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Old Gold

Let heritage daffodils welcome in spring

In search of


How to spruce up your garden for the new season EARLY OPENING GARDENS

for you to enjoy WHITE of WITCHAMPTON

P lus

Compost wisdom; Sundials; G rocket; No rowing -dig beds; Your own cut flowers


Tel: 07966 258267 / 01258 840082


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


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

OPEN 7days Week


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 ● Evergreen Azaleas from £4.99 ea. ● Cottage Garden Plants: £1.99 6 for £9 ● Pansy/Viola baskets from £4.99 ● Primrose baskets 14” £7 ● Bush, Old, Specie and Climbing Roses: £5.99 in 4 litre pots. ● Seed Potatoes: range of new varieties & old favourites. £2.49 3 packs for £5 ● Bulbs in 9cm. pots from £1.25 ● Seeds 99p per packet ● Shrubs from £2.99 For frequent special offers join our eMail list on our web site. 2

Summer Bulbs from 95p 1Ltr Perennials £2.50 Spring Bedding Plants £2.50 (6pk) 9cm Wild Flowers £1.65 9cm Alpines & Herbs £1.65 New Season Roses from £6.99 Mother’s day Gift Planters from £5.00 Mother’s Day Bouquets from £5.00 Kindergarden Starter Plants from 99p

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 £4.95 • Tanalised 4x4 Post 2.4mtr £7.50 • Tanalised Decking 120 x 32mm £1.95/mtr • Tanalised 4x2 (100x47) 3mtr £5.40 • Tanalised 3x2 (75x47) 3mtr £4.00 • Garden Gates from £29.95 • Tanalised Sleeper 250 x 125mm £25.00 • Clearance Decking from £1.00/mtr • 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 gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle . . a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl. And the anticipation nurtures our dream.’



2018 FREE

Cover image

Narcissus ‘Butter and Eggs”

ld Old Go ge daffodils Let herita welcome in spring

A typical heritage narcissus which has been admired for many generations and one of the oldest daffodils with records showing s drop snow P lus it was being cultured in 1777. As the stems of this daffodil are not very strong, they are for you to enjoy vulnerable to wind and rain. The best place to plant the bulbs is a sunny, shielded spot. There is a dishevelled charm from the pale yellow jumble that is this flower. The name gets mistakenly applied to all sorts of double yellow daffodils so make sure you get the right one! In search of

How to spruce up your garden for the new season EARLY OPENING GARDEN



Compost wisdom ; Sundials; Growing rocket; No-dig beds; Your own cut flowers



840082 Tel: 07966 258267 / 01258

- Gertrude S. Wister

Enjoy the spectacular spring colour at Abbotsbury Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens just a few miles outside of Weymouth is an ideal venue to welcome in spring. The popular gardens with its camellia groves and magnolias features 20 acres of woodland valley plus exotic plants from all over the world. Open 10am to 5pm daily (4pm in Winter). The swannery and children’s park open on 17th March. Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, Buller’s Way, Abbotsbury, nr Weymouth, Dorset, DT3 4LA.

Crocus Week and plant fair double bill at Forde Abbey Forde Abbey on the Dorset and Somerset border hosts one of the first plant fairs of the new gardening season on Sunday March 4th. Forde Abbey’s Plant and Gardening Fair will be hosting over 30 stalls selling plants and gardening sundries from 10am to 4pm. The fair takes place at the beginning of the Abbey’s popular Crocus Week, a great time to see the garden waking up from its hibernation. The reduced entry fee to the Plant & Gardening Fair, including admission to award-winning gardens, is £3. Parking is free. Crocus Week (3rd to 11th March) normal garden admission rates will apply.

W IMBORNE HOSTS ALP INE SOCIET Y’S ANNUAL SHOW Dorset local group of the Alpine Garden Society runs its annual Flower Show and Plant Sale on Saturday 10th March showcasing the plant-growing talents of its members, who will be pleased to talk to visitors about their hobby. Plants of all kinds, not just alpines, will be on sale, produced by group members and by Tale Valley Nursery from Cullompton. The event is held at the Allendale Centre Hanham Road, Wimborne, Dorset, BH21 1AS from 11.30 onwards.

Look out for the April issue of Country Gardener available on or around March 14th

Preparing for spring at Knoll Gardens

Knoll Gardens leads the way on Saturday, March 17th with a morning dedicated to preparing for spring The event which runs from10.30am to 12 noon and costs £15 will provide the answers to some of most frequently asked questions at this popular spring event. Led by Neil Lucas Knoll’s owner, a leading authority on grasses the morning will ensure your borders and grasses are ready to produce the ‘wow factor ‘this summer. Knoll Gardens Stapehill Rd, Hampreston, Wimborne BH21 7ND. Tel: 01202 873931


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Thinking of moving into a care home – or just needing a little extra help at home? We’re here to help Whatever your care needs, we know that it’s the care that counts – the quality care of all our residents and home care customers. As a leading provider of residential and home care across Dorset, we offer compassionate residential, nursing, dementia and home care at a realistic cost. Whether you’re looking for care in your own home, a short respite stay or a new home, we offer a warm welcome, comfort and peace of mind. To request a brochure, arrange a visit or find out more, contact 01202 712400 |


Country Gardener

...In Dorset

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The 2018 NGS handbook available at a discount for Country Gardener readers Every year the new National Gardens Scheme handbook, the bible for garden visitors, and what used to be called The Yellow Book, comes out in early spring, and Country Gardener readers can take advantage of a bargain. The handbook lists all the gardens open for the NGS throughout the British Isles and is indispensable for garden visiting, containing all the information you need for a great day out. There are many new gardens opening all over the country, old favourites, and many open several times a year. The National Gardens Scheme was launched in 1927 and is an important source of income for several nursing and caring charities including Macmillan, Marie Curie, Hospice UK, Carers Trust and the Queen’s Nursing Institute. In 2017 the NGS donated a record £3 million to the charities.. If you apply to the NGS giving a special discount code you will receive a reduction of £3 off the retail price. The discount code for 2018 is cg18 which will bring the price of the handbook down to £9.99 (including postage and packing) when it is bought from the NGS

Plant clinic at orchid society show Bournemouth Orchid Society holds its Spring Show at the Allendale Community Centre on Saturday, 24th February. The highlights of the annual show include orchid displays, orchids for sale, potting demonstrations and a plant clinic for sick or ailing plants. Exhibitors include Burnham Nurseries, Lawrence Hobbs Orchids and Orchids by Peter White. Registration opens at 8.30am and the show opens to the public at 12 noon until 4.30pm. For more information call Chris Bloomfield on 07712 479056. Bournemouth Orchid Society. Allendale Community Centre, Hanham Rd, Wimborne, Dorset BH21 1AS.

Expanded gardenbased events at Knoll Gardens

An expanded programme of more than 50 events is planned by Dorset-based Knoll Gardens this year with the addition of guided walks, wildlife events and art, craft and photography workshops, and Knoll’s first musical afternoon. The programme starts on Saturday, 17th March with a mini-masterclass on preparing grasses for summer effect, followed by a willow-weaving workshop on Saturday, 24th March. In April, events include a guided walk looking at the differences and many similarities between Knoll’s garden environment and the adjoining heathland on Tuesday, 24th; a bat walk on Thursday, 26th April and a special ‘concert’ on Saturday, 28th April, with the sound created by amplifying the noises of plant materials including rattling seed pods and cacti needles plucked by toothpicks. Knoll Gardens’ owner Neil Lucas said, “Alongside our horticultural programme this year will see Knoll running arts and craft sessions, and outdoor yoga. We are hosting some wildlife days later in the year bringing together national experts, our volunteers and the public. We hope to encourage more people to spend time in our relaxed environment and find out about the benefits of our naturalistic gardening style.� Knoll Gardens, Stapehill Rd, Hampreston, Wimborne BH21 7ND



Looking for a great gardening club day out? An information pack is now available for garden clubs and societies who would like to enjoy a perfect gardeners’ day out at the two popular Toby Garden Festivals at Powderham and Forde Abbey this year. The special deal for garden club members includes reduced price entry, guaranteed coach parking, and for the first time special discounts at plant nurseries. The pack includes leaflets for members and sale or return tickets and has details of entry price discounts, plant crèche arrangements and catering options. Highlights of the Powderham event on Friday, April 27th and Saturday, 28th April include guest speakers Rachel de Thame, presenter on ‘BBC Gardeners’ World’ since 1999 and allotment doctor, Terry Walton, from BBC Radio Two’s ‘Jeremy Vine Show’. There will be a record number of exhibitors at the popular festival which celebrate its fifth anniversary this year. John Challis, keen gardener the actor and author best known for playing ‘Boycie‘ in the BBC’s sitcom Only Fools and Horses will be speaking and signing copies of

his book, Wigmore Abbey: The Treasure of Mortimer, an autobiographical account of creating his house and garden in Herefordshire with wife Carol. Advice is available on the suitability to your needs of each venue including any requirements for wheelchairs or disability scooters. Please don’t hesitate to get in contact to discuss how the team can help with your visit. A pack is also available for the autumn festival at Forde Abbey on Saturday 15th and Sunday, 16th September. Tel: 01823 431767 or email

Volunteers needed at Marine Wildlife Centre in Kimmeridge


Dorset Wildlife Trust is looking for new recruits to join volunteers at the Fine Foundation Marine Centre at Kimmeridge. The trust is inviting local people who would like to do something valuable for wildlife, and have time to offer on a regular basis, to take part. No expertise is required, as volunteers will be provided with free training to include topics such as identification of rock pool animals, seaweed identification, marine conservation, and fossils. DWT Headquarters, Brooklands Farm, Forston, Dorchester DT2 7AA Tel: 01305

Diana Guy shares her passions for hellebores Diana Guy, winner of the first BBC TV’s‘Gardener of the Year’ competition is a specialist in hellebores and a sought-after garden lecturer. Diana will give an illustrated talk on Thursday, March 8th looking at the range of species and cultivars of hellebores and how to use them to the best effect. An added attraction is that there may be unusual hellebores for sale. Tickets £8. Talk starts 2.30pm. Venue: Stourpaine Village Hall, Bottom Road, Stourpaine, Blandford Forum DT11 8TJ 6

Country Gardener

The traditional farmhouse garden at Manor Farm, Hampreston opens for the NGS Gardens Open scheme on Saturday, 24th February and Sunday, 25th February. The Dorset Gardens Trust will be supporting owners Anne and Guy Trehane with the opening from 10am to 1pm on Saturday and 1pm to 4pm on Sunday. The garden is noted for its herbaceous borders and rose beds but it is hellebores and snowdrops which will be the focus for the early spring opening. Dorset Perennials will be selling seasonal plants and the Dorset Lupus Group will serve cakes, soup and hot chocolate. Manor Farm, Hampreston, Wimborne, Dorset, BH21 7LX

Large traditional family-run nursery Wide selection of trees, shrubs, perennials & fruit bushes 4-acre woodland garden Many unusual plants Tea Rooms Hours: Mon-Sat 9am-5pm Sun & Bank Holidays 10am-5pm MACPENNY’S NURSERIES BRANSGORE Burley Rd, Bransgore, Nr Christchurch BH23 8DB Tel: 01425 672348

Bird Food & Feeders

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Stewarts Christchurch Garden Centre, 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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Marwood Hill Gardens

Discover the stunning views at Marwood Hill Gardens, 20 acres of private gardens with lakes in North Devon. The gardens are a wonderful haven in which to relax and enjoy the impressive collections of plants, shrubs and trees and experience the views and peaceful atmosphere.

Specialist Plant Sales At Marwood, we aim to provide something a little bit different, something which you can take home.

Tel: 01271 342528 | Marwood Hill Gardens, North Devon EX31 4EA



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 Seed Potatoes, Onion Sets, Shallots and Garlic Available Now


LARGE VARIETY OF TREES, SHRUBS, PERENNIALS, HERBS AND ROSES Summer Bedding Plants, Fuchsias, Geraniums, Patio and Basket Plants


Veg & Flower seeds, Seed potatoes, Onion sets, garlic, Veg Plants Architectural Plants Bamboo, Palms, Phormiums, Grasses, Lavenders We now stock Levingtons & Scotts Compost, Grow bags & Fertilisers Offers on Bark, Grow bags, Soil improvers.

New for 2018

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




Stop Press! Donald Trump withdrew from opening the Blandford Forum Victorian Garden Club Potato Day this year because he didn’t like the site that the Tombola had been moved to. He is now campaigning to make Tombola great again. Due to Trump’s absence, normal security measures for the event were restored. Here is our traditional and much loved year’s Tree Trivia Quiz for you to have a go at. Have fun - no prizes. Question 1. The Asian Longhorn is a type of... A. Trumpet B. Cow C. Beetle D. Ice cream Question 2. The tradition of a spruce tree being erected and decorated at Christmas came from… A. Norway B. Canada C. Germany D. Russia Question 3. The mighty sailing ships of Nelson’s navy were predominantly made from… A. Elm B. Ash C. Oak D. Yew Question 4. A British native tree named for the toughness of its timber is... A. Ebony B. Ironwood C. Beech D. Hornbeam Question 5. The native fruits used to make gin are... A. Sloes B. Hawes C. Rowan D. Juniper Question 6. The act of chogging a tree is... A. To take the trunk down in hand held sections B. To reduce the canopy spread by 50% 7

C. To cut off live growths for feeding farm animals D. Illegal in this country Question 7. Carpinus betulus is the botanical name for which British native tree? A. Hornbeam B. Field Maple C. Whitebeam D. Silver Birch

Question 14. According to the old saying - what kind of tree hateth man and waiteth? A. Whitebeam B. Elm C. Yew D. Ash Question 15. The bark of which kind of tree was used to make canoes by Native Americans? A. Birch B. Lodgepole Pine C. Beech D. Redwood 11

Question 8. The number of native oak species found in England is... A. 1 B. 2 C. 3 D. 4 Question 9. The poem ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ was written by? A. William Shakespeare B. Thomas Hardy C. Ted Hughes D. Robert Hardy 9

Question 16. The bark of which kind of tree is a natural source of aspirin? A. Gingko B. Western Hemlock C. Rowan D. Willow Question 17. How many references to the Cedar of Lebanon are contained within the Christian Bible? A. 3 B. None C. 35 D.75

Question 10. A form of the fungus Phytopthora is currently a threat to oak trees. The first form of Phytopthora to arrive in the British Isles caused... A. The Black Death B. The Irish Potato Famine C. Bird Flu D Honey Fungus

Question 18. The Emperor of Rome who, whilst Governor of Syria, sought to preserve the stocks of Cedar of Lebanon by restricting their felling was: A. Constantine B. Hadrian C. Caligula D. Boudica 15

Question 11. The first European to see a living Gingko biloba tree was A. Engelbert Humperdink B. Captain Cook C. Engelbert Kaempher D. Captain Blye Question 12. Kent County Cricket Club had the only first class cricket ground with a tree growing inside the boundary until it blew down in 2005. The species of the tree was: A. Lime B. Oak C. Cricket bat willow D. Prunus ‘John Arlott’ Question 13. A semi-mature tree planted in an urban location may not achieve carbon neutrality for how many years?


B. 2 D. 21

Country Gardener

Mark Hinsley is from Arboricultural Consultants Ltd. Answers: Q1 C, Q2 C, Q3 C, Q4 D, Q5 D, Q6 A, Q7 A, Q8 B, Q9 A, Q10 B, Q11 C, Q12 A, Q13 A, Q14 B, Q15 A, Q16 D, Q17 D, Q18 B, Q19 C, Q20 B, Q21 C, Q22 D, Q23 B, Q24 A, Q25 C.

Mark Hinsley devises his start of the gardening year tree quiz to test your knowledge to the full

A. 33 C. 10

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A question of science! by Elizabeth McCorquodale

Successful gardening is less a case of having green fingers and more about the history of plants and the science surrounding them. Understanding both is the path to success.

Micro-propagation will eventually eradicate plant disease

shady under the canopy when, in fact, it is because the tree is deliberately poisoning the interlopers that attempt to encroach on its patch. All sorts of plants do this in all sorts of ingenious ways and most of these ways are little understood, though widely recognised within the scientific community. Alleopathic chemicals can exist in any single part of a plant – or in all parts - and they can persist in dead plant material or decline until the effects are no longer detectable. Different plants can control their environment in different ways. They can inhibit competition by changing the chemical nature of the soil or they can alter the pH so it is no longer suitable for the competition. They can work by inhibiting the ability of a target species to germinate Walnut trees deliberately poison interlopers or to take up nutrients or they can interfere with the essential relationship between plants and soil fungi. Though we may not always understand the exact nature of how allelopathy works we do know how to

It is often said that gardening is more an art than a science; that gardening is intuitive and that success in gardening (whatever that may be) springs from possessing an innate understanding of plants; the proverbial green thumb. But gardening isn’t just art or intuition. It isn’t even only about the beauty of plants or of gardens. Gardening is about curiosity and observation. Gardening is about history and above all it is science. Take allelopathy for example. Allelopathy is chemical warfare by plants and it is wickedly effective. Black walnuts are the classic example. Most people know that not much will grow beneath a walnut tree but assume that it is because it is particularly dry or


Country Gardener

exploit at least some of the effects of a plant’s allelopathic ability. For example we know that the chemical residues from winter rye suppresses the germination of many annoying weed seeds including pigweed, lambsquarters, purslane and crab grass. These chemicals, however, have no effect on large, hard-coated seeds. So, if you are going to plant an area of your garden with pumpkins, squash, peas, beans and sunflowers you could do a lot worse than to plant a green manure crop of winter rye beforehand, then cut and leave it on the soil surface just before planting your main crop to give your plants a weed-free start in life. We can see the effects of rye and walnut and many other plants from simple observation (Aristotle’s pupil, Theophrastus, first observed and hypothesized on the growth effects of one plant on another a whopping 2,300 years ago!) but we can confirm it, understand it and therefore manipulate it because the people in lab coats in places like Kew and Wisley study it at a microscopic level. Without the verification by the science community allelopathy could be regarded as folklore and discarded as an old wives tale. These days plant scientists are well respected and the discovery of new science, understanding and techniques are embraced. Curiosity and dogged

‘He pledged a legacy of 25 pounds for a sermon to be offered in praise of God and His Creation, and this sermon is still delivered annually at St. Leonard’s in Shoreditch where it is known as the Vegetable Sermon.‘ research is prized and the results are celebrated. This wasn’t always the case. In 1716 a clever and observant gentleman, Thomas Fairchild, risked damnation when he successfully cross pollinated Dianthus caryophyllus with Dianthus barbatus. This daring experiment resulted in a new plant – effectively the first F1 hybrid - which became known as Dianthus caryophyllus barbatus and also known as Fairchild’s Mule. When, after much soul-searching, he presented his results to the Royal Society, Fairchild passed it off as an accidental cross for fear he would be accused of meddling with creation. To hedge his bets he pledged a legacy of £25 for a sermon to be offered in praise of God and His Creation, and this sermon is still delivered annually at St. Leonard’s in Shoreditch where it is known as the Vegetable Sermon. Fairchild was a little ahead of his time and it would have to wait another couple of hundred years until the cultural climate was ready to embrace his findings. In his time, Gregor Mendel, now acknowledged as the Father of Genetics, wasn’t received with hostility or even disbelief, simply a lack of interest. Mendel was a monk, a teacher, a gardener and a scientist in the mid 1800s and he conducted a decade-

long experiment on peas to see how different traits were passed down through the generations. When he had concluded his meticulously conducted research he presented his findings to his local horticultural society, but to little acclaim. Once again the world wasn’t quite ready and he and his ideas received no attention. In a familiar pattern, it wasn’t until his findings were rediscovered 16 years after his death that his brilliance was acknowledged. Sometimes science is simply misinterpreted. There was, until only a very few years ago, the belief that to encourage the return of native invertebrates, gardeners needed to plant native plants and flowers. The message was ‘plant weeds’. Popular, easy to grow, bedding plants were out unless they had a long history of colonising this land. With greater understanding we now know it isn’t whether or not the plants are truly native that is important, rather that they can offer the same things that the native plants once did. Buddleia, for example, is the most valuable all-inone nectar source in British gardens and it is a relative newcomer to these shores. What isn’t acceptable are the highly bred super-double plants which have had their anthers and nectaries bred out of them. We have learnt that if a plant has been mercilessly selected for one characteristic, it might, in the

process, have lost other characteristics, such as its ability to produce nectar or pollen, and it is therefore useless as a food plant for foraging bees, butterflies or hoverflies, among others. This understanding, coupled with the huge importance of maintaining a healthy environment will mean that plant breeders will now consider the value of their selections to wildlife as well as gardeners. And science is on the case. That brings us back to Mendel and Fairchild and their modern equivalents. These days our plants are bred through all sorts of means, through traditional selection, from micro-propagation (growing clones from cells in test tubes), from engineered mutations (applying chemicals or radiation or another method to encourage the cells to mutate) and through genetic modification (by adding or removing genes). Some of these are misunderstood and will prove to be perfectly acceptable, some will be discarded as being harmful. But one thing is for sure, it will be the science of the garden which will eventually determine which plants we grow and admire and consume in the future. Clockwise from top left: Growing peas; Understanding the transfer of pollen; Experiments on Dianthus caryophyllus have all moved scientific understanding forwards 11

The real therapy

of gardening

Gill Heavens looks at the real rewards of gardening - exercise, happiness, time to think and proper benefits to the soul

There is no dispute that we have a lot to gain from gardening. We can learn how to grow plants or how to design a garden, we can enjoy the food we have grown and the flowers that we tend and in the process we can strengthen our bodies. There is however another important benefit, one that is increasingly coming to the fore in these stressful times, and that is the valuable role gardening can serve in fostering our wellbeing. As we are all aware, nothing is new. In the 19th century the poet laureate Alfred Austin wrote: “The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” This truth has been acknowledged throughout the ages. From the famed gardens of Mesopotamia 4000 years ago, through Islamic oases and medieval monasteries, spaces have been created to calm the spirit and heal the body. Places for reflection and meditation. These needs are as relevant today as they ever were. The simple process of gardening can promote a feeling of happiness. This is because exercise causes endorphins to be released into the body which provide us with what has been called ‘a natural high’. Apparently the production of these hormones is also stimulated by eating chocolate or having a good belly laugh! For those individuals who, due to illness, injury, 12

Country Gardener

or advancing years have had their mobility reduced, gardening is an ideal way to get moving again. By increasing levels of exercise they will rediscover this amazing biological shot of ‘feel good’. At the same time they will be maintaining and improving their range of movement. Gentle activity can also help regain confidence, often lost after suffering a stroke or head injury, and aid in improving balance and co-ordination. All this at the same time as having fun and learning new skills! It is not just the physical aspect that is advantageous. The very act of growing something is special. There is nothing better for the soul than to sow a seed, watch it germinate, and then nurture the seedling to maturity. It is a wholly constructive act in a world that, on occasion, can seem very destructive. Gardening gives us time to contemplate and consider, it is not an occupation that can be rushed. I have solved many problems whilst weeding. We must not forget the role that wildlife plays in our horticultural experience. Whether it be a ladybird munching on aphids, a buzzard flying overhead scouting for rabbits, the great joy of a blackbird bathing or a bumblebee feasting, they are all are heart-warming sights. Being “up close and personal” with nature helps us to appreciate that we are part of the ecosystem, not just observing it. It is for these reasons, and more, that many people gain considerably from gardening. For

The true therapy from gardens comes from, amongst other things, the association with wildlife, exercise and working with others

“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.� those with mental health issues it can provide a gentle, non-threatening environment and working in a supportive team is richly rewarding. Another area that horticulture has been seen to achieve greatness is in prisons. In this challenging environment, up until recently not necessarily associated with green fingers, staff and inmates have created award winning gardens. Working together, problem solving and most importantly doing something supremely positive, has turned lives around. It is not just gardening but gardens that can give comfort. Sensory gardens have proved especially useful for those suffering with dementia, sights and scents triggering memories and calming those afflicted with this often frustrating condition. Hospice gardens are often very special places, healing, and soothing. Even a momentary escape from the harsh realities of life and death must repay a thousand fold. A beautiful distraction to allow the batteries

to recharge, to strengthen, attune and perhaps accept. In order to garner the best from these healing gardens, careful planning and implementation is necessary. To involve as many beneficiaries as possible there are often practical problems to be solved, such as access or safety. Experts in this field are the charity Thrive, whose aim it is to allow the less able, whether it be through old age or disability, to continue or even take up gardening as a therapeutic exercise. On their website there is a plethora of advice and information, from adapting tools to tips for designing specialist gardens. And then there are the rest of us. Those of us with a few aches and pains, some minor worries or niggling domestic problems. Well, the rewards can be just as great. Have you sat in a garden and felt a weight lift from your shoulders as you soak in the atmosphere, or perhaps troubles have suddenly come into perspective whilst mulching the borders? There is magic out there, for us all, whoever you might be. Believe me. Give it a go. As for me, I’m off to do some gardening, whilst eating a bar of Dairy Milk and listening to Victoria Wood on my iPod. Wish me luck! For more information or call 0118 988 5688



HOUSEPLANTS New research has suggested that over the past two years a record number of houseplants have been killed – by kindness

No one sets out to kill a houseplant but yes, lots are still being killed by kindness. Gardening indoors means dealing with an artificial climate and all plants will need a period of adjustment in your home. The best thing you can do for indoor plants is to learn something about their growing conditions and provide as close to those conditions as possible. If you see a problem developing, take action quickly. Houseplants make a house a home; someone lives here, someone cares, they say. They are not merely decorative: they respond, they bloom, they let the seasons into your house. A wellcared-for and healthy houseplant improves your indoor life, filtering out pollutants in the air. But your plants do not want to live with you. They want to live in a tropical rainforest, cool desert or mountain ravine, to feel the breeze, taste soft rain, sleep when the sun goes down. A few would like to be in touch with their friends, rather than in a pot on their own. So they sulk! The trick is to keep your plants healthy, which means observing them closely and being consistent. Erratic watering kills more houseplants than anything else: no plant wants to sit in a saucer of water for days, nor go through a drought. Your houseplants were grown in greenhouses with good light levels, then shipped, often to a store, so there is often a necessary period of adjustment, particularly to the lower light levels in your home. As a result, your plant may drop leaves soon after moving in. But it’s not dying, it’s adapting. Here’s the ways houseplants are being killed.

OVER WATERING The number one killer of houseplants is over watering, which leads to root rot. Don't let your plants sit in water and don't automatically water all your houseplants on a schedule.

LOW HUMIDITY We've all seen what low humidity can do to our skin. Well, lack of humidity does in a great 14

many indoor plants, too, especially during the winter. When the heat comes on, the humidity in your house can take a huge dip. Just imagine what a change that is for a plant that was living outdoors, a few weeks earlier. You may first notice the problem as browning leaf tips.

INSUFFICIENT LIGHT Plants that are not getting as much light as they need will look pale, rather than a healthy green and new growth is spindly, as it reaches for the sun. You may also notice that the new leaves are smaller than usual.

EXPOSURE TO DIRECT HEAT Placing your houseplant near a direct source of heat, like a radiator, will not only fry your plant, but also speed up dehydration. Some locations are obviously bad, but sometimes choices are limited.

IGNORING PEST PROBLEMS Indoor pests multiply quickly. There are no natural predators to keep them in check, so you have to be very diligent about checking for symptoms. Spider mites, aphids, mealy bugs and scale can cover a plant in days. If severe enough, the plant may never recover.

EXPOSURE TO DRAFTS Placing an indoor plant, especially a tropical or blooming plant, near a frequently opened door to the outside or too close to a window with limited insulation will have the same effect as leaving the plant unprotected outside. Allow it to become pot bound When a plant outgrows its pot, the roots circle around inside the pot and start to restrict themselves. Pot bound plants often seem to dry out more quickly than normal, because the ratio of roots to soil is too large. Country Gardener




Growing your own cut flowers is a wonderful option for your garden. The choice of what to grow is of course huge but here’s our top ten choices to inspire you. You don't need to set aside a special area of your garden simply mix the plants in among your herbaceous borders. You can even add a few rows to your vegetable plot.



Sunflowers are easy to grow and won't require any special attention - simply sow them directly into the ground where you want them to flower. For cutting it's best to choose multi-headed varieties.


Sweet pea

The ultimate 'cut and come again' cut flower. Once a popular glasshouse cut flower, these beautiful blooms are mainly garden grown. There are plenty of colours to choose from, but a good mix of shades makes the prettiest posies.



Tulips are the earliest flowers for cutting in the garden. They come in such a range of colours. Help your tulips to last longer in the vase by cutting stems underwater to prevent air entering the stems. You’ll need to keep their water topped daily.



You'll only need a few lily stems to make an exotic-looking cut flower display. There are lots of different lily species that you can grow, but oriental lilies are popular for their fragrance and glamorous trumpet shaped blooms. When cutting lily stems from the garden leave a third of the stem to feed the bulb for the following year.



Growing roses for cut flowers takes a little more work than growing them as garden shrubs, but the results are worth the effort. Choose varieties carefully to ensure the nicest forms and longest stems. Roses grown as cut flowers will require heavy feeding to produce the best results. 16



The flamboyant, tall stems are superb for adding height and drama to arrangements. Cut Gladiolus flowers just as the lowest two or three florets begin to open, but leave as many leaves as possible to feed the bulb for next year. If you want to prolong the cutting season then stagger planting at two week intervals.



The foliage of Eucalyptus gunnii makes fantastic filler for vases, bouquets and larger flower arrangements. The attractive rounded leaves provide shape and texture that blends well with both formal and more relaxed displays. Eucalyptus has a long vase life, easily lasting three weeks.



Dianthus (including Carnations, Pinks and Sweet Williams) are some of the best known of all cut flowers. Carnations provide traditional flowers, but it's worth trying something different on the variety front if you are growing your own flowers for cutting.



Peonies are prized for their beautiful, large blooms. Just a few stems are enough to create a stunning arrangement with a big impact. Double varieties should be cut when the buds feel soft between your finger and thumb, just before they open. Cutting double peonies too early may prevent the buds from opening so be patient with them.



Gypsophila makes wonderful filler for softening bouquets and adding a frothy haze of tiny flowers. This well loved cut flower can be sown outdoors each spring where they are to flower. Stagger the sowings to prolong the flowering season. It's best to wait until most of the flowers on the stem have opened. It produces a huge tangle of interweaving stems, creating a cloud-like effect in mid-summer when smothered in tiny white flowers. Cut back after flowering to encourage a second bloom.

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right compost So what makes one compost better than another? Whether you buy multipurpose or specific-use compost, good structure and aeration are important for encouraging strong root development and healthy plants. A medium-crumbly texture is ideal. Choosing the right compost is essential to get the most out of your plants, fruit or vegetables, but the ingredients that make up different composts can vary dramatically. The best advice when it comes to buying compost this season is to use a fit for purpose compost, which has been tailor-made for the job in hand.

Broadly speaking, there are three different types of compost:

PEAT BASED There are many formulations of peat-based composts available to the gardener. These are made from a base of peat blended with other ingredients such as fertiliser, sand and/or grit, vermiculite or perlite, wetting agents and lime.

LOAM BASED John Innes Composts are soil-based growing media made from a mixture of loam, sand or grit and peat with increasing amounts of plant foods added. John Innes Seed Compost contains the smallest amount of nutrients as this encourages the best germination and growth of tiny roots and shoots. John Innes No.1 Compost contains slightly more nutrients and is for transplanting seedlings. John Innes No.2 Compost for when you are potting up small plants and John Innes No.3 Compost has the most nutrients, as this is designed for final planting up of plants ready for display or cropping.

PEAT FREE Peat free compost can be made from several different base ingredients, such as wood fibre, composted bark, coir, 18

A new growing season is approaching and agai n many of us are likely to be co nfused about what exactly is the right compost to buy.

The more general the compost the more limited the results. The more specific the purchase of what you need it for will bring the best results. Composts that are too fine are prone to water logging, while those that are too coarse tend to need more frequent watering. A good seed or potting compost should have the right balance of nutrients to grow a range of plants during this stage of their development, whereas a multipurpose compost should be able to support plants at all growth stages.

and green compost. Multipurpose and all-purpose composts are claimed to be suitable for germinating seeds, small seedlings and plants in patio containers, so there's no need to buy different types of compost for different stages in a plant’s life. Multipurpose composts are often cheaper than specific-use composts. Generally multipurpose composts, especially peat-based composts, will do a good job but may not provide the very best results. Specific seed and potting composts are formulated to optimise plant growth by providing the right amount of nutrients to suit the plant at a particular stage in its life. They often contain additional ingredients to multipurpose composts, such as grit to aid drainage. Specific-use are more expensive than multipurpose composts.

The do's and don'ts of compost

THE DO'S • Do choose a specialist compost for the task in hand, this will ensure you create the optimum growing conditions. • Do check out your garden soil pH balance before you get planting, and depending on the results, you may need to mix in lime soil improver to get you started. • Do pot up your existing and new plants

in fresh compost each year to minimise pests and diseases being carried over. THE DONT'S • Don't sow seeds in standard compost for best results use a specialist seed compost that provides optimum root growth and contains plant food to help them develop. • Don’t forget that some acid loving plants such as azalea, camellia or rhododendron will require ericaceous compost with a lower pH.

Country Gardener Mark Hinsley

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

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Fonthill House, Tisbury, Wiltshire SP3 5SA

GARDEN Visits THE BEST GARDENS TO VISIT compiled by Vivienne Lewis

Spring is around the corner and time to start planning visits to gardens, especially those private gardens opening for charity. Here’s a selection of openings during March in the areas we cover, ranging from small town gardens to acres of woodland, with the delights of spring bulbs and burgeoning colour. We advise checking wherever possible before starting out on a journey as circumstances can force cancellations in private gardens.

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

‘Q’ 113 Bridport Road, Dorchester, Dorset DT1 2NH A modern cottage town garden divided into rooms and packed with bulbs from early snowdrops, shrubs, trees, climbers and herbaceous plants. Gazebo, statues, water, bonsai and topiary, more than 100 clematis, vegetable garden and fruit trees. On Mothering Sunday a small gift for each Mum. Open for the NGS: Sundays 11th March, 18th March, 25th March; also 8th April, 15th April, 22nd April, 13th May, 2pm-5pm. Admission £3, children free. Heather & Chris Robinson; telephone 01305 263088 or email

22 HOLT ROAD Poole, Dorset A ¾ acre walled garden for all seasons. Mediterranean courtyard garden and wisteria pergola, rill and bog garden, raised bed vegetable garden, shrubbery and rockery, and a waterfall cascading into a pebble beach. Open for the NGS: Sunday 18th March, also Sundays 15th April, 20th May, 17th June, 22nd July, 19th August, 2pm-5pm. Admission £3.50, children free. Contact Alan & Sylvia Lloyd on 01202 387509 or email

THE OLD VICARAGE East Orchard, Shaftesbury, Dorset SP7 0BA Award-winning wildlife friendly garden with swathes of crocus, primula, unusual snowdrops, many different daffodils and over 1,000 tulip bulbs, then herbaceous borders and wild flowers. Bubbling stream and swimming pond children can pond dip. Swing and tree platform overlooking Duncliffe woods. Open for the NGS: Sunday 18th March, also Friday 6th April, Friday 13th April, Wednesday 18th April, Friday 27th April, Sunday 13th May, Sunday 10th June, 2-5pm. Admission £4, children free. Contact Miss Tina Wright on 01747 811744 or email 20

Country Gardener

PILLEY HILL COTTAGE Pilley Hill, Lymington, Hampshire SO41 5QF Winding pathways in this cottage garden; dogwood, cornus and ghost bramble giving spring structure; gnarled fruit trees provide shelter for bulbs and wildflowers. Owner Steph Glen gives spring bulb propagation demonstrations at 3pm on each open day. Open for the NGS: Saturday 17th March, Sunday 18th March, also Saturday 14th April, Sunday 15th April, 2-5pm. Admission £3, children free. Contact Steph and Sandy Glen on 01590 677844 or email



Little Malvern, Worcestershire WR14 4JN

Tisbury, Wiltshire SP3 5SA Large woodland garden with daffodils, rhododendrons, azaleas, shrubs, bulbs, magnificent views and formal gardens extensively redeveloped under the direction of Tania Compton and Marie-Louise Agius. Open for the NGS: Sunday 18th March, 12pm-5pm. Admission £6, children free. The Lord Margadale of Islay. gardens

Ten acres attached to a former Benedictine Priory with magnificent views over the Severn valley, with garden rooms and terrace, a chain of lakes, wide variety of spring bulbs, flowering trees and shrubs, topiary hedge and fine trees. On 7th May, the Spring May Bank Holiday Monday, a flower festival in the Priory Church. Opening for NGS: Every Friday 9th March to 23rd March, 2pm-5pm). Admission £5, children free. Also Bank Holiday Monday 7th May, 2pm-5pm. Admission £7, child £1. For other opening times and information phone 01684 892988, email or visit

TORMARTON COURT Church Road, Tormarton, South Gloucestershire GL9 1HT 11 acres of formal and natural gardens in a stunning Cotswold setting with herbaceous, kitchen garden, Mediterranean garden, mound and natural pond. Extensive walled garden, spring glade and meadows with young and mature trees. Open for the NGS: Friday 23rd March, Friday 15th June (10am3.30pm). Admission £5, children free. Contact Noreen & Bruce Finnamore on 01454 218236



LOWER SHALFORD FARM Shalford Lane, Charlton Musgrove, Wincanton, Somerset BA9 8HE Work is in constant progress in this garden with extensive lawns and wooded surroundings, small winterbourne stream with several stone bridges, walled rose/parterre garden, hedged herbaceous garden and several ornamental ponds. Open for the NGS: Tuesday 13th March (10am-3pm), admission £4, children free. Also Saturday 12th May (10am-4pm). Contact Mrs Suki Posnett on 01963 34999 or email:

LINDEN RISE Chapel Lane, Combe Martin, Ilfracombe, Devon EX34 0HJ A new opening for the National Gardens Scheme, in an area of outstanding natural beauty with countryside and sea views, a 1½ acre garden with lots of early spring colour including a wide range of daffodils, with lawns, mature trees and shrubs, children’s play area, pergola, decorative ponds, small orchard and flower borders. Open for the NGS: Sunday 25th March, Sunday 15th July (2-5pm). Admission £4, children free.

TRUFFLES Church Lane, Bishop Sutton, Bristol, Somerset BS39 5UP A large garden with views, formal and wildlife planting linked with meandering paths, lots of sturdy seating, magical wooded valley, stream, snowdrops and spring bulbs, wildlife pond, flower meadows, flower beds, some sculpture, hens, kitchen garden. Open for the NGS: Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th April (1-5pm). Admission £4.50, children free.

EAST WORLINGTON HOUSE East Worlington, Crediton, Devon EX17 4TS There are thousands of crocuses to see in this two-acre garden which have spread over the years across into the churchyard, all set in a lovely position with views down the valley to the Little Dart river. Open for the NGS: Sunday 4th March, Sunday 11th March (1.30-5pm). Admission £4, children free. 22

Country Gardener



Nepcote Lane, Findon, Worthing, West Sussex BN14 0SR

Manor Farm, Condicote, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL54 1ES

Set in its own parkland and grounds with views towards Cissbury Ring and the sea, spectacular drifts of snowdrops and daffodils. Cedar trees and a holm oak hedge line the drive; pond, walled kitchen garden with plots let out to the local garden club and original L-shaped greenhouse. Open for the NGS: Saturday 10th March, 10am-4pm. Admission £4, children free. Telephone: 01903 899638 or email:

A new opening for the National Garden Scheme, the former home of Pamela Schwerdt and Sybille Kreutzberger, Vita Sackville-West’s gardeners. They brought some of the Sissinghurst magic to their third of an acre garden, now under new ownership and in March full of woodland plants, and carpets of fritillaries. Teas in the village hall. Open for the NGS: Sunday 18th March (and on Sunday 15th July) 2pm-5pm, admission £3, children free.

HEATHERCOMBE Manaton, Nr Bovey Tracey, Devon TQ13 9XE Secluded valley with streams tumbling through woods, ponds and lake; 30 acres to explore with daffodils, extensive bluebells complementing large displays of rhododendrons, cottage gardens, specimen trees, bog/fern gardens, orchard, wild flower meadow, sculptures. 2m mainly level sandy paths, seats. Open for the NGS: Sunday 25th March, 1.30pm-5.30pm. For full list of their NGS openings contact Claude & Margaret Pike, Woodlands Trust, on 01626 354404, email: gardens@pike. or visit the website at

THE LODGE Fletchersbridge, Bodmin, Cornwall PL30 4AN A three-acre riverside garden with spring bulbs and blossoming trees, magnolias and camellias, prunus and pieris, azaleas and rhododendrons, paulownias and viburnums, cornus and davidias, surrounding a Gothic lodge remodelled in 2016. Recently extended water garden with sculptures. Open for the NGS: Sundays 18th March, 15th April, Sunday 17th June, 1-6pm. Admission £4, children free.




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gardening events galore! It’s time to get your diary out! If you are someone who loves gardening, garden visits and garden events then you need to start planning for the best days out over the next few months. Every year, the variety of choices for gardening lovers of days out and visits gets more tempting. In 2018, there’s another fantastic mixture of new events, traditional favourites, gardens open, shows, festivals, horticultural shows, charity events and more. Here are just a few of the great events we are happy to highlight over the next few months.

Music and food set to highlight at Devon County Show The Devon County Show, which takes place from Thursday, 17th May until Saturday, 19th May at Westpoint, Exeter is the county’s largest annual event and a celebration of the best British livestock and West Country food and drink mixed with entertainment and a slice of rural life. The West Country crafts and garden pavilion brings together floral art, fun junior competitions, show gardens, horticultural exhibits, an allotment garden created by BBC Devon’s Andy Breare and crafts people offering unique products. This year there is a new area featuring music and street food vendors where visitors can savour the flavours while listening to musicians under canvas. To find out more and to buy tickets at a discount visit

Sculpture festival returns to Easter weekend Art mingles with nature again dramatically over the Easter weekend between Friday, 30th March and until Monday, 2nd April - 10am until 5pm, when the hugely popular sculpture festival returns to Bristol Botanic Garden. This year the Easter festival features a range of international sculptors working in bronze, ceramics, metal work, mosaic and glass. The exhibits will be displayed throughout the garden and glasshouses. Every year the festival features guest appearances of different artistic media and there will be innovations and new appearances in the 2018 line up. Adults £6. Free to Friends, university students, staff and children under 18. Bristol Botanic Garden Stoke Park Rd, Stoke Bishop, Bristol BS9 1JG

Honiton prepares to chalk up 128th show The Honiton & District Agricultural Association holds its 128th show on Thursday, 2nd August. The main ring will host acts including Bolddog Lings Freestyle Motocross Team, Honda’s official and the UK’s number one motorcycle display team. An exciting attraction is making a flying visit to Honiton – two aerobatic displays performed by Viper Aerobatics flying a beautiful Pitts aeroplane. The lower field incorporates all that is the countryside with hurdle making, ferret racing, a blacksmith’s guild, 100 vintage tractors, and the famous West of England Hound Show. There will be over 400 trade stands. Admission charges for 2018 are £14.50 for advance tickets. For further details call 01404 41794. Twitter @honitonshow1890.

Popular Boconoc Estate fair

Cornwall Garden Society Spring Flower Show 2018 With spectacular displays of camellias, magnolias, daffodils and rhododendrons in the competitive classes; dedicated marquees for artisan crafts and children’s activities; specialist nurseries, over 120 trade stands and inspiring show gardens, the Cornwall Garden Society’s Spring Flower Show is a popular event. Sponsored by Atkins Ferrie Wealth Management and staged within the Boconnoc Estate near Lostwithiel on Saturday, 7th and Sunday, 8th April, Cornwall’s celebration of spring is the South West’s first major horticultural showcase of the year. Visit or telephone 01726 879500.



Country Gardener


New Season Starts for Rare Plant Fairs

February opening for Nynehead Court for NGS

Rare Plant Fairs, held throughout the growing season from March to September, are now in their 24th season and have won a reputation for great gardening days out. The fairs are held in beautiful and prestigious gardens, making visits a really enjoyable experience for everyone, whether a novice or experienced gardener. The new season starts with their very popular event at The Bishop’s Palace, Wells, on Sunday, 11th. March There are 13 Fairs in 2018; as well as the well-supported events from previous years, they also have a brand new fair set in the Arts and Crafts gardens at Rodmarton Manor, near Tetbury, in June. The nurseries that attend the fairs are selected to ensure that they are genuine growers who produce most or all of the plants they sell. They are all happy to offer all the advice you need to select and grow the right plants for your garden. Please visit the website at for complete details of all the events, including a full list of the exhibitors attending

Cornwall Garden Society

SPRING FLOWER SHOW 2018 Sponsored by

Atkins Ferrie Wealth Management

Nynehead Court is participating in the NGS Open Gardens scheme on Sunday, 18th February, when visitors will see the grounds full of primroses and snowdrops. The grounds open 2pm to 4.30pm. Entrance is £6.50. The Charity Pamper Day on 17th March is in aid of the British Skin Foundation and will feature skincare and makeup techniques. An opportunity has arisen to become part of the Nynehead Court community and own a one-bedroom Mews property. Contact the manager for details., Nynehead Court, Nynehead, Wellington TA21 0BW Tel: 01823 662481

Axe Vale show ready again to show off the best in Devon The traditional Axe Vale Show held just outside Axminster on Saturday, 23rd and Sunday, 24th June expects to welcome 10,000 visitors over the weekend. Many stalls and marquees will be selling or demonstrating arts, crafts, flowers, plants, food, drink, antiques and vintage items. The popular show caters for all age groups. Axe Vale has a strong heritage of floral displays and the chance to buy plants, bushes and garden ornaments. Discounted tickets are available online at To apply for a stand, click on the exhibitors’ tab or you can e-mail Axe Vale Show, Axminster, East Devon EX13 5PJ

Boconnoc Estate near Lostwithiel

Saturday 7th April 10am to 5pm Sunday 8th April 10am to 4pm

Cornwall’s Celebration of Spring Competitive Classes | Artisan Craft Marquee | Specialist Nurseries Show Gardens | 120+ Trade Stands | Children’s Activities Book your tickets now via or 01726 879500

Axe Vale Show has become a gardener’s delight




Bowood House offers exclusive walled garden tours

Twenty two independent nurseries and seed growers from all over the South West will be at East Lambrook Manor Gardens on Saturday, 24th March for the annual Early Spring Plant Fair, organised in association with the Hardy Plant Society, Somerset Group. This popular plant fair takes place in the grounds of cottage gardening doyenne Margery Fish’s former Somerset home and is an opportunity to source unusual plants seldom found in garden centres. East Lambrook’s owner Mike Werkmeister comments, “We’ve made room for four more nurseries this year so there’s even more reason to come. The end of March is a wonderful time in the garden here with everything bursting into growth.” Hot soup, tea, coffee and cakes will be available in the Malthouse. The plant fair runs from 10am to 4pm with the £4 per head entry price also giving access to the cottage garden. For RHS and HPS members the reduced price of £3.50. East Lambrook Manor Gardens, Silver Street, East Lambrook, South Petherton TA13 5HH.

On selected dates throughout this year you can enjoy an exclusive guided tour of Lord and Lady Lansdowne’s Private Walled Garden, surrounding Bowood House in Wiltshire. The guide will lead guests around the four distinctly different one acre squares, including the formal gardens, glass houses, picking garden and a working kitchen garden. You can then explore the house and gardens at leisure, admiring the herbaceous border along the east terrace and the landscaped ‘Capability’ Brown parkland. Bowood House and Gardens, Derry Hill, Calne. SN11 0LZ. 01249 810961.

Alpine society show moves to new venue The Alpine Garden Society’s plant sale and show on Saturday, 24th February is now at a new venue - Pershore High School, Station Road, Pershore. Specialist nurseries will offer a range of alpines, woodland plants, dwarf shrubs and spring bulbs often difficult to find elsewhere. Experts will be on hand to answer questions about how to grow these wonderful plants, plus a range of gardening and plant books for sale. Open from 11am to 3.30pm. Tel: 01386 554790


23rd-24th June 2018 Trafalgar Way, Axminster A great weekend for all

Hill Close Gardens – an insight into Victorian style Hill Close Gardens are the only remaining set of Victorian detached gardens open to the public. You can discover their unique history and take a step back to 1896 to a point to where the gardens have been recreated. There are 16 individual plots overlooking Warwick racecourse and some have brick built summerhouses where you can shelter and find out about the plots previous owners. Many events take place throughout the year including ‘Midsummer Jazz in the Gardens’ by the Roy Forbes Quintet on Saturday, 23rd June. Visit the ‘green’ visitor centre that turns into a tearoom on weekends and bank holidays throughout summer. Tel. 01926 493339 28

∙ Fun Day Out – For all the family and all age groups ∙ Great Food and Drink – from local producers, sample and buy ∙ Great Entertainment – Relax and enjoy great acts and live music

∙ Show Opening Times 10am – 6pm (5.30pm Sunday) ∙ Many Stalls: toys, hobbies, flowers, plants, arts, crafts, antiques, vintage and more ∙ Demonstrations of local crafts ∙ Dog Show on Saturday 23rd

Support your local community! Online Ticket Sales available now or purchase at the gate

Country Gardener Charity number: 1130829

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

MASSIVE PLANT SALE! “Probably the largest plant sale in the West!” • Huge range of plants • Bargain Prices • Professional advice • Refreshments




Lord and Lady Lansdowne’s Private Walled Garden Tour On selected dates throughout the 2018 season you can enjoy an exclusive guided tour of the remarkable Private Walled Garden surrounding Bowood House. £34pp person (includes 2 course lunch)

FREE to enter

APRIL 28th & 29th

Prizes for Best Small, Medium & Large Garden & Allotment

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

Open to everyone who lives within 12 miles radius of Melplash Village Church

Free Entry

Over £2,500 raised last year for local charities or call 01308 423337

Sunday 11th March Digby Hall, Sherborne DT9 3AA

Saturday 28th April Minterne Gardens, nr. Dorchester DT2 7AU

Saturday 12th May Yarlington House, nr. Wincanton BA9 8DY

2018 Tour Dates Friday 20th April Friday 18th May Wednesday 6th June Friday 15th June Wednesday 4th July Friday 20th July Wednesday 8th August Friday 24th August

For more information or to book your tour, please call 01249 810961 or email Bowood House & Gardens Derry Hill, Calne SN11 0LZ

7055 - Bowood House - Advertising January 2018 PWG Country Garden Magazine Ad.indd 16/01/2018 1 10:40

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24/01/2018 16:44

Beautiful, educational and unique. Be inspired throughout the year

University of Bristol

Botanic Garden

2018 Festivals and Events‌

Easter Sculpture Festival 30 March – 2 April

Fascination of Plants Day 20 May National Garden Scheme Open Day 20 May Bee and Pollination Festival 1-2 September Guided tours available to garden clubs and societies

RHS Level 2 & 3 horticultural courses available Garden open Monday to Friday all year, plus Saturdays and Sundays from February to November. For admission charges please see website below University of Bristol Botanic Garden Stoke Park Road BS9 1JG Tel: 0117 428 2041 Email:

30 Country Gardener_17_orange.indd


Country Gardener

25/01/2018 17:53


Daffodils and spring flowers at popular Hartland Abbey Daffodil Day at Hartland Abbey on Sunday, 18th March from 11am to 4pm is a wonderful opportunity to put winter weather behind and visit at a reduced admission. Spring bulbs and beautiful flowering shrubs should be heralding the longed-for spring in this valley leading to the beach at Blackpool Mill. Hot pasties, ut Spectacular daffodils througho te light lunches, esta the Hartland cream teas and homemade cakes await the hungry and those who have enjoyed the three and a half miles of paths and walks. The house and exhibitions open from 12 to 3pm. Dogs are welcome and there’s a special rate for adults of £6. Hartland, Nr. Bideford EX39 6DT 01237441496/234


DEVON PLANT HERITAGE GROUP – DIVERSE AND PASSIONATE ABOUT PLANTS The Devon Group of Plant Heritage organises plant fairs across the county bringing a wide range of specialist nurseries together to offer interesting plants not easily found otherwise. It’s a great opportunity to browse tempting plants and speak to the growers who really know about them. Plants tend to sell quickly so it is a good idea to get there early for the best pickings! And perhaps while you are there you might consider joining Plant Heritage who work to conserve cultivated plants – their work best known through the National Plant Collections. The Devon group is the largest in the country and offers garden visits and talks as well as the possibility to get involved in conservation work on a small scale as a Plant Guardian or maybe in a bigger way as a National Collection holder, or just in propagating plants for sale at the plant fairs, perhaps?

Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens

THE FARINGDON COLLECTION One of Oxfordshire ’s best kept secrets

Pop-up Restaurant Dates:

Fine Dining

April 18th, May 16th June 13th, July 18th August 22nd & September 26th

Award winning Dorset chef Nick Holt, offers an exquisite seasonal lunch menu. Enjoy fine dining in the New Garden Pavilion, overlooking the West Lawn.

Lunches are served 12 - 3pm

Booking advisable .... email or call 07780 794124

menu online at Gardener If you like Country bsite we r ou ve you’ll lo www.countrygarden There’s much more to add to your Country Gardener experience when you visit our improved and regularly updated website.

Open 30 March - 30 September Contact: Info line 01367 240932 or website ww for opening times.

• New and exclusive on line features on gardening skills, garden visits and events • In depth profiles on local gardens

Nynehead Court NGS OPEN GARDENS Sunday 18th February 2pm - 4.30pm Entrance £6.50

CHARITY PAMPER DAY Saturday 17th March

Nynehead Court, Nynehead, Wellington TA21 0BW Tel: 01823 662481 Email: Visit our Facebook page for details of forthcoming events.


HILL CLOSE VICTORIAN GARDENS WARWICK Come and explore 16 unique restored Victorian gardens


Sunday 17th June 2018 2 - 6pm Visit beautiful private gardens, the Norman church and wild flower meadow, allotments, art exhibition. Enjoy cream teas, homemade cakes or ice creams and enjoy sensational views on a tractor ride.

Adults £5.00, Children free

Parking included. No dogs please

Open weekdays NovMarch: 11-4pm

Proceeds help support our church and village hall

‘Cream teas in a beautiful garden - this is England at its very best.’

A Very Victorian Easter Sat 31st March – Mon 2nd April Easter celebrations – Chocolate, Easter eggs and Easter cards...Victorian style A celebration of May Day and Springtime Sat 28th April Maypole dancing amongst spring flowers Midsummer Jazz in the gardens Sat 23rd June Roy Forbes Quintet Tickets £13.50 adult £11 cons

17•18•19 MAY

Agricultural Show

Thursday 2nd August 2018

Garden entry £4.50 Child £1.00 HCGT & RHS Free Tel. 01926 493339 Access by racecourse to Bread & Meat Close, Warwick CV34 6HF. 2 hrs free parking.

Acts Booked So Far... Bolddog Lings Freestyle Team, Viper Aerobatics Flying Display, Sheridan The Sheepdog, Pumpkin The Pony, The Sheep Show, Twistopher Punch & Judy, Grand Parade, Livestock, Horses, Vintage Tractors, Poultry & Dog Shows, Over 400 Trade Stands.

Please apply for Trade, Horse and Livestock Schedules Secretary: Marcelle Connor, Bank House, 66a High Street, Honiton, Devon, EX14 1PS

Devon Plant Fairs 2018 Support the conservation of garden plants while enjoying a wide range of specialist West Country nurseries selling popular, rare and unusual plants.

Sunday March 18th Tavistock, Bedford Square 10am-3pm Sunday April 8th South Molton Pannier Market 10am-3pm Sunday April 15th Plant Fair at Burrow Farm 10am-4pm Sunday April 22nd Totnes Civic Hall 10am-2pm Saturday & Sunday May 12th/13th RHS Rosemoor, Great Torrington 10am-3pm Saturday May 19th Delamore House, Cornwood, Ivybridge, PL21 9QT 10am-4pm Sunday July 8th South Molton Pannier Market 10am-3pm Sunday September 16th Tavistock Pannier Market 10am-3pm

Sunday September 23rd RHS Rosemoor, Great Torrington 10am-3pm More details contact Caroline Stone on 01566 785706 32



Open every day April-Oct: 11am-5pm with tearoom Sat, Sun and Bank Hol Mon


Country Gardener


THE DELIGHTS OF ELKSTONE VILLAGE AND ITS OPEN GARDENS One of the high summer highlights of the year in the Cotswolds is Elkstone Open Gardens day, organised and supported by villagers to raise funds for upkeep of the church and village hall. On Sunday, 17th June 2018 from 2pm to 6pm you can explore a very special Cotswold village. There’s a selection of beautiful gardens, cream teas, cakes and an art exhibition by local artists. The Norman church, the highest church in Gloucestershire, will be open and decorated. More details on

Melplash keeps tradition of allotment shows alive

Fine Dining at Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens

The tradition of allotment shows is alive at Melplash, just outside of Bridport. The Melplash Agricultural Society’s annual Garden and Allotment Competition is one of the most prestigious garden events in West Dorset with classes for small, medium and large gardens and allotments. Green fingered residents within a 12 miles radius of Melplash Village Church, not employing a gardener for more than eight hours per week, can enter. The team of judges will visit the gardens entered on Tuesday, 19th and Wednesday 20th June. The prizes are awarded at the Melplash Agricultural Show which takes place in Bridport DT6 4EG on Thursday, 23rd August. Entry is free, and the application form is available from or can be collected from the show office at 23, South Street, Bridport DT6 3NT. 01308 423337.

The popular Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens have teamed up with award winning Dorset chef Nick Holt, to host a series of monthly fine dining lunch experiences. From April to September, a pop up restaurant will operate from 12 noon to 3pm, in the stunning new Garden Pavilion, overlooking the West Lawn. Nick is passionate about using only the freshest, seasonal ingredients and will create exquisite lunch experiences at Abbotsbury this season. The pop up restaurant dates are: Wednesdays 18th April, 16th May, 13th June, 18th July, August 22nd and 26th September. Bookings direct with Nick’s team on 07780 794124 /



For the latest garden news, events & advice - don't miss


Nurseries open for popular giant plant sale West Kington Nurseries opens to welcome visitors to another giant plant sale weekend in support of local charities. The specialist herbaceous and alpine grower, based near Chippenham, open to this popular annual spring sale on Saturday, April 28th from 9am to 5pm and Sunday, 29th, 10am to 4pm. There will be a selection of perennials and shrubs, plus 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 on hand to answer any plant-related enquiries. Entrance and parking at the event is free. Dogs on leads welcome. West Kington Nurseries, West Kington, Nr Chippenham, Wiltshire. 01249 782822.

Mother’s Day treat at Digby Hall


Come and enjoy our beautiful historic daffodils, spring shrubs, bulbs and wildflower walks to the beach. * Dogs really welcome * * Delicious light lunches & cream teas * * Special rate: Adults £6 * 2018 SEASON: Sunday 25th March - Sunday 30th September Sunday to Thursday 11am - 5pm (House 2pm - last adm. 4pm)

For all information and events see Hartland, Nr. Bideford EX39 6DT 01237441496/234

A perfect treat for Mother’s Day is the Specialist Charity Plant Fair in the Digby Hall, Sherborne on Sunday, 11th March. Admission is free with donations to Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline. The hall will be full of nurseries selling everything from potted bulbs to roses and the growers on hand to offer advice. Easy parking and refreshments will be available. Along with the plant fairs at Yarlington House and Mapperton Gardens, the organisers have added a new date to schedule. Minterne Gardens on Saturday, 28th April will be an ideal venue for a plant fair; with the added bonus of the Himalayan Valley in full spring glory of magnolias and rhododendrons. Details and a list of nurseries at or ring 01460 242620.


How to pep up your garden

ready for spring

ers, but as spring e caused havoc for gardens and garden hav y uar Jan out ugh thro ons diti con The wintry to life is the time to bring your garden back weather starts to make a comeback, now It is no secret the turmoil of frosty and windy weather often leaves gardens worse for wear, dehydrated, lacking nutrients and in need of some help getting back into shape, so you need to plan for the weather warming up even if it is by a few degrees, this is a great chance to get on with planting and weeding.

Get rid of the weeds If your garden has been a little neglected, the first step is to clean up and tidy. Weeds should be a priority. The line between having few weeds and being overwhelmed with them is remarkably fine. In a garden with few weeds, you can maintain beds and borders easily and quickly, with a little-andoften approach. In the second case, it’s a major job to keep your plot under control. So start early. Get up all the deep-rooted weeds and use early spring mulch as a way to suppress the weeds before they have a chance to get established.

Put in a bird bath

Two easy fixes – put in a bird bath and paint your furniture 34

Give garden birds a place to drink and bathe with a freestanding bird bath. Place it where you can see the action from inside the house. Water is essential in a bird-friendly garden, and a fresh, clean bird bath can attract birds that won’t visit feeders and aren’t interested in bird houses.. Country Gardener

Birds won’t use a bath they can’t see, so choose a location that offers decent views for watching birds and is easily visible to birds in other parts of the garden so they will notice its availability.

Paint wooden furniture and pots Spruce up tired wooden benches and patio furniture with a lick of paint. Choose a product with wood preservative to protect the timber. Revamp your patio pots with some terracotta paint. Clean the pot and allow it to dry, then paint directly onto it. Create colour contrasts, stencils and freehand paint splatters.

Install solar lights These cheap and easy lights are perfect for lighting a garden path at night or in decorative, multi-coloured versions to make your balcony look bright and welcoming. They charge up during the day (so make sure they have an uninterrupted view of the sky rather than in the shade), and release their pent-up energy as light after dusk. The bigger the solar panel, the brighter the light, obviously. Batteries in solar lights generally last a couple of years – keeping them clean

is important as residue on the solar panel can affect charging. And, of course, they pick up all their power for free from the sun.

Sow sunflower seeds

that improve its aeration and porosity. Pick up a soil test kit from your local garden centre to determine the plot’s pH balance. After a wet and cold winter, the nutrients in your garden’s soil have most likely been washed away, leaving it in poor condition and dried out. Adding organic material such as manure, compost or fertiliser will increase the wellbeing of soil. This then lays down a good solid foundation to work on and to nurture all plants with as they start to grow.

Three stunning spring plants Cover any bare fences quickly with sunflowers as the fast-growing height makes a great screen. You can also sow sunflower seeds indoors first. Fill individual pots with seed compost and sow the seeds 12mm deep on their sides. Water well and keep somewhere warm until they germinate. You can sow direct into the soil from April onwards.

Add a water butt

Here’s three plants which will add stunning spring colour into your garden- a bounty of hues morning, noon and night.

Coleus With a variety of leaf sizes and shapes, plus coloured foliage in breathtaking combinations of green, yellow, pink, red, purple and maroon, coleus is the perfect way to add colour to otherwise drab corners of your garden. Coleus thrives in the shade. In fertile, well-draining soil they can grow surprisingly fast.



Save time and money on watering the garden. Install a water butt to collect rainwater – no more filling up the watering can from the kitchen tap. So do a favour for your plants, the environment and even your wallet by collecting, storing and recycling rainwater. Rainwater is not only free, it’s also better for your garden than hard mains water as it won’t leave limescale deposits or increase the alkalinity of the soil. This is particularly important if you want to grow acid-loving plants like blueberries and heathers. Rainwater can also be used for various cleaning jobs within your garden as well as for watering the plants. The best way to collect it is in a water butt connected to a downpipe.

Tend to your soil If last year’s bumper crop has depleted your soil’s nutrient content, you’ll need to amend it before planting again. The process of amending soil involves adding materials in order to augment or modify the soil’s physical characteristics. Sandy soils, for example, need extra that increase its water and nutrient holding capacity, while clay soils need extras

Sweet, simple petunias are a garden classic. Blooms can be solid colours, such as bubblegum pink or vivacious fuchsia. This showstopper can also feature a solid centre with a winterwhite rim. Petunias adore full sun, so plant them where they can drink up the rays for most of the day.

Petunia Wall

Calibrachoa Providing hundreds of little bell-like blooms turned to the sky, calibrachoa is a low-maintenance plant that packs a colourful punch. They are available in virtually every hue of the rainbow, from a vibrant orange to fire engine red. Calibrachoa

Add mulch everywhere you can Besides fertilisers and organic materials, inserting one to three inches of mulch to your flower beds and garden will help prevent diseases and weeds. It also locks in moisture. Keep mulch a few inches from plant stems to avoid rotting roots.


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


Country Gardener


The year of

No dig? The ‘No Dig' method of gardening has been practiced forever, yet has never really caught on, however some National Trust gardens such Barrington Court and Knightshayes are now adopting the system - so is it worth a try?

Its time to get the vegetable plots ready for sowing in springjust a few weeks away. So it’s time to start digging – right? Surely you'll need to dig, if only to get rid of the weeds and set the plot off onto a good footing? Well, no actually. There is an easier way that requires significantly less hard graft – just plenty of well-rotted organic matter. No-dig gardening is worth trying. The main reason you'd think it necessary to dig a new growing bed is to get rid of the weeds that have taken hold during the winter months –left free and unattended to establish themselves weeds that you're sure to be faced with. But rather than dig them up, one option is to smother them. It’s a system which has become known as ‘No Dig’ and although it requires a bit of courage and it is often essential for less-fit gardeners, or those with heavy, intractable soils. Annual weeds and grasses are short-lived and have few reserves. Deprive them of light and they'll soon throw in the towel. Perennial weeds may be tenacious and seemingly unconquerable, but even they can be snuffed out if smothered for long enough. When covered and denied light, most annuals will give up the ghost after two to three months, while perennial weeds such as couch grass or bindweed may take up to a year. The point is this – it's only a matter of time before your weeds are extinguished and there's no need to lift so much as a fork! You need firstly to establish your no-dig bed and to look at what's growing there. If you're lucky enough to have mainly annual weeds then the job is simplicity itself. Pull out the perennial weeds that exist, nettles, docks and so on then cover the entire growing area with a thick layer of organic matter, about four inches deep, simply piled right on top of those weeds and grass. The organic matter can be anything that's wellrotted and available in quantity: garden compost, bought-in compost or very well-rotted horse

A thick layer of organic compost needs to be four inches deep

manure would work equally well. It needs to be laid thick in order to give the weeds it smothers little chance of growing through and reinvigorating themselves. If you are worried about weeds reaching the surface then extra assurance can be had from laying cardboard over the weeds before applying your organic matter. Make sure the cardboard is the sturdy brown stuff used for transporting goods and generously overlap the sheets to make the base 'watertight'. Give it a water then shovel on your organic compost. Once your beds – established using either method – are properly underway you can, if you wish, use traditional digging techniques to maintain them. The only trouble with this approach is that it risks bringing up fresh weed seeds from further down in the soil profile. It's better simply to top up your beds between crops with an additional layer of compost about an inch deep or more. That way worms can do all the hard graft for you as they burrow up to the surface to feed on the fresh organic matter that's been deposited. Does it work? Charles Dowling who has been using the method for over 13 years says: ”Whenever soil is dug, loosened or turned over, it recovers from the disruption by recovering with weed growth – both from roots of perennials and seeds of annuals. By contrast when left uncultivated it has less need to re-cover and therefore grows less weeds." All this should encourage you to think twice before reaching for the spade. Just because this no-dig method is so understatedly simple, doesn't mean it won't work!

No Dig Organic Home and Garden, Grow, Cook, Use and Store Your Harvest by Charles Dowling and Stephanie Hafferty

Winner of the Garden Media Guild (UK) Practical Book of the Year Award for 2017 £13.35 Available on Amazon 37



in the garden

The next few weeks will see the beginning of the busy season, the job list lengthening with the daylight. It can be a month of contrasts, too, with wind and frost set to challenge the first of spring growth. So it may still be a time for planning, but there’s winter work to do to make way for the tasks that are targeted at the growing season.


Water pear trees well when buds burs

Still time to plant pears

Prune spring flowering clematis It is time to prune those clematis that flower in May and June (known as group 2) and those that flower in late summer (group 3). In other words spring blooming clematis flower on last year’s growth. Prune them back as soon as they finish blooming in the spring and they will have the whole season to put on new growth and set buds for next year. Growing clematis is fairly easy. But pruning tends to instill fear in the stoutest of gardeners. This fear is unwarranted since pruning clematis simply breaks down to a question of when your clematis blooms. We prune clematis vines to encourage new growth, which results in more flowers. No matter which pruning category your clematis plants fall into, flowering will diminish on all clematis vines without pruning. Left unpruned the new growth is confined to the tops or ends of the vines and that is where your flowers will be. Group 2 flower on short new growths arising from older wood, so shorten last year’s growth back to a pair of healthy buds. This will stimulate side shoots. They can be cut back almost to the ground.

There is still time to plant pears. Plan to plant at least two varieties of trees, as they will need to be cross-pollinated to produce fruit. Make sure the varieties are compatible with each other. The ideal planting time for container-grown trees is either autumn or spring. Bare-root trees can be planted in February and March whenever the weather is clement. Plant in any fertile, well-drained soil in full sun in a place with good air circulation in the winter or early spring. The tip with pears is to water them in dry spells from the moment the flower buds burst until six weeks after blossoming. Gently tip one bucket of water on each pear tree every day if needed. If your soil is thin, cordons and espaliers are your best option. Always thin your fruit and restrict each tree to ten pounds of top quality fruit.

Mulch your borders Now is the perfect time to mulch your borders, as long as the soil is wet. Mulch acts as a barrier against weeds, can provide nutrients, Always leave a gap around the stem of plants keeps the soil moist and insulates roots from the cold. Before you start, make sure you have thoroughly weeded the bed and that you have sufficient mulching material – this could be leaf mould, compost, well-rotted manure or bark chippings. Always leave a gap around the stem of plants. The most effective way of improving the soil in established borders is to mulch the surface with a three cm-layer of organic matter, such as garden compost. It will also help to suppress weeds and trap moisture in the soil. If your heap doesn’t produce enough compost to mulch the whole garden, it’s worth contacting your local council to see if it’s possible to buy the compost that’s made from the green-waste collections. Mushroom compost (though not for acid-loving plants, as it contains chalk) and composted bark make good alternatives. 38

Country Gardener

Early control of slugs and snails Now that spring is not too far off, the temperature should be starting to creep upwards. But the lush new growth that this encourages is irresistible to slugs and snails, so be sure to take some controls now. Organic slug pellets based on ferric phosphate are just as effective as ones based on meth aldehyde. Biological controls use microscopic nematodes which are natural predators of slugs. You can either buy empty packets with a voucher inside at the garden centre or buy them from specialist companies via mail order. They need a minimum soil temperature of 5C so the company will only send them out when conditions are suitable.

Plant early potatoes

Make my dahlia! If you have overwintered dahlias inside, check that the tubers are hydrated and manure the ground that will take them next month. If the tubers are tired, pot up and start off in a glasshouse or frame with the aim of propagating from the first new growth. Cuttings are incredibly easy if taken when the shoots are just a few inches long, and with warmth they will be rooted and ready to plant out when the ground is frost-free. Re-pot pelargoniums and fuchsias that were overwintered and gently up the watering to promote new shoots. Pot up begonias and lilies, and summerflowering bulbs such as gladiolus.

WHEN CAN YOU START TO SOW SEEDS? As soon as the soil reaches 6C you can start to sow directly outside. Sweet peas and broad beans can be sown first, and though the first of the salad can go in now you get better results if you warm the ground first with plastic or cloches. Early sowings of mustard, rocket and cutand-come-again salad are some of the most delicious mouthfuls of the year, so seize the moment if it looks like the weather is with us and the month is kind.

While most varieties of potato are planted in April, earlies, such as ‘Rocket’, ‘Abbot’, 'Arran Pilot' and ‘Swift’ should be put in during March. They should be ready to harvest in about ten weeks from the planting date. It is a good idea to ’chit’ before planting. If you’re planning to grow them in pots, use one that’s at least 25cm in diameter and half fill it with composts for containers. Bury the potato just below the compost surface. As shoots grow, cover with more compost until the pot is full. Cover the young plants with garden fleece if frosts are forecast. Make sure you water the pot regularly so the compost is moist but not wet. If the leaves start to turn yellow in June, feed regularly with a tomato feed. By late June or early July, your potatoes should be OK to harvest. Check they're ready by putting your hand into the pot and gently feeling for the tubers. If they feel big enough, tip out the contents of the pot; otherwise leave them to continue growing.

Try potato growing kits on your patio

Towards the end of the month plant your chitted early potatoes outside in the ground. If you don't have enough space for growing potatoes on your plot, why not try potato growing kits for your patio. 39

Top ten jobs for the next few weeks 1. Protect new spring shoots from slugs 2. Lift and divide perennials 3. Plant shallots, onion sets and early potatoes 4. Plant summer flowering bulbs 5. Top dress containers and pots with fresh compost 6. Prunce bush and climbing roses

7. Hoe and mulch weeds to keep them under control early in the season 8. Cut back dogwood and willow for colourful winter stems later this year 9. Give a first high cut to lawns on dry days 10. Start to sow first vegetable seeds in greenhouse borders or under cloches

IN THE VEGETABLE GARDEN If you've grown green manures over the winter, now is the time to dig them in whilst their stems are still soft. Sow early Broad beans ‘The Sutton’,’ De Monica’ and early peas ‘Twinkle’, Avola’ in seed trays of compost, just pushing the seeds into the compost, to transplant later If the soil is workable, dig in a 5cm (or more) layer of compost, well-rotted manure or green waste into your beds to prepare for the growing season ahead. Prepare vegetable seed beds by removing all weeds and forking in plenty of compost. Cover prepared soil with sheets of black plastic to keep it drier and warmer in preparation for planting.

PLUS... • Hold off from using your topiary skills to clip back or trim hedges and bushes for as long as possible – this means that birds can continue to nest safely and in peace. • Use the grass clippings and prunings from your other March garden activities to boost the contents of your compost bins. Ideally, have at least two bins on the go so that you can be using the contents of one to mulch and fertilise your soil, while the other, newer one breaks down into compost.

Find room for some asparagus Don't let another season go past without growing asparagus beds. Plant onion, shallot and garlic sets provided the soil isn't frozen or waterlogged. Alternatively pot up sets into individual pots for transplanting outdoors later on. Start to direct sow vegetable seeds such as carrots, radishes and lettuce in greenhouse borders or under cloches.

Things to do in the greenhouse • Start beogonia and gloxinia tubers by planting them close to one another in shallow pots or boxes • Sow cucumber seeds in three inch pots, exclude any light until seeds have germinated. • Sow bedding plant seeds such as lobelia's in the second half of the month, at a temperature of 16°C 40

Country Gardener

• Material suitable for composting should be dry in the main – vegetable and kitchen waste, weeds, small prunings, grass cuttings, some shredded paper and cardboard – with no meat, fish or cooked food to attract vermin. Put it into the bin in layers, and turn it all regularly. • The compost is ready to use when the mixture turns brown and crumbles well. If your bin has a tap at the bottom, you can drain off the liquid that will accumulate over time, and use it as a liquid feed.

The joys of a

front garden

One of the big gardening themes of 2018 will be to urge homeowners to do more with their front gardens. Grenville Sheringham has already started his project

Having recently moved to a 1960’s bungalow, I am beginning to appreciate the pleasures of a front garden. Our old Victorian cottage fronted straight on to a quiet rural lane, so there was no chance to show off our horticultural skills. Now we have an expanse to play with. When we moved in, most of the front garden was laid down to tired old gravel interspersed with paving slabs and the obligatory concrete bird bath in the middle. It was fronted by a crumbling old screen block wall which wobbled worryingly if you pushed against it. Not a flower in sight, unless you counted the dandelions and docks that had managed to force their way through the gravel. Once we had cleared away all the gravel, slabs and bricks, we were pleased to discover that the underlying soil still had a reasonable level of basic nutrients and a workable texture. After applying a few tons of topsoil and laying the main area to lawn, we were ready to impress neighbours and passers-by, who were already taking an active interest in our efforts! With all the landscaping now in place, we hastily planted some spring bulbs and bedding plants, and got some sweet peas and other annuals going in the greenhouse. A mail order mix of perennials and a few small shrubs and we were ready to confront the world of passing dog walkers and leisure strollers. The thing about a front garden is that it is your link with the outside world. However much loving care and attention you give to your back garden, it will only ever be seen and enjoyed by you and those you invite into your house, whereas the front garden is seen by every passer-by. Neighbours enquired about our latest plantings, and peered over to glimpse the early daffodils and hyacinths in flower.

Now we had something to live up to, as we bragged about how we had carefully planned a season of joyful colour (not strictly true but the intention was there). As the spring bulbs gave way to the geraniums and marigolds, and the first perennials provided a burst of colour, it was tempting to sometimes linger over the weeding and watering so you can point out some of the more unusual flowers you have grown for years but never before shared with a wider public. And then came the sweet peas, clambering all over the fence and spilling their blooms and delicious scent towards the pavement, and yes, we were happy to cut bunches to share with neighbours. Even the lawn became a source of interest. I have never been a lawn person, but I found myself checking for weeds or any sign of deterioration of that lush green sward, and enjoyed the approving comments from neighbours and visitors. I began to understand that sense of pride people must feel when they open their gardens to the public. Somehow a garden shared is a garden enriched by the interest and pleasure shown by others. Now as we look back on our first successful year of frontgardening, we are considering ideas for an even better show this year. Maybe introduce a few special features for year-round interest, like the olive tree that has been sitting in its pot on the patio since we moved. We are even thinking of returning the concrete bird bath to its rightful position centre stage.



Country Gardener

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


Take care when buying topsoil Many gardens need topsoil if the existing soil is poor, damaged or if the space in your garden has no natural soil, such as a courtyard or patio garden. Many gardens have poor soil, such as those found behind new build homes where the natural topsoil has been stripped away during the construction process. Topsoil can be used to cover the ground, to create new beds, borders or to provide a base for turf laying or sowing grass seed. In paved gardens where there is no access to soil, topsoil can be used in raised beds. Topsoil is generally available to buy in three different grades: premium, general-purpose grade and economy grade. • Premium grade: This can be expensive but should not bring in weed seeds. High in fertility, this loamy soil has good structure and is commonly used to build up flower borders or create new beds, while nurseries use it in compost mixes for container grown plants. • General-purpose grade: This can be bought in differing screen size grades. Also good for making new beds or borders, or as a base for sowing lawns. Coarser grades are

There are three different classifications for topsoil

particularly useful for turf laying while finer grades are good for top dressing lawns. • Economy grade: This tends to be supplied ‘as dug’ (unscreened) and is commonly used to build up areas where volume rather than quality is required. You can buy topsoil from garden centres in small bags, or you can buy it in bulk from suppliers, which is much more economical. The RHS recommends that you try to inspect topsoil before buying, or at least ask to be sent a sample, as the quality can vary considerably. An inspection will let you see whether there are any roots in the soil, or other contaminants such as glass or large stones. Your chosen supplier should be able to provide you with assurances that their topsoil meets British Standards.

T IME T O GET GROW ING ON YOUR W INDOWSILL Fashionable and practical - growing herbs on windowsills


Growing vegetable and herbs on windowsills is now very fashionable. It provides a practical option for those with little or no garden and the scope of what you can grow is perhaps larger than you might imagine. Choose windowsills which get plenty of sun – five hours a day or more in the summer and the wider the sill the better as you’ll be able to get containers on it. And if it catches the rain then all the better. Don’t be too ambitious as plants hate being crowded and will grow weak and small if they haven’t got enough space. Containers need to be at least 15cms wide for something like basil while a couple of beans, a handful or carrots or a scattering of salad leaves would suit a 25 cms pot. Choose the deepest pots you can. The deeper your windowsill the greater of variety of vegetables you can grow.

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Camellias provide an early and late season delight The beauty of camellias is that these evergreen woodland shrubs bloom when little else is in flower, between autumn and late spring. Most spring-flowering camellias prefer neutral to acid soil (between pH 7 and pH 5) so those on chalky or alkaline soil will struggle. The leaves will become yellow in these conditions so – if you haven’t seen camellias growing in gardens near you, it probably means that they don’t thrive in your area.

Don’t let rosemary bushes become ‘leggy’

Keeping rosemary in order One of the more common sights in a herb garden is a rosemary bush out of control. It is certainly true that rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) can form a substantial shrub quite quickly. Unpruned plants can become leggy and branches may split away from the trunk. For a bushy plant carrying more flowers, reduce new shoots by half their length after spring flowering. Rosemaries are not the longest living plants, often declining in vigour after ten years or so controlling them is important if you are to get the best from the herb.

Early spring action rose problems There’s a new season to look forward to when it comes to roses but again growers will be concerned about the range of diseases which can make growing roses stressful. Blackspot, powdery mildew and rust are often encountered on roses and dealing with them needs planning and diligence especially right at the start of a new gardening year. Rose cultivars differ in their resistance to diseases but unfortunately the fungi that causes problems are diverse and new strains can arise rapidly. Make an early season check on the health of the plants and consider replacing those which have become diseased. A tidy up and prune before bud burst can reduce the threat of infection. Pruning out infected branches in spring slows their development. It may be necessary to use an organic fungicide. The best time to spray may not be the same for all your roses as different cultivars differ in the diseases they suffer from. Target the most important diseases in each cultivar one by one.

However, do not despair because camellias make excellent long-term plants for containers as long as you use a loam-based acid compost which will hold moisture, such as John Innes Ericaceous. The best time to plant them is spring, when you can see the flowers, or in autumn. If you bought one in winter, keep it sheltered and plant it in spring. They need a well-drained position and they will die in water-logged ground due to the lack of oxygen in the soil. They like warm, not hot summers, with plenty of humidity and this is why they do so well in the South West. Choose a large rugged pot, terracotta, wood or stone, and part fill with ericaceous compost and then add your plant and back fill so that the level of the pot is level with the soil. Water well, preferably with water taken from a water butt. If you do use tap water, which tends to be alkaline, allow it to stand for a morning first. Re-pot every other year into fresh potting compost. In the intervening years remove the top 5cm (2in) of compost and add fresh compost.



Should you buy worms to help your compost? It can be disheartening if your compost is lacking a healthy population of worms and breaking down too slowly. So should you add worms to help things along? Compost heaps and bins in direct contact with the soil should attract worms from their surroundings. If not then here’s what might be the problem. Is it warm enough? In cold spells worms retreat to warmer and Worms will dramatically accelerate the decomposing process deeper soil. Is it moist enough? Compost bins with a lid need be left open to allow in rain or moisture needs to be added by watering. However be careful avoid making the compost too wet as worms will abandon over-soggy compost. Is there enough for them to eat? If the compost is fully rotted, worms tend to move elsewhere as they tend to live in fresher areas where the more nutritious material is available. When and how to add worms Wormeries raised off the ground and those housed indoors need worms to be added. As long as the wormery is managed properly this should be a once only job. Worms can be bought mostly mail order to add to compost heaps but they are not cheap. It may be necessary however to re-ignite the happenings in your compost.

T IME T O START THINKING ABOUT STRAWBERRIES From planting to picking, strawberries are the fastest fruit you can grow. If you started a new bed last autumn, it should crop well this summer, but it’s not too late to put in pot-grown plants this spring, as soon as they appear on sale. To extend the picking season to its maximum, grow one row each of early, mid-season and late-cropping varieties. The same strawberry plants will fruit for four seasons before they need replacing. Strawberries need rich, fertile, well-drained soil in a sunny situation. Prepare the soil well; fork in well-rotted organic matter and a handful of general-purpose fertiliser, such as blood, fish Time to start dreaming of June strawberries and bonemeal, per square yard/metre. Plant in rows, spacing plants 18 inches apart, with a path two to three feet wide between rows to allow easy access for cultivation and picking. March marks the start of the growing season, so it will soon be the time to weed strawberry beds carefully and repeat regularly (weeds encourage pests and disease, as well as competing for moisture and nutrients). Avoid dislodging the plants, as they are shallow-rooted. Avoid watering after flowering if possible, since damp conditions will encourage grey mould and rotten fruit. If a dry spell makes watering essential, do it first thing in the morning so that foliage and developing fruit dry off quickly. As soon as the fruits start swelling, cover the beds with netting, raised up on wire hoops and well pegged down round the sides, to protect the crop from birds – don’t wait until the berries start ripening. 44

Country Gardener

Could burning bracken answer the wood burning problem Creating a biomass fuel from a nuisance shrub provides a better environment and is great for gardeners When it’s cold and the days are still short, there’s nothing like an evening by the fire to lift your mood. But as the debate continues as to whether burning wood is bad for the environment, is it possible to stay cosy with a clean conscience? Part of the problem arises out of burning wood that’s wet. Wet wood makes your fire work at a lower temperature, meaning less fuel is fully burnt and more escapes as soot – a common cause of air pollution. To help, there’s already a certification scheme in place to identify and promote dried wood, but the team at Somersetbased Brackenburn think they can do even better. The clue’s in the name: by burning bracken. Country Gardener spoke to one of Brackenburn’s directors, Barry Smith to find out more. Q: Why is burning bracken better than burning wood? A: The moisture content of our ‘Brackettes’ is just 14 per-cent or less. To display a ‘Ready to Burn’ certification mark from Woodsure, the UK’s woodfuel accreditation scheme, suppliers must prove that the moisture content of their product is no more than 20 per-cent. This means that up to a fifth of what you’re paying for is water – and possibly more if the wood isn’t marked as ‘Ready to Burn’. The process we use to dry and compress the bracken after it’s been harvested reduces the moisture content so effectively that our ‘Brackettes’ burn hotter and longer than oak, producing less soot in the process. Q: Where did the idea come from? A: During a conversation with Ian Reid, a farmer who was composting bracken, the senior warden of the Mendip Hills suggested it might be good for burning. He’d known bracken to be used as animal bedding, and had a hunch it would burn well too. After all, landowners often burnt bracken off in the autumn, but burning it on the hills is bad for wildlife.

After a discussion with some local minds at the Plume of Feathers in Rickford, Brackenburn was born –the idea of creating a biomass fuel from a nuisance shrub became very appealing. Thanks to backing from Centrica, the West of England Growth Fund and the team’s own investment, we’ve been able to grow our business and we now sell our ‘Brackettes’ all over the country. Q: What will I be left with after burning? A: Burning bracken is great news for gardeners. The residue from burning ‘Brackettes’ contains two and a half times as much potash as the ash from burning wood. It’s rich in compounds of potassium that have been used for centuries as a natural fertiliser. Q: Is burning bracken sustainable? A: Yes. Bracken is a nuisance shrub that covers 2.5 million acres of the UK, an area as big as London and the South East. Left unchecked, it would encroach on the landscape by as much as 3% a year. By regularly harvesting bracken, we’re increasing the biodiversity of the land, allowing all types of flora and fauna to flourish. Once we’ve harvested it, the bracken does grow back, but in a much more managed way. A 10kg recyclable bag contains ten ‘Brackettes’ and should be stored in a dry place. Recommended retail price: £7.49. Typical retail price: £6.00 £6.50. Find your local stockist at: or call 01934 310513 to buy direct

The debate

Most fireplaces, w ood-burning stov es and other appliances that us e wood as fuel cr eate more air pollution than heaters and stoves that use other fuels. Firepla ces and wood stov es may leak unhealthy amount s of smoke into liv ing spaces, whether it is visib le to residents or not.



OLDIES The delicate beauty of older variants of narcissus, long overlooked, is back in fashion as more gardeners celebrate spring with heritage daffodils

They are a symbol of spring and perhaps the best flower to sum up our love of gardening. For some, daffodils are all about big and bold strong varieties but increasingly we have developed a love affair with the more beguiling and delicate heritage varieties where no two flowers are the same, with a looser form as their slightly twisted petals sway in the breeze. Many enthusiastic growers believe the desire for perfection has gone too far in our love of daffodils. Modern hybrids are anything but subtle and we need a return to more delicacy with heritage varieties. Up until the Edwardian era daffodils were at their best. Then in 1890 the RHS held its first daffodil shows and it heralded the arrival of bolder colours, stiff upright stems and straight nosed trumpets. Some would say that was the start of the split in gardeners’ preferences- some wanting the delicate, less perfect varieties and others keen to aim for perfectly formed consistently virile daffodils. Of the 27,000 varieties of daffodils in existence, most of which have been bred in Britain, only a small proportion are still grown commercially. While some older varieties, such as 'King Alfred' (1899), have always been available, most long ago dropped off availability lists.

‘The desire for per fect ion has gone too far in our love of daf fodils. Moder n hybrids are anything but subtle and we need a return to more delicacy wit h heritage var ieties’ 46

Some forgotten varieties still sprout out of hedgerows in Cornwall and Devon, the remnants of cut-flower enterprises that once carpeted fields and orchards with yellow and provided temporary employment for thousands of workers every spring. Others are still to be found in old gardens, their names long since lost. There is today, however, a growing interest in rediscovering the older varieties, largely because of the recent taste for their delicate beauty that more modern ones have lost. Many are tough and resilient, too - after all, plants that have survived up to a century of neglect are sure to be survivors. Although gardeners have collected eye-catching variants of daffodils since the Middle Ages, it was not until the 19th century that serious collecting and breeding began. The pioneer was a remarkable churchman, William Herbert (1778-1847), an Oxford-educated member of the gentry who entered the Houses of Parliament, took holy orders, and then finally became Dean of Manchester. Clearly of that glorious 18th-century English breed, ‘the hunting parson’, he was fond of outdoor life and sport and was a keen amateur naturalist - as were many of his colleagues in the Church of England. He was also a poet. His involvement with daffodils sprang from his interest in one of the great debates of his day, the origin of species. Convinced that some wild French daffodils were, in fact, natural hybrids, he began to make crosses, to prove his point, and so realised the potential of developing hybrids for garden use. Daffodils are robust. Unlike tulips, once planted they keep on coming up and flowering every year. By the 1880s there was a wide range of hybrids, leading to the Royal Horticultural Society's daffodil conference for

Country Gardener

the spring of 1884, followed by a fourday show in 1890, which ‘launched the daffodil in garden society’, in the words of one early 20th-century book on the plant. Daffodil breeding appealed to both nurserymen and aristocratic landowners. But since daffodils take at least five years from seed to flower, plenty of space was needed for breeding work, and cheap labour was required to keep the tiny seedlings Narcissus ‘Butter and Eggs’ Narcissus ‘Bath’s Flame’ weed-free. Early breeders needed commitment, acres and money. William Herbert's opinion on the potential for making daffodil breeding popular was therefore not very realistic: "It is desirable to call the attention of the humblest operator, of every labourer indeed, who has a spot of garden, or a ledge at his window, to the infinite variety of narcissi that may thus be raised… offering him a source of harmless and interesting amusement, and perhaps a little profit and celebrity." Narcissus ‘Beersheba’ Narcissus ‘Lucifer’ Much early breeding involved crossing the diminutive British wild daffodil, longevity as a cut flower. This variety is particularly striking Narcissus pseudonarcissus, with the late-flowering and much when contrasted with the large flowers and trumpet-like taller Narcissus poeticus. The former is pale yellow with a cups of modern daffodil varieties. very elongated cup; the latter has a distinctive flat white flower with a very shallow orange central cup. Older varieties Old poeticus hybrids tend to have elegant narrow petals and a delicate "propeller", or star-like, appearance. A growing tend to be dominated by one or the other flower shapes. familiarity with the grace of the old hybrids soon makes We get the word 'Narcissus' from Greek mythology. A nymph modern ones look as though they've been fed steroids. called Echo fell in love with a young Greek named Narcissus, Britain's largest selection of heritage varieties is grown by but Narcissus told her to leave him alone. Heartbroken, Ron Scamp in the daffodil-growing heartland of Cornwall. she lived alone until nothing but an echo of her remained. His favourites are three poeticus types: 'White Lady' (preNemesis, the God of revenge, heard the story and lured 1898), a particularly elegant pale variety, 'Bath's Flame' (preNarcissus to a pool. Narcissus, who was very handsome 1913), a delicious pale yellow, and 'Horace' (pre-1894), once and quite taken with himself, saw his reflection in the pool one of the most important commercial cut-flower varieties. and, as he leaned over to see better, fell in and drowned. He English Heritage, guardian of some of the UK's most turned into the flower. important historic gardens, has been taking action with a Among the clearly pseudonarcissus varieties is 'Mrs R. O. mass autumn planting campaign including 25,000 bulbs of Backhouse' (pre-1921), the first so-called "pink" daffodil the native strains of daffodil and bluebells at some of its sites. (actually a faint apricot flush), the pale, creamy 'White John Watkins, Head of Gardens and Landscapes at English Emperor' (pre-1913), and 'Princeps' (pre-1878) - a taller Heritage, said: "Native daffodils and bluebells as well as version of the wild plant. the historic cultivated varieties are a vital part of our Among the poeticus Narcissus ‘Eystettensis’ horticultural and cultural heritage, inspiring gardeners and types are 'Albatross' poets alike. and its sibling 'Seagull' "Our native species and historic cultivars are increasingly (pre-1893), both white under threat from cross pollination with non-native species and prolific. 'Barrii Conspicuus' (pre-1869), and hybrids that flower at the same time. with a sulphur-yellow "Our spring bulb planting campaign - across some of the flower and short bright most important historic gardens in England - will help arrest orange cup, was a that national decline and ensure that the daffodil celebrated favourite with early by Wordsworth over 200 years ago can still be enjoyed by commercial growers in visitors today and in the future." Cornwall because of its free-flowering and



s t o P c i t s a l P change - a slow pace of

The call for an alternative to plastic pot plants rages on and while more green and ethical products are now available the pace of change is still too slow for many gardeners How many plastic plant pots do you have in your shed, greenhouse or garage? According to a recent survey the average gardener has over 150. And without good recycling schemes, all these pots will be stuck there. It certainly only takes a few trips to the nursery or garden centre for new plants to assemble a skyline of empty, stacked pots. A few plant purchases added on to last season’s pots and you are left with a teetering tower of plastic. This year again there will be another 500 million plastic pots in circulation in the UK, an astonishing number when you think that once the plants and shrubs have been taken out of them and replanted they lie around mostly unused The fact is, most of us don’t want these pots. Some of them are useful for sowing seeds, potting up seedlings or passing on plants to friends, but a lot of them aren’t and end up in landfill where they do not rot down. Of course, the obvious thing to do is recycle them, but that’s much easier said than done. A third of us put plastic plant


pots in our recycling bins, but the type of plastic used to make them (polypropylene) isn’t a priority for many local authorities. The Garden Centre Group, formerly known as Wyevale, was forced to stop its recycling service for plant pots, due to difficulties down the recycling line. The Garden Centre Group currently offered this service throughout their 120 plus shops and stopping this service was a worry not just for customers but for the environment as well. The service had to stop because the company couldn’t find a recycling company to cope because there are so many different types of plastics used in making plant pots. Two garden centre chains – Dobbies and Nottcuts – offer a ‘bring back’ your plastic plant pots scheme. And it’s perfectly doable: according to the British Plastics Federation, ‘plastic plant pots are eminently recyclable and useable’. They could be made into all kinds of useful things if enough of them are recycled. Both the British Plastics Federation and a recycling company who ran a pilot pot recycling scheme said that if enough garden centres offered a ‘bring back’ scheme, there would be enough pots to interest recycling companies (as long as the pots are clean). An estimated 31 million tons of plastic waste was generated in 2010, reports the Environmental Protection Agency. Only eight per cent of it was recycled, a disturbing figure when you consider the agency says it can take 100 to 400 years for plastic to break down in a landfill. So alongside the recycling issue what are the trends to find biodegradable alternatives? Plants in biodegradable containers are gradually appearing on garden centre shelves as growers try out sustainable options. The pace of change might be too slow. The horticultural industry has been partial to plastic pots for some time – they are light which makes them easy to handle and

Country Gardener

transport, they are durable and the rigidity allows specialised machinery to plant up to 5,0000 pots successfully in a hour. But there is an increasing move away from them. There are now biodegradable plant pots made from a variety of natural materials which break down in the soil. They provide a natural alternative to the classic plastic pots and are very useful for establishing plants which do not like root disturbance. The problem is they are more expensive and fall down when it comes to the mass production scheme used to pot up plants Early experimenters tried fibrous grasses and coir to make pots -these work well for plants that do not have to spend more than a few months in pots. Now new technologies are offering a range of material which will decompose including pots made from compressed wood fibre Gardeners need help from manufacturers to come up with biodegradable pots that have a longer shelf life from green organisations.

Cow Pots are 100 per cent biodegradable, made from

natural, sustainable and recycled materials. These pots eliminate the need for plastic as the pot can be planted. Their ingenious design allows for unrestricted root growth and they break down completely within a few weeks of planting. They’re not stinky, but they do release nitrogen as they break down in the ground. More garden centres are now stocking these.

Coir Pots

- round and square pots made of coconut husk fibre are available at some garden centres and online. Pots are made from organically grown coconuts. The pots make use of the outer husk fibre of the coconuts (coir fibre), the main waste product of the coconut farms. www.hairypotplants. and www.thenaturalgardener. both have a huge range of biodegradable coir pots.

Card board-based tubes- available from garden centres

but as yet really only an option for smaller seedlings and not for use for larger plant containers. A new range of large cardboard water resistant pots is due to be launched this spring.

Once bamboo pots start to degrade, they can just be put on the compost heap where they will break down over a period of about six months, but their longer lifespan means that they are not suited to direct planting into the ground, as they will not break down quickly enough and so will restrict the growth of the plant. The manufacture of biodegradable pots requires energy and many are made outside the UK and therefore involve pot miles. Gardeners are still looking for alternatives and garden centres while aware of the need for change feel that there is little likelihood of a major shift in the system. Resolving the means to recycle the existing plastic pots would be a huge step forward.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN ECOFRIENDLY SEEDLING POTS Making your own paper pots is not only eco-friendly, but will save you money too. Ideal for vegetable cuttings half-hardy annuals like cosmos, zinnias and antirrhinum, the newspaper pots are completely biodegradable. When the plants are ready to go outdoors, the whole pot can be planted into the soil. All you need to get started is a pile of newspaper and some cylindrical objects to act as moulds. Try using a bottle and wrapping strips of paper tightly around it, several times, before folding over the base and sliding the paper off. There are also simple, wooden pot-making kits available to buy but it’s very easy: Cut your newspaper into strips about 1 inch (3cm) taller than your jar. Fold a flap along the length of a strip, and then unfold the flap to leave a crease. Lay your jar on the newspaper at one end of the strip so that the open end sticks out. Tightly roll the strip around the jar. Holding the paper closed, turn the jar on its end. Fold the loose ends of the paper in to create the base, and push them down. Holding the bottom flaps, pull out the jar and firm up the base. Fold the top of the paper along the crease you made earlier – this creates the rim of your pot.

Bamboo pulp pots

-these pots are by far the strongest and most robust, looking and feeling almost like plastic, they are designed to give about three years of service before starting to break down. 49




A slightly later season for snowdrops means there’s still time to get out and see wonder displays of Galanthus elwesii in a number of settings Snowdrops seem to signal the slow passage of early spring. They appear in January and should reach their full glory in February. So there’s still time to get out and see these wonderful displays. Some gardens have been reporting their snowdrops will be a week or more behind this year – even more reason to plan a visit. From some of Britain’s finest gardens through to smaller private gardens, to tucked away forests- all open their gates to visitors to see carpets of these delicate blooms. It’s an early season highlight for many gardeners but one of the big questions is how long into the year can you still see snowdrops at their best. Certainly the first snowdrops start to appear in early January, some even in December, but most gardens put the real focus on mid to late February and often well into March. Unpredictable weather, as this year’s has been, may have affected the flowering progress but snowdrops should be at an absolute peak in February and many gardens are now staying open until the end of February and into the first few days of March. Here’s just a small selection of where to see later season snowdrops:

Painswick Rococo Gardens, Stroud, Glos The Rococo Garden has one of the largest naturalistic plantings of snowdrops. Open until Wednesday, 28th February. Adults £7. Painswick runs a series of snowdrop talks with head gardener, Steve Quinton, or a member of his team. They will be talking about the history of the garden and the varieties of snowdrops in the garden. These will be held every Wednesday in February. Painswick Rococo Gardens, Gloucester Rd, Painswick, Stroud GL6 6TH Tel: 01452 813204 50

Colesbourne Park, Glos Known as one of the finest displays in the country and set in the beautiful Churn valley in the heart of the Gloucestershire Cotswolds. The historic collection, started by Henry John Elwes with the discovery of Galanthus elwesii in Turkey in 1874, has been developed by Sir Henry and Lady Elwes in the past 25 years. Now with a collection of 350 varieties, visitors can enjoy the snowdrops throughout the ten-acre garden with its woodland and lakeside paths. Open every weekend through to Sunday, 4th March. Gates open 1pm to 4.30pm Adults £8. Colesbourne Gardens,3 Southbury Farm Cottages, Colesbourne, Cheltenham GL53 Tel: 0871 200 2233

Cotswold Farm Gardens, Duntisbourne Abbots, Glos Cotswold Farm Gardens, opens its doors on the 17th and 18th of February from 11am until 3pm for a weekend of snowdrops. The arts and crafts garden, designed in the 1930s by Norman Jewson, offers beautiful views into the adjacent valley. Named snowdrops can be found throughout the borders of the garden and many naturalised varieties feature along the short woodland walk. Entrance is £5 and under 16’s are free; there is no need to book, just turn up on the day. All proceeds will go to Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust. Travelling 10 miles southbound along the A417 from Gloucester, take the exit (signposted for Duntisbourne Abbots) next to the BP garage. Shortly after, turn right and follow the signs for Cotswold Farm Gardens (GL7 7JS).

Bickham House, Exeter, Devon Situated on the outskirts of Exeter, Bickham House is a small 17th century mansion, set within a two-hectare park in a secluded wooded valley. You’ll be able to see dramatic banks of snowdrops and a small named collection at Bickham Cottage. Visitors are invited to on the following dates: Saturday 24th and Sunday March 25th February. Admission £5, children free. Bickham House, Kenn, Exeter, Devon EX6 7XL Tel: 01392 832671

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Forde Abbey and Gardens, Chard, Somerset

NT Killerton , Devon

Rich in history and culture, the stately home of Forde Abbey and its surrounding 30 acres of perfectly manicured greenery and lakes, still operate as a family home and a working estate. Throughout February, the 30 acres of award-winning gardens are carpeted in a spectacular display of snowdrops. Most of the snowdrops at Forde Abbey are the “common” snowdrop Galanthus nivalis, including the double form G. nivalis flore pleno, but galanthophiles will be able to spot other varieties in hidden corners, such as G. atkinsii in the Rock Garden.

This serene Georgian mansion and the 2,600 hectares of land that surround it were given to the National Trust in 1944 and since then it has developed into one of the county’s best locations to see a variety of plant life. Snowdrops are such a feature of Killerton. They can be found on almost every area of the estate – from the front park through to area around the chapel Look out especially for Dane’s Wood probably the best play to see the displays.

East Lambrook Manor Gardens, South Petherton, Somerset One of England’s best-loved privately owned gardens, East Lambrook Manor Gardens is open from Tuesday to Sunday during February for visitors to marvel at the specialist collection of snowdrops. The National Garden Scheme (NGS) is hosting an open day on Saturday, 17th February. The pretty white flowers will be nestled among hellabores and geraniums, and other blooming flora in the bordered garden and winding pathways. The quintessential English cottage garden was created by gardening legend Margery Fish. It remains a plantsman's paradise with old-fashioned and contemporary plants grown in a relaxed and informal manner to create an extraordinary garden. East Lambrook Manor East Lambrook, South Petherton TA13 5HH. Tel 01460 2240328

Snowdrop Valley Exmoor, Wheddon Cross, Somerset Snowdrop Valley is a privately owned remote valley in a hidden part of Exmoor close to Wheddon Cross and you can see the snowdrops here through to Sunday, February 25th.. For walkers there is a marked walking route down into the valley from the long stay car park at the livestock market, the walk is about a mile and takes around 30 minutes. The Badgworthy Land Company will allow visitors to ramble through the area carpeted in snowdrops.

Fyne Court, Bridgwater, Somerset Nestled in the heart of the Quantock Hills, explore the wild garden of the National Trust’s Fyne Court where you will discover swathes of pretty snowdrops which adorn the woodland floor among the pops of colour from primroses, yellow archangel and bluebells. Fyne Court, Broomfield, Bridgwater TA5 2EQ. Tel: 01823 451587

Higher Cherubeer, Dolton, Devon With over 400 snowdrop varieties, this is a prime spot. The annual ‘whitewashing’ of the woodland areas never fails in igniting hope and joy through the dark winter months. Higher Cherubeer features fine array of snowdrops, including a collection of home-cultivated species. Days of opening include Sunday 25th February. Admission is £4 for adults and free for children. Higher Cherubeer, Winkleigh, Exeter EX19 8PP

The Garden House, Buckland Monachorum, Devon Open every weekend in February for ‘Snowdrop Weekends’ through to 25th February giving visitors a chance to enjoy the annual display. Entry fees range from around £8 for adults and £4 for children and the garden and tea rooms are open from 11am to 3pm. Please see their website for further details. The Garden House, Buckland Monachorum, Yelverton, Devon PL20 7LQ. Tel: 01822 854769

Kingston Lacy, Dorset Kingston Lacy's one and a half mile snowdrop walk through 40 acres of garden is expecting a spectacular display after the recent cold weather and is open until Wednesday 28th, February. Open 10am-4pm. Entry £9.50, child £4.75. Kingston Lacy, Wimborne Minster, Dorset BH21 4EA

West Dean Gardens, West Sussex More than 500,000 spring bulbs have been planted, not just snowdrops – open every day throughout February. Snowdrops are really making their mark now plus their followers, the galanthophiles and every year the display is more impressive.

Shaftesbury Snowdrop Festival, Dorset The whole town goes Snowdrop mad throughout February, and while the main events are geared to earlier in the month there’s still time to see the Snowdrop Exhibition at Shaftebury Arts Centre until Saturday, February 18th.


CLASSIF IED Cornwall, near St Just. Chalet, sleeps 4, Accommodation Holiday heated indoor pool, open all year – near Cottages Glorious North Devon. Only 9 cosy gardens/coast, golfing nearby. Prices caravans on peaceful farm. Wonderful Discover the Cotswolds. S/C Cottages. from £260 pw. 01736 788718 walks in woods & meadows. Easy reach Tel: 01386 438513 sea, moors & lovely days out. £ 395pw. Discount couples. Nice pets Carmarthenshire A charming holiday welcome. 01769 540366 cottage, rural setting, stands alone, Sleeps 3. Short breaks available. Pets For rent 6 berth caravan on the East welcome. 01239 711679 Devon Jurassic coast (5* Ladram Bay Devon. Tamar Valley. Pretty cottage Holiday Park) contact Julie 07492 006900 sleeps 2-4. Wood burner, garden, small email: dog welcome. 02073 736944/07940 Somerset Scandinavian log Hampshire coast, New Forest, 363233 cabin quiet location Milford on Sea – village centre Cornwall. Village location between holiday apartment sleeps 2-3, private Sleep 4/6. Fully equipped. Open all Truro and Falmouth. Fully equipped parking. Wonderful walks, lovely all year. From £295 P/W. Short/long stays. renovated cottage. Peaceful garden. year round. 01590 644050 pamela_ Pet welcome. No Smoking. Off road parking. Ideal for 2 adults. No www. Tel: 01278 789678 or email children/animals. Good public transport. Good pub and shop. Easy reach of Bosworlas near Sennen/St Just, Heligan and Eden. 01279 876751 Cornwall. Cosy Cottage, rural views, Sleeps 2-4 01736 788709


Carmarthen Bay South Wales Gloucestershire, Cosy annexe for two

non-smokers, lovely garden, beautiful countryside. Pets welcome. Special rates for Xmas. Tel: 01452 840531

Cosy chalet in the beautiful Tamar Valley,

on the Devon/Cornwall border; All mod cons and equipment for self-catering; convenient for public transport: near or far; and many optional activities. Sleeps 2 comfortably and + 2 children if preferred. Tel: 01822 832688 52

Seafront chalet situated on estuary. Sleeps up to 6. Seaview. Well Behaved Dogs Welcome. For brochure Tel: 01269 862191

Accommodation Abroad

Beautifully romantic cottage for two In sunny SW France just 30 mins from Bergerac airport.

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Self Catering Thatched Country Cottage Sleeps 5. Close to New Forest. Linen provided. Warm welcome awaits all. Tel: Mrs Crane - 01794 340460 Padstow house. 4 + baby, gardens, parking, Wi-Fi, Camel trail (bike storage), beaches 07887 813495 Wye Valley/Forest of Dean. Fully equipped 4-star single storey cottage. Two bedrooms both en-suite. Central heating/bedlinen provided. Rural retreat with shops/pubs one mile. Short breaks available. Warm welcome. Tel: 01594833259 Self-catering cottages in countryside near Lyme Regis. Japanese food available. 01297 489589 Lanlivery near Eden and other Cornish Gardens lovely woodland lodge 2/4 people www.poppylodgecornwall. 01726 430489

CLASSIF IED South Devon Holiday Let 3 bedroom cottage set beautiful and relaxing area with easy access to all areas of Devon. Prices start from £300/week, check out our facilities at: [1] or ring: 07760212744 for more details.

Peace, Privacy, and Stunning Views! 4* Delightful cosy cabin for 2, nestling between Wye and Usk Valleys. Shirenewton village and pubs closeby. Wonderful walks, splendid castles and bustling market towns. Perfect for all seasons. Pets welcome! Tel: 01291 641826

Sidmouth Devon

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Holiday bungalow in AONB overlooking Donkey Sanctuary. Sleeps 4. April – October. Ideal for walkers, nature lovers and children. 07842 514296

16 holiday cottages on an 18th century Estate on the Gower Peninsula with beautiful Grade I listed historic park and gardens. Tel: 01792 391212

Near Stratford-upon-Avon Creekside Cottages, Near Falmouth, Cornwall Waters-edge, Rural & Village Cottages Sleeping 2-8. Peaceful & Comfortable. Available year round. Dogs Welcome. Open Fires. Call us on 01326 375972 for our colour brochure

Accommodation With Beautiful Gardens

Pembrokeshire, Wales

North Devon near Clovelly. 3 delightful cottages situated in 12 acres of idyllic countryside. Sleeps 2-4. 1 Wheelchair friendly. Prices from £190 p.w. Brochure: 01237 431324

4 star luxury cottages in idyllic surroundings. Fully equipped, open all year. Children & pets welcome. Tel: 01239 841850

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Lovely self-catering cottage in peaceful location: Large garden, Sleeps 2. Perfect for famous gardens, NT properties & Cotswolds. Tel: 01789 740360

Antiques International dealer requires records (all types) old gramophones, phonographs, music boxes, radios, valves, telephones, early sewing machines, typewriters, calculators, tin toys, scientific instruments etc. Parts also wanted. Top cash price paid 07774 103139

Bed & Breakfast Home Farm B&B in beautiful Cotswold village nr Chipping Campden. Close Hidcote and Kiftsgate - phone 01386 593309 Explore Devon and be spoilt. 2 nights DBB £190 per couple. Farmhouse hospitality. Great trip advisor reports. 01566 783010 Charming B&B in garden cottage annex. Double with en-suite. Village location near Jurassic Coast, Bridport. Tel: 01308 488177 53

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Garden Buildings


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Garden Furniture


Polytunnels from £399 available to view by appointment 01363 84948

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Fruit Trees

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Apple trees from £8 Over 100 varieties Dessert, juicing, cider & cookers to suit your farm, garden or smallholding

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CERTIFIED ORGANIC VEGETABLE PLANTS Visit us at Kitley Farm, Yealmpton, PL8 2LT Or order plants at Tel: 01752 881180 Growers of many plants suitable for coastal areas including hedging plants

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Thornhayes nursery Devon’s specialist tree grower for a wide range of ornamental, fruit, hedging trees and a selection of choice shrubs.

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Local suppliers of good quality trees and shrubs Hazel, Beech, Field Maple, Quick Thorn/ Blackthorn & many more hedging trees. Silver Birch, Walnut, Cheery, Golden Locust, many more native & unusual trees & plants to choose from. NO MINIMUM ORDER.

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BEAVERS BITE BACK With beavers released in Cornwall and a breeding family on the River Otter in Devon, it’s easy to believe that the species is back in Britain for good, but a lot needs to be done to secure its future. They are an unusual, characterful species, and far from liked by all. Humans aside, beavers are the best loggers on the planet. Their dams, which they build to protectively raise water levels around their lodges upstream, enliven local ecology by coaxing in species which prefer slow-moving water, like dragonflies and frogs; in doing so, they can also alter the flow of rivers – always a contentious issue in land management. Beavers have a positive effect on their environment through their behaviour. By gnawing on stems they 'coppice' trees like willow, hazel, rowan and aspen. The regrowth provides homes for a variety of insects and birds. Wild beavers found living on the River Otter in Devon are a species which was once native to the UK, tests have confirmed. A breeding family was first spotted last year, although it is not known how they came to be there. DNA results have shown the beavers are Eurasian rather than North American. Nature lovers have welcomed the first wild beaver families for hundreds of years. Hunted for their pelts, meat and scent glands, which were used in perfume and quack medicine, beavers became extinct in the UK by the 16th century. Then they were trapped and killed for their luxurious pelts and their castoreum, waterproofing oil they secrete from two sacs near their genitals. There are now three recognised populations in Britain. One in Knapdale, on the west coast of Scotland, is the result of the only official trial and numbers about 12. There are several hundred on the River Tay catchment on Scotland’s east side and some 30 on the River Otter in Devon – both these populations came from unlicensed releases. Other groups of unsanctioned wild beavers exist elsewhere, too. Beavers are so well established it would be almost impossible to eradicate them. But if they are to be more widely reintroduced, we need a programme of pragmatic beaver management, based on systems in other European countries, one that takes into account the interests of landowners. The wetlands in which beavers live are valuable for many


other species too. Animals like otters, water voles, water shrews and wildfowl such as teals all benefit. Craneflies, water beetles and dragonflies in turn support breeding fish and insect-eating birds like spotted flycatchers. There is a legal requirement to consider restoring beavers to their former range under the EU Habitats Directive and to protect them under the Bern Convention. There have been more than 200 formal beaver reintroduction projects (plus numerous unofficial releases) in more than 26 European countries and their ecology and management is well-studied. Beavers are well-known for their habit of damming streams, but if the water is deep enough, they have little need for dams. Beavers construct homes called 'lodges'. They need water at least a metre deep outside their lodges so they can swim in, providing protection against predators. They prefer to swim, rather than walk and like to transport branches through water, so will make narrow canals to enable this. The dam creates water deep enough for them to swim in. Beaver dams are temporary structures and generally quite leaky. By building new dams in different places, the beavers bring a changeable mixture of habitats into the landscape, with streams, pools and bare mud. Beaver dams also hold water in dry periods, help to lessen flash-flooding downstream and reduce erosion, improve water quality by holding silt and catch acidic and agricultural run-off.

WHAT DO BEAVERS EAT? Beavers eat only plants and do not eat fish. They feed on aquatic plants, grasses, herbaceous plants and shrubs during the summer months and woody plants in winter. They will often store food underwater so that they can access it if the water freezes over in winter.

Country Gardener

P IC TURE P ERFEC T Jake Miller shares some gardening photography techniques aimed at improving the images you take

Let the background fall out of focus to sharpen the focal point of the image

There’s something about the ethereal space under a blossoming cherry tree. Like many of the joys of gardening, it’s a feeling that lasts only for a few days a year and then is gone. But there is a way to capture some of the beauty and power that come and go with spring cherry blossoms and the last golden leaves of autumn- photography. It will help you preserve the beauty that you love—and share it—and give you new ways of seeing, and loving, your garden. With a basic understanding of the fundamentals of photography, you can take stunning photographs of your garden. Keep in mind that garden photography isn’t all about gardens; it’s about light. The word “photog¬raphy” means writing with light, and finding the best light to show off your garden is the key. The most important thing to remember is learn to see what the camera sees. Don’t just see what you want to see; look at what’s really there. Instead of focusing on the part of the picture you like, consciously look for anything that you wouldn’t want to be in the scene. Are there telephone wires in the top of the frame? Do the elements of the picture collide in confusing ways? Tree branches growing out of a person’s head in a careless portrait is a classic example. Many of these composition problems are easy to fix. Stepping a few inches to the left or right, tilting the camera up or down, or lowering your point of view closer to the ground can eliminate unwanted elements. Once you’ve made adjustments, examine the frame again, from edge to edge and corner to corner. Digital cameras provide instant feedback, which can help you capture just the photo you want. If you find it hard to resist shooting on the run, put your camera on a tripod. Besides steadying the camera for long exposures, a tripod will force you to compose more carefully and make it easier to examine the frame thoughtfully before you le Focus on the beauty of a sing shoot. en gard r you component of

The eye tends to follow converging lines, and it is drawn to the brightest colours and lightest elements in a photo. A small spot of light on a flower in the shade of a tree will draw attention to the flower; a bright red watering can in the background or a little flash of bright sky in the corner of the image will draw the eye away. CAPTURE THE ESSENCE OF YOUR GARDEN There are two types of garden photographs. The first gives an overall feeling of the garden and captures a sense of space. The eyes should be able to wander through the photograph like a visitor wandering into your garden. Use the design and function of your garden, and its shapes and lines, to guide your composition. Paths draw the eye in, dark branches envelop and frame a subject, and stems and leaves point toward the flowers at the heart of the image. Fill the frame with elements that are essential to the picture. It’s better to have your garden bursting out of the image than to leave a few interesting things stranded in the middle of a sparse frame. If your garden is small, step right up. If your garden is too big to fit in one shot from the farthest place you can stand, stitch together a panorama from a series of pictures. FIND BEAUTY IN THE DETAILS The second kind of garden photo is more like a portrait than a landscape. Single out your best specimens and give them attention. Think about what it is you love about your subject, and find ways to emphasize that. If you have a single, perfect blossom, try to fill the entire frame with it. Small flowers like those of witch hazel can be tricky to photograph individually, so try to photograph a branch of them together. Isolate the colour of the flowers against a dark backdrop or against the blue sky, or let the background fall out of focus. LOOK LIKE A GENIUS Professional photographers share only their best photos. When you study your images examine them as if you don’t remember why you took them, and evaluate each image. Is the focus sharp? Are the colours rich? Does the eye go to the heart of the photo, or does it wander off the edge?. Exploring a garden with your eyes attuned to photographic possibilities won’t only give you better pictures. It will give you a more intimate understanding of beauty—by design and by happy accident—in the garden.




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 118

Are you part of a garden club or society?



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Issue No 82

Winter 2015

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Issue No 1

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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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The Country Gardener magazines are distributed FREE at Nurseries, garden centres, National Trust Properties, open gardens, garden machinery specialists, country stores and farm shops in each county. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or made available in any form, without the written permission of the copyright holder and Publisher, application for which should be made to the Publisher. Unsolicited material: do not send or submit your only version of manuscripts and/or photographs/transparencies to us as these cannot be returned to you. While every care is taken to ensure that material submitted is priced accurately and completely, we cannot be responsible or liable for any loss or damage suffered. Views and/or opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily represent those of Country Gardener or the Publisher.


Country Gardener

Space age SALAD

If there’s one single salad leaf which captures the love of Mediterranean cuisine –with a strong peppery favour that brings dishes to life – rocket is it. Hailing from sun baked parts of western Asia and the Mediterranean it’s a salad leaf which adds real punch and flavour into salads. And the good news is it is very easy to grow. The younger leaves are milder, more tender and palatable. Older leaves can also be lightly cooked as a delicious spinach substitute, added to sauces, stir-fried or sautéed in olive oil. It's rich in potassium and vitamin C and flourishes in a warm, sunny, position. Even the flowers are edible. And yet rocket is simple to cultivate and quite at home in Britain. Sure, it bolts (flowers prematurely) and runs to seed in hot weather – but even then, both the flowers and seeds are edible. As for pests, flea beatles may make holes in the leaves, but these are purely cosmetic. You can sow rocket seeds from March to September in the open, and after that under cover. Partial shade is fine, as it will provide some protection from bolting, so this is the

Rocket is the simplest of salad to grow at home and its ability to be harvested at any stage of its growth has made it hugely popular perfect crop to fill the space between taller plants. Scatter seeds lightly over well-prepared soil every two or three weeks, water regularly (especially in hot weather) and the first leaves should be ready within a month. When they are about eight centimetres long, you can either cut entire plants (they will resprout) or start harvesting a leaf here and a leaf there. Either way, remove any flower stalks that appear. Once a whole sowing is clearly determined to set seed or the leaves grow too big or peppery, either pull the plants up and start again – or just leave them to self-seed. Rocket will grow in any reasonable, well-drained soil in sun or semi-shade. Early sowings can be made under glass as early as February to provide an early crop. To prevent the plants running to seed, pinch out any flower buds and keep the plants moist. Provide some shade during particularly sunny, hot weather. However, rocket will happily self-seed so you may want to leave some plants to flower and set-seed. With some protection (in a cool greenhouse or under a cloche or garden fleece), a late sowing will provide you with leaves over winter. If some of your rocket plants do run to seed, the flowers can be used as an edible garnish (and bees love them).

Pests and Problems

Be sure to thin the seedlings. If left to grow too close together they tend to run to seed. Keep well watered, particularly in hot, dry weather, or the plants will taste very bitter and bolt. Flea beetles tend to cause the most damage to plants, nibbling holes in the leaves, making them look unsightly. Try growing under fleece to prevent this.

Different f lavours

Recent breeding work means that there are many more cultivars to choose from when it comes to growing rocket. As a simple rule the more indented and narrower the leaf the more peppery the flavour will be. So cultivars such as ‘ Wildfire’ and ‘ Tirizia’ pack a real strong flavour punch while the more rounded, wider leaf varieties such as ‘ Apollo’ have a milder bite. It is worth noting that plants grown in dry, sunny conditions tend to have stronger flavours so if you prefer the more delicate taste grow crops in a lightly shaded spot, keeping them well watered and harvest the leaves while they are still young. 61

As time

Helen Routledge shares her love of sundials and the prop er way to count time in the gard en


In general I am not a great fan of garden ornaments. Whether it’s an elaborate urn or something as basic as a garden bench I find it hard to get enthusiastic. However a sundial is another story. They are pleasing on the eye but they satisfy the spirit, perform a function and seem like silent, eloquent essays on that most ancient and relevant theme: time and the garden. A sundial is of course designed to read time by the sun. This places a broad limit of two minutes on accurate time because the shadow of the gnomon cast by the sun is not sharp. But that’s good enough for me. Looking from earth the sun is ½° across making shadows fuzzy at the edge. There was a time when we lived by sundials and all the better I say, as one who is not known to be in love with this digital age. The mathematician and astronomer Theodosius of Bithynia is said to have invented a universal sundial that could be used anywhere on earth. A few hundred years later the Romans adopted the Greek sundials, and the first record of a sun-dial in Rome is 293 BC. But these were the days when time was not very well defined. There were hours of different lengths; an hour in summer was longer than an hour in winter. It took a while before the astronomically sophisticated Arabs introduced hours of equal length – and then things became a

was literally in the hands of the Church; sundials appeared on Church walls, telling people not only the hour but the time of the next service. Then in the 17th Century we became enlightened. Design, inspiration and technology combined and it became essential to have a portable timepiece and the making of pocket sundials was commonly taught in schools. It is said that Charles I for whom time did run out rather horribly, always carried a silver pocket sundial with him. Gardeners carried the principles of sundials through to their planting and it became fashionable to have one laid out in clipped box with a central gnomon of upright yew. Eventually sundials were superseded by clocks. In gardens time is counted more slowly. It isn’t necessary to know the precise minute of the hour. Precision is not so relevant and I believe gardens live with a slower moving hand. Sundials are there to make us pause and reflect; usually there is a motto inscribed on the dial that touches on some universal truth and only when you are alone can this have proper sense and meaning. How and when people started putting these mottos on sundials is not clear. The texts are often linked to mortality and how to make

the most of your time on earth. Some are tense and blunt. I’ve been debating at great length with what my newly acquired sundial will have inscribed on it. It's not going to be flippant or twee but something inspirational perhaps. Should I opt for something which would please my Latin tutors? I like:

Utere, non numera

Use the hours, don't count them Or even:

Altera pars otio, pars ista labori Devote this hour to work, another to leisure Then there’s:

Horas non numero nisi æstivas I count only the summer hours Or the more philosophical:

Ultima latet ut observentur omnes

Our last hour is hidden from us, so that we watch them all But it's been suggested to me that a more practical one would be:

Nunc est bibendum

Now is the time to drink

“ In gardens time is counted more e slowly. It isn’t necessary to know th precise minute of the hour.” lot easier. We used to live by sundials. It was the only way of telling how the sun swept across the sky and had been so for hundreds of years. The earliest known one in England is carved on a stone cross in a churchyard in Cumbria and dates fro AD670. During the Middle Ages time 62

Sundials - the proper way to

count time in the garden

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Dorset Country Gardener Spring 2018  

The Spring 2018 Issue of Dorset Country Gardener Magzine

Dorset Country Gardener Spring 2018  

The Spring 2018 Issue of Dorset Country Gardener Magzine