluebells and woodland go hand in hand. A carpet of bluebells often hints at an area’s history as woodland, even if the trees are long gone, and their close association with ancient woodland in particular can provide an important clue to the age of a wood. And it’s not just trees that share a relationship with bluebells. They are also a source of nectar for early emerging bumblebees and other insects, and a precious part of the UK’s cultural identity. 46

Conservationists, the Woodland Trust and many gardeners are ready again to raise the profile of the UK native bluebell over its Spanish intruder

The intruder As its name suggests, the Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica) is native to Spain and Portugal, but has spread across much of the UK thanks to (admittedly well-meaning) human introduction. Spanish bluebells cross with native bluebells, producing highly fertile hybrids. This close relative was introduced to Britain in the second half of the 17th century as a garden plant, prized for its vigorous growth and bold colour. It grows faster and spreads more quickly than our native bluebell, escaping gardens and establishing feral populations in urban areas, hedgerows, road sides and woodland. It also readily cross breeds with native bluebells, producing highly fertile hybrids which further dilutes the gene pool of pure native bluebells.

So why does this worry conservationists? Our bluebells already have a lot on their plate. The effects of climate change could put an end to the stable, mild spring temperatures they do best in. The steady loss of woodland habitats and the ever-increasing divides between those that are left leave little room for bluebells to grow and spread. And where they put on the best shows, their appeal draws visitors who can damage them if they’re not careful. Add into that mix a bold, brash and hardier cousin, one that does quite well in these new conditions, and you begin to appreciate the issue.

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What’s the solution? The complete removal of Spanish bluebells from our wild places would be impractical, economically unfeasible and difficult to achieve. Hybrid bluebells can be notoriously difficult to identify, and they’re so well established that the task of finding and eliminating them all would be near impossible. Instead, the Woodland Trust works to secure the future of native bluebells and their home: it purchases woodland to save it for people and wildlife, restore ancient woodland to its former glory, and campaign against threats and for better legislative protection. The trust also carefully manage the woods in our care to ensure native plants like the bluebell can thrive unchallenged. Never introduce, translocate or fly-tip plants from your garden to the wild, and take care to avoid their accidental spread by only removing Spanish bluebells from your garden once they have finished flowering, allowing them to dry and the bulbs to die before composting or binning. So if you live near a glorious bluebell wood and you are considering planting some in the near future, it’s imperative that you plant our native species – Hyacinthoides non-scripta rather than the Spanish interloper. The best way to guarantee authenticity is to buy them from a reputable source. If you are at a nursery or garden centre check for the vivid violet-blue colour and the arching stem of flowers held on one side – all hanging downward.

Country Gardener readers add their views “The biggest difference is that English bluebells are scented, Spanish ones are not. I’m being positive for my new garden. I just hope all the English ones I have bought are exactly as they say on the label.”

So how can you tell the difference? NATIVE BLUEBELLS... • have narrow leaves, usually about half an inch wide • have deep blue (sometimes white, rarely pink), narrow, tube-like flowers, with the very tips curled right back • have flowers mostly on one side of the stem only, and distinctly drooping, or nodding, at the top • have a distinct, sweetish scent Inside the flowers, the anthers with the pollen are usually cream.

SPANISH BLUEBELLS... • have broad leaves often over an inch wide • have paler blue (quite often pink and white ones too), conical or bell-shaped flowers that have spread-out tips • have flowers all round the upright stem • have almost no scent

Amy Foster, Exmouth

“Spanish bluebells seem to be paler and bigger flowers, with bigger leaves too. If you have them next to each other you’ll spot the smaller English ones. They are the real thing.”

Sam Webb, Bridgwater

“The flowers on English bluebells droop, are deep blue and scented plus leaves are quite narrow. Spanish bluebell flowers are held horizontally, are pale blue or coloured with no scent and with strap like leaves. Unfortunately they do hybridise with each other so you do need to eliminate the hybrids as well.”

Liam Ward, Chard

“I’ve been pulling the Spanish ones I inherited every year and none appeared last year so fingers crossed for this spring.”

Matthew Welton, Bournemouth

Inside the flowers, the anthers with the pollen usually blue (although this may vary a little). Hybrids between these two are very common, with a whole range of intermediate characters. The hybrids are often abundant in gardens and in woods near to urban areas. 47

‘Pumpkin growing ON MY COMPOST’ provide wonderful growing Bristol gardener Ron Heath’s original compost heaps for the following season beds g no-di e haunts for his pumpkins and then provid After being devoured by hungry brandling worms over several months, compost heaps full of nutrient rich material produce excellent pumpkins. Maybe not capable of attaining gigantic proportions, but growing on compost can achieve some jaw dropping efforts more than adequate for carving or displaying for Halloween. The ‘Atlantic Giant’ variety when grown on rotting matter can spiral away as if almost out of control .It becomes impossibly heavy or cumbersome for one person to lift when harvesting comes around. Children are fascinated by the growth throughout the summer as the pumpkins expand daily before their eyes and eagerly wait for them to be picked in October. Neighbours too are usually curious if not astounded when the picked pumpkins go on show outside the grower’s front door in comparison to supermarket versions which generally weigh just a few kilos. Most compost heaps will already be suitable as a pumpkin bed; the one pictured had no special preparation whatsoever. Some may require a little tweaking, whilst others Ron Heath’s ingenious compost pen provides are purpose built – also as s pumpkin growing for the perfect habitat pictured. This was built without using screws, nails or rope to secure it, but simply by driving two by two inch timber corner posts into the ground and adding one more at each end and along the sides. Cuttings from an overgrown ash tree and old elder branches were woven between the posts 48

Country Gardener

with old cardboard bicycle boxes to retain the compost. Straw was initially used more for aesthetic reasons at the start to fill the gap between the outside of the cardboard liner and the wooden structure and as an insulator during decomposing, but this will merge with the contents over the coming months. Filling the 6ft x 3ft bin started in late February when not much waste was coming from the plot and an all-out effort was needed to fill the container with nutrient rich material. The only items available were of old grass cuttings, straw and leaves. Importing spent hops, coffee grounds, small brown cardboard pieces and all peelings from the kitchen helped make up the bulk. In addition to this a crop of green manures, mustard and buckwheat have been sown for their foliage. These quick growing plants will be chopped after cutting as a final addition. When cooled after the first stage of decomposing, a layer of finished compost will be added as a topping before settling the pumpkin seedlings into their home for the summer. The rustic compost heap was specially built over a grassed and weedy area not cultivated for several years. Likewise, the surrounding area was in a similar condition and was covered in cardboard sheets with a dressing of woodchips, both serving as mulch. After the pumpkin crop is harvested in the autumn the structure will be dis-mantled, the cardboard around the area will have rotted away and any remaining woodchips removed for further composting. This should leave bare soil and a clean weed and grass free patch. The rotted waste from the heap will be excellent compost by then and ready for spreading over our new found ground where it will become the start of another no-dig bed, just in time for planting an over wintering crop, such as onion sets or broad beans.

My 98% ORGANIC LAWN Country Gardener reader Christine Fowler wrote to us about her pride and joy – a near perfect Somerset lawn

‘Test your soil - and don’t just bag

My husband and I are not lawn experts, but people rave over our lawn. The grass is thick, green and lush. When I tell them that we have not applied chemicals in the last ten years, and we don’t water and don’t collect grass and weeds, they are amazed. We have no secret, unless you count following good, organic gardening practices. The whole idea behind organic gardening is to feed the organisms living in your soil which in turn keeps the plants healthy. I am a gardener who loves the birds and butterflies flittering around in my garden, and the lawn is the heart of the garden. I especially enjoy watching my grandchildren rolling down the hill in the grass. Here are some things we do to maintain the lawn with a minimum of work and expense.

Soil test and aeration

We test our soil periodically to see what nutrients it may need, or if a lime application is indicated. We pay to have the lawn aerated once a year. It costs about £80. You can rent the equipment and do it yourself if you are so inclined. Either way, we prefer the machine that actually pulls out the plugs, not the one that just pokes holes.

Never mow grass shorter than three inches

When you cut it too close to the ground, you stress it. Any plant that is stressed is weaker and more susceptible to disease. Set your mower at three inches, and never take it lower. During the spring, this probably necessitates mowing twice a week.

Don’t bag the grass and leaves

Grass clippings left on the lawn are only unsightly when you let the grass get too long between mowings. If you mow consistently with a sharp blade, you don’t even notice the clippings. Be sure to keep your mower blades sharp.

leaves and grass’

When the leaves begin to fall, keep up your consistent mowing routine, and mow right over them. All those grass clippings and mulched leaves are free, organic fertilizer. People often say that they have way too many leaves for that. But I have to wonder if they have ever tried it. Again, twice a week will do the trick. It is a myth that failure to bag your grass will cause thatch. Thatch is actually caused by overuse of synthetic fertilizer. The grass clippings and mulched leaves will decompose and become part of the soil with the same result as applying compost or organic fertilizer. Earthworms and other soil organisms carry the organic material down into the soil where it can feed the roots of the grass.

If fertiliser is needed, go organic

We buy an organic lawn food that comes in pelleted form and is easy to use in our broadcast spreader. Organics are slow workers. They actually build the health of the soil which in turn supports healthier, deep-rooted plants.

Take a weed walk

About once a week I walk around the garden looking for weeds. When I see one, I dig it out using my trusty garden knife, which allows me to easily pull the weed leaving only a very small slit behind. Remember that a disturbed area, or open soil is an invitation to weeds, so try not to expose any more soil than you have to. I have found that because our organic grass has deeper, healthier roots, it can more easily crowd out weeds. We never water as it doesn’t seem to help anyway. As soon as it rains, the grass turns green again.

The other 2%

Certain weeds, if given a foothold, will work to destroy your lawn very quickly. Use that spot application while the clump is still small. If you are forced to remove a rather large patch, reseed immediately, and don’t forget to water those young grass blades until they can get established!


Country Gardener


A regular look at practical help and advice over a range of gardening problems and opportunities.


Growing your own mushrooms using dowels

Why not try something a little bit different, and grow your own mushrooms at home? Mushroom growing may seem complicated but mushroom dowels, mushroom spawn and complete mushroom growing kits provide everything you will need to grow your own mushrooms. You can buy a variety of mushrooms as dowels. The wooden dowels are impregnated with mushroom mycelium (mushroom You can buy a variety of mushrooms as dowels spawn) ready to ‘plant’ into a hardwood log. Dowels are available all year, however the logs needed to grow the mushrooms should be cut during the tree’s dormant season, between autumn and early spring. Logs should be cut from healthy trees during the dormant season. Preferably you should use hard wood logs for mushroom growing - oak, beech, birch, hazel, or willow. The log should have a diameter of about 10-15cm. A log of this diameter and 50cm length will support 10-15 dowels. Keep the logs shaded from direct sunlight and strong winds to prevent them drying out before use. Drill holes six inches apart down the length of the log. Insert the dowels and tap them so they are flush with the log surface. Position the logs in a shady wooded area or wrap them in black polythene and bury them under ground. You could also place them under evergreen shrubs. Keep an eye on your logs and if there are signs of significant cracking soak the logs in water to thoroughly wet the bark. Once logs are fully colonised they can be moved to a warm, sheltered, moist area where they will begin to fruit. Growing mushrooms in woodland is ideal.


Hard pruning is essential if you want winter stem colour


Shrubby Cornus cultivars grown for their winter stem colour should be pruned back hard over the next few weeks to encourage new growth, which provides the entire wonderful new colour. Traditionally, shrubby Cornus were pruned in February or March but recent case studies have shown that pruning annually in late March to mid-April (as the new growth is just beginning to develop) is preferable. This later pruning allows the winter display to be enjoyed, but doesn’t currently appear to have negative consequences from bleeding or the cutting off of some new growth. Less frequent pruning – every two to three years – is best where the growing conditions are poor and shady Newly planted Cornus often benefit from not being pruned for the first two to three years while they establish – the general rule of thumb is to begin pruning as normal once the plants are growing strongly. Generally established plants needs to be treated fairly brutally to provide the best autumn displays. Country Gardener

Alternative crops for potato sacks Using potato sacks bags and pots is an increasingly popular way of growing crops when you are short of space. Potato sacks are versatile - at the end of the season they can be stored to be re-used for several years. The depth of growing makes sacks ideal for deeper rooting vegetables or for crops which are sensitive to drying out including sweet potatoes, artichokes, courgettes, cucumbers, tomatoes, and even runner and French beans.

Sweet potatoes need a sheltered, sunny spot

Fill sacks with a light soil-less compost such as peat free multipurpose. Harden off tender plants and only plant them out after all risk of frost has passed. The big danger with growing in sacks is oddly enough under watering as the sacks can dry out quickly. You might also try a fortnightly liquid feed. GLOBE ARTICHOKE -plant in spring and move to a sheltered spot in winter and protect crowns with compost or straw mulch. Globe artichokes should crop well for three or four years and then will need replacing. SWEET POTATOES can be grown in the sacks outdoors but in a sheltered and sunny spot. You should buy them as rooted plugs. Plant one sweet potato per 12-inch square bag. JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES Plant tubers in the spring six inches deep two or three to larger potato bags. Earth up when 30cms tall. This is a tall crop. In mid summer remove flower buds and cut back to about 5ft to divert energy into tuber growth and keep them more manageable.

Kiwi fruit needs space and both male and female plants Kiwi (Actinidia deliciosa) is produced mostly in California and New Zealand. Kiwi fruit needs male and female plants Although growing kiwi vines requires mild winters and a long frost-free growing season, you can grow hardy kiwi plants in cooler areas so long as you choose a variety that has adapted itself to the cooler climates. There are some hardy kiwi plants that have done so, and they make a great addition to your fruit garden. Growing hardy kiwi requires a lot of space. These are vines that spread quite a bit – sometimes over 20 feet. You should make sure you have a male and a female plant. They do not self-produce, so you need both. However, you can have one male plant and up to eight females together, and the male should be able to pollinate all the female plants with no trouble. When you plant your hardy kiwi vines, make sure you put them about 10 to 18 feet apart. Further, they prefer well-drained soil and an area that gets full sun in order to be able to produce fruit. All fruit from the growing kiwi vine comes from the new growth on wood that is one year old. You should prune your hardy kiwi vine because annual pruning definitely enhances the production of fruit. The fruits can be harvested once they are firm, yet starting to soften.

Grow potatoes based on taste not yield If you are planning to get your potatoes in for the season why not give some special thought to taste over crop yields. Here are three varieties which will provide quality rather than quantity for the discerning grower. YUKON GOLD potatoes have finely flaked yellowish-white skin with light yellow flesh. They’re bright, vegetal and slightly sweet, with a smooth, slightly waxy texture and moist flesh. They’re best for boiling, baking and making French fries. IDAHO RUSSET potatoes are russet-skinned with white flesh. They’re what we typically imagine when we think of potatoes. They have a neutral potato flavour, a fluffy, creamy and soft texture, and are best for baking, mashing and making French fries. RED BLISS potatoes have bright red skin with creamy white flesh. They’re slightly bitter, and have a firm, moist and waxy texture. They’re best for soups, stews, boiling, roasting Taste not yield is the theme and potato salad. for this year’s potatoes


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our future needs them

Mark Hinsley reminds us that our countryside is not always natural – and the role of wetlands is essential for balance in nature For thousands of years our countryside was our larder and our DIY store. Just about every last scrap of southern England that was not in a town or village was under some form of production management, be it wood products, foodstuffs or live-stock. One key element of bringing all this lowland into useful production was land drainage, because prehistoric England was a pretty boggy place! Now, all you keen gardeners out there are fully aware that one grows different plants in a wet garden from those one can grow in a dry one; the same is true of the countryside. As more and more land was drained to give a deeper soil for crops or a drier environment for animals, so the wetland plants dwindled in numbers and the dryland plants increased. Ultimately, we ended up with the countryside we have now, populated to a large degree by ‘native’ trees and shrubs, but not necessarily locally indigenous, because the trees and shrubs out there now are growing in an artificial environment with a deeper, drier soil than originally existed before our ancestors came along and installed land drains. Over a long period of time a whole ecosystem of trees, shrubs, ground flora and wildlife has built up to populate these artificial conditions. Artificial conditions that the majority of us consider to be our natural countryside. So why mention this now? I have been doing quite a lot of tree liability and condition surveys on agricultural land recently. In the course of these surveys I have seen a significant number of big old-field boundary oaks looking very sorry for themselves; some have been almost dead and one or two have been blown down. In each case the ground around the trees has been very boggy with reeds showing up amongst the grasses and, when I inspect the edge of the field, completely silted up ditches. 56

These trees had grown strong and healthily for 100 to 200 years in deep well drained soil, created for them by an efficient well-maintained ditch system. However, over the last few decades, ditch maintenance has ceased, and the system has gradually failed. Without functioning land drainage, the ground is returning to its natural marshy state; and oaks don’t survive in wetland. Because of these huge areas of unnaturally dry ground, our ‘dryland’ wildlife is generally quite plentiful, whilst our ‘wetland’ wildlife is scarcer. In my experience, conservationists are usually pretty keen to support schemes that include the creation (or recreation) of wetland, because so many wetland creatures and plants are on endangered species lists. When these wetland schemes are produced and promoted they also receive much public support. Land drainage, by its very function, speeds up the passage of rainwater through the ground and into the river systems, whilst wetland holds it up and slows its progress; this has plus and minus issues for downstream flooding. For the above reasons, wetland can be a ‘good thing’. However, what many people do not understand is that wetland, whilst it may be a ‘good thing’, is also a very different thing. Wetland is the home of willows and alders, not oaks and beeches. With so few people working the land, ditch clearance is an expensive, mechanical task which some landowners of marginal agricultural land are not doing. So, gentle reader, if we do not maintain our land drainage, the countryside we know and love is going to look quite different in the future, but is that a good or a bad thing? Mark Hinsley is from Arboriclture Consultants Ltd.

Country Gardener


full circle

Mountains of green waste are about to be returned to gardeners across the county as high quality compost thanks to a new Coastal Recycling initiative

Devon’s largest recycler of green materials, Coastal Recycling, is taking a lead when it comes to providing gardeners with compost made from the county’s mountain of garden waste. Coastal Recycling, based in Exeter, provides an extensive range of recycling and waste management services, but it is at the company’s Hill Barton site where huge volumes of crumbly brown compost is being prepared – ideal for topping up beds and borders. The company collects over 35,000 tonnes of green waste from homes and gardens and up until now the process of turning it into compost has only been improving the soil for farmers across Devon. But now gardeners are about the enjoy the benefits of what is a great peat substitute, a PAS100 grade soil conditioner of natural organic material, ideal for improving all types of soils. Deliveries of the new compost will be available in Somerset. The new compost can be seen for the first time at Toby’s Garden Festival on 27th and 28th April at Powderham Castle, Kenton outside of Exeter where visitors to the popular festival, now in its fifth year, will be able to see Coastal’s shredder in action, place orders for home delivery and take away a free sample of the compost. Coastal Recycling’s Business Development Manager Richard Marsh said, “Devon has just been announced as third in the UK’s league table for recycling so it’s a great time to be showing the county’s gardener how we transform waste into this valuable resource.” “The compost is derived entirely from organic material, and every aspect of the composting process is monitored and stringently controlled to meet national standards. The natural nutrients will benefit plant growth, reducing the need for artificial feeds or fertilisers and as it is derived from organic material, the nutrients are released over an extended period”. The process is really the renaissance of an age–old technology with the added benefit of dealing with organic waste otherwise destined for landfill. It is a two-phase process that takes up to six months, gardeners’ unwanted grass clippings and prunings are first shredded into giant piles, then regularly turned to ensure a plentiful supply of oxygen when the heap approaches 60°C and irrigated to turn them into crumbly brown compost, ideal for topping up beds and borders. During this time the compost

is sterilised to remove weed seed and graded into different sizes. Toby Buckland, host of the Powderham festival said:“All gardeners are innate recyclers and green waste compost is just like the best stuff made on the heap at home except with guaranteed quality results. I’ve been an advocate for years, so Toby Buckland and Richard Marsh I’m delighted Coastal are bringing their innovation to the festival. And who doesn’t love to see a big machine at work!” Coastal Recycling, 1 Mulberry Court, Exeter EX2 8PW. Tel 01393 826456 Toby Buckland’s Garden Festival, Powderham Castle: Friday, 27th and Saturday, 28th April.

Seven point plan -from waste to customer

• Kerbside and recycling centre green waste is delivered to sites across Devon. • A high-speed shredder breaks down the material and feeds into a shredder. • 95per-cent of the material is passed through a 40mm screen. • The compost is then ‘managed to maturity’ over 14 weeks. It is turned often to regulate the internal heat. • Samples are then set off to a laboratory to check levels of nutrients. • After weeks of careful management, it has transformed into a PAS 100 soil conditioner. • The Coastal team then offers technical support and recommend the optimum quantity of compost for spreading, based on the lab results.




Here’s a selection of gardening events to look out for during the next few weeks throughout Dorset. Send us details of your event at least ten weeks before publication and we will publicise it free of charge. Make sure you let us know where the event is being held, the date and include a contact telephone number. We are keen to support garden club events and we will be glad to publicise talks and shows held during the year where clubs want to attract a wider audience, but we do not have space for club outings or parties. We suggest that garden clubs send us their diary for the year for events to be included in the relevant issue of the magazine. Please send to Country Gardener Magazines, Mount House, Halse, Taunton TA4 3AD or by email to and copy to We take great care to ensure that details are correct at the time of going to press but we advise readers to check wherever possible before starting out on a journey as circumstances can force last minute changes. All NGS open gardens can be found on or in the local NGS booklet available at many outlets.









Country Gardener










Issue No 1 Spring 2016



Issue No 82 Winter 2015


Issue No 118 November





Jobs to do in the winter garden

PRIMULAS get ready to welcome Spring

can combat How fruiting plants autumn the sombre greys of NIAS SUCCEE D WITH GARDE ops to come Dreaming of snowdr Getting down and dirty les with winter vegetab hire throughout Hamps Gardening events beyond to Christmas - and

perennials Perfect late flowering COPING UNDERSTANDING AND GARDEN WITH FROSTS IN THE events galore Autumn gardening lds throughout the Cotswo

k drop-in sessions.


£3 per child.

for these fun . with the Barber-Surgeon medieval medicine and crafts. 2-4pm. Experience Tuesday 27th October Roadshow. Fossil identification 1-4pm. Rock and Fossil Thursday 29th October 3JH www.cotswoldsa

Join us in half-term

Fosse Way, Northleach,


It’s free!


EARLY SEASON GARDE Gardening events

galore throughout

Planting for a wildlife


haven k

TITCHFIELD Fontley Road Titchfield Hampshire PO15 6QX 01329 844336

ESHER Winterdown Rd West End, Esher Surrey KT10 8LS 01372 460181

Gloucestershire, GL54

Are you part of a garden club or society? Please send us your diary for the year - we’d love to include your talks and shows Send them into us by email to: or by post to: Mount House, Halse, Taunton, TA4 3AD. Your event can also be listed online at:

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Stockists of Country Gardener Dorset Country Gardener is available free of charge throughout the area at the outlets listed below. For amendments to details or deliveries call Pat Eade on 01594 543790 email Abbotsbury Abbotsbury Sub Tropical Gardens Beaminster Cilla and Camilla Little Groves Mapperton House Visitor Centre Bishops Caundle Bishops Caundle Community Shop Blandford Forum Bartletts C & O Tractors Langton Nursery Tourist Information Centre Bournemouth Cherry Tree/SWOP Parks Perennials Broadwindsor Broadwindsor Craft Centre Bridport Bartletts of Bridport CW Groves Nurseries John Bright Fencing and Country Store Tourist Information Centre Washingpool Farm Shop Cerne Abbas Village Store & Post Office Chickerell Bennett’s Water Gardens Child Okeford Goldhill Organic Farm Shop Oasis Plant Centre Christchurch Broomhill Garden Buildings MacPennys Nursery Stewarts Garden Centre Tourist Information Centre Corfe Mullen Naked Cross Nursery Cranborne Cranborne Garden Centre Dorchester Athelhampton House Flyte so Fancy GCS Agricentre

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Country Gardener

The ‘old world’ favourite African violets have a few quirks but proper lighting and watering make them wonderfully colourful and resilient house plants Some indoor gardeners shy away from growing the frilly and elegant African violet (Saintpaulia) because they are intimidated by looking after them. It’s true they do have a few quirks, but learning about them and their proper care can make growing the plants less intimidating. When you learn how to grow African violets, you can add several to indoor spaces for bright and cheerful blooms. You can grow them in small pot groupings for a showy display. You can use a suitable peat free for these plants which are now more readily available and have produced outstanding results. African violet plants are picky about water, so take extra care when watering. Water with lukewarm or tepid water that was allowed to stand for 48 hours. Water at the base and never splash the foliage with water; just a drop can cause foliar spots and damage. Proper watering is an important aspect of learning how to grow African violets. Water when the soil feels less moist to the touch. Never let them stand in water or completely dry out. African violets do not like to have their leaves wet and water splashed up on the leaves can cause spots or even the death of the leaf. Light is another issue for the plant. Light intensity should be filtered, with bright to medium intensity reaching the growing plant. Light affects flowering. African violet plants with dark green foliage usually need somewhat higher light levels than those with pale or medium green foliage. Remember to turn pots regularly to keep flowers from reaching for the light. Place growing violets three feet from a south- or west-facing window for the right amount of lighting. Fertilise plants with a food with a higher phosphorus number — the middle number in the NPK fertilizer ratio, as 15-30-15. Fertilizer can be mixed at one-quarter strength and used at every watering. Reduced flowering and paler leaf colour indicate that growing violets are not getting enough fertiliser. Pinch blooms when they are spent. This will encourage the development of more flowers.

African violets do not have many pest or disease problems. Mites and mealybugs are two insects that can be found on this plant. Both can be taken care of with soapy water. Plant diseases might also include powdery mildew and crown rot. Proper watering and plant spacing can prevent both of these problems.

Special compost mixture is the key to flourishing plants African violets have a unique history that starts in the late 18th century. Baron Walter von St. Paul was strolling through the West African wilderness when he came upon a beautifully blooming plant. He was so taken back by this plant that he sent plant samples and seeds home to Germany. Once in Germany, the beauty of the plant became apparent and by the early 1900’s could be found throughout Europe. This plant then spread throughout the world. Then, in the late 1920’s a Los Angeles nursery of Armacost and Rosten started breeding African violets. They were able to create blue violet and purple flowers but this was just the beginning. Today, plant breeding has created different types of flowers, leaves and even growth habits. African violet flowers can now be in a rainbow of colours, which includes blue, purple, red-violet, orchid, lavender, red pink, white, bicolour and multi-coloured. Blooms can also be in different shapes, such as single, double, semi-double, star-shaped, fringed, and ruffled.



the best chard

Easy to grow, colourful and great in a whole range of dishes, the key to growing this wonderful vegetable is to plant in early spring

Sow every two weeks to produce mini-leaves. Chard is becoming more popular, partly thanks to the cultivars with brightly coloured leaf stalks and the revival of interest Water before the onset of drought and mulch when the soil is in growing ornamental vegetables, as well as its suitability to warm and moist. provide mini-leaves. HARVESTING It is similar to, but easier to grow, than spinach as it is less Cut off the outer leaves first when they are young and tender, likely to go to seed in dry weather and one sowing produces a working towards the centre. Don’t wait until they reach crop that lasts many months. maximum size. These wonderful plants produce many large, dark leaves that Harvest regularly to ensure a constant supply of tender can have red, white or yellow stalks. re-growth. One of the best tips for growing swiss chard is to plant the Harvest cut and come again crops at any stage when seed early. seedlings are around two inches. The thinnings can also be By early, this means getting the seeds planted in early to mid spring. used whole. There are no planting dates that are exact and no exact rules Gather mini-leaves as soon as they are usable. They should on how to grow chard. re-grow if a small stump is left. Just make sure all signs of frost are over because the soil has to be at least 50°F. (10°C.) for the seeds to germinate. It should also be loose and well draining. Downy mildew: Worse in mild, humid weather, the felty mildew makes Locate the plants in a full sun to partially the leaves unappetising. Well-grown plants in gardens are not usually shaded area of the garden. badly affected except in wet weather. Another tip is to plant seeds directly into the Sow thinly and when conditions are warm. You can help to prevent this ground about half an inch deep. You can put disease by making sure there is plenty of space around seedlings and eight to ten seeds per foot of row planted. plants to improve air circulation, watering the soil at the base of the Once the plants grow and are a couple of plants, and by choosing mildew resistant varieties. inches tall, thin them to about four to six Grey mould can be a problem in densely sown crops, especially ‘cut and inches apart. come again’ veg crops. Seedlings suddenly collapse. This is a problem Chard needs an open sunny site in rich, normally in wet conditions, and is usually worse on weak or damaged moisture-retentive free-draining soil, although plants. The mould usually enters through a wound but, under the right it can tolerate some shade in summer. conditions, even healthy plants will be infected. Add organic matter the autumn or winter Hygiene is important in preventing the spread of grey mould. If you see it, prior to sowing if necessary. remove the infected material and destroy. Grey mould is encouraged by Two sowings - one in April and the second in overcrowding, so make sure you plant your seedlings, plants and squashes July – are usually sufficient. The July sowing at the appropriate distance apart. provides leaves the following spring when Birds, especially pigeons, can cause an array of problems including eating growth resumes. seedlings, buds, leaves, fruit and vegetables. Alternatively, you can sow in modules or Remedy-protect the plants from birds by covering them with netting trays and transplant when large enough to or fleece. handle.

Common problems


Country Gardener









B Y ’S G A R D


Tickets on sale now!

Powderham Castle near Exeter, Devon 27th & 28th April

To celebrate our fifth year at Powderham, we have a fantastic festival shaping up for you. Our gardening celebrity line-up this year includes: THAME, TERRY WALTON plus your RACHEL DE THAME festival regulars TOBY BUCKLAND and JIM BUTTRESS We will have even more demos for you in the Sow, Grow, Cook Tipi all the usual stalls, food, drink, music and fun!

Tickets on sale 1st March!

Forde Abbey, Chard

15th & 16th September Returning to Forde Abbey this year, we are looking forward to an even greater spectacle in the beautiful grounds. More details to follow - but stay updated by checking the website and following us on Twitter.




k .u o .c t s e f n e d r a g www.toby



Dorset Country Gardener April 2018  

The April 2018 issue of Dorset Country Gardener Maghzine

Dorset Country Gardener April 2018  

The April 2018 issue of Dorset Country Gardener Maghzine