Blogs We Love

Here at Thompson & Morgan we love to check out other blogs. There are so many great allotment and gardening bloggers out there, it would be a shame not to share what they do with you – here are just a few of our favourites.

Grow your own meals – these 11 Instagrammers will show you how

Freshly harvested veg box

These Instagrammers provide plenty of new serving suggestions for homegrown produce
Image: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Food delivered straight from plot to plate is the freshest, healthiest and most delicious food you’ll ever eat. With an allotment, veg patch, or even just a couple of window boxes, you can grow your own meals and live your version of the good life. 

Whether you’re just starting out, or a seasoned plot-to-plater, here are eleven excellent Instagrammers you’ll want to follow.

@the_seasonal_table

Herb seasoning salt from the seasonal table

Make your own aromatic garden herb seasoning salt
Image: @the_seasonal_table

Radishes thrive anywhere from your window sill to planters and vegetable beds. But did you know you can also eat radish seed pods? Tom and Kathy of @the_seasonal_table say: “Picked while they are green and not yet beginning to dry and harden, the pods add a crisp, slightly peppery bite to salads or stir-fries.

A herb garden is a wonderful way to start gardening, and it’s something you can do even if you have no garden at all. Here Tom and Kathy have come up with an excellent way to preserve your herb harvest to use later – make it into a garden herb seasoning salt for all year round use. Hmm, you can almost smell the aroma.

@locallyseasonal

Basket of foraged mushrooms

@locallyseasonal shares how you can grow your own oyster mushrooms
Image: Africa_Studio/Shutterstock

Have you ever wished you could grow your own delicious oyster mushrooms? It’s 18 months since GB, the allotmenteer behind @locallyseasonal hammered some spore-impregnated dowels into some logs. She says, “It’s been an impatient wait ever since. So very worth it though!” We think you’ll agree, they look scrumptious.

@locallyseasonal is, as her Instagram tag suggests, all about growing and eating seasonal produce. Ready to try your hand at jam making? GB’s raspberry glut has been put to excellent use: “It’ll be worth the effort in winter when I can open one of these jars and taste summer.

@agentsoffield

Aubergine parmigiana from Sophie & Ade

Anyone for aubergine parmigiana?
Image: @agentsoffield

An aubergine harvest calls for a garden-inspired aubergine parmigiana – it’s the perfect way to use onions, garlic, tomatoes and homegrown herbs. As Ade of @agentsoffield says, “I would like to take this moment to thank the kitchen garden for providing most of the ingredients. Without you, it would have simply been hot cheese.

Ade and Sophie, the couple behind @agentsoffield, say they’re veggie adventurers in their own kitchen garden and love to share images of their produce, cooking and more via their Instagram feed. More shallots than you can eat right now? Pickle them.

@rivercottagehq

Apple and blackberry pie

This scrummy seasonal pudding will get your taste buds tingling
Image: abimages/Shutterstock

Straight from the kitchen at @rivercottagehq, their Apple & Blackberry Pie features in the Gluten-Free cookbook and is the perfect way to get the best from your autumn harvest of garden apples and hedgerow blackberries.

Home of the legendary Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, this is the place to find all the latest pics of produce and wonderfully creative recipe ideas from Hugh and the team. Fantastic tomatoes? Try making this awesome pizza.

@lavenderandleeks

Bowl of raspberries from Lavender & Leeks

The autumn bliss raspberries have done well this year
Image: @lavenderandleeks

What better way to enjoy a juicy topping on your muesli than by picking your own succulent raspberries to sprinkle on top? Join Katie of @lavenderandleeks on her allotment where she grows a wonderful selection of fruit, vegetables and beautiful flowers.

In fact, as allotments go this must be one of the most picturesque we’ve ever seen. From the loveliest purple sprouting broccoli to bunches of the most dazzling dahlias, if there’s one thing Katie knows how to do, it’s to wow your senses with images of the fruit, veg and blooms she grows herself.

@a_countrylife

Cauliflower and mustard soup from A Country Life

Try this delicious warming soup for autumn
Image: @a_countrylife

Imagine the tang of piccalilli fused with the warmth of a winter soup and you’re on your way to imagining just how tasty Kate’s cauliflower and mustard soup is. Add a sprinkle of cheddar cheese and we think you’ll agree this is a great way to put your garnered produce to the best of uses.

@a_countrylife is curated by “gardener, cook, writer, hobby farmer and lover of the great outdoors” – Kate from Norfolk. Here you’ll discover awesome pics of big Norfolk skies, fabulous produce and, for those with a sweet tooth, some of the most innovative flavours for home made ice cream that we’ve ever come across…

@the_hairy_horticulturist

A horned melon closeup from Sam at The Hairy Horticulturalist

Sam from Cornwall displaying a horned melon
Image: @the_hairy_horticulturist

They’ve got some decent girth and a few more flowers are still appearing,” says Sam @the_hairy_horticulturist! He’s talking about his horned melons – incredible fruits that look like something from a Harry Potter film.

Sam says he’s all about fruit, veg and herbs, providing info and education which sometimes involves filming wildlife – and beard growing of course. Wondering how to make your watermelons sweeter? Slow down the watering in the final weeks, says Sam.

@themarmaladeteapot

No-bake fig, honey & walnut tart

Katie’s no-bake fig, honey and walnut tarts make great use of these delicious fruits
Image: @themarmaladeteapot

What better way to use up windfall pears than by baking a delicious pear tarte tatin? With this easy-to-follow demonstration courtesy of grower and cook, Katie at @themarmaladeteapot, you’ll be sitting down to enjoy this wonderful French pudding with a generous dollop of vanilla ice cream in no time.

For those who lack a sweet tooth, we recommend you try this tasty looking courgette galette. Katie says it combines “fresh flavours of lemon & courgette cut through with pungent garlic & chive, all held together with a smooth, creamy cheese filling & crumbly wholemeal crust.” Does it get any better than that?

@a_little_garden

Stuffed squashed from a little garden

Comfort food – stuffed squashes
Image: @a_little_garden

Nothing complicated,” says Italian-Yorkshire grower, Kuki at @a_little_garden. “I basically stuffed the squash with leftovers: at the bottom mashed potatoes, followed by a layer of risotto and topped with mozzarella.

This instagram feed charts the gardening and cooking adventures of Kuki and Fedu who started out with a lawned back garden, and transformed it into a grow-your-own paradise. Here you’ll find loads of fine produce which finds an Italian flavour once it makes it to the kitchen. Fried sage leaves anyone? They’re an Italian delicacy.

@gardenplot.57

mixed herbs with calendula

Add summer zest to your mixed herbs with a sprinkling of calendula
Image: @gardenplot.57

Calendula is easy to grow and is busting with antioxidant compounds, says organic gardener Carla of @gardenplot.57. To use it fresh, just pluck the petals from the flower base and sprinkle them over scrambled eggs, salads, frittatas and salsas. For a taste of sunshine all year round, Carla says “try drying the flowers and adding the petals to a homegrown herb mix.

From her plot in Cornwall, Carla brings you fresh produce plus wonderfully fragrant homemade herbal lotions and potions. You’ll love her lavender and dandelion salves – they’re simple and satisfying to make, and far better than shop-bought alternatives.

@monikabrzoza

Peppers and stuff for preserving

Don’t just freeze it – preserve it
Image: @monikabrzoza

With a glut of seasonal produce, it’s tempting to simply bag it and freeze it. But making traditional conserves, preserves, piccalillis, and chutneys is well worth the effort. Wondering what to do with all those cherry tomatoes? Capture their intense flavour by drying them, says Monika at @monikabrzoza.

From her Essex allotment, Monika’s posts celebrate the sheer colour of harvest time. Check out the greens, oranges and golden yellows of this year’s squash harvest. This Instagrammer offers a virtual feast for the eyes, as well as the taste buds.

We hope you’ve been inspired to get more from your plot onto your plate. If you post any of your homegrown meals on Instagram, we’d love you to share them with us.

Blogs to inspire you to grow your own

Beginner or experienced veg grower? Sharing tips helps produce bumper crops
Image: Shutterstock

Food you grow yourself is fresh, healthy, and nutritious, but if you’re new to gardening, it’s not always easy to know where to start. If you’re wondering whether you have the space or the knowhow to grow your own, here’s the inspiration you need. And if you’re looking for new fruit and veg to try, or you’re not sure what went wrong with a recent crop, try following some of these helpful grow-your-own blogs…. 

read more…

10 awesome allotment blogs

Check out these awesome allotmenteers
Image: shutterstock

There’s an allotment revival going on at the moment. And it’s no wonder. Growing your own helps you eat better and cheaper, get fit, and spend quality time outdoors with friends and family.

If you fancy grabbing a piece of the ‘good life’ for yourself, then have a nose through these awesome allotment blogs. With practical how-tos, delicious homegrown recipes and inspirational pictures, they’ll make an allotmenteer of you yet.

Veg Plotting

veg plotting's home grown figs

Homegrown figs queuing up to feature in Michelle’s figgy cheese tart
Image: Veg Plotting

Ever wondered if you should break the rules when it comes to bulbs or asked yourself how to deal with ‘June drop’? Michelle, the green fingers behind Veg Plotting, has all the answers. This allotmenteer and ‘subversive soprano’ from Wiltshire has been tending her plot since 2003, when her husband’s illness inspired her to grow good, honest fayre for her family.

Fifteen years on, Michelle grows pretty much everything. Veg Plotting is a wonderful mix of advice, inspiration and humour. You’ll find a wealth of tutorials and some magnificent recipes including allotment soup and figgy cheese tart.

Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments

The berries are in at Green Lane allotments!
Image: Green Lane Allotments

It all started in the ‘80s with a single plot on a West Yorkshire allotment. As growing went out of fashion and neighbouring plots became vacant and overgrown, Sue and her husband took another plot, then another, and so on, until they ended up with five!

Sue is now the oracle on all things allotment-based. She generously shares growing techniques and top tips with her readership; such as why you should always leave slug-nibbled berries on the plant. Plus there are garden sudokus for rainy days and ‘young seedlings’ ideas to get the children hooked on growing.

Flighty’s plot

Flighty is pleased as Punch with his Polka Dot cornflowers
Image: Flighty’s Plot

Flighty’s Plot is tended by Mike: ‘allotmenteer, armchair gardener, blogger and sofa flyer’. Mike took over his allotment in 2007 and instantly fell in love with growing, getting to know the local wildlife and regular chat with fellow plot holders. Indeed, reading Flighty’s Plot feels a lot like chatting to an old friend.

Let Mike keep you up to date with the progress of this season’s crops and his close encounters with Foxy. When he’s not tending his allotment, Mike can be found on the sofa with a good book and a nice cup of tea. Our kind of chap.

Living on one acre or less

Photo of Udo from Living on one acre or less

Sally’s blog is the place to go for unusual produce
Image: Living on one acre or less

You don’t see udo very often in the UK,” says Sally Morgan. This huge Asian ‘vegetable’ is strikingly ornamental and has medicinal properties. If you’re fascinated by unusual produce or dream of living the good life on a modestly-sized smallholding, Sally Morgan’s blog, Living on one acre or less, is a brilliant resource.

Looking for organic crops to sow and harvest in 60 days? Sally has the ideal way to get your plot off to a flying start. Whether it’s “no-dig”, peat-free or “deep mulching,” she generously shares her own successes and failures along with plenty of tips. Sally writes about what she’s growing, the animals she keeps and different techniques to try. And with a Natural Sciences degree from Cambridge, it’s no surprise that Sally likes to experiment with different methods.

Agents of Field

agents of field's jam

Follow these beauties as they journey from allotment to breakfast table
Image: Agents of Field

Sophie and Ade are the Agents of Field and their mission is to save the Earth ‘one forkful at a time’. Their superpowers are sustainability, thriftiness and some very green fingers. And with twenty years of film and TV production between them, their blog is bursting with beautiful images and witty words.

So dive in and let horticulturalist Ade show you how to battle aphid invasions and upcycle just about any old rubbish into vital equipment for the allotment. Then settle down and discover how chef Sophie transforms both crops and weeds into mouthwatering meals. Nettle pesto, anyone?

Sharpen Your Spades

peas from sharpen your spades

Richard’s Blauwschokker peas are thriving in his no-dig allotment 
Image: Sharpen Your Spades

Richard Chivers is the man behind Sharpen Your Spades. His early growing career was a tempestuous one as he hurtled from one short-lived allotment fling to the next. But in 2015 he settled down with the plot of his life and hasn’t looked back since.

In his blog you’ll find a wealth of goodies from an allotment diary – a record of the frustrations and successes of organic growing – to comprehensive growing guides. Having sharpened his spade in the past, Richard has recently hung it up in favour of the no-dig gardening technique. Intriguing, huh?

The Event Gardener

Freshly harvested asparagus

Sandra enjoys growing tasty & more unusual varieties in her garden
Image: The Event Gardener

Every gardener nurtures their crops, but The Event Gardener’s Sandra Lawrence takes this to another level. Less concerned with high yield than taste and quality, Sandra delights in cultivating varieties that are expensive or hard to find in shops. Each crop’s arrival is celebrated with special meals, parties with friends, and new recipes.

How many packets of seeds do you have that you meant to sow but just didn’t get around to? Sandra’s top tip for finding out if they’re viable is to test on a dinner plate with some kitchen roll, clingfilm, moisture and a little patience. And if fruit trees hold more interest than veg seeds for you, Sandra has some top advice on how to transform the humble apple into the main event.

Sally Nex

Sally’s blog is full of tried-and-tested advice for gardeners
Image: Sally Nex

With over 20-years experience of vegetable growing, Sally Nex is a garden writer and the green fingers behind this recently restarted blog. Her own 250 square metre plot feeds her family all year round, and she loves experimenting with new crops as well as heritage varieties.

Sally’s simple vegetable plot tips for complete beginners will set you up for success. She’s also a keen advocate of gardening without plastic, and shares some great ideas about different alternatives, such as the pros and cons of wooden seed trays. Of course, you’ll need compost, too – ‘how to make a compost bin‘ is a fantastic guide to making the only system you’ll ever need – from scratch!

Horticultural ‘obbit

gooseberries from the horticultural hobbit

These gooseberries will soon be simmering with ginger, turmeric and spices
Image: Horticultural Hobbit

‘You won’t find romance here,’ warns Punam Farmah, psychology teacher, adventurous allotmenteer and writer of the Horticultural ‘obbit. This honest blog documents the natural experiments – some successful, others not – conducted on Punam’s allotment in Birmingham.

Discover how she transformed the jungle that was Plot 2a into a treasure-trove of taste (it took two weeks and 48 full green waste bags) and follow her delicious tutorials to create delights such as gooseberry pickle.

Grow Like Grandad

eggshells don't deter snails

It’s official: eggshells do NOT deter snails
Image: Grow Like Grandad

The granddads Matt Peskett wants to emulate are his very own – Grandad Jack and Great-Grandad George, both head gardeners in their time. And it’s thanks to Grandad Jack that our blogger got his first taste for growing.

Grow Like Grandad is full of expert information on allotmenteering, from how to grow giant pumpkins to a comprehensive guide to tackling your first allotment. It’s beautifully written and there’s always something to make you smile. The Snail Barrier Performance Trial (time-lapse video) is not to be missed.

We hope these wonderful blogs have inspired you to get growing or even to start your own allotment blog. And if you write about growing we’d love to hear from you. Visit our Facebook page and share a link to your gardening adventures.

 

What grew in the garden

Flowers growing up canes in the garden

Looking for something new to try in your garden next year?
Image: Shelli Jensen

This spring, we asked five of our favourite garden bloggers if they were planning anything new and exciting over the summer. Their responses varied from experiments with onions to enticing a hedgehog into their garden, and more.

Now it’s autumn, we’re intrigued to see how they got on. If you’re hunting for new ideas for your garden, there’s plenty of hindsight here to help you get it right first time. You may even be inspired to run your own controlled experiment next year…

Bunches of onions

Onions planted in bunches from Marks Veg Plot

Planting in bunches saves space but produces a slightly smaller onion
Image: Mark’s Veg Plot

This year,” says Mark of Mark’s Veg Plot, “I planted onions two ways…

  • 30 sets were planted individually
  • Other sets were planted in clumps, each containing 6 – 7 onions

He used the Ailsa Craig variety for both planting methods to see which yielded the best result. None of the onions got off to a great start, Mark says, but once the weather finally improved at the beginning of June, they soon got going. As expected, the clumped onions produced smaller veg but, according to Mark, the overall yield was about the same.

So – pleased or not? It turns out Mark is very satisfied with the outcome of his experiment: “We like to have onions of lots of different sizes for use in our kitchen. The small ones are particularly attractive since you seldom see ones like this in the shops.”

Nature’s bounty

Hedgehog on a rock in the garden

Sally finally has a hedgehog!
Image: Anney P

This summer “I will be growing as much food as I can for my family and visiting wildlife,” said Sally of Sally’s Garden Blog. So how did she do?

I’ve been really quite happy with the amount of veg I’ve produced…I love eating salad with a meal, so [I grew] lots of fast cropping salads, and quite a lot of coriander.” Then there’s the basil and spinach plus six different types of tomatoes this year… According to Sally the tomatoes have been slow to ripen, but it’s great that she hasn’t had to buy any for over a month now. And you must try Sally’s favourite breakfast tip – toast, marmite and sliced tomato…

All in all a good summer for produce then; but how did things go on the wildlife nurturing front? Sally says:

Our garden has literally been full of bees, moths, butterflies, birds and we finally have a hedgehog! We have had a lot of fledgling robins, sparrows and bluetits in the garden… it is joyous just sitting and listening to them all.”

For Sally the highlights of the summer were her crunchy Trombamico courgettes, and her Black Beauty Dahlias – her favourite plant. “I truly think it is the most beautiful flower I have ever grown. It is so simple in its form, and dainty, and the colour of the petals when they first come out is really almost black.

Championing biodiversity

House sparrow with nesting material in beak

Nic is aiming to attract house sparrows – a red-list species of high conservation concern
Image: Erni

Adding holes in the fences and a gate for hedgehogs,” was how Nic at Dogwooddays hoped to encourage some of these special creatures to take up residence on her patch. Sadly, despite her best efforts, none have turned up to fill the vacancy yet – a bit of a tragedy given how close to extinction our prickly friends are, here in the UK.**

Things weren’t all bad though, with Nic recording success on the bird front with blue tits nesting in one bird box and and white-tailed bumblebees taking over the sparrow box. Despite a blackbird nesting in the honeysuckle, Nic says, “the sparrows haven’t nested in the terraces yet, but it’s early days and they have started to visit the garden regularly.”

If you’d like to encourage wildlife to your garden, the key, she says, is to let parts of your plot go wild: “leave bushes overgrown for nesting birds, plant climbers as habitat for invertebrates and birds, leave piles of grass, leaves, logs and stones for the hedgehogs, and ensure that creatures can get in and out of the garden.”

Bird boxes, hedgehog houses and bird feeders are all fine ways to attract wild creatures, but as Nic explains – good natural habitats for wildlife are just as important.

** Nic has just reported some good news on the hedgehog front! They’ve found hedgehog droppings on the path and outside their back door so they’re investing in a trail cam to keep an eye on these most welcome nocturnal visitors. The holes in the fences have clearly worked. We’re delighted to hear it!

Chickpea experiment

Chickpea on branch

Richard found his poorest, driest soil was most successful for chickpeas
Image: Jose Luis Vega

What’s the best place to grow chickpeas? Richard at The Veg Grower Podcast tried several locations:

  • One plant went into good soil in his home greenhouse – it died.
  • Two plants went into heavy clay at his allotment – one died and one survived.
  • Two plants went into his allotment greenhouse where the soil is poor and rather dry – these survived and prospered.

This year, Richard harvested about 100g of dried chickpeas, but next year he plans to plant a lot more saying, “Overall I found these plants to be quite attractive, growing to about 2 foot high with a fern like appearance. Very easy to look after, just a little bit of watering as they seem to like dry conditions.

If chickpeas were a mixed bag, Richard’s vegpod was a great success. He says there was no weeding required and the built-in reservoir made watering a cinch. “What this means is that we have not had to buy in any salads at all this year as it’s all been grown in the pod.

Christmas dinner?

Scarecrow in a vegatble patch

The ‘three sisters’ method for sweetcorn, runner beans and pumpkin is a work in progress
Image: Hurtled to 60

Over at the excellent gardening blog, Hurtled to 60, Ronnie’s plan was to set up the makings of a festive feast in a special ‘Christmas lunch bed’. So how did this work out? “My ‘Christmas Lunch’ bed idea was a little ambitious with the veg peaking too soon…” says Ronnie. Unfortunately the parsnips, a vital part of any Christmas dinner, failed completely. Planting them along with radishes didn’t work. Although it produced excellent radishes, there were no parsnips at all.

What other lessons did Ronnie learn this summer? She also tried the ‘three sisters’ planting method for pumpkins, runner beans and sweet corn. She didn’t quite get it right this year, but she’ll let the sweetcorn get better established next time, before planting the beans.

That said, she chalked up some fantastic successes in other parts of the garden. Her ‘no-dig’ potatoes – International Kidney (Jersey Royal) and Charlotte – tasted fabulous. Her garden peas proved another hit with the heritage ‘Champion of England’ variety providing an excellent harvest.

But the real star of the allotment for Ronnie, this summer, were flowers. Including roses, gaura, salvias, larkspur, day lilies and cosmos, Ronnie says her bed “has drawn a lot of admiring comments and is somewhere to sit with a cup of coffee between doing a spot of gardening.” With such a lovely place to relax and ponder, no wonder Ronnie is already full of plans for next year – including merging her narrow beds into larger, more productive ones.

It’s great to see our favourite green fingered gardening writers and broadcasters prospering in their patches and we’d like to thank them all for taking the time to update us on their progress. If you’ve got a favourite gardening or allotment blog you’d like us to feature, why not drop us a line? We’d love to hear from you.

10 Brilliant Bird Watching Blogs

Fall back in love with our feathered friends, and get inspired by these birdy blogs.
Image: M.Zonderling/Unsplash


Whether you’re a committed twitcher, a seasoned birder or an occasional birdwatcher, following a selection of birding blogs is an excellent way to keep up with bird news and events and meet like-minded people.
We’ve scoured the Internet to bring you ten brilliant birding blogs. These people know their birds, tell a great yarn and share some excellent birding photos. Enjoy!

 

Birding Dad

‘Frank’ the Fieldfare, defending his patch in Jono’s Yorkshire back garden.
Image: Birding Dad

Ever suffered from gull blindness? Jono Leadley – AKA Birding Dad – did whilst visiting a snowbound Yorkshire nature reserve. Eventually he and mate Duncan both spotted an adult Med gull, only to discover they were watching two different birds!

Jono is a “Yorkshire nature geek” who loves nothing more than spending a few hours birding in his native county. When he’s not looking after the two kids or campaigning for wildlife, he’ll be found watching female Smews cavorting with goldeneyes or spotting an unexpected Caspian gull.

 

Black Audi Birding

Black-headed Gull photobombing two Med Gulls on Hayling Island.
Image: Black Audi Birding

“To visit a gull colony… is to be ceaselessly entertained by the constant activity of the birds, accompanied by a cacophony of cries”, writes Ewan Urquhart of Black Audi Birding following a visit to Hayling Island, on the South Coast of England. Friday birding has become a ritual for Ewan and partner Moth – the two regularly set off in the eponymous black Audi, looking for something of interest.

Ewan’s blog is full of poetic birding commentary and stunning photography, not just of English birds, but of those spotted on trips to exotic countries including the Seychelles and Colombia. Ewan will go to any length for a tick – check out his mammoth journey to spot an Amur Falcon in Cornwall last year.

 

Brian’s birding blog

Brian’s beautiful shot of a Red-backed Shrike.
Image: Brian’s birding blog

“If you get out there you might just see something,” is Brian Anderson’s motto. This Essex birder loves driving around the country with Dad and brother Jim, chasing birds and accumulating year ticks.

Brian’s blog is packed with beautiful photography, not just of common and rare birds, but also of butterflies and other wildlife spotted in our isles. And with an Arctic Warbler, a glossy Ibis and a Hoopoe among his photographs of rare birds spotted in Britain, there’s plenty to inspire everyone to do as he says and get out there.

 

Diaries of a Cheshire Wildlife Watcher

Nesting grebe in the Cheshire sunshine.
Image: Diaries of a Cheshire Wildlife Watcher

“I started this blog so I could share my wildlife encounters and stories with other nature lovers around the world,” says Mike Mottram of Diaries of a Cheshire Wildlife Watcher blog. More than just a birding site, keen kayaker Mike shares photographs and film of everything from birds to badgers and fish to funghi.

An expert in wildlife photography, Mike’s blog is a great resource for those wanting to perfect their own techniques. Read all about his adventures with a homemade wristcam, and the drone that he modified into a remote WIFI camera.

 

Cornwall Birding

Close encounter with a Firecrest in Nanjizal, Cornwall.
Image: Cornwall Birding

“Stithians Reservoir is undoubtedly the best area of open water for birdwatching in the county,” writes Paul Freestone of Cornwall Birding. If you live in or around Cornwall, or would love to explore the birding prospects of that county, this is the blog for you. Paul has been a bird-watching tour guide and bird ringer for over 30 years and his blog provides daily sighting information and birding site guides.

But there’s more. With an extensive common and rare birds photo gallery, a complete county list since 1950, and tidal and weather information, this is your go-to site for birding in Cornwall.

 

Dan Rouse

Red Kite spotted in Rhayader, Wales.
Image: Dan Rouse

“It’s always worth checking through wintering flocks of wildfowl for some abnormal or unusual birds,” comments Dan Rouse on her eponymous blog. The hybridisation of wildfowl fascinates this young birder: “how certain species will consider breeding with another species”. Dan’s spot turned out to be a Eurasian Wigeon crossed with a Northern Shoveler.

Her love of birds started early when, at age five, her family built a bird table for their Swansea back garden. Now she writes and speaks on her favourite subject in print and on local radio, with a special interest in encouraging the next generation of birders.

 

Frodsham Marsh BirdBlog

Great White Egret at Frodsham Marsh, Cheshire.
Image: Frodsham Marsh BirdBlog

“The sky was full of the song of Skylark and Meadow Pipits which were performing their parachuting display,” writes birder Bill on the Frodsham Marsh BirdBlog. Bill started the site in 2012 as “a virtual replacement for the trusty old birdlog that was situated on the marsh”.

With almost daily posts from birders, this blog will delight and inspire those who want to investigate the Cheshire hotspot. And counting Green-winged Teal and European Honey Buzzards among top spots, you might want to head to Frodsham yourself.

 

Penny’s Hot Birding and Life!

Spotted! A rare Citril Finch at Burnham Overy Dunes, Norfolk.
Image: Penny’s Hot Birding and Life!

“I have seen several MEGAS in Norfolk inc: Ivory Gull, Fan-tailed Warbler, Thrush Nightingale, Pine Bunting, Stilt Sandpiper… Black-headed Bunting, Alder Flycatcher, Collared Flycatcher, Great Snipe, Citril Finch to name but a few!” writes blogger Penny Clarke.

Daughter of Peter Clarke, founder of the Norfolk Ornithologists’ Association, Penny’s birding pedigree is second-to-none. Follow her blog for daily Norfolk bird news, national mega news, her own birding experiences and anecdotes from day-to-day life.

 

The Deskbound Birder

Pine Bunting spotted in Mongolia.
Image: The Deskbound Birder

“My twitching ‘career’ was relatively short… I realised that crowds were not for me and quickly shunned twitching for the far more honourable pastime of looking for my own rares,” writes Simon Colenutt, AKA The Deskbound Birder.

Since the birth of his son and development of his business, Simon is not so deskbound these days. Birding in the UK is generally split between Hampshire and Cornwall, but he’s also an enthusiastic foreign birder. Follow his blog for accounts of birding trips to places as far flung as Mongolia and the Andaman Islands. You’ll be more than a little bit envious.

 

Too Lazy to Weed

A grumpy Redwing in Nicky’s garden.
Image: Too Lazy to Weed

“I’ve nothing against gulls, but I don’t think I can afford the seed bill if they start regularly hoovering up the bird food!” writes Nicky, the blogger behind Too Lazy to Weed. She’s talking about a large gull which availed itself of her bird table during the recent cold snap.

Organic gardening and lazy weeding has resulted in Nicky and husband Chris inadvertently creating a little nature reserve in their Worcestershire back garden. They capture some great stills and video via various remote cameras including pretty Goldcrests, greedy gulls and the grumpy Redwing pictured above.

 

And that’s the end of our roundup of brilliant birding blogs. We hope you’ve found some new sites to add to your list of favourites. If you’ve got any birdy photos you want to share, we’d love to see them over on our Facebook page. 

Ten Wonderful Wildlife Blogs

Feel inspired – and grab your binoculars – for a chance to spot these elusive little creatures this summer
Image: Shutterstock

If you love nothing better than to “stand and stare” in the hope of spotting some of the UK’s phenomenal, but rather shy, wildlife, have we got a treat for you. Here’s our round up of some of the best UK wildlife blogs around. These blogs are filled with great wildlife stories, gorgeous photos, live webcam footage and more. Perfect to enjoy over a hot cuppa.

 

Wildlife Kate

Customers at Kate’s bird snack bar
Image: Wildlife Kate, sponsored by CJ Wildlife

With heaps of live webcam action, wildlife blogger Kate’s site is a must. Enjoy footage of birds stopping off at her purpose-built bird snack bar, and mice dropping into the festive mammal feeding station she built complete with Christmas tree and roaring log fire. It’s wildlife footage with a difference.

A wildlife expert with a passion for education, you’ll have seen Kate on Countryfile, Springwatch and more. Check out her photo of the foxes visiting her garden. There are two dogs and four vixens, three of which look pregnant. She hopes to be “filming cubs visiting around the middle of May… Exciting times.”

Brigit Strawbridge 

Female hairy-footed flower bee
Image: Brigit Strawbridge

Have you ever spotted a hairy-footed flower bee buzzing around your garden? Brigit says they’re smaller than a bumble bee and have a zippy, unbeelike flight path. But the telltale sign that alerted her was the characteristic high-pitched buzz of a female – like the one pictured – supping on the nectar from a snowdrop.

If you’d like to learn more about bees, Brigit’s blog is the place to go. Based in Dorset, she gives talks in the local area as well as further afield – like this lecture she gave at the National Honey Show. She’s also working on a book which is due to be published in Spring 2019. You can read a few excerpts from it on Brigit’s blog.

My Life Outside

‘Owls’ about that?
Image: My Life Outside

Having spent eight years searching for the elusive little owl – but never being lucky enough to spot one – Wales-based wildlife photographer Adam didn’t hold out much hope when he took his mum on an owl-spotting trip to Kenfig near Bridgend. But then his mum said, “isn’t that one over there?…”

Here you’ll find stunning wildlife photography from someone who likes nothing better than to grab his hiking gear and camera, and head out into the magnificent wilds of Wales. Check out Adam’s series of badger photos from Dinefwr Castle.

The Reremouse

The striking Noctule bat – with his beautiful auburn fur
Image: The Reremouse

How well do you know your bats? If you’d like to know more than you currently do, take a look at this blogger’s bat pages. It turns out the gingery Noctule (pictured above) is the UK’s biggest bat. And, up to 40g, he’s about the size of two small hamsters.

Passionate about wildlife, The Reremouse offers a great source of information to help you do your bit. Tempted to leave food out for local wildlife? “Anything you put out… needs to at least be similar to food sources that they would use in the wild – i.e. fruits, seeds and nuts.” And don’t feed too often or too regularly, or there’s a risk creatures could become dependent.

Why Watch Wildlife?

A black-headed gull was food for someone. But who dunnit?
Image: Why Watch Wildlife?

When visiting Scarborough, wildlife watcher David came across a bundle of feathers belonging to a hapless bird that had clearly become something’s lunch. But whose? Check out the clues that will set you on your way to discovering the likely identity of the killer.

David says that although we spend £200 million each year on attracting birds to our gardens, we’re actually spending less time in wild environments. If you’re in need of a little inspiration to help you step into the great outdoors, you’ve come to the right place.

British Wildlife Centre, Surrey

Meet Harry and Beatrix Otter!
Image: Matt Binstead, British Wildlife Centre, Surrey

Keep up to date with the comings and goings at the British Wildlife Centre at Lingfield in Surrey. Setup in 1997 by former farmer, David Mills, the centre now houses the UK’s finest collection of British native species.

You’ll love keeper Matt’s blog post about the centre’s two baby otters. Imaginatively named, Harry and Beatrix Otter (get it?), they’re already almost as big as their mother. Featuring a wealth of information about our British wildlife, the blog presents some wonderful photography too – our favourite is Susie the stoat in ermine.

Isle of May National Nature Reserve

Dolphins playing in the waters off the Isle of May
Image: Isle of May National Nature Reserve

What do you do when you’re trying to get off the Isle of May, and a grey seal decides to hide under your quad bike? That’s just one of the many stories in the life of this small island nature reserve, off the east coast of Scotland.

An island teeming with bird and animal life, the Isle of May hosts spectacular seabird colonies in the summer, while in the autumn it’s a breeding site for the biggest colony of Atlantic grey seals in Britain. Well worth a visit.

Butterfly Conservation

Butterflies actually benefit from a cold snap
Image: Wikipedia

Despite their fragile appearance, a winter cold snap can actually benefit butterflies and moths. In fact, the folk at Butterfly Conservation say some species including Large Skipper, Large White, Ringlet and Chalk Hill Blue, see their populations increase after a winter of extreme cold.

If you’d like to learn more about what you can do to encourage a wide range of butterflies and moths to visit your garden, this is the blog and website for you. One top tip: “Leave bare patches of wall, fence or earth, or place large stones in sunny borders, so butterflies can bask.” Check out the site for more like this.

Ben Porter Wildlife

Can you spot the plastic fragments amongst the plankton?
Image: Ben Porter Wildlife

Exeter Uni student Ben Porter spent a chilly day hauling nets near Falmouth in Cornwall. He and his fellow students were looking to establish the ubiquity of plastic and microfibres in the seawater samples they took. Sadly, Ben’s photos speak for themselves – a stark reminder of the scale of the problem facing us.

As well as flagging up environmental pollution issues, Ben, who studies conservation and ecology at the University of Exeter, is into birds, moths, mammals and more. He also takes a mean photo. Check out his spectacular snap of an oystercatcher in mid flight.

Mark Warnes Photography

Beavers have been reintroduced in Camarthenshire
Image: Mark Warnes Photography

Take a look at photographer Mark’s pics of the beavers at the Bevis Trust in Wales. This cornerstone species was hunted to extinction in the 1600s. The trust, which is working towards their reintroduction, hopes that bringing back them back to Welsh rivers will also help re-establish other species too, like otters, water voles, frogs and newts.

Mark’s blog offers a kaleidoscope of stunning nature photography, from the colourful puffins on Skomer Island to the badgers of Carmarthenshire. If you’re looking for some inspiration from the natural world, you’ve come to the right place.

 

Have we missed any of your favourite wildlife nature blogs? If so, do let us know by heading over to our Facebook page and leaving us a message.

 

Beautiful botanical crafts on Instagram

Check out these crafty creatives inspired by mother nature
Image: Marisa Morton / Unsplash

Nature has always provided inspiration to artists – whether writers or musicians, poets or makers. If an afternoon in your garden or a walk in the woods leaves you energised and buzzing with creativity, why not take up a botanical craft? Follow some of these nature-inspired makers on Instagram to get you started.

@wilddyegarden

Beautiful wild-dyed textiles made from foraged dyes
Image: @wilddyegarden

“The plants that are most familiar to us can be the ones that surprise us the most,” writes Flora Arbuthnott of Wild Dye Garden. Flora is a printmaker, forager, and natural dyer who can transform a whole host of plants like nettle, onion, rosemary and bay into beautiful textile dyes. Follow Flora as she experiments with madder and lady’s bedstraw. And be inspired to ditch fast fashion in favour of natural dyes.

@botanical_threads

Hues of walnut, pomegranate and madder create this divine patchwork
Image: @botanical_threads

Did you know that avocado stone makes a gorgeous blush-pink dye? Or that the crispy outer skins of an onion produce coppery, rusty tones? Alicia Hall is a botanical dyer and National-Trust gardener who creates beautiful hand-crafted textiles for her company Botanical Threads. Her Insta feed is a calming, beautiful space where chlorophyll meets cloth.

@lovely.greens

Lovely greens in Tanya’s homemade peppermint soap
Image: @lovely.greens

“Live simply, grow your own food, make natural things,” is the motto Tanya, of Lovely Greens, lives by. From her allotment on the Isle of Man, Tanya shares gardening tips, beauty recipes and herbal remedies. So if you’d like to try making Turkish delight from your own rose petals, or cedarwood and lemongrass soap, Tanya is your woman. Follow her on Instagram for these and other botanical secrets.

@rebeccadesnos

Rebecca’s favourite local dye-plants include nettle and hawthorne
Image: @rebeccadesnos

“I’m the happiest when making things with my hands,” writes natural dyer, Rebecca Desnos. Using vegan dyeing techniques – plant-based fabrics, soy milk as mordant, and plants and vegetable dyes – Rebecca creates beautiful textiles. She forages plants on walks with her son, and rescues avocado stones and pomegranate skins from her kitchen to add to her rainbow of natural colours. The results are breathtaking.

@kathryn_davey

Crumpled linen and peonies – two of Kathryn Davey’s favourite things
Image: @kathryn_davey

Peonies and crumpled linen are two of designer and natural dyer, Kathryn Davey’s favourite things. She learnt natural dyeing techniques whilst living in Northern California. Kathryn now designs luxury textiles in Dublin, using Irish linen, sustainably hand dyed in her studio. With muted hues of turmeric, iron, tea and madder, expect a feed as romantic and beautiful as those peonies.

@gentle_work

Christine’s gentle work is nature-inspired hand stitching
Image: @gentle_work

“Sometimes your soul just needs a few moments alone…”, writes Christine Kelly. This self-taught textile artist and mother gets few moments to herself but, when she does, she makes the most of them hand stitching beautiful images from nature onto vintage textiles. Christine’s feed is a delicate space to pause and reflect on the gentleness of her work.

@spindrift_crafts

Shetland wool dyed with dried heather
Image: @spindrift_crafts

“The plants that survive the diverse climate never cease to amaze,” writes Bunchy Casey of her Shetland home. Landscape and fauna inspire Bunchy in creating her hand-dyed wools and natural leaf prints. She uses heather, willow bark and alder cones in her work, dyeing wool from the hardy sheep that share her island home.

@silverpebble2

Drawing plants foraged on a winter’s walk
Image: @silverpebble2

“Collecting nature finds can help to divert your mind away from daily stresses,” writes Emma Mitchell. This illustrator, naturalist and designer-maker uses botanical crafts to boost her mood and combat depression through the long winter months. She gathers the natural treasures spied on her daily walks into beautifully curated collections – drawing, pressing, preserving and crafting them into works of art.

We hope you feel inspired to turn your hand to botanical crafts like these. Share your creations with us on Instagram or Facebook. And if you post plant-inspired art on your own feed, we’d love to see and share your work.

Nine wild plant lovers on Instagram

These Instagrammers will inspire you to get back to your roots and forage delicious food from the wilderness.
Image source – Shutterstock

If you love country walks, fine food, and communing with nature, give foraging a try. Whether you’re hunting for wild food or wildflowers, there’s plenty of hidden treasure in our countryside. And for a little support or inspiration, here are ten of the best wild-plant Instagrammers to follow.

@emmatheforager

Foraged salad with ground elder, violet leaves and garlic mustard
Image source: @emmatheforager

Carragheen (Irish moss seaweed) makes a great vegan alternative to gelatin, writes expert forager, designer and writer, Emma Gunn. This “all-round plant guru” uses the seaweed to set her coconut panna cotta. Emma leads foraging walks and lunches in and around Cornwall. Understandably, seaweed is often on the menu, as is sea buckthorn, from which she makes a delicious-looking cheesecake and a rather cheeky gin!

@handmade_apothecary

Jelly-ear fungus is said by some to be great for adding texture to soups, gravies and stocks
Image source – @handmade_apothecary

Did you know that nutty flavoured hawthorn makes a great anxiety-reducing tea, or that elderflower cordial can bring down a temperature? The Handmade Apothecary is bursting with traditional remedies and herbal lore. Follow

Medical herbalists Kim and Vicky as they share their wild-plant knowledge. “Our aim is to help others to re-establish a bond with nature and use plants and natural ingredients for health, home and self-care,” say the pair.  That self-care extends to foraging safety too. They’re careful to let you know to never consume a plant or mushroom from the wild unless you are 100% of its ID”. Wise words.

@wildflowerhour

Early marsh orchids can be found across Britain and Ireland
Image source – @wildflowerhour

“Feeling a bit grey and miserable? There really is no better antidote than flooding the internet with wildflowers every weekend,” says Wild Flower Hour. Join the hundreds of people who share photos of flowers found growing wild in Britain and Ireland every Sunday, using the eponymous hashtag: #wildflowerhour. With a weekly podcast and a bevy of experts eager to help with identification, this could soon become your new weekend ritual.

@fathenforager

Beautiful, edible chanterelle and amethyst deceiver foraged in Cornwall
Image source – @fathenforager

“Never take any chances with the carrot (apiaceae) family…..it’s not worth the risk. If you don’t know what it is don’t eat it,” warns Caroline Davey of Fat Hen wild cookery school. She is a master forager, leading wild food weekends and ‘forage, cook, feast’ days around the beautiful county of Cornwall. Follow her on Instagram for mouthwatering recipes like nettle pasta ravioli or hake wrapped in kelp, and for sound foraging advice – like what to do with late-season rock samphire.

@foragefinefoods

Delicious za’atar with marjoram, sumac and bergamot, foraged in Herefordshire
Image source – @foragefinefoods

Elderberry balsamic, hawberry ketchup and rose-petal preserve are just some of the delicacies foraged and produced by Liz Knight of Forage Fine Foods. Liz also teaches wild cookery courses and sells her own range of wild flavourings inspired by the countryside of rural Herefordshire. Follow her on Instagram for tips like adding ladysmock into apple cider vinegar or cooking lavender leaves with peas.

@totallywilduk

Turkey-tails mushroom make a good natural chewing gum
Image source – @totallywilduk

Immune-boosting turkey-tails mushroom can be turned into a delicious broth or a forager’s chewing gum, says James Wood of  the UK’s only Ofqual accredited foragers, Totally Wild UK. James has spent years developing his knowledge of all things wild and runs foraging and cooking courses in the North of England.

If you fancy tapping (and cooking with) birch sap, distilling troublesome knotweed into a tasty jam, or eating roasted dandelion roots, this is the Instagram account to follow. And if you want to dig even deeper, check out James’ book, The Forager’s Cookbook.

@the_wild_room

Salty fingers – a delicious Cornish succulent
Image source – @the_wild_room

Steer clear of wild chervil unless you’re a seasoned forager, advises Mike de Stroumillo of The Wild Room: “This charming wild herb is ubiquitous but has a handful of dodgy lookalikes”. Mike (AKA Mushroom Mike) is an expert forager and supplier of fungi and other rare treats to fine-dining restaurants. His Instagram account will introduce you to delicacies such as bearded milk-mushrooms, pine-needle tea, and salty fingers.

@foragerltd

 

Garlic-fried toothed wrack with roast squash and black pudding
Image source – @foragerltd

“The forager’s eyes are always open,” says Miles Irving of @foragerltd. When it comes to sourcing the tastiest wild ingredients, these guys are true pros, exercising their expert eyes for a number of high-end restaurants. Follow Forager for exotic wild-food recipes including: forager soup – made with sargassum stock, three cornered garlic and lacto-fermented ramsons – and garlic-fried toothed wrack

@edulis_wildfood

Goodies collected on one of Lisa’s foraging courses
Image source – @edulis_wildfood

A super-low tide means only one thing to Lisa Cutcliffe of Edulis Wild Food: “time to go spooting!!” Spoots, or razor clams are only accessible at these precious times of the year. Lisa has been foraging since childhood and now describes herself as a wild-food foraging tutor and “all-round mushroom nut”. Follow her Insta for such treats as truffle-honey vodka, foraged toffee apples, and aelder and stout chocolate cake.

With spring almost in the air, now’s the time to dig out your walking boots and get foraging with the best of them. If you know of any wild plant Instagram accounts we should follow, please let us know via our Facebook page or Instagram account.

6 inspiring garden blogs

inspiring gardens

Some gardens are made to inspire – and here are some inspiring garden blogs
Image: shutterstock

Some gardens and gardening blogs are just too good to not to share, which is why we’ve scoured the web to bring you a bunch of superb blogs that showcase some really special gardens and truly dedicated garden owners and keepers. From the Sussex Weald to craggy Cumbria, here are eight extraordinary garden blogs.

The anxious gardener

anxious gardener tulip tree

The tulip tree in spectacular autumn display
Image: The anxious gardener

Here’s your chance for sneaky peek at not one, but two five-acre plus private gardens – one in the South Downs National Park, the other in the Sussex Weald. This charming and well-written blog is gardener David’s way of bringing these enchanting but rather secluded spaces to a wider audience.

You’ll love David’s post about the tulip tree, which having been planted too close to the house in Sussex, presents a pain in the proverbial for the man tasked with clearing the gutters. But every autumn, this large, but unremarkable tree has a chance to shine – and with his wonderful photography, David does his subject full justice.

Growing family

growing family gardening

Make every minute in the garden count
Image: Growing family

Time starved? From lifting your patio containers to prevent winter water-logging, to a reminder to deadhead your summer flowers, blogger Catherine’s 10 minute gardener  series gives you quick, manageable jobs to help you keep on top of your garden when life’s hectic and crazy.

An account of her gardening life which revolves around growing her family as well as her plants, you’ll love reading about Catherine and co’s latest ventures in and out of the garden. From what to look for when choosing outdoor clothing for kids, to family-friendly holiday activities, there’s something for everyone here.

The middle sized garden

middle sized garden

The magic of an overgrown garden
Image: The middle sized garden

“A middle-sized garden doesn’t usually have a drive, and vistas and views tend to be of next door’s garage,” says gardener, author, blogging expert and writing coach, Alexandra Campbell. But that doesn’t mean a middling-sized patch can’t be something special – which is the raison d’etre of this fun, friendly, info-packed blog.

Renovating a garden, and wondering whether to bulldoze the lot? Don’t says Alexandra: There’s a “magic about it that a brand new garden can never hope to achieve.” Take a look at architect, Tom Croft’s extraordinary garden renovation – we guarantee inspiration awaits.

Dinchope diary

dinchope windfall for birds

Leave some of your windfall fruit for the birds
Image: Dinchope

Want to bring more wildlife to your garden but don’t know quite where to start? Let Jenny Steel be your guide. A plant ecologist and author with over 30 years experience as a wildlife gardener, she certainly knows how to make your garden a hotspot for birds and other wildlife.

About thirty percent of us put out seed and peanut mixes to help keep the birds fed during the winter, but do remember give your feeders and bird tables a clean from time to time, Jenny says. “There are several bacterial and viral diseases that affect our birds and these can be passed from one to another in their droppings or by close contact.”

DIY garden

diy garden butterflies

Grow the right plants and the butterflies will come
Image: DIY garden

Help save the butterflies, says Clive Harris – “Gardener, blogger, outdoor enthusiast, husband, dad, and all the rest!” That’s because three quarters of British butterfly species and a quarter of moths have declined over the last 40 years.

Help by growing butterfly-friendly plants, like nettles, bird’s-foot trefoil, nasturtium, garlic mustard, ladies smock, long coarse grasses, oak, elm, holly, and ivy, says Clive. And that’s just for starters – checkout his post for a wealth of information about the lives of our fluttery friends. DIY garden does exactly what it says on the tin – everything you need to help your garden grow.

Growing nicely

borage growing nicely

Jill looks forward to enjoying her Pimms with a sprig of borage in it
Image: Growing nicely

New to gardening and wondering how to harden off your seedlings for planting out? Find an area of dappled shade, says blogger Jill, and, on an overcast day, put your young plants out for a couple of hours before bringing them back inside. Repeat over the next two weeks, gradually extending the outdoor time until the plants adapt to life in the garden.

Blogger Jill is a professional gardener, garden designer, and instructor, and now creates this wonderfully informative blog which showcases her garden, and gardening adventures, from garden visits to how to grow food for the plate. You’ll love her recipe for elderflower cordial.

Have we missed any fab gardening blogs you love to follow? Do let us know what we’re missing by popping over to our Facebook page and leaving us a message.

10 professional gardeners show how it’s done

pro gardener pruning

There’s more to pro gardening than just secateurs
Image: shutterstock

Looking for a bit of gardening inspiration? It’s always nice to know that the hints and tips your favourite garden bloggers pass on are backed up by some verifiable gardening know how. We’ve scoured the web to bring you the scribblings of ten professional gardeners – blogs from green-fingered pros with skills and knowledge to share.

Jack Wallington

jack wallington

Pro gardener Jack takes some inspiration from the Lost Gardens of Heligan
Image: Jack Wallington

Jack’s rock garden may consist of just the one rock – and not even a real rock at that, but it’s worth a look because it’s just the sort of quirky personal growing project you’d expect from an RHS qualified horticulturist who specialises in creating contemporary gardens with unique plantings.

The Sempervivums are just about hanging in there but what’s really required is a bit of moss to provide the growing media for other plant species to grow into. An entertaining and informative blog, there’s so much interesting reading here, a quick visit could last hours.

Driftwood by sea

geoff stonebanks open garden

Geoff’s stunning garden, with the sea as a backdrop
Image: Geoff Stonebanks

If you’d like to see how someone takes a patch of barren, sloping seaside garden and turns it into a major attraction on the National Open Gardens Scheme calendar, you’ve come to the right place. Aided by a small army of volunteers, Geoff Stonebanks now opens his garden to the public to raise money for charity – raising nearly £100K for a variety of charities, including MacMillan Cancer Support.

We think you’ll agree Geoff’s patch is a heck of a garden, and a must-visit-site for anyone growing in harsh salt-laden conditions near the sea. The great Monty Don himself describes Geoff’s East Sussex garden as “a small garden by the sea that’s full of character”.

Pulling weeds

pulling weeds cydonia pruning

Let Graham help you whip your fruit trees into shape with some winter pruning
Image: Pulling weeds

“Trees put out shoots in all directions, which can lead to them becoming quite congested.” Says professional gardener, Graham Wright. If you’re in need of a quick lesson on the art of pruning your fruit trees, here’s a good place to start. With his quince tree doing just that, he’s waited until the dormant time of the year to get his secateurs out.

What you should be looking for is an open shape, Graham says. This lets the most light into the centre of the tree, which is essential if your fruit is to ripen properly. The quince jelly’s on you then Graham.

David Domoney

david domoney buddleja cottage

Buddlejas make an excellent border plant – just remember to prune vigorously
Image: David Domoney

If you’re looking for some low maintenance outdoor plants to help get a beginner gardener off the ground, you’ve come to the right place. TV gardener extraordinaire, David Domoney gives his top five recommendations. He says: “Buddlejas are great for putting into beds and borders if you have recently moved to a place with a larger garden or are branching out from container planting.”

Presenter of ITV’s Love Your Garden, and the resident gardening expert for This Morning, David’s blog is a superb resource for anyone interested in gardening or wildlife. Fancy testing your knowledge of British birds? Why not take David’s fun quiz?

The tattooed gardener

tattoed gardener

Snake’s Head Fritillaries make a colourful spring display
Image: Tattooed gardener

Looking for something a little different to brighten up your spring garden? Take a look at these Snake’s Head Fritillaries nodding their, chequered purple and white, bell-shaped blooms. Most bulbs like free-draining soils says Dennis, aka the tattooed gardener, but not this one, which makes it perfect for wetter conditions.

Former head gardener at Trinity College, Cambridge, Dennis is now a gardener, garden consultant and children’s writer. His blog is a font of gardening knowledge and wisdom, with tats and the odd bit of Megadeth thrown in for good measure.

Mr Plant geek

mr plant geek

This nandina goes from green to pink to bright red
Image: Mr Plant geek

“Every so often, a plant comes along that makes you question whether it’s actually real or not,” says gardening expert (and former T&M Product Development Manager) Michael Perry. He’s talking about the pillar box red leaves of the unbelievably riotous nandina (pink blush) – a low maintenance foliage plant you’ll love for its year-round colour.

Well-written and quirky, you’ll enjoy Michael’s unique take on gardening. As he says, he’s just a tiny bit lazy, which makes him an excellent source of gardening hacks and shortcuts. Check out his post on “wabi-sabi” – the art of imperfect gardening, which is all about relaxed simplicity and asymmetry.

Judi the gardener

dingly dells

Anyone for a Dingly Dell?
Image: Judi the Gardener

How would you fancy having a Dingly Dell in your garden? Garden designer and developer, Judi will build one for you. We’re talking about the ultimate place to relax and unwind, created especially for you.

A former dancer and choreographer Judi says she loves to put on her creative hat to help her clients unmuddle their ideas and make an exciting plan for their outdoor spaces. You’ll love what she’s done with the olive tree at one satisfied customer’s garden.

Katie Rushworth

katie rushworth container pond

Kids will love creating a mini pond to attract wildlife to the garden
Image: Katie Rushworth

You’ll know Katie Rushworth as one of the team from ITV’s Love Your Garden. Here she blogs about her love of gardening, and offers the occasional tidbit of behind the scenes insight from the show.

Check out Katie’s ideas for creating a kids’ mini pond for the garden. She says “A small container pond can be a fantastic way to welcome wildlife and get your little ones involved in a quick and easy project that will bring joy for years to come! “.  Katie’s blog is a treasure trove of helpful advice for gardeners, complete with recipes to help you use up your bumper crops.

Thomas D Stone

thomas stone moving shrub

Thomas demonstrates how to move well-established plantings
Image: Thomas D Stone

If you’ve ever wondered how to move well-established shrubs from the wrong place in your garden to somewhere better, Thomas Stone says it’s all about getting the root ball out of the ground. Not sure how to go about it? Check out his post which gives you a handy step-by-step process to make a success of your transplantation.

With nearly 30 years as an RHS trained professional gardener behind him, Thomas says the key to keeping his passion for gardening alive, is never to stop learning. That’s good news for his readers  – there’s a wealth of gardening knowhow waiting for you here.

Ellen Mary Gardening

ellen mary gardening edible flowers

Add some colour to your food with edible flowers
Image: Ellen Mary Gardening

Gardening can be hard on your back, but not when you follow pro’ gardener, horticultural TV and radio presenter, and blogger Ellen Mary’s advice to go vertical with your planting. From reusing soft drinks bottles to raised beds and making planters from pipes, she’ll soon raise your gardening sights – and if you want to extend your menus, this is the place to start learning about edible flowers!

A self-confessed gardening addict, Ellen Mary is a trustee of Anglia in Bloom, and horticultural coordinator for the Royal Norfolk Show. We don’t know how she finds the time to pack in all her gardening-related occupations. She says, “If the job is to do with gardening – anything goes!”

Do you have a favourite pro’ gardening blog we’ve missed? We’d love to hear from you. Just head on over to our Facebook page and tell us all about it.

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