Dorset & Hampshire Country Gardener March 2024

Page 1

Dorset & Hampshire

Issue No 214 MARCH 2024 FREE

The race to be first! Cherry blossom, hawthorn, forsythia and magnolia all ready in the queue to burst into early spring colour season strategy for weeds PLUS: ADignewversus no dig in the vegetable patch

G A R D E N C E N T R E • FA R M S H O P • G A R D E N C E N T R E • FA R M S H O P •

Edwardian gardens to visit locally

Pep up for soil for spring

March weather in your garden

Gardening news and events throughout Dorset and Hampshire

O W T O N ’ S B U T C H E R S • T H E N AT U R E C O L L E C T I V E • T H E O R A N G E RY T E A H O U S E O W T O N ’ S B U T C H E R S • T H E N AT U R E C O L L E C T I V E • T H E O R A N G E RY T E A H O U S E

Fontley Road, Titchfield, Fontley Road, Titchfield, Hampshire PO15 6QX Hampshire PO15 6QX 01329 844336 01329 844336

Thousands of Dorset Grown Plants Visit Groves Nurseries in Bridport or Little Groves in Beaminster where all of our plants are grown in peat free compost and have zero plant miles West Bay Road, Bridport, DT6 4BA | Tunnel Road Beaminster |

West Parley

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10am - 4pm everyday Tel: 01425 655150 Blooms Cafe at our West Parley branch - tasty local produce for an even more pleasurable visit

Seasonal Bedding plants for beds borders and Patio pots - in season Pansy and Violas bedding packs £2.99 Gifts for garden lovers Hardy Shrubs and Conifers Climbers and wall plants Alpines & Perennial Cottage Garden Plants from £2.99 Basket/Patio plants in season 1 litre pot bedding in season Hanging baskets and Hanging pots according to season. Grasses, Heucheras and Ferns Good selection of garden essentials stakes, ties, pots, trellis, watering cans For seasonal opening times and precise locations please visit our web site

Our business is founded on a passion for plants. Baskets and Blooms Plant Centres offer gardeners the opportunity to buy direct from the grower. You save money and get top quality, fresh plants, locally grown.


Gardeners cuttings

in Dorset & Hampshire

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold; when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade;” - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations


DORSET GARDENS READY TO SHOW OFF SPRING BULBS GALORE IN MARCH OPENINGS Whatever the weather, the spring bulbs emerge to cheer us, and there are several fine gardens opening in Dorset for charity during March.

Athelhampton House

ATHELHAMPTON HOUSE GARDENS, Athelhampton, Dorchester, Dorset, DT2 7LG opens for the National Garden Scheme on Wednesday 20th March from 10am until 5pm. The award-winning gardens surround the Tudor manor house; the Great Court with 12 giant yew topiary pyramids is overlooked by two terraced pavilions. Admission £12.50, children free, refreshments available, and tickets to tour the house can be bought on the day. KNITSON OLD FARMHOUSE at Corfe Castle, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5JB opens for the NGS at Easter - on Saturday 30th March, Easter Sunday 31st March and Easter Monday, 1st April, from 12pm until 5pm each day. It’s a mature cottage garden nestled under chalk downland, with herbaceous borders, rockeries, climbers and shrubs, evolved and designed over 60 years for year-round colour, with historical stone artefacts, ancient trees and shrubs. Admission £4, children free. Refreshments available - there’s a level lawn for tea but also uneven sloping paths. Groups visits for the NGS are also available - go to for more details.

Knitson Old Farmhouse

THE OLD VICARAGE at East Orchard, Shaftesbury, Dorset, SP7 0BA opens for the NGS on Friday 22nd and Sunday 24th March from 2pm until 5pm each day. The 1.7 acre well established garden has a new additional wildlife garden with hundreds of different snowdrops, crocus, many other bulbs and winter flowering shrubs. A stream meanders down to a pond and there are lovely reflections in the swimming pond, the first to be built in Dorset. Admission £5, children free. Homemade teas available, and group visits for the NGS can be arranged. For more details go to and follow the links.

The Old Vicarage

Monkton Wyld seeks gardeners

and general volunteers

Monkton Wyld Court is seeking an experienced and dedicated gardener to manage the beautiful organic walled garden. You will be responsible for the whole garden from seed to kitchen. This position comes with accommodation, all meals, and monthly wage. Volunteering positions are also available throughout the year. As a volunteer you will assist members of the community in day to day tasks. The work is always varied and is spread over all areas of the business such as grounds work, assisting in the kitchen, maintenance, gardening etc and is an excellent way to learn new skills and gain great experience in specialised low impact living. Monkton Wyld Court is an idyllic Grade II listed 19th century neo-Gothic rectory in Dorset specialising in low impact and sustainable living. The house and grounds host a variety of educational courses, bed and breakfast and self-catering accommodation and boasts a large organic walled market garden and 11 acres of grounds. If you would like more information about the job vacancy or volunteering opportunities please call 01297 560342 or email

Biochar: modern miracle or a return to age old wisdom? The ‘Boys from the Black Stuff’ at The Dorset Charcoal Co are keen to spread the word about the value of biochar. Increasingly heralded by academics and popular television shows such as BBC’s Gardeners World and Countryfile as a modern additive to soil; to not only enhance healthy plantgrowth but also as a way of achieving carbon capture, it should not be forgotten it is nothing new. Biochar, also known as horticultural charcoal, is charcoal produced from cooked plant matter and stored in the soil. It is an ancient way of conditioning the soil, and has been discovered in vast layers (Terra Preta) in the Amazon laid down millenia ago by previous civiliations. It has a highly porous sponge-like composition which provides homes for microbial and fungal life while storing water and nutrients and aiding with soil structure and drainage. The Dorset Charcoal Co has been producing biochar for over 25 years from sustainably harvested hardwood trees in Dorset and has supplied Kew Gardens, and the gardens at Highgrove amongst many others. For more information and the chance to purchase top quality locally produced biochar visit

Growers Organics get ready for a very busy season Growers Organics is an independently run business growing and selling certified organic vegetable and herb plants. Although the company is small, it still manages to have the largest selection of vegetable varieties in the southwest. Open seven days a week their popularity has gone from strength to strength. We asked Joa, Growers Organics owner and head gardener what she was looking forward this coming season. She told us that she loves to take her fabulous organic vegetable plants out to garden fairs and shows. Where she gets to meet even more of her lovely enthusiastic customers!

Joa and her daughter Edie – ready for the road

“Most of the shows we attend are in the southwest but in June we do go up as far as Hellen’s house in Herefordshire. My daughter Edie usually accompanies me and we make a great team. The stall always seems to be busy and we often sell out of our most popular plants. Our first date is Digby Hall in Sherborne followed by Cornwall Spring Flower Show, Mapperton House, Morton Gardens. On Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th May you will find us at one of our favourites, Toby’s Garden Festival at Powderham Castle(it’s well worth a visit!) Then it’s on to Yarlington and Tavistock. It’s going to be a busy season. We do hope we see you at one of these events!”



Country Gardener


NGS HAMPSHIRE GARDENS READY AND WAITING FOR SPRINGTIME VISITORS Thousands of colourful crocuses, drifts of daffodils by an old mill - these are some of the early spring displays awaiting visitors in Hampshire gardens opening for the National Garden Scheme in March. LITTLE COURT, at Crawley, Winchester, Hampshire, SO21 2PU opens for the NGS on Easter Sunday 31st March from 2pm until 5.30pm. This sheltered naturalistic garden is one for all seasons, and is specially exciting in spring. It’s mature and exuberant with contrasting areas, a traditional walled kitchen garden and free-range bantams, and several seats throughout with good views. Admission £10, children free. Home made teas available in Crawley Village Hall, Little Court and plants for sale; dogs not allowed. BERE MILL, London Road, Whitchurch, Hampshire, RG28 7NH opens for the NGS on Sunday 10th March from 12pm until 5pm, with a garden built around an early 18th century mill on an idyllic isolated stretch of the River Test.; extensive bulb planting, herbaceous and Mediterranean borders with magnolia, irises, and tree peonies; a traditional orchard and two small arboretums, one specialising in Japanese shrubs and trees. Admission £8, children free. Homemade teas, visitors can bring picnics, wheelchair access, dogs allowed on short leads. Also open other dates during the season and for visits (for the NGS) by arrangement - for more details go to BEECHENWOOD FARM, Hillside, Odiham, Hook, Hampshire, RG29 1JA is opening for the 40th year for the NGS by the same owners, a two-acre garden Bere Mill with lawn meandering through woodland with drifts of spring bulbs, rose pergola with steps, pots with spring bulbs and later aeoniums, fritillary and cowslip meadow, A shady walk leads to a belvedere.and there’s an eight-acre copse of native species with grassed rides. Opening Wednesday 20th March, 2pm-5pm, admission £5, children free, homemade teas, plants for sale, wheelchair access, dogs allowed on short leads. Visits for the NGS by arrangement are also offered - for more details go to www.

Toby ready to visit winning gardening club Gardening club members throughout Dorset and Hampshire are joining the queue to have a special guest speaker at one of their meetings later this year. Over 400 club members from gardening clubs and associations as far afield as Cornwall, Plymouth, Exmouth, Salisbury, Lyme Regis and Dawlish have already registered to visit Toby’s Garden Festival at Powderham on Friday, May 3rd and Saturday, May 4th. This year as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations of the popular two-day festival any gardening club bringing 30 or more members to the festival will go into a draw where the prize will be a free guest visit to their club by festival host Toby Buckland.”. If you would like to bring a group along to the festival at specially discounted ticket prices, then email or call 01823 431767

Family day fun at Purbrook Spring Show Purbrook Horticultural Society is holding its annual Spring Show on Sunday, 24th March at the Deverell Hall in London Rd, Purbrook. Doors open to the public at 2pm and the winning trophies will be awarded at 4pm. Entry is by donation at the door. There’s free parking and refreshments and home made produce available. It promises to be a lovely afternoon for the family. The society has reduced membership fees from £6 per household per annum to £5 and at the same time increased prize money.Further details available at or in person at Trading Store, London Road, Purbrook adjacent to the allotments, open on Saturdays 9.30 to 11.30am.

Plant Your pants this spring to discover soil power Gardeners are being invited to plant a pair of cotton pants this spring and then dig them up two months later to see for themselves the life within the soil. The ‘Plant Your Pants’ campaign, run by education charity The Country Trust, launches on the first day of spring, 20th March, and invites everyone to take part in a journey of soil discovery to find out what really is going on down there. Along the way, participants will be encouraged to look, touch, listen to and smell their soil. Healthy soil will break down or degrade cotton more quickly than soil with low levels of microbial life. If you’re left with just the elastic, it’s a good sign that your soil is active and healthy.

Plant your pants and see what happens

The Country Trust is an education charity that connects disadvantaged children with the land that sustains us all through hands-on, sensory experiences of food and farming. Last year 23,000 children visited working farms with The Country Trust to learn at first-hand about how food is grown and the vital importance of soil to all our lives. Anyone can get involved with ‘Plant Your Pants’ – it’s free to register online and you can add your pants to the interactive map. Register at

GUERRILLA GARDENING SET TO BECOME MORE FORMAL This year will see guerrilla gardening spread though Dorset and Hampshire, organisers have said as they apply formally to be allowed to carry out their plans. More strips of strip of unclaimed land by the side of roads littered with nondescript shrubs and peppered with brambles and nettles are likely to be brought to life with flowers and vegetables. “I call it botanarchy”: said one of a group of gardeners who have made no secret of their plans to expand plans to fill scruffy, unused areas with attractive plants. Last autumn a popular side road in Portsmouth was ‘attacked’ by a group of local women who got together and planted fruit trees, strawberries, rhubarb, vegetables and lavender, as well as self-seeding flowers and bushes. When

they ran out of space, they started planting on the other side of the road. Organisers say they raise hundreds of pounds for a local food bank by selling some of the plants. Guerrilla gardening has long been happening under the radar – since amateur planters may not have the legal right to cultivate even abandoned, uncared-for sites. But people are increasingly documenting themselves transforming barren slices of land into flower gardens and community gardens. Many seek council permission as in the case in parts of Devon or establish that land is unclaimed, before seeding the soil. And they do not seem to face much, if any, opposition.

Guerrilla gardening is not facing as much opposition as previously



New look spring countryside show for Dorset


Digging around for a great gardening day out? You should look no further than this year’s Gillingham & Shaftesbury Spring Countryside Show which takes place on Saturday and Sunday 20th and 21st April. Horticulture is at the heart of this year’s new-look event. Visitors will be able to enjoy a host of gardening talks and demonstrations from renowned garden experts. From advice on plastic-free gardening to discovering plants that should be better known plus great gardening ideas for kids, interactive sessions will get you going home armed with inspirational growing tips and new plants too from some of the plant stalls. With a focus on a great day out for all the family, there’s also free tractor and trailer rides sponsored by Friars Moor Livestock in Sturminster Newton, pig racing and Keystone cop clown capers as the UK’s only Arena Comedy Car Act and Slapstick Stunt Show hurtles into the main show ring on the Saturday and Sunday! Children up to the age of sixteen go free and there’s savings to be had with early bird discounts for advance tickets.

Inspire a year of garden visiting with the National Garden Scheme’s Garden Visitor’s Handbook 2024 – the essential guide to more than 3,500 gardens opening for the National Garden Scheme this year. With hundreds of new gardens opening there are new horticultural gems to explore and old favourites to be revisited. With detailed descriptions of every garden and handy maps and calendars, all the information you need to visit a beautiful garden is right at your fingertips. Country Gardener readers can save £3 on The Garden Visitor’s Handbook 2024, your guide to 3,500 fabulous gardens across England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands. From old favourites to new delights, this handbook is full of inspirational gardens that help support some of the UK’s best-loved nursing and health charities through admissions, tea and cakes. Order for just £14.99 (RRP £17.99) using the code CG24 at

Visit to book and find out more

Eighty litres of Coir Vital Grow for sustainable growing For growers and gardeners looking to get started on plants and crops this season,, the product range at of Salike, is sustainable and value for money. Continuing to bring horticultural products that are produced with the care and concern for people and the planet, the 5kg Coir Vital Grow block provides over 80litres of coir when hydrated. This enhanced value comes with the added benefit of coir being peat-free, natural, and biodegradable. The range comes from the dust and fibres of the coconut husks. Coir is a renewable by-product of the coconut industry. By transforming what otherwise would be discarded, the company is committed to contributing towards a more sustainable future. Coir Vital Grow is produced in Sri Lanka, where the raw material is available and we offset the carbon associated with transporting goods to the UK. Coir has excellent water retention, air porosity, and drainage. These natural properties mean it allows plants to access the moisture they need as well as providing plant roots a source of oxygen. Coir Vital Grow potting mix also helps prevent waterlogged conditions and promotes strong and healthy root development. It also has neutral pH level, making it perfect for blending with organic fertiliser of your choice to create your desired potting blend. Providing a volume of over 80 litres of coir, the Coir Vital Grow 5kg block is distinct.


Forde Abbey hosts crocus bonanza

adults and children five to 13 £5. Picking up the baton from the snowdrops in February, acres of naturalised crocuses (Crocus vernus and tommasinianus) will line the pathways and cover the lawns with their wide-open chalices. The earliest record of Crocus vernus planted at the abbey dates to over a hundred years, and since then they have self-sown year after year, and naturalised gloriously in 30 acres of gardens and meadows. With each passing year a few more have been added to areas that need a bit of encouragement and the team are very pleased with the results.

Garden clubs and associations are starting to fill up their events calendar for the new season. If you would like to share club events then take advantage of our traditional free service which lists events, meetings and outings. Send your information to


FEBRUARY 21ST Milford Gardeners’ Club ‘GARDENING AND OUR WILDLIFE COMMUNITIES’ - BOB LORD 28TH Uplyme & Lyme Regis Horticultural Society ‘THE HEDGEHOG PREDICAMENT’ - COLIN VARNDELL Details on 07767 261444 Warsash Horticultural Society ‘WAKING THE GARDEN FOR SPRING’ ROGER HIRONS Details on 01489 573755


Forde Abbey, the popular venue on the Somerset and Dorset border, is staging its annual crocus display from Friday 1st March to Thursday 7th March headed by a spectacular display on the abbey lawns. The displays are open from 10.30am to 5pm (last entry 4pm). Tickets £14.50 for

Forde Abbey Estate, Chard, Somerset TA20 4LU

MARCH 1ST Shaston Gardening Association MONTHLY MEETING www.shastongardeningassociation. 4TH Wimborne Gardening Club MONTHLY MEETING Details on 01202 888703



Southill Gardening Club SPRING SHOW Details on 01305 788939

Ringwood Garden Club ‘A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF A KINGSTON LACY GARDENER’ - STEPHEN CANDY Details on 01202 574875

11TH West Moor Horticultural Society ‘WILDLIFE OF THE NEW FOREST’ - BRIAN PETTET Details on 01202 871536 12TH

Ferndown & District Horticultural Association ‘GROWING VEGETABLES FOR SHOWING’ - DAVID SHERGOLD More details on 07790089889 7TH Ringwood Garden Club ‘MORE COLOUR/LESS WORK - FACT OR FICTION’ - GILLIAN TAYLOR Details on 01202 574875 8TH Blackmore Vale Bonsai Group MONTHLY MEETING Details on 07837 781744

Lymington Gardeners Club ‘HOW TO MANAGE WILDLIFE IN THE GARDEN’ - MARTIN STEWART Details on 01590 672909 13TH Totton & District Gardeners Society ‘GROWING IN A SMALL GREENHOUSE’ - WILF SIMCOX 14TH Petersfield Gardeners’ Club MONTHLY MEETING 20TH Milford Gardeners’ Club ‘THE LAND AND THE NO NAME NURSERY’ - STEVE EDNEY

Country Gardener

27TH Uplyme & Lyme Regis Horticultural Society ‘RISK TAKING IN LANDSCAPE’ - KEITH WILEY Details on 07767 261444 Warsash Horticultural Society ‘MY GREENHOUSE YEAR’ - GILLIAN TAYLOR Details on 01489 573755 30TH West Moor Horticultural Society SPRING SHOW Details on 01202 871536

APRIL 1ST Ferndown & District Horticultural Association ‘VIETNAM AND THE FAR EAST’ - CHRISTOPHER LEGRAND More details on 07790089889

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There is certainly something in the air when it comes to March weather. Some gardeners say they can smell the sap bubbling up especially on fruit trees; the daffodils are bright yellow and the colour of sunshine and the air is often deliciously crisp. March is however an often-bewildering month, often for every step forward followed by two steps backward. It’s a month I find it difficult to come to terms with as I look for indications of what I should be concentrating on in the garden. February is certainly a month when it is too early to do anything but then suddenly we arrive in March and it feels as if it might be too late and there’s a panic which sets in. But winter can easily keep March strongly in its grip so for the first ten days of the month there is little change from the impatience of February. I get excited about the longer days, more light but then I am held back with the view that March has at least one foot seriously planted in winter. March is the first month of meteorological spring and it arrives with the prospect of warmer weather to come. However, although winter is behind us, March can still produce a flashback of frost or snow. Statistically, you’re more likely to see snow in March gardens in some parts of the UK than December – the first month of winter. For all the prospects of cold weather, the sun’s rays are gaining in strength as the sun rises ever higher in the sky along with an increasing day length from now until mid-summer. Along the latitude of Exeter, there are two hours more daylight at the end of March than the beginning.

MY GARDEN AND THE WEATHER I have been studying the weather, its patterns, history and foibles for over 20 years now. I don’t pay much attention to weather forecasts. I agree with many they are only really accurate at 48 hours or less. You need to learn the signs of changing weather and how it will affect what you grow and how you garden. The weather comes in chunks of a few days at a time and the garden responds to those changes whether it be a dry spell, a bout of colder weather or wet weather. So, for instance although sowing seeds outdoors is still risky, raising seeds in a greenhouse or on a windowsill is becoming easier as light levels rise, and the resultant plants won’t get too big before warmer outdoor weather arrives in late spring. Some plants - especially fruit, vegetables and roses - need feeding. It is good practice to look closely at the weather until the soil is dry enough to walk on, but while there is still the prospect of rainfall to wash the fertiliser into the ground. Dry springs are quite common, and when these occur the fertiliser can sit uselessly on the surface for weeks.


The weather in your March garden Andrew Lancaster is a weather historian and lover of folklore. He is also a passionate gardener and observer of weather conditions on his two acre Somerset garden. In the first of a series about weather in our gardens and how spotting the signs of the weather makes gardening easier, he looks at the challenges which comes with the month of March.


Country Gardener

What I love about weather lore is that our ancestors were so good at contradicting themselves, as long as they could make it rhyme. Thus, the famous saying “March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb” is sometimes reversed, so that “March comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion”. March heralds the start of meteorological spring, but can often bring weather that could be described as a hangover of winter – stormy conditions and snow are common occurrences during the first half of March. We only need to go back to March 2018 for a poignant example of lionlike conditions in early March. Storm Emma and the ‘beast from the east’ brought widespread snow, freezing conditions and strong winds across the UK. Similarly, the start of March has seen the very wet and unsettled theme continuing. However, by the end of March, we often see much improvement to the weather, and spring-like conditions. In 2011, the second half of March was almost completely dry in parts of the UK, and it was rather warm too. So when I study the garden weather in March I look for certain things: • Daffodils in full bloom. • Cherry, plum and blackthorn blossom – always the earliest to appear. • Broad beans planted in the autumn showing signs they are established and ready to accelerate into growth.

THE FACT BEHIND THE FICTION? There are some meteorological drivers at play in March that can contribute to the weather calming down over the British Isles. One of those is thanks to the sun. Between the 1st and the 31st, daylight hours increase by almost two hours, radiation from the sun rapidly increases, and the UK’s average high temperature rises from 9°C to 12°C. Apart from the fact that the former version is, to my mind, more euphonious, which of the two is more accurate? As is often the case with our weather, that depends. The meteorological historian Philip Eden noted that although on occasion March starts windy and ends sunny, or the other way around, in most years neither phenomenon occurs. Given that – like October – March is a month “on the cusp” between two seasons, in this case winter and spring, then it’s hardly surprising that the weather can be so variable. In recent years, we have seen spring coming earlier and earlier, so that perhaps March will eventually lose its position to February as the month of transformation. But for now, at least, it is sufficiently unpredictable to allow both versions of the old saying.

SOWING BY THE SAINTS ! There are some very specific sowing instructions linked to key dates in March. On St David’s Day 1st March ‘put oats and barley in the clay’. Perhaps not crops to bother the average gardener but the point is it indicates the thought that the soil is starting to warm up. St Gregory’s original feast day of 12th March is the day we are supposed to plant our onions. And St Benedict’s Day celebrated universally by monks on 21st March is the day to get your maincrop peas in the ground.

We don’t want warm weather too soon according to folk lore “When the apple blooms in March for the fruit you will search.” And watch out for a cold spell at the end of the month which coincides with the blackthorn blossom and is known as the blackthorn winter. Also be wary of the 29th, 30th and 31st March as these are known as the borrowed days believed by custom to have been ‘borrowed from April’.

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Why folklore tells us to plant potatoes on Good Friday Good Friday which falls this year on March 29th is the traditional day to plant potatoes - and parsley! When potatoes were brought into Europe from Peru in the 16th century many Protestants refused to plant them as they were not mentioned in the Bible. Irish Catholics decided that planting them was acceptable as long as it was done on Good Friday and they were sprinkled with holy water. Good Friday is also always a root day when gardening by the moon. Parsley was thought to take so long to germinate because its root had to travel to hell and back seven times before it would sprout. Planting the parsley on Good Friday when the Devil had no jurisdiction over the soil, was the key.

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Edwardian garden

by Vivienne Lewis

by Vivienne Lewis A fiery Irishman and a pioneering artist-craftswoman led the way in late Victorian times to a more naturalistic style of garden design in the Edwardian period that has remained influential to this day and well worth visiting some of them

The Victorian era saw great changes in gardening, with a more formal approach than before, lots of flower beds, some in intricate designs, and major developments with the invention of the lawn mower in 1830 by Edwin Budding, and increasingly large glasshouses that made it possible to grow an ever wider range of plants from all over the world. But the gardening innovations during the Victorian era were not to everyone’s taste. There was a backlash against the garishly coloured hot house bedding schemes of the top Victorian gardens. Leading the critics was a fiery Irishman, William Robinson, who spoke out against what he saw as contrivances and artificiality. He is said to have rushed to England to escape an employer’s wrath when he let all the heat go out of the hothouses at the property where he worked in Dublin, so killing all the exotic plants. His writings, and particularly his first book, The Wild Garden published in 1870, followed later by The English Flower Garden, helped to change the way people saw gardens in the last decades of the 19th century. He influenced Gertrude Jekyll and not only a generation of garden designers, but those that followed. So, what we call the Edwardian garden really began in Victorian times, in the 1870s and 1880s when Robinson and others started to plan and write about gardens in a totally new way. They realised that the hot houses, the heated conservatories, and the bedding out of flower borders twice yearly, should give way to a more naturalistic way of gardening, based on growing hardy perennials that did not require any heat. Robinson didn’t advocate growing only native plants – he grew exotics in his own garden at Gravetye Manor in Sussex. But they had to survive outside. He had seen Golden Rod and asters growing next to woodlands in America. We have to thank him for naturalising spring bulbs in grass – snowdrops, crocus, narcissi and bluebells. It was the start of the low maintenance garden - at least, lower than before. Gertrude Jekyll experimented with these ideas at her garden at Munstead Wood near Godalming in Surrey, where the artist and craftswoman switched her interests to gardens when her eyesight

deteriorated. She is the link in horticulture to William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement. She studied art in London, knew Morris and his circle as a young woman, absorbing the principles of using traditional materials and working methods. Her collaboration with Edwin Lutyens produced the most exquisite gardens, of which the Edwardian garden at Hestercombe at Cheddon Fitzpaine near Taunton is a supreme example. He provided the structure which she complemented with outstanding plantings that softened walls, steps and paths in a wonderful colour palette. She worked with other garden designers but this collaboration was the most famous. Lutyens was introduced to Jekyll in 1889 and soon after she asked him to design a house for her – Munstead Wood. The collaboration that continued for more than 20 years produced some 70 gardens. Munstead Wood was acquired by the National Trust in April 2023 and is being renovated and restored (for more on this, see below). Many of their gardens have disappeared but among those that have survived is the Manor House at Upton Grey near Basingstoke in Hampshire, where owner Ros Wallinger has lovingly restored and replanted according to the records, so that it is a completely authentic Jekyll garden once more. Other designers still loved formality. Gardens were laid out that might have come straight out of the 17th century as at Athelhampton in Dorset, where Inigo Thomas made a garden dominated by topiary. While the Great Plat and the Orangery at Hestercombe show 17th century formal influences, the luxuriant planting gives a modern twist. At Athelhampton you could be in a great garden of three centuries ago – but it was laid out in 1891. The love affair with Italian gardens continued, even to the extent of bringing huge pieces of sculpture and classical remains home to adorn the grounds, as did Harold Peto at his home, Iford Manor in Wiltshire.

ANYONE FOR TENNIS? Outdoor activities in the garden became very popular. With more closely mown lawns since the invention of the lawnmower, croquet and lawn tennis became fashionable. From country

house lawns to spacious rectory gardens, a tennis lawn was a great social draw. On a summer’s day, a shady place to sit is a very pleasant place to be. By the 1900s a pergola draped with climbers was a ‘must have’ for gardens of the well off. Pergolas have their origins in ancient Rome, and had been again popular in Italy in Renaissance times, the idea brought to England where ‘bowers’ and ‘arbours’ were built. It was this Italian influence that made them fashionable in Edwardian times. Some of the extremely ornate trellis work pergolas have not survived – Eaton Lodge in Essex was one. But others have, including the great pergola at Hestercombe and the 90 foot (30m) pergola built by Harold Peto at West Dean in West Sussex.

GREAT NEW PLANT INTRODUCTIONS This was the era when plant hunters returned to China time and again to bring back a bounty of new introductions, among them Ernest ‘Chinese’ Wilson, his nickname due to the years spent hunting for rare plants in Yunnan and around that part of south west China. He introduced more than 1,000 plants, including the pocket handkerchief tree Davidia involucrata, the regal lily, Lilium regale, rhododendrons, shrubs and trees; many gardens have at least one plant descended from a Wilson introduction. He was born at Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire although the family moved away soon after. A Memorial Garden to him in the town commemorates his contribution to horticulture. Not far away, American-born but quintessentially English, Lawrence Johnston created a magical garden at Hidcote from the early 1900s. An icon of early 20th century garden design, Hidcote has been much imitated as well as admired by the throngs of visitors who flock there. The garden rooms are surrounded by high yew hedges, with Italian influences but with a cottage garden feel in parts and luxuriant planting, much of it the new introductions from abroad. Johnston sponsored plant hunting expeditions and went on some as well. 11


GO TO SEE THESE EDWARDIAN GARDENS Athelhampton, near Dorchester, Dorset DT2 7LG Award-winning architectural gardens surround the Tudor manor house. Tel. 01305 848363 Barrington Court (NT), near Ilminster, Somerset TA19 0NQ Jekyll-influenced flower garden. Tel. 01460 242614 (Infoline) Buscot Park (NT), Faringdon, Oxfordshire SN7 8BU Peto-designed water garden by the lake. Tel. 0845 345 515731 Gravetye Manor, East Hoathly, Sussex RH19 4LJ William Robinson’s home, now a hotel; the restoration of the garden is ongoing. Tel. 01342 810567 Hestercombe Gardens, Cheddon Fitzpaine, Taunton TA2 8LG Lutyens/Jekyll magnificence in the Edwardian Garden, overlooked by the Victorian Terrace; and 18th century restored valley garden with lake and follies. Tel. 01823 413923 Hidcote Manor (NT), Hidcote Bartrim, nr. Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire GL55 6LR Iconic early 20th century garden. Tel. 01386 438333 Rodmarton Manor, near Cirencester, Gloucestershire GL7 6PF Designed for the Biddulph family by Ernest Barnsley. Opening on Easter Monday, 1st April, 2pm-5pm, and for the main season on Wednesday 1st May, open days Wednesdays and Saturdays, and bookings taken for group visits. Tel. 01285 841442 Snowshill Manor (NT), Snowshill, near Broadway, Gloucestershire WR2 7JU Eccentric collector Charles Wade’s home, with a garden of ‘rooms’. Tel. 01386 852410 The Manor House, Upton Grey, near Basingstoke, Hampshire RG25 2RD A most authentic Jekyll garden, restored by Ros Wallinger and her husband with planting to Jekyll’s original plans. Opens for 2024 on Wednesday 1st May. Tel. 01256 862827 Wayford Manor, near Crewkerne, Somerset TA18 8QG Harold Peto designed this garden for his sister and her husband in 1902. Opens for the NGS; next opening is on Sunday 28th April, 2pm-5pm. Tel. 01460 73253

Barrington Court


Buscot Park

Gravetye Manor

Snowshill Manor

Munstead Wood

Munstead Wood - now a National Trust property - will open to the public when restoration is completed Munstead Wood, near Godalming in Surrey, Gertrude Jekyll’s home built by Edwin Lutyens, and the start of their collaboration, was acquired by the National Trust in April 2023. The Trust is working on plans to renovate and restore the property and reopen it to visitors. Much of the 11 acres of gardens around the house is still intact. The garden was simplified in the 1950s but subsequent owners restored Jekyll’s design and planting. A remarkable aspect of the garden is the wealth of documentary evidence in photographs, planting plans, paintings and written descriptions, capturing the appearance and the spirit of the garden and offering the archival basis of an authentic restoration. Some of Jekyll’s original planting survives at Munstead Wood, particularly in the woodland garden. For updates go to 12

I have had a love affair with sundials ever since I can remember. I was as a child fascinated by two sundials my grandfather had in his Dorset garden and I remember him showing me how to ‘set’ a sundial so it can be as accurate as possible. I can’t imagine a garden without one. Sundials symbolise, romantically and nostalgically, the link between the sun, the Earth and the passage of time, and that’s why so many gardeners love them. The oldest true sundial, that we know of, is an Egyptian shadow clock made from green schist and built around 1500BC in Egypt. Shaped like a letter L the length of the shadow cast by the vertical leg and cross piece along the horizontal leg indicated the time. A sundial is 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. Looking from earth the sun is ½° across making shadows fuzzy at the edge. The actual construction of a sundial can be very accurate. A sundial won’t work if the sun isn’t visible, so you can only use it during the day when it’s clear enough out for the sun to cast a shadow. However, there is a similar device called a moondial that you can use at night, tracking shadows based on the moon’s position. Which way should a sundial point? If you live in the northern hemisphere, then your garden sundial should point towards the north, and if you live in the southern hemisphere it should be pointing southwards. You can try to locate north using the stars, but it’s much easier just to use a compass. Before clocks and watches existed, people used sundials to tell time. The earliest known sundials were used by Egyptians in 3500 B.C. and were used up until the early 19th century. If placed correctly, they can tell time accurately to the minute. Every year around the middle of April, time by the sun and time by the clock agree. For instance, when the midday sun climbs highest in the sky in mid-April, this sundial reads 12 o’clock noon and the local clock time says 12 o’clock noon (1pm daylight saving time). In these days of accurate clocks and watches no one thinks of using a sun dial to tell the time of day. At best such an instrument can be right but four times a year, and in many places it can never agree with standard time. Sundials must be carefully built and aligned. A sundial created for use at one latitude will give inexact times at other latitudes and times of the year. Many sundials even have two or more “hour lines” carved into them to indicate times in, for example, the summer and winter. I have three in my garden. I also gave them as presents to my two grown up daughters who love them as much as I do. What’s not to love about them?

Some popular sundial inscriptions All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today - Unknown Serius est quam cogitas - It is later than you think Ver non semper viret - Spring is not always in bloom Some tell of storms and showers, I tell of sunny hours Festina lente - Make haste, but slowly Utere, non numera - Use the hours, do not count them Dum tempus habemus operemur bonum - While we have time, let us do good Nunc est bibendum - Now is the time to drink Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you - unknown Lente hora, celeriter anni - An hour passes slowly, but the years pass quickly













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SHOWS & EVENTS Daffodils at the Cornwall Garden Society Spring Show. Photo credit: Ian Kingsmill

Looking forward to show time! There’s a wonderful array of gardening festivals, events, plant fairs and shows galore to get in the diary and look forward to later this year One of the nicest things at this time of the year and the start of a new gardening seasons is getting the diary out. It’s that rare chance to have the whole horticultural year ahead of you and looking at the wonderful array of garden shows, plant fairs, festivals, country and town shows, agricultural events , gardens open and more you’ll be able to attend . This year sees a full return to all the popular and well-known garden shows throughout the Cotswolds and south west of England. It all starts this month with the Hardy Plant Society Somerset Group Early Spring Plant Fair , RHS Rosemoor Spring Show , the Rare Plant Fair at Bishop’s Palace , Wells, an open day at Fonthill House gardens and then switches to Cornwall in early April with the Cornwall Garden Society’s Spring Flower Show and running through to a busy calendar of events through the summer and into the autumn. Here are just a few from a busy calendar which stand out:

Honiton Agricultural Show is East Devon’s Premier Day out! The Honiton Agricultural Show is planning for a great celebration of rural life in the East Devon Countryside on Thursday, 1st August. There will be fabulous array of entertainment and organisers will welcome the Shetland Pony Performance Display Team providing mini–Gold Cup display races raising funds for charities. There will also be have children’s entertainment in abundance-youngsters will be able to meet animated characters Sheridan the Sheepdog and Pumpkin the Pony and enjoy the fabulous Twistopher Punch and Judy Show. At the heart of the show will of course be the traditional livestock and horses including the majestic heavy horses, private driving and a variety of differing sheep breeds plus dairy and beef cattle. With a vast array of shopping on offer, food and drink for everyone’s taste buds and a ‘Cookery Theatre’ with demonstrations throughout the day, there is something to appeal to all the family at what is East Devon’s Premier Day out! For further details on the show or how to become a member of the association contact the secretary on 01404 41794. Gates open at 8am until 6pm. Discounted Early bird tickets are available now at £18 in advance. Gate prices are £20 held from last year. Visit

Pop-Up gardens return to the Royal Bath & West Show with a sensory theme

Royal Bath & West is famous for its floral displays

The Royal Bath & West Show returns from 30th May to 1st June with a Pop-Up Gardens Competition to stimulate the senses, called ‘Sensory Stages’. Judges are looking for gardens offering a multisensory experience whilst showcasing the use of sustainable materials and practices, to inspire and educate visitors about sensory awareness and sustainable living. With professional and amateur categories, new designers have the perfect opportunity to showcase their skills. With floral art displays and numerous trade stands too, visitors have many reasons to head to the Royal Bath & West Show this year. Admission will be £25. To book tickets or enter the Pop-Up Gardens competition, visit

ELKSTONE READY TO OPEN ITS GARDENS AGAIN Visitors will be able to enjoy the atmosphere of this beautiful Cotswold village and see parts of it not accessible to the casual visitor. Visit the Grade I listed Norman church, the highest in the Cotswolds and renowned for its arches, decorative features, and eco-friendly initiatives. Hear the bells ring out, visit the bell tower, amble through a selection of beautiful gardens, enjoy cream teas, homemade cakes or ice creams. All profits raised support the church and village hall. Free parking. Adults £7.50, children under 16 free.

The Showground, Shepton Mallet, Somerset BA4 6QN Tel: 01749 822200

Elkstone Open Gardens; Sunday 23rd June 2024 from 2pm to 6pm More details on

COTSWOLD GARDENS Come and visit our RHS partner garden. Enjoy light bites and refreshments from the Tea Room, buy plants from our Nursery, or simply explore the beautiful gardens – there is plenty to see and do! Scan the QR code for more information.

at Elkstone

Sunday 23rd June 2024 2 - 6pm Visit beautiful private gardens, the very special Norman church and enjoy refreshments and ice creams.

SAVE THE DATE We are still planning the event and updated details will be posted on: £7.50 for adults, children under 16 free. PROCEEDS HELP SUPPORT OUR CHURCH AND VILLAGE HALL 14

Country Gardener

HPS Somerset Group

EARLY SPRING PLANT FAIR Saturday 23rd March 2024 10am - 3pm (Garden open until 4pm) at Yeo Valley Organic Garden, Holt Farm, Blagdon BS40 7SQ Many top nurseries attending from England and Wales, plus stalls selling garden artefacts. Yeo Valley products and light refreshments available from the shop and café throughout the day. Pre-booking is essential. Admission charge will be £5 (£4 for HPS & RHS members) Booking opens 4th February 2024 Visit

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A Celebration of Horticulture!

Learn, network, and be inspired

20th & 21st April 2024 Turnpike Showground, SP7 9PL Talks, demonstrations, and interactive sessions led by renowned experts. Katherine Crouch: Discover ‘Plants that Should be Better Known’ Lara Honor: Explore ’Skool Beanz & Gardening with Children’ Sally Nex: Learn about ‘Plastic Free Gardening’ Geoff Hobson: Blackmore Vale Bonsai Group - Fascinating Bonsai talk Jane Moore: Award winning Head Gardener at the Bath Priory, author, BBC researcher and TV presenter Sally Morgan: ‘Gardening for Climate Change’




Three specialist Plant & Garden Fairs with Dorset Plant Heritage


There will again be three specialist fairs in Dorset, organised by Plant Heritage this gardening year . The first is Athelhampton House on Sunday 12th May. This fantastic venue is on the large west lawn of the Tudor Mansion House, adjacent to it’s large Dovecote, formal gardens and the picturesque River Piddle. The second and third plant fairs will be held at Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens on Sunday 23rd June and Sunday 1st Sept and, as with Athelhampton House, public admission to the fairs is £7 and this includes free access to the attractive gardens for the whole day until 5pm. Plant Heritage members from across the UK can get in free with a valid membership card. Both venues offer masses of space and even with the anticipated 25 – 30 stalls, it shouldn’t feel too crowded. At Abbotsbury there is a large permanent marquee with up to six craft stalls. In addition to the permanent catering facilities, there will be an Italian coffee stall amongst the plant stalls. If you wish to book Sunday lunch then contact the venues direct. You will find a very wide range of interesting plants from specialist growers across the south and west, including National Collection Holders.

Following the huge success of last year’s event, the Hardy Plant Society Somerset Group Early Spring Plant Fair, will once again be held at Yeo Valley Organic Garden, Blagdon BS40 7SQ on Saturday, 23rd March, from 10am to 3pm although the garden is open until 4pm. Admission is £5 which includes parking and entrance to the gardens - RHS and HPS members admission will be £4. Fourteen nurseries from England and Wales plus other garden related stalls will be there. Yeo Valley produce and light refreshments are available all day from the shop and cafe. Due to limited parking, there will be a ticket parking system in operation to encourage car sharing so please book a free parking space online when you book your admission tickets.

Spring into horticultural happiness The call has gone out to all green-fingered enthusiasts! The new-look Gillingham and Shaftesbury Spring Countryside Show will take place on Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st April and is not to be missed. Visitors will be able to enjoy two days of talks, demonstrations, interactive sessions and events in what is set to be a Lara will be doing a talk – Skool Beanz Project: fabulous celebration of horticulture. Gardening with Children It’s your chance to learn some top gardening tips from some of the country’s most highly respected garden experts. The line-up includes TV Presenter and award-winning head gardener Jane Moore plus many more. There’s also lots of brilliant entertainment for all the family with clown capers, pig racing, Dorset foods, live music and free tractor and trailer rides. Gillingham and Shaftesbury Spring Countryside Show, Turnpike Showground SP7 9PL

Visit Yeo Valley Organic Garden, Blagdon BS40 7SQ

The three Garden Shows are ready to bloom again Spring is almost here and the earth is warming up as bright primroses cheer the landscape whilst we wait for bluebells to bring joy to countryside and gardens. It’s the right time to start planning. Those three hardy show perennials, the Garden Shows at Firle, Stansted and Broadland sare getting ready to bring a plethora of plants, garden furniture, artisan designs, homeware products, sundries, fashion accessories and the most delicious country foods to your garden and home. Good garden advice and talks with plenty of family entertainment. Enjoy some great days in three beautiful locations. They are all worth looking forward to. Here’s the dates for your diaries • Firle, Nr Lewes, Friday to Sunday, 19th - 21st April • Stansted Park, Hampshire, Friday to Sunday, 7th - 9th June • Broadlands, Romsey, Friday to Sunday, 26th - 28th July


VIBRANT NEW FEATURES SET TO WELCOME CORNWALL SPRING FLOWER SHOW An immersive Cornish garden, an interactive Grow Your Own space for all the family and Tipi Talks by horticultural experts are just some of the vibrant new features that will enhance the dazzling displays of fabulous flora at the Cornwall Garden Society’s 2024 Spring Flower Show, sponsored by Cornish Lithium and Goonvean Aggregates. Described by The Daily Telegraph as the ‘Chelsea of the West’ and by Gardens Illustrated as ‘one of the best flower and garden shows,’ this celebration of Cornwall’s Photo credit: Ian Kingsmill early spring on Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th April at The Royal Cornwall Showground near Wadebridge, will provide gardening inspiration, trade secrets and practical tips a-plenty. Specialist nurseries and garden traders will offer much to tempt enthusiastic amateur gardeners and seasoned horticulturists alike. An artisan area will showcase contemporary Cornish crafts and scrumptious street food will sustain showgoers. Tickets: £10 in advance. £12 on the gate (card payment only). Free admission for under 16s. Well-behaved dogs welcome. Further Information: You can purchase tickets from


Organised by Plant Heritage Dorset

Sunday 12th May 2024 At Athelhampton House, Nr Puddletown, Dorset, DT2 7LG Sunday 23rd June 2024 & Sunday 1st Sept 2024 Both at Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, Dorset, DT3 4LA Plant Fairs open 10am – 3pm. Admission £7.00 includes entry to the gardens (until 5pm). Free to all Plant Heritage Members. Many specialist nurseries and growers, including National Collection Holders, large selection of garden stalls plus craft & wildlife stalls. Quality refreshments and food. Free parking. Beautiful locations. Proceeds support Plant Conservation & Education in Dorset

One of the most popular plant sales in the Cotswolds returns on Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th April when West Kington Nurseries hold their ‘massive’ plant sale. Entry over the two-day event is free and visitors with have the chance to wonder over the five acre site of the nursery which promises to be bursting with spring plants and bulbs. Catalogues for the sale are sold in aid of local charities. Call 01249 782822 or visit for more information. West Kington Nurseries, West Kington, Chippenham SN14 7JQ 16

Firle, Nr Lewes

Country Gardener

30 MAY - 1 JUNE 2024




Taunton Flower Show a must entry in your high summer diary


The most popular and oldest flower show in the Southwest is back and there is so much more than flowers to see! Taunton Flower Show will be opening the gates to Vivary Park on Friday 2nd and Saturday 3rd August for two glorious days of entertainment, shopping, eating and fun. Enjoy the amazing floral and competition marquees, as well as dazzling entertainment and stunning designer gardens, built especially for the show. There are many traders, including local designers, artists, makers and food traders in our artisan village. Tickets are available now and children go free with a paying adult. It’s a quality day out for all the family! Website

An RHS partner garden with a Grade I listed medieval priory backdrop. A mix of classic and modern features, including a ‘hot’ border, sub-tropical walk, blue garden, Mediterranean garden, shade border, Southern hemisphere and a winter garden. Home to Somerset’s only botanical glasshouse, featuring hundreds of different species from around the world such as the magnificent jade vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys). There’s also a gift shop, tearoom and specialist plant nursery; plants are propagated on-site and sold at great prices! Open Tuesday – Sunday, 10am – 3pm/4pm (seasonal), year-round excluding 2 weeks at Christmas. Last admission to the Gardens is 1 hour before closure. The Walled Gardens holds a variety of events and special offers throughout the year suitable for all age groups. Please check the website for further information. Church Street, Cannington TA5 2HA Email: Tel: 01278 655042


West Kington, Nr Chippenham, Wiltshire SN14 7JQ

2024 Charity Garden Openings



Fonthill House garden opening in aid of the National Garden Scheme (12pm – 5pm)

Open to the public


Fonthill House garden opening in aid of the Seeds 4 Success (12pm – 5pm)

27th & 28th April 2024


SATURDAY 9AM-5PM SUNDAY 10AM-4PM Follow the yellow signs from the A420

Variety of wonderful stalls (April & June), ice cream van, wine stall, refreshments tent serving delicious things savoury and sweet, tea, soft drinks etc. Well behaved dogs on leads welcome. Unfortunately there is restricted wheelchair access in the gardens.

Over 5 Acres of plants Refreshments Catalogues sold in aid of local charities

Fonthill House garden opening in aid of the Atlantic Salmon Trust (12pm – 5pm)


Fonthill House, Tisbury, Salisbury SP3 5SA For more information visit

01249 782822

Honiton Agricultural Show We look forward to welcoming you on Thursday 1st August 2024

Fabulous entertainment, Delicious food and drink, Over 400 trade stands. Majestic livestock and horses, Bees and honey, Dog show, Vintage tractors and classic cars, West of England hound show, Cookery theatre. Please apply for trade, livestock and horse schedules. ADVANCE TICKETS JUST £18 (ACCOMPANIED UNDER 16 GO FREE) AVAILABLE FROM Secretary: Marcelle Connor, Bank House, 66a High Street, Honiton, Devon, EX14 1PS

March Fair 17th March The Bishop’s Palace, Wells, Somerset BA5 2PD

Fair open from 10am – 4pm Please visit our website for full details of admission fees and times of opening. 18

Country Gardener

Three open days lined up at popular Fonthill House Gardens

Rare Plant Fairs return for 2024 Rare Plant Fairs are back this year with specialist plant fairs held in unique and prestigious gardens across the country. The popular events are attended by a great selection of specialist nurseries from across the country, all of whom are experts in the plants that they grow, offering a wide range of interesting and unusual plants for your garden. The Bishop’s Palace starts the season on March 17th, from 10am to 4pm. Hidden within the ancient ramparts and protected by the moat are 14 acres of stunning, tranquil gardens in the heart of the City of Wells, Somerset. You can wander around the many herbaceous borders, admire the beautiful views of the gardens, moat and further afield from the top of the ramparts, meander through the Arboretum, admire the reflection of Wells Cathedral in one of the well pools, explore what is growing in the Community Garden and, finally, take a moment to recharge your batteries in the contemporary Garden of Reflection. for details of all the events

Last year English Country Garden magazine teamed up with the National Garden Scheme to identify the UK’s most popular gardens to visit. Fonthill House Garden in Wiltshire home of Lord Margadale and his family was chosen as a regional finalist. This year he’s opening his garden to the public again for three amazing charities so it’s a wonderful chance to visit this sensational garden. Be assured Lord Margadale will be there to welcome visitors. The first opening is in aid of the NGS on Sunday, 24th March. The second for an inspiring local charity, Seeds4Success, who’s aim is to provide children from low income communities with the skills and support to achieve success in school and life, . And the third, on Sunday 9th June, is for a national charity, Atlantic Salmon Trust, who’ve realised the population of salmon in most of Great Britain is classified as an endangered species with their numbers having dropped from eight to ten million in 1980 to two to three million today. Their sole aim is to fight for, and protect, wild salmon and sea trout by securing cold clean water and to restore their natural habitat within entire river catchment areas. Further details for ticket prices, sales and times visit

SHOWS STAND OUT AS HIGHLIGHTS IN BUSY RHS ROSEMOOR CALENDAR It’s another busy spring and summer to look forward to at RHS Rosemoor but some special shows stand out as highlights. First to arrive will be Spring Flower Show, now in its tenth year at Rosemoor-on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th March. Show visitors will be able to enjoy spring blooms grown by competitors from the South West and beyond, focusing on daffodils, camellias, early magnolias and rhododendrons. The show includes classes for ornamental shrubs and the RHS Daffodil competition. Classes are free to enter so contact the RHS Competitions Manager Georgina Barter at . Opening times -Saturday: 11.30am (after judging) to 4pm; Sunday: 10amto 3pm. RHS Rosemoor welcomes the Alpine Garden Society to the RHS Alpine Garden Society Show on Saturday, 23rd March– an opportunity to see some of the best-grown alpines in the country . The show opens at 11am. Stunning displays of camellias and magnolias take over RHS Rosemoor on Saturday, 20th and Sunday 21st April as exhibitors come from all over the south and west. RHS Garden Rosemoor, Great Torrington, Devon EX38 8PH

WALLED GARDEN AT MORETON HOSTS APRIL PLANT FAIR If you are looking for an gardening themed day out, then look no further than a specialist plant fair .The Walled Garden at Moreton, near Dorchester is the venue on Saturday, April 20th for a fair which will attract unique growers and garden focused traders. Entry is £5 and the fair is open from 10am to 3pm. It’s your chance to sniff out great-value purchases or spoil yourself with that ravishing on-trend must have! Tickets are available on Eventbrite or on the gate on the day. For more information about the fairs, including a full nursery listings visit

2ND & 3RD AUGUST 2024 VIVARY PARK, TAUNTON Family Day Out | Garden Inspiration | Food & Drink | Entertainment | Shopping | Competitions... and so much more!

Discounted Tickets

Discounts available online until 30th April Children free with a paying adult








ON THE MOVE MOVE!! Our gardens and homes wouldn’t be the same in spring and summer if we didn’t have the joy of migratory birds spending a few months with us. Bird migration remains both a delight and wonder - and it’s about to happen again! Spring and summer wouldn’t be the same without birds soaring overhead or serenading us with their song, nesting in garages, gardens, outbuildings and sheds. Summer visitors are birds that arrive on British shores in spring to breed. They spend summer in Britain, rearing their young before returning south in autumn. The most intriguing question about our summer visitors is not why they go south, but why they return to Britain year after year. Overall, there are two factors that compel them to come here. First, there is plenty of room to hold territory without being crowded out by African birds. And secondly, the long daylight hours allow birds to feed their young for longer every day, helping them to grow quickly. And it is this, on a February morning, that beckons the swallow northward. February is the big moving month – soon it will be on the wing. Yet it seems fewer and fewer of them are returning each year, with cuckoos, turtle doves and spotted flycatchers all in real decline. Swifts and house martins, which choose to live so closely alongside us, have also joined the red list of birds of conservation concern in the UK. There are many reasons behind these declines, but it’s clear climate change and habitat loss are playing a key part.

WHY DO BIRDS MIGRATE? Not all birds stay in the same place their whole lives. Some migrate to take advantage of seasonal resources, especially food, so that they can breed successfully or simply survive. Some migrations are short, but many birds make truly epic journeys, crossing continents, deserts and oceans. In the UK, we see a surge in bird migration during the spring, when summer visitors like swifts and cuckoos arrive, and then again in the autumn, when waders, wildfowl and a whole host of other winter visitors return and summer visitors depart. Birds use a wide range of techniques to navigate along their ‘flyways’ – superhighways for bird migration. They can use physical landmarks like rivers, coastlines or mountains, they can navigate using the sun, the stars, the Earth’s magnetic field, their sense of smell, or even just follow other birds. But no matter how they do it, migration is a truly incredible feat.

HOW DO BIRDS KNOW WHERE TO GO? Bird migration behaviour has evolved over long periods of time. Navigation is often ‘hard-wired’ and shaped by environmental cues like changes in temperature or day length. Once an individual bird has successfully completed its first annual migration cycle, they often simply repeat the same pattern throughout their lives. If it works once, it’s likely to work again.

DANGERS OF MIGRATION Migration has evolved to enable species to survive but birds may face many dangers on the way. These include: • Bad weather, especially extreme events. Anything from sandstorms and wildfires to storms at sea can put birds in serious danger. New arrivals need to start feeding quickly, so bad weather at their destination, like late snowfall, can also spell disaster. • Birds can get lost, despite their navigation skills. Youngsters on their first journey south can easily go astray, especially if they meet bad weather. • Collision course. Tall man-made objects can be deadly to migrating birds. Skyscrapers with reflective glass walls are among the worst for migrating land birds. If power lines and wind turbines are placed along key migration routes, they can cause collision problems for larger soaring migratory birds such as large birds of prey, storks, cranes, etc. • Loss of resting spots. Migrating birds need safe stop-offs where they can rest and eat along the way. In the UK, wetlands are havens for migrants. If people damage these places or disturb birds while they’re roosting and feeding, the birds have nowhere to recover and refuel. • Predators. Many predators have migrating birds on their menu. Resting along the way can be risky. • Hunting – Migrating birds may be the target of legal hunting or illegal killing such as trapping during their journeys.

THE MIGRATION LINE UP Swallows The swallow has one of the longest migrations of any bird, with the British population heading for the eastern part of South Africa, where they arrive 20

So what cues do birds use to help them follow a route in the first place? Many use obvious physical landmarks like mountain ranges, river valleys or coastlines to guide them. Others travel more directly, even if this means crossing dangerous stretches of desert or sea. Routes often meet at certain junctions, such as mountain passes or narrow sea crossings. Many migrating birds return along roughly the same route they followed on their outward journey. Others return a different way, maybe taking advantage of different winds and weather systems or food supplies only available at certain locations at different times of year.

HOW DO BIRDS KNOW WHEN TO MIGRATE? A bird’s body tells it exactly when to migrate. Each year, at the same time, glands in its body release hormones into its system. Environmental cues, including the gradually changing day length as days get shorter in late summer and longer in early spring, cause this to happen automatically. These hormones make birds behave differently. In spring, hormones also start preparing a bird for breeding. This change is another signal to set off. For a small number of bird species – swans, geese and cranes are examples – migration of young birds is learnt from the behaviour of parents. The young follow their parents for several months, ensuring that they migrate at the right time, follow the right route and learn where feeding sites are along the way.

in November as harbingers of spring. They feed there in much the same way, swooping low to catch juicy flying insects, although they also nab some seeds from Acacia cyclops, hovering at the tips of the branches. They also roost in huge numbers in reed beds. Swift Swifts arrive in Britain in late April or early May, and are a welcome sight and sound in the skies. However, they don’t stick around here long – staying just long enough to breed before beginning their autumn migration back to Africa in late July or early August. It’s believed that their autumn migration is prompted by fewer insects in the air. Cuckoo Tracking of cuckoos in recent years has revealed much about their extraordinary migration. Many adults leave Britain on their southward journey as early as June. They then fly to West Africa (Nigeria for example), followed by a journey into the deep rainforest of the Congo Basin – a minimum of 6,500km –where they spend most of the winter. This is a completely different habitat to the marshes, moors and farmland they inhabit in Britain, and they are hardly ever seen in the rainforest. The cuckoo returns to Britain in April. Following a big population decline in the south of England, they are now most common in northern England and Scotland. House Martins These birds usually zoom around in flocks. They have a short, forked tail, a white rump, blue black upper parts and pure white throat and belly large numbers of house martins return year after year to regular haunts where they nest in barns, outbuildings and sheds and are very high energy visitors.

Country Gardener


House Martin



Early season delights to enjoy It’s early of course but gardeners tend to be impatient folk and keen to get on with things. And that’s why the first venues to open for the new gardening season are always something rather special. The year ahead promises lots with so many places to visit old and new. It may only be March but already there are special openings and early season delights to enjoy. Here’s just a few...


Boscrege Caravan and Touring park in Cornwall is a peaceful and picturesque park, set at the foot of Tregonning Hill, Godolphin National Trust and amongst a myriad of Cornish lanes in an area of outstanding natural beauty. The park, open all year through, is close to the wonderful Cornwall coast and only a few minutes drive to Praa Sands, one of Britain’s nicest beaches. St Ives, Penzance, Hayle, Lands End, The Lizard Peninsular, Helston and Falmouth and many other Cornwall attractions and beaches are very easily visited from the central location in West Cornwall. So if you are looking to take a luxury holiday (doggie friendly with dog friendly homes & on site designated fields for the dogs too) in Cornwall this year in a either a self catering caravan, lodges touring or even purchasing your very own holiday home then contact Boscrege Caravan and Touring Park. And new this year, an exciting development of single/twin lodges available to buy with a 20 year site licence and two years free site fees. Visit with a two night free stay available for genuine buyers. Boscrege Caravan Park, Boscrege, Ashton, Cornwall TR13 9TG Tel: 01736 762231

24 acres of Rare Shrubs, Trees, Pools & Waterfalls Home-made soups & cakes

10th March - 9th June on Sundays, Wednesdays and Bank Holidays 11am - 5pm

Harford Ivybridge PL21 0JF Tel 01752 691749

Hartland Abbey opens for daffodils and spring flowers on 10th March

Hartland Abbey Gardens- open earlier than normal this spring to show off the wonderful daffodils

A little earlier than in the past, Hartland Abbey is opening its gates for a chance to see the early spring flowers at a reduced entry price on Mothering Sunday before the season opens on 24th March for Easter. As bulbs and shrubs begin flowering earlier it is an opportunity not to miss the wonderful collection of daffodils and narcissi, camellias, magnolias, hellebores, chionodoxas, clematis armandii and spring flowers. Winding paths lead to the walled gardens, the woodland summerhouse and gazebo overlooking the Atlantic at Blackpool Mill; three and a half miles of beautiful walks in the sea air. Doggy heaven! The Malory Towers trail is good for keeping children entertained – series 5 is coming soon! Delicious homemade refreshments will be served in the Tea Room. The house will be open too at a small extra charge from 12 to 3pm.

For all information see Hartland, Nr. Bideford EX39 6DT Tel: 01237 441496/234

Hartland Abbey & Gardens

Want to advertise in one of our features?

MOTHERING SUNDAY 10th March 11am - 4pm EASTER OPENING from 24th March 11am - 5pm

We offer special all counties prices when advertising with our features, plus 100 words of free editorial with an advert.

* Special rate: Adults £9 Child over 5 £1 * * House open 12-3pm £4 * Dogs very welcome * * Delicious light lunches & cream teas *

Speak to one of our sales people for more details.

On Mothers Day enjoy a family day out with beautiful historic daffodils, spring flowers and wildflower walks to the beach!

Opening Easter week for the 2024 Season: 24th March - 3rd October Sunday to Thursday 11am - 5pm (House 2pm - last adm. 4pm)

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



© Nicola Stocken


Over 3,500 exceptional gardens to discover Find your perfect garden:

With a welcoming atmosphere and set in 12 acres of Cornish countryside only two miles from the beautiful sandy beaches of Praa Sands, Boscrege Caravan & Touring Park is the best place to enjoy your Cornish holiday. Each of our luxury holiday homes comes with a private garden and Wi-Fi. Perfect

for families and couples, we are open all year, and offer seasonal pitches. We offer the following: • Designated dog walking fields • Pet friendly accommodation • Comprehensive storage • Luxury holiday homes for sale

01736 762231 •




the soil


Lakesland - 25 acres of family owned gardens with something for everyone

Visitors wax lyrical about the beauty of Lakeland Gardens The perfumes, the peace, the beauty.....’ ‘The most magical gardens I have ever visited’, ‘Scrummy soup and cake!’ These are some of the comments from appreciative visitors to the spectacular 25-acre Lukesland Gardens, Ivybridge. Tucked away in a woodland valley on the edge of Dartmoor (just 10 minutes off the A38), Lukesland’s noted collection of rare trees and flowering shrubs provides a spectacular show of colour in the Spring. The Addicombe Brook at the heart of the garden is criss-crossed by a series of charming and unusual bridges over pools and waterfalls. There are also many sculptures, including a redwood carved into a buzzard. With delicious homemade soup and cakes on offer in the tearoom, and free entry and fun activities for children, these family-owned gardens have something for everyone. Dogs are welcome on a lead. Spring openings are on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Bank Holidays 11am to 5pm from 10th March to 9th June. For further details call 01752 691749/07479 383531 or go to or

Very few of us gardeners are blessed with the perfect soil - fertile, well drained with moisture retentive loam. Even if you think you are one of the luckier ones when it comes to soil quality it’s always possible to add to it and improve it to make it better suited to growing plants and crops. Soil conditioners must be organic, such as manures, grit, lime or gypsum. Organic and chemical soil improvers function differently. So, it goes without saying as the new growing season beckons the very priority in our gardens must be improving the soil. Not to do so will condemn the new season to something way below average.

Mould Leaf mould is what’s left when the dead, fallen leaves from deciduous trees and shrubs are heaped up and allowed to rot down. As they slowly moulder, only the toughest bits remain, eventually forming spongy, dark brown crumbs to rival any dessert topping. Leaf mould is easy to make, free of pests, diseases and weeds (unless you gather it from where they’re seeding), a delight to handle, and you can’t possibly overdose your soil on it. The hidden alchemy that brings it about – the countless microorganisms that drive decay – gives leaf mould its almost magical quality. Leaves that are low in fibrous lignin and high in nitrogen and calcium will produce leaf mould within a year. Add directly to a mesh bin or bagged without chopping. Leaf mould helps open the soil without drying it out. Leaves to use: ash, beech, birch, cherry, elm, hornbeam, lime, oak, poplar, willow. DRAWBACKS: The only soil improver that's not commercially available so must be made at home and can be hard to produce in sufficient amounts. The best leaf mould will take three years to reach its best.

Marlborough House – open for the NGS again this summer

NGS have a 2024 treasure trove of gardens for visitors to enjoy We’ve got a treasure trove of gorgeous National Garden Scheme gardens just waiting to be explored in 2024. As well as the traditional country gardens that have supported the National Garden Scheme ever since our foundation in 1927, today our gardens represent the glorious kaleidoscope that makes up today’s diverse garden landscape. With almost 3,500 gardens, including 908 new and returning gardens, the year ahead is bursting with horticultural promise. And it’s never too early to start planning your garden visits or to book one of our special events. Find your perfect garden on our website. 22

Go easy on the weeds in early spring By March it’s too late to sow a cover crop or green manure. However, many overwintering annual weeds will, just like a cover crop, help to protect the soil from erosion and heavy rain. Weeds such as chickweed and bittercress, plus self-sown salads like winter purslane (claytonia or miner’s lettuce) and corn salad will create a mat of foliage. Leave these in place until the spring, when they should be hoed off before they get a chance to set seed and spread. The foliage can then be dug into the soil or removed to the compost heap.

Rotted manure Manures are strictly speaking derived from animal faeces, mainly cattle or horses’ urine and bedding, typically straw but sometimes wood chips or hemp fibre. Manure can be ‘fresh’ straight from the farm or stable, or it can be wellrotted. The latter is much more hygienic and easy to use, but the former can be richer in nutrients. Any manure with recognisable straw or wood chips is best stacked and allowed to rot for a season, ideally under cover or at least covered with a plastic sheet to exclude rain.

Spent mushroom compost Mushroom compost has a high organic matter content that makes it a useful material for soil improvement and mulching. It can sometimes be obtained cheaply and in large quantity from local mushroom farms, soil and manure suppliers. Traditionally made with well-rotted stable manure, mushroom compost is now generally made using composted straw. Mushroom compost often contains chalk and is alkaline in nature. When using mushroom compost, remove any large pieces of chalk that are visible, and use it in moderation, alternating with well-rotted manure or garden compost, these being only slightly alkaline or neutral in their reaction. This avoids excessive build up of chalk in the soil. Mushroom compost is most useful on acid soils that are low in organic matter, where the liming effect of the chalk is an added benefit to soil fertility. Mushroom compost is not recommended for neutral, alkaline or chalky soils, which would be made excessively alkaline by the addition of further chalk.

Soil conditioners must be organic - and strengthening the soil is now a priority

‘Composted manure’ is often offered, usually baled or bagged, and this manure has not just been stacked but it has been turned or mixed, wetted in dry weather, resulting in a very uniform relatively hygienic product that is usually more expensive than manure from the farm. Manure is usually alkaline and as such provides a quick release of nutrients, then a slow gradual release if supplies are limited. It is best applied in early spring and encourages worms and improves moisture retention. DRAWBACKS: Bagged products can be heavy and costly. Herbicide residues can be a problem.

Clay breaker This is material based on gypsum and available from specialist horticultural suppliers and garden centres. It corrects soil structure problems of heavy clay without affecting pH. It can open up clay soils but the effects can be unpredictable and it’s best to test out on a small area first.

Garden compost It’s free and environmentally friendly! Home grown garden compost provides you with rich organic matter that does wonders to improve the quality of your garden soil. Whether you sprinkle compost on the surface of the soil or work it in, your garden plants and landscape will grow healthier and stronger thanks to the addition. When making your own avoid letting one material dominate, especially grass cuttings which can form a smelly, slimy mess. The effect on soil structure is dramatic. It has bulk, improves moisture retention and is a good alternative to animal compost. DRAWBACKS: It’s unlikely you will ever be able to make enough yourself. Ready to use compost takes six months especially in winter. Emptying the bin and turning it is hard work. In some cases weed seeds and fungal spores aren’t destroyed and transfer to the garden plot.

Lay organic mulch If your soil currently has crops growing in it, you can spread organic matter as a thick mulch two to three inches (5-7cm) deep in-between plants. The worms will ‘dig in’ the mulch for you, improving the soil for the vegetables to follow. An organic mulch is the best way to improve fertility and soil structure around perennial plants such as strawberries and fruit trees, bushes and canes, because you don’t want to risk damaging their roots by digging. These robust plants can cope with lumpier or less refined organic matter, including bark chips and shredded prunings. It will also ‘lock in’ moisture, helping you conserve water and making your plants resilient to hot dry weather.

Supercharging your soil Soil – it’s not much to look at but when it comes to growing healthy fruits and vegetables, there’s nothing more important. Soil that’s in top-notch condition is the secret behind successful harvests, and now’s the time to prime your soil for the coming growing season. To incorporate organic matter into your soil, first lay it on the soil surface. Be as generous as you can – really pile it on! Spread it out evenly before forking it in to the top six to 12 inches (15-30cm) of your soil. Within a few weeks you’ll notice a boom in your soil’s earthworm population – a surefire sign that all that goodness is getting to work.



The three steps to successful

GROW YOUR OWN For the many gardeners about to embark on another season of growing your own there’s no real secret to it all. It essentially boils down to three things-getting your soil right, selecting the right seeds and sowing and planting sensibly. The soil is key and getting the right compost in place for the new season is vital. Many will have some of their own, but few gardeners have enough home made compost to deal with a full growing season so buying in quality compost is essential. Add compost or manure-one big wheelbarrow for every five square metres of ground. Dig this compost into the top 10comsof soil and your bed is ready for planting. If you want to sow seeds, use a rake to break down and gently flatten the topsoil into a fine texture – known as tilth so the seeds can access soil and water to germinate Sowing from seed is so satisfying it saves you money, you have the joy of watching your seedlings grow and the satisfaction of achieving mature, healthy plants which are well suited to your growing area. For successful organic growing start by planning what you want to grow and where-using


crop rotation each year will keep your plot healthy When it comes to seeds try to aim for quality. It will pay in the end when it comes round to crops and harvest time. Follow the instructions on the seed packet- they should tell you when to sow, how deep, how far apart and whether the seed needs to be covered, Many seeds like to be covered by the equivalent of their size in soil depth but some wild flower seed needs light to germinate and can rest on top of the prepared soil. Watering is important. Make sure the soil or compost is damp from the beginning and maintain that dampness while germinating and growing. Too wet and the seeds can rot; too dry and they won’t survive to put down roots. Use a rose on the watering can otherwise you will be in danger or washing the seeds away!

Gardeners in the south west will be tempted over the next few weeks to get a head start on the season as the sun feels a little warmer. A warm spell however can be followed by freezing weather or flood so it’s also time to be patient. Spend the time getting the soil improved, tidying up and general preparation for the new season.


From the earth, back to the earth Crafted from the husk of the coconut 100% Peat-free Excellent water retention, air porosity and drainage Natural and biodegradable



of Coir VitalGrow potting mix from one 5kg block! Country Gardener

nce 1983 Peat-free si

nce 1983 Peat-free si

nce 1983 Peat-free si




® The Royal Horticultural Society. Trade marks of The Royal Horticultural Society (Registered Charity No 222879/SC038262) used under licence from RHS Enterprises Limited.

® The Royal Horticultural Society. Trade marks of The Royal Horticultural Society (Registered Charity No 222879/SC038262) used under licence from RHS Enterprises Limited.

® The Royal Horticultural Society. Trade marks of The Royal Horticultural Society (Registered Charity No 222879/SC038262) used under licence from RHS Enterprises Limited.

3348 Advert Country Gardener 239x154mm.indd 1

08/02/2024 16:17





Multi award winning compost products from Melcourt It has taken over 30 years to formulate and perfect the Melcourt range of 100 per-cent peat-free composts. All are RHS endorsed – some by Royal Appointment – and many are multi-award-winning products. Top quality doesn’t happen overnight. There are no short cuts when it comes to growing media design and manufacturing. Melcourt, carry out their own trials and testing although we make extensive use of an accredited laboratory for nutrient analyses. They have demonstrated that there is very little that cannot be grown successfully and commercially without the use of peat. Ask your local garden centre manager, call Melcourt on 01666 502711 or visit the website at


Widely used for sowing, CoirProducts. of Salike, CoirCoins are completely biodegradable, making them unique in the market. Crafted from the dust and fibres of the coconut husks, CoirCoins are fully natural, biodegradable, and peat-free. What makes them distinct, however, is that the cover that is used to hold the coir together is made with polymers of corn starch, making it CoirCoins – unique in the market 10per-cent biodegradable, and thus setting it apart from other such similar products in the market. CoirCoins also come in four distinct sizes, including in 25mm, 32mm, 38mm, and 42mm, and are known for their high-germination rates within the gardening community. A carbon neutral company, continues to bring products that are of high quality and are ethically produced and sourced.

Garden advice A new season and a new batch of queries from our readers. If you have a problem or something you would like help on then email us at or write to us on a postcard to Country Gardener, Mount House, Halse, Taunton TA4 3AD

Everyone seems to think that snowdrops should be divided and moved ‘in the green’ while they are in growth usually after flowering. But is this the best advice? Oliver Tresant Plymouth Yes, it is and it’s an effective way to get your snowdrop display to improve year on year – at no cost. Gently prise them apart with your hands into a few small clumps with the soil intact. Make some holes where you want more snowdrops and pop the clumps in, you can sprinkle a little bone meal into the hole first but if you have good soil it isn’t really necessary. Water them in well. Try to separate the bulbs causing as little harm to the roots as possible. It is possible to replant the bulbs singly and let them expand naturally, but if you want a quicker return, split the clump into smaller groups of three or four. You will be amazed how the plants will multiply and improve your display.

I am undecided about whether to spend money on plug plants this spring. Are they a waste of money or do they help speed things up in the garden? Can anyone give me some reassurance? Rick Bannerman Taunton Other than the question of cost there is little argument that plug plants are a great option. The cost factor can’t be ignored as they can be much more expensive than for instance a packet of seed. However, plug plants have been professionally raised in a greenhouse to ensure a good root system and excellent plant health. So, there should be no problem with the plants themselves. They’re an ideal way to save time and will help you to quickly fill your borders and beds with strong, healthy plants. You can also shop around for bargains as the plug market is very competitive and there are bargains out there.

Grow the best with seeds from Premier Seeds Direct Cucamelons are great fun to grow

Tomato ‘Moneymaker’


If you are looking for a wide selection of high-quality seeds without compromising on value, look at Premier Seeds Direct. They have carefully selected and sourced over 2,000 varieties of seeds from old favourites (Tomato Moneymaker) to some more unusual varieties (Cucamelon). All their seeds are stored in climatically controlled conditions and tested for germination to guarantee quality. With great prices and a speedy delivery, you’ll be ready to grow the best at home this season! Visit

Which potatoes are best for roasting? I’ve had some mixed results when it comes to potatoes in recent years and this time, I thought I’d only grow specific varieties. Andy Tripp Petersfield There are some obvious and well known varieties which will make things easier for you.King Edward. A name everyone will be familiar with, King Edward potatoes are a hugely popular heritage variety, characterised by the pink blush around the eyes, creamy white flesh, easy to grow and blight resistant. The Maris Piper has a golden skin and creamy white flesh with a fluffy texture. This makes it a versatile all-rounder, great for chips and roast potatoes, but also good for mash and wedges. Yukon Gold potatoes are often considered to be all-purpose potatoes, as they work well in a variety of different dishes. They have enough starch for their interiors to become creamy when heated in the oven and are waxy enough to keep their shape as they form a pleasantly crunchy crust. Although Yukon Golds are the best potatoes for roasting, you can use them in an array of recipes that call for waxy or starchy potatoes.

Is it too late to prune my three pear trees which have in the past year suffered from a poor crop and canker and generally now look unhealthy? I’d like to do something to re-vitalise them, but I’m worried I could do more harm than good. Mandy Urquart Bideford The best time to prune your pear tree is determined by how the tree is being grown. Free-standing trees should be tackled from mid-winter to early March when the leaves have fallen. But if a pear is being grown as a cordon, espalier or fan, it’s best pruned in summer, with just a light tidy up over winter. In general, pears grow from older wood than apples and so should be pruned much more lightly. The principle of letting air and light into the tree remains the same. It is best to prune a pear tree when it’s still dormant, this means you can still get the secateurs out right up to March, about two weeks after a late frost. Not only are the buds easier to see and cut, but the cuts will also heal more quickly. If you prune in the autumn then new growth will start but will be damaged by the cold winter.

I’ve not been very successful with growing onions from sets. I wonder if it might be better to grow from seeds? Liam Hall Dorchester Let’s explain things first. It is a matter of choice - and patience. Onion sets are immature bulbs that were grown from seed that was planted in mid-summer of the previous year. The partially grown bulbs are pulled from the soil and stored in a dormant state through the winter to be replanted the following spring. Many gardeners plant onions from sets because they’re widely available and it’s easy, but there are a few reasons why this may not be the best way to grow a good onion crop. Onions are cool-season crops that require 90 days or more to reach maturity. Because of this long growing season requirement and their preference for cooler weather, planting onion seeds directly into the garden in the spring makes it difficult for the bulbs to reach a good size before warm temperatures arrive. This means the seeds must be started many weeks in advance of moving the plants outside into the garden. To make matters worse, onion seedlings are also slow growing. So, if you want to grow onion seeds indoors, you should start them ten to 12 weeks before it’s time to plant them into the garden in early spring.

Every year for the past three years I have had severe mildew problems growing broad beans. They seem healthy enough after a few weeks but then slowly seem to get overtaken by disease. Might it be a soil problem? Graham Taylor Liss It might be a soil problem if you are planting the broad beans in the same plot as previous years. Broad beans are one of those vegetables which must be crop rotated to have any chance of staying healthy. The dreaded fungal spores overwinter on plant debris, so clean up the beds in the autumn. Also make sure the plants are well fed and watered. Some varieties are resistant (marked PM). You can try controlling the infection by spraying affected leaves with compost tea or soapy water (diluted with four parts water). The soap acts as a desiccant on contact with powdery mildew. The application of soap sprays is more effective if used as a preventative measure than when used to eradicate powdery mildew after infestation has occurred. No spray residue is visible on plant surfaces after treatment. However, if left untreated, powdery mildew can leech nutrients from the plant, eventually causing leaves to wither and yellow. This can make blooms unsightly and leave vegetables and fruits particularly vulnerable to rotting before the crop appears.

Tulip fire disease has been a plague in my borders for a couple of years. It has ended up with a much reduced displays as I always take out the offending flowers. Once it has taken hold is there any chance I can get rid of it? Frankie Richards Milverton The best way to manage this disease is by inspection and sanitation. While inspecting plants carry a paper bag. Remove faded or blighted flowers, blighted leaves, or entire plants infected at the base and place them in the paper bag so that they may be discarded with the rubbish or burned. The fungus can be so severe that tulips may need to be removed entirely within a week. To prevent the spread of the fungus, it is best to remove infected tulips entirely and check for any other heavily infected tulips in the surrounding area. Botrytis blight overwinters on plants, in or on the soil, and as sclerotia. Spores develop when conditions are optimal and are moved by wind or splashing water onto blossoms or young leaves, where they germinate and enter the plant. It may be better to take the tough decision and abandon tulips in this area.

I’ve been struggling with my dahlias in recent years. We live in a sheltered corner of north Devon and I was advised not to dig them up but I regret that now as I lost most of them last winter and now I am in danger of being over cautious. This autumn I dug most of them up and moved them indoors but I am now not sure when to plan them and when they should be exposed. Annie Roper Barnstaple There is a trend now to be less protective about dahlia tubers. If you are in a sheltered frost free spot then you can afford to be a little mor relaxed about timings. Simply plant dahlia tubers in large pots filled with peat-free multi-purpose potting compost in March or early April, and then keep them on a windowsill or in a frostfree greenhouse until late May, when it’s safe to plant them outside. When you are planting dahlia tubers, you may or may not see a sprout. Often, the tubers don’t sprout until they have been in the ground (or in a pot) for four to six weeks. It takes tubers longer to come out of dormancy when they are planted early in the season and the weather is cool.

I’d like to get a head start on the vegetable patch over the next few weeks. Will laying down plastic sheeting help with this and warm up and dry out the soil? How affective is it and is it worth the effort? Dan Farr MInehead This is a very simple but effective idea. Plastic mulch is simply a thin sheet of clear, black plastic that is laid on top of the soil in your vegetable garden to warm the soil. The soil underneath the plastic warms up faster when it is sunny than when there is no plastic. Warmer soil is better for growing vegetable transplants and gives you a head start on direct seeding. You can now buy special plastic garden mulch at garden centres. Rolls of plastic such as vapour barrier used for building, or plastic used for wrapping available at hardware stores can also be used with a similar result. The thicker the plastic, the better. Thin plastic tends to tear easily. It is quite hard work and clearly you need to make sure the plastic is secure and tight against the soil or else cold air will get in and make the whole thing worthless.


No dig? OR Dig? Two experienced vegetable growing gardeners take a stance for and against the no dig method of preparing soil as gardeners prepare their beds for a new season



Somerset allotment holder Eddie Davis believes the no -dig method works, saves time and produces long term superior soil. I suppose the true benefit of the no-dig method is for those like me who have a passion for growing organic vegetables. It applies to ornamental plants, too. I am a great advocate of this method and I can’t see why all gardeners don’t opt for it. It is a process which involves applying organic matter, such as garden compost or well-rotted manure, to the soil surface, boosting the natural processes of decomposition, as plants die back and leaves fall. Instead of being dug in, the no-dig gardener allows plants, fungi and soil organisms to break down and incorporate the organic matter into the soil. In doing so, the soil structure is not disrupted by being dug over. Likewise worms and other organisms are not disturbed, therefore the soil’s ecosystem remains intact. Yields of vegetables tend to be bigger when grown in no-dig soils. What’s more, it’s a great option for time-short gardeners who don’t have the hours to spend digging over beds and borders.

No dig: the soil structure is not disrupted and organisms left undisturbed

No-dig beds have been shown to produce bigger veg harvests than those that are dug over. This isn’t always true, as potatoes often give a greater harvest growing in soils that have been dug. Digging can inadvertently bring weed seeds and roots to the surface where they can germinate and grow. By not digging, you leave these undisturbed. No-dig doesn’t eradicate weeds altogether, and some garden composts will still contain uncomposted weed seeds. However, perennial weeds are weakened by the mulch, and you can usually keep on top of them by pulling them out when they appear. Mulching soil helps to retain moisture, meaning you need to water less. A no-dig approach can also help to improve drainage. Digging, particularly on heavy soils, can lead to compaction, meaning that water cannot permeate through and instead sits in puddles or runs onto other areas of the garden. By mulching and not digging, you ensure water gets to where it’s needed. Not only will you be ready to start planting and sowing earlier, because you won’t be wasting lots of time digging, but the soil also warms up earlier too. In winter and early spring, the temperature of undug soil is higher than soil that has been dug or forked over. By not digging, you preserve the organisms that live in the soil. These include mycorrhizal fungi, which team up with the roots of your plants and help them to access nutrients and moisture. Most soil life is found fairly close to the surface, where it’s readily accessible to new roots, but if you dig, you risk plunging those organisms deep into the soil, out of reach of your plants. Garden compost helps to feed these organisms and keep them plentiful, and by applying it as a mulch you’re mimicking natural processes, whereby worms and other soil life eat material deposited on the surface and excrete it into the soil. The result is that newly planted seedlings settle more quickly into undug soil and grow into strong, healthy plants. 28

Mark Porter is a gardener with 20 year’s experience and he believes there are serious problems with the no dig method and is happier with a spade or fork in his hand when preparing his soil. The goal of any gardener at the start of a new growing season has to be to improve the quality and condition of your soil so that the resulting soil structure will allow air and water to travel down to the roots of your plants. Adding organic matter to your soil is the best way to achieve this. It mimics what nature does naturally in places such as woodlands, where the falling leaves rot down over time before gradually binding together with the mineral materials that result from worn-down rock particles. It is a combination of many factors, such as rain, soil organisms, worms, etc., that facilitate this process, resulting in an open-structured, free-draining soil that also has enough organic matter to hold on to moisture and provide nutrients to the plants that are growing within it. Digging the soil is an important part of preparing ground for growing and, while it is time-consuming, it will dramatically reduce weed re-growth. The other important effect of digging is that it opens the structure of the soil, allowing better drainage, root growth and nutrient availability. I have always preferred double digging. It’s harder work true but very efficient. If you are starting a new vegetable plot and the land you must work with was previously uncultivated (e.g., perhaps covered with grass or weeds or even used as a flower bed), then it will be improved by being dug over. Adding any available organic matter is essential if you want to ensure a good-quality soil structure for your efforts. Many growers have seized on no-dig as an easy method of growing with the least and lightest work. However, the no-dig system is not without work. Most gardeners I know believe the no dig method requires a lot of compost and this may be more work producing than digging over would ever be. Typically, no-dig systems involve the addition of five cms of compost onto the growing Dig: the soil is loosened to allow for more oxygen, beds annually. An improved drainage and easier winter absorption average allotment plot would require 12.5 cubic metres of finished compost each year. That’s a very large amount of compost-costly and time consuming. I don’t know many gardeners who can produce that quantity of compost themselves so there is a cost factor here which in these tough financial times can’t be ignored. The system is usually combined with close-spaced planting and mulching to avoid bare ground. The soil is loosened and opened allowing for easier water absorption and improving drainage. The looser soil which has been dug over allows higher levels of oxygen which is required by plants. I believe digging produces faster results, is more cost effective , deals better with weeds and provides longer term healthier soil.

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March garden

Whereas last month everything was too early, suddenly gardeners start to feel a sense of panic and believe everything must be done in these March weeks. But we need to remember that March has one foot in winter and the other in spring and it can be very cold this month so keep an eye on the weather forecast and try to be patient. The other good news is that clocks also go forward right at the end of this month, so longer daylight hours help plants to really get under way.

Strengthening the soil is the number one job



It’s time for a little patience...

Boosting the soil for the coming growing season is the most important job. 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

Weeds need your attention now

It is never too early to give real time and attention to the task of controlling weeds which in March will see the opportunity to get established. Weeds will be growing even more strongly than your plants during these weeks, so keep on top of them before they can get a hold. Digging them up with a hand fork is the best idea, as you can get all the roots out. Reserve hoeing for dry weather, as weeds can re-root if the soil is moist.

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 and can be bought online. Before you start, make sure you have thoroughly weeded the bed and that you have sufficient mulching material – this could be leaf mould, compost, wellrotted manure or bark chippings. Always leave a gap around the stem of plants.

3 Dig a bean trench


Get some earlies potatoes planted

Earlies, such as ‘Rocket’, you can get some ‘earlies’ in the soil during March. Plant them about 40cm apart in rows 45cm apart in the ground. 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. By late June or early July, your potatoes should be ready 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.


Flower seeds to sow in March

Hardy annuals can be sown in trays indoors or under glass now but unless you live somewhere sheltered it’s a bit early for half hardies. There’s nothing more depressing than seeds that fail and these should deliver: honeywort Cerinthe major var. purpurascens, cornflowers, borage (great for bees and decorating drinks) and viper’s bugloss (also great for bees and for butterflies). If seed trays have been stored somewhere outdoors or weren’t washed when you put them away, give them a good wash and brush up with hot soapy water and don’t think you’ll save money by using old compost or earth – you’ll regret it when seeds shrivel and die. Use large trays, fill with seed compost to near the top and

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Time to risk the first tomatoes? It may seem a bit early, but March is really the time to sow tomatoes for growing indoors especially towards the end of the month. Plants for growing outdoors are best sown in April so they’ll be ready before it’s warm enough to plant them outdoors.

A wheelbarrow of part composted kitchen waste can be wheeled to where you want to grow any greedy plants like beans. Dig a trench a couple of feet deep, fork over the base to loosen the soil, tip in the organic matter and mix in the previously dug out soil. It’s worth putting in markers, or even erecting your bean poles, so you don’t forget where the treasure’s hidden when it comes to planting time. Leave a good couple of weeks before you sow your seeds.

water with a can with a fine rose or stand in a sink until the tray’s absorbed moisture. Don’t use water from the butt as this can lead to disease and try to use lukewarm rather than freezing cold water. Sprinkle over seeds as sparingly as you can manage and use a sieve to sprinkle of a light layer of dry compost. Sit them somewhere light and neither too hot nor too cold. You want an even temperature around 18°C or 64°F. Some people like to cover the tray with glass or a clear polythene. You should see results in a week or two. Once the seeds germinate remove any covers or you’ll get condensation and rot. Whilst you are waiting watch that the compost doesn’t dry out but don’t overwater either. Aim for a consistently moist compost.



Pot up dahlia tubers Bring your dahlia tubers into growth in a light, frost-free place and they’ll get off to a great start, ready for planting outdoors after the danger of frost has passed in late spring. You can also use some of the shoots to make cuttings later on.

Divide those perennials

This is the key moment for dividing clumps of perennials because it’s possible to break off the outer, vigorous pieces and replant them straight back into the soil with a dusting of blood, fish and bone. Only select clumps with sparse middles, or ones with perennial weeds, or clumps that need reducing in size. Lift them with a fork and most will pull part into handsized pieces (others may need chopping with a spade). Country Gardener



A final chance to get summer bulbs planted

Summer bulbs, such as alliums, agapanthus and cannas, can be planted when the soil is beginning to warm up. Pot individual bulbs into containers of multi-purpose compost, making sure that each pot is at least half as wide as the pot. Water sparingly until the bulbs starts to shoot into growth, then water each time the compost is dry. Earmark a final planting site for your bulbs that is free-draining and south-facing. If soil drainage is poor, the bulbs can rot and lack of sun can mean lack of flowers. Mix grit into each planting hole if soil is heavy. Spreading a mulch of good garden compost or well-rotted manure over the soil a month before planting will help improve thin, poor soils, boosting fertility and improving drainage.

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Our popular gardening themed crossword is compiled by Saranda which over the past year has become enormously popular with readers. The winning entry to be drawn by us will receive £100 of RHS gift tokens. Completed entries should be sent to Mount House, Halse, Taunton, Somerset TA4 3AD. Closing date is Friday 22nd March. The winner of our Winter issue crossword was Amy Harrison from Minehead. 1















First feed for roses


If you haven’t already done so give roses their first feed of the year. Use a tailored rose feed as they need the correct mix of nutrients. And don’t think you’ll be doing them a favour by over feeding. You’ll end up with too much sappy soft growth that makes them less able to withstand pests. Feed again in April/May and, if you want, they can have a final feed in July but no later or that soft wood will make them vulnerable to winter cold.

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…and don’t forget your houseplants

Some houseplants may just need a tidy up, clearing away dead leaves and debris and a bit of a prune to get it back into shape. If roots are appearing through the base it’s a sign, they need repotting. If you can’t see the roots, but it’s a while since they were repotted, try to loosen the plug of earth out of the pot and see if the roots are circling as if desperate to get out. If so it’s time to repot. Ideally, water plants a few days before repotting. Use washed pots, one size larger than the existing pot, and fresh clean potting compost – whichever is correct for the plant. Some plants like a lighter mix so use a combination of potting compost, sand and perlite as necessary. You can add water retaining gel granules if you like and some plants benefit from a topping of grit. If the plant’s just not going to come out of the pot you can try to eke out a little more time by top dressing. To do this carefully scrape off an inch or so from the top of the old soil, avoiding damaging the roots, and replace with fresh new potting compost. Water pots well and drain. Avoid putting newly repotted plants in direct sunlight but let them recover slowly.


March is still a busy pruning month

March is one of the busiest months for pruning with a wide range of shrubs and other plants requiring their annual prune. By now it is too late to prune apples, pears and late flowering clematis. But climbing roses, hybrid teas and floribundas need a March pruning and the sooner the better, so they don’t waste their energy growing leaves which are about to be lopped off. Borderline perennials such as pestemons and phygelius can also be pruned. Tender evergreen shrubs such as variegated griselinia are best pruned now. The new growth triggered by the pruning should not be damaged by hard frosts. Evergreen edging and topiary can be finished now to create a smooth finish.

BUT DON’T PRUNE… GRAPEVINES as sap pressure tends to be very high in March so if you prune them they will bleed profusely-something which will either damage them or possibly kill them. RAMBLING ROSES Unlike climbing roses these bloom on stems produced the previous year so prune and then re-train then straight after flowering.

MEDITERRANEAN SHRUBS Delay pruning the more tender forms such as French lavender and hyssop until May. This ensures that the subsequent regrowth won’t be badly damaged by frosts. BUDDLEJA ALTERNIFOLIA Unlike the more popular B.davidii, these varieties bloom on last years’ wood so prune them after flowering in the summer.








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ACROSS 1. Tropical fruit from the sapodilla tree (6) 4. Grassed over a plot of land (6) 8. Cashew nut or wood from certain species of mahogany (6) 13. Plants commonly known as plantain lilies (6) 14. The post or office of the highest ranked diplomat (14) 16. Annual film industry presentation (7, 5) 17. Favourite dish made with eggs (8) 18. Delicious fruit that is a cross between a plum and apricot (7) 19. Idiom that means it happens sometimes but not very often? (3, 3, 5) 22. Unable to be attacked or defeated (12) 23. Japanese tea garden (4) 27. Natural detachment of parts of a plant (10) 29. Deprive someone of a right (10) 31. Egg-shaped cricket ground? (4) 32. Involving adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing numbers (12) 37. Garden vegetable grown for its edible foliage (7, 4) 38. Genus of plants in the Myrtaceae family (7) 40. Genus of plants of the mallow family (8) 41. Seed-bearing (12) 43. Containers in which official mail is sent to or from an embassy (10, 4) 44. A note or chord held for its full time value or longer (6) 45. Person or machine that harvests a crop (6) 46. Plant of the Haloxylon genus (6) 47. Most strange (6) DOWN 1. Clear alcoholic drink often made from potatoes (8) 2. Bahiagrass belongs to this genus of plants (8) 3. Inchplant and wandering Jew are common names of members of this genus (12) 5. Grass not cut with a machine (6) 6. Having a sweet-smelling odour (10) 7. This red orchid is also the pride of Table Mountain (4)


9. The inner envelopes of leaves of flowers (8) 10. American actor famous for Grease and Saturday Night Fever (4, 8) 11. Colloquial term for numerous occasions? (7, 5) 12. Sometimes called putty root, this orchid belongs to the Aplectrum genus (4, 3, 3) 15. Genus to which the myrtle belongs (6) 20. Computer term - not where to find spiders! (8) 21. Aromatic European plant of the daisy family (8) 24. Polemonium genus of plants also called Greek valerian (6, 6) 25. Low-growing European annual with edible pods (9, 3) 26. Cuscuta genus of plants commonly called dodder (12) 28. Female astronaut (10) 30. Orchid growing along streams of western North America (10) 33. Genus to which candytuft belongs (6) 34. Leaves covered in white mealy powder (8) 35. A leaf rolled inwards at the edges (8) 36. Common name of Antennaria dioica (8) 39. The largest Asian antelope (6) 42. Fruits produced by the genus Ficus (4) Answers from previous issue, Winter 2023: F R E N C H U
































Here’s a couple of things worth knowing as you start to think about how you will deal with the weeds in your garden over the coming months. Firstly, soil scientists aren’t sure how it works, but fewer weed seeds germinate in soil that contain fresh infusions of good compost or organic matter. And secondly there’s one theory which makes elegantly simple sense. When soil is healthy and well fed, weeds are more likely to sense they are not wanted. If you were to track every hour you are about to spend in your garden as a new season approaches, you would expect to do an inordinate amount of weeding. And while the first few weeks of tearing them up can prove satisfying, the chore soon wears thin. Looked at one way, weeds are nature’s healing remedy for sites that are in a wounded, plantless state, but weeds and gardeners have different ideas of what makes for a good recovery. Armed with a better understanding of weeds and the strategies outlined, there are things you can do to make it if not a weed free spring and summer–but certainly less hours spent battling them.

LET SLEEPING WEEDS LIE Every square inch of your garden contains weed seeds, but only those in the top inch or two of soil get enough light to trigger germination. Digging and cultivating brings hidden weed seeds to the surface, so assume weed seeds are there ready to erupt every time you open a patch of ground. Dig only when you need to and immediately salve the disturbed spot with plants or mulch.

MULCH, MULCH, MULCH Mulch benefits plants by keeping the soil cool and moist and depriving weeds of light. Some light passes through chunky mulches, and often you will discover—too late— that the mulch you used was laced with weed seeds. It’s important to replenish the mulch as needed to keep it about two inches deep -more than three inches deep can deprive soil of oxygen.

WEED WHEN THE WEEDING’S GOOD The old saying “Pull when wet; hoe when dry” is wise advice when facing down weeds. After rain, get going on the weeds. Under dry conditions, weeds sliced off just below the soil line promptly shrivel up and die, especially if your hoe has a sharp edge. In mulched beds, use an old knife to sever weeds from their roots, then patch any open spaces left in the mulch.

LOP OFF THEIR HEADS When you can’t remove weeds, the next best thing is to chop off their heads. With annual weeds, deadheading buys you a few weeks of time before the seeds can spread. Cutting


back the tops of perennial weeds, like bindweed, reduces reseeding and forces them to use up food reserves and exhaust their supply of root buds, thus limiting their spread. No matter which method you choose, chopping down weeds before they go to seed will help keep them from spreading.

MIND THE GAPS BETWEEN PLANTS Close plant spacing chokes out emerging weeds by shading the soil between plants. You can prevent weed-friendly gaps from the start by designing with mass plantings or in drifts of closely spaced plants rather than with polka dots of widely scattered ones.

WATER THE PLANTS YOU WANT, NOT THE WEEDS YOU’VE GOT Drip irrigation is the way to go for a quick way to water your plants and not your weeds. Watering by hand works, too, but it’s often tedious. Put drought on your side by depriving weeds of water. Placing drip or soaker hoses beneath mulch efficiently irrigates plants while leaving nearby weeds thirsty. In most climates, depriving weeds of water reduces weed-seed germination by 50 to 70 percent. Watch out, though, for the appearance of deeply rooted perennial weeds, such as bindweed, in areas that are kept moist. Beyond these strategies, enriching your soil with organic matter every chance you get can move your garden along down the weed-free path.

THE FOUR BASIC WAYS OF WEEDING YOUR GARDEN There isn’t one way of weeding your garden. There are four basic ways, and it is useful to use all four depending on the situation. Dig out weeds completely by hand, including the roots. If you leave even a scrap of root behind, it can re-grow. Weed and mulch all round the garden before even thinking about what new plants to buy. Do a small section at a time. Hand weed your plants and then cover the area with a layer of well rotted manure, garden compost, bark chippings or other mulch. This deprives the weeds of light. It slows them down, so fewer re-grow. And when they do grow, they root in the nutritious mulch rather than in the soil. This can make them much easier to pull out when they reappear. Cover weeds with a very thick mulch or black plastic. This deprives them of light so they can’t photosynthesise and eventually die off. Hoe your weeds.

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READY, STEADY GO! The early, often cooler days of March needn’t put off the optimistic gardener keen to get going with the new growing season. It’s time to get under way with some hardier crops

Winter can keep March strongly in its grip especially in the first weeks of the month and many gardeners struggle with the timing of what to plant and when. Because a vegetable needs either warm or cool weather, crops sort themselves into two distinct categories: cool season for spring and autumn and warm season for summer. Planting at the right time is the first step to a bountiful garden. The fact is it is worth the risk to get an early start to the new growing season and there are some things in the vegetable plot which are worth taking a risk on. When gardeners start thinking about growing vegetables their first thoughts are beans, tomatoes and peppers - when the weather starts to warm up. However, home grown vegetables can start much earlier and you can grow vegetables that do better in cool weather. Cool temperatures in spring have fewer pests around to bother your vegetables which means they are less prone to damage and problems. The cool weather vegetables include salad vegetables, kales, chards, onions and the cabbage family. Just like the warm weather vegetables, most cool weather varieties are started from seed indoors. These spring vegetables, all of which can be easily planted from seed, are all great choices for an early garden, and are usually foolproof enough to grow so that even the most beginning gardeners can reap a good harvest.

1. SPINACH Fresh baby spinach is quick to sprout and grow in a spring garden, and can be remarkably frost-resistant, especially when grown under cover. There are a lot of varieties of spinach, most of which can be categorised by being either savoy and semi- savoy (which tend to have crinkled or curly crisp leaves), or smooth-leaf (with flatter leaves and a softer texture), so try growing several varieties to see which ones work best for your soil and location.

2. SPRING ONIONS Sow spring onions outdoors from March onwards, for harvests through summer and early autumn. Sowing small batches every couple of weeks will give you continual supplies. You can also sow hardy varieties in late summer and early autumn for harvesting the following spring. Seeds can also be directly sown in the ground once the soil is workable, approximately late March to April. Sow the seeds half an inch deep. Sets are dormant bulbs that can be planted directly into the ground. Onion sets should be planted one to two inches deep and three inches apart.

4. RADISHES Radishes are one of the fastest vegetables you can grow, aside from the various greens, as many varieties are ready to be harvested in as little as three weeks. Radishes are great for planting with lettuce or other spring greens, and can help to naturally thin those crops as the radishes get harvested. Many are only familiar with the round red or pink and white radishes, but they come in a lot of different colours, shapes, and sizes, and can be spicy or sweet, depending on the variety.

3. CHARD This is another excellent spring vegetable that is easy to grow from seed. Chard comes in a variety of colours and sizes and textures, although most of the colour tends to be in the thick stems, with the leaves being mostly green. Growing some red and white and yellow chard along with the traditional green chard can add some colour to spring salads while also livening up the look of the garden. Some varieties of chard can be harvested as baby greens in about 25 days, with the leaves taking about twice that long to get to full size.

5. LEEKS Home-grown leeks are far superior to those bought in shops and versatile in the kitchen. So there’s every reason to make sure you start the season as early as you can. They’re easy to grow from seed, and if you sow at intervals from February onwards, you can harvest them from late August, through winter until the following February. Fill pots or seed trays with good quality, multi-purpose compost and firm gently. Scatter the seed thinly on the surface, cover with a few millimetres of compost, water and keep moist. They are hardy and will grow even when the temperature seems unpromising.

6. LETTUCE Growing lettuce for baby greens is not only quicker and easier, but will provide a near-constant supply of salad greens from spring until well into summer. Opt for a mixed lettuce seed and instead of sowing the seeds farther apart, as is recommended for head lettuce, sow very close together in each row, which will yield a solid row of lettuce leaves that is easy to harvest, and which can be cut repeatedly throughout the season. Baby greens can be harvested in a couple of weeks, and by planting successions of seeds every week or two, you can have a constant supply.


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Letters re garden waste

I enjoyed one of the readers' letters in your excellent publication. It helped me to remember I am not alone in having gardening disasters. Crops fail, plants die and far too often bad weather causes havoc. To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, we need to meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.

Guy Ward Southampton

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I believe in letting nature do the work. I dig up self-sown foxgloves from the gravel drive and move them to the borders rather than sow them myself. Jennie Carr Exeter

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There is no such thing as waste; everything has a use. Leaves to leaf mould and a good mulch. Everything green and some brown/dry stalks etc into a compost bin/pile. This includes grass cuttings mixed in well. Sticks become a pile and a haven for insects /beetles etc. Logs make an interesting garden feature with ferns or a wildwood fence. In the latter any length of branch can be piled up to make an interesting fence and locked in by a couple of stakes. Too much grass cuttings, leave some lawn uncut or all of it uncut with mown paths through it. I always put some un-composted green waste in the bottom of bean trenches. Courgettes grow well on top of compost heaps. I cannot imagine what is being burnt. Of course any diseased material should be taken to recycling along with plastic. Paper and cardboard can be composted. You will save a lot of money and have a more interesting garden with benefits for wildlife. Susan Bates Wookey Hole

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Tree damage has been serious this winter The storms sweeping across Somerset this winter have wrought havoc to my garden. The storms followed one after the other and although my garden backs on to open fields MAKE THE OUTDOO RS GREAT ALL YEAR ROUND MAKE THE OUTDOO RS GREAT ALL YEAR ROUND VERANDAS - CARPORTS - GLASS ROOMS - PERGOLAS we have never had such damage. I took part • All year round barbeques and parties in the RHS research • Children can play outdoors come rain or shine into tree damage and it seems that large solitary, otherwise healthy trees were more at risk of damage or limb loss than younger specimens and those • Cats and Dogs love the cover planted in small groups. Top ten trees to fall victim included pines, cedars • Patio tables and chairs stay dry - No need to store willows, acers and birches — perhaps because they are more common in away for most of the year gardens. Sobering, even so.

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We had a round robin question for the audience at our recent gardening club where we asked everyone what steps they could take as gardeners towards becoming more sustainable. The answers were interesting. Everyone felt growing from seed was better than buying seedlings, making your own compost came second and third was growing more of our own vegetables. I couldn’t argue with any of that. Hugh Bampton Midhurst


For a FREE quotation or brochure call Cornwall 01872 For a FREE 470210, quotation Devon 01647 or brochure 432321, callSomerset Cornwall01823 01872729440 470210,orDevon visit 01647 432321, Somerset 01823 729440 or vi 37


‘Know what you are planting and what it will become’

Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’ (Blue Atlas Cedar) - gardeners have bought them and planted in totally inappropriate locations

Mark Hinsley has some words of warning about just how spectacularly fast some trees can grow and get out of control I remember walking through garden centres in the 1970s and 80s and seeing Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’ (Blue Atlas Cedar) lined up for sale amongst the shrubs. I have seen Cedrus deodara, the Himalayan Cedar, similarly presented for sale. On the plant label it stated 12 feet after five years. Beguiled by the strikingly ornamental foliage of these beautiful exotic trees, unsuspecting people bought them and planted them in totally inappropriate locations. In 1977 I was working as part of a tree gang on a property in Byfleet, Surrey. The front gardens were open plan and quite small. Next door, in the middle of the ‘postage stamp’ front garden was a young Blue Atlas Cedar. During a tea break the lady of the house came out to chat, “Look at my lovely cedar”, she said. “Isn’t it beautiful?” “Yes Madam”, I said. (Always polite to a potential customer). “Tell me, young man, do you think that one day its branches will reach the front of my house?” “Madam”, says I, “one day they will reach the back!” She had no idea what she had purchased. In 1845 Lord Somers of Eastnor Castle, Herefordshire, collected seeds from Atlas Cedars in Téniet-el-Hâad in Algeria. Atlas Cedar had already been introduced to Britain; however, these seedlings were the first of the wonderful pale blue variety now known as glauca.



An original Blue Atlas Cedar sown by Lord Somers still grows in the castle grounds at Eastnor. Examples of early introduction Blue Atlas Cedars are frequent in the gardens of stately homes and large public parks. Heights of over 100ft and girths of over 12ft are not uncommon. Blue Atlas Cedars grow quite slowly for the first few years, then take off like skyrockets. Alan Mitchell recorded that a tree planted at Wilton House near Salisbury in 1901 was 50 feet high within 30 years and 85 feet high in 1987. I wonder if the tree in Byfleet is still there…….? An Atlas Blue Cedar planted in Bodnant Gardens, Tal-yCafn, near Colwyn Bay, in 1902 was 37.5m (123ft) in 2016. The important thing from a gardener’s point of view is that you know what you are planting. However, it does not necessarily mean you cannot use potentially big trees. I knew a fellow who had a small garden in which he planted both a Blue Atlas Cedar and a Deodar Cedar. But he knew how big they would get and never let them outgrow their space. When they became too big, about 12ft high, he took them out and planted new ones – it was approximately a five-year rotation! It worked well because the juvenile foliage, particularly on the Deodar Cedar, is superior in quality to the mature specimens. This rotational approach only causes problems when the knowledgeable owner moves on and somebody with less understanding moves in!

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Publisher & Editor: Alan Lewis Tel: 01823 431767

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Eucalyptus gunnii (Cider Gum) - let it grow and you have unleashed a beast!

Eucalyptus gunnii (Cider Gum), with its pretty, round blue foliage so beloved of flower arrangers, can cause similar problems. It’s all right in a small garden if you cut it back every year, but let it get away and you have unleashed a beast! Know what you are planting and what it can become. That way – as long as you have your health or your wealth – you can control it. Let some of these cute trees get away and they can become too big for you to manage quite quickly. Note - If you live in a Conservation Area, don’t let the trunk grow to more than 75mm diameter at 1.5m above ground, because then you need to submit a Section 211 Notice to do anything to it.

Mark Hinsley, of Mark Hinsley Arboricultural Consultants Ltd, offering tree consultancy services.

Corina Reay - Cotswolds & Dorset Tel: 01823 410098

Design & Production


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Accounts and subscriptions

Distribution & Stockists

Heather Rose

Aidan Gill

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. Printed by Mortons Print Ltd, Morton Way, Boston Road Industrial Estate, Horncastle, LN9 6JR.


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Nestled in 26 acres of glorious countryside, Sculpture by the Lakes is a perfectly curated oasis, that breaks down barriers between you and your surroundings. Lose time and unwind in The Sculpture Park. Discover something special in The Makers Yard which is outside the entrance to the sculpture park so is free to visit. Enjoy delicious homemade food in the Kitchen, fresh local produce in the Pantry, find unique gifts and goodies in the Store and curated exhibition pieces in the Gallery. Take time, switch off and immerse yourself in your own day.

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