12 Apr


I have to confess I have a soft spot for the humble primrose : Primula vulgaris. A dainty unassuming little flower, their perfect faces of creamy yellow scatter themselves delightfully between the nodding daffodils. It’s the kind of yellow that epitomises all things Spring; warm early sunshine, egg yolks and most importantly I think, hope.

In colour therapy, yellow has been found to promote optimism, cheerfulness and general wellbeing. For me, this simple little flower can’t ever fail to raise a smile. We have them sprinkled in the main borders, contrasting wonderfully with the intense blue of the forgetmenots and grape hyacinths. Spring’s colour palette is really something quite beautiful; mirroring the pale sunshine and fresh blue skies.

The Primula genus itself is one of the largest and increasingly popular genera; from the showy and quite perfect Auriculas to the delicate nodding Cowslips. Another favourite of mine has to be Primula denticulata: gorgeous little pom poms of blooms held aloft on single stems in white, mauves and magentas.

I will happily continue my primrose obsession for a few more weeks to come; despite the jewelled hues of the tulips taking centre stage; it is always the shy ones which are worth noticing.





14 Sep

In the space of what seems like only a few days, the light has changed. It’s truly beautiful. Everything is lit with a hazy, golden light that only comes with this season- September’s introduction to the best show on earth: Autumn. The last of the House martins are preparing for the long journey home; a true sign of the end of summer. Intricate seed heads decorate the borders, Achillea still providing bright pops of colour among the fading perennials. Hips of pure orange decorate the rose bushes and the golden heads of Stipa tenuissima stretch upwards toward the skies. It is of course Autumn’s colour palette which make it a favourite season for many; the vibrant reds of Maples, the bronzed Alamanchiers and the orange lights of Beech. It’s like summer in sepia, only much, much better.

There are other essential elements which combine to give us Autumn; the freshest morning chill, that sweet smell of damp leaves.. hedges strewn with dewy cobwebs. The foggy dawns punctuated with the smell of distant bonfires.
Country walks, favourite jumpers, fingerless gloves and of course; wellington boots.

A childhood tradition every Autumn was to catch a falling leaf and make a wish~ our Mother had us all dancing around, laughing under every tree on the way home from school. This is something my sisters and I still do; our wishes being that she was still here to enjoy it with us.

Nature’s Celebration

18 May

The tulips are stunning, a fine example of botanical architecture at its best. It’s impossible to dislike them-  their elegant goblets held high by long straight stems. There is almost too much to take in ; new foliage stretches it’s way skyward, embracing the elements, shiny, new and quite perfect. Blossom, almost ethereal, falls like nature’s confetti, sprinkling the lawns and pathways. Shrubs and plants are budding everywhere, showing us the promise of the season to come.

The soft pretty foliage of Papaver “Patty’s plum” is now almost a foot high- it won’t be long before we see plump buds opening to unfold stunning paper-like skirts of deepest mauve. The lilac’s chandeliers of soft pink are slowly erupting into life, as is the vetch, goose grass and couch grass, happily spreading itself as fast as I can hoe.

There is far too much to do; yet somehow it is not insurmountable; it is challenging and enjoyable and I love being immersed in a blur of green      ( weeds n’ all..)

Nature is preparing it’s own celebration; stringing up the bunting, hanging up the fairy lights. The bright, zesty hues to dazzle, uplift & inspire, the purest of greens to relax, cleanse & revive; Mother Nature’s dressing room…

At the beginning of July we hold our own celebration: The annual garden party; a traditionally English mix of balloon strewn gazebos, brass bands, homemade cake stalls, raffles and colourful cardigans covering goosebumped shoulders. Despite the usual threat of typical summer weather; there is a quintessentially English bit of magic at play here; the dreary office attire has been replaced by flowing floral skirts and blouses, casual shirts and summer trousers, with the odd person brave enough to show some leg. Families arrive with laughing children; girls dancing  in flowing summer dresses, and smiling residents clothed in their Sunday best.

I am quite happy sitting on my plant stall : full of lovingly tendered colourful annuals in pretty baskets, perennials, and a few herbs thrown in. Until then, I have a lot of pruning, weeding and fairy lights to put up..

Sow, divide and conquer!

25 Apr

Propagation in all its forms is becoming increasingly popular among gardeners. In the first instance, it is extremely cost effective, or even cost free to propagate ( yes, there really is such a thing as creating plants for free..) As our Carol Klein would say “int it wunderful” and we’d be inclined to agree.

The current economic climate has quite a lot to do with it of course- people just don’t have the money to spend on ready grown plants. Why buy 12 violas at £8 when you can buy a packet of 90 seeds for £1.80 even factoring in the cost of a bag of compost and a couple of watering cans full of water, and you’ve still saved yourself a pretty penny. Yes, there is more work, time and effort involved, but I think we can agree that most gardener’s find it quite enjoyable. You find yourself talking to your seedlings, admiring them from outside the greenhouse door ; all neat little shoots in rows, full of promise and potential. The nurturing “parent” in you kicks in and you become just a little bit obsessed ( in a good way, you understand..) I have been known to drive to work at the weekend, just to check my seedlings.

Naturally there are failures and disappointments, and a nasty case of damping off can wipe out entire greenhouses of lovingly sown seedlings      ( or in my case, a field mouse kindly chomped his way through all of my sunflower seeds in one night ) But somehow this doesn’t deter us, and we’ll happily splash out on another packet of seeds and try again.

Division and cuttings are also popular: delphiniums seem to do well as heel cuttings now, just as they are starting to do their thing. It really does make you feel quite clever and pleased with yourself when your cuttings begin to root, and you find yourself hunting round the garden, secateurs in hand, searching for more cutting material.

Of course, nature does it all on it’s own, and it really is amazing to see the expert doing her thing: in the garden there are hundreds of primroses and forget-me-nots which have all hugely increased in number from last year. The hellebores have had little hellebores, and even the seed dropped by the birds is sprouting nicely under the feeders.

My seed obsession has admittedly got slightly out of hand: I have got dozens of unopened seed packets, and tomorrow I will sow some more. I will not stop until every available space in the greenhouse has been used..


A good day for skipping

23 Apr

Today was one of those days; blue sky met green earth; daffodils danced on the banks and lambs danced happily in the fields. The never ending Winter seemed like a world away and I was happy.

As welcome as Spring is; there is suddenly a hundred jobs to be done in the garden, marking the busiest time of the year for us horticultural folk. Propagation has to be one of my favourite things to do: watching these tiny seedlings emerge is one of life’s little miracles ( and infinitely more cost effective than buying the plant fully grown) The greenhouse is currently home to hundreds of mini petunias, rudbeckias, nicotiana, perennial sunflowers, courgettes and tomatoes.

Today I pruned four large buddleias and weeded and tidied a long border; not an unpleasant job in the sun. The residents also seemed to appreciate the reprieve in weather, and seemed content and happy as they wandered through the grounds.

In a break from weeding, I went in search of my all time favourite flower. There on the banks up from the driveway it is sprinkled along with creamy primroses: the humble forget-me-not. Not a showy flower ; the forget-me-not has a quiet, unassuming beauty. The tiny, intense blue flowers are really quite stunning.

I put my tools away and put the seedlings to bed for the night, tired, scratched and stung ( but with a spring in my step..)


Why do we garden?

6 Apr

Why do we love to garden? What is gardening? To me, I would say that gardening is essentially the artificial manipulation of plants, shrubs and trees for aesthetic or productive purposes.
So, in other words, we use plants to create an attractive, pleasing environment, or to produce food in the form of fruit and vegetables. That may be it in very literal terms, however, for me, gardening is infinitesimally so much more than that.

Gardening done well, in my opinion, is a unique blend of science and art. Science and art together? It just doesn’t seem plausible; but strangely it is, and it works. The notion of science and art seems an unlikely and unworkable partnership; but for successful gardening, they have to work, side by side, in unison. Most of us possess a brain which is apparently either right or left brain dominant; meaning if we are right brain dominant we are more likely to possess artistic abilities or characteristics    ( artists, writers, designers, musicians) conversely those among us with left brain dominance are perceived to be more logical and analytical
( scientists, medics, engineers) So if we go with the presumption that we are either “artistic” or “practical”, then in gardening terms this will have useful applications in either the science side of horticulture, or the visual.

Fortunately for me, thanks to genetics, I possess a unique blend of practical and artistic attributes. My father is an ex forces man: extremely practical and resourceful ; good with numbers, and can make anything with his hands ( just don’t ask him to draw a picture) My mother on the other hand was an artist, an accomplished seamstress and crafter ( but not a great mathematician) Truthfully, I would say I have more artist than scientist in me, but I possess enough of both to make me a reasonably successful horticulturist.

Gardening for me is many things: exciting, rewarding, challenging, therapeutic, tiring, joyful, back- breaking and spiritual. I think essentially, the reason why gardening is so popular is due to the fact that it is organic; it is pure and natural. It is the complete antithesis to the technology obsessed, fast- paced, artificial lives that most of us lead.
We all get something different from gardening: I find magic in a packet of seeds; and appreciate the beauty in the tiniest, simplest of flowers. Others will nurture their vegetable plot; spending hours digging, planting, feeding and watering. Somehow, the more we toil and sweat, the sweeter the rewards.

For me there is something quite special about gardening; it goes beyond the excitement of a sprouting seed or a swathe of flowers in the sunshine. It is that moment when you feel you are connected to the earth; it is an almost indescribable sense of pure peace. The moment you sit in the sunshine, close your eyes and all you can hear are the birds and the gentle buzzing of bees. Or when you pause for a minute to take in the beautiful countryside, and feel a deep connection with the fields and hedgerows, the animals and birds. Gardening for me is spiritual ; it cleanses your mind, revives your soul and connects you to the earth. I can’t think of anything in the world I would rather do, ever.