Thompson & Morgan Gardening Blog

Our gardening blog covers a wide variety of topics, including fruit, vegetable and tree stories. Read some of the top gardening stories right here.

Propagation, planting out and cultivation posts from writers that know their subjects well.

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.

10 green-fingered allotmenteers on Instagram

For these amazing allotmenteers, it’s a way of life…
Image: Shutterstock

Are you a proud allotment cultivator? Or do you have your name down on the waiting list? If you’d like to learn a little more about how to get the most from your plot, these allotment Instagrammers are a green-fingered bunch whose photo journals are guaranteed to delight, educate and inspire.

Little_Leicester_Lottie

Homegrown tomatoes ready to be sun dried
Image: Little_Leicester_Lottie

About 3 hours on gas mark one should just about roast your tomatoes for long enough to make Lesley’s fab garlic and herb sun-dried tomatoes. A former teacher, wedding planner and allotmenteer par excellence, Lesley’s growing adventures are worth following – check out her highly original melon holders – the ideal support for swelling fruit.

My_little_lotty

February snowdrops
Image: My_little_lotty

Looking for some bumble bee-friendly plantings for your garden or allotment this season? My_little_lotty’s borage is a good bet – and you don’t necessarily need a greenhouse to bring it on. This instagrammer says her seedlings are doing well in the spare room. Looking for a longer read? Don’t forget to check out My_little_lotty’s allotment blog.

Annas_goodlife

Anna’s allotment companions
Image: Annas_goodlife

How do you get a sickly hedgehog to uncurl? Find out how Anna nursed her underweight garden visitor back to rude health with her blow-by-blow pictorial account of “Hogatha’s” treatment. One Lhasa Apso dog, three hens, four quail, and an allotment combine to make up Anna’s little corner of the good life, not to mention the bees, who for reasons unknown, seem to have made their home under their hive.

The crochet gardener

Isabel’s garden looking its best in June
Image: The crochet gardener

What do you do when you’ve got to say goodbye to your allotment? Easy – Isabel, aka, “The crochet gardener” is simply boxing up all her favourite plants and taking them with her as she makes the move from Wigan to Wales. When she’s not busy in the garden or allotment, this greenfingered seamstress is creating unique allotment-inspired crochet pieces – you’ll love the one with the rhubarb.

Wellies and wheelbarrows

A winter harvest to brings some colour to a grey day
Image: Wellies and wheelbarrows

“Does anyone else struggle with weeds around/under raspberries” asks Emily of Wellies and Wheelbarrows? From adding wood chips to leaving the mess to do its own thing, you’ll find some great solutions here. And when she’s not in the allotment, Emily’s a dab hand in the kitchen too – check out her delicious looking rosemary and lemon shortbread – the perfect pick-me-up for the weary gardener. Enjoy with a well-earned cuppa.

The veggie chronicles uk

This year, the veggie chronicles will have a chili flavour
Image: The veggie chronicles uk

Crop rotation helps keep your soil in fine fettle – which is why the veggie chronicler has come up with a scheme for one of her plots. She says I find it helps me to plan what seeds i need to sow and check my seed stash as we draw nearer to spring.” Some good ideas here to keep you interested – like her Growlight garden which is all set for bringing on her precious chilli seedlings.

Shropshire gardener

A carrot with “crossed legs”
Image: Shropshire gardener

Want to help keep the birds fed during the winter months? Save your summer flowerheads, says the Shropshire gardener – it’s a cost-effective and attractive way to look after garden birds, plus keeping some seeds aside guarantees you’ll have plenty of blooms in your borders next year too. A lovely mix of fruit, flowers and veggies, there’s something for everyone here.

Allotment_23

“Enjoying every moment of harvests like these” says the holder of Allotment_23
Image: Allotment_23

Looking for some recipe ideas for your home-grown carrots? This instagrammer enjoys hers roasted with chicken thighs in paprika and cumin”, along with some cabbage and peas she grew earlier and put in the freezer. As-well-as plenty of harvest pics to inspire, you’ll find some excellent recipe ideas here – like this roasted treat inspired by none-other-than the Hairy Bikers – a pumpkin tray bake to die for.

Plot_37

This Instagrammer hopes the frost stays away
Image: Plot_37

“There were actual “ooohs” when we unearthed it this morning,” says the owner of Plot 37. She’s talking about the rather marvellous parsnip she dug up. She says she’s more pleased than is reasonable, but it looks pretty big to us. An allotmenteer from SW London, here’s proof that you can grow your own even in the big smoke – the hens recently began laying again too. Well-fed, they pounce whenever there’s digging happening.

Greedy_gardens

One gardener who talks the “torc”, and wears it too
Image: Greedy_gardens

Pretty cool glass gems are coming good now. I may have a go at making popcorn for the chidlers!” says dad of two, Dave Graney. We’d say his multi-coloured maize is “amazing”. To say Dave’s allotment is productive is an understatement to put it mildly. Check out his incredible haul of squashes – they’re so big and bountiful, his boy has to move them by JCB!

Is there a fab allotment Instagram account we’ve missed? Tell us where to look by visiting our Instagram or Facebook page and leaving us a message.

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.

From Rake To Bake – Leek Muffins

Welcome to February’s Baking Blog. Each month will feature an in-season fruit or vegetable dish to make with a little bit of grow-your-own information on the side.

February is perfect for making Leek Muffins.

Have you ever wondered why Welsh fans carry inflatable leeks to Rugby or Football matches? Legend says Cadwaladr a 7th century King of Gwynedd once ordered his men to wear one into battle for identification purposes. But this tasty veg, is more versatile than identifying troops, rich in antioxidants Leeks are packed with vitamin K, manganese, vitamin B6, copper, iron, folate and vitamin C, as well as vitamin A vitamin E, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. Leeks may be perfect for roasting, souping and frying, but they make surprisingly good cakes too.

Prep Time 5 -10 minutes . Oven Temp 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4. Cooking Time 25-30 minutes

Skills Level Easy Peasy.***

Utensils.

  • Measuring Scales.
  • Measuring Spoons.
  • Wooden or silicon spoon.
  • Measuring Jug.
  • Cheese Grater.
  • Fork.
  • Vegetable Knife.Leek muffins - ingredients
  • Sieve.
  • Mixing Bowl.
  • Bun Tray.
  • Paper or silicon cases.
  • Cooling Rack.

Ingredients.

  • 1 Leek.
  • 1 Egg.
  • 175g of Plain Flour.
  • 1 Teaspoon of Baking Powder.
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda.
  • 100ml of Olive or vegetable oil.
  • 50ml of Milk.
  • 75g Cheddar Cheese.
  • 2 -3 Teaspoons of Mixed Herbs.
  • 1 -3 Teaspoon of Black Pepper.
  • 1-3 Teaspoons of Turmeric.

Method.

  • Preheat the oven.Leek muffins - preparation
  • Grate the cheese.
  • Line a bun tray with paper/silicone cases.
  • Wash the Leek throughly to remove any soil from between the leaves then slice into thin circles, then slice these into thirds.
  • Measure out the flour, baking powder, herbs and spices in the mix together in a bowl, then turn gently with a wooden/silicon spoon. (Note salt can be used if desired.)
  • Pour the measured milk into a glass and beat the egg into it with the fork.
  • Make a well in the flour add the milky eggs and required amount of oil.
  • Quickly blend together for one minute.
  • Next add the leeks and cheese. Continue stirring for two minutes until the mixture is of a stiff consistency.
  • Use a filled teaspoon to drop the mixture into the cases.
  • Place on middle shelf and bake for 25-30 minutes.
  • Cool on a wire rack before serving.

 leek muffins - baked and cooling

Serving Suggestions.

leek muffin - ready to eat!Go Welsh and serve with a bowl of Cawl.

Go Oriental and dip in a bowl of sweet chilli sauce or mango chutney.

Freeze for the summer and enjoy with an egg fried in plum tomatoes for lunch.

Grow Your Own.

Leeks are hungry plants, so add plenty of well rotted manure to your plot, or alternatively grow them in a deep container with fresh compost, adding a feed of Incredigrow. Start the seeds in late February or through March and April either in a single seed in cellular trays outdoors or direct in your soil. From May to July the plants can then be transferred to their final growing positions. To have a more blanched stem it is necessary to fork the soil around the stems as they grow, being careful not to get it between the leaves. Beware of the leek moth and leek rust – for more information on this you can always visit The RHS online guide How to grow Leeks.

*** Easy Peasy – Basic techniques/Suitable for Children with adult supervision/help.

Treat as Tender – Intermediate Skills required/Children may need more help with this.

Seasoned Kitchen Gardener – Confident Baker/Children might not be suited to this.

My name is Amanda and I live in Pembrokeshire with my fiancé and our garden is approximately 116 meters square. I want to share with you my love for gardening and the reasons behind it, from the good to the bad and ugly. I want to do this for my own personal pleasure. If you would like to take the journey with me then please read my blogs and share with me your gardening stories.

Driftwood Garden’s Geoff Stonebanks’ trip to the Palace

Geoff Stonebanks attends Macmillan Cancer Support Volunteers Reception at Buckingham Palace, Hosted by HRH The Prince of Wales

Macmillan Cancer Support’s Patron, HRH The Prince of Wales hosted a reception at Buckingham Palace on 31 January. The event recognised and thanked exceptional volunteers for their life-changing contributions to helping people living with cancer.

The reception focused on the contribution these supporters have made, and celebrated the vital role volunteers play at Macmillan. One of our long serving customer trial members from Seaford, Geoff Stonebanks, was extremely lucky to be one of those invited to attend this prestigious event. Geoff is a local gardener and active fundraiser for the charity through his Driftwood Fundraising Group.  Macmillan said that all of those who attended had gone above and beyond their volunteer role.

Geoff raises money for The Macmillan Horizon Centre, over £54000 to date, through events in his own garden, Driftwood, and by single-handedly organising an annual Macmillan Coastal Garden Trail of approximately 25 gardens each year between Brighton and Seaford.

Geoff recounts how he brought the smile to The Prince’s face by telling him of a trick he had picked up for his own garden after a visit to Highgrove a couple of years ago. The Prince has some large urns at the back of the house which were looking a little faded and tired. As Geoff watched on, a couple of gardeners came up with a tractor and trailer loaded with pots of perfectly primed tulips, just about to burst into flower! They lifted out the tired, inner container from the urn and replaced it with one of tulips. Instant impact! This principle is something that Geoff now adopts, not on such a grand scale, in his own award-winning garden each season, where he has over 200 different containers. The Prince smiled.

Image by Paul Burns Photography, Courtesy of Clarence House

Geoff said:

This was a once in a lifetime opportunity and so totally unexpected. Never ever did I imagine I would visit Buckingham Palace and engage in conversation on one of my favourite pastimes with The Prince of Wales, utterly magical! Thank you, Macmillan!”

Image by Paul Burns Photography, Courtesy of Clarence House

The royal connection does not end there though! Geoff was dumbstruck in January to receive an invitation to The Queen’s Royal Garden Party, also at Buckingham Palace, in June, for his services to the local community in Seaford, where he lives.

You can see Geoff’s own garden and discuss with him the tips he pinched from Highgrove when it opens 8 times for various charities this Summer. You can also see and discuss the plants he will be trialling for Thompson & Morgan too!  www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk

Graham Ward

I’ve been gardening for as long as I can remember, my first earliest memory being planting seeds in my Grandfather’s prestige flower bed and having a prize lettuce growing there, which he proudly left to show everyone.

Since then, gaining knowledge and experience from both my Grandfather and my Father, I’ve continued to garden, both as a hobby and later on as a professional gardener and landscaper for 12 years. I love all aspects of it, from the design and build, to the planting out of summer borders with plants you’ve either grown from seed or raised from plugs. Unusual varieties always catch my eye and I’m keen to try growing them, even if sometimes it means learning from my mistakes.

The Ice Age ends at Henly’s Corner

So during the barren winter months one has to find other distractions to amuse oneself, such as eating and talking. At a recent lunch party (ooh, get her!) I found myself sitting with a retired geography teacher discussing the advantages and disadvantages of London clay in horticulture. (Cor, mixing in the social circles of North London takes a lot of beating!) Well you could have knocked me down with a feather! Did you know that the Pleistocene ice-sheets really did stop at Henly’s Corner* (which is the junction of the Finchley and North Circular Roads). I don’t know how I lived without that knowledge until now.

Spurred on by this revelation I decided it was high time to get back out there amongst said clay and welcome in the new gardening year. As always I venture out with an open mind, and in my thirst for knowledge I discovered two new techniques:

  1. It’s always better to hard prune when in a bad mood. After a particularly grim morning I decided to vent my spleen on the poor unsuspecting roses. What I ended up with were neat little 12” goblet shaped bushes, instead of the usual leggy specimens resulting from hedging my bets. Moving onto the deciduous shrubs, I faced down overgrown sambucus nigra and cotinus coggygria, rubbing alongside one another like reluctant bedfellows. Secateurs in hand, I pronounced, “You grow, you go,” before hard pruning the cotinus in favour of the sambucus.  It’ll be the survival of the fittest. As the saying goes, “There’s no sentiment in business – or pruning”.
  2. Always hard prune ivy in the pouring rain. I dread this task because the dust from dried ivy invariably chokes the life out of me. However by happy accident I discovered that, whilst pruning in the rain may result in pneumonia, it does prevent asphyxiation.

Talking of gardening techniques, for those of you who are yoga junkies like wot I am, here are a few adaptations to poses that may come in handy whilst working in your garden:

  1. Yogi squat or Crow pose. Particularly useful for straining your Achilles tendon whilst pruning ground cover that has spread into the lawn edges.
  2. Warrior One. Stand upright, legs apart, neck at 90 degree angle to shoulders, arms stretched right out of sockets overhead, long loppers in hand, whilst attempting to chop off errant whips on ancient apple tree. Repeat several times then give up and assume Balasana or Childs Pose.
  3. Warrior Three. Great pose for pitching forward to grapple with tenacious clematis adhered to fence, whilst balancing on one leg in order to avoid trampling all over emerging bulbs and perennials in herbaceous border.
  4. Corpse Pose. At the end of every Practice it is customary to rest in Shevasana. Lie down on back and surrender yourself to Nature, finally acknowledging that She knows best and that you will try to work with her at every future opportunity.

Seriously though, after a couple of invigorating spring cleaning sessions in the brisk winter sunshine I am delighted to report that I have got my enthusiasm back. The garden has been tamed into submission; at least, I don’t cringe whenever I step outside now. (Look straight ahead, avoid eye contact with patio cannas, last year’s foliage hanging on like tattered rags.)

Day length is noticeably longer. Iris reticulata, winter aconites, crocus and snowdrops are blooming. Hellebores are in flower. Buds are swelling everywhere. Don’t you just love the tight, bright new shoots clustering in profusion on previously barren stems? Only trouble now is holding myself back from pruning less robust shrubs like fuchsia, abelia & hydrangea.

Looking forward, my T & M trial seeds have arrived! I’m being more realistic this year, trying to stick to plants I know I can grow – not into pushing the boundaries, too much like hard work – and at least I shall have something to report!

  • Tomato Artisan Mixed. Having said that, I tried these last year but they didn’t germinate. Love the colours.
  • Tomato Sweet Baby. Website description: Fabulous and Prolific. That’ll do for me.
  • Tomato Rainbow Blend. Missed the boat on these last year as they were out of stock.
  • Cucumber Nimrod F1. Never grown cucumbers from seed but intrigued by their All-Female scab resistance!
  • Ricinus Communis Impala. Fab-u-lous accent plants. Majestic appearance makes them look difficult to grow (therefore feather in my cap). Easy peasy!
  • Mina Lobata. Seeing as everyone always boasts about how easy these are to grow I thought I’d have a go. Previous miserable attempts to be ignored – hope over experience.
  • Nasturtium ‘Orchid Flame’. Out of stock. Makes you want them even more.

Incidentally the Green Bin Men still haven’t been; that’s 7 weeks and counting. I put ours out last night (the bin, not the men…although.….) in eager anticipation, neighbours following suit shortly afterwards on the assumption that my being The Gardener on our road, I must be In “The Know”. No show. Am not even sure that the Bin Men know when they should return.

I leave you now with a caution: Refrain from thinking spring is on its way as it usually snows on Feb 20th.

 *HENLY’S CORNER – IN THE ICE AGE By Helen O’Brien

What has become almost a local folk legend was confirmed recently (Blogger’s Note: 1979 actually. Still, extremely recent in the grand scheme of things) by the Geological Museum, in answer to a query prompted by current road improvement proposals. But the Finchley glacier did not, as popularly believed, come from the last glaciation but from a much earlier one, approximately a quarter of a million years ago – known, in English terminology, as the Anglian advance; or as the Mindel glaciation in the European Alpine sequence.

Lets get this growing year started!

Hoorah, my seed potatoes have arrived and are safely set out in egg boxes on the window sill. I have just used the last of last years crop which kept beautifully in the frost free shed.  The onions from last season are still going well with no sign of any shooting or rot as are the Shallots and garlic. The pots of crocus I planted last autumn are in bloom and looking very colourful on the conservatory window sill on sunny days when they open out fully.

 

Outside in the garden there are jobs to be getting on with when the weather permits. Pulling weeds is easy when the ground is soft and I carry a small plank about with me to prevent compacting the soil when I walk on it.  I have had to put extra netting around my purple sprouting broccoli as the word has gone out around the local pigeon population and they sit on the tops of the plants and pick out the ‘sprouts’.

All the broad beans have come through the worst of the weather and I shall go out and tie them in to the sticks this week as they will soon start growing taller as the days lengthen. The autumn planted garlic bulbs have all come through and have a good 8 inches of growth on top and the shallots planted at the same time are greening up as well.  Promises of good things to come.

Out in the flower garden the snowdrops and aconites are looking splendid and the Winter Sweet is in full flower giving off a gorgeous perfume by the front arch as everyone walks by. A flower arrangement of Christmas Box (sarcococca) and snowdrops in the house fills the room with a wonderful scent and lasts for a week.

The chickens have made good use of the fruit cage and have been scratching around the bushes picking out slugs and bugs.  They will only have a few more weeks before they have to be excluded as the buds on the currant and gooseberry bushes are swelling already and there is nothing the girls like better than a juicy bud.

 

Theresa Bloomfield

I have had my hands in soil ever since I could crawl. I remember well going out into the garden and watching my Father double digging the vegetable plot and being shown how to pick caterpillars off the brassicas. You could say he was an early organic gardener. There was something nice about sneaking round behind the outhouse and pulling rhubarb and dipping it in sugar, picking raspberries and stuffing handfuls into my mouth. It is these memories of taste and smell that never leave you and make you want to grow your own fresh fruit and vegetables.

It has been something of a treat then, to find myself working for Thompson and Morgan for the past 13 years and being able to help customers to solve their gardening problems

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.

Formative Winter Pruning on Mature Apples and Pears

apple tree - pruning blog

Hi all,

If you read my last blog you’ll know I was talking about the different types of gardeners we all are. Since then I’ve been doing some thinking and I’ve had my performance review at work and I’m now working towards becoming a fruit loop! I’d like to learn more about fruit growing, training and harvesting right through to the products we can make with the harvest.

I bought my self a steam juicer in the summer last year to have a go at doing grape juice. I can highly recommend it to anyone! Its so easy to use and all you have to do is stand and watch then pour it into sterilised bottles. I can’t wait to do more from the vineyard this year!

So, after my performance review it just so happened that there were some formative winter pruning workshops on apples and pears that we could go on. I jumped at the chance and four of us went last weekend to a scattered orchard near Ipswich to be taught how to do things properly.

Now being a trained horticulturalist doesn’t mean you know it all, it shows you how little you do actually know. I’ve always gone along the general rule of thumb of pruning no more than a third off a well-trained fruit tree in the winter and you have to get the perfect bowl shape from a neglected tree straight away. It was really interesting to find out that the process of gaining a bowl in your tree is much better to be done over successional years and not to take off more than 10% of the tree.

This is down to the levels of Auxin hormone in the tree balanced against the Abscissic acid levels. Auxin is the growth hormone stored in roots in winter and Abscissic acid is a growth inhibitor hormone mainly in the plant tips. If you take away more than 10% on a Bramley apple tree or other vigorously growing fruit or 20% of the growth of other trees, of the over all tree the amount of Abscissic acid is reduced enough that the Auxin rushes to the cut sight in spring causing a mass of water shoots to be produced because all the embryonic cells aren’t being inhibited by the stunting hormone that is in the growth tips. By hacking loads off your tree to ‘start again will actually do more harm than good and it could end up looking like an unwoven wicker basket.

apple tree - pruning blog

It was really interesting to find this out and it is only recently that it has been explored to reduce the tree little by little over a few years actually has a better overall impact on the tree and its production that attacking it and making it how we want it straight away. With all that in mind I will now try and tell you how to prune your trees. No tree is the same so I won’t be giving you any pictures to look at. It is recommended that you do a winter prune anytime between December and the end of March.

  1. Take a good look at your tree and walk around it several times assessing what you see. Don’t decide on what to cut yet just note the shape, size any damaged or diseased branches, anything that looks hazardous and try to figure out where your bowl is. (this relates more to a neglected tree)
  2. Now think about all the bits you think you need to do to your tree to get it to the perfect shape.
  3. Make a plan of action as to where your bowl is going to be and what you are going to prune. This can be useful to keep a note of (in most cases it’s likely to be over the 10% reduction if it’s a neglected tree) and come back to the notes next and subsequent years. If you have identified pieces this year that need to come off but are going to leave till next or following years then using a piece of string or material tied to that branch to ‘flag’ it will help to remind you next year along with your notes.
  4. Figure out what is most important to come off this year and try not to leave too big of open wounds as this allows more chance of disease to enter. If you have a big limb to come off it is better to reduce it gradually over a few years rather than in one go. This will only produce loads of water shoots as I mentioned earlier.
  5. Now once you have made your mind up on what needs to come off and when you can start pruning.

Take a little time to get to know your tree, it will definitely be worth it in the end. It’s really made a difference in how I’m looking at the trees we have at work rather than going full throttle straight into getting the perfect shape first off. Thinking about it, a couple of years to us seems a long while but when trees can live for hundreds of years, a couple of years is nothing to them.

If you have any questions please ask and I will do my best to help you.

Smile,

Lesley

Lesley Palmer

I’m a 23 year old female horticulturalist. I studied at Easton College for two years until June 2014 and became self employed providing garden care and design in North Norfolk. I currently care for around 20 gardens and have now achieved a few designs and a small landscaping project.

I am passionate about getting young people, especially primary schools, involved in gardening again. I have a project running to do with children’s gardening, so if you’d like to know more please get in touch! I began because of spending so much time in the garden with my granddad as a child. I was also a member of my primary school’s environment club.

I am a fan of Michael Perry and James Wong and I love finding out about edible flowers and how to live more independently from my own garden.

January….

Hello Gardeners,

I can’t quite believe this will be my fourth year writing for T&M. I have learned so much more about writing blogs as well as gardening over the years. I’ve shared my ups and downs with you, and formed many friendships with the blogging community. One of things I love is your interactions, a little message on my page really does make me smile.

Each year I start off by promising to write more factual and interesting pieces, but by May, all I am focused on is telling you how this or that is faring. So this year I added a new blog called “Rake to Bake,” where I will attempt to encourage you (not that many of you need it…) to try something new with your edibles. Did anyone make the Parsnip Scones? I recently modified the recipe to include sprouts as well as parsnips – all I can say is I am very sorry for the unusual high winds the UK  is experiencing.

I must be the only blogger here who has not abandoned the winter garden. I haven’t done any work, but I have watched Mark tidy up. My job is to examine the plot by walking around taking photos, tracking the pattern of the sun and sighing at the wind damage. I spend time laughing at the antics of the birds that don’t mind coming to feed at the table when I’m watering the plants in the greenhouse. Finally when I come in from the cold it is usually sees me getting pens and paper to draw fancy plans for where I plan to put things. Then on a day that is far too bitter to go out I revise the plans or draw them up again.

Due to my ineptness for the last three years I have put the bee hotel facing west. It was only when I read an update from The Bumble Bee Trust that I realised the poor bees would not move in, unless I repositioned it. I also noted that Bees don’t nest at too high a level, so about a foot off the ground for the hotel is just as effective as head height. In case you are wondering I have a Bee obsession, I would love to have bee hives, unfortunately Mark is allergic to their sting, so I’ll just have to settle for feeding them instead.

The greenhouses are ticking over, inside “The Office” nothing new has germinated this month, except for what could possibly be a new lavender. The odd frosty nights have seen most of the seedlings go dormant. I only need to keep the compost moist and ventilate on warmer days. There are a few pots of violas that smell divine and have been flowering for over a month. I’m itching to start off my sweetpeas, but the gales mean it’s too unsafe to be in the greenhouse for more than a quick five minute check.

In “Ty Mawr” the peppers and chillies seem to have survived the winter, although Mark forgot to water them, so I nearly lost them. The English Marigolds have really shot up, and even though some of the same batch are flowering outside the ones under glass have not. Curiously, the plants inside are much larger, and I am assuming this is because they are warmer and drier. The cornflowers did not like the cold, nor the lack of regular watering, but they have picked up over the last few days. Incredibly the Nicotiana is still flowering – I expected it to die off between Christmas and now, but no it just keeps going. (Hope I haven’t jinxed it.) The turnip looks like it could be ready soon. The garlic bulbs died. The stored dahlias have not rotted, the baby money trees need repotting.

 

I ordered and received my onion seeds at the start of the month. Followed closely by an offer on seed potatoes. By placing an order for Maris Piper I was able to order a trial sample of the new Vizella potato variety for the bargain price of £1.99 and potato fertiliser for 50p. They also came with a free packet of mint seeds, perfect for a late spring/early summer salad. I have started the chitting process, hopefully I can plant them mid February, that’s the beauty of living by the coast – less frost. I had to leave my cold frame in the large greenhouse due to the fact it keeps going off on its own accord every time the wind picks up, scattering its contents here, there and everywhere. The last time it went off on one it ended up from being in a sheltered spot by the bench in front of the bungalow to almost putting itself in the shed round the back.

 

I’ve set up my electric propagator on the kitchen window, I’ve planted seven types of seeds, so far nothing has grown, but it takes 7-21 days so I’m not worried yet. I am planning to write more about the propagator at a later date.

As January is traditionally a time to look both forward and back, here is a short summary of my past actions and new plans:-

January 2015

I introduced myself and asked you to share a year in the greenhouse with me. Everything from the construction of the greenhouse to the last produce of the year. I wrote about the importance of keeping a gardening diary, (something I still do today), and I told you that I couldn’t grow cucumbers. – I still can’t grow them…

January 2016

I started the year by explaining the rookie mistakes I made with a bigger greenhouse, I complained about my Labrynthitis, I was ecstatic I had grown Californian poppies. I noticed that we had plenty of blue skies in in early 2016. I bought hanging shelves for Ty Mawr, and I was excited to try out the seeds I had won for blogger of the month the previous December.

January 2017

Full of optimism I wrote this :- “The first thing I learned this year is how powerful plants can be. During my final session of chemotherapy, I decided to google what goes into the drugs that are saving my life. Cabol is synthetic and therefore uninteresting, but Taxol, as the name suggests, is derived from the Pacific Yew tree…” “…It (Taxol) also contains poisonous plant alkaloids from the periwinkle (Vinca Major) and the American wild mandrake, commonly known as the May Apple. Plus it has extracts from the Asian Happy tree – a 40 meter giant that is also grown in Canada.”

I went on to talk about the plans for my grassy knoll area the Orange coloured garden flowers I would grow, and the plans to help mum rejuvenate her front space. I stated my brother still hadn’t put his greenhouse up.”

A month after I wrote the blog, I had my surgery and just as I was returning to work six months later, I had a blood clot in my heart leaving me with Heart Failure.

Through all of these setbacks the greenhouses and garden kept me sane, the act of planting a seed and watching it grow enabled me to be determined to go on. I didn’t want to die without tasting the new variety tomatoes, or seeing the dahlias bloom.

2018

I have many plans, I might not achieve them, but here they are –

  • Have a go at growing Cape Gooseberries.
  • Have a go at growing Himalayan Blue Poppies
  • Improve the grassy knoll.
  • Have all my family and friends around on warm sunny days to sit outside eat cakes then go home with a bunch of flowers/fruit/veg picked from the garden.
  • Visit Geoff at Driftwood on his Open Day.
  • Visit Caroline and her cats.
  • Encourage even more bees into the garden.
  • Nag my brother until he puts up his greenhouse – he has done the base…
  • Advise (nag/dictate- delete as appropriate) my other brother on his new allotment.

But I know as well as anyone that things do not always go according to plan, so my all time favourite thing to do this year is to just enjoy being in the greenhouse whenever I can.

Until next time,

Happy Gardening.

Love Amanda.

My name is Amanda and I live in Pembrokeshire with my fiancé and our garden is approximately 116 meters square. I want to share with you my love for gardening and the reasons behind it, from the good to the bad and ugly. I want to do this for my own personal pleasure. If you would like to take the journey with me then please read my blogs and share with me your gardening stories.

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