vegetable garden


Bush soft fruit to plant now

It has been a funny old year. If you have eaten and drunk too much at Christmas to compensate for the absence of wild family get-togethers…. when you would have eaten and drunk too much anyway…I understand totally.

In 2020 many people turned to gardening in lockdown and are reviewing their successes right now. They have enjoyed growing some of their own food and found the results ranged from superb to maddeningly variable.

an autumn border with aconitums and sedums


The Newt in Somerset

In early October I visited The Newt in Somerset, formerly known as Hadspen House, near Bruton. It was bought in 2013 by South African millionaire Karen Roos, and her billionaire husband Koos Bekker. The scope of the development here is so staggering that I spent much of the 3 hours muttering special oaths of amazement and awe, mostly remembering not to when mummies and toddlers came too close.

2020 has been a most trying year. It has caused me to swear a lot more than usual. I am not alone in this; my potty-mouthed child-infested friends report that their language worsened during lockdown. The natural result was that their little angels returned to school with a over-developed vocabulary.

wild flower meadow


A plea for insects

In mid-September, early one morning, I drove from Somerset to the Malvern Hills to see a client for a garden consultation and drove home again in the afternoon. It was a still and sunny perfect late-summer day, with a round trip of 240 miles.

When I got home, I observed the windscreen had no bugs on it. Not one, and I hadn’t used the windscreen washer since setting off from home. When I was a child, we would amuse ourselves on long car journeys by speculating which particular bug had met a sudden and occasionally colourful end on the screen.


Covid Gardening blues

It’s a miserable wet day at the end of August, and while I am in a more fortunate position than many, living in a nice house with a nice garden in a nice village in the nice county of Somerset, I am getting properly grumpy with Covid restrictions that I am willing to adhere to, and not getting out much. So instead of a gentle piece about the joys of gardening, I will treat myself to a rant. Line the food bin with the page when you’ve finished reading it.

a summer grass and perenneial border with diascia personata and Penstemon Plum Jerkum


Aimless August gardening

If there is any time of year to be wandering round the garden aimlessly, it must be in high summer. The evenings are still long, the cold wet misery of last winter is just a memory, yet we shall grumble when the temperature rises above 26 degrees, or below 20, moaning it is too hot to garden or too cool for proper summer. The mad spring rush of sowing propagating and planting is over, and although there is still plenty to do, it is not of a strenuous kind, until it is time for hedge trimming.

vegetable garden


Prepping soil and pickling artichokes

This time last year I wrote about pickling artichoke hearts in olive oil. It was a time-consuming task and resulted in several jars of delicious additions to summer salads. After a month, the jars fizzed alarmingly upon opening. so I have just evicted the last two jars of pickled botulism in my larder, wary of opening them.

I now pick the heads at snooker ball size and eat the hearts fresh. 8 square metres of artichokes yielding less than a kilo of food does not make sense except to artichoke freaks. You can’t get away with sticking artichokes into the flower border. Each one takes up a metre, looks dreadful once you decapitate the heads and the old stems loll disgracefully.

a pink rose called Darcy Bussell by David Austin Roses


What they don’t tell you in the rose catalogue

After weeks of lockdown I had hoped to crack with get-around-to-it jobs with a vengeance and by now be smugly up to date with spring cleaning, DIY projects and paperwork. I regret to say that not a lot of the housework to-do list has been ticked off. Quite frankly, this amazing spell of hot weather is completely unsuited to housework of any kind, and while the house has that comfortable freshly-burgled look, the garden has never looked better. I explain away the state of the house by telling visitors the butler is on furlough.


the COVID pop-up garden

At the time of writing (25rd March), the news is all about COVID 19, and by the time you read this, you will be enduring considerable upheaval and staying at home. Your family are in the house all the time and you are alternately enjoying their company or wanting to throttle them. It’s like Christmas, but with no presents, less tinsel, no in-laws and nicer weather.


A rough guide to winter pruning

January is one of the best months for pruning deciduous trees and shrubs. The grass and perennials below shrubs and trees will be dormant but look out for emerging bulbs. It is a job that can be done during frosty or wet weather, when border work is impossible.

Too many gardens have their shrubs annually ‘blobbed’ in an unthinking sort of way. Small leaved evergreens such as box, yew and osmanthus respond to this well. When done very well pruning is elevated to the art of topiary.