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APRIL 2016


Welcome What do we all share at this time of year – even more than seeds or cuttings or plans? Hope. The anticipation rippling through this time of year is infectious! There’s much to prepare, to sow, plant, snip, mow… nature’s irresistible urge to grow means there are so many good things to look forward to. The sheer joy of that plant finally flowering or stubbornly dormant seeds bursting to life is sweeter when you know your gentle nudge in the right direction has worked. As we mark 25 years since the magazine was launched, and the new season ahead, it’s a great moment to stop and ask ourselves what do we garden for? Everyone’s goals are different but the hope and optimism that runs through the March 2016

simple act of growing something is surely universal – isn’t that why study after study shows gardeners to be amongst the happiest people? Looking back at the past 25 years, it’s clear how much in gardening has changed, but the how and why we grow have remained the same: making timeless connections to the world around us and each other. Enjoy the issue!

Lucy Hall, Editor

PS Join us again next month when we bring you the first of our three Back to Basics handbooks, packed full of useful guides to better growing.

FROM OUR LAUNCH EDITOR Gardening has always been my passion, and what a pleasure it’s been working alongside Alan and other enthusiasts on a magazine that never fails to inspire. So, what’s changed since we launched in 1991? Our weather has become more unpredictable, new gardens smaller, our outlook savvier, but the love of plants is irresistable. Growing your own has captured our imagination, filled our pots and fed the family with healthy 5-a-day. And, as Geoff Hamilton alluded to in his final BBC series, Paradise Gardens, gardening is far more than a hobby: it’s a way of life that puts us in touch with the soil, gives us exercise, and feeds body and mind. Adam Pasco gardenersworld.com


December ‘92 TV presenter Geoff Hamilton is our original muddy pin-up boy!

December ‘93 when ‘grow your own’ is still all about the old ways

April ‘96 The baby-faced Alan takes over on TV after Geoff’s death

June ‘97 Stripy lawns are the height of 90s aspirational yuppiedom!

June ‘98 The early signs of climate change lead our cover

June ‘15 the cover most shared on social media proves new tech loves a bit of nostalgia

August ‘98 Alan, Charlie and Tommy are a windfall for the decking industry!

December ‘14 Our Brussels wreath divides readers: wasteful or creative? Over 18,000 views of the video demo tells its own story

May 2000 Charlie shares her manifesto for small garden ponds

March 1991 Issue 1 The first gardening magazine in full colour!

January ‘14 Our first-ever interactive edition is alive with birdsong

March 2016 Issue 301 25 years on, still the biggest-selling gardening title

Cover stories We plot the change in gardening tastes with our pick of covers over the years

July ‘13 we share the rescue plan for bees, during one of the wettest summers ever

Share your favourites with us at facebook.com/gwmagazine October ‘09 As austerity bites, we reveal the money-saving potential of fruit

July ‘08 The nation demands answers to a slug outbreak after a warm, wet spring

February ‘06 Grow your own goes mainstream, as health scares turn us to organic

January ‘02 Ground Force is in its pomp and we all want a quick fix in our gardens

July ‘03 the new presenters on parade – on a cover we dubbed ‘Charlie’s Angels’!


We love March... for the promise of fresh new life to come

10 Plant partners Pretty spring combinations


March 2016

52 Use climbers to add height and interest

Plant for all seasons A fiery-coloured shrub with antlers


Favourite daffodils There’s one to suit every taste


Seasonal pot A cheerful display to welcome spring


Full Monty The philosophy of horticulture

23 Have your say Recycled black plastic raised beds and ensuring small birds get fed

24 Over the fence Should gardening be for everyone?

29 We celebrate our 25th birthday

BE INSPIRED 29 25 years, 25 trends To celebrate our 25th year, we look back at the trends that have shaped horticulture

62 Show-stopping bulbs Alan explains how to get 10 months of guaranteed colour in your garden

72 Space-savvy gardens Designer Nick Bailey shows how to make a good impression with your front garden




How to get great soil

38 Secrets of good soil Monty shows how to look after your soil for the best gardening results He reveals what he’s got planned this year for his garden

46 NEW SERIES Joe’s design solutions Joe provides expert advice for awkwardly-shaped gardens

52 Carol’s favourite climbers She reveals her top climbers to fill your garden with colour this summer

76 Bountiful bouquets Grow your own cut flowers

120 Tools on test Mid-price mowers


Pruning: the basics The key techniques to successful pruning

84 Pruning year planner: fruit 86 Pruning year planner: ornamentals 6


81 Pruning special for the best cuts

March 2016


42 Monty’s 2016 tour of Longmeadow



ON THE COVER p139 p72 p81 p120

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149 OFFER Tomatoes

Cover photo: Pheasant’s eye daffodil by Robert Parviainen/Flickr/Getty

Save on Michelin-starred chef Raymond Blanc’s top varieties

153 OFFER Donald Russell meat plus free gifts w

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166 TRAVEL British Isles, Honfleur & the Canaries 193 SUBSCRIBE & SAVE 50%

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139 Grow stacks of veg in just 1 hour a week

62 Alan’s best bulbs for easy colour

WILDLIFE 125 Save our hedgehogs Find out why our prickly garden visitors are in decline and how you can help

128 Factfile: collared dove More on this rapidly spreading bird

130 Help wildlife in your garden Make a hedgehog footprint tunnel

142 Raymond Blanc’s tastiest tomatoes

your planner for March

142 Raymond Blanc’s tomato trial 151 10 crops to get started now



155 Help & advice 156 The Big Question


158 Gardeners’ Question Time

GROW & EAT 132 Fresh from the garden All about sage, with recipes to try

135 Seed sowing Charles Dowding shows how to sow

139 60-minute veg plot How to get bountiful harvests by tending your plot for just 60 minutes a week March 2016

LAST WORDS 168 Show & tell 170 2-for-1 garden vouchers 172 Next month FREE Back to Basics guide

192 Crossword 194 Tales from Titchmarsh

Monty’s month Plant out rocket plugs

How to garden organically

125 Act now to help the hedgehog

94 Flowers 102 Greenhouse 105 Back to basics Sow cosmos seeds

106 Fruit & veg 111 Joe’s job of the month 113 Back to basics Keep slugs off plants

114 Around the garden



We love

March e m o c to e lif w e n sh e fr f o e its promis


March was indisputably a bad month for Julius Caesar – the Ides is on the 15th – but it is generally a great month for us gardeners as it is a time of miraculous change. Over the course of a few weeks the weather flips from deep midwinter to early spring. It will begin with icy winds and driving sleet and will end with sunshine that actually warms and the gradual fattening of leaf and flower buds all over the garden. It is a month of pregnant promise. Mind you, this being Britain, it could easily flip back again without much warning. Words by James Alexander-Sinclair


STAR OF THE MONTH Prunus cerasifera



This is one of the first trees to blossom – this winter, in particular, it was so mild that I saw some flower in January. A delicate fuzz of white flowers sparkling in the low sunlight will give a skip to your step and a lift to your soul. It produces small edible fruit in autumn, but you’ll have to race the birds if you want any! It is not a brilliant garden tree, unless you have lots of space, although the purple-leaved variety (Prunus cerasifera ‘Nigra’), which has a slight pink tinge to the flowers, is perhaps more suited to domestic life. P Care Pretty undemanding when it comes to soil but best in sunshine. Propagate by budding or grafting (for the experienced and skilled gardener) or softwood cuttings. P Height x Spread 8m x 8m

March 2016

We love March

March 2016



1 Anemones and primroses



March 2016

We love


Plant partners

Spring in the air Brighten up your borders and pots with these seriously pretty flowers in charming combinations to usher in the new season 1 Anemone ‘St Brigid’ &

Primula denticulata In planting combinations you either want contrast or harmony. Here is an example of the latter: two flowers that are almost identical in colour and shape, as closely matched as The Stylistics (I am sure some of you remember them – extraordinary suits and soupy dancing), but each still with its own individual character. Anemone ‘St Brigid’ P Care Perfect for cutting. Soak bulbs overnight

before planting in light soil. Best in sunshine. P H x S 30cm x 15cm Primula denticulata P Care Happiest in rich soil in sun or part shade. 2 Pansies and grape hyacinths

Divide larger plants in spring or sow seed in autumn. P H x S 30cm x 30cm

2 Muscari aucheri ‘Blue

Magic’ & pansy

The grape hyacinth is a profligate bulb – plant a few and they will spread. This can be seen as a pain in the backside or an admirable moneysaver. I prefer the latter. Together with bedding pansies they will give pep to pots and borders. Muscari aucheri ‘Blue Magic’ Plant bulbs in autumn. Really good in gravel, as border edging or in pots. Dead easy to grow. P H x S 15cm x 15cm Pansy

Everybody loves a pansy: they smile in the teeth of gales, are cheap to buy and easy to grow. Save the seed or propagate by division after flowering. P H x S 10cm x 10cm

3 Erica carnea & Bellis perennis This is a zingy little combination – as pink as a flock of Barbies. Sugary-pink heather and that windmill of coral-coloured daisy petals. The eggy yellow centre will linger on, even after the petals have fallen. The domesticated version from the moors of Brigadoon. Prefers ericaceous (slightly acid) soil – the name is a bit of a giveaway. Great in pots. P H x S 15cm x 15cm Bellis perennis

3 Heather and bellis

March 2016

A relation of the much-loved lawn daisy. Excellent as winter or spring bedding. Propagate by division after flowering. P H x S 10cm x 10cm



Erica carnea



Late summer

Rhus typhina Tiger Eyes Jan Feb Mar Apr









Yellow/green foliage Flowers Fiery foliage



March 2016

We love March


Plants for all seasons

Rhus typhina Tiger Eyes This stunning plant delivers all-year interest, with fiery foliage in autumn and winter stems resembling huge antlers, says Graham Rice We all know the stag’s horn sumach, Rhus typhina. It’s one of those love-or-hate plants and not everyone appreciates the winter stems that look like monster antlers. But add some extra features and it’s much more desirable. Step forward Tiger Eyes. The foliage of Tiger Eyes is as big and bold as the leaves of the usual form, but more finely dissected at 45cm long. And then there’s the colour: the leaves on pinkish stems open as a lovely chartreuse shade, quickly mature to sunny yellow, becoming less intense in summer, then in autumn fiery orange and red tones develop. The clustered summer flowerheads are greenishyellow, maturing to purplish-red as the foliage turns and remain in place in winter, topping the bold, purple-flushed ‘antlers’. The everyday stag’s horn sumach can reach 3m or more and be a bit of a brute, sending suckers into next door’s garden. Tiger Eyes reaches half the height and is better behaved. That’s one of the reasons it received the RHS Award of Garden Merit.


P Care Happy in sun in reasonable soil; also good in a large container. Can be cut hard to the ground in spring to encourage larger leaves but this leads to suckering. Pruning not usually necessary. P Height x spread 1.5m x 3m P Where to buy Ashwood Nurseries, ashwoodnurseries.com 01384 401996. Expect to pay £17.95 for a plant in a 3l pot + £6.95 postage per order. Or find local nurseries by searching the RHS website at rhs.org.uk/rhsplantfinder



March 2016



2 ‘Tête-à-tête’

1 ‘Geranium’

3 ‘W.P. Milner’



4 ‘Thalia’

March 2016

We love March

Our favourite daffodils Garden daffs are a varied, cheerful and versatile bunch – there’s something for everyone to grow 1 Monty loves ... ‘Geranium’ “I like to grow Narcissus ‘Geranium’ in pots. They have a lovely scent and once they start flowering I move them to where we sit outside and enjoy their fragrance as well as display.” From the tazetta group – many of which are scented P Height 35cm

2 Joe loves ... ‘Tête-à-tête’ “‘Tête-à-tête’ is one I count on. It’s good in containers, but also holds its own in mixed borders. A tough, reliable yet dainty miniature, it has diminutive golden-yellow petals that envelop the deeper yellow cups – perfection.” P H 20cm

3 Carol loves ... ‘W.P. Milner’ “Neat and compact, this heritage daffodil variety bears palestraw flowers, which change to a milky white. The blooms look good for weeks and it’s ideal for growing in large pots.” From the trumpet group – with cups longer than the petals P H 20cm


“Relatively small in stature, with irresistible pure-white flowers, ‘Thalia’ has an understated elegance that works in any situation and makes an excellent cut flower.” From the triandrus group, which naturalises well in grass P H 35cm

5 Lucy loves ... pheasant’s eye “On warm days after Easter, the heady scent of pheasant’s eye, or poet’s narcissus, drifts languidly on the air, a foretaste of summer’s jasmine and lilies. There’s no better daffodil to cheer on spring – and make our cover star.” P H 35cm

5 Pheasant’s eye

March 2016

P Care If you didn’t plant bulbs in autumn you can still buy pre-planted pots of daffodils. Sprinkle granular fertiliser around their base now and after flowering, cut back the flower stalks and let the leaves die down naturally. Water daffs in dry spells.



4 Rachel loves ...


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We love

Seasonal pot





Spring colour burst Nothing heralds the arrival of spring more than cheery daffodils. You’ll find potted ones in garden centres that are ideal for combining with other spring blooms in a vibrant display. We’ve chosen other yellow and orange plants for a coordinated look, but a contrast of blue or purple would work too. Position the tallest at the back, with smaller blooms in front. Pull out the pansies and wallflowers at the end of the season and plant summer bedding on top, leaving the bulbs in situ for next spring.



Fill a pot with multi-purpose compost until two-thirds full. Add a measure of slow-release fertiliser.



Add the plants one at a time, breaking the daffodil bulbs apart as you go so that they’re evenly spaced.


Container display (prices may vary) 1 Square terracotta 22cm pot x 1 (£6.99) see woodlodge.co.uk for stockists.


Fill any gaps between plants with more compost and water the container well. Keep moist in dry spells.

March 2016


2 Yellow pansies x 6 (£3.99) 3 Pot of Narcissus ‘Tête-à-tête’ x 1 (£3.99) 4 Orange wallflower in a 1-litre pot x 1 (£4.99) gardenersworld.com



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We love March

The Full Monty Monty wonders if gardens should reach beyond horticulture towards the expression of ideas various concepts, such as memory, birth, a friend who I’d not seen for at death and age. I’ve seen show gardens that least 10 years. You might say that tell a literal story, based upon an event, makes us not very good friends, usually commemorative. Such gardens can but it doesn’t work like that. By a certain be stunning, but they can also be clumsy, age, we have all met up with someone or too literal – even a bit embarrassing. we’ve had no contact with for quarter of a Yet we forgive this, not least because with century and within five minutes realised most modern show gardens the standard that we still have more in common with of horticulture is always so fabulously them than with many of the people we see high. The garden might be poor but all the time. I like this. It mines into seams the gardening is first class. that run deep in our lives and the circles But this is like admiring a piece of music are reconnected. Of course, you regret lost because it is played beautifully – a time, unanswered phone calls or impulses haunting tune played on a scratchy fiddle to make contact that were dismissed is more profound than a symphonic for a hundred feeble excuses. But the rendition of a bad tune. Just because you connection has survived and is strong. can do it well doesn’t mean that what This friend is a psychiatrist. We were you are doing has any value beyond talking about what we had been up to demonstrating your horticultural prowess. and he mentioned my series on telly But gardens can be anything they want. just before last Christmas, The Secret They can be high art. They can be poetry. History of the British They can channel Garden. He liked ideas or I want my art and craft Jungian the fact I’d talked explain whole to reach as deep as it can, cultures. They can tell about the collective unconscious in story of life and rather than be relegated to the reference to the death. But they don’t an exercise in expertise gardens of landscape have to. It is surely architect Sir Geoffrey fulfilment enough Jellicoe and was fascinated by the idea of just to grow some nice flowers and a bit gardens reflecting deep strands of myth, of veg, but the possibilities are there meaning and the collective psyche. Given and we should encourage them. his trade he might well be expected to I suspect that this takes most of us out of think along these lines, but it struck me our horticultural comfort zone. It is hard that it was the first time anyone had picked enough getting a decent display for a few up on it. No one – not the TV crew, no one months and coping with blight, aphids and during its stages of editing and certainly fast-growing weeds without worrying no viewer – had mentioned it before. about the bleeding collective unconscious. I find it fascinating, too. When Jellicoe I feel like that most of the time. But I also developed his designs for Shute House in don’t want to feel like that. I want my art Wiltshire, he intentionally incorporated and craft to reach as deep as it can, rather the Jungian concept of the collective than be relegated to an exercise in unconscious by channeling the expertise. It’s more important to know springs that had brought the if a plant makes your heart sing than Romans to that particular spot, what its Latin name is, or how often almost 1,000 years ago, and which it should be watered. define the gardens today. I know, through reading Jellicoe’s work, looking at his designs and having had the privilege of talking to him 20 years ago, just before he died, that this aspect of landscape and garden design was what interested Monty on TV him most and was something he Catch up with Monty and felt modern culture neglected. the team in the new series In my travels around the of Gardeners’ World on world, I have visited many Fridays, 8.30pm gardens that explore


he other day I was talking to

March 2016



We love March

Have your say

the view from your side of the fence

Write to Have your say, Gardeners’ World, Vineyard House, 44 Brook Green, London W6 7BT or email letters@gardenersworld.com and you could win National Garden Gift Vouchers

Shared feeding

Pesticide clash continues

Monty’s raised beds are edged by oak boards but plastic can be used


Monty raises an issue I was delighted to read about Monty Don’s enthusiasm for gardening in raised beds in Get a taste for success (February issue). My vegetable garden is entirely given over to raised beds, which, like Monty’s, are raked and composted, but never dug – unless you count the end of every growing season when I let the hens in to jump excitedly from bed to bed, gobbling up slugs or slug eggs, while turning over the soil. I would, however, like to suggest the use of recycled black plastic beds instead of wood. They are better for the environment as they recycle plastics, which would otherwise be dumped in landfill. They are also cheap, light, and easy to assemble, and don’t rot or warp. And best of all, they heat the soil up faster, and retain heat better than wood, so early potatoes and spring veg can be planted earlier and harvested earlier. They might not have the rustic charm of woven hazel or oak planks, but I would choose them every time. Marion McNaughton, Cheshire March 2016

I understand people’s worries regarding The hidden chemicals on your fruit & veg (January issue), but I can’t agree with one reader’s assertion that the feature was sensationalist (Have your say, February issue). Having worked for two decades in an independent testing facility, I have first-hand experience of studies carried out on residues found in fruit and veg. Some of the figures we obtained were extremely worrying. These chemicals do not break down before eating, and we do get some build-up in our systems. Although some chemicals have since been withdrawn, certain generic types are still used outside the EU. The UK is one of the best countries for keeping food safe and adheres to strict limits on chemicals, monitoring growing, storing, transport and delivery, but it’s not possible to test everything that comes into the UK. No product, unless marked organic, will be chemical free, but what’s present is so minuscule only powerful machines can detect it. But when I’m abroad I take more care where my fruit comes from. Colin Merriott, Caithness

While I can appreciate some readers’ frustrations (Have your say, February issue), I think your feature simply presented the facts. The food industry will say that pesticides are applied within permitted boundaries, but why take chances when alternatives are available? Ten years ago a friend who was recovering from cancer was advised by her consultant to eat organic apples, because he knew that pesticides penetrated the fruit. Yes, organic food is expensive but there’s a lot we can do. Growing organic potatoes is so easy in bags or pots. Salad and veg can be grown in raised beds and all types of containers. I hope your two correspondents will take heart and discover the joys of organic gardening. Jane Toplis, Cornwall

Your feature New ways to feed birds (January issue) was great on the what and when, but I’m still puzzled by exactly how? My bird table has various devices suspended from it in an attempt to cater for different birds. However, I find my efforts to supply food to smaller birds – robins, wrens – are hampered by the smash-and-grab tactics of the starlings, who swoop in as a flock and devour most of what I’ve put out. Blackbirds squabble with each other and wood pigeons get distracted by over-amorous urges and end up in a ridiculous hop-on, hop-off tour round the garden. One trick I find works is whistling a short melody while putting the food out. This seems to train the blackbirds, at least, to know that grub is up, and they will then happily sit on the fence and wait to be served their breakfast. I’d be interested to know how other readers cope with our feathered friends’ approaches to getting their (un)fair share of the food. Martin Fee, Essex We say Look out for our feature in the April issue of the magazine on making a crow-proof bird feeder.

Clematis clarity

Prune at the right time to ensure flowers

I just wanted to say how useful I found the feature on clematis, Your complete clematis growing guide (February issue). It is really handy to see the images of the clematis types in their different groups along with when they flower. I used it today to help me through the myriad clematis choices throughout the year. I will definitely be cutting out and keeping the Step-by-step mini-guide. Jacqueline Pratt, Shropshire gardenersworld.com


We love March

Over the fence

Should gardening be accessible for all? Mark Lane and Jack Shilley debate if gardening should be for everyone, regardless of age or ability On the Gardeners’ World website, you’ll find lots of lively debate, with readers asking questions and offering advice. To join in conversations like this one, or to ask a question, go to: gardenersworld.com/forum

How do I grow potatoes in plastic tubs? O I read somewhere that you should put them in a small amount of soil to begin with, then add more as they start to grow. rainbowfish O I grew spuds in old potting compost bags last year in my polytunnel using the same method as rainbowfish suggests. I turned the bags inside out so the black inside was outside, attracting the heat of the sun. I had a lovely crop! Hostafan1 O I grow them in very large pots, a few in each, and, as suggested, add soil as the haulm grows. I add just six inches over the top of them to begin with, and have good clean crops. cornelly O I grow spuds in tubs every year as well as in the ground. Mainly to experiment but both do well each year. Its quite simple, any tubs will do, as long as they have a bit of depth. The thing about spuds is they grow anywhere. Just don’t over do it when planting the spuds. I use a medium-sized black tub and just put two in. I fill the tub half way up, make two holes and shove the spuds in, then cover with compost and leave in my greenhouse. Once they start growing above the soil just keep adding compost to cover them. Simple really. On hot days I stand mine outside because the greenhouse is too hot for them. Master Gardener

Follow and add to this thread at gardenersworld.com/ potatoes-tubs




he answer is simple – yes! Yet,


s a young gardener (I’m 20),

why don’t we see more gardens designed by the physically disabled, the young, the elderly, people with learning difficulties – in fact, anyone who has a passion for gardening? I’m a garden designer and I’m in a wheelchair. I love designing gardens that are accessible to ambulatory and disabled people alike. So why do I come across so many gardens with awkward steps, narrow paths, small turning circles for wheelchairs and disabled access around the back (usually by the bins)? I stopped working in London due to ill health 10 years ago, but with a love of gardening and having published books on horticulture, I decided a career in garden design was for me. There are physical limitations – I’m only able to do little at a time, but often, which helps my health. Yet, I’ve never come across a The world of recognised gardening needs garden designer a wheelchair. to open its eyes in Why? I have a trusted partner to everyone who runs around with a tape measure, and contractors to help with construction and planting. Gardening and horticulture should not have barriers and restrictions. I am living proof that gardening can improve our physical and mental well-being. Without gardening, I’d be a different person. I wrote to Dan Pearson and Cleve West, and their friendly insights mobilised me into action and encouraged my aspiration to have a show garden at Chelsea. The world of gardening needs to open its eyes to everyone, and not be selective. Beautiful gardens and show gardens can be made accessible to all – it just takes a different perspective.

I believe that gardening should be accessible to everyone. As a responsible nation, we should provide green spaces, gardens and allotments for as many people as possible – no matter what their position in society. And while this may seem like a lot to wish for, I see signs of a positive change across all areas of horticulture – especially for young people. The RHS has just appointed its youngestever curator of an RHS garden in the form of Matthew Pottage, aged 29. It has also made 20-year-old Jamie Butterworth an RHS ambassador. Gardening forms part of the national curriculum, with many primary schools running gardening clubs and creating wildlife spaces – we’re sowing the seeds of gardening from a younger age these days. I’ve seen an increased level of interest in YoungHort, an initiative I created to promote young talent within horticulture – it’s all very encouraging. Unfortunately, away from specialist institutions like the RHS, making gardening accessible to young people can still be a challenge, for example, many young adults struggle to get on the property We’re creating ladder, let alone a generation that buy a place with a garden. It’s also is losing touch hard to get an with plants allotment. As a result, we’re creating a generation that is in danger of losing touch with the world of plants. This is a great shame when it is widely acknowledged that gardening is good for us, both physically and mentally. But there are plenty of ways to connect with gardening and nature at a local level. Take the likes of guerrilla gardener Richard Reynolds – he gardens in whatever space he can find, no matter how small, so there’s no reason other young people can’t do the same.

Mark Lane is a garden designer and passionate plantsman based in Kent.

Jack Shilley is a keen horticulturist, and director and founder of the YoungHort initiative.

HAVE YOUR SAY How do you feel about gardening being open to all ages and all levels of ability? Do you have any experiences to share? Write and tell us at the address on p23 March 2016

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Every issue of BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine is packed full of practical, trustworthy and timely advice from your favourite gardening experts, including Monty Don, Carol Klein, Alan Titchmarsh and many more.

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years and growing


The launch of this magazine exactly 25 years ago broke the mould of gardening titles by being in full colour throughout – a seemingly modest yet ground-breaking feature at the time, that others quickly followed. Little trace remains of that first issue in today’s magazine – with the honourable exception of regular columnist Alan Titchmarsh – because the way we garden (rather than how we grow) has changed so much in those 25 years. We were born in 1991, the same year as the world went online and became more accessible to all of us than it has ever been. Over the next six pages, we track this and other key moments that have changed gardening for ever. And we invite you to share with us what’s changed for you, too...

March 2016



Creating the Green Room With increasing pressure on space in our towns and cities over the past 25 years meaning houses and gardens are shrinking in size, the garden has become our outdoor living room, both day and night, and we furnish it accordingly. In 1991, we were relaxing on plastic patio dining sets. Now we ill our gardens with sophisticated barbecues, ire pits and chimineas, outdoor sofas, waterproof bean bags, cushions, and all kinds of outdoor lighting – from tea-lights to solar and strings of LEDs. Latest igures available (Mintel 2015) show we now spend £1.2 billion a year on garden leisure products but it is all worth it when families come together in the garden for ‘green time’, not screen time, and escape tech-overload indoors.

2 Hip homes Indoor plants


Welcoming in nature


In 1991, we might have put out a net of peanuts for the birds, but in the 25 years since then gardening for wildlife has become a primary focus for many, and big business – we now spend some £200 million a year on bird food alone (Mintel 2015). The irst bespoke bird seed feeder was only launched in 1992 but since then, specialised bird seed mixes, hedgehog homes (see p126), bug boxes and ladybird hotels have all become common, and the RSPB now has 1,180,000 members (up from 840,000 in 1991). We have learned to scrub our bird baths and feeders, strim carefully where grass snakes, hedgehogs, or slow worms might hide, plan ponds with wildlife in mind and choose plants for pollinators to keep our gardens humming with life. gardenersworld.com


had a style bypass for a while and we began picking up cheap cut lowers along with our weekly grocery shop, but now they are right back in vogue. Micropropagation has made once unaffordable orchids our houseplant of choice (and we’ve all discovered how easy they are to care for). Contemporary terrariums are looking bang on trend and collectable cacti are the irst step on to the houseplants ladder for many lat-sharing twenty-somethings.

March 2016

25th anniversary

Growing your own

Gardeners have always grown food, but in recent years the pendulum has swung from necessity to lifestyle accessory. The Victorian Kitchen Garden was a popular TV series and regular feature in the magazine in 1992, but at the same time many councils were quietly selling off allotments. Today, there are still waiting lists for allotments and space-hungry gardeners are growing fruit and veg in productive raised beds or even pots by the back door, helped by veg breeders who continue to introduce new compact varieties. Interest hit an all time high in 2009, when we spent £60 million on veg seeds, and sales still outstrip ornamentals today. Three quarters of Gardeners’ World readers now grow their own, while ‘future gardeners’ rate a veg plot as the most desirable garden feature to aspire to own. Few of us are interested in ‘Good Life’ style self-sufficiency but we love to grow gourmet treats (and save a fortune into the bargain). Back in 1991, who had even eaten a cucamelon, sweet potato, blueberry or oriental salad leaf? These days they are among our most valued crops, and chilli plants are our new hot favourites.

3 Nurturing happiness There’s masses of evidence that gardeners are healthier and happier than their indoor neighbours. Mental health charities exploit the therapeutic bene it of getting your hands in the soil; Maggie’s Centres harness the power of the garden for the bene it of cancer patients and their families; and the Green Gym movement suggests that gardening be prescribed on the NHS. This year, the RHS is making health and happiness a key theme for the Chelsea Flower Show.

Gardening got groovy The great and the good have always loved their gardens but unexpectedly green- ingered celebrities now include Jo Wiley, Sara Cox, Jarvis Cocker, Zoe Ball, Savannah Miller, DJ Goldie and Jake Gyllenhall. Even party-animal Kate Moss kicks back on her patio. Preview day at the Chelsea Flower Show has never been so cool.


Right plant, right place Carol says, “There has been a sea change in the past 25 years. My nursery, Glebe Cottage Plants, put me in touch with thousands of gardeners and their ideas. In the beginning, most people just wanted plants that looked good. These days we are more interested in where they come from, what conditions they enjoy – and if they are the right plants for the right place.” gardenersworld.com


8 Putting on a front Local

councils have driven the changing face of British front gardens by championing wheelie bins for recycling and charging you to park your car on the street. As recycling levels trebled from 2000 14, we’ve binned traditional fences and

narrow strips of hard-to-mow grass in favour of paved-over mini car parks and a sprawl of bins and bikes. This has spawned a new market in domestic-scale bin shelters, bike stores and fox-proof recycling boxes. Permeable paving is a recent introduction to help solve the emerging crisis of rain run-off and looded drains, and planning permission is now required if laying over 5m2 of impermeable paving slabs.

Our changing climate From crank scaremongering to mainstream fact. Global warming may not have had exactly the impact we were all expecting (we worried about drought, not loods back then), but the changes have de initely had an impact. If nothing else, we now know to expect the unexpected. According to Grahame Madge of the Met Office, whose records go back to 1910, “Nine of the warmest 10 years and seven of the 10 wettest years have occurred since 1991.” The wettest recorded year was 2000, and the hottest year on record was 2014, while the hottest day was 10 August 2003, when temperatures in Faversham, Kent, reached 38.5°C.

11 32


9 Taste for exotics – in 1996 the great gardener Christopher Lloyd dug up his mother’s iconic rose garden at Great Dixter and created an Exotic Garden in its place. Traditionalists were scandalised, but adventurous gardeners soon followed his lead, and cannas, bananas, tree ferns and tetrapanax are now more popular than ever. TV joined in when Alan planted a grove of tree ferns in his former garden at Barleywood, then Monty fell for a giant Abyssinian banana.

Wise with water


It may rain more now, but water meters have made gardeners more careful. It’s no longer acceptable to soak our lawns in a heatwave. Smart watering systems, leaky pipe and water butts make every drop count. Mulching is our new mantra and when we do have to water, we give thanks for no-kink hosepipes and trigger-control spray guns that let us switch the water off without traipsing back to the tap. Now there are even water ‘computers’ to do the work for us!

Public enemy plants Leylandii continues to bring neighbours to blows (or at least to court) and Japanese knotweed delayed construction on the 2012 Olympics site, costing £70 million to eradicate. Environmentalists now organise Rhododendron ponticum-bashing weekends, we learned bracken can kill you, and waterways became so clogged with invasive plants that the worst ive offenders were banned from sale in April 2014 – including myriophyllum, or parrot’s feather, the once go-to plant for oxygenating our garden ponds. March 2016


25th anniversary

Unwelcome arrivals Pests and diseases that have invaded include sudden oak death ( irst found in Britain in 2002), oak processionary moth (2005) and sudden ash dieback (2012). The New Zealand latworm irst featured in the magazine in 1991; in 2004 Harlequin ladybirds arrived; then in 2007 British bees were hit by Colony Collapse Disorder. The arrival of the Asian citrus longhorn beetle around 2012, added to our woes. But we enthusiastically embraced the arrival of biological controls, including nematodes and lacewings by post. According to the RHS, in 1991 our top three most troublesome pests were aphids, lily beetle and glasshouse red spider mite, while today we are more worried by slugs and snails, vine weevil and cushion scale (with lily beetle hanging on at number four on the list).


Growing organic Monty says, “I clearly remember that 25 years ago ‘good’ gardening meant the judicious use of chemicals and, by association, being organic was dismissed by the horticultural establishment as harmless but ineffectual and even selfindulgent. I am delighted that over the past quarter of a century gardeners have woken up to the fact that if we try to fight nature not only will we lose, but also the collateral damage to the natural world will be catastrophic. We are learning, rather late in the day, that ignoring the balance and rhythm of the natural world is neither a good way to garden nor to live.” March 2016

15 Banned and binned A shed’s worth of chemicals have disappeared from sale in the past 25 years, including creosote and tar oil products, which were banned for use by amateurs in 2003. Use of paraquat became illegal in 2006, and in the past three years, the spotlight has shone on neonicotinoid pesticides. Meanwhile a raft of devices now help to keep us safer in the garden, including trip switches and RCDs, dead handles on lawnmowers, ladder towers for hedge cutting, and the rise and rise of eye goggles and ear defenders. gardenersworld.com


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25th anniversary


Designs for everyone

Joe says, “I’m convinced we’ve become more interested in garden design since 1991. Gardeners’ World Magazine reflects that fact and over the last 25 years has helped many gardeners make their gardens more exciting. Garden design was once seen as elitist, but I hope we’ve now made it feel relevant and achievable for everyone.”

Laying down the lawn

17 We got the blues After Ground Force exploded onto our screens in 1997, it seemed that distinctive ‘Barleywood’ blue paint was everywhere. Since then we have expanded our palette to include a rainbow of colours. This year’s trend is yellow, say colourologists, if you’re brave enough…

Lawn ownership has fallen, from 77% of gardeners in 1991 to 59% of us today, but our love affair with grass is not over. From border ornamental grasses, to a stripy sward and Olympic-led wild lower meadows, anything goes. We raised a few eyebrows with our recent guide to fake grass – and not everyone was happy.



The Great Trug Giveaway Free with the mag in 1993 our biggest ever ‘cover gift’ (the magazine actually sat inside it!) delighted readers and appalled newsagents and postmen around the country. Other notable giveaways included the ceramic garden gnome, taking a break and reading a copy of the magazine – still available to buy on eBay! March 2016

Dig it no more In the early days of the magazine we printed diagrams of how to double dig. Today we are running Charles Dowding’s advice on no-dig gardening, and raised beds are becoming increasingly common. Monty has all but retired his favourite spade (see page 38), and there is masses of evidence that crop yields are higher and soil healthier in raised beds. Only osteopaths are unhappy.



25th anniversary

The ancient technique of grafting has recently come to the rescue of gardeners pushed for time and space. We’ve long championed family apple trees, offering several varieties on one trunk, and early-cropping grafted peppers and tomatoes now help patio gardeners bag a bumper harvest. The ‘Tomtato’ tomatopotato combo raised its head in 2013, and in 2016 we welcome the ‘Egg & Chips’ plant, an aubergine/potato mix. Whatever next… a pizza plant?

Low maintenance gardening We may say we’re busier than ever, but even during the 1990s, readers told us ‘lack of time’ was a barrier to gardening. It’s still the No.1 reason why you don’t garden more, and has driven a trend in breeding perennials with multiple lowering times and seasons of interest, like ultra-long- lowering Geranium ‘Rozanne’ which appeared in 2000. The cash-rich time-poor now turn to robotic lawnmowers, smartphone app reminders and even maintenance-free decks and sheds made of recycled plastic bags!


Expecting the unexpected


Digital gardening

The irst ever website appeared on the internet in 1991, the year of the magazine’s birth (it was a page by ‘father of the internet’, Tim Berners-Lee, explaining the concept of the World Wide Web). Now, it drives a whole new market for plants, with 35% of you shopping online monthly for your garden. Our magazine website, gardenersworld.com, irst launched in 1999, and relaunches this month with a fresh new look, and a Secret Garden zone for subscribers.



If the past 25 years have surprised and delighted us, just think what the next 25 years will bring! Plants that deadhead themselves, self-cleaning paths and paving slabs that generate power for the house are already in the pipeline. Augmented reality to reimagine outdoor spaces, fruit with year-round cropping, plus ‘welltality’ and ‘dogscaping’ all lie ahead. Watch this space…


22 Gardening for everyone Alan says, “The greatest joy for me, over the past 25 years, has been to see gardening being embraced by a much wider cross-section of the community, from children who are now encouraged to connect with nature in primary schools (we still need more at secondary level) to young families who now see that a garden is an enjoyable part of their living space. I like to think that with programmes such as Ground Force I’ve done my bit to keep the magic but banish the mystery of gardening. Controversial such an approach might have been, but gardening should be for everyone. How could I keep such delights to myself?”

How did you garden before 2016? Tell us how you’ve changed over the past 25 years...and what you’d never change. Or has your gardening changed you? Email us at letters@gardenersworld.com or write to our usual address, on page 23. March 2016



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The secrets of

good soil What are the best ways to look after your soil to ensure you get perfect results? Monty Don is here to help as he digs up some fascinating recent discoveries about soil



March 2016

monty’s garden

or most of my life I have believed

do not have to be a pioneering scientist to learn – and every gardener, however fixed in their ways, stands to benefit from a little knowledge of what has been discovered about the ground we so carefully tend. The old received wisdom was that there were four types of soil: clay, chalk, sand and peat, each with its own texture, characterised by the size of particles within it. The average garden was likely to be a composite of t wo of t hese soi l t y pes but dom i nated by one characteristic that would determine the broad swat he of pla nts you cou ld comfortably grow. And it was a given that all four types of soil would be Understanding soil immeasurably improved by digging – I was of the school that believed a good preferably doubly so – and by adding large spade, wielded vigorously, would solve quantities of manure – preferably in a most horticultural problems. I even trench as you dug. fetishised a special spade that I had made In fact, it is now reckoned – and I stress for me 25 years ago as a symbol of all t h i s science i s na scent a nd new that was noble about my relationship discoveries are being made almost daily, with the earth – and by that I included albeit by the pitifully underfunded the entire planet as well as soil scientists working in One third of all this country – that there are my back yard. However, research has emerged since than 50,000 soil types living organisms more then that has made me in the world*. Each one is a on our planet live separate ecosystem with realise two things. The first is that soil is a individual characteristics, in the soil much more complex and each hosts countless material than we imagined, and its organisms interacting as part of the life of relationship to plants is dependent on a the soil and the plants that grow in it. chain of interactions so interwoven and Confused? You might well be. If you are far-reaching that it makes the average not floundering, you have not begun to neural pathway look like a basic on/off grasp the complexity of this. Suddenly a switch. The second is that we know bit of virtuous digging and a fresh load of practically nothing about any of this. It manure do not cover all bases. has been said that we know more about the outer reaches of the universe than Soil under threat about the soil 15cm beneath our feet. One We are also losing our soil at an alarming third of all living organisms on our planet rate. The human population is rising live in the soil, yet we have only identified globally and almost all of the new growth about one per cent of them. The phrase is being housed in towns and cities that, ‘barely scratching the surface’ does not by definition, are not providing food for do justice to our ignorance. their inhabitants. Yet in the remaining If I were 21 and a scientist looking for a unurbanised areas, about two billion direction, I would turn towards soil hectares of soil have been degraded over science. It is the most unexplored and the past 40 years** – equivalent to 15 per exciting field open to discovery. But you cent of the Earth’s land area – and soil is

Add a layer of compost to the soil surface for the worms to incorporate

March 2016



that ‘improving’ the soil was the holy grail of gardening. Lick it into shape and your garden will inevitably become better too. I also believed that soil was a kind of qualitative measure of the gardener. Good rich soil exemplified the hand of a hard-working gardener. It had moral as well as practical qualities. But over the past few years I have rather changed my view on this. It is not completely wrong, of course, but it is only part of the truth and is also based on a very one-sided relationship between the gardener and the ground they cultivate.


Nurture your soil with home-made garden compost

being lost at 10-40 times t he rate at which it can naturally regenerate. This is entirely due to human mismanagement, carelessness or ignorance.

Ways to conserve soil It can take about 1,000 years to make just a couple of centimetres of soil, and if we were to continue abusing and misusing our soil then we would run out in a couple of generations. That will not happen, because many people around the world are aware of the dangers, not least the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils, a body of 27 experts assembled by the Food and Agricultural Orgnization of the United Nations, which is mapping soils around the world to work on how best to conserve and use them. Then there is the fact that soil, and in particular peat, is a major store of carbon in the form of organic matter. Loss of organic matter is detrimental to soil quality, as it is important for fertility, stability and air and water retention, and is a key indicator of soil health. Even just digging soil, not to mention ploughing it or, heaven forefend, mining peat, releases carbon into the atmosphere. In fact, it is estimated that worldwide, agricultural tillage releases 10 times more carbon into the atmosphere every year than all deforestation. Gardeners are a key part of this. This might suggest that we should carry on adding large volumes of manure and compost as we did before, but do we need to and if so what is the most beneficial way to add organic matter to our soil? The best supply of organic matter comes from plant material, mainly roots, as well as the bodies of the trillions of organisms in every 30cm2 of ground, making the best tool for the job not the spade or plough, but the earthworm. There are 27 species in this country – and more than 3,000 worldwide – and they are remarkably efficient at bringing in, digesting and incorporating organic material. Charles Darwin estimated that the earthworm population moved 100 tons of soil a year per hectare, which is as much as any plough. In other words, you can put the spade away. There is no need to dig anything, other than



How to make the best compost P Separate ingredients Remove leaves from other compost ingredients and use for leamould. P Get a good balance Too much carbon (woody stems, etc.) and the composting process will be too slow, but too much nitrogen (grass cuttings, leaves, etc.) and you’ll get an evil smelling sludge. For every load of green material, mix in the same volume of dry material such as shredded stems, straw or cardboard. P Turn the heap Mix it up as often as possible. Once every 10 days is ideal. P Don’t let it dry out Damp the heap down with the hose if it’s too dry or protect it against rain if its wet.

March 2016

The dirt on worms

2 tons of dry matter per acre are consumed by earthworms every year†

It can take about a thousand years to make just a couple of centimetres of soil

93% of compost bins contain earthworms‡

89% of earthworms found their own way into bins without any help from gardeners‡

planting holes. As for improving the organic content, the best way is by adding a 2-5cm layer of compost to the surface and letting worms incorporate it, as well as, critically, covering the ground with plants. Do not leave bare soil anywhere. Grow in it, mulch it, but resist cultivating it. Soil structure is almost as important as soil content. Much research is being done on this. Get the pores in your soil right and you maximise root development, drainage, w ater retent ion a nd bac ter ia l a nd rhizomatous growth. So, adding organic material and perhaps extra grit, avoiding compaction from walking and cultivation, and using plants – even weeds – to open up the soil with their roots and add their biomass will all improve soil structure. If the structure is good, so will be the fertility, because your plants will be able to take up nutrients and moisture. Soil is not a fixed thing, any more than light is. Think of it as a living entity working with plants rather than an inert medium in which to raise them.

Adding to the life of soil

Monty on TV Watch Monty in the return of Gardeners’ World 2016. The new series begins on Friday 4 March, 8.30pm on BBC2. Read his tweets at twitter.com/TheMontyDon

Which brings us to the other aspect of soil that is only just coming into mainstream thinking. The relationship between plants and soil-dwelling bacteria and fungi is complex and almost entirely beneficial. I get thousands of letters every year about how to cope with or defeat fungi, worms, beetles and other visible denizens of the soil. If the correspondents could see bacteria, I am sure they would want to zap them too. But without this subterranean life, there would be no gardens and it is vital to have soil that contains as much life as possible. It is important to realise that there is no one perfect soil and the recipe for such perfection is, in its f luid, shifting way, responsive, but it w i l l cha nge w it h circumstances. In fact, to adapt the old adage about clothes and weather, there is no such thing as bad soil, just the wrong plants in the wrong place. If a plant is healthy and happy it may not, I’m afraid, be purely down down to your tender loving

care or extreme skill. It will also be because it has found the right soil in which to put down its roots. The key therefore is to know your soil and to choose the right plants to grow in it. Look after the soil, understand it and know it well and you will invariably look after the plant too. This makes our traditional system of soil nutrient ratios – nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium – farcically inadequate. But the good news is that normal garden compost, which any gardener can make in their garden or allotment, is the best way to nurture soil. When you apply a layer of mulch, you are not ‘feeding’ it as such but recharging it. Life is already in the soil. It knows what to do. As yet, we barely have an inkling of how it does what it does, but that is the great field of discovery to be explored by the next generation of soil scientists. Applying compost, made largely from plants grown in your soil, will add an intense dose of bacteria and fungi back into the ground and stimulate the dynamic that is already there – even in soil that seems unpromising. So, as the new gardening year opens out before us, we should all try to improve our soi l st r uct u re by add ing liv ing a nd composted organic material and avoiding and repairing compaction. Nurture a healthy worm population. Make compost and add it thinly as a booster for the life that is already busy at work in the ground. Cut back on the digging. Choose plants wisely so that they interact well with your soil as it is and not as you wish it might be. A healthy plant will make the most of what the soil provides and will limit both the rate and ultimate size of growth to achieve that end. Plants will always work with the soil they grow in. It makes sense for gardeners to do so too. l

CATCH UP WITH MONTY Listen again to Monty’s Radio 4 programme Shared Planet on the subject of soil at www.bbc. co.uk/programmes/b03cmt4t

NEXT MONTH: Monty tackles an emerging weed problem March 2016






Monty’s 2016 tour of

The Mound has gone through a slow evolution over the past couple of years, but in 2015 we moved some espalier pears to the area, which instantly transformed its feel and structure. Sometimes a garden can be designed and executed quickly, but at other times it’s trial and error – which has been the case here. In 2016, we’ll be planting the beds with scented plants, and putting up a simple gazebo on top.

Longmeadow Explore the home of Gardeners’ World as Monty reveals what’s coming up this year


THE CRICKET PITCH This space has morphed from a mown lawn that gave it its name, to rough grass, then a bulbfilled meadow and now to a green corridor of large pots from Italy. These house maples and the large-leafed box ‘Handsworthiensis’, which seems relatively resistant to blight. It makes the area more formal but gives a better focal point for the long path from the Jewel and Cottage Gardens.





NEW GREENHOUSE We’ve been making the most of the high roof space to grow and train a dessert grape, ‘Black Hamburg’, first planted in 2013. After two years of pruning and shaping, we had around 50 ripe bunches... then the blackbirds and wasps struck, eating all the ripe fruit. This year, if we’re to eat any the only option will be, after thinning the bunches, to cover them with bags.





The bed of asparagus in the Cottage Garden had been performing very poorly, mainly down to some exceptionally dry years and consequent lack of water. So last year I cut my losses and made a new asparagus bed alongside our highly productive raspberry beds (left). But another cold, dry spring last year did it no favours so I am waiting with bated breath to see what appears this April.



March 2016

longmeadow 2016





Over a year on from lowering and, in places, removing hedges from around the garden, the succession of bulbs down the Long Walk is earlier than ever. Daffodils were in flower as early as December, brought on by last autumn’s warm, damp weather.



WILDLIFE GARDEN Our secluded wildlife garden is the third incarnation of this area of Longmeadow. For many years it housed a greenhouse, soft fruit and asparagus beds. Then we planted it with hazels and it became a woodland coppice. Last spring I started this small wildlife garden, with a pond, a border planted specifically to attract bees, dense areas of ground cover for reptiles and mammals, as well as flowers to attract pollinating insects. The brief I gave myself was that it should be as attractive to as wide a range of wildlife as possible – while also being a beautiful garden.

March 2016


Sadly, our box blight saga has not gone away. In fact, the warm wet winter of 2015/16 has made it all much worse. There will have to be changes – perhaps very radical – but as yet I am still mulling them over as even clearing the 64 box balls and all the box hedges will be a major job! And that’s before we begin replanting.



longmeadow 2016 JEWEL GARDEN The idea for the Jewel Garden is simple: rich colours (ruby, orange, purple, deep blues) all linked and intensified by a backdrop of foliage in lime green (hops and Sambucus) and purple (hazel, canna, dahlias).

NEW KID ON THE BLOCK Nigel may not have it all his own way this year – Nell, a golden retriever puppy, joined the Don household in November and makes her debut on telly this month. Nigel is thinking about it...

THE ORCHARD BEDS By far the biggest change at Longmeadow in 2015 was the creation of these new beds within grass that’s never been cultivated, save a section that our pigs grubbed up a few years ago! Digging the beds was two weeks’ work. They are divided into two sections: in one grow woodland edge, shade-tolerant plants such as hellebores, ferns, foxgloves and primulas, with shade-tolerant roses providing a shrubby structure. In the other, sunnier, part, two matching borders flank the path through the orchard and are planted to pick up the lightness of the apple blossom – so hydrangeas, roses, viburnum for structure, underplanted with camassias. It was a difficult year to get these beds established because last spring was so cold and dry, so a lot more planting will be done in 2016.

NEW COMPOST BINS In making the orchard beds, we rebuilt our compost and leaf-mould bays by the fruit beds. The 4-bay composting system allows access for mixing and turning the heaps, to let in air and speed up the process.

Monty on TV Gardeners’ World returns on Friday 4 March, at 8.30pm. Catch up on clips from last year’s series at bbc.co.uk/programmes/ b006mw1h/episodes



March 2016

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gardenersworld.com 000

Joe’s Design SOLUTIONS

Awkward spaces In the first of his new design series, Joe Swift answers frequently asked questions about tricky-shaped plots Garden design is often perceived as the fancier side of gardening, with the need to spend lots of money, but that’s not what it’s all about. Good garden design principles can be applied to any garden, however awkward, and come into play the minute you think about putting a new feature into an empty or existing plot. Just making a new seating area, path or lawn layout can lead towards a new design for the whole garden. Having a plan to work towards means you can develop a great garden over the course of a few years, and you won’t look back wishing you had done something differently. Playing around on paper 46



and overlaying sketches on photos helps to get things right at the earliest stage and avoids making expensive mistakes on the ground. I often get asked about creating flowing layouts in awkward-shaped plots, but there are simple rules to follow to turn a problematic garden into an exciting space. Over the next few pages, I’ve provided solutions to some of the most common problems. Coming up Part 2: Joe answers design questions about privacy and boundaries. Shabby fencing or overlooked by neighbours? He’s got the answers. Part 3: How to create the look you want for your garden by selecting and combining the right plants.

The creation of three areas, a lawn and two hard surfaces, helps to hide the plot’s shape


My garden is L-shaped and feels disjointed – what can I do to remedy this?

The key is to try to join the two areas together seamlessly and lose the harsh corners with plants. Here, I’ve used a similar technique to the rectangular garden approach (right) by putting the axis of the space on an angle. It keeps the lines going to help me introduce another area around the corner, with a seat as a destination point. I have divided the garden into three main areas forming a triangle – two hard surfaces either side of a lawn at the apex. By doing this it helps to conceal the L-shape rather than reinforce it. Also, having decent-sized plants on the internal corner of the plot will help to balance the planting and increase the sense of enclosure in the garden. March 2016

joe’s design course

got a boring rectangular plot – how Q I’ve can I make it appear more interesting? Most gardens I see have a rectangular lawn in a rectangular plot, a layout many people inherit and find difficult to get away from. It does little to create a sense of flow and movement. Look to form at least two separate areas, which easily flow from one to the other. Between them, use some space to boldly cut into the garden with planting areas, which means you can introduce some taller plants to help break up

the oblong. Visually losing all the boundaries will make the garden feel bigger and take the emphasis away from the rectangle, so plant them up with climbers. I’ve put a diagonal axis into this plot and reshaped the lawn along this new line. Screening the shed with trellis, and introducing a simple arch with climbers forms a simple transition between two distinct areas.

A boring rectangular plot waiting to be transformed

A simple arch creates two areas that flow into each other


A diagonal axis helps disguise this rectangular plot

March 2016



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joe’s design solution

garden’s triangular Q My – what’s the solution?

The arch frames the view of a focal point

If it’s a large triangle, then there may be a way of dividing it into rooms, but with a small triangular plot, such as this example, it’s better to keep it as one simple space. Imposing a strong geometrical shape, such as a circle, immediately loses the straight lines, changing the entire feel of the space. Any areas outside the new circle can be turned into planting pockets, and paths or seating areas that work off it look best radiating out from the circle’s centre point. I’ve also added a simple arch, which makes the garden feel as if it’s leading somewhere and frames a view of a focal point, in this case, a large pot.

A bold circle takes attention away from the triangular pot

Try imposing a new shape on a triangular plot

the best way to deal with Q aWhat’s shallow but wide garden? The design should screen off the boundary immediately in front of you as you enter the garden, tricking the eye into not knowing exactly where the short view of the garden ends. It should then encourage you to turn towards the longer view by drawing the eye and initiating movement – a pot or sculpture, if unobscured, will help to do this. I’ve introduced three circles, as I find dividing gardens into three areas, rather than two, wherever possible helps with flow. As with all gardens, it’s important to have a destination point to head for, in this case, a seat framed by a generous and inviting wide arch that emphases the garden’s width. With the planting, put some taller plants along the house side so it feels balanced as you look and walk down it. March 2016

Large pot or sculpture

Wall of house Three circular areas draw the eye across the width of the plot

Garden door



joe’s design solution


It’s hard to get a sense of distance in our square garden – what’s the answer?

Square gardens can work well as formal courtyards if there are boundaries all the way around the plot. This garden has a more informal feel with loose boundaries, so I’ve created a relaxed, flowing scheme. Adding foreground and background elements is key to creating that sense of distance. Here, I’ve put planting in the foreground (something wispy you can partially see through, such as tall grasses and perennials). In the distance, I’ve introduced a focal point, in this case a bench on some gravel at the furthest point. Staggering the lawn on the left-hand side breaks up a difficult straight line, allowing the planting to frame the longer view. A small tree planted on the right adds height and balances out the left-hand side. A simple detail of brick or granite bands laid into the lawn gives it a designer feel and increases the sense of perspective.

Staggered borders help create perspective

Bands of brick provide a designer look

A square garden needs a sense of distance


My garden is on a steep bank – do you have any simple solutions?

Slopes can be tricky and expensive to deal with – the ideal scenario is to terrace at least some of the garden so you have several level areas. This means ‘cutting and filling’ the soil (to avoid taking away huge quantities), and building retaining walls and integrated steps. You can do this with stone, rendered blocks, brick or railways sleepers (which are quick to build with and install). The basic design principle of movement through the garden still applies though, and terracing a slope opens up a great opportunity to create an exciting garden. My key design advice is to avoid building steps only up one side or the other, or even right up the middle, unless you like things ultra-formal. If you alternate the side the steps are placed, and link them with a path, it means you’ve imposed a simple flow and the entire garden space comes into play. Consider planting both in front of walls and on top of them, with plants dangling over to soften the edges.




Pot Walls


Terracing solves difficulties with a slope and creates a design feature

March 2016

Enjoy beautiful blooms all summer long… David C.H. Austin


y planting David Austin’s English Roses over the next few weeks, you’ll be giving them plenty of time to establish in the garden before they burst into flower this summer. With their many petalled scented blooms, large array of colours and natural shrubby growth, they will complement both traditional and contemporary gardens – enhancing mixed cottage garden style borders, as well as softening hard modernist lines.

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Climb your way to more colour

Nothing beats climbers for bringing flowers to areas that other plants can’t reach. Carol Klein shows you how to cram in more colour this summer


e may be enjoying our


primroses and daffodils at this time of year, but most of us are simultaneously yearning for the hit that summer blooms and blossoms will bring. It’s right now that those sparse spaces and bare patches, in between the daffodils, can prompt us into planning to make the most of our garden this year, and pack in even more flowers. But how to fit them all in? If you think of your garden as a 3D space, how much of that area do you actually use? If you’re anything like me, only a fraction of it. We tend to concentrate on beds and borders, and there are also shrubs and hopefully a tree or two. But we don’t regard walls, fences and hedges as the blessing that they really are, for the opportunity they provide to take advantage of that third, vertical and often under-used, dimension. When I think about that third dimension in my garden, I find it sadly lacking in interest for large parts of the year. But it doesn’t have to be like that. At Glebe Cottage, apart from the house walls and one 12m run of oak-fencing, which even if you count both sides is still limited, there are precious few places where we have height. We have a long native hedge, too, but it never gets very high since the whole idea is to thicken it up as a habitat


for birds and small mammals. It has its share of climbing plants such as Rosa canina, honeysuckle and ivy, but providing colourful displays is not its remit. Vertical elements add interest to every garden but are perhaps most important in small spaces, where vertical structures open up new v iews a nd dif ferent perspectives that can make the area seem bigger. If those structures are covered in long-f lowering climbers, the garden’s picture is further enriched.

Up and away Height doesn’t have to be consigned to the perimeter of your garden. Introducing arches, pergolas and other free-standing structures is a simple but effective way of giving yourself a whole new plane to plant on. Runs of trellis or fencing are relatively cheap and easy to erect. In some cases, they become permanent and the plants they house will develop into part of the garden’s framework, supporting climbing roses, clematis and honeysuckle, or any of the other lovely climbing plants on offer. March is the ideal time not only to erect structures, fencing, frames, walls and hedges, but also to plant the permanent climbers that will clothe them. Just as with any shrub or tree, preparing the planting site is crucial. Remove all perennial weeds

Deadhead sweet peas to encourage more flowers

March 2016

carol on climbers

e m i t l a e d i e h “ March is t ures and to erect struct ers that b m i l c e h t t n p la � m e h t e h t o l c l l wi March 2016



and incorporate organic matter, preferably home-made compost. When planting, tease the roots out and, if you can afford it, use a mycorrhizal fungi product, which will help roots establish and start working. Be sure that the fungi is in direct contact with the roots when you plant. Firm in and attach the climber to the structure you’re providing, even though eventually it may have its own means of climbing – leaf tendrils, twining stems and adventitious roots among them – but however they climb, they’ll all get off to a much better start with a little help. If you’re planting against a wall or a fence, plant 30cm away from the base so that water can penetrate the plant’s roots, particularly if there is a roof overhang or any competition from other plants. Make sure that whatever framework you use is strong enough and always try to train plants by tying in regularly. We have just put in strong vine eyes with taut wire between them on the front of our cottage, with a good gap between the wire and the wall. Always tie soft string to the framework and then to the climber so its stems and shoots never creep round the back. This also ensures that there’s plenty of air circulating, and prevents leaves gathering and rotting. Mind you, not all structures for climbers have to be perfectly engineered and built to last, especially when you’re after an instant effect and you’re going to use annual climbers. We’re all used to the idea of runner beans and sweet peas, and think nothing of offering them support in the veg garden, but the same principle can be exploited in any space. A series of simple obelisks offset along a border planted with the same climber can give a feeling of cohesion. Whole new ‘rooms’ can be created by using simple panels or even posts with wires strung between them.

Carol’s favourites Carol shares her top climbers for long-lasting colour and scent

Choose the right plants. Pick varieties that grow on the right scale for your requirements But the most important thing is choosing the right plants. Pick varieties that grow on a scale to suit your requirements. Cobaea scandens can grow into trees, so if the area to cover is limited, tr y lablab beans, nasturtiums or even one of t he new climbing petunias. Such plants are also ideal if you want to grow climbers on a terrace or balcony. Make their pots as big as you can, use loam-based compost, and water and feed regularly with a high-potash fertiliser in summer. Most flowering plants need sun, and flowering climbers (with a very few exceptions) need as much sun as you can possibly give them. Sow annuals straight away for maximum effect, and convert your empty spaces into walls and pillars of glorious colour. E



G Wisteria Perhaps the most iconic of all climbers. Establish a framework along strong wires and prune back long, wispy shoots in summer and again in winter. Flowers May-Jun Height 9m

March 2016

carol on climbers

E Schisandra rubriflora Both flowers and fruits are red, a dramatic contrast to the deep-green leaves. When established, this can cover a wall but needs careful training. Flowers Apr-May Height 10m

H Clematis ‘Abundance’ This is part of the viticella group – the easiest of all clematis. It flowers on new wood, so chop it to a few buds above the ground for masses of flower in late summer/autumn. Flowers Jul-Sept Height 3m

F Akebia quinata Unusual Asiatic climbers. Grown for its dark, interesting flowers and purple fruit (a bit like jelly beans). Its scrambling habit makes it ideal to grow through a hedge. Flowers Mar-May Height 10m


H Jasminum officinale Much-loved deciduous climber with an exquisite fragrance. Rather tender so grow on a warm wall. It tends to be untidy so is best trained by tying it in to a framework. Flowers Jun-Aug Height 12m

E Lonicera ‘Graham Thomas’ One of the benefits of honeysuckle is that it will thrive in either sun or shade. This mixes well with soft-yellow climbing roses such Rosa ‘Graham Thomas’. Flowers Jul-Sept Height 7m

March 2016



carol on climbers


now Carol’s favourite annual climbers

E Eccremocarpus scaber The Chilean Glory Vine is a slightly tender perennial, usually treated as an annual. Flowers Jun-Nov Height 3m

E Ipomoea lobata Soak seeds overnight to help them swell and germinate. Does better some years than others and relishes sunshine. Flowers Jul-Oct Height 2-2.5m

How to sow quickgrowing climbers

Success when growing any tender or half-hardy plants depends on sowing them early. This is particularly true of climbers – they have to accomplish a huge amount in what must be to them a short season. We grow them for one reason – their flowers – but because they need to be mature before they bloom, good early care is especially important.

Start early February and March are the optimum months. Provide warmth from a nearby radiator or a heated propagator for germination and growing on. Give them plenty of air and light but not direct sunlight.

Sow your seeds Surface sow seeds sparingly in seed trays or pots in any proprietary seed compost, covered with grit. Water by standing trays in shallow water and remove when the grit changes colour from the moisture. Drain well.

As soon as the first true leaves are visible, prick out individually into modules or pots and grow on, repotting if necessary, until they’re big enough to thrive outside (following hardening off) and all danger of frost has gone. E Cobea scandens This Mexican perennial is pollinated by bats. Sown early enough, it can cover a sizeable wall in one season. Flowers Jul-Oct Height 10m

E Rhodochiton atrosanguineus Exciting blooms from late summer but must be started early –Feb or Mar in heat. Flowers Jul-Dec Height 2m

Carol on TV

Gardeners’ World returns The new series starts on 4 March, 8.30pm, packed full of useful advice for your garden.

NEXT MONTH Carol shows you how to make plants for free 56


March 2016


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Grow our sweet pea As part of our 25th Anniversary competition to name a sweet pea (see p97) we’re also offering readers the chance to grow this exclusive variety, with a special price for 24 plants. Its large, pure white blooms packed with sweet fragrance, impressed at

trials in 2015. To complement this as-yetunnamed variety we’ve created a collection containing a further 24 plants of some of the best-performing varieties of sweet pea. They are all highly fragrant and perfect for cut flowers in your home.

BRAND NEW, EXCLUSIVE AND STRICTLY LIMITED TO ONE PACK PER HOUSEHOLD Anniversary Sweet Pea Collection 1 P 24 plants ‘Unnamed Competition Variety’ (pure white) P 4 plants ‘Charlie’s Angel’ (lavender) P 4 plants ‘Just Jenny’ (deep-blue) P 4 plants ‘Sylvia Moore’ (pink) P 4 plants ‘Apricot Queen’ (apricot) P 4 plants ‘Restormel’ (red) P 4 plants ‘Anniversary’ (white/pink-edged) 48 plants (as above) £14.99 (RRP £19.99) SAVE £5

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TO ORDER Please send your order and payment to: Sweet Pea Offer (RGW112), Blooming Direct Ltd, PO Box 637, Wetherby Road, York, YO26 0DQX


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6 plants 6 plants 6 plants of each)

YPDPE06-GW0316 £10.00 YPDPU06-GW0316 £10.00 YPDWH06-GW0316 £10.00 YPDDMX09-GW0316 £11.00


1. Digitalis purpurea Candy Mountain Nicknamed Viagra in the trials garden, due to the upwards facing flowers. Height 120cm (48"). Spread 30cm (12"). Hardy biennial. 6 plants YPDCM06-GW0316 £10.00

2. Digitalis obscura Dusky Maid Looking like an elusive orange Penstemon it is in fact a rarely offered Spanish Foxglove. Height & spread 45cm (18"). Fully hardy perennial. 6 plants YPDDM06-GW0316 £10.00

1. Digitalis purpurea Candy Mountain


3. Digitalis purpurea Sugar Plum

HE NAME FOXGLOVE is said to have

Often referred to as one of the most gorgeous pale pink blooms with raspberry jam lips. Height 120cm (48”). Spread 45cm (18"). Hardy biennial. 6 plants YPDSP06-GW0316 £10.00

arisen from a story about playful fairies, wanting to help the wily foxes. They slipped a foxglove over each paw and ever since, the fox has had the attribute of stealth. They even left their little fairy fingerprints on the blooms in the form of tiny spots as proof. Humans admire them today for their gorgeous, bell-shaped flowers which appear on long tall spikes, making an impressive statement in the garden during late spring and summer. Wonderful drifts of vertical spires create interest in the border by adding a third dimension. Excellent for cutting too – lasting 7-10 days in a vase, although you may not wish to deprive the passing wildlife of a nectar-rich feast. Deadhead as each flower is spent to encourage more flowers and promote seed production for self-seeding in the second year.

4. Digitalis x mertonensis An award winning variety with huge blooms known as the strawberry foxglove. Height 90cm (36"). Spread 30cm (12"). Fully hardy perennial. 6 plants YPDME06-GW0316 £10.00

5. Digitalis grandiflora Carillon Dainty and compact, evergreen foliage with gorgeous chocolate speckles on the inside of the flower. Height 30-40cm (12-16"). Spread 30-45cm (12-18"). Fully hardy perennial. 6 plants YPDGC06-GW0316 £10.00

6. Digitalis purpurea Alba

2. Digitalis obscura Dusky Maid

The height and colour carries the eye to the furthest part of the garden when planted at the back of the border. Height 120cm (48"). Spread 30cm (12"). Hardy biennial. 6 plants YPDAL06-GW0316 £10.00

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Buy all twelve Foxgloves pictured for


3. Digitalis purpurea Sugar Plum





4. Digitalis x mertonensis

5. Digitalis grandiflora Carillon

6. Digitalis purpurea Alba

Branching beautifully and sterile which means they flower throughout all of the summer and into early autumn. Height 60-90cm (23-35"). Spread 50-60cm (20-23"). Fully hardy perennials. A. Pippa 6 plants YPDPI06-GW0316 £10.00 B. Pandora 6 plants YPDPA06-GW0316 £10.00 C. Princess 6 plants YPDPR06-GW0316 £10.00 9 plants (3 of each) YPDPMX09-GW0316 £11.00

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x mertonensis x 6



grandiflora Carillon x 6



purpurea Alba x 6



Dalmation Peach x 6



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Polkadot Princess x 6



Polkadot Mix x 9 plants (3 of each) YPDPMX09-GW0316 £11.00 READERS OFFER Digitalis Mix (1 of each pictured) YPDMX12-GW0316 £12.00 POST & PACKING (UK ONLY)



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Brilliant bulbs Fancy guranteed colour for 10 months of the year? Alan shows you how easy it is to create show-stopping displays with beautiful bulbs. Photos by Jonathan Buckley


make no apology for repeating my


explosion of every colour, except blue, from favourite description of bulbs as tulips. But blues can be enjoyed, too, if you ‘f irework pla nts’. T he fact t hat plant crocuses such as C. tommasinianus, as someone else has done all the work in well as the elegant camassias that I enjoy in terms of their flowering capability really a patch of meadow where they look most at does mean that all you, as the gardener, home. I add snake’s head fritillaries each have to do is metaphorically light the year to my patch of meadow with the aim of blue touchpaper and stand well back. building up a healthy colony of bulbs. That much is true for the I use t he ter m bu lb I love bulbs first year at least, but if loosely, to encompa ss bulbs are planted in a a variety of underground because they offer spot they enjoy then it food storage organs that variety in shape ca n hold t r ue for plants have adapted to see subsequent years as well. them through extremes of and colour I love bulbs, not only climate. A bulb is, strictly, for their rapid response after planting, but a condensed shoot or bud, as is the case with also because they offer variety in shape and snowdrops, daffodils and tulips. Both the colour as well as time of flowering. They can cyclamen and the crocus grow from a corm, generally be shoe-horned in between other which is a condensed stem bearing a shoot at plants so that when their spectacular its apex, rather than cocooned within its leaf season of f lowering is over, their foliage scales, and then there are tubers, which may (usually nothing to write home about) can be root tubers (as is the case with dahlias) or be masked or its appearance ameliorated by stem tubers (as with potatoes). Buds or ‘eyes’ that of its neighbours. occur all over a stem tuber, as opposed to the This is the prime season for spring- root tuber, which has a bud or buds only at flowering bulbs. I love the gradual variation its top end. A rhizome is a swollen but in colour as the season progresses, from the elongated underground stem, as is the case white of snowdrops and the buttercup- with bearded irises and winter aconites. yellow of winter aconites to the yellows and What is often overlooked is that bulbs are ora nges of na rcissi, fol lowed by a n not just spring flowering. There are many gardenersworld.com

Outside his greenhouse, Alan assesses the tulip display, looking for gaps to be filled next year

March 2016

making a better garden

March 2016



Alan creates simple but eyecatching displays of grape hyacinths, violas, fritillarias and narcissi

su m mer-f lower i ng bu lbs t hat of fer tremendous value and variety, not least in brightening up parts of the garden when earlier f lowers have gone over. Hardworking lilies, gladioli, alliums, crocosmia, bearded irises and the good old dahlia, are now justif iably well-established as a valuable summer garden resident after years of languishing as an unfashionable plant.

between beefier border residents so that not a square inch of soil is deprived of its flowering potential. Such bulbs need not always be committed to the ground. They can be planted in pots for display on terraces or patios, or else pot-grown and dropped into gaps in beds and borders that become noticeable as the summer progresses. Versatility is their middle name. But make the pots large – a Plan your planting good 25cm or 30cm in diameter so that they Spring-f lowering bulbs push out their do not dry out rapidly in warm weather. And flowers before the overhead canopy of trees when they are tucked among border plants, and shrubs is inhospitably remember that they will Don’t be too dotty rely on you for food and d e n s e . T h e i r f ol i a g e follows and needs to be ater. Don’t ne g le c t when it comes to bulb wthem, t a k en a c c ou nt of a t or the display will planting. Boldness planting time, ma k ing fall woefully short. sure that it will not be an Don’t be too dot t y always pays off eyesore, while at the same when it comes to bulb time giving it a chance to luxuriate and planting – boldness always pays off. Plant in photosynthesise for six weeks or so before it generous-sized groups or, in the case of is chopped back. This allows food reserves – drumsticks like alliums, stud a border with and, consequently, flowers – to form in the them from end to end so they rise above the bulbs below to power next year’s show. They ground-hugging foliage of their neighbours. are great gap fillers but so, too, are summerWith daffodils I prefer to plant large f lowering bulbs which, like their spring clumps of a couple of dozen bulbs, rather counterparts, can be shoe-horned in than using the age-old method of scattering



Plant a border with alliums, and admire them as they rise above their neighbours

March 2016

making a better garden

Alan’s tips for better bulbs

Plant bulbs at three times their own depth

March 2016



P Follow a few simple rules and you won’t go far wrong. Spring-flowering bulbs are planted in autumn, while summer bulbs go in during spring. Otherwise, they need exactly the same treatment. P Find the right spot for the bulb in question. Does it like sun or shade, moist or well-drained soil? The conditions are critical to its survival and will greatly affect performance. P Plant at the correct depth – generally three times the depth of the bulb itself. If planted too shallowly it may dry out and run out of sustenance, which is vital if the bulb is to flower well the following year. P Allow the foliage to remain for at least six weeks after flowering to build food reserves for the following year. Tying it in knots or chopping it off will interfere with this process. P If drought conditions prevail at flowering time, keep bulbs well watered. This is when next year’s flowers are initiated inside the bulbs, and drought may well have an adverse effect. Feeding with a general fertiliser at the same time will help. P Add to your bulbs every year. If naturalised in grass they face stiff competition for food and water, so plant more every season to help maintain the level of the display. P Dig up and divide overcrowded bulbs immediately after flowering and replant at the correct depth in soil enriched with organic matter and a good dusting of fertiliser.


making a better garden

Crab apple blossom and tulips ‘Queen of Night‘, ‘Attila’ and ‘Gabriella‘ light up the meadow

them into wide crescent-moon shapes and year as I love their tall, elegant spires of pale planting them where they fall. To my eye, blue starry flowers in April and May. the ‘wide clump’ arrangement is much more While it may seem a little late to be talking effective and spectacular than the arching about spring bulbs, I reckon this is the best rash that occurs as a result of scattering. time to take stock of what you can fit in and Sma l ler clumps – where, and make out an Tulips planted in order. Come autumn you’ll especially of flowers like miniature narcissi – can forget what you needed single colours and be arranged a long the and where – well, I do! great swathes offer front of a border so that For planting now I love t hey prov ide a ribbon alliums and have worked the most impact ‘Purple Sensation’ into a effect. I’ve done this with good old ‘Tête-à-tête’ along the front of a long border that is studded with lollipop border that is dominated by three trios of yews in huge terracotta pots. I sigh over the Betula utilis var. jacquemontii, and the effect each year, and add the more robust ‘Globemaster’ in clumps of eight or 10 at bulbs and trees make perfect bedfellows. either end as a grand finale. They push up among a carpet of astrantias in white, pink Experiment with colour With tulips, generosity of number is critical. and crimson. I tuck in dahlias wherever Stud them too sparsely and the effect will be there is a gap, knowing they will provide mean and not very spectacular. Plant them colour from July until November, and I 25-30cm apart in great swathes and they a lways g row l i l ies i n pots – wh itewill take your breath away. Single colours, trumpeted, fragrant Lilium longiflorum, L. rather than a mixture, offer the most regale and any others that take my fancy. For me, bulbs are not an add-on but a vital impact, but I have greatly enjoyed deep pu r ple ‘Queen of Nig ht’ w it h ‘Pi n k part of my garden’s annual display, from the Diamond’, and in long grass (where they snowdrops and carpet of pink and purple have to be added ever y yea r due to Cyclamen coum of winter through to the competition from the meadow) I have late-flowering dahlias and lilies, the chorus mixed deep purple ‘Negrita’, violet-purple girls of the summer’s grand finale. Without ‘Attila’ and pale pink ‘Gabriella’. Gosh, they them my garden would be a poorer place. l Turn over for Alan’s bulbs to plant now e look good! The camassias, too, I add to every March 2016

Late spring-flowering camassias and hostas



making a better garden

Dahlia ‘David Howard‘

Crocosomia ‘George Davison‘

Allium ‘Purple Sensation‘

Alan’s summer-flowering bulbs to plant now Recreate Alan’s stunning beds and borders with six of his favourites

Dahlia ‘David Howard’ Don’t stick with boring old ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ whose deep red foliage and scarlet flowers can be hard to place. This variety has warm orange blooms that light up a sunny border where the soil has been enriched with wellrotted garden compost or manure. Dahlias are greedy, so be good to them. Flowers Jul-Oct. H x S 75cm x 75cm offer

Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ I know this is a very popular variety, but it is one of the best and reasonably priced so you can afford to plant in bulk. It self seeds generously but you have to wait for the progeny to reach flowering size, so it pays to plant a few more every year. Flowers Jun. H x S 100cm x 50cm Gladiolus byzantinus Many of the larger-flowered gladioli are best grown on a veg patch for use as cut flowers rather than in the garden where they often look clumsy and angular. But this little beauty is much more elegant, even if its cerise flowers might give you a headache when you come to place them. I love them in the foot of a hedgerow for a touch of Cornish charm. Flowers May-Jun. H x S 60cm x 20cm

Lilium ‘Star Gazer’ A stunning oriental lily with a glorious scent. It will enjoy some support to protect it from strong winds, but the stems are sturdy enough to support the blooms. Grow in pots for portability and to allow you to pop it into beds for a splash of instant colour. Hose off lily beetle larvae. Flowers Jun-Aug. H x S 1-1.5m x 30cm Canna indica varieties Invaluable for bringing a touch of the tropics to borders with their lush green or plumpurple foliage and bright red, orange or yellow flowers. Not totally hardy, so either mulch with compost or manure in autumn and chance leaving them where they are, or dig up the roots and overwinter in a frost-free greenhouse. Flowers Jun-Sep. H x S 1.5m x 50cm

Gladiolus byzantinus

Canna indica varieties

10 Lilium ‘Stargazer’ bulbs with FREE P&P

10 Lilium ‘Stargazer’ bulbs £12.99 20 Lilium ‘Stargazer’ bulbs £17.98 SAVE £8 To order, go to www.thompson-morgan.com/GW827 Offer subject to availability. Contract for supply of goods is with Thompson & Morgan. Offer closes 30 April 2016.

Lilium ‘Star Gazer‘

NEXT MONTH Alan shows you how to make your lawn lovely again 68


March 2016


Crocosmia ‘George Davison’ Montbretias have an image problem, as older varieties were not always prolific flowerers. Lots of new varieties are brilliant, though, and this is one of them, with swathes of elegant orange flowers. The foliage is handsome, too. I plant them in snaking rivulets in borders. Flowers Jun-Aug. Height x Spread 90cm x 10cm


NEC Birmingham 16 - 19 June 2016

Your show is back! See the gardens, smell the flowers, hear the experts and taste the flavours – enjoy a day out for all the senses! f you’re a hands-on gardener looking for a great day out, there’s no better place to go than BBC Gardeners’ World Live, 16-19 June at Birmingham’s NEC. Shop in one of the country’s largest Floral Marquees, discover the must-have new plant varieties and find the perfect solution to growing in small spaces. It really is the perfect place to cultivate your horticultural know-how! It’s wonderful to have Monty, Carol and Joe back on our screens, and we’re pleased to welcome them back to the Show too, where they’ll share their expert advice first-hand with you. This year we are also joined by Alan Titchmarsh on Friday, making it a truly unbeatable line-up. So, book your tickets today with 20% off and look forward to a great day out in June! Show sponsors and supporters:

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Find your inspiration At BBC Gardeners’ World Live, the Show Gardens are a hive of practical design ideas, great planting, canny solutions and space-savvy thinking. Bring a notebook and camera to record your favourite bits, speak to the designers and Show experts to get the best tips and techniques, shop for the perfect plants to create the look with aftercare advice from the growers, and get gardening!

Fill your boots! With your head full of ideas to recreate at home, be ready to browse 100s of exhibitors selling everything you’ll need, from plants and seeds to irrigation and garden buildings, many with great Show offers. The Show includes over 100 places to buy quality plants. Plus, use the Shop & Drop, Plant Crèche and Car Collection service to enjoy the Show bag-free!

e, c n ie r e p x e t s u m ‘A in a g a g in it is v e b l il Iw a n d re co m mwe’ n din g to a ll I k n o r 2015 Rosie, Show visito

Everything you love about the Show This year’s Show launches a host of new features, alongside much-loved annual favourites including the BBC Gardeners’ World Live Theatre† sponsored by Wyevale Garden Centres, the Floral Marquee sponsored by GreenThumb and Plant Village packed with the best nurseries, Show Gardens filled with ideas, Jim Buttress in conversation with experts at the Interview Stage, and more. Sign up to the Show newsletter for all the news!

New for 2016 The all-new Small Garden Solutions feature presented by the editors of BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine will inspire you with demos, techniques and a practical garden illustrating ways to make your garden a showstopper, whatever its size or aspect! Also new is the Veg Trug Stage and Rose Festival with demo stage and kit for sale.


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Be a Very Important Gardener (VIG)! Attend the show in style with glass of fizz, VIP parking and Lounge, goodie bag and more with our exclusive VIP tickets, from £89 (£94 Sat)

Subscribers, see p26 for your 25% off discount code

Special offer tickets from £18 saving £4.50* bbcgardenersworldlive.com | 0844 581 1344 *20% off Adult/Over 65 tickets. Not valid on VIP or with any other offer. Ends 19/06/16. Discounted Adult Standard ticket £18, saving £4.50. £1.50 fulfilment fee per advance booking. † BBC Gardeners’ World Live Theatre seats cost additional £2. Not all experts appear on all days, see website for details. Calls to 0844 581 1344 cost 7p/minute plus your phone company’s access charge. Details correct at time of print. The Gardeners’ World logo is a trademark of BBC Worldwide Ltd. © BBC Worldwide Limited. Organised and presented by River Street Events.

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SPACE SAVVY GARDENS SOCIAL CLIMBERS Evergreen climbers provide year-round foliage and rarely have a ‘down season’ – perfect, as a front garden is always on show. Try star jasmine.

City front gardens


In part 3 of his series on gardening in small spaces, Chelsea designer Nick Bailey reveals the best ways to make a good first impression with your front garden


Front gardens in towns are rarely larger than a few square metres, but with good planning even the smallest patch can be transformed into a glorious plant-filled entrance. Adorning these spaces with plants might be our first instinct as gardeners, but there are a few cityliving practicalities to consider; bikes and bins need storage, while privacy and street litter also require thought. It’s also important to settle on a style. Some properties suit formal or contemporary looks with straight lines and topiary, others are flattered with softer shapes and cottage-style planting. Another consideration is microclimate. City plots are often warmer than country gardens, which can open up a palette of species that rarely thrive elsewhere. Whatever your style, practicalities or microclimate, a few key groups of plants will guarantee that yearround welcome. Hardworking evergreen shrubs and perennials with diverse textures and tones are essential, forming the backbone of the planting, while multi-season show-offs deliver months of flower, fruit and autumn colour. These, combined with seasonal pop-ups such as tulips and alliums, along with scented species and selfseeders, will provide a ‘welcome home’, every day of the year.

BIKE STORAGE Incorporate a secure bike store to save you wheeling cycles through the house. It should match your bin store.

HIDDEN BINS Create a bin enclosure from brick, timber, fencing panels or trellis, which can be smothered in ivy or other evergreen climbers. Position it so access to the bin is easy.

UP FRONT FRAGRANCE Use scented plants to welcome visitors – you can’t beat roses and lavender for summer, while sarcococca releases winter scent.

ON THE RAILS A low brick wall topped with wrought-iron railings lends a timeless feel. It also stops litter blowing in and allows light and air to penetrate.

Next month: maximise your narrow borders gardenersworld.com

March 2016

space-savvy gardens DIMENSIONS: 6m wide x 4m deep

PRACTICAL ISSUES UP THE GARDEN PATH Choose a durable material for the path, such as brick, stone or riven tiles. Avoid porous material which can encourage slippery algae and moss growth.

Paving angles Ensure the paving falls at an angle of at least 1:80 away from the house, so that rain drains away from the property and makes the path almost self-cleaning.

TRUE GRIT Gravel provides a smart, rain-permeable surface. Choose a larger grade (ideally 20mm) to prevent cats using it as a litter tray.

Natural way Avoid paving the whole front garden as this causes water run-off problems and reduces habitats for wildlife. GET FRESH Light-leafed evergreens provide a fresh, permanent backbone to the garden. Try Euphorbia mellifera or Nandina domestica.

Fresh planting Lavenders are relatively shortlived shrubs so expect to replace them every five years or so to ensure a fresh look. Window room Leave standing space within plantings to allow access to clean the front windows.

BLOOMING MARVELLOUS Small spaces need plants with small footprints and long blooming seasons. Rosa ‘Flower Carpet Amber’ flowers for up to 8 months.

MIND THE GAP Self-seeders work well as gap fillers. They’re easy to remove, so can be edited at will – Alchemilla mollis is a classic choice.

POT OF GOLD A feature pot is a useful focal point. Fill it with hardy, long-flowering, droughttolerant plants to reduce the need for watering. Try Delosperma ‘Fire Spinner’.

Pot care Pots are often viewed as a lowmaintenance solution for front gardens, but in reality require lots of watering and maintenance. Remedy this by planting with succulents, which can be virtually left to their own devices. Security measures Always bolt down statues and pots – their theft is common. Deter rubbish A low wall or hedge with a gate at the front of the garden will reduce the chance of litter and fallen leaves blowing in and getting trapped in the planting. Painted walls If the walls of the property are painted, avoid maintenance difficulties by hinging trellis panels at their base so they can be folded out from the wall (along with the attached climber) when a re-paint is required. Keep it interesting Plants from this scheme can be removed or bulked up to suit larger or smaller spaces. Be sure to retain long seasonality by including an evergreen shrub, lots of bulbs and at least one long-flowering plant.

IN THE SHADE A small, open canopied tree can make the property feel less exposed while providing flowers, fruit and dappled shade. Malus ‘Royal Beauty’ is ideal.

Turn over to get the look e March 2016



space-savvy gardens

Source book

Annual climbers help to frame a front door

Inspired to make the most of your front garden? Here’s our pick of stylish accessories to help you create the right look for your plot – there’s something for every taste and budget.

Seating makes the most of a tiny space in a sunny spot

A low wall and picket fence help to keep litter at bay

Outdoor hanging wall light Keep your front door well lit with this lantern-style light. 460 x 240 x 290mm. £50.76 + £3.99 delivery 0843 317 7824, Lockable letterbox lighting-direct.co.uk Protect your letters with a galvanised-steel box, 33 x 34 x 13cm. £39.99 + delivery 01978 800400, letter-boxes.co.uk

Owl door bell Callers will be tickled by this bell with a difference. 2.91kg, £14.99 + delivery 0800 169 0423, wayfair.co.uk

Control plants between adjacent front doors to avoid annoying your neighbours

Saxon railings Solid-steel, wallmounted railing. Choose standard fit or custom-made. From £79.95 + delivery 01827 702240, gardenoasis.co.uk

Tall plants obscure the view into a window

Wheelie-bin cover This FSC-certified bin only takes 10 minutes to assemble. £99.99 (free delivery) 01564 793652, gardenfurniturecentre.co.uk

Terracotta urn Three sizes. From £385 + delivery 01284 789666, italianterrace.co.uk 74


March 2016


Trailing plants help to soften the look of a wall

Outdoor living domes. For dining, relaxing or gardening, creating a haven for your family and guests‌

If you want something a bit special from your garden imagine... Alfresco candlelit dinner parties from spring to late autumn without having to worry about the weather. Or getting away from it all with a cup of tea and good book on a cold but sunny day. Or easing into your hot tub whilst surrounded by your favourite tropical plants. Make the most of your garden year round with natural light and 360 views. A dome is the ideal place to enjoy your garden’s beauty, indoors. Designer, manufacturer and installer of glass and aluminium geodesic domes from 3.5m to 10m diameter, bespoke dome projects up to 25m. Prices start at £7,680 inc VAT, delivered UK.

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A short cut to success Fill your house with freshly cut homegrown flowers and free yourself from the limitations of expensive supermarket bouquets. All of these blooms can be sown easily now – either directly outdoors or under cover – and will be brightening your home in a matter of weeks . Stagger the sowings and keep on picking and many will flower until the autumn. See p135 for our helpful seed-sowing tips

Cleome These elegant half-hardy annuals will bloom until knocked back by the frosts and come in pink, white and vivid purple. They last well in a vase but beware of their thorny stems. P Height x Spread 120cm x 30cm P Sow indoors Feb-Apr P Harvest Jun-Sept



Gloriously bright orange flowers will bloom endlessly if picked regularly and look lovely in small posies and bunches. Strip the lower leaves and they will last for up to a week in a vase. P H x S 50cm x 30cm P Sow direct Apr-May P Harvest Jun-Oct



March 2016

cut flowers

March 2016



The starry flowers and ferny foliage of love-in-amist look gorgeous in a vase and the blooms fade to fine seedpods, too. Comes in blues, pinks and the lovely white Nigella papillosa ‘African Bride’. P H x S 50cm x 30cm P Sow direct Mar-May P Harvest Jul-Sept

The highly-scented blooms of tobacco plants will fill a room with fragrance. Keep moist and stake taller plants to keep stems upright. Sow as soon as possible for flowers till the first frosts. P H x S 45-90cm x 45cm P Sow indoors Mar-Apr P Harvest Jun-Oct

Sweet peas

Ammi majus

A cut-flower favourite for good reason, sweet peas come in a staggering array of colours and many are gorgeously scented. Keep picking to promote flowering and nip off faded blooms and seedheads P H x S 180cm x 45cm P Sow direct Mar-Apr P Harvest Jul-Sept

Butterflies and bees love these delicate, lacy flowers and they’ll last in a vase for up to two weeks. They’re thirsty plants so give them plenty of water and stake stems if they get top heavy. P H x S 90cm x 50cm P Sow direct Mar-May P Harvest Jun-Aug



cut flowers


Bees love vibrant, zingy zinnias. They come in a huge range of colours and look great simply bunched together in a vase or mixed with dahlias later in the season. Stake or support larger varieties. P H x S 45-100cm x 30cm P Sow indoors Mar-May P Harvest Jul-Oct

Heady blooms on sturdy stems can be single or double flowered. Seed is often sold in colourful mixes and flowers will last well in a vase provided the lower leaves are removed first. P H x S 30-90cm x 60cm P Sow indoors Mar P Harvest Jun-Sept



With their dense spikes of delicate single or double blooms larkspur have an excellent vase life and are perfect for adding height to displays. Flowers come in every shade of pink. blue, white and mauve. P H x S 40-90cm x 40cm P Sow Feb-May P Harvest Jun-Sept

Some of the longest flowering annuals with vivid blooms until November. The feathery foliage and flowers will last 10 days when cut. Subscribers – see our free seeds for more inspiration. P H x S 45-120cm x 60cm P Sow indoors Mar-Apr P Harvest Jun-Nov





March 2016

Living indoors… outdoors Timeless designs and handmade in the finest timbers; a Chelsea Summerhouse is the idyllic hideaway to escape from the interruptions of everyday life and enjoy the changing seasons. For further information about Chelsea Summerhouses call 0800 3317742 or visit www.chelseasummerhouses.co.uk

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Pruning: the basics


Pruning can be very beneficial to many plants – boosting flowering and fruiting, improving shape and controlling size. Pruning techniques range from quick and easy deadheading to the creative art of topiary clipping – but whichever methods you try, the results will be well worth the effort. Before you start wielding the secateurs, however, it’s a good idea to get to grips with the overall principles of pruning. Then you’ll understand how the cuts you make will affect your plants. Over the next seven pages, our expert gardening team reveals the key benefits of pruning, how to make the best cuts, and set out your pruning year, so you take action when it’s needed.

Encourage new growth

Control size

Cutting out old stems stimulates new shoots and opens up the centre of a shrub, improving air circulation. The resulting new stems tend to be more vigorous and productive. They’re often more attractive too – the new stems of cornus (see above) are vibrantly coloured.

Pruning can be used to restrict size, which is vital with vigorous plants such as wisteria (above). It lets you keep climbers, trees and shrubs, such as buddleia, at the right height or width for your garden. Left unpruned, they would soon outgrow their space in the border.

Improve shape

Get more flowers and fruit

Maintain health

Pruning young plants helps to establish their final shape, then regular trimming maintains it. Shaping tasks include clipping topiary, cutting back climbing roses, and keeping plants tidy, such as trimming lavender after flowering to prevent it becoming straggly.

For good flowering, fruiting and fresh growth, fruit trees should be pruned in winter and again in summer. There are specific techniques for various bush fruits and cane fruits. Ornamental shrubs are pruned to encourage flowering, but correct timing is essential.

Pruning helps to keep plants in top condition, as you regularly remove any dead, diseased or damaged stems. Also, by thinning out the stems, you let in more light, air and beneficial insects, which helps to reduce pests and diseases without the use of chemicals.

March 2016



How to cut correctly Find out how, when and where to make your cuts to ensure you get the best possible results from your pruning

What to look for


If you prune a plant when it’s dormant, you need to know the difference between two types of buds: flower buds and leaf buds (pictured below). Knowing one from the other is vital if your pruning is to promote optimum flowering and fruiting. To make sure you get the timing right, make a note of when the plant flowers. As a general rule, if it blooms from July onwards, prune in spring, if it blooms before the end of June, prune right after flowering. Check the colour of the stems at different times of the year too (see below), as they respond differently to pruning depending on the season. Cutting back young stems will promote side branching; in summer, pruning reduces vigour and encourages flower buds; and winter pruning stimulates vigorous growth.

Leaf buds – small and pointed, often at the base of a leaf stalk

One of the key rules is to always cut back to just above a bud, which will then sprout to form a new stem. So look for a bud that points in the direction you want the new shoot to grow; for example, with a free-standing shrub, prune to outward-facing buds to open up the

centre, but with a wall-trained shrub, cut just above buds that point out across the wall to fill any gaps, rather than out over the path, where new stems would be in the way. If you can’t see a bud, prune to just above a leaf joint, as the plant can produce a new shoot from there.

Make the right cut



Cutting too far above a bud leaves a ‘snag’ that will die back, potentially allowing infection to set in. This dieback will often spread down the stem, past the bud.



Angle your cut in the same direction that the bud is pointing, so any water will run off readily. If water gets trapped around the bud, rot can set in. Cutting this way also encourages hormones to trigger the bud into growth.



Don’t make your cut really close to the bud, as you’ll damage its supporting tissues. The bud will die and infection may set in.

Flower buds – plump, rounded and often downy (particularly on fruit bushes and trees)


Make your cut less than a centimetre above the bud, sloping in the direction the bud is pointing, to give it the best possible chance of growing into a vigorous, healthy new shoot. Always use sharp secateurs for a clean, precise cut.


Stem colour on new growth changes through the year March


In spring, plants start into growth, making green, sappy and supple softwood







As stems ripen, they change colour and start to harden, but remain pliable

March 2016


Plants to prune now Spring is, perhaps surprisingly, one of the most important times for pruning, so check our key tasks below and find month-by-month details on the following pages

Tender shrubs


Mediterranean shrubs such as lavender, cistus and rosemary need protection from their top growth in winter, but this can be trimmed in the spring to make way for new young growth.

Miscanthus and other deciduous grasses that have stood over winter can be cut back from March to April. Remove all the brown growth, leaving any new green stems behind.

Summer-flowering shrubs

Foliage shrubs

Spring-flowering shrubs

Shrubs that bloomed in the summer such as fuchsia and buddleia (see p95) can be cut back hard in the spring to encourage a burst of new growth and plenty of flowers next season.

Encourage the growth of large, vibrant leaves and colourful winter stems by cutting plants such as dogwoods, willow and cotinus (above) back hard every year in early spring (see p117).

Shrubs that flower on the previous season’s growth, such as weigela (above) and forsythia, benefit from being cut back immediately after flowering to keep them in check.







By the end of the growing season, stems are woody, stiff and brown

March 2016



pages. On this spread, you can find out when to prune your productive fruit plants. To get a bumper crop


Aim To control the size of this vigorous shrub, promote fruiting and maintain an open framework of branches. How? Every winter/spring, remove the oldest woody stems at the base. Pinch back shoot tips in summer.


Aim To produce an upright, well-branched bush with fruiting spurs along the main stems. How? In winter, shorten the sideshoots to one bud. Also remove the shoot tips and old, unproductive wood.

Currant (red and white)

Aim To get a bigger crop every year by removing old, unproductive stems and stimulating vigorous new ones. How? Prune out about a third of the oldest, thickest stems at the base each year, creating an open-centred bush.

Currant (black)




























































Period when growth may require training to supports

Time for light trimming, thinning or deadheading




times to help you get the most from your plants. Turn the page to find your ornamentals pruning chart.

Optimum period for main pruning

Usual fruiting or berrying time




it’s vital to prune at the right time. We’ve also included flowering, training, thinning and harvesting

Aim To remove overcrowded branches and, for fan-trained PRUNE types, any sideshoots that grow in the wrong direction. How? Prune lightly in summer, cutting any excess sideshoots back to around six leaves. PRUNE

Cherry (sweet)

Aim To remove old stems and crossing stems to create an open centre. Don’t prune 1 2 year old bushes. How? For established plants, prune back the oldest stems to the base, and remove weak and dead stems.


Aim To encourage strong new canes from the base every year that will carry flowers and fruit the next. How? Cut all fruited canes down to their base. Train new canes to support wires as they grow.

Blackberry & loganberry

Aim To develop a framework of branches with flowering spurs along their entire length, for an abundant crop. How? In summer, shorten new growth and train shoots. Prune in winter to control shape, size and vigour.

Apple (cordons, fans, espaliers)

Fruit trees and bushes

Get to grips with pruning your fruit trees and shrubs by using our at-aglance charts over the next four

Your pruning year Usual flowering display period in a normal year

(June). Remove large fruit (autumn).

P Later: Pinch out shoot tips

as fig sap can burn skin

P Timing: now P Protect yourself: wear gloves

1. Cut out branches that are spoiling the shape. 2. Remove crossing and damaged branches, plus suckers. 3. Cut back branches that are long and bare to a short stub.

How to prune a ig in spring

Step by step

Fruit trees and bushes

Aim To promote new cane development every spring that will carry fruits the same autumn. How? Cut down all the canes to soil level after fruiting. Tie in the new canes to supports as they develop.

Raspberry (autumn fruiting)

Aim To encourage strong new canes to grow from the base that will carry fruit the following year. How? Cut away every fruited cane at the base after picking. Train new canes to support wires as replacements.

Raspberry (summer fruiting)

Aim To create a framework of main branches with new shoots that carry plenty of fruits each year. How? Shorten the main stems to strong sideshoots in summer. Regularly pinch back sideshoots to 15cm.


Aim To get a good crop every year, on an open framework of branches with fruiting spurs along their entire length. How? In summer, shorten new growth and train shoots. Prune in winter to control shape, size and vigour.

Pear (cordons, fans, espaliers)

Aim To remove old stems and encourage fruit buds to form. Train and prune during the growing season. How? Cut out old fruited stems and tie in new stems as peaches fruit on the previous season’s growth.

Peach (fans)

Aim To create a good framework that produces cropping shoots. These grow up from sidebranches. How? Prune back to a main ‘rod’ or arm that is trained out vertically along support wires.


Aim To produce a framework of well-spaced branches that carry fruiting spurs along their length. How? In winter, shorten shoot tips by half and sideshoots to 5cm. Pinch back new shoots in summer to five leaves.











































































Forsythia Immediately after flowering, cut out some of the old stems and shorten the youngest ones.

Fatsia Prune in spring, removing a few of the oldest, congested or damaged stems at their base.

Euonymous Prune in spring/early summer, cutting back long shoots to get bushy growth from the base. FLOWER


Cornus (shrubby) Cut all last year’s stems hard down to their base every winter to promote new growth.

Deutzia Prune after flowering, cutting back about onethird of the oldest stems to the base every year.




Clematis (summer flowering) Prune back all old growths to just above buds developing at their base.

Clematis (spring flowering) Shorten long stems after flowering and thin out any congested growth.

Choisya ternata Prune after flowering, reducing the stems by about two-thirds. It can be cut back hard.

Chaenomeles Prune after flowering, shortening new stems to two buds from the base.

Cercis canadensis Shorten last year’s growth and thin out congested branches to make an open framework.

Ceanothus Prune after flowering, shortening shoots by a third to half. Never cut into old, unproductive wood.

Caryopteris Cut all stems hard back in late winter. New shoots will develop from around the base of old shoots.

Buddleja davidii Every year in late winter, cut hard back to a woody base. Deadhead in summer.

Buddleja alternifolia After flowering, cut back all flowered stems to non-flowering sideshoots.

Brachyglottis ‘Sunshine’ Trim to improve shape once weather warms up in spring and deadhead in summer.






































Pruning is all about timing – if you cut back ornamental shrubs at the right time, it will keep them healthy and productive. If you cut at the wrong time, there is a risk of cutting out the flowering shoots, which will mean losing a season’s blooms. Have a look at the chart to find out the best time to prune 30 top shrubs.






Optimum period for main pruning


Usual flowering display period in a normal year

Your shrub pruning year


Rose (hybrid tea and cluster flowered) Prune late winter, shortening main stems. Cut to an outward bud.

bodnantense, V. farreri, V. opulus (shown here) P Only prune established viburnums

P Timing: now (after flowering) P Suitable for: Viburnum x

1. Cut out one in five of the main stems at the base. 2. Prune out stems that spoil the outline. 3. Remove snags left from previous years.








Wisteria Shorten all new growth in summer to 10cm, cutting these back further to just 5cm in winter.



Rose (shrub) Shorten shoots after flowering and remove old stems. Thin out any congested stems.






Rose (rambler) Shorten arching stems after flowering and remove the oldest ones at soil level.



Rose (climber) Shorten sideshoots and remove a proportion of the oldest stems to promote new growth.

Pruning a deciduous viburnum

Step by step



Pyracantha Prune in mid-spring, trimming into shape and shortening new growth. Hard prune to renovate.











Philadelphus Prune after flowering, cutting back a third of the oldest stems to their base every year.

Mahonia ‘Charity’ Shorten a proportion of the oldest stems after flowering. Rejuvenate by hard pruning.

Lilac Prune back a proportion of the oldest and weakest shoots in spring. Deadhead after flowering. FLOWER


Lavatera Hard prune in spring, cutting old stems to 15 30cm from the base. Shorten tall stems in autumn.

Lavender Trim after flowering to remove faded blooms. Shorten shoots but don’t cut into old wood.





Jasmine (winter flowering) Prune after flowering. Trim back flowered shoots and remove oldest stems



Honeysuckle Cut a third of oldest shoots to the ground every spring. Train new shoots to supports.

Hydrangea Shorten strong shoots to a low pair of buds. Remove very old, weak or crossing stems completely.


Fuchsia (hardy) Cut all stems to soil level in winter. Pinch out the tips of new shoots.
















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97 Prune roses

93 Bring

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NOW This practical section is packed with advice from the Gardeners’ World team on… O Planting out early potatoes O Laying new turf O Sowing half-hardy annuals O Cutting back buddleia O Adding vibrant spring bedding, and much more…



108 Plant out new fruit bushes March 2016

111 Lift and divide congested perennials

113 Protect young plants from slugs gardenersworld.com


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Monty’s month


FIRST there is the light. Every March day stretches a bit further, pushing back the dark, and by the middle of the month it is light enough to walk or even work outside by 6.30am and stay working until 6.30pm. After the darkness of winter, that and a fair wind is all any gardener asks for. The fair wind is less inevitable, for March is often a cold, bleak month here, and any planting or seed sowing is in hock to the soil, which can remain horribly cold and wet. But signs of life are irrepressible, from the dawn chorus to buds on hawthorns, and da fodils and fritillaries lowering freely. The itch to get outside grows more urgent by the day, regardless of the weather. There is housekeeping to be done, with supports, ties, repairs and preparations reconnecting gardener to the garden and guiding both into the arms of spring. Continue tying climbers into supports, ready for the growing season

March 2016

VISIT gardenersworld. com/plant-supports to find out how to make supports from bamboo



MONTY'S MONTH MARCH Get your beds in shape now WHEN YOU’RE starting your vegetable beds, the first stage is to clear and prepare the soil. It’s better to do this slowly rather than rush at it, planting things out too quickly and having to redo things later. The soil starts to warm up in March and growth is slower than it will be later on, so this is a good time to do the groundwork. You’ll know by touching it whether the soil is ready to plant and move things around. Start by picking up a handful of earth: if it feels cold and clammy, seeds won’t germinate and roots won’t grow yet. Soil that feels warm is ready to be planted into. I like to get my potatoes planted by the end of the month if possible, especially the early varieties. These are chitted at the start of the month to give them a head start. I will also start sowing outdoors when possible. This means that some crops will be ready to eat in the hungry gap of May and June. It’s not vital to start, but a bonus when possible.


Growing from seed is satisfying and cheap, but if you don't have a greenhouse, opt for buying plug plants to grow on for a short time on the windowsill before planting out

Harden off rocket seedlings before planting outside

Thoroughly prepare your beds and rake surfaces level

VISIT gardenersworld. com/early-potatoes for Monty’s advice on the best way to start off early potatoes



SOME PLANTS have evolved to thrive in cool (but not cold) weather and salad rocket (Eruca sativa) is one of these. It is at its most peppery, buttery best in April from seeds sown in late January and planted outside in March, and does well again from an August sowing to harvest in autumn. I sow the seeds in a seed tray, then prick them out

singly into plugs. I grow them on in a cold frame before hardening them off for at least two weeks before planting the seedlings out when there is enough root to bind the soil in the plug together, but not so much that the roots are starting to coil around the edges. I put them into a raised bed dressed with 2.5cm of compost

in a grid at 20cm spacings so they develop into strong plants that will give at least two harvests of fresh, succulent leaves before they start to bolt as the weather warms up in May. They make a useful catch crop in ground intended for any vegetable that is not fully hardy, but which thrives in rich soil and is normally planted out towards the end of May. March 2016


Plant out salad rocket plugs

WHAT TO DO NOW Make the most of bulbs indoors

CHECKLIST N Sow beetroot, broad beans, carrots, lettuce, parsnips, peas and radishes outdoors if conditions are good

N Plant onion and shallot sets

N Sow artichokes, basil, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, courgettes, lettuce, parsley and tomatoes indoors

N Clear all remains of overwintered displays

N Continue mulching, especially after planting out, to maintain soil health Bring lowering hippeastrum into the house and keep them warm

DURING the early months of the year, before things get going outside, flowering bulbs bring the promise of spring in the greenhouse. The cool greenhouse is lit up by deep indigo, yellow and purple from Iris reticulata, I. histrioides and I. danfordiae. Fritillaria michailovskyi also grows there, with its chocolate heads flared with primrose yellow. Less subtle are the blooms of hippeastrum (also known as amaryllis). These demand slightly higher temperatures to thrive, so need to be kept in heated conditions over winter. They can be planted sequentially to get a succession of blooms through to late spring. If the flowers on yours have faded, keep watering the leafy growth and feeding them until you rest them in autumn.

Prune buddleias now BUDDLEIA flowers on new growth, so if you leave it unpruned, all the flowers will become increasingly higher on the plant as it turns into a vigorous, tangled shrub. This is fine for the plant and for the butterflies that love it, but not so good for the gardener, especially if the buddleia in question is grown in a mixed border. I prune my buddleias hard at the beginning of

every March, removing all the previous year’s growth down to about 30cm. You can go down to the bottom couple of buds if the shrub is free-standing, but I find that if you go this low in a border the new growth is outcompeted for light by surrounding herbaceous plants, which noticeably reduces the quality of the buddleia’s subsequent performance.

Cut down last year’s growth to just above a low bud Use loppers to tackle the thickest branches of buddleia March 2016



FLOWERS MARCH CHECKLIST N Keep up with weeding and hoeing, as it will only get harder if weeds are left to grow and set seed

N Define bed edges to show off your springflowering displays

N Fill gaps with potgrown roses and other flowering shrubs

N Tidy up patio roses by lightly pruning off any dead shoots

N Plant gladiolus corms N Pot up plugs and bareroot perennials as soon as you receive them in the post, then grow on in warmth until plants establish

Look out for... DISTORTED LEAVES Spring- lowering bulbs can su fer distortion when infected by stem eelworms and viruses. Bin any damaged plants when you ind them and grow di ferent types of plant on the site next.

STEP BY STEP Make more snowdrops SNOWDROPS FORM dense clumps and can be lifted and planted in other parts of the garden once they have finished flowering and before the leaves die back. Snowdrop

cultivars can be expensive, so dividing and replanting is a great way of encouraging new drifts of flowers without buying bulbs. They do best in shade or partial shade

1 Pinch out sweet pea shoot tips to encourage side shoots

Dig a hole in some soil that you have weeded in a shaded area of the garden. Add a base dressing of fertiliser to the bottom of the hole – use either bonemeal or slow-release granules.

and need soil that never dries out completely, so choose a site out of direct sun and prepare it well with moisture-holding organic matter like garden compost or leafmould.

2 Snowdrop bulbs fail if they dry out at all, so soak the hole well to ensure an immediate supply of moisture at the roots that will be conserved there once the snowdrops are planted.

Tend sweet pea seedlings KEEP AN eye on sweet pea seedlings, watering as the compost gets dry and pinching out shoot tips to encourage side shoots to form. Tie lanky shoots to short canes for support and grow in full light in a wellventilated position ready for planting outside later. Extra plants can still be raised from seed sown now in deep pots. See p97 for details on entering our sweet pea naming competition



3 Lift the bulbs from the outside of the most congested clumps and separate them into smaller groups of about five to seven bulbs, which can then be planted in the new site.

4 Plant the bulbs in their new site at the same depth they were before. Give them space to spread. The leaves will die back, while the bulbs root in during spring. Water well through their first summer. March 2016


Rake over warm, empty soil, dampen it with water then scatter seed mixes to ill large areas with colour. Thin crowded seedlings, check and water often and protect from pests

DO IT in a day

Leave 5cm space between lily bulbs then cover with compost

Plant lily bulbs in large pots ENJOY PATIO pots full of fragrant lilies by planting bulbs now. Choose large, deep terracotta pots that offer good stability. Part-fill with multi-purpose compost, space out bulbs with 5cm between them and cover with a layer of compost that is equal to their height for Asiatic hybrids; more for other lilies. Keep the compost moist and grow on in a warm position or greenhouse.

30 mins Before planting perennials prepare the soil by adding compost or manure


Prepare herbaceous beds GET BEDS ready for spring planting by forking over bare areas to relieve any soil compaction and improve drainage, mixing in plenty of well-rotted manure or compost plus a few handfuls of general fertiliser to improve the soil. Dig out any weeds, especially troublesome perennials like couch grass and bindweed. Many herbaceous March 2016

plants benefit from division every three to four years, so lift old clumps and replant the younger outer portions in freshly conditioned soil. March is a good month for planting new hardy perennials, as the warming soil encourages rapid root development and quick establishment. The new shoots

are only just forming, so plants are less likely to be damaged during the planting process.


WATCH Sarah Raven's video guide to divi ding perennials at gardenersworld .com/divide-perennials

to spare? TAKE basal cuttings from new shoots of delphiniums, lupins and hardy geraniums. Use shoots that are about 8cm long and have a few opened-out leaves. Cut them close to the base, trim o f the leaf tips and lower leaves then insert in compost, keeping them warm and damp. gardenersworld.com


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WHAT TO DO NOW Prizes worth over £480

Cut o f old stems

Exclusive competition

OLD STEMS and seedheads on hardy perennial plants left to provide winter interest must be cut away at their base now, before new shoots start pushing up among them. Use sharp secateurs to prune off last year's growth from achillea, eryngium, astrantia, sedum and echinacea. Snip off stems as close to ground level as possible, taking care not to damage newly emerging growth.

Name our sweet pea Help us celebrate 25 years of BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine and name our new sweet pea to win great prizes!

Prevent dieback spreading by removing old snags

How to enter

Prune bush and climbing roses Trim old growth on perennials to almost ground level

WATCH Carol Klein and Joe swift build a raised bed for alpine planting at gardenersworld.com/ raisedbed-alpine



Look out for... COLD NIGHTS AND FROSTY WEATHER Frost will damage new shoots that have sprouted in warm spells, as well as young plants. Watch the forecasts and make leece tunnels if you’re worried. March 2016

ONCE THE worst of the winter weather is over, roses can be given their final prune to make the best shape and promote plenty of flowers. Shrub rose varieties just need some light thinning and it’s worth cutting back the weak young shoots to promote strong spring regrowth. Hybrid Tea bushes can be cut right back to a strong, low

framework that has outwardfacing buds. The flowering on climbing rose varieties improves if you tie the long stems down to horizontal lines where possible and cut back every lateral shoot to two buds. If you do this you’ll get flowering shoots all the way along the stems rather that just on the top of the upright stems.

M ONLINE: Go to bit.ly/sweet-peas-gw to fill out your details and suggest your chosen name M BY POST: Write your name, address, daytime phone number and email on a piece of paper, together with the name you would like to give the sweet pea (in capitals please), and send your entry to Sweet Pea Competition, Gardeners’ World Magazine, 44 Brook Green, London W6 7BT The closing date for entries is Wednesday, 11 May 2016 – good luck!

Our competition winner will receive this prize package... V A bouquet of scented sweet peas

and roses from The Real Flower Company, delivered to their door, every month for four months starting June 2016. Worth £320 V An exclusive visit to Easton Walled Gardens, Lincolnshire, including lunch and afternoon tea, PLUS a private tour of the gardens with Lady Cholmeley. Worth £100 V 48 plants of the new sweet pea variety that will bear the name suggested by the competition winner, courtesy of exclusive suppliers Blooming Direct. Worth £20 V A pair of tickets to Gardeners’ World Live at the NEC in June, PLUS theatre tickets to see Monty Don live on stage and meet the magazine team. Worth £49 Terms & conditions: The promoter is Immediate Media Company London Limited, Vineyard House, 44 Brook Green, London, W6 7BT. Closing date: midday 11 May 2016. Entrants must be UK residents aged 18 or over and not employees of the promoter. One entry per person. Full T&Cs apply, see bit.ly/sweet-peas-gw

To enter online, go to bit.ly/sweet-peas-gw gardenersworld.com


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Put out spring bedding BUY SPRING bedding plants to give a boost to displays in borders and patio pots. Choose colours to suit your schemes, including pansies and violas, primroses and polyanthus, forget-me-nots, bellis daisies, wallflowers and more. Spread compost over the

planting site then fork it into the top layers of soil. Ensure the rootballs are well watered then plant closely together in generous groups in the prepared soil, interspersing your bedding with pot-grown spring bulbs for extra interest.

Cut back late- lowering clematis to about 30cm

Prune clematis that blooms late IT’S NOT too late to tidy up clematis ready for flowering in summer or autumn. Don’t touch early Clematis montana to avoid the risk of cutting out flowers, but the repeatflowered hybrids can be lightly tidied up by cutting back the most spindly shoots and tying in the strong growth, which will be full of buds soon. Clematis varieties that flower much later on growth they make this year can be cut back hard to about 30cm ready to burst into growth this spring.

WATCH Chris Beardshaw lifting and dividing congested nerines at gardenersworld.com/ divide-nerines

Guard against bad weather now with strong plant supports

Make supports for new growth INSTEAD OF rushing to support flower stems as they get battered by wind and rain, prepare flower borders for the worst, when the shoots are just emerging, by erecting supports above the tallest and heaviest herbaceous clumps, such as peonies, delphiniums, asters and phlox. Hazel and birch twig supports can be pushed in around the clumps and their branches woven in together to form a supporting framework, or use plastic-coated wire frames. Foliage growth will soon hide these so you'll forget they’re there.


Bring an instant splash of colour to borders with primrose bedding

STEP BY STEP Plant alpines ALPINES ARE susceptible to winter rots, so replenish displays ready for spring flowering by removing any rotting specimens and replacing with fresh young plants.


1 Prepare a new plant by removing the pot and nipping off any dead leaves, then push back any gravel or grit mulch and make a planting hole. 2 Place the plant in the hole so that the uppermost roots are slightly exposed. Firm the soil well and water. 3 Replace the gravel around the exposed roots and crown to protect from standing water. March 2016



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March 2016



GREENHOUSE MARCH STEP BY STEP Care for your tomato seedlings

Grow veg and herb seed in heated conditions

TOMATO SEEDLINGS grow fast and are hungry feeders, so keep them in vigorous growth by potting on as soon as they have rooted through their containers. The more space they are given on the greenhouse bench the stronger they will be, as tightly packed plants tend to be drawn upwards with weak stems. Stake plants if necessary.

1 Handle seedlings with care when easing them out of their containers for repotting to minimise root disturbance.

Sow veg and herb seeds GREENHOUSE SOWING should be in full swing. Raise crops from seed sown now in a heated propagator set to around 21˚C. Try tomatoes, sweet and chilli peppers, okra, aubergines, cucumbers and

melons. Sow seeds individually in small pots or modules using goodquality seed compost in preference to multi-purpose compost. Crops that will go outside later in spring/early summer can also be

sown and given a head start, such as broad beans, celeriac, celery and salads. Herbs can be sown in pots or grown in modules for planting out, such as basil, parsley, chives, coriander, oregano and rosemary.

Start cannas into growth

Plant canna rhizomes with the ‘eyes’ or buds facing upwards


3 Lower the plant into a larger pot so that the true leaves are just above the compost surface. The stem below will grow more roots.



You’re likely to need all the room you can get in propagators this month. Sow into seed trays and prick out seedlings into individual pots as you remove the trays from the propagator. March 2016


2 The tiny leaves below the first true leaves can be removed so that when the plant is potted deep into the compost they will not rot.

THE SWOLLEN rhizomes of tender cannas can be potted up now to start them into growth ready for bedding out in the summer. These are big, hungry plants, so choose a large pot and fill with rich potting compost. You’ll see ‘eyes’ or buds on the rhizomes – make sure they are facing upwards when you plant the rhizomes in compost and leave young shoots exposed. Firm the compost around the rhizomes then water in. Keep the pot in the greenhouse until late May, then grow on outside for a vibrant summer display.

WHAT TO DO NOW STEP BY STEP Campanula basal cuttings THE EARLIEST soft green shoots of herbaceous clumps make fastrooting cuttings, known as basal cuttings. Taken from below soil level, some have roots already

which helps them grow quickly. Try campanulas, chrysanthemums, asters, delphiniums and heleniums. They will root in the greenhouse with no extra heat, although a

propagator will speed things up. Several grown around the edge of a pot can make an instant clump for planting by June, or pot on as singles for planting next year.

Use a sharp knife for longer shoots and cut above a leaf joint

1 Use a sharp knife to cut down into the point at which shoots emerge from the root system. There must be some solid tissue at the base of the shoot you cut.

2 Trim the base of the cutting, and if the rosette of leaves is very big, reduce water stress by trimming the leaves down by half.

Pinch out your fuchsias BY REGULARLY pinching out the tips of shoots in spring you’ll get bushier plants that carry more flowers. Once a shoot has two pairs of leaves, pinch out the very tip. When the side shoots develop two pairs of leaves, pinch out their tips too. Repeat several times until you have a bushy plant, then leave it alone for new shoots to develop that will carry flowers.


3 Plant the cuttings firmly, in multi-purpose compost as they will grow quickly and need the extra feed that this compost offers.

4 Soak the cuttings then place the whole pot in a polythene bag and tie the top. They root fast, but untie the bag and air them regularly to prevent rots.

N Continue cleaning the greenhouse to make sure it is hygienic for tender new plants

N Monitor the heating in there, especially overnight, and continue using heaters as required

Look out for...

N Protect young plants from sunshine with fleece on bright days

N Sow half-hardy annuals in a heated propagator

SCALE INSECTS such as this armoured scale. Water-resistant, they attach themselves irmly to plants, so they need rubbing o f. Left in place they suck sap from host plants, causing loss of vigour and markings. March 2016

N Pot up dahlia tubers in compost to start them into growth. Keep them frost-free

N Take cuttings from potted-up tubers that have started producing shoots






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Sow half-hardy annual seeds

Back to basics

HALF HARDY annuals grow, lower, set seed and die all in one year but unlike hardy annuals, they cannot withstand low temperatures. They are quick to grow from seed, lowering in as little as 12 weeks, and can be added to borders and pots for a burst of showy colour. Half-hardy annuals include cleome, cosmos (shown here), morning glory, nicotiana (tobacco plant) and zinnia. To give your plants as long a lowering season as possible, sow the seed early, indoors, in March or April. Once they have sprouted and have two pairs of leaves, transplant into individual 7cm pots and grow on under cover. In May, harden them o f before planting to help them adjust to conditions outside – leave plants in an open cold frame or on a patio, bringing them in at night. After a week, plant them where they are to lower. Feed fortnightly with a liquid tomato fertiliser when the irst buds appear. Sow cosmos now for lowers from July until November

VISIT gardenersworld.com/indoor-sowing to watch Monty Don’s step-by-step video on how to sow seed indoors

STEP BY STEP How to sow cosmos seeds


Free cosmos seeds

1 Fill a seed tray or small pots with sieved, good-quality seed or multi-purpose compost. Lightly firm the compost down with the back of your hand or a small block of wood. March 2016

2 Sow a small pinch of seeds on the surface of each cell, then cover with a 3mm layer of sieved compost or vermiculite. Place in a tray of water to moisten the compost, drain, then label.

3 Place in a heated propagator at 18 25°C, or cover with a clear plastic bag. When the seedlings have two pairs of leaves, transplant into individual 7cm pots and grow on indoors.

Subscribers: start enjoying your free cosmos seeds now and get sowing. If your seeds are missing from this issue, call 020 7150 5700 and press option 3. If you’re not a subscriber but would like to be, call 0844 848 9707. gardenersworld.com


FRUIT AND VEG MARCH Plant out early spud varieties

30 mins to spare? PATROL the plot for early pests. Pick o f and bin slugs and snails hiding beneath leaves. Look out for pigeon and mouse damage and set up barriers against them. Green ly on veg plants can be controlled with plant/ ish oil sprays.

EARLY POTATOES should be planted outside now for a crop of new potatoes from May onwards. Start with early varieties such as ‘Charlotte’ or ‘Foremost’ that you have prepared for planting by chitting in a bright position to encourage short shoots. Dig a deep trench and fork compost into the base. Plant the tubers with shoots facing upwards, spacing them about 30cm apart in the row, then cover with soil and sprinkle with potato fertiliser. Keep fleece handy to protect developing shoots if frost is due. Early spuds can also be planted in deep pots or bags and grown in an unheated greenhouse, balcony or patio.

Plant potatoes with the shoots facing upwards

STEP BY STEP Sow beetroot seeds BEETROOT SEEDS will germinate once the ground temperature is regularly 10ºC or above. This means the seeds can be sown in freedraining soil in full sun this month. Try using cloches or clear polythene

to speed up soil warming first if your veg plot has heavy soil. Small spring-sown beetroot is the sweetest of all, so it’s worth sowing plenty to harvest them when they are the size of golf balls. Beetroot

seeds can be clustered so that they produce several seedlings that will need thinning out later. Protect the young seedlings from birds, which like to graze on the bright young leaves.

Use a paintbrush to lift pollen from one bloom to another

WALL TRAINED fruit such as apricots, peaches and nectarines flower early and benefit from hand pollination, as flowers often turn up way before many pollinators are out doing their work. Peaches may also be covered in fleece to avoid peach leaf curl, so these must be pollinated by hand. For self-fertile specimens like peaches you don’t need another tree, the flowers on one plant can pollinate the others. Take an artist’s paintbrush and lift pollen from one flower and place it in the centre of another. You’ll have to wait for the fruit to swell before you know you’ve done a good job.



1 Make a seed drill on firm, prepared soil using the edge of a hoe along a garden line or a straight edge. It should be 1.5cm deep.

3 Space large seeds 2 3cm apart. Allow more space for single seeded monogerm varieties like ‘Moneta’ to avoid thinning out seedlings later (see intro).

2 Use a watering can with the rose detached to water along the line of the drill so that once the seeds are sown and covered, the moist soil is around the seeds.

4 Use the edge of the hoe to pull soil over the seeds to a depth of 1cm then tamp down. The shallow impression draws surface water to the seedlings as they grow. March 2016


Hand-pollinate wall fruit


Warm ground for sowing SET UP CLOCHES on your veg plot a week or two before sowing crops to warm up the soil thoroughly and encourage faster germination. Parsnips, peas, broad beans, beetroot, brassicas, spring onions, carrots and early salads will all

benefit from cloche protection. You can leave the cloches in place throughout spring to protect seedlings and developing crops from cold and heavy rain until they’re well established and the weather has improved.

Ensure they are anchored firmly into the ground to prevent them blowing away in strong winds. Use long pegs that hook over the frames, or attach to hoops of string to hold firmly down. Remember to water crops as needed.

CHECKLIST N Make outdoor sowings of Brussels sprouts, leeks, onions, parsnips, radishes, peas, spinach and summer cauliflowers

N Sow cold-tolerant herbs such as parsley, dill and chervil

N Plant out onion sets, artichokes, sea kale and rhubarb

N Divide clump-forming herbs such as chives, mint and oregano

N Mulch around your plants while there’s plenty of space

N Tie stray fruit canes Protect young vegetables with cloches

into wires

N Prune nectarines, peaches and apricots trained as fans


Bare ground quickly sprouts weeds as the weather warms up. The seeds are dormant in the soil, or they get blown in and settle. Green manure out-competes weeds and saves weeding.

THIS HARDY vegetable produces roots that resemble parsnips, and the foliage can boost your normal supply of parsley. The last of it should be dug up to enjoy now before it runs to flower (bolts). Dig out the roots with a fork or trowel. If the crop has had enough water over the growing season it should give you long, strong straight roots to eat roasted, like celery-flavoured parsnips.

Harvest winter cabbages CONTINUE cutting winter cabbages, harvesting every other head so that neighbouring plants have more room to grow big. Cut through the stem just below the head and bring in the whole head, storing it in a cool place if you are not going to eat it straightaway. You can then make an X-shaped cut in the top of the remaining stem. This encourages a tasty crop of new leaves to grow from the old stem that can be picked and eaten as spring greens. Once you’ve harvested all your cabbages and greens, dig out the roots of old plants and chop them up for the compost heap if they’re free of pests and diseases. Then dig or fork over the entire area and rake level to prepare the site for growing a different crop. March 2016

Dig up Hamburg parsley roots

Store winter cabbages in a cool place

Enjoy both the roots and foliage of Hamburg parsley gardenersworld.com


FRUIT AND VEG MARCH Plant fruit out in the ground

STEP BY STEP Tidy strawberries

THIS IS the last chance to plant bare-root fruit while it’s still dormant, but it’s also a good time to plant out fruit grown in pots to settle into new homes and romp away once the weather warms up. Choose a suitable site that is sheltered and sunny, with deep, fertile soil. Give each plant plenty of space around it and be prepared to keep the area weed-free to avoid competition while the plants are establishing. Prepare the soil over a wide area, breaking it up to improve drainage and forking in compost or manure. Soak dry roots thoroughly before planting, spreading them out in the hole before covering with soil. Firm down well around roots to fill air pockets, stake if necessary, water the area then mulch around the plants with organic matter, avoiding the stems.

CONGESTED BEDS must be tidied ready for this year’s crop. The important bits of the plants are the small shoots in the crown’s centre, which produce flowers then fruit.

1 Firm soil well around roots to eliminate air pockets

Using secateurs, cut out any dead leaves and also the larger leaves that are already clothing the ground around the main crown of the strawberry plants.

2 Weeds, especially perennials, are a real problem in strawberry beds, so use a hand fork or trowel to lift out any now before they get a chance to swamp plants.

Harvest summer sowings of lamb’s lettuce or corn salad THIS TRADITIONAL winter salad leaf thrives in our climate and makes a tasty addition to spring and winter meals when few other leafy vegetable crops are available. Sown in August to September and grown on the plot or in pots in an



unheated greenhouse, lamb’s lettuce provides regular pickings. Just harvest the larger outer leaves a few at a time, leaving the central crown to continue growing so that it produces more leaves to pick once they’re larger.

WATCH Joe Swift explain how to grow salads from seed at gardenersworld.com/growsalad-leaves


3 Use a small fork to aerate the exposed soil around the plants, then top-dress with a general garden fertiliser to boost growth and flowering. March 2016


Pick lamb’s lettuce little but often



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Divide perennials DIVIDING HERBACEOUS perennials in spring is one of the easiest ways to propagate more plants, whether you want to start a border, ill some gaps or inject some colour just where you need it. Many perennials tend to die out in the centre of the clump after a few years with the younger vigorous growth found on the outer edges – lifting and dividing every two or three years is also a way of rejuvenating these plants too. Early spring is an ideal time to lift as the ground is drying out but still soft and plants are just starting to come into growth. Divide plants into ist-sized chunks before spacing them out and replanting. Plants such as hemerocallis, asters, hardy geraniums, bergenia and euphorbia can be divided now, whereas spring- lowering plants such as iris are best divided immediately after lowering if you want to ensure lowers next year.

Five plants to divide now � Japanese anemones An excellent filler for shady spots. � Geranium ‘ Rozanne’ A fantastic plant that flowers for ages. � Monarda The outer edges are ideal for division. � Asters Expand clump sizes by dividing and replanting. � Bergenias Divide by pulling the rhizomes apart.

Make more Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’ by dividing it now

STEP BY STEP Lift and divide herbaceous perennials


1 DIG OUT the whole clump, making sure you include the roots. Some plants, like this hemerocallis, will come out in one large clump and others will come up in smaller sections. Don’t worry if bits fall off. March 2016

2 SPLIT a large clump of tightly bound roots by using two forks of the same size, back to back, then drive them through the middle of the clump, levering them against each other to prize the clump apart.

3 USE a saw if the mass of roots has become tough and solid – which is often the case with fleshy rooted plants – don’t be afraid to slice through the roots to make them a more manageable size.

4 PREPARE the bed by improving the soil before before replanting some of your smaller clumps in the same space. Dig the bed over, breaking up compacted soil and incorporating plenty of organic matter. gardenersworld.com


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Keep slugs o f your plants

Back to basics

SLUGS ARE active all year, but they become more of a problem from March onwards, when the weather is warmer and often damp, and there is plenty of new growth for them to munch on. Tell-tale signs are irregularly shaped holes in leaves, stems and lowers (plus tubers and bulbs), and silvery slime trails. There are many options for controlling slugs, and if you combine a few methods, you should keep them under control, especially if you start now. Protect seedlings, new growth on most herbaceous plants, and all parts of susceptible plants, such as delphiniums and hostas. Organic slug pellets, made of ferric phosphate, are just as e fective as non-organic ones but are less harmful to wildlife; you could also try nematodes – see p153. Another alternative is to pick o f slugs by hand – they are most active at night, so go out armed with a torch and a bucket. Or try the four options below.

Grow hostas in pots to help keep slugs away from them

VISIT gardenersworld.com/slug-control for Monty’s tips on how to get rid of slugs using organic methods


FOUR WAYS to stop slugs attacking young plants

1 Copper barriers are effective slug deterrents – if a slug tries to cross one it receives an ‘electric shock’, forcing it back. Put copper rings around vulnerable plants, or stick copper tape around the rim of pots. March 2016

2 Slugs love bran and will gorge on it. They then become bloated and dehydrated, and can’t retreat to their hiding places, making them easy pickings for birds. Make sure the bran doesn’t get wet, though.

3 Slugs find horticultural grit uncomfortable to travel over. Mulch around the base of plants in the ground and in pots – it looks attractive and helps keep compost moist and weeds down.

4 Make a slug trap using cheap beer. Sink a half-filled container into the ground, with the rim just above soil level. Cover with a loose lid to stop other creatures falling in. Empty it regularly. gardenersworld.com


AROUND THE GARDEN MARCH CHECKLIST N Plant pot-grown shrubs to fill gaps in beds and take advantage of good rooting conditions

STEP BY STEP Make more daphne plants PINNING A STEM down in the soil beneath a shrub is a clever way of encouraging the shrub’s natural ability to root when a damaged branch drops to the ground. This technique, which is called layering,

is quite old-fashioned but very reliable. The young plant stays attached to the parent plant for up to a year until it is well rooted, so water supply is guaranteed. Choose shrubs with spreading branches like

cotinus, camellia, viburnum and hamamelis, or try climbing shoots of clematis, honeysuckle or virginia creeper. Evergreens, like the daphne shown here, are best layered in spring.

N Pressure wash areas that have become slippery over winter

N Water plants grown in pots, especially if they're next to walls

N Remove moss and weeds on paths, terraces and patios

N Cover vulnerable plants with fleece on cold nights

1 Pull a branch down under the shade of the shrub. Dig a hole at the point where it meets the ground, fill with gritty propagation compost and firm well.

2 Make a shallow nick in the stem just below a bud so that the stem tissue is damaged, which will promote the rooting process.

N Brush worm casts and molehills off lawns to stop bare patches from forming

N Test soil in beds and borders to help you decide which plants to grow and whether to add nutrients

N Start taking cuttings of plants

the weather is warm



NEATEN LAWN EDGES By trimming with edging shears where your lawn is raised above the path or the bed next to it. This will instantly create a clean line. If your lawn is level with an edge or path, slide a half-moon tool in between to chop off clumps of grass growing over the edge. 114


3 If the damaged stem closes together in the compost it may repair itself and not root, so wedge it open with a small chip of wood or a matchstick.

4 Pin the stem down with a long peg or staple, and water well. It will be rooted by the end of summer and can be detached and lifted in autumn or next spring.

Tend evergreen cuttings CUTTINGS OF box, conifers and other evergreens taken last year and overwintered in a cold frame or cool greenhouse should now be well rooted. Warm spring weather will encourage rapid root and shoot growth, so now is the perfect time to pot them up individually. Tease cuttings apart, taking care not to harm their roots, and plant in small pots using a free-draining loam-based compost. Keep in bright conditions under cover and water regularly. Grow on to a larger size ready for planting out into the garden later in the year. March 2016


N Feed fish in ponds if


Refresh shade planting REVITALISE SHADED areas by adding new perennials to provide spring colour. Soil can be dry and impoverished in shade, so dig in plenty of water-retentive compost

first. The ground alongside trees also gets full of roots, so dig out and clear small areas to create planting pockets of deep soil. Choose plants with a long season of interest such

as spreading epimedium, lamium, pulmonaria, bergenia, wood spurge, Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’, Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’ or ferns. For more impact, plant in generous groups.

Anemone blanda ‘White Splendour’ is ideal for shade

Gaps between lawn turves will knit together as turf establishes

Lay new turf for summer CREATE NEW lawns or replace old ones by laying turf. Warm spring weather and frequent showers ensure turf establishes quickly, producing a lawn that can be used and enjoyed this summer. Prepare soil thoroughly several weeks before buying turf. Roll it out, using planks to walk on and staggering the gaps. Firm it down with the back of a rake. Overlap turves with path edges then trim with a knife. Don’t walk on new turf for a few weeks and keep it well watered.

Clear ponds of dead foliage

Pull back pond netting, taking any fallen leaves with it

March 2016

REMOVE THE remains of any old leaves or stalks of aquatic and marginal plants from ponds to prevent them rotting in the water. Decomposing plant material releases nutrients back into the water, which can encourage green algae to form, clouding the water and creating a stifling layer of unwanted growth. If you’ve had a net over the pond, pull it to the edge and leave it and any fallen leaves at the side for a day. If not, use a small net on the end of a long cane to scoop out debris, leaving it in a heap at the side of the pond for a day to allow any pond creatures caught up in it to crawl back into the water. gardenersworld.com



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A sojourn on the sub-tropical garden island of Madeira. Enjoy views over the bay of Funchal and explore the charming valleys, villages and gardens including Quinta do Palheiro, one of Europe’s largest private gardens and Monte Palace Tropical Gardens. VJV Special Event – A Taste of Madeira.

– Cyprus –

– Peru –

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Lost World of the Incas

Villas & Gardens of the Italian Lakes




Explore Cyprus’s scenic splendour and cultural heritage from both sides of the border. Experience the legacy of the Romans, Persians, Crusaders and Venetians with visits to Kyrenia, ancient Salamis, Paphos, Limassol and Nicosia, Europe’s only divided capital. Enjoy VJV Special Events.

Explore the ancient Inca Empire visiting Lima, Cuzco, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Machu Picchu and Ollantaytambo. Travel through the Andes to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca, and WRWKHÀRDWLQJLVODQGVRIWKH8URV(QMR\D9-9 Special Event – Maras Culture & Tradition.

Stay at the 4-star Grand Hotel Menaggio on Lake Como visiting the famous villas including Villa del Balbianello and Villa Taranto. Take a private lake cruise to Villa Carlotta at Tremezzo and explore the gardens of lakes Como, Maggiore and Lugano. Optional excursion available.





Clean and reinstall pond pumps WITH THE risk of freezing weather now over, you can reintroduce pumps back into ponds to power fountains and other features that help oxygenate the water. Old pumps should be cleaned (following instructions) or new ones added powered by solar panels or low-voltage mains

electricity. Pumps can also circulate water through biological filters and ultra-violet clarifiers to keep water clear from algae and pathogens. These are important in fishponds, helping to control problems and preventing water turning green and cloudy without the need to resort to chemicals.

DO IT in a weekend

Mow grass with the blades set high for the first two cuts

Start mowing and remove clippings Use a pond pump to keep fishponds clear from algae



WATCH our Quick Tip video on how to keep duckweed under control at gardenersworld.com/duckweed


CHECKLIST N Cut back golden hop

Prune for stem interest

N Service lawnmower Beechgrove P

N Last chance to winter prune gooseberries and apples

N Fork in granular feeds as necessary prior to mulching

N Trap the heat in greenhouses, keep the doors shut and open roof vents March 2016

set high. Remove all the cut grass then mow a second time a couple of days later, still with the blades at their highest. Gradually lower the blades over the next few cuts. Remove the clippings at this time of year, even if you usually leave them behind as a mulch. Don’t apply lawn feed until next month.


(Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’) to the base

ready for an early cut

ONCE THE weather has warmed up enough to dry out the lawn ready for cutting it’s a good idea to make the first cut promptly. Some gardeners will have been mowing through the winter, but for those starting now it’s worth cutting in two stages. The first involves strimming or mowing with the blades

BEECHGROVE GARDEN Back on air Thursdays at 7.30pm, BBC2 Scotland from 31 March and Sundays BBC2 from 3 April.

THE BARE winter stems of shrubby dogwoods and willows can add welcome colour to the muted hues of a sleeping garden. Keep the display vibrant by pruning old stems hard, allowing brighter, new growth. The willow fedge (fence/hedge) at Beechgrove is pollarded every year. Annual growth is cut back hard to a crown on the main trunk to create a tree-like form. Pollarding differs from coppicing where all stems are cut to the base. Established willows and the white-stemmed bramble Rubus cockburnianus come back strongly after annual coppicing. With cornus, in a challenging environment or shorter growing season, a hard prune every two years or selective pruning annually is usually sufficient.

Annual coppicing of Rubus keeps the white stems vibrant gardenersworld.com


AROUND THE GARDEN MARCH STEP BY STEP Repot pond plants as water warms up planting shelf is deep enough for the new basket. Be aware that new compost introduces more nutrients, which may cause an early algae bloom in the pond, but this will drop as soon as the bigger pond plants start growing.

1 Knock the plant out of the old basket. You may need to cut it out if the roots have worked through the mesh. It does no harm to prune roots free.

3 Use a larger basket and repot plant in loam-based aquatic compost, or use John Innes Number 2. Leave the rootball exposed at the top but firm compost well.

Look out for... RABBIT DAMAGE Young seedlings and new growth (pictured right) are targets for rabbits. Erect fences dug 30cm into the ground and 100cm high to keep them out. 118


WATCH Joe Swift explain how to propagate water lilies by division at gardenersworld. com/divide-water-lilies


2 Cut out dead or damaged material and remove weeds from around the plant. Pull the roots out a bit if they are tightly packed into the shape of the old basket.

4 Pour a layer of gravel around the exposed rootball to weight down the compost, then soak thoroughly before gently lowering it back into the pond.

Spread gravel generously so it stays in place longer

Freshen up rock garden gravel SPREAD A FRESH layer of ornamental horticultural gravel over rock gardens, teasing it in around the base of plants to create a collar and under the edges of carpeting plants. Replacing the gravel will give an instant lift, showing off the plants that are in flower this season. Push it aside when you’re replacing plants. A gravel mulch produces the free-draining conditions that alpines love, prevents soil splash onto leaves and flowers and forms a perfect medium for self-seeding alpines to germinate in.

Next month � Monty sows beans � Carol lifts and divides congested astrantias � Alan repots cymbidium orchids after flowering � Find out how to sow half-hardy annuals � Make more herbs by propagating bought ones � Plant strawberries � Start sowing courgettes and cucumbers � PLUS Patch worn areas of lawn in time for summer

March 2016


THE WATER IN pond margins will begin to warm up as the days get longer and aquatic plants show signs of growth. This is the best time to repot pond plants, as they will go straight into growth and are less likely to rot. Make sure your


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Mowers can last for years, so it might be worth trading up to buy a better model. Sue Fisher tests mowers costing between £250 and £500 to find the features that justify a higher price

COMING UP NEXT MONTH: Mowers costing £150 or under 120


March 2016

mid-price mowers on test

The traditional mower market is undergoing a quiet revolution, with innovations such as batteryoperated models turning mowing into a neighbour-friendly pursuit. Do you have a lawn that’s bigger than a tennis court? Are you fed up with struggling to push yours? Have you been thinking about giving up on petrol? Or do you just fancy having a striped lawn? These are all reasons why you might find the cheapest mowers don’t work for you. The mowers in the price band we tested here (£250 500) all have a cutting width over 40cm, but with a range of cutting finishes and power sources. We tested 18, all on ordinary garden lawns, to find the best performers. Here, we present the 12 most noteworthy models. Most of these models are petroldriven: these are the most powerful and are the only sensible choice for very large lawns or longer grass. The drawbacks of petrol mowers are weight, noise, and the need for regular servicing. Electric mowers over 40cm are suitable for tennis court-sized lawns and are simple to use, but such a long cable is a dangerous hazard if cut or damaged. Powerful battery mowers are fast appearing on the market and are becoming serious contenders for regularly mown lawns: this is the quietest type, easy to use and with long-lasting lithium-ion batteries. Heavily discounted models are usually cheap for a reason – with parts no longer available or being of less durable construction. One of the advantages of shopping at DIY stores over buying by phone or internet is that you may be able to handle machines if they are already unpacked and on display

(which is not always the case). However, your new mower would be supplied boxed so you’d have all the assembly to do. With all of our trial mowers, it turned out to be very much a case of getting what you pay for, but choosing a mower with the right features for your grass can make a huge difference to the ease of getting the job done.

Buyers’ guide to features


Push versus self-propelled Self-propelled mowers require less effort and are the best choice for larger areas, longer grass or sloping sites. However, I found that the better-quality push mowers were reasonably easy to use on regularly mown lawns and gentle slopes. Most mowers were single-speed while several could be varied.


Engine and material quality

Quality and robust construction is an important consideration when paying anything up to £500. Often this was obvious when first looking at and handling the mower, which is why I recommend buying from dealers (see below). Look for strong deck materials, good-quality engines and solidly made, easy-to-use controls. Compare engine power of different models, especially if mowing large areas or long grass, and note warranty length.


Ease of starting

All petrol mowers in our trial were started with a pull cord. Some were very easy, others took a fair bit of effort – something to consider if you have, say, arm or shoulder problems, but be aware that some models are available with key start. Starting electric and battery mowers was effortless: press in a button then depress a lever while in use.

Cutting and collecting


Consider the cutting options in relation to your type and size of lawn. All our trial mowers cut by rotary action using one horizontal blade and have a grass collector for clippings. To create a striped finish, choose a model with a rear roller. If collecting a lot of clippings, check the grass box capacity and ease of use. An alternative is to ‘mulch’ or return the finely chopped grass onto the lawn, which is a facility offered by most mowers and usually done by fitting a plug to redirect clippings. Mulching works well on regularly mown lawns but isn’t effective on longer grass. For cutting and dropping long grass – such as occasional cutting of wildflower meadows – look for a model with easy rear or side discharge. If you need to cut close to raised edges, make sure the wheels don’t protrude beyond the deck.


Noise level

This may be an issue for the user or neighbours. All mowers have a noise rating in decibels (db): most petrol models are rated between 96db and 98db (just above most motorcycles), electric and battery models are quieter. Wear ear protection if you mow a lot.


Weight and storage

These become considerations when it comes to getting your mower to your lawn – whether this is an issue or not depends on the location and layout of your storage facility and garden. Although the largest mowers tended to be heaviest, the good design and selfpropulsion of our featured models made them easy to use and manoeuvre. If your storage space is limited, check how much and how easily the handle folds down.


Why use a specialist dealer?

March 2016

While internet shopping appears convenient and might save a few pounds, purchasing your mower from your local garden machinery specialist has big advantages: you’ll be able to inspect different models for quality, ease of handling and noise, plus find out how comfortable they are to use and check if they adjust easily to suit your height. Your mower should be supplied or delivered to you all set up and ready

for mowing, which is a big benefit with larger, heavy models that need two-person handling. Although I’m not a novice, I found that many mowers came with hard-to follow instructions that were often written to cover several models rather than just the one I was trying to put together, which made for time-consuming assembly. Manufacturers’ websites usually have a ‘find a dealer’ facility.

If you don’t buy from a specialist you may end up building your own



PETROL – LARGE (over 48cm wide cut)



SCORE: 19/20

SCORE: 19/20

SCORE: 18/20

Webb R21HW 4 in 1 ÂŁ399.99

AL KO Silver 520 BR ÂŁ489

Toro Recycler (20950) 48cm ÂŁ469

Self-propelled 190cc, 38.5kg

Self-propelled 190cc, 37.4kg

Self propelled 159cc, 35kg

Impressed all round with versatile cutting options. Sturdy construction and easy to start, handle and manoeuvre, despite size and weight. Widest (53cm) cut with 7 heights and singlelever adjustment. Neat cut and large, stout grass box emptied well. Hose port for easy cleaning.

Excellent performance, and easy to start and handle, despite being one of the largest models trialled. Robust, good-quality construction. Choice of cut, collect, mulch or side discharge with 7 heights, a 51cm-wide cut, simply adjusted and gives a neat, even finish.

Versatile: mulch or collect, simple to change using a single lever, plus discharge. Started easily, selfpropelled via pressure on handlebar, adjusts to pace and easy to use. Gives a good, even cut, 48cm wide, 7 heights with a 2-lever adjustment; but less powerful than similar sizes.

Pros & cons

Pros & cons

Pros & cons

Wide neat cut Choice of mowing options Sturdy and easy to use 7 cut heights, one lever Capacious (70l) grass box Only the handle part folds

Powerful and robust Easy to manoeuvre Single-lever height adjustment Versatile cutting options Capacious (70l) grass box Slightly noisier than others

Cut, collect or discharge Speed adjusts to pace Simple to alter Height-adjustable handles Mid-sized (60l) collector Flimsy collector

Value for money ((((( Cutting & finish (((((

Ease of handling ((((( Setting up/storage ((((;

Suppliers: webblawnmowers.co.uk, amazon.co.uk

Value for money ((((; Cutting & finish (((((

Ease of handling ((((( Setting up/storage (((((

Suppliers: al-ko.com/shop/uk, amazon.co.uk

Value for money ((((( Cutting & finish ((((;

Ease of handling ((((( Setting up/storage ((((;

Suppliers: toro.com/en/gb

PETROL – SMALL/MEDIUM (up to 48cm wide cut) SCORE: 18/20

SCORE: 19/20

SCORE: 17/20

Honda IZY 416PK ÂŁ369

John Deere Run 46 ÂŁ487

Mountfield S461R PD ÂŁ499

Push 160cc, 29kg

Self-propelled 140cc, 29.5kg

Self-propelled 160cc, 36kg

Quiet for a petrol mower and very easy to start. Lightweight and manoeuvred well in confined spaces. Robust construction, with a neat, even 41cm-wide cut, 6 heights, easily adjusted, and the 50l grass box filled to capacity and emptied easily.

Impressive all-rounder with good-quality construction. Handles and cutting height are simple to adjust. An even 46cm-wide cut, and very easy to start with automatic choke. Neat finish, easy to manoeuvre and the grass box (52l) emptied well.

Top-quality finish with a substantial rear roller that created very attractive stripes, with a 46cm-wide cut. Good-quality construction, throttle control, 5 heights, manoeuvred well despite its weight. But initial reluctance to start and no mulch facility.

Pros & cons

Pros & cons

Pros & cons

Quietest petrol (94db) Very easy start Manoeuvred well Grass box filled and emptied well Handle folds for storage No mulch facility

Adjustable handle Easy start and use Cuts and collects cleanly 5 heights, central lever Mulching option Handle only half folds

Rear roller creates stripes Handle folds for storage Large, easy-to-empty (55l) grass box Hose port for cleaning Didn’t start easily No mulch facility


Value for money ((((( Cutting & finish ((((; Suppliers: honda.co.uk



Ease of handling ((((( Setting up/storage (((((

Value for money ((((; Cutting & finish ((((( Suppliers: deere.co.uk

Ease of handling ((((( Setting up/storage ((((;

Value for money ((((; Cutting & finish (((((

Ease of handling (((;; Setting up/storage (((((

Suppliers: mountfieldlawnmowers.co.uk

March 2016

mid-price mowers on test ELECTRIC


SCORE: 17/20

SCORE: 18/20

Atco Quattro 21SA ÂŁ479

SCORE: 17/20

John Deere R40EL ÂŁ295

Self-propelled 163cc, 38kg

Hayter Spirit 41 Rear Roller Electric Push 615J ÂŁ295 1500W, 29kg

Good-quality construction with a 51cm-wide cut, 7 cutting heights, a capacious grass collector and mulching facility, but more expensive than similar models that had a discharge option. Took several hard pulls to start and thin handles weren’t very comfortable to grip.

Lightweight, good-quality construction, very easy to handle and manoeuvre, and with design features that give an excellent quality cut, such as a low profile. Has a 41cm-wide cut, 8 heights and a single-lever adjustment. Handle folds easily for storage. The only downside is the tall grass collector doesn’t fill to its 55l capacity.

A compact and extremely lightweight mower, good-quality construction, easy to use in smaller spaces with a 40cm-wide cut. Gives a good finish with 6 cutting heights and although the grass box was fairly small at 44l, it filled well and to capacity.

Pros & cons

Pros & cons

Sturdy construction Generous (70l) grass box Hose port for cleaning Handle folds easily Harder to start Thin handles

Excellent cut and finish Very easy to use Long cable Compacts well for storage Collect or discharge Doesn’t fill completely

Push 1300W, 22kg

Pros & cons

Value for money ((((; Cutting & finish (((((

Ease of handling (((;; Setting up/storage (((((

Suppliers: atco.co.uk

Value for money ((((; Cutting & finish (((((

Ease of handling ((((; Setting up/storage (((((

Suppliers: hayter.co.uk

Very lightweight Handles and cuts well Very efficient collection Adjustable handles Slightly awkward height adjustment Handle only partly folds Value for money ((((; Cutting & finish (((((

Ease of handling ((((; Setting up/storage ((((;

Suppliers: deere.co.uk, tuckwell.co.uk


SCORE: 9/20

SCORE: 14/20

Hayter Motif 41 (437H) ÂŁ399

Cobra M46SPC ÂŁ259.99

EGO LM2001E ÂŁ499

Push 150cc, 28kg

Self-propelled 135cc, 33kg

Push 56V, 28kg

Easy to start and manoeuvre, and not hard to push, even on uphill slopes. Sturdy, goodquality construction. Wide choice of cutting heights, centrally adjusted. But let down by the 50l grass collector, which was too high to fill completely and spilt on removing.

Inexpensive but uncomfortable to use due to very thin metal handles. The 60l textile grass box is very flimsy so the clippings don’t tip out, and can only be checked to see when full by removing. Wheels are set wide so doesn’t cut close to raised edges.

Initially impressive, although not quite powerful enough. One battery, simple to fit, 30-minute charge and lasts for 45. Handled and cut well with a choice of 5 heights, but poor on damp grass, clogging as insufficient power to throw clippings into the 70l grass box.

Pros & cons

Pros & cons

Pros & cons

Compact and manoeverable 8 cutting heights Neat even 41cm cut Simple to adjust Easy to start Poor grass box design

Easy to start 10 cutting heights 46cm width Single-lever adjustment Uncomfortable to use Difficult to empty No mulch facility

Lightweight, quiet and simple Single-lever height adjustment Large grass box Collect, mulch or discharge Very compact for storage Clogs when damp

Value for money (((;; Cutting & finish ((((; Suppliers: hayter.co.uk

March 2016

Ease of handling (((;; Setting up/storage ((((;

Value for money ((;;; Cutting & finish (((;; Suppliers: cobragarden.co.uk

Ease of handling (;;;; Setting up/storage (((;;

Value for money (((;; Cutting & finish ((;;;

Ease of handling ((((; Setting up/storage (((((

Suppliers: egopowerplus.co.uk









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wildlife this month



Hedgehogs are declining at a staggering rate, but there are many ways we can help them. Act now, before it’s too late, warns Kate Bradbury

In the first decade of this century, around a quarter of hedgehogs were lost, according to The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2011 report.* And a follow up report last year shows that they are continuing to decline, with rural populations thought to be down by at least half, and urban populations by around a third. Despite being voted the nation’s favourite mammal by BBC Wildlife Magazine readers in 2013, the humble hedgehog is disappearing on our watch. And we gardeners hold the key to its future. What’s more, in a recent Magazine Insiders survey, just over a quarter of you recalled seeing hedgehogs in your gardens last year, compared to a third of respondents spotting them in † 2014. More worryingly, two in five of you said you’d not seen hedgehogs in your garden for a long time, and almost half of you admitted you had never seen one in your garden. There is huge concern among gardeners about the future of our hedgehogs and a great appetite to help them. If given a choice to save one species from extinction, more than half of you would save the hedgehog over the house sparrow, puffin and mistle thrush.

48% †

of readers have never seen a hedgehog

Hedgehog sightings: †

2015: 29% 2014: 32% March 2016

Why are numbers falling?


of you say we must act to save hedgehogs from extinction

The causes of hedgehog decline are many and varied. In rural areas, intensive agriculture has lead to the fragmentation of habitats such as copses and hedges. This has resulted in fewer places to nest, hibernate and forage for food. Roads and motorways carve up habitats and create hazards for hedgehogs. The use of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides may be behind the apparent decline of hedgehog food such as caterpillars, beetles and worms. Despite faring slightly better in urban and suburban areas, hedgehogs are still



10 ways to help hedgehogs

1 Plant a hedge

2 Cut holes under your fence

3 Make ponds safe

6 Make a hedgehog box

7 Leave out extra food

8 Grow native plants

Hedgehogs need a safe, dry place to raise young and hibernate, and a box is the perfect habitat. Ideally cover it with plastic sheeting and a layer of leaves, and make an entrance tunnel (around 12cm x 12cm and 40cm long) to prevent predators getting in. Site it under a north-facing hedge out of the way.



One of the best things you can do for hedgehogs is to allow them access to your garden. Simply cut a hole, 12cm x 12cm, in the bottom of your fence. If you have a large garden then consider making holes at several points. Setting up a camera trap or a ‘footprint tunnel’ (see page 130) will enable you to see if hedgehogs are using the entrances.

While provision of natural food is the best option for hedgehogs, give them a helping hand with supplementary food, especially before and after hibernation. Offer meat-based dog or cat food, preferably chicken or turkey flavour. Avoid leaving out bread and milk as this can dehydrate and kill hedgehogs.

A deep pond with steep sides is a hedgehog death trap. Hogs can swim but quickly become exhausted, and find it impossible to climb out. Ensure your pond has sloping sides so hedgehogs can enter and exit easily. Alternatively, drape thick rope netting over one side, or place a log at one end to act as a ladder.

Native plants such as honeysuckle, dog rose, hawthorn and blackthorn are caterpillar foodplants for a wide range of moths, which lay eggs on the leaves. Most moth caterpillars descend to the ground to pupate before becoming an adult, where they become nourishing food for passing hedgehogs. March 2016


A hedge is the perfect garden habitat, allowing easy access between gardens, and room for piles of leaves to accumulate beneath it, where hedgehogs can forage, hibernate and raise their young. Native plants, such as hawthorn and hazel, will attract egg-laying moths, increasing your stock of caterpillars – a favoured food of hedgehogs.

wildlife this month in trouble. Fences and walls prevent them from travelling between gardens (they need to roam up to a mile per night in search of food), ponds, netting, strimmers and slug pellets create hazards, while paving over front gardens reduces food and shelter, forcing them into the road to get to the next patch of green space.

Hedgehog Street

4 Check before strimming

Hedgehog hospitals and rescue centres are full of hedgehogs with injuries caused by strimmers. All you need to do to prevent injury – or even inadvertently killing a sleeping hedgehog – is to check your long grass before using your strimmer. If you find any hogs, simply move them away from danger to a safe and secluded spot.


Retain twigs and leaves

A pile of leaves, logs or twigs left in a quiet corner of the garden makes the perfect hedgehog habitat, providing a warm, dry and secluded place for them to nest in and hibernate. Plus, small invertebrates, such as slugs, centipedes and beetles, will also take shelter here, providing food for hungry hogs. March 2016

5 Avoid using slug pellets

Conventional slug pellets contain metaldehyde, which is lethal to hogs. Wildlifefriendly pellets contain the less toxic ferric phosphate, which is not as harmful but still takes slugs and snails out of the food chain. Hedgehogs are predators of slugs, so taking steps to boost hedgehog numbers will help control the slug population in your garden.


Check bonfires

If you build a bonfire that includes twigs, branches and other garden waste, it could be mistaken for a hibernaculum. Either dismantle it and rebuild it just before lighting, or light it on the same day you build it. This will ensure that no hedgehogs or other wildlife have had a chance to creep into it.

The Hedgehog Street Campaign was set up to address the problems hedgehogs face in urban areas. Its aim was to enlist volunteers who would make their gardens hedgehog friendly, enable hedgehogs to travel between gardens, and encourage neighbours to create whole streets or networks of hedgehog-friendly habitats. It’s been a roaring success: since 2011 36,000 volunteers have helped create hedgehog-friendly neighbourhoods, linking up green spaces and gardens. More than 7,000 foraging areas have been created, nearly 4,000 hedgehog houses installed, 5,000 hazards removed, and 252 neighbourhood events have been held. Wildlife enthusiast Becky Walton, from Hangleton, East Sussex, first got involved with hedgehog conservation two years ago when she found an autumn orphan in her garden and decided to help it. One thing led to another and before she knew it she’d created a huge community group, aimed at helping hogs. “We visit schools and organise community fun days,” says Becky. “It’s really brought the community together. We have families, old people, young people; and it’s made people talk to their neighbours.” Becky admits, “I never knew my neighbours before and now I know all of them.” Becky makes and distributes ‘footprint tunnels’ comprising an ink pad, paper mat and a dish of food under a plastic ‘roof’ so that her neighbours can find out for themselves if hedgehogs use their gardens. “There’s nothing to replace the sheer joy of people finding hedgehogs in their gardens,” she says. “When they get those footprints it’s like Christmas Day!” You could share that joy, too. See page 130 for details on how to make your own footprint tunnel, and follow our 10 ways to help hedgehogs (see left). You won’t be alone – two thirds of readers say they are ready to cut holes in their fences to help hedgehogs travel between gardens. So act today – as tomorrows are running out for Britain’s favourite mammal.

More information Discover if hedgehogs are using your garden – turn to page 130 to learn how to make a hedgehog footprint tunnel. Visit hedgehogstreet.org for more information on how to help hedgehogs and to become a hedgehog champion.



Space invaders Following its spread across Europe over the past 60 years, the collared dove, with its dashing black neck marking, is a regular visitor to our gardens FACTFILE

Collared dove Streptopelia decaocto DID YOU KNOW? Resembling a pale, pink-brown pigeon with deep-red eyes and reddish feet, the collared dove is named after its distinctive black neck collar. It is smaller and less heavy chested than a woodpigeon and its song differs, too – rather than the latter’s five-note ‘coo COOO coo-coo coo’, the collared dove’s monotonous cooing is a clear and persistent three-note ‘coo COO coo’, Originally from the Middle East, it spread rapidly across Europe arriving in the UK in the 1950s. It has very dusty, oily feathers, which can leave detailed prints on a window, if it should fly into one.


DIET You’ll usually see a collared dove either on its own or in a pair, but flocks may form where there is a lot of food around. It feeds mainly on cereal grain and small seeds on the ground, but will also feast on autumn berries, on occasion, caterpillars and aphids in spring. In the garden, it may eat small bird seed or breadcrumbs from the ground or bird table, but may also (clumsily) visit hanging bird feeders.


LIFECYCLE Over a long breeding season, March to November, the collared dove may have up to six broods of one or two white, oval, glossy eggs. The nest is a flimsy platform of twigs usually in a tree, but occasionally on a building. Both parents share the duty of incubating the eggs and feeding the nestlings. HABITAT A wide variety of habitats, including gardens, parks, farmland and woodland. AT RISK? No. The first breeding pair was recorded in Norfolk in 1955. Then in 1957, the species was reported breeding in Kent and Lincolnshire and birds were spotted as far north as Scotland. Ireland was colonised by them two years later and by 1970 there may have been as many as 25,000 pairs in Britain and Ireland. Between 1972 and 1996, the British Trust for Ornithology’s Common Birds Census revealed a five-fold increase in their population. There are now thought to be 990,000 nesting pairs in Britain.


March 2016

wildlife this month

March 2016



wildlife this month Identifying animal footprints is a fun way to monitor garden visitors

How to…

Make a hedgehog footprint tunnel


Make a triangular tunnel with sides roughly 23cm, or a bit over the width of a sheet of A4 paper. It should be about 90cm long to take two A4 sheets plus space for ink and food.


P Small plastic bowl P Paint brush P Carbon powder P Vegetable oil P Hedgehog food /

meaty pet food

Make a cardboard insert and attach a sheet of A4 at either end with paper fasteners or an elastic band. Add strips of masking tape, to paint the ink onto, either side of a bowl.


Mix the carbon powder with oil to make a non-drying ink, and then spread this on to the masking tape. Place the food in the bowl and fit the whole insert into the tunnel.

C Grow as many pollen-rich plants as you can

Wildlife gardening jobs Sow nectar-rich hardy annuals, leave out nesting material and cultivate caterpillars

4 Tie bunches of twigs, dried moss and other stringy vegetable matter near your feeders for birds to use in nest-building.

4 Keep bird feeders topped up but avoid leaving out whole peanuts, which could choke nestlings. Mealworms and suet products containing insects are popular with tits.

4 Leave aphids and caterpillars on your plants as nesting birds will feed these to their young.

4 Take the last opportunity to plant bare-root ING nectar4 START SOW annuals,

h hardy and pollen-ric an olds, Californi ig ar such as m annual d an ) zia chol poppies (eschs ground. aver) in open poppies (pap ators. act the pollin These will attr



hedging plants such as hazel and hawthorn. Use them to make a hedge or dot them through your borders. If spring flowers are in short supply, plant native primroses, lungwort and hellebores for early bees.

4 Leave out a dish of meat-based cat or dog food – preferably chicken flavour – for hedgehogs emerging from hibernation.

Flowers affected by insecticides used on nearby crops can harm bees that feed on their nectar

Bee wildflower peril Scientists at The University of Sussex have discovered that when bees visit flower habitats close to agricultural crops, they are exposed to chemicals up to 1,000 times more potent than previously thought, which could further be contributing to their decline. All agricultural chemicals have to meet stringent safety standards, but the Soil Association highlights concerns that systemic neonicotinoid insecticides used on crops gradually seep into the soil and may be absorbed by other plants. Farmers may then spray crops with up to 23 other chemicals, a dozen or more times while they are growing. For more information visit soilassociation.org/news March 2016


Find out if hedgehogs use your YOU WILL NEED garden by recording their P Corrugated footprints as they feed. Simply plastic or an old make a tunnel using a sheet of storage box corrugated plastic, place food, P A4 paper paper and ink inside, and site P Paper fasteners it near a fence or hedge. P Masking tape

Fresh from the garden Prized for its delicious and distinctive flavour, sage is easy to grow, long lived and provides year-round pickings FACT FILE



DID YOU KNOW Sage has antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and can be used to treat sore throats, stomach disorders and fever. It also possesses properties that stimulate brain and memory function and is being researched for use in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.


NUTRITION Sage is rich in beneficial oils, vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin A, B, beta-carotene and potassium. Fresh sage is high in vitamin C. Avoid taking it excessively and for long periods, as it could develop toxic effects, and do not take medicinally if pregnant or suffering from epilepsy. HARVEST Pick leaves and tips from non-flowering shoots for the best flavour. These can be stored in the fridge for several days, in a sealed polythene bag. STORE It is best used fresh. The leaves can be dried, but do develop a musty taste. HOW TO GROW Sage likes full sun and good drainage. Grow green-leaved forms from seed sown indoors in spring, and coloured-leaf varieties from cuttings taken in late spring to early summer. Or simply buy as small plants from garden centres or supermarkets. Cut back established plants in spring, by at least half, to encourage fresh shoots, and replace plants every four or five years. Varieties with coloured foliage look great in ornamental beds. OUR CHOICES Common sage (Salvia officinalis) with plain green foliage, ‘Icterina’ with gold-edged leaves, and ‘Purpurascens’ with purple young foliage.

Sage Calendar








0.3cm deep Final spacing









40cm apart March 2016

in season

Three ways with sage

CAULIFLOWER CHEESE SERVES 4 cauliflower 1 large, broken into florets butter 50g plain flour 3 tbsp semi-skimmed milk 400ml grainy mustard 1 good tsp strong cheddar or Gruyère 100g sage 10 leaves, roughly chopped white bread 3 slices, cut into chunks Parmesan 2 tbsp, grated Cook the cauliflower in boiling water, then drain well. Melt the butter in a pan, stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in the milk gradually, simmer for a few minutes, then add the mustard and cheese. Whizz the bread and sage together to make crumbs and add the Parmesan. Heat the oven to 190°C/ fan 170°C/gas 5. Mix the cauliflower with the sauce and tip into a baking dish. Sprinkle on the crumbs and bake for 20 minutes until bubbling.

ROASTED SQUASH WITH CHILLI AND SAGE CRUMBS SERVES 6 butternut squash 2, cut into thin wedges, seeds removed fresh breadcrumbs 80g olive oil garlic 2 cloves, sliced red chilli 1, sliced sage a small bunch, leaves only Grana Padano cheese, 3 tbsp, grated Heat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6. Place the squash wedges in a baking dish. Toss the breadcrumbs with 2 tbsp oil, then season. Mix together the garlic, chilli and sage, then sprinkle the mixture over the squash. Drizzle with 2 tbsp oil, then season and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and cheese. Bake for 35-40 minutes until tender and golden.

PORK MEATBALLS SERVES 4 pork mince 500g lemon 1, zested onion 1 large, grated, finely sliced breadcrumbs a handful sage 10 leaves, finely chopped, plus more to serve olive oil garlic 1 clove, sliced white wine 1 glass chicken stock 200ml double cream 200ml orzo cooked to serve Put the pork, lemon, grated onion, sage and breadcrumbs in a bowl. Season, then mix together and form into about 30 meatballs. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan and cook the meatballs until browned all over and cooked through. Remove from the pan and add the sliced onion. Cook until really soft and golden, then add the garlic and cook for a minute or

two more. Add the wine and chicken stock and reduce by half. Pour in the double cream and simmer for a minute or two, then add back the meatballs and simmer for another 5-7 minutes. Don’t reduce the sauce too much – it should be no thicker single cream. Add a splash of stock or water if necessary. Serve with orzo and sprinkled with some extra sage.

SAGE RECIPES taken from Olive Magazine. For lots of other delicious recipes using sage, go to olivemagazine.com and search for ‘sage’.

March 2016



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seed sowing

Seed sowing

How to sow Charles Dowding shares his expert advice to help you perfect your sowing technique Photos by Jason Ingram March 2016

here’s nothing more frustrating than seeds that don’t germinate or seedlings that keel over. But by making sure you sow your seeds as well as possible, you can give them the best chance of success. I’ve been sowing seeds and selling the produce for more than 35 years, and over that time I’ve developed techniques and habits that help ensure I get results every time. This month, I’ll share how I sow my seeds, and next month I’ll explain how

I make my veg plot more productive by packing as much into my space as I possibly can. It’s worth getting your sowing really spot on, not just for the money it will save you compared with buying plants, but also because homegrown plants are often stronger than bought ones, which have been carefully cossetted in industrial polytunnels. Little details like where you sow, the compost and container you use, and how deep you sow all add up to affect your seeds’ performance. Grow good sowing habits and you’ll relish the results.



How to sow Get great results every time

Get early crops of chard by starting them off indoors before the last frost date


Use the right compost

Water carefully

Get the depth right

What to sow in

Seed-sowing compost should be free-draining and doesn’t need to have lots of nutrients; in fact, rich composts can stunt the growth of young plants. Instead of buying a special seed compost, you can use standard multipurpose compost and add around 50% of coarse sand, grit, vermiculite or perlite to increase aeration around your seeds and seedlings. Unfortunately, composts vary in quality, so it’s worth doing a bit of research to find the one that suits you best.

I water compost thoroughly before sowing seeds and don’t water again for at least another three or four days at this time of year (seeds in an electric propagator or above a radiator need watering more often). Water only when you see signs of the compost drying around its edges, until the plants are really growing. This helps avoid damping off – when small seedlings fall over and rot. If your seedlings still succumb, try sowing more thinly, so that air can pass between the stems.

Few seeds profit from being buried too deep – they are better at sending roots down than pushing up new stems through lots of compost or soil. Cover seeds with enough compost or vermiculite to just hide them. Push larger seeds into modules or pots so they are just below the surface. At most, seeds should be covered with twice their own width in compost. Seeds such as antirrhinum, primula and celery need light to germinate, and so should be sown on the surface of the compost.

Tiny seeds that germinate slowly are best sown in seed trays, so that you can prick out the strongest. Do this when seedlings have the first two leaves. Use a pencil to prise up the roots of a clump and pull out one seedling at a time, holding its leaves. Make a deep hole in the compost in a module tray and drop or coil the root into the hole with the stems buried to encourage sturdy growth. Medium-sized seeds, such as beetroot, are best sown in modules, and large seeds, such as sunflowers, in 9-10cm pots.


March 2016

seed sowing

PROJECT How to make a cold frame Seedlings sown under cover need help to adjust to outdoor conditions. One way to do this is by putting them in a cold frame – just a couple of days and nights in a cold frame should be enough for most plants so that they are stronger when planted in open ground. You can make your own cold frame, cheaply and easily. I made this one (right) and attached it to the side of the house – a brick wall will warm up in the sun and trap warmth in the cold frame. I used a standard 100cm x 120cm pallet to create the base and an old window, 115cm x 130cm, to make the top.


A cold frame will help your seedlings acclimatise to outdoor conditions

Place the pallet on the ground. Use two 10cm x 5cm x 85cm pieces of timber as the wall supports. Saw the tops so they slope downwards and screw to the wall.


Get someone to help you hold the window in position against the wall, and attach it to the wall supports using 7.5cm hinges.

Use two pieces of 23cm x 5cm timber for the cold frame’s sides. Cut them to the same length as the pallet, then screw them to the wall supports and the pallet.



With the window closed, measure and cut two pieces of 1.2cm-thick plywood for the sides. Screw these to the wall supports and the front using corner braces.


For the front of the cold frame, take two lengths of 15cm x 5cm timber, screw one to the front of the pallet and attach the other on top. Hold together with metal braces.


Screw a block of wood, as thick as the windowframe, to the wall to the side of the window. Attach a length of wood that is free to swivel to hold the window open.

NEXT MONTH How to fit more into your veg patch

March 2016





60 m

in u


60-minute te s a

In a week of busy schedules where every minute counts, it may seem impossible to find time to grow your own veg. Our days are crammed with meetings, school runs or supermarket trips – the list of jobs goes on. Surely it’s not possible to squeeze in growing veg, too? Well, yes, it is. I have a hectic life, too, and yet I enjoyed harvesting tasty home-grown veg all the way through last summer. There’s no fancy system. I simply started from scratch in the spring and only allowed myself to spend an hour a week tending my plot – almost anyone could fit that in. By restricting myself to one raised bed and choosing crops wisely, I was able to get big harvests from just a little time spent. I noted every minute I spent planting, watering and harvesting to make sure I never went over 60 minutes, and the results speak for themselves (see over the page). On some days I only had time to splash a can of water over my plot, which took about two minutes, while on others I found time to sow, harvest and even check for any pests. So, no matter how pushed for time you are, it really is possible to enjoy growing your own – just turn the page and see how to get started.

March 2016

veg plot

Think you’ve no time to grow your own? Well, think again! Kevin Smith shows you how to grow a bounty of tasty veg by spending just 60 minutes a week tending your plot Photos by Sarah Cuttle



Eye on the clock Let’s clarify exactly what 60 minutes a week means – after all, you need to have realistic expectations if you’re going to create a time-savvy veg plot. My weekly 60 minutes comprised planting, sowing, weeding, watering and harvesting. My 60 minutes did not include preparing my plot – the clock started once I had a weed-free veg bed with wellcultivated soil. It took a couple of hours to get my 2m x 1m

plot to a workable state, but expect to spend more time if yours has lots of weeds or if the soil is poor. Set aside a weekend – or a day with family to help – to thoroughly prepare the ground. Spending the time now will save you time later on. Buying seed and plants did not come into the equation either. Trips to the garden centre and time spent perusing seed catalogues were not in my figures, but that’s the fun part!

Perfect plot

Essential kit

Doing a bit of legwork upfront will save time once the growing season gets under way.

Having the right tools to hand helps you work quickly and efficiently. Fortunately, the list of essential kit is not long and you’ve probably got most of it.

P A raised bed eliminates time-

consuming problems from the outset as you can fill it with good topsoil and keep weeds at bay from the off. P Make sure it is accessible from all sides – good access makes sowing, planting and harvesting quick and easy. P Pick a sunny and sheltered spot that gets shade for some of the day – the shade will help to reduce time spent watering. P Aim to position your plot near an outside tap or water butt as this will save time spent having to lug cans of water around. P If you’re growing in the ground, avoid areas with lots of perennial weeds – keeping on top of them will take too much time.



P Hand fork – great for quickly

digging out weeds that have quite a bit of root. P Hand trowel – makes planting veg plugs and plants quick and easy; essential if you’re not growing from seed. P Hoe – use to speedily remove annual weeds. Also makes quick work of creating a drill for direct seed sowing. P Sowing line – a length of string tied to two short pieces of stick. Use it to create a guideline for quickly sowing seed in straight lines. P Watering kit – invest in the largest can you can easily handle to save time on refilling; and a hose makes quick work of watering if your plot is in reach of a tap.

March 2016

60 minute veg plot

Crop choice

Start right now

Growing the right veg will save time in the long run since some crops are quicker to cultivate than others. But, above all, grow what you love to eat. P Root crops, such as carrots

and beetroot need little care. Carrot ‘Nantes’ is pestand disease-resistant, which saves time down the line. P Growing bush tomatoes, not cordons, fees you from timeconsuming staking and removing side shoots. Save troubleshooting by choosing a blight-resistant variety. P Dwarf beans save time staking and tying in. Taller ones take longer to maintain but produce a bigger harvest. P Cut-and-come-again salad leaves are fast to sow and grow. Look for speedy mixes. P Onions and garlic take almost no time to look after once they’re planted; just let them grow until ready to harvest.

My harvest It’s amazing what you can get from a 60-minute veg plot. To give you an idea, here’s my harvest from 2015. P Salad leaves all summer

from two packets of seed. P 18 ‘Little Gem’ lettuces

from plug plants. P 12 ‘Lollo Rossa’ lettuces

from plug plants. P 143 cherry tomatoes

harvested from three plants. P 57 carrots (plus thinnings)

Take the 60-minute veg plot challenge There’s no time like the present to get cracking and start enjoying delicious homegrown harvests with just 60 minutes’ work a week. The first thing to tackle is the plot. If you’re new to veg growing, locate an area of your garden that ticks all the boxes (see opposite) and get it into shape. Make sure you get rid of as many weeds and stones as you can. If you’ve already got a veg garden, ensure it’s weed-free and improve the soil with good-quality compost. While you’re getting your plot up to scratch it won’t hurt to take a breather and plan what crops you’re going to grow. Follow our crop choices (above left) and buy seeds in garden centres or via mail order. Make a list and stick to it so that you don’t get distracted and waste time. Veg plug plants are available to buy now, but only purchase them if your plot is prepared. Right now plugs may need protecting from cold weather with cloches or fleece. Don’t start too early if cold snaps are forecast. If you find yourself with time to spare, start sowing directly into the ground. Check seed packets for sowing dates and turn to our Growing Guide on page 151.

direct sown in three 1m lines. P 20 garlic bulbs from cloves. P 16 red onions planted in two

1m rows as young plants. P 20 white onions planted in two 1m rows as young plants. P 28 beetroot (plus leaves for salad) sown in two 1m rows. P 69 spring onions planted in three 1m rows as young plants. P Runner beans 23 meals for two, from eight plants. P Peas seven meals for two, from one packet of seed.

March 2016

COMING UP P April – how to get growing with speedy techniques. P May – make fast work of your plot with quick tricks to keep it as productive as possible.

WATCH Alan Titchmarsh show how to pot up plug plants on gardenersworld. com/pot-up-plugs gardenersworld.com


Chef’s guide to

tomatoes Two Michelin-starred chef Raymond Blanc, reveals how to pick the perfect tomato for every dish. Photos by Sarah Cuttle

Le Manoir’s kitchen and garden teams join Raymond Blanc in tests to find the best tomatoes



March 2016


Great flavour starts with great varieties. And to truly get the most out of your tomatoes, you need to choose the variety according to the way you’re going to use it – the best tomato for a salad won’t necessarily make a first-rate sauce. Raymond Blanc and the chefs and gardeners at his Oxfordshire kitchen garden have trialled dozens of varieties to find the

March 2016

tastiest to serve in his restaurant, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons – and all are chosen for a specific dish or cooking method. “The difference between a good tomato and an average tomato is like the difference between day and night,” says Raymond. Here, he reveals his top tomatoes so that you can create a little bit of Michelinstarred magic in your own kitchen.



“ The difference between a good to mato and an average to mato is like the difference between day and night ”


4 SALADS ‘Black Russian’

Best tomatoes for salads


Great salad tomatoes have thin skins and slice like a dream. An outstanding flavour is a given, but you also want a good balance of seeds to flesh. Raymond says lots of pips indicate high acidity and a more complex flavour. Medium slicing tomatoes with handsome colouring work well, or try sweet cherry varieties.


Raymond’s picks ( ‘Black Russian’ (top) is a

‘Marmande’ is an old childhood favourite of Raymond’s; a large, often misshapen beefsteak, juicy, fleshy and sweet. Suttons, 0333 043 0700

medium-sized tom, ripening to mahogany brown with a fabulously complex, unusual flavour. See offer, p149

( ‘Japanese Black Trifele’ (right) ( ‘Marmande’ (right) ( ‘Derby Striped’ is an intensely fruity medium tom, ripening to yellowy-orange striped with green. Tomato-plants-direct.co.uk

(‘Yellow Currant’ see ‘Best for stock’

( ‘Coeur de Boeuf’ see ‘Best

‘Japanese Black Trifele’ is a pearshaped medium tomato with a wine-purple skin and sweet flavour. Plant-worldseeds.com, 01803 872939

for stuffing’ gardenersworld.com

March 2016


4 STOCK ‘Gardener’s Delight’

Best tomatoes for stock Raymond’s signature tomato dish, ‘tomato essence’, involves straining chopped tomatoes and herbs through a jelly bag to produce a clear liquid with a pure tomatoey taste. It is served as a cold soup or used as stock. Use cherry tomatoes with exceptional flavour, “because they have a high ratio of juice to flesh and more sweetness than other tomatoes”. Find the recipe for tomato essence at bit.ly/essence-of-tomatoes

‘Yellow Currant’ has tiny, intensely flavoured golden cherry toms with balanced notes of sweetness and acidity. See offer, p149

Raymond’s picks ( ‘Gardener’s Delight’ (above)

‘Sweet Million’ is a

triumphed in Raymond’s cherry tomato taste tests, with the highest sugar content and an outstanding flavour. See offer, p149 ( ‘Yellow Currant’ (right) ( ‘Sweet Million’ (right)

classic sweet and juicy cherry variety, with a strong flavour. mr-fothergills.co.uk, 0333 777 3936

Best tomatoes for stuffing


Raymond remembers seeing his mother scooping out the centres of huge, thick-walled beefsteak tomatoes and stuffing the cavity with mince, vegetables, breadcrumbs and herbs. The thick flesh of beefsteaks guarantees they’ll hold their shape well after filling. Raymond chops the rich, sweet flesh, mixes it with olive oil and tomato purée, and mops it up with bread afterwards.

Raymond’s picks ( ‘Coeur de Boeuf’ (right), or ‘Oxheart’ to give its English name, is a hefty, heart-shaped, punchily flavourful beefsteak tomato, which Raymond describes as “really magnificent”. See offer, p149 ( ‘Marmande’ see ‘Best for salads’ March 2016

‘Coeur de Boeuf’ gardenersworld.com



Tomatoes for sauces should have lots of flesh and few seeds so there is less juice to evaporate


Raymond’s tips for growing flavour

SAUCES ‘San Marzano’

Best tomatoes for sauces For cooking tomatoes Raymond recommends minimum seeds and maximum flesh so that you don’t lose freshness of flavour waiting for lots of juice to evaporate as you reduce your toms to a thick, flavour-packed paste. He favours classic ‘blocky’ Italian plum types with high sugar levels, majoring on sweet, rich flavours for making the perfect tomato sauce.

Raymond’s picks ( ‘San Marzano’ (above) is almost all flesh and reduces to a paste in no time, making it ideal for sauces. See offer, p149 ( ‘Roma’ (right) is an elegant red plum tomato with few seeds and a tangy acidity balancing its sweetness.


V Choose a good variety, otherwise you’ll never get a great flavour. V Club together with other gardeners to buy different varieties, then share plants to try out lots of flavours. V Grow your tomatoes hard. I believe that tomatoes grown outdoors have a more intense flavour than those grown in a greenhouse or polytunnel, because they have to fight. V Light is more important than heat for developing flavour. V Sow your tomatoes early, or get a head start with plug plants so that the fruit does as much of its ripening as possible in the long days of early summer. V Fast-growing cherry varieties are easier for getting good flavour in dull summers. V Don’t overwater – keep the soil just moist, as too much water dilutes flavour. V Feed fortnightly with a potassium-rich fertiliser when flowers appear, but don’t overdo it: overfeeding also destroys flavour.

NEXT MONTH We trial tomato fertilisers to discover which ones produce the biggest harvest 146


March 2016


From plug to plant in 4 weeks. When it comes to growing from seed, our tomatoes are the pick of the bunch. With Gro-Sure Sow Smart you’ve got everything you need to grow from seed, without the uncertainty.

• Moisture retaining compost plug • 4 weeks worth of feed • Simply add water for success every time Next time you’re Not Sure? Gro-Sure. Visit gardenhealth.com/sow-smart to find out more.


Save on tasty tomatoes Grow the varieties of tomato that Michelin-starred chef Raymond Blanc uses in his kitchen We all know that a fresh, sweet, home-grown tomato in a salad or eaten straight from the vine is one of the best taste experiences there is. Now here is your chance to grow a selection of Raymond Blanc’s favourite varieties, as featured on page 142.


‘Coeur de Boeuf’

‘Yellow Currant’

P Tomato ‘Coeur de Boeuf’ 3 plug plants £6.99 P Tomato ‘Yellow Currant’ 3 plug plants £6.99 P Tomato ‘Black Russian’ 3 plug plants £6.99 P Tomato ‘San Marzano’ 3 plug plants £6.99 P Tomato ‘Roma’ 3 plug plants £6.99 P Tomato ‘Gardener’s Delight’ 3 plug plants £6.99

‘Black Russian’



6 plug plants (1 of each) £9.99 SAVE £3.99 PLUS! FREE tomato fertiliser (worth £4.99) with the Saver Collection ‘San Marzano’


‘Gardener’s Delight’

Call 0844 573 6054 quote code GW825 Online www.thompson-morgan.com/GW825

Subscribers: to claim your extra 10% off – see p26 for your exclusive discount code

Terms and conditions: Tomato plug plants despatched in early May 2016. Plug plants supplied approximately 8cm-10cm from root to tip. Offer closes 10 May 2016. Please note your contract for supply of goods is with Thompson & Morgan, Poplar Lane, Ipswich, IP8 3BU. Terms and conditions available on request. All offers subject to availability. Full growing instructions included.


Tomatoes offer

Code: GW825

TO ORDER Please send your order and payment to: Gardeners’ World Tomato Offer, Dept GW825, PO Box 162, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP8 3BX









Tomato ‘Coeur de Boeuf’ 3 plug plants




Tomato ‘Yellow Currant’ 3 plug plants




Tomato ‘Black Russian’ 3 plug plants




Tomato ‘San Marzano’ 3 plug plants




Tomato ‘Roma’ 3 plug plants




Tomato ‘Gardener’s Delight’ 3 plug plants



TCJ70940 TCJ70941

Tomato Collection 6 plants + free fertiliser Tomato Collection 12 plants + free fertiliser

£9.99 £14.98

£8.99 £13.48



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March 2016


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growing guide

March growing guide Get sowing and planting in the greenhouse and outdoors for harvests from summer onwards



Key crops for March

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec SOW



OUR CHOICE ‘Moneymaker’. This is

a reliable variety producing an early crop of slender, long fruits.

Broad beans

Tip: Pinch out the growing tip of the main stem when plants reach 30cm Sow 1cm deep Final spacing 30cm apart 45cm between rows Avg. yield: 18 25 fruits per 3m row SOW


OUR CHOICE ‘Jade’. These small beans

stay bright green on cooking and have a strong bean flavour.


Tip: For the best crops, water plants well when they begin flowering and again two weeks later Sow 5cm deep Final spacing 20cm apart 45cm between rows Avg. yield: 3kg per 3m row SOW HARVEST

OUR CHOICE ‘Flyaway’. Grow this sweet,

smooth-skinned carrot if your plot is plagued by root fly.

Celeriac OUR CHOICE ‘Monarch’. This delicious,

high-yielding variety has smooth, easy-to-clean roots.

Tip: Dig over the ground and remove stones before sowing Sow 1cm deep Final spacing 2.5cm apart 30cm between rows Avg. yield: 120 roots per 3m row SOW HARVEST


Tip: Don’t let plants dry out; keep the soil constantly moist. Mulching will help. Sow 0.5cm deep Final spacing 30cm apart 45cm between rows Avg. yield: 10 roots per 3m row



OUR CHOICE ‘Mini Munch’. All-female

type with great crunch yielding up to 20 small fruits per week.

Parsnips OUR CHOICE ‘Pinnacle’. Smooth-skinned,

tasty roots that are largely resistant to canker. Also winter hardy.

Tip: Pinch out the shoots a couple of leaves beyond the developing fruits. Sow 2.5cm deep Final spacing 45cm apart 45cm between rows Avg. yield: 75 fruits per 3m row SOW HARVEST


Tip: Prevent roots splitting by keeping the soil consistently moist Sow 2.5cm deep Final spacing 15cm apart 30cm between rows Avg. yield: 20 roots per 3m row PLANT



OUR CHOICE ‘Arran Pilot’. First early

variety; waxy texture and one of the best for boiling. Scab-resistant.


Tip: Wait until the flowers open before lifting. Earth up stems as they grow to get a bigger crop. Plant 15cm deep Final spacing 45cm apart 75cm between rows Avg. yield: 5 10kg per 3m row PLANT


OUR CHOICE ‘Fulton’s Strawberry

Surprise’. Vibrant stems with classic rhubarb taste and well-balanced acidity.

Tip: Remove leaves as they die back in autumn to expose crown to frost and produce a good crop next year Plant level with soil Final spacing 90cm apart 30cm between rows Avg. yield: 10kg per 3m row PLANT




OUR CHOICE ‘Flamenco’. Very sweet and

juicy. Grow this productive everbearer in pots or borders.


Tip: Plant at correct depth with crown on surface – too high and they will dry out, too deep and they will rot Plant level with soil Final spacing 30cm apart 60cm between rows Avg. yield: 4.5kg per 3m row SOW

white roots that are ready to eat just six weeks after sowing.


OUR CHOICE ‘Milan White’. Tasty, creamy

Tip: Successionally sow every two to three weeks for a continuous supply of tender young roots Sow 2cm deep Final spacing 15cm apart 30cm between rows Avg. yield: 20 25 roots per 3m row

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Your questions answered

Q&A Edited by Emma Crawforth

With warmth comes slugs Slugs are busy eating garden plants in March, some consuming twice their own body weight each day. What’s more, spring is a peak time for their reproduction, with each slug able to lay up to 50 eggs. After hatching, the young slugs stay underground, developing out of sight and avoiding the birds. We’ve mentioned some slug-control methods on p113 but I’m also a fan of the natural microscopic predators – nematodes. You water them in to your soil as soon as the soil temperature is consistently above 5°C. These creatures are already naturally present in the soil, but it’s possible to increase their numbers by buying more to target slugs while they’re below ground. Refrigerate the pack of nematodes until you can water them in. They’re effective for six weeks then, for best results, it’s time to apply more. Search under nemasysinfo.com/where-to-buy to find stockists and target your slugs before your garden gets munched.

Emma Crawforth, Gardening Editor

This month 156 The Big Question PHOTO: SARAH CUTTLE

How can I garden more organically?

158 Gardeners’ Question Time The BBC Radio 4 experts answer this month’s pick of readers’ queries

Contact us: email your questions to Q&A@gardenersworld.com or write in to Q&A, Gardeners’ World Magazine, Vineyard House, 44 Brook Green, London W6

TOP TIP Use a watering can that has a coarse rose (big holes), so the nematode solution lows freely onto the soil

We regret that we cannot offer a personal garden 7BTgardene com rsworld. advisory service.

Your big question Whatever your gardening problem, David Hurrion has advice on how to solve it

Q How can I garden more organically? Many people come to organic gardening through growing vegetables and fruit so that they can control what goes into their food. In its simplest form, this means not using man-made chemical fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides and weedkillers, as well as striving to source organically grown seeds and young plants. However, in its purest form organic growing can encompass not only what you eat but also the effect gardening has on the environment and wildlife. The principles of organic growing can extend into debates over the use of plastics in protected growing, chemical contamination of garden soil from adjacent, intensively farmed land, roads or soil water and antibiotic residues in cattle manure affecting bacteria in the soil. If you garden without chemicals you’ll need to improve the health and condition of your soil, the raw material that is at the heart of all plant growth. Organic matter is the ultimate controlled-release fertiliser, gradually giving up its nutrients as it’s broken down by processes that are biological and physical (such as weathering). Add as much organic matter – homemade compost, leaf mould and organic animal manure – as possible to your soil, whether to bare soil after one crop has been removed and before the next, or as a shallow mulch while crops are growing. This has the benefit that it rarely gets out of balance with the needs of your plants or the natural environment.




Become a better gardener Successful organic growing also relies on you carrying out good, basic cultural methods. For example, one of the reasons why many farmers’ fields suffer from


pest and disease infestations is because they grow a huge area of the same crop. Invariably this crop is one particular variety, so all the plants in the field are genetically similar. This means that if one plant gets infected, there is the potential for all of them to be, thus pests and diseases can rampage through a whole crop with little to stop them. The same thing can happen in the garden or veg plot where big blocks of one crop are grown, so there is a good deal to recommend growing strips of different crops in between each other to act as a ‘firebreak’ against pests and diseases. It also pays to grow small quantities of different varieties of the same vegetable, rather than putting all your eggs in one basket, as genetic differences between them may provide protection from the wholesale demise of a crop. And look out for heritage varieties, some of which may compromise looks for better resistance to problems than their modern, highly bred equivalent. Meanwhile, for more ways to protect crops from pests, see opposite. If you are raising your own plants, don’t spoil them with kindness. Grown slowly in cool conditions, the foliage will be tougher and more likely to survive the attentions of insects and fungi without the need for chemical intervention. And remember that moderation is good in all aspects – don’t overwater or overfeed as this can encourage sappy growth that is vulnerable to damage. Finally, any organic gardener will tell you that you have to put up with some oddly shaped vegetables, with nibbled bits here or there. You can always cut out the damage or worst deformities. One thing is for sure, growing organically will hone your skills as a gardener!

DAVID SAYS Healthy soil is the basis of organic growing. Add compost once or twice a year to feed soil organisms and to hold moisture and nutrients in the soil surface where roots can use them.

March 2016

your big question

6 organic ways to combat pests

Readers’ tips… On organic growing Grow marigolds in the greenhouse in summer to repel a whole range of pests. Caroline Fawlkes, Nottingham Use seaweed fertiliser as it is full of good nutrients. Dee Batterchargee, Bristol

Use a pure wood ash feed

Rotate your crops

This contains potash, which helps to make all parts of a plant less palatable to insect pests. Sprinkle 5g around the base of plants, or at 50g per m2. Don’t use on acid-loving plants.

Different crops take different elements from soil, so by rotating them it allows the soil to recover its nutrient status. These nutrients keep crops healthier, so they are better able to shrug off pests.

Make an insect spray with ive inely chopped large chillies soaked in a litre of water for 48 hours. Strain out the bits then use in a sprayer on infested plants. Just a light spray is enough, but don’t use on seedlings. David Dibben, Southampton Use Biochar mixed with compost for strong growth. I’ve used it on seedlings for a couple of years and had fewer fungal problems. Carol Zoob, Durham

Disguise plant scents

Look out for infestations

Grow companion plants close to crops to deter insects. Try mint near carrots, cabbages and onions as it disguises their smell from attack by key pests: carrot root fly, flea beetle and onion fly.

Check crops and plants regularly, picking off and disposing of any pests as soon as you see them. This is particularly effective against slugs, caterpillars, lily beetle and vine weevil.

Get a wormery and make your own worm compost and liquid feed. The feed makes plants grow strongly, with bright green leaves. I use it on lettuce. Kevin McInerney, Dublin Hoe between plants every 10 days from mid-March to mid-May. It’s what my granddad did, and it keeps my garden fairly weed-free without the use of chemicals. Mary Groom, Lancaster

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March 2016

Attract natural predators

Feed the birds

Encourage natural predators like hoverflies (their larvae eat aphids and other pests), by planting nectar-rich flowers to attract the adults to lay eggs in your garden. In 2-3 seasons you’ll have a good balance of beneficial insects.

Get birds to visit your garden by feeding them throughout the year and installing a range of nesting boxes. The birds will return the favour by catching garden pests to feed themselves and their fledglings.

Share your gardening advice with other readers and take part in our regular surveys by signing up to our online reader group called Magazine Insiders. You’ll be helping to shape magazine and website content and will be entered into a monthly prize draw. To join, go to immediateinsiders.com




Gardeners’ Question Time

Our experts tackle your gardening problems, including getting raspberries to fruit, dealing with mildew and growing new bromeliads

Q Can I get rid of vine weevil on my heuchera?

Q Should I prune

Replant Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’ in autumn

a photinia irst before moving it?

R Barber, Bristol

Lynda, by email

A PIPPA SAYS Heucheras,

A MATT SAYS Photinia

sedums and fuchsias are some of the vine weevil’s favourites. If your plant is badly damaged and the pot infested with grubs, bin it. But I suggest you treat the compost of all your plants, even those not showing symptoms. Nematode control works very well and kills grubs in compost without risk to the environment.

responds well to pruning, even into old wood, so trim back to a manageable size when dormant, ideally in autumn, and lift with as large a rootball as possible. Plant at the same depth as before, add mycorrhiza around the roots and mulch and water in the growing season to encourage regrowth.

John Kitto, Isle of Man

A PIPPA SAYS Dog lichen,

Throw out compost if you find vine weevil grub infestation in it

usually Peltigera canina, is a common problem on lawns, especially if they’re shaded, poorly drained or the season has been particularly wet, so after last year’s autumn and winter, it is ubiquitous! There are no chemicals to specifically control dog lichen in lawns, but many gardeners report that after using a lawn

product containing ferrous sulphate to tackle moss they also notice incidental control of other problems such as algae, liverworts and lichens, including dog lichen, so it may be worth bearing in mind. In addition, anything you can do to improve growing conditions will tend to help deter further dog lichen growth, so regular aeration, scarification and general lawn care will help both the grass and the dog lichen problem.

I look after a pheasant berry?

D Morris, South Yorkshire

A BOB SAYS This is a very

Georgina Nash, Suffolk

A BOB SAYS Leycesteria



Q What’s the best way to keep rabbits off plants?

Q How should

formosa forms a congested clump of tall, green canes with purple bracts and berries. You can just leave it alone. A light thinning in winter gives a better show with fewer well-placed canes, or cut back hard and start again with a compact clump.

Keep rabbits away from plants with chicken netting cloches

Aerate and scarify your lawn regularly to keep dog lichen at bay

difficult problem, as hungry rabbits are seldom deterred. Traps work; scary things rarely do so for long; yappy dogs are good. The most effective measure is to make small cloches, cages and frames with galvanised chicken netting. Netting the whole garden is less successful as they still get in.

March 2016


Q Is there a chemical to control dog lichen?

gardeners’question time

Bob Flowerdew

Matt Biggs

Pippa Greenwood

Bob is an organic gardener and a regular panellist on BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time.

Matt trained at Kew and has been gardening professionally for more than 20 years.

Pippa is one of the foremost experts on pests and diseases. She gardens using organic methods.

Q What wildlife-friendly plants should we grow by a pond? C Johnston, Ceredigion Wildlife visitors will need plenty of safe habitats

A BOB SAYS Ideally, create habitats from plants emerging from the water near the pond’s edge, through marginals and bog plants to drier ground with brambles, flowering shrubs and trees some distance away (allow enough distance to prevent leaves falling into the pond). Most important are plants that stick out of the water, like flag iris, for critters such as dragonfly larvae to climb up. You also need creeping plants at the edge for other creatures to clamber in and out. I like watercress, as it’s a handy snack when it is not flowering. Don’t forget to leave some shoreline bare of plants for birds and insects to collect mud. Then you’ll need marginal/bog plants to create a shelter of damp, shady cover. I use Good King Henry, as it’s pretty and a tasty spring treat like asparagus.

Cut back raspberry canes as low as possible for consistent fruit

Q How can I get my raspberries to fruit all together? Judith High, West Yorkshire

Wil dlife p o n ds

Myosotis scorpiodes is a pretty pond plant – and newts lay eggs on it

March 2016


Q&A TEAM ANSWER A MATT SAYS Try to include Mentha pulegium, a creeping mint with mauve flowers, which thrives in mud on the edge of a pond and is a nectar source for butterflies, bees and hoverflies. Ranunculus flammula has a sprawling habit and buttercuplike flowers from June to September; it also flourishes at the water’s edge. Callitriche palustris is a good oxygenator in shaded ponds, forming mats of stems with rosettes of leaves, its cover protects fish and infant frogs. One of my favourites, Myosotis scorpiodes, the blue water forget-me-not, grows in boggy soil or shallow water; newts lay eggs on the leaves.

raspberries tend to have a long, sporadic fruiting period, but a tighter pruning regime will help. First, cut down every cane, ideally in February. Short stubs give a slightly earlier but light, more spread-out crop, so prune hard to the ground for a midautumn burst of fruit. Next, thin out new canes when they are knee high, leaving the strongest to grow on – fewer canes further apart will give a cleaner crop. Keep heavily mulched and well watered all summer through to autumn. Do not let more shoots rise from the ground as they waste energy and crowd fruiting canes. Once the bed starts to flower and fruit, nip off the tips from each shoot to concentrate resources on the harvest, or they will go on to make more flowers, as you have noticed.



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gardeners’question time

bamboo invading my shrubbery

Q How do you grow cleomes from seed?

Sian Rumph, Port Talbot

Josephine Underhill, by email

A BOB SAYS If this bamboo

A PIPPA SAYS Perfect timing!

is an invasive runner variety then there is no way that you can stop it other than total extirpation, killing off each and every bit. Sorry, but that’s it. Dig out every scrap and burn it and patrol the area regularly for any signs of its return.

March is the last month I would suggest you sow seed of the showy cleome, or spider flower, for flowering this year, as it is generally done between January and March. I suspect that you probably bought C. spinosa or C. hassleriana, the most commonly available and regarded as a tender or halfhardy annual, so it’s not a plant that keeps coming up year after year, but it is definitely worth raising some from seed. You will need a heated propagator, as the

Q I need to stop

Take stem cuttings from Aeonium arboreum ‘Zwartkop’

Q When should you propagate aeoniums? Dave Cable, Kent

A MATT SAYS Aeoniums can be propagated by stem cuttings, ideally when they are about to start into growth. Cut off a rosette, with about 10cm of stem (they are very adaptable and root from almost any length), allow the cut surface to dry and callus over in a warm, bright place, which can take up to two weeks. Fill a 5-8cm pot with gritty cactus compost or a 50:50 mix of soil-based compost and horticultural grit to within 2.5cm of the rim, insert the cutting so that half is above the compost, firm, then top up with a 1cm layer of grit or perlite, tapping it to level the surface. Label and place in part shade at 18ºC. Pot on once a good root system is established. Keep the compost moist but not waterlogged.


seeds germinate best at around 22-25ºC. Sow the seeds thinly and cover with vermiculite or a very fine layer of compost, as the seeds germinate more reliably in the presence of light. Germination will be improved if you mimic natural conditions to some extent, by allowing the temperature to fall to around 18ºC at night, then letting it go back up to about 25ºC during the day. When the seedlings are large enough to handle easily, prick them out into individual 8-10cm pots filled with good-quality, well-drained compost, grow them on and plant out when the last frosts are over.

Propa g atio n

Choose clump-forming, not running, bamboo for gardens

Q How do I revive a ‘hardy’ gardenia? J M Burton, Dorset

A MATT SAYS Once the danger of frost has passed, remove any dead stems back to strong new growth and feed with general fertiliser. To prevent damage next winter, cover your plant with horticultural fleece, or grow your gardenia in a pot you can move, overwintering it in a cool, sheltered place.

Sow cleomes early in the year

Ann Fryatt, Pembrokeshire


Give Gardenia jasminoides winter protection

BOB SAYS This straggly, scrambling shrub has naturalised in hedgerows on poor soil in coastal UK counties. It does not usually need fertiliser when young. You say pollinators visit the goji bush and you’ve fed it tomato food, which is high in potash and could have pushed it into an overfed, almost chlorotic state, so is the foliage yellowish? I do not think it is a dioecious plant with male and female

forms, but maybe a group of different plants would do better, as happens with blueberries and hazels. Your goji bush is flowering but not setting fruit, despite pollinating visitors (those insects might not be doing the job though), so I suspect dry roots. As Pembrokeshire is not a dry county, perhaps the plant is in a dry site? It is possible the roots have been damaged or eaten, which would have a similar effect, so you could check those. Otherwise you must be patient.

Plant goji bushes in full sun for good fruiting



Q Why is there no fruit on my goji bush?


gardeners’question time

Q What should I do to encourage my moth orchid to lower again?

Q How should I tackle mildew in the garden?

A PIPPA SAYS I love moth orchids, or phalaenopsis – they are just about the only houseplant that I do well with! It sounds as if your plant is basically healthy enough, but perhaps its conditions could do with tweaking a bit to encourage it to flower again? Try to ensure that the temperature does not fall below 16°C during the winter months and make sure there is fair humidity at all times: standing the pot on a tray of gravel works really well. Moth orchids will enjoy any natural light they can get over the winter and I would not feed them then, but at this time of year they appreciate a feed. I suggest you buy some specially formulated orchid food – a tiny pot may seem expensive but it lasts for years and years and I find it makes a real difference.

R Knight, Warwickshire Give moth orchids a spring feed to aid flowering

Q What are the best conditions for my hydrangea? J. Stephens, South Yorkshire

A MATT SAYS The way to

This Hydrangea paniculata ‘Great Star’ will thrive in a sheltered spot



understand a plant is to know the conditions in its native habitat. Hydrangea paniculata is a native of eastern and southern China, Japan and Russia’s Sakhalin Island. Its habitat is in sparse forests, bamboo thickets in valleys, mountain tops and slopes by streams and is found at an altitude of up to 1,200m in climates ranging from cool temperate to sub-tropical. Some describe Hydrangea paniculata as a tree of up to just over 9m, others as a lax shrub to 1.8m. It needs a sheltered spot, protected from cold winter winds, early spring frosts and early morning sun. The soil should be moisture-retentive and organic-rich – it is ideal for a woodland garden. Mulch liberally with well-rotted organic matter in spring when the soil is moist to conserve moisture and improve soil structure.

A PIPPA SAYS Mildews are one of the most widespread fungal pathogens in gardens: there is a powdery mildew for just about every plant, including many weeds. The fungus responsible sometimes attacks several different plants, but generally mildews are quite host specific or restrict their attacks to a group of closely related plants. Although there are several different species of powdery mildew, control of them all is the same. Powdery mildews seem to thrive and spread very efficiently when the air is moist, so do all you can to provide good air circulation, ensuring plants are adequately spaced and not overcrowded and pruning to encourage an open canopy. It is best to avoid watering over the foliage as this will encourage many infections, including powdery and downy mildews. Conversely, powdery mildews thrive on plants that are a bit too dry at the roots, so regular watering and mulching will help reduce problems with them too. If mildew does develop, you should always remove infected areas promptly to avoid the risk of spreading the disease, and rake up and dispose of any infected fallen leaves.

Prune out shoots attacked by mildew before it spreads

March 2016


Gloria Butcher, Leicestershire


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gardeners’question time

Q How can I stop cats using my lawn as a toilet?

Q What is this yellowish dust that comes off my yew tree in March?

Eric Hughes, East Sussex

A MATT SAYS Try ultrasonic sound deterrents or water sprayers which detect movement, or use model cats as scarecrows; aromatic deterrents also have some effect but need regular re-applicaton after rain or mowing. As with all deterrents, some cats will ignore them, so keep experimenting. If all else fails, buy a cat or dog of your own.

Jean Watson, by email

Yew trees, such as this cone, make pollen when big enough to flower

A PIPPA SAYS Many trees, including yew, are wind pollinated, so they have to produce masses of pollen in order to stand a good chance of successful pollination. As you have seen, the tiny male flowers are generally inconspicuous, but when they’re producing pollen it is not uncommon for the grass, paving, parked cars, etc. beneath the tree to be covered with a yellowish coating. Some people may react to this pollen, with symptoms of asthma, lethargy and aching joints, but more often than not when a tree is growing outdoors it does not seem to pose a significant risk.

Q Is it possible to grow bromeliads on branches? Keith Tingey, Kent Remove as much of the root as possible to avoid regeneration

A BOB SAYS I assume you mean air plants (tillandsia), not chunkier bromeliads such as pineapples! What you’re recreating is a moist, partly shady tropical forest clearing with fallen trees providing niches for them to survive in. So, select branches that have natural or man-made pockets where moisture and compost can gather. Pack the pockets with free-draining compost, such as orchid compost mixed with multi-purpose compost. Position the plants, ease the roots into place around the branch and wind over each one with pre-soaked fibre twine or string made from old tights. This will green over quicker if pre-soaked in dirty water.

Q I want to kill brambles in a wall Terence Lee, Bristol

A MATT SAYS Try to do it without chemicals. If there is a large thicket, cut back to a manageable size, where you can easily reach the base; the stems should be 60cm-1.2m long. Using a spade or mattock, clear the soil from the roots and dig them out, easing them away from the wall. Remove as much of the roots as possible, as they can regenerate from below soil level. Brambles are wildlife-friendly, so leave some as native habitat.

Make sure air plants are not standing in water


Ways to ind more help If you have a gardening problem, email the details (and your location) to Q&A@gardenersworld.com or write to Emma Crawforth at Gardeners’ World Magazine, Vineyard House, 44 Brook Green, London W6 7BT. We regret that we cannot offer a personal advisory service or guarantee a reply. You’ll also ind lots of pest and disease advice, along with creative and problem-solving projects, at gardenersworld.com/how-to

March 2016

Gardening on the radio

Gardeners’ Question Time Enjoy a fascinating crop of listeners’ Missed it? questions and answers Listen online from the experts every within seven days week, on BBC Radio 4, at bbc.co.uk/ Fridays at 3pm, repeated radio4 Sundays at 2pm. 92-95FM & 198LW



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Discover the beauty and heritage of some

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INCLUDED IN YOUR CRUISE _ Host Tony Russell _ Welcome drinks party _ Exclusive gardeners’ talks and get-togethers with your host _ Delicious full-board cuisine, plus afternoon teas and late-night snacks _ Welcome and farewell Captain’s Cocktail Parties _ Self-service tea and coffee from 6am to 10pm _ Stylish entertainment, cabarets and popular classical interludes _ Daytime activities programme _ Wide range of leisure facilities _ Porterage of luggage from port to cabin _ Port taxes

Your host Tony Russell

Your itinerary _ 6 July Tilbury, London Join Magellan. _ 7 July At sea Meet your host, Tony Russell, and enjoy a Gardeners’ Talk & Question Time. _ 8 July Kirkwall, Orkney Islands Discover Kirkwall’s rich Viking heritage at St Magnus Cathedral. Gardeners’ drinks party. _ 9 July Stornoway, Outer Hebrides* Explore the bustling harbour with specialist shops selling local handcrafted goods. _ 10 July Tobermory, Isle of Mull* Stroll round the picture-postcard village of Tobermory. Join Tony Russell for a gardeners’ get-together before dinner. _ 11 July Dublin, Ireland Discover the city’s fascinating history and literary tradition, and enjoy a garden tour of Mount Usher Gardens.

_ 12 July St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly* Stop off at Britain’s only island archipelago, and make the most of its white-sand beaches. Enjoy a free garden tour of the famous Abbey Gardens. _ 13 July St Peter Port, Guernsey* Stroll through St Peter Port and its fascinating waterfront. Optional tour of the Subtropical Gardens at Sausmarez Manor with Tony Russell. _ 14 July Honfleur, France Explore the pretty port of Honfleur, past narrow halftimbered houses, cobblestone streets and its charming old harbour. Optional garden tour of Giverny and the gardens of Claude Monet. _ 15 July Tilbury, London Arrive back in London early morning. * Anchor port

Horticultural highlights _ Tresco Abbey Gardens, Isles of Scilly (free) _ Mount Usher Gardens, Dublin (free) _ Sausmarez Manor Sub-tropical Gardens, Guernsey (optional) _ Monet’s Garden, Giverny (optional) Mount Usher Gardens

Monet’s Garden

For further details or to book your place call

0330 303 8599 quoting BBC Gardeners’ World Reader Offer



March 2016


offer Tenerife

13 nights from only £1,299pp


Explore the sun-drenched gardens of

Tenerife and Madeira with Tony Russell, broadcaster, tree expert and former head forester at Westonbirt Arboretum. A full programme of activities on board Balmoral will compete for your time, including exclusive lectures and question times. Onshore, meanwhile, it will be gardens galore with free garden tours in Madeira and Lisbon.

INCLUDED IN YOUR CRUISE _ Host Tony Russell _ En-suite accommodation with TV, hairdryer, safe and individually controlled air-conditioning _ All meals throughout your cruise – from fivecourse a la carte dining, to casual buffets and late-night snacks _ All-inclusive drinks package _ Complimentary tea and coffee at selected venues, including afternoon tea with sandwiches and cakes, and in-cabin snacks _ All evening entertainment _ Captain’s Drinks Party and Gala Buffet _ On-board leisure facilities including gym, swimming pools and Jacuzzis _ Daily on board activities and lectures _ 3 formal nights _ Port taxes and baggage porterage between your cabin and drop-off/pick-up point

Your host Tony Russell

Your itinerary _ 30 October Southampton Set sail on board Balmoral. _ 31 October-2 November At sea Meet your host at the get-togethers in the main lounge. _ 3 November Funchal, Madeira Funchal has a benign climate that fills this ‘floating garden’ with the colours and perfumes of subtropical flowers and fruit. Free visit to Palheiro gardens to seek out rare and exotic plants. _ 4 November Santa Cruz, La Palma Stroll round the pretty capital and try the exquisite local cuisine. Journey to the south of the island to discover the flora of San Antonio Volcano. _ 5 November Santa Cruz, Tenerife Take in Tenerife’s natural colours and contrasts, and enjoy an optional tour of the botanical gardens.

_ 6 November Las Palmas, Gran Canaria Explore Las Palmas, a vibrant new town that sits happily alongside the 15th-century old quarter. _ 7 November Arrecife, Lanzarote Covered with volcanic ash and petrified lava, the island is interwoven with lush vegetation. _ 8 November Cruising at sea Enjoy a gardeners’ get-together and the ship’s activities. _ 9 November Lisbon, Portugal Wander through Lisbon’s cobbled streets. Tour the Park and Palace of Monserrate, and the gardens of the Quinta da Regaleira with Tony Russell. _ 10-11 November At sea Enjoy two last talks and a gardeners’ question time. _ 12 November Southampton Arrive back in Southampton.

Horticultural highlights _ Palheiro Gardens, Madeira (free) _ Quinta da Regaleira, Lisbon (free) _ Tenerife’s Botanical Gardens (optional) _ Exclusive talks and gardeners’ drinks and get-togethers Gardens of Palheiro

Madeira’s lush scenery

Terms & conditions: These cruises are organised by www.cruise.co.uk Ltd (ABTA 78024) for BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine and are acting as agents on behalf of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines and Cruise and Maritime Voyages and are subject to the individual cruise line’s terms and conditions. www.cruise.co.uk, Grosvenor House, Prospect Hill, Redditch, Worcestershire B97 4DL. Prices shown are per person, based on the lead-in cabin fare and in twin occupancy. Single prices are available on request. Please note all tours and places of interest mentioned, with the exception of the FREE tours mentioned, are not included in the cruise fare and may be visited on optional tours. Full details of the shore tours available for you to book will be sent to you prior to the cruise. The experts hosting any of our cruises are subject to personal circumstances permitting. We plan to visit the gardens mentioned in the itinerary, however we reserve the right to change a visit should circumstances become necessary.

March 2016




& tell

Paths, paving and colourful beds


Send your tips and photos to Show & tell, Gardeners’ World Magazine, Vineyard House, 44 Brook Green, London W6 7BT or email letters@gardenersworld. com and you could win National Garden Gift Vouchers.

25 years on I knew from your first issue 25 years ago that BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine was very special. Here’s me with my first two treasured issues, the contents of which are still topical; for example, Alan Titchmarsh’s column about box is worth a reprint. Joy Henocq, Dorset


No hard feelings When we moved here in 2013, we found a very unloved garden that had been a nursery and contained three greenhouses with concrete bases. We dug them up, improved the soil and laid brick paths across the lawn to get the cottage-garden look. We added flower beds and a huge wildlife-attracting pond, which had tadpoles in it last year. Rick and Laura Prior, Lincolnshire

Use fallen branches of berries to attract feeding birds

Home to roost Inspired by your feature New ways to feed birds, (January issue), I bought a feeding station and made some nesting balls, which I’ve hung on the fruit trees. Since then, I’ve definitely noticed an increase in bird activity in the garden. Valerie Griffin, Weymouth

Rich pickings

Moss, pet hair and short bits of wool are ideal for nests

While the cat’s away Having just planted a trough to form a spring bulb lasagne, the following day I found that a cat had mistaken it for a large litter tray! As we have a ready supply of pine cones, I filled the trough with them, and it worked a treat. I watch out for the first shoots and then make a decision as to whether I can let the bulbs grow through the cones, or remove them gradually, hoping the cats don’t notice any bare soil. Margaret Wooler, Skipton

Cat-repelling cones keep bulbs safe

CROSSWORD SOLUTION – see page 192 for puzzle

ACROSS 1 Mulches 7 Unique 8 Dates 9 Tomatoes 11 Laura 12 Scree Bed 16 Reed 19 Iresine 20 Lilium 21 Spartan 23 Curl 24 Sun 25 Straw

When our Cotoneaster ‘Cornubia’ was damaged by high winds, and the last of the apples had dropped to the ground, my husband packed them all into the hanging bird feeder. Together with our nut and seed feeders, the birds have a wide variety to eat. Iona Chisholm, Staffordshire


Down 1 Modular 2 Lettuce 3 Hostas 4 Summer 5 Little 6 June 10 Sedge 13 Crimson 14 Elegans 15 Blister 17 Erinus 18 Drills 22 New

Joy and the first two issues

The former nursery was covered in concrete

Spades of praise Thank you for the memories you brought me with your feature Spades On Test, (January issue). When I was young, I used to love helping my dad and granddad in the garden. One day, after my dad had broken a spade, he looked at me thoughtfully, then went off



to the shed and came back with a spade that had been whittled down to suit my size. I’m 69 this year, and it has travelled the world with me, to Hong Kong, California and the Canaries. It has been – and still is – a great little spade. Maria McGladdery, Devon

We award National Garden Gift Vouchers for all published letters: £50 for a makeover, £25 for a letter and photo, and £10 for a letter. We are unable to return photos. If sending digital photos, make sure they are taken on the camera’s highest image resolution setting. We can’t give individual replies and we reserve the right to edit letters. National Garden Gift Vouchers can be bought and redeemed at more than 2,000 outlets in the UK, with more than 90,000 plants and products on offer. Visit thevouchergarden.co.uk

March 2016


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Michelham Priory & Gardens

Marwood Hill Gardens

Upper Dicker, Hailsham BN27 3QS

Marwood, Nr Barnstaple EX31 4EB

There is much to enjoy in the seven-acre grounds – from physic and medieval herb gardens, to a working watermill and forge, a sculpture trail, and wildflowers thriving in the orchard. Open 14 Feb-20 Dec, daily, 10.30am-5pm (4pm Feb); adults £8.90, concs

A stream runs through this magical 20-acre garden nestling in a Devon valley. Designed around three beautiful lakes, it offers woodland walks, valley views and impressive collections of plants and trees. Open 1 Mar-30 Sept, daily, 10am-5.00pm; adults £6, children

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Bluebell Arboretum & Nursery

National Botanic Garden of Wales Carmarthenshire SA32 8HN

This nine-acre woodland garden boasts a fine collection of rare and native trees and shrubs, including magnolia and ornamental cherries. Discover tranquil walks and seasonal colour. Open March to October (closed Easter Sunday), daily, 9am-5pm, (Sun-10.30am-4pm); adults £5, concs £4, under 18s free S 01530 413700, bluebellnursery.com

Covering 568 acres, these diverse gardens include the Norman Foster-designed Great Glasshouse, filled with plants from all over the world, many of them endangered, a nature reserve and Japanese garden. Open all year, daily,10am-6pm; adults £8.86, children (5-16) £4.50, under 5s free S 01558 667149, gardenofwales.org.uk

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Ripley Castle & Gardens

The Japanese Garden

Ripley, Harrogate HG3 3AY

St Mawgan, Nr Newquay TR8 4ET

Spring bulbs create a blaze of seasonal colour, plus a walled garden contains one of the National Collections of Hyacinths and wooded pleasure grounds lead to a lakeside where deer graze under ancient oaks. Open all year, daily, 9am-5pm, winter (10am-4pm);

Tranquility reigns in this harmonious garden designed to encourage reflection and inspire the imagination. Discover winding paths, waterfalls, ponds, bridges, stone lanterns and a teahouse, bonsai, maples and azaleas. Open 1 Mar-31 Oct, daily, 10am-6pm; adults £4.50,

adults £7.50, concs £6.50, children (5-16) £5 S 01423 770152, ripleycastle.co.uk

under 16s £2, young children free S 01637 860116, japanesegarden.co.uk

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This coupon cannot be used for groups or in conjunction with any other offer. Coupon to be used once only. Voucher is not valid on event days. Photocopies are not acceptable. No cash alternative.

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YOUR CURRENT 2 FOR 1 CARD IS VALID UNTIL 12 APRIL 2016 For info go to gardenersworld.com/2-for-1-gardens and look out for your new card and guide in the MAY 2016 ISSUE



March 2016

*You are advised to contact the garden before visiting to confirm details are still correct.

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Next month.. April issue on sale 25 March

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BACK TO BASICS Step-by-step guides to the essential skills every gardener needs to know P25 core techniques, including plant choices PProjects to do in the garden with children PTips to help ensure you succeed every time PCollectable three-part series, free in April, May and June issues

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March 2016


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gardeners’ puzzle

Crossword Put down your trowel, pick up a pen and exercise those brain muscles instead…

Issue number 301

How to get in touch PHONE





For all enquiries call 020 7150 5700

note that we do not offer a garden advisory service) (please For practical gardening advice, log on to gardenersworld.com



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Editor Lucy Hall Acting Deputy Editors Jodie Jones, Kay Maguire Chief Sub/Production Editor John Perkins Associate Editor David Hurrion







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ACROSS 1 Replenish the gravel and stone __ on your alpine garden or 12 across (7) 7 Widely grown cultivar of Hydrangea paniculata (6)

8 The sweet, dark-brown fruits of a specific palm tree, eaten dried (5)

9 Seeds of these glossy, red salad fruits can be planted under cover (8) 11 Modern dwarf variety of a crab apple, ideal for a small garden (5)

12 Garden feature, perfect for growing alpines and sun-loving plants (5,3) 16 Tall, grassy plant that likes water or marshy ground (4) 19 Beefsteak plant is a name for __ herbstii (7)

20 __ longiflorum is better known as Easter lily (6) 21 Popular, dark-red dessert apple with crisp, white flesh (7) 23 Watch for peach leaf __ and remove infected leaves (4) 24 __rose is a name for helianthemum (3) 25 Dried stalks of grain that make a useful mulch (5)

DOWN 1 Plant onion sets now in __ trays of compost (7) 2 Sow seeds of salad plants, including this leafy staple (7) 3 Lift and divide large clumps of these fancy foliage favourites (6) 4 This is a good month to sow __ bedding plants (6)

5 ‘__ Gem’ is a crisp, sweet variety of 2 down (6) 6 __berry is a name for amelanchier (4)

10 Grass-like plant with three-sided stems that grows in wet ground (5)

13 Sow a green manure crop such as __ clover (7) 14 Latin name meaning refined or graceful, as in Hosta sieboldiana __ (7) 15 White __ is a foliar disease found on some ornamental plants and vegetables, such as broccoli (7) 17 Lobelia __ is a popular trailing plant with numerous cultivars (6)

18 Vegetable seeds are often sown in these straight, narrow furrows (6) 22 Jersey Royal is a well-known example of a __ potato (3)

The solution to this crossword can be found in Show & tell on p168 192


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March 2016

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March 2016



And finally…

Tales from

Titchmarsh pring, and a young man’s

fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. Well, a young man’s fancy might but, to be honest, an older man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of mowers. Come to that, it turns to anything mechanical that will make this year in the garden slightly easier on the back than last. Funny, isn’t it, this obsession men have with anything that has wheels? Oh, I know that women also enjoy driving – I’ve no wish to be remotely sexist, but I’ve never heard a lady pining for a ride-on mower. Ever. It’s a state of mind confined to the male of the species, and it’s taken to ridiculous levels. On several occasions I’ve had to explain to male acquaintances that in a garden just 20ft by 40ft it’ll be barely possible to get a ride-on mower through the gate, let alone turn it around on a lawn that’s 6ft shorter in every direction than the garden, thanks to the flower borders that surround it. But if the lawn is anything like a decent size, there’s no holding them. They’ll toddle down to the local garden machinery emporium on the first sunny day in spring, imbued with a level of


And so our hero returns home with a mortgagesized hole in his bank account and a line in conversation that covers everything except the ‘toy’

excitement equalled only by the prospect of acquiring a Porsche in middle age. This isn’t a mid-life crisis; it’s an entitlement that comes with seniority. The only time when their spirits may sink is when they’re told the price of their chosen model, for they’ll realise that a second-hand Porsche would cost very little more. And what make of ride-on will they plump for? Will they choose one because they like the colour? Unlikely. They’ll select the one with the most macho appeal: the thickest tyres, the greatest ‘agricultural’ appeal, the growl of a tractor crossed with a Ferrari when the starter key is turned. They’ll quickly get over the dent the machine is likely to make in their bank balance, having reasoned with themselves that the time it’ll save in walking up and down the lawn, and trundling to the compost heap every 30 seconds to empty the grass box will more than repay the outlay. Time, after all, is money; even if it’s leisure time. (This last claim is absolute nonsense, but not one of them will admit this in the scarlet haze of excitement that accompanies the purchase of their chosen steed.) They may, in moments of desperation, even attempt to offset the bills from the chiropractor that would result from lugging a heavy grassbox to the compost heap after that first spring flush. Once the customer has decided on the vehicle of choice, and run the palm of his hand over its sleek contours, the salesman will notice the air of vulnerability that pervades the normally hard-bitten businessman, and move in for the kill. Not content with selling his prey, sorry, customer, the ride-on mower itself (and one far more powerful than is needed for a tenth-of-an-acre of greensward), he’ll feel honourbound to take his victim, sorry, customer, through the range of attachments that are available as ‘optional extras’. After all, what’s the

point in investing in a machine that has the capability to spike and scarify, plough and harrow if all you do is cut grass with it? There’s the optional range of gang mowers that can be towed behind to produce a far finer lawn than the under-body rotary deck that’s fitted as standard. How your neighbours will admire your velvety paddock that now makes theirs look like some old farmer’s field. If you balk at this as being just a little too extravagant, you can invest in a tall mesh-sided trailer into which the cut grass from the rotary deck is blown, provided you also equip yourself with the arrangement of tubes and hoppers that’ll deliver the clippings from the ground to the lofty heights of the trailer. You’ll be able to mow for several minutes without having to dismount and perform the emptying operation, which, incidentally, will be much less of an inconvenience if you also invest in the hydraulics that’ll tip up the trailer so that you don’t have to use your own muscle power. And so, our hero returns home with a song in his heart, a mortgagesized hole in his bank account and a line in conversation with the wife that covers everything except the ‘toy’ with which he has just indulged himself. There’ll be time enough to justify himself when she sees the improved state of their lawn. All he has to do now is to arrange delivery when she’s out and an extension to the garage to accommodate it. A dust sheet will hide it from view until he’s ready for the confrontation. There will be moments, in the future, when his wife will wonder why he didn’t spend the money on a grazing cow. That way, at least, he might have reduced the milk bill.

March 2016


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Gardeners world mag 1603 25th anniversary edition  

gardeners world anniversary edition 2016. gardening design. garden.

Gardeners world mag 1603 25th anniversary edition  

gardeners world anniversary edition 2016. gardening design. garden.