Recent blog posts

Whenever there is a poll on Britain’s favourite garden flower, the rose is often voted as the best loved. However I do wonder if this is now a theoretical love, as only 15% of gardeners claim to have a dedicated rose border of the sort that I remember most gardeners possessing in my youth. My clients are conflicted, adoring the rose blooms but wishing to avoid the work involved with getting the best out of their roses. They are not the lowest maintenance plant you will grow. The bush and…

May is one of my favourite months in the garden. The borders have filled out, the days are lengthening, it is Chelsea Flower Show time and full summer is still to come. Actually I do not fill my borders with such early stalwarts as peonies, oriental poppies and lupins. Much as I love them, they look tatty or take up room when they have gone over. I prefer planting to perform at its best in late summer, when I am most likely to be sitting out in the garden, and…

The Guide to Essential Herbs April 2017 When I look into the food bank donation bin at the supermarket, I mostly see bags of rice and pasta and the odd tin of tuna. I sometimes donate dry herbs and garlic to enliven a plain diet with lots of taste. I have always grown herbs. My favourite student dish was pasta with butter, olive, gently fried garlic, with handfuls of fresh herbs, salt and black pepper, and if I had just received my student grant, some ham and parmesan chucked on…

Now it is the end of days dark at 4.30 and it is noticeably lighter at 5pm, which lightens the spirits no end . Although the garden is still in the depths of winter, underground the bulbs are stirring. Many daffodils are already 2 inches high and the first snowdrops are out. If snowdrops flowered 6 weeks later than the majority do in the middle of February, I do not think they would be as popular as they are. The drifts of white through the woods, the first mass flowering…

The SGD Awards 2016, at the Landmark Hotel, London , 27th January 2017 ‘Do you go to the SGD Awards in London?’ asked Frank, the rep from Stonemarket, one of my paving stone suppliers, just before Christmas. ‘Never!’, I retorted. ‘Prise myself out of my wellies, scrub my grimy nails, buy a posh frock, go up to London on the train and pay for an expensive hotel and award dinner tickets, only to spend the evening grinning and clapping at people who are better and more successful designers than me,…

The Garden in January As I have said many times before, my desire to garden is at the lowest ebb just before Christmas, and jobs not jobbed before the end of November can usually wait until the end of February, as I do not possess any vines or figs in need of early pruning. The sharp frosts at the end of November turned autumn into winter within a week, blasting the last leaves from the trees. There not being a lot to look at in my garden, I am more…

As I write, the first severe frosts have rendered the world monochromatic. Overnight the last fuchsia flowers hang limp and grey. Although many gardening articles start with a cheery ‘this month in the garden you should’ I have no intention of following any of their advice, as I find the tasks for winter gardening to be damp and boring for the most part. I raked leaves off the corner of the lawn where they gather, as leaving them to decay naturally would leave a bald patch on the lawn as…

I don’t really want to start an article with ‘this month in the garden you must…’ Of all the months in the garden I find November one of the most dismal. I will rake up leaves and prune apple trees on a mild day, but otherwise if a garden job hasn’t been jobbed by the time the clocks go back, it can usually wait until after Christmas and quite possibly till the clocks go forward again in March. I’d rather look back at the spectacular autumn colour we have enjoyed…

Autumn planted bulbs The garden centres are now stacked high with bulbs on display in packets of 10 to plant in September and October. The colourful pictures entice, and it is hard to resist grabbing one of every kind. Do try to resist that temptation, and have several packs of one kind of bulb so you have a decent swathe of colour in a border, rather spots and dots of all colours at once. The information on the back of the pack is often rather vague, giving height, spread and…

Autumn planted bulbs The garden centres are now stacked high with bulbs on display in packets of 10 to plant in September and October. The colourful pictures entice, and it is hard to resist grabbing one of every kind. Do try to resist that temptation, and have several packs of one kind of bulb so you have a decent swathe of colour in a border, rather spots and dots of all colours at once. The information on the back of the pack is often rather vague, giving height, spread and…

This is a funny old month in the garden. In theory it is high summer, but that was a week last Tuesday. A dry August brings mildew and rust and a damp month brings blights. Stay home, and endure Facebook envy of other people having a marvellous time somewhere sunny and not in Somerset. Go away, and return to dried out pots and courgettes the size of a baby. Nobody wants to start a major garden project this month, what with the stress of juggling events, work and children during…

Now the fresh lime greens of spring leaves have matured to deep green, and the asparagus and strawberries are finishing, I find myself enjoying gardening a tiny bit less. Anticipation has given way to realisation, which so far is disappointingly cool and damp. When it is hot, it has been sultry and sticky – fine for a little light deadheading, not so much fun for heavy work. I shall save jobs requiring exertion for September onwards and preferably for someone else to do. Meanwhile, as the runner beans start to…

Early June is probably my favourite time in the gardening year. Asparagus is still in season. British strawberries are now in the shops, although very expensive this year – is this due to the cold April? Spring has burst forth in full, yet still fresh, and we have yet to be devastated by the summer blights, rusts and pests. It’s just perfect. Judging by the number of gardens open to the public in the first half of June, it is also many other gardeners’ favourite time of year. About half…

May 2016 Only once in my life have I attempted to grow asparagus, when I had an allotment. Unfortunately it was a recently renovated allotment with more than its fair share of dandelions, which took over despite regular hoeing, then asparagus beetle devastated what was left of the crop. Since then I have bought asparagus from the shops, very occasionally imported out of season, but more enthusiastically in May from the greengrocer as by now the Somerset crop is in season, and how delicious it is too! There is no…

Great men remembered Christopher Lloyd, of Great Dixter in East Sussex, died ten years ago last month. He is much missed, as a prolific and observant garden writer. He wrote much about why we garden and what we get out of it, rather than the daunting ‘this week in the garden you should….’ style of writing beloved of monthly glossy gardening magazines, which strikes guilt and despair in the heart of the garden slacker. I never met him, but often hoped to. 11 years ago my cousin lived in Northiam,…

The Garden in January When the first daffodils emerged unseasonably early in December at first I scoffed at the usual cries of ‘global warming, the world’s going mad’, knowing that there are a few daffodils that regularly flower well before the rest. This year I will now admit that things have indeed gone a little mad, owing to there having been no frost to speak of before New Year, and the warmest December for 70 years. Consequently the daffodils that usually start flowering on the Yeovil roadsides early February are…

The Garden in December Yet again we have had an autumn remarkably free from frosts, so there is still much to see in the garden at the beginning of December. Although the ‘killer’ frost has seen off the dahlias and any other truly tender perennials, it is amazing what still continues to give a show and where and why. Actually, that was the first paragraph from last year’s December article, and it also applies this year. Since first living in Somerset 28 years ago, I used to reckon that the…

The garden in November 2015 After an October boasting the finest display of autumn colour I can remember for many years, November may come as a bit of an anticlimax. It is still very mild, but the leaves are falling now, the red of acers and sumachs now more on the ground than the trees, while many yellows such as gingko biloba and field maple will persist into the middle of the month. Still, I have had a wonderful first day of the month, out gathering sloes and bullaces to…

October 2015 I have spent many of the fine days of late September filling old feed bags half full with well rotted manure from a local farm, and bringing them home to dig into my little vegetable plot. My soil is rather poor, and a barrow full of muck for 2 square yards is not too much. Potatoes, brassicas, beans and leafy vegetables all enjoy rich soil. Root vegetables are inclined to fork if the ground has been recently manured, so I usually follow the new potatoes with leeks in…