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How to improve your soil for borders that thrive

By improving the soil around trees and shrubs, they will repay you with strong, healthy growth and long life. A failsafe guide by our partners, Amateur Gardening.
It's amazing that established mixed borders planted with trees and shrubs thrive as well as they do in gardens around the UK. Most people snip bits off these large plants when they overhang paths or generally get too big, but never think that they need feeding and watering in the same way as bedding, or plants in pots. Planted fairly densely, they’re awkward to get to, and anyway, they generally get by.

But to get the best from your garden borders, all plants need feeding and the soil improving. Border plantings can be in place for decades, and big plants suck the goodness out of the soil. Putting it back is quite a straightforward job. It should be done each year, any time between late autumn and late March, as long as the soil is not frozen or waterlogged.

Rake and weed 

First, rake out loose fallen leaves and debris from under all plants. Next, identify and mark positions (usually around the edges of the border) where bulbs and deciduous perennials are nestling under the soil. If you spot any perennial weeds such as dandelions, dig them out, root and all.

Add fertiliser 

Once you know where everything is, spread a generous amount of bonemeal fertiliser around the root area of all plants (pictured). Bonemeal is high in phosphates, which promote strong root growth. It’s OK to apply this type of feed in winter as it does not promote tender top growth or flowers that would be damaged by frost. 

Apply two to four good handfuls over the root area of bigger shrubs, and a good sprinkling around the crowns of perennials. This usually means covering the whole soil area of the bed. 

Hoe the soil

Now use a Dutch hoe or a long-handled cultivator and tickle up the top surface of the soil so it’s loose and fluffy. Work around bulb plantings and the crowns of perennials. Don't dig deeply, as many shrubs are shallow rooted and could be damaged. Hoeing does three things: it removes any small weeds; helps to incorporate the bonemeal into the soil; and opens up the surface to help water penetrate.

In the highly unlikely situation that the soil is very dry, water well after hoeing. It's probable at this time of year that rain will have penetrated deeply, so watering should be unnecessary.

Add mulch

Finally, apply a mulch of home-made garden compost, well-rotted horse manure (available bagged from garden centres) or similar humus-rich material such as bark chippings (pictured) over the surface of the soil, 1in to 2in (2.5-5cm) deep. Don’t cover the crowns of dormant perennials or bulbs, and keep the mulch an inch or two away from trunks and stems of trees and shrubs, as direct contact may cause damage.

The mulch suppresses weeds and locks moisture into the soil. In time it will be drawn into the soil by worms, improving its structure and adding nutrients.

Winter planting of bare root shrubs and trees

Winter is the ideal time to plant deciduous trees and shrubs, including roses. Follow this step-by-step guide by our partners, Amateur Gardening.

Container-grown shrubs and trees can be planted at any time of year, thanks to modern growing techniques (though you pay a higher price for this convenience). But before these were introduced, most hardy, deciduous trees and shrubs were sold ‘bare root’ – with no soil around the roots. The advantages are a bigger range of varieties to choose from, and substantially lower costs because postage is cheaper. Because they're dormant, being dug up and sent across the UK does not harm them.

Planted correctly, bare root trees and shrubs establish quickly. They’re available from specialist nurseries by mail order until the end of February, and should be planted as soon as possible when you receive them, providing your garden's soil is neither frozen nor waterlogged.

From apple trees and currant bushes to native hedge whips (small hedge plants) or ornamental specimens such as the dogwood Cornus kousa (pictured), all can be planted bare root, in the same way. Here's how:

1. Stand the roots in water. When plants arrive, remove all the packaging and stand the roots in a bucket of water for a couple of hours.

2. Prepare the planting site. While the roots are soaking, prepare the site by digging in lots of well-rotted garden compost or manure over a wide area. On poor soil, add a generous dressing of Growmore fertiliser, then rake the soil level.

3. Choose your planting spot and dig a hole wider than the roots of the plant, and slightly deeper. Break up the base of the hole with a fork, adding a little compost and a couple of handfuls of bonemeal fertiliser. Scatter the same amount of bonemeal over the soil you dug from the hole (this will be used to backfill).

4. Retrieve your plant from the bucket, and check the depth of the hole. In most cases the plant needs to stand in the soil at the same depth it was previously growing. This will be indicated by a ring or a colour change around the stem at the point where the rootball meets the stem/trunk of the plant.

You can check the depth by laying a cane across the planting hole and raising or lowering the plant until the soil ring is level with the cane (pictured).

There is one particular exception to this. Grafted roses should be planted with the graft union – a distinct bulge on the stem just above the rootball – 2in (5cm) below soil level.

5. Plant it. Hold your plant at the right level, with roots in the hole, and push soil back into the hole around and in between the roots. Hold the plant steady and firm the soil as you go. With all the soil returned to the planting hole, firm it carefully using your heel, pressing hard to remove air pockets and give the plant stability.

6. For trees or tall shrubs, add a support stake. Drive this into the soil diagonally, on the downwind side of the plant stem, so it’s almost touching at about a third of the height of the stem. Secure the stem to the stake with a tree tie (pictured).

Water very thoroughly, then mulch over the rootball with garden compost, keeping it a couple of inches clear of the trunk/stem of the plant. Finally, enjoy the satisfaction of having planted something that will give enjoyment for many years to come.


 

How green are your fingers?

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions? All the usual ones about getting fitter, saving money and giving up smoking spring to mind, but what about making your garden a bit greener? 

I’m not suggesting that you grow more foliage plants. I’m thinking more about upping your environmental credentials as a gardener, and those of your plot. 

As gardeners, it’s easy to be a bit smug and complacent when it comes to our favourite hobby. After all, aren’t we the nurturers, the ones who plant things, grow our own food, and fill the garden with pretty flowers. And that’s not all: lots of us feed the birds, put up nest boxes and dig ponds for water creatures, as well as adapting when we prune and cut back our plants so that wildlife can benefit. 

But, while we may think that we’re doing our bit for the environment, we’re not as ‘squeaky green’ as it seems. OK, so gardening and the environment is a huge and complex issue, something it would be impossible to sum up here, but let’s just touch on three aspects that could help with my proposal for you to make 2017 the year when you become a greener gardener.   

For a start, as with food miles, it pays to think where your plants come from. Mass-produced cuttings, bedding and a huge range of perennial plants come from Europe and around the world. This may help to cut the monetary cost to the consumer, but in many cases ignores the environmental cost of burning fossil fuel to raise plants under glass and transport them to the garden centre. Growing at least some of your own plants from seed, cuttings and by division at home, in their natural season, will be kinder on the environment, as well as your pocket.

It’s also crucial to think seriously about the waste plastic that results from your favourite hobby. How many of us relish the thought of accumulating yet more plastic flowerpots, carry trays, picture labels and packaging, but it continues to be the scourge of plant buying. And, while the majority of local authorities provide recycling schemes, relatively few of these horticultural plastics are of a type that can be widely recycled. When you think of the bedding and seasonal plants that are bought in such quantity, it’s hardly surprising that we produce masses of landfill waste in the form of trays and small pots. There are glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel, in the form of biodegradable plastics and coir pots, but they’re still not widely used. Bare-root nursery stock – available in the dormant season, between October and March – is an alternative to buying trees, shrubs and perennials in pots, but mail order packaging all too often involves polystyrene chips, plastic shrink wrap and yards of plastic packing tape. So, where possible, check the environmental footprint of any new plants to help you make an informed choice of whether you are prepared to buy them.

And what about compost? No, not the debate over the use of peat, I’m talking about ANY of the bagged compost that you buy whether it’s peat-based or peat-free. It’s mass produced and you most certainly get what you pay for. But here again there is a hidden environmental cost of sourcing the raw materials, producing and transporting the compost to where it is sold. However, the ultimate, top quality compost can be made at home, in your back garden, using waste materials from your own plot – surely the pinnacle of green, environmentally friendly recycling. It’s always struck me as odd that we produce masses of green leafy growth, woody prunings and kitchen peelings, yet don’t see this as personal ‘wealth’. That wealth lies in the potential of these raw ingredients to be recycled into compost and back into our garden plants. After all, you’ve invested money in feeding and nurturing the plants that produce the compostable waste so why take that investment to the dump or send it off in the green waste bin?     

As with all matters to do with using the earth’s infinite resources and our impact on the natural environment, making green gardening choices is simply about thinking about the consequences of your actions. There are plenty of other things that gardeners can do to reduce their contribution to global warming. But, like any New Year’s resolution, those who succeed tend to be people who set achievable targets and change their habits gradually. Imagine if we all did a few small things in 2017 to help our planet and, ultimately, each other.

 

David Hurrion’s January Tips

Award winning Garden writer David Hurrion’s top tips for January.

  • New Year is the time to reflect on the successes and failures in your garden. Think about the position of shrubs and border plants – have they grown too large in their current position and can they be moved to the back of a border? Look at the size of your beds and borders – are there enough plants to fill them and cover the soil during the summer. You might consider lifting and dividing some of your perennials to make more plants to fill the space. And if your borders are overflowing with too many plants, you may want to make them larger by cutting back further into the lawn or making an entirely new flower bed.
  • Is your garden lacking interest in the depths of winter? There are lots of winter-flowering plants – such as this Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ – that will cheer up the darkest days. Many are scented, so make sure that you plant some of them close to the house where you can enjoy and smell them.
  • Avoid walking on your lawn during icy weather as the weight of your steps will snap and crush the frozen grass. This will then lead to brown patches on the lawn and may promote fungal disease problems.
  • Check plants that you are overwintering the greenhouse or conservatory, picking off any yellow or brown leaves. Open vents, windows and doors on mild, sunny days to allow fresh air to circulate and reduce the risk of grey mould and mildew.
  • Float a plastic ball in the water of garden ponds to prevent the surface from freezing solid in cold weather. This will allow oxygen to diffuse into the water for fish, amphibians and other pondlife, and prevent toxic gases building up under the ice.
  • Take the opportunity to clean garden furniture. Use warm water and detergent to scrub the dirt from plastic and rattan furniture, then rinse off. Wooden furniture can be lightly rubbed with fine wire wool and warm water to lift dirt from the grain, then apply an outdoor furniture oil with an old cloth.
  • Clean out garden sheds and the space under benches in greenhouse, discarding or recycling unused items, sweeping out the dirt, and tidying tools and equipment so that they’re easy to find as you need them during the coming growing season.
  • Cover bare soil in vegetable plots with a layer of black polythene to prevent cold winter rain washing out nutrients, suppress the growth of weeds, and start the slow process of warming the earth ready for sowing seeds in early spring.

See the January issue of BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine filled with inspiring ideas for your garden as well as reminders of other jobs to do this month.

Jo Thompson's blog

After eight show gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, I’m heading north to the new RHS Chatsworth show this June to create the Brewin Dolphin Garden for 2017.

It’s an exciting project for me. The 1,000-acre Chatsworth estate is extraordinary in scale after the rigid confines of RHS Chelsea where I spent many years designing gardens to sit within a 20 x 12 metre boundary. The incredible setting of Chatsworth offers quite a different perspective. I hope my intervention to the site is one that will feel appropriate in the landscape surrounding the elegant and beautiful Chatsworth House.

I’ve been given a wonderful position on the banks of the River Derwent in an area of the show known as the ‘Free Form’ arena, which is intended to encourage “a diverse freedom of express through sculptural design”.

The garden is more of a horticultural installation than a traditional show garden. It’s made up of a series of garden areas dotted throughout an imposing contemporary sculpture that will sweep through the space in a series of wide curves, before cantilevering dramatically out over the water and sweeping back to the riverbank.

It’s very different to the gardens I’ve designed for RHS Chelsea: the sheer size and scale of the setting has allowed me to push my boundaries this year and create something that I hope will inspire and excite everyone who visits the show. It will also provide a fabulous contemporary viewpoint from which you can enjoy some of Chatsworth’s historic vistas. Chatsworth has a rich history of combining the surprising and contemporary with the historic and traditional. It’s this spirit that I want to reflect in The Brewin Dolphin Garden this year.

There are many challenges ahead. The biggest of which is creating a garden where the excavation needed to support a cantilevered sculpture of this scale is hampered by the many archaeological restrictions of such an historic site. More of these challenges to come in my next post...

RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2017

Brewin Dolphin are proud Festival Partners of this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival.

This year’s festival is taking place between 11th – 14th May 2017 with many well-known gardening experts such as Alan Titchmarsh, Monty Don and Jo Thompson in attendance.

As a festival partner, Brewin Dolphin Gardening Club members receive a 10% discount on any tickets purchased in advance.

To book your tickets online please click here and enter discount code BREW17.

To book via telephone please call 01684 584 924 and quote discount code BREW17.

David Hurrion’s December Tips

Award winning Garden writer David Hurrion’s top tips for December.

  • Harvest branches of berried holly (pictured) now using a pair of secateurs or a long handled lopper to collect them. Plunge the cut ends of the stems in a buck of water to keep them fresh and store them in frost free shed or garage for a few days until you are ready to use them for Christmas decorations.
  • Plant the last of your spring bulbs this month before they dry out too much or start to rot. Tulips (pictured) are the most likely to be successful if planted this month as they have firmer bulbs, but don't be disappointed if other types of bulbs fail to come up. You really should have got them in by the end of October!
  • Plant winter flowering shrubs and perennials that will bring you cheer during the short, dark days of December, January and February. Look for Mahonia japonica (pictured), Lonicera purpusii and Viburnum 'Dawn', all of which produce fragrant, colourful blooms.
  • Check trees and shrubs for signs of snapped or broken branches or twigs that are still attached to the plants, pruning them off before they tear the bark or do further damage by smashing into other plants as they fall.
  • Spend an evening with the seed catalogues or online to order all the veg and flower seeds that you want to grow in the coming year. And without dampening your enthusiasm, bear in mind the amount of space you have to raise the seeds and don't overdo your order. Seeds also make a great Christmas present for green fingered and beginner gardeners alike.
  • Pick off faded flowers from winter pansies and other winter bedding plants to keep them looking neat and to encourage the development of more flower buds that will open during mild winter weather.
  • Move houseplants away from the cold radiating glass of windows. Position them in a well lit place instead, but keep them away from the drying effects of radiators, heaters or open fires.
  • Clean bird baths and feeders with a scrubbing brush and plenty of clean water to prevent the build up and transfer of diseases. Don't use detergent when washing. Make sure bird baths and feeders are kept topped as the birds will come to rely on them in cold weather.
  • Avoid walking on lawns or areas of short grass during frosty or snowy weather to prevent dieback where your footprints fall.

For inspiring garden ideas and tips of more jobs to do in your garden this month, see the December issue of BBC Gardeners' World Magazine.

What do you buy a gardener?

I'm not sure what's on your Christmas list, but I wonder if it is anything like mine. OK, so I know that I'm a dyed-in-the-wool gardener, the sort with almost permanently dirty fingernails (sorry if that offends) and an ability to strike fear into any shrub at fifty paces when armed with a pair of secateurs, but I was pondering on why my letter to Santa usually bears little resemblance to the gifts that I receive.

All the things on my list would be useful, help me to get the most from my favourite hobby and give me an enormous amount of pleasure. Don't get me wrong; I appreciate the huge generosity and thoughtful effort on the part of my family and friends in choosing a present for me, but gardening gifts rarely seem to occur to them.

Perhaps it's because they're scared of buying the wrong thing for someone who makes their living out of growing plants and writing about gardening; it might be they think that I must surely have everything I need, having been a gardener nearly all my life; or could it be that their own lack of gardening knowledge means that gift inspiration withers on the vine.

At risk of appearing cheeky, I've decided to share the things that gardeners might want for Christmas. This could not only help the non-gardener to buy a 'gift that keeps on giving' (who wouldn't want to give that as a present), but also provide inspiration for gardeners about the sort of hints to drop in the last couple of weeks. 

So here are six ideas of gifts for the green-fingered. They're things that will make the festive season all the more special for a gardener and make them look forward to the growing year ahead. And remember, if none of these appeals, there's always a National Garden Gift Voucher.

1. Manure. Top of the list has to be a trailer full of good, old-fashioned, well-rotted muck. This is like giving gold to a gardener and will help them improve their soil to grow the best plants and crops. Look on-line for local suppliers, but quiz them about where it comes from and check that any straw in the manure hasn't been contaminated with weed killer.
2. Seeds. Something small and simple, but a good gardener will love to get the gift of something to sow and grow for 2017. Try to do a little homework first, by asking a few probing questions about flowers or veg that the intended recipient grows and which varieties they normally go for. Then look at the seed racks at the garden centre or go on-line to find new or lesser known varieties. Work on the principle that anyone with green-fingers likes to grow something different. And don't forget that easy-to-grow seeds are great for novice and young gardeners as well.
3. Stainless steel border fork. With a narrow head, a border fork is ideal for lightly turning the soil between plants in the border or between veg. Being smaller than a standard garden fork, it will also weigh less making it less tiring to use for long periods. And stainless steel types are less likely to get clogged with mud and are easy to clean. Look out for Burgon & Ball, Bulldog Tools and Spear & Jackson.
4. Cold frame. This is one of the most useful things to have in a garden, allowing you to protect and bring on early crops under cover, as well as to harden off seedlings in spring ready for planting out. Wood and glass models are more traditional, but coated metal versions require less maintenance and perspex glazing might be a better choice where children may be playing in the garden. Try Two Wests & Elliott, Access Garden Products and Gabriel Ash.
5. Gardening course. The great thing about gardening is that there is always something new to learn, whether you're a novice or have well-seasoned green fingers. There are seed sowing days, pruning workshops and a host of courses and garden experience day and a Google search will reveal a boggling array, so do your research carefully. Start by looking at Gardeners' World Magazine Masterclasses, Jekka's Herb Farm and Waterperry Gardens.
6. Subscription to a gardening magazine and website. This is often seen as a real treat for a gardener, and something that they may well not buy themselves. The best subscriptions also allow access to a host of other information on-line via their own websites, as well as providing masses of special subscriber-only offers. Go for the tried and trusted options, but check if the recipient already has their own subscription. RHS membership, BBC Gardeners' World Magazine, and Grow Your Own.

Meantime, have a Happy Christmas and all the best for the growing year to come.

 

How to grow micro greens and bean sprouts on your windowsill

Mustard and cress have had a modern makeover! They're now called micro greens, and there are all sorts of interesting seeds you can either grow into greens or sprout.

It's quiet in the garden at this time of year, but keen growers can still enjoy raising and harvesting crops for salads and stir-fries – without taking a step outdoors! What’s more, these crops take just five to 14 days from sowing to harvest; super fast, super fresh, and absolutely delicious.

Micro greens are fashionable restaurant fare, but they’re simple to grow. Think mustard and cress but using different types of seeds so offering a range of flavours, from your favourite herbs to peas and earthy, colourful beets.

Most of us are also familiar with bean sprouts, that favourite of Chinese takeaways. Bean sprouts are simply mung beans in the early stages of germination. Like micro greens, they’re easy to grow, and there are other seeds you can sprout to enjoy in the same way.

Both techniques use a fairly large volume of seeds, so if you enjoy this process it's worth growing some of your favourite varieties through summer in order to harvest the seeds, which you can then sprout or raise as microgreens in the winter.

Sprouting seeds

Seeds suitable for sprouting include mung beans, adzuki beans, green lentils, alfalfa, peas, leeks, radish, broccoli and chickpeas. Many of these are available from major seed suppliers, and specialist suppliers are easy to find online.

You can also buy seed-sprouting germinators. These are clear plastic tiered trays that are drilled to allow water to trickle through from top to bottom. Or you can use a jam jar with a piece of muslin cloth as a lid (pictured).

To start sprouting, soak about a tablespoon of seeds in clean water for a couple of hours, drain them and put them in your jam jar or seed sprouter. Cover the top of the jam jar with muslin cloth and hold it in place with an elastic band. If using a seed sprouter, put the lid on. Place your container on a bright, warm windowsill. 

Rinse the seeds every day with fresh water, drain thoroughly and replace on the windowsill. Using a jam jar, do this by running water in through the muslin top, and draining it out again the same way. With a seed sprouter, pour water into the top tray and empty it out when it drains to the bottom tray. In four to ten days the seeds will germinate, or sprout. When the sprouts are 1 to 2 inches long (2.5 to 5cm), they’re ready to use in salads or stir-fries. It’s as easy as that!

Growing micro greens

This is a slightly different technique. Suitable seeds include just about any herb or vegetable that has harvestable top growth. Good herbs include basil, coriander and fennel, and for vegetables, choose radish for a hot, spicy taste or beetroot for a sweet, earthy flavour. Peas are great, too. 

Use a clean, shallow plastic tray – the trays that cold meat or some vegetables from supermarkets are packed in work well, though you can use any shallow receptacle (pictured). Put several layers of paper kitchen towel in the base. You could use a shallow layer of compost, but paper towel is less messy indoors. Make the paper tidy and flat. Dribble water on to it to soak it thoroughly. Sow the seeds densely, but in a single layer, on top of it. 

Place the tray on a warm, bright kitchen windowsill. Check the paper every day and add water to keep it moist at all times. In four to ten days the seeds will germinate. 

Allow them to grow into seedlings 2 to 6 inches (5 to 15cm) tall depending on the type you’re growing, with the first pair of seed leaves fully open. They’re now ready for harvesting. Cut off bunches of seedlings close to the base and use them in salads, sandwiches and stir-fries.

A practical guide to winter pruning

Winter is the time to prune plants that dropped their leaves in the autumn. Find out how, with practical advice from our partners, Amateur Gardening.

Most deciduous ornamental trees and shrubs* are pruned while dormant between October and February, after their autumn leaf fall. This should only be done where necessary, and promotes vigorous new growth next year.

This means cutting out dead, damaged or diseased limbs; cutting back growth where a plant has outgrown its space; pruning to reinvigorate a shrub; or pruning for a particular effect such as pollarding (cutting it back to a stump to encourage the growth of lots of vigorous new stems, which often improves the quality of foliage on ornamental plants).

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What to prune

Prune summer- and autumn-flowering shrubs such as hardy hibiscus, hydrangea and clerodendrum in the autumn and winter. Vigorous new growth from spring will carry the following summer’s flowers. 

Prune spring-flowering shrubs such as forsythia and flowering currants immediately after they have flowered in spring.

How to prune

Tools you need include sharp, clean secateurs for thin branches, long-handled loppers to cut branches up to 3/4in (2cm) thick, and a suitable pruning saw for thicker branches. Gloves and eye protection are also a good idea.

First, check over the plant and cut out dead, damaged or diseased stems. Cut back into healthy, living tissue (which will be white or pale green inside). Cut back to 1/4in (1cm) above a bud – preferably facing away from the plant, which is the direction you want a new shoot to grow (pictured).

Then, once all the unhealthy stems are removed, stand back and assess the shape of the plant. If more stems need to be removed to reduce the size of the plant, try to cut out whole stems back to where they join another stem or the trunk. If you cut stems part of the way down (tip pruning) the plant will often produce multiple stems the next growing season and this may spoil the natural look of the plant. 

Sometimes tip pruning is necessary to tidy small shrubs. If so, cut with care and keep the shape of the plant balanced all round.

Multiple-stemmed shrubs such as philadelphus and deutzia should have up to a quarter of older stems cut right to the ground every couple of years, to promote vigorous new stems that will carry more flowers.

Cutting thicker branches

When cutting off thick, heavy branches use a good pruning saw. First, make a cut underneath the branch about a foot from where it joins the trunk (pictured). Now cut down on to the undercut from above to remove the branch. This method avoids the wood splitting. Now cut off the 1ft stub close to the trunk, but leave a slight collar (the curved bit between branch and trunk) as this will help the wound to heal. It is unnecessary to seal winter pruning wounds.

After removing large branches, step back and reassess the shape of the plant. Prune to balance the growth if necessary.

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Shrubs to cut right back

Some shrubs including buddleja, cotinus, Cornus alba and some hydrangeas should be ‘pollarded’ – all stems are cut back every year close to the trunk, which is also cut back to just a couple of feet tall. This is done in late winter just as buds break. Cut the stems back hard to a healthy, opening bud. This will contain the size of the shrub and produce vigorous new stems the following spring.

Pruning roses

Shrub roses: Reduce these (pictured) in height by about a third in the autumn after leaf fall, to reduce wind rock. Follow this in late winter/early spring with further pruning by about a third, to leave vigorous stems to produce new stem growth and flowers. Always cut back to just above a healthy looking bud.
Climbing roses: In late winter cut side shoots from the main framework of stems back to three buds from the main stem.
Rambling roses: In winter cut out older stems to ground level, leaving vigorous younger stems to flower next summer.

Which plants not to prune in winter

*There are three ornamental deciduous trees/shrubs that should be pruned in summer (early June) to avoid silver leaf disease: ornamental cherry, Laburnum and hawthorns. In all cases, prune them sparingly, and only if essential. Seal the cuts with wound paint. 

Also, these tips don't apply to fruit trees and shrubs, which should be pruned differently. Watch out for our guide to this in the new year – or join our club and you'll receive our monthly newsletter with all our new articles.

 

The ultimate guide to caring for Christmas plants

Winter house plants are not just for Christmas! Make poinsettia, amaryllis and other seasonal favourites last, with these tips from our partners, Amateur Gardening.
With the festive season in full swing, gardeners are celebrating by decking the halls with colourful pot plants. They’re a joy to behold when all outdoors is deep in slumber, but they need some tender loving care if they are to survive dry, centrally heated rooms and low indoor light levels. Here's how to keep six popular Christmas-flowering pot plants in the best of health.

Poinsettia

Kept in steady warmth and good light, and away from draughts, this iconic Christmas plant’s colourful red, pink (pictured, centre) or white bracts can last until Easter. Water to keep the compost just moist, and feed fortnightly.

Making poinsettias produce new red bracts the following year is tricky, so most people bin the plants and buy new for Christmas. If you want to have a go at reawakening the display, let the plant rest when coloured bracts fade or drop. Back off watering, stop feeding and prune it to half its height, cutting back to healthy buds.

In summer increase watering, and start feeding again. In the eight weeks leading up to Christmas, put the plant in complete darkness for 14 hours every night, and back into good light for the remaining ten hours. Bracts may not colour up as well in the second year.

Cyclamen

Christmas flowering cyclamen will quickly collapse in hot dry, dull corners. To thrive, these plants need a cool, bright spot. Water the compost occasionally, but not too much, and avoid splashing the leaves. Give a liquid feed once a fortnight while flowers last. 

As the light intensity increases through January, move your plant to a shadier, north- or east-facing window and the plant may keep blooming until Easter. When flowers stop opening, let the pot dry out and lay it on its side in the shed. 

In July-August bring the pot into the light again and start watering. When leaves appear, begin feeding with a liquid houseplant fertiliser once a fortnight. Every two years, re-pot the tuber in late spring while it's dormant.

Orchids

The best (and most popular) orchids for warm rooms are the moth orchids, phalaenopsis. For best results provide good light through winter – positioned close to a bay window, for instance – and keep the plant away from hot radiators. Water only when the compost almost dries out, by plunging the pot into a bowl of water for ten minutes, then letting it drain completely. Feed with a special orchid fertiliser while in bloom, once a fortnight.

When the flowers fade, look for a node (a raised band) on the stem beneath the faded flowers, and cut the stem back to just above this point (pictured). A new flower spike should eventually grow from this point. 

Christmas cactus

The ideal spot for these succulents with the delightful Latin name of Schlumbergera is a cool room where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate a lot every day. Water very sparingly. Wait until the compost looks dry, and feels dry half an inch under the surface. Add a half-strength house plant fertiliser when you water. 

Pick off blooms as they fade. Always handle plants with care as both the succulent sections of stem and the flower buds at their tips are easily knocked off.

When flowering stops, water it even less, perhaps just once a month, and stop feeding. In late summer begin watering more regularly, and add a half-strength feed to stimulate new flowers around Christmas. Pot the plant on every three years in spring or early summer into a larger pot, using John Innes No 2 compost.

Azalea

Forms of the Indian azalea Rhododendron indicum make lavish pot plants. They are happiest well away from radiators and other heat sources. A kitchen windowsill facing north-east is a good spot.

Like all rhododendrons these are acid soil-loving plants and prefer rainwater to tap water, which can be hard and alkaline. Add a liquid fertiliser suitable for acid-loving plants, fortnightly while in flower. Azalea roots can dry out fast, so keep a can of rainwater near the plant as a reminder. 

After flowering, pot your plant on in late spring or summer, using ericaceous (acidic) compost and give it a summer break outdoors in a semi-shaded spot. Bring it back indoors in October before the weather turns harsh.

Hippeastrum (amaryllis)

These monstrous bulbs, sometimes called amaryllis (main image), produce huge trumpet-shaped colourful flowers around Christmas. Plant the bulb in autumn, in a pot just a little larger than the diameter of the bulb. Use John Innes No 2 compost. Set the bulb so the top third is above the compost. Water it thoroughly and put it on a sunny windowsill. Do not water again until the compost is almost dry.

After the flowers fade, cut off the flower head, leaving the stem and leaves on the plant. Continue watering when necessary, and add fertiliser fortnightly. When the foliage fades, dry out the bulb completely, lift it from the pot and store it somewhere cool and dry. Pot up the bulb in early autumn and begin the process again as above.
 

Caring for hard landscaping in winter

Now that many plants have died back it’s a great time to tackle hard landscaping maintenance jobs, with expert advice from our partners, Amateur Gardening.

Once most plants have died back, and you've pruned shrubs for the winter, it will be easier to access fences and paths, you can move pots and furniture off the patio for access, and there’s less chance of doing damage to dormant plants in beds and borders. These tips explain how to tackle different types of hard landscaping.

Wooden decking

Mould and algae are the main problems affecting wooden decking, making them slippery in wet weather. A powerful pressure washer will remove them, but this method could damage the surface of the wood. Consider using one of the many chemical decking cleaners such as Ronseal Decking Cleaner and Reviver, or Cuprinol Decking Cleaner.

All you do is clear the deck, sweep down and scrape out muck from between the decking boards, then spray or scrub on the cleaning agent (spraying is less effort!). Some cleaners require you to wash down later. 

Leave the wood to dry thoroughly then check boarding is securely screwed down. If boards are loose, it’s worth lifting one or two and looking underneath to assess the condition of the base frame. If this is rotten, consider replacing the whole deck. If it’s OK, just replace damaged or rotting boards, then paint on two coats of a decking sealer/preservative.

Top tip: Give old decking a new lease of life with a coloured decking stain or paint. Consider carrying the colour theme through to fencing and wooden furniture for a completely harmonised look in your garden.

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Paved patios and paths

First sweep the surface, and remove weeds between cracks. As with wooden decking, a powerful pressure washer giving around 160-bar pressure will clean mould and algae from slabs effectively without risk of damage. This is the more organic option. Wear protective clothing, and avoid blasting anything other than the slabs! 

Modern chemical patio cleaning products (pictured) such as Patio Magic, from most DIY stores, are also very effective and easier to use than a pressure washer. Just spray, or water on, the cleaning agent. Washing off is usually unnecessary, but products vary so follow the instructions on the its packaging.

Top tip: If patio slabs have sunk and are no longer level, it should be possible to lift wonky ones out. Scratch out the grouting with a screwdriver blade and lever the slab up. Then add builders sand underneath, relay the slab and tap down gently with a wooden mallet until level. 

Sheds and fences

Repair leaky shed roofs with a fresh layer of roofing felt. Work from the gutters up the roof to the apex, laying the felt across the roof and overlapping generously as you go. Avoid joints at the roof apex, fix felt overlaps in place with roofing felt adhesive, nail around the edges with galvanised tacks 2in (5cm) apart, but never nail through the roof surface. 

Replace broken glass in shed windows. Try clear Perspex, available from DIY stores. It’s easy to cut with a fine-toothed saw or sharp Stanley knife, and doesn’t shatter like glass. 

Repair damaged woodwork on sheds, and replace broken fence posts and panels. If you’re building a new fence, invest in concrete posts with concrete gravel boards (available from good DIY outlets), which last for decades. Once they’re in place you just slide out old panels and slide in new ones. 

On a dry day, brush over wooden fences to remove loose material, then paint the surface thoroughly to help preserve it, with either an outdoor paint or shed/fence preservative paint (pictured). Protect plants from splashes with a plastic sheet as you go.

Ironwork

Wash down wrought iron gates and trellis. If they need repainting, unhitch climbing plants tied to trellis or cut back shrubs as necessary, then wire brush the surface thoroughly to remove rust and flaking paint. 

First, treat exposed metal with a red oxide primer. When it’s dry, brush on a paint recommended for outdoor metalwork, such as Hammerite. Protect plants from splashes. For a really thorough job you can get gates, obelisks and similar removable wrought iron items dipped to take off all traces of old paint, before repainting.

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Furniture

Plastic garden furniture just needs a wash. Brush wood and metal garden furniture to remove debris and insects. Wash down with warm, soapy water and leave to dry. 

Natural wood furniture should be lightly rubbed over with medium-grade sandpaper when dry, then painted with a wood furniture oil and left to dry thoroughly. It should then be covered if left outdoors, or stored under cover.

Painted wrought iron style furniture can be treated like ironwork, above.

Gravelled areas

Weed through gravelled paths and drives thoroughly by hand, and clear fallen leaves. Sweep back gravel that’s spilling out of place, but avoid getting soil or other organic material mixed in with this. Rake the gravel level across the area, topping up levels if necessary (bags are available from garden centres and DIY stores). 

In spring, water in a residual weedkiller. Only use one formulated for paths and drives, such as Pathclear, which continues to work for several months. And only use this on areas where you do not want any plant growth.

Brickwork

Brush down and check the pointing (the mortar between the bricks). Rake out any that's loose, and repoint it on a day when the weather is dry. Ready-formulated pointing mortar mixes are available from DIY stores.

 

David Hurrion’s November Tips

Award winning Garden writer David Hurrion’s top tips for November.

  • Cut back stems of dahlias once they have been blackened by the frost and cover the soil over the tubers with a thick layer of well-rotted garden compost to insulate them from extremes of cold and for earthworms to mix into the ground ready for next season. Alternatively, in very cold areas, lift the tubers carefully with a border fork, crumbling off the soil and boxing up to store in a frost-free place over the winter.
  • Lightly fork through the surface of the soil in flower beds to relieve compaction and to allow rainwater to soak in over the coming months. This will also expose the eggs of weevils, beetles, slugs and snails to the eagle eyes of hungry garden birds.
  • Ventilate the greenhouse on warm sunny days to allow air to circulate and reduce the level of mould-promoting humidity. Close vents an hour before sunset to prevent temperatures dipping too far overnight.
  • Cover a few branches on fruiting holly bushes with netting to protect them from being eaten by birds. This will ensure you have some jewel-like berries to decorate your home over the festive season. Check nets regularly for trapped birds and release them.
  • Dig out fully rotted compost from heaps and bins this month. Pass it through a coarse sieve to remove large lumps and mix these in with your new compost ingredients. Bag up the sieved material for use in potting mixtures.
  • Plant garlic cloves and onions sets in small pots of multi-purpose compost to start into growth in a cold greenhouse or porch. These will fill their pots with a strong root system ready to plant in the ground outdoors during early spring, for an early crop in summer.
  • Collect any remaining fallen leaves from paths and lawns, and scoop them from ponds. Either use the leaves as a mulch at the back of borders and the base of hedges or fill black bin bags, pierced with the tines of a border fork to make air holes and placed in an out-of-the-way place to turn into soil-improving leaf mould by this time next year.
  • Feed birds with a mixture of high energy fat and seed mixtures. This will help to keep them warm and active during cold weather. They will repay you by continuing to visit the garden in spring and summer to pick insect pests and grubs from your plants.
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See the November issue of BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine filled with inspiring ideas for your garden as well as reminders of other jobs to do this month 

David Hurrion’s October Tips

Award winning Garden writer David Hurrion’s top tips for October.

  • Plant exotic-flowered nerines, such as this variety ‘Zeal Giant’ (pic), for their unexpected flowers that appear in October. These bulbs love a position at the base of a sunny wall where they will gradually bulk up into large clumps.
  • Pull out old courgette, marrow and squash plants, picking off the last of any fruit to use in the kitchen. If the leaves are covered in a dusting of grey-white mildew (pic), then bin or burn the foliage rather than adding it to the compost heap.
  • Move tender plants such as agaves (pic), aeoniums and other succulents under cover for the winter. Allow the compost in the pots to dry off, and keep the plants in a well-lit, frost free porch, conservatory or greenhouse.
  • Keep cutting lawns while the grass is still growing strongly, but raise the blades on your mower to leave it at a longer length. This will help keep the grass healthy over winter and allow it to cope with excessive wet and cold weather.
  • Lift parsnips and carrots from the plot as you want them for use in the kitchen. These root crops will store well when left in the ground outside unless you need the ground for other crops, in which case you can lift them and store in a cool, frost-free and dark place.
  • Cut back rose bushes by half their height to stop the plants being blown about in the autumn gales. This will stop their roots being loosened in the soil. They can then be pruned back hard in the spring, just as the buds are bursting into growth.
  • Pull out weeds from areas of paving before the winter weather closes in and you are less keen to spend time outdoors and keep the garden looking cared for.
  • Cut back the top growth of runner and climbing beans, leaving the roots in the ground. These have nodules on them that contain the plant nutrient nitrogen that will be released into the soil in spring when the roots have rotted down.
  • Plant lots of spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils, crocus and tulips as space becomes available in borders and in pots. These will provide you with masses of welcome colour from late winter onwards, at a time of year when your spirits will benefit from being lifted.
  • Check ties and supports on wall-trained shrubs and climbers. Re-fix any loose trellis or training wires and train in any unsupported stems before they are damaged by the autumn and winter gales.
     

See the October issue of BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine filled with inspiring ideas for your garden as well as reminders of other jobs to do this month 

David Hurrion’s September Tips

Award winning Garden writer David Hurrion’s top tips for September.

  • Strip lower leaves from tomato plants to allow sun to ripen the last of the fruit in the greenhouse as well as in the open garden. Pick fruits as soon as they start to show their first colour and finish ripening indoors on a sunny windowsill.
  • Identify and leave seed heads of plants that you want to save seeds from, such as this agapanthus, as well as dahlias, echinacea, rudbeckia and other late summer perennials.
  • Dredge yellowing leaves and faded flower of waterlilies from ponds before they sink and have chance to sully the water. Use a spring-tined rake to fish them out.
  • Sow a 20cm diameter pot of multipurpose compost with wild rocket seed and water well. In 6-8 weeks this will provide you with pickings of peppery leaves to use in autumn and winter salads. Stand the pot in a sheltered place that gets sun for part of the day.
  • Lift a clump of chives and split the roots into four or five divisions. Pot these individually and water well, bringing a potful indoors for a couple of weeks in winter to use as a garnish and to add piquancy to winter autumn salads.
  • Pick out dandelions and other turf weeds from lawns so that they don’t get chance to overwinter. Raise the cut on your lawn mower to leave the grass at least 2.5cm (1in.) high and allow it to thicken up in readiness for winter.
  • Plant bulbs of colchicum and autumn crocus to bloom in just a few week’s time. There are lots available in garden centres alongside all your spring favourites.
  • Pick any last sweet peas and then cut down the yellowing stems to ground. Leave the roots in the ground as they have nitrogen-fixing nodules on their roots that will rot down over the winter to release this valuable nutrient into the soil in time for spring.
  • Cover the garden pond and water features with medium grade netting to prevent leaves falling in. Knock up a simple frame from laths of timber and stretch the net across it, tying the edges in place to keep it taut.
  • Pull up bird sown ivy seedlings at the base of fences and wall before they get chance to become well established and start their rapid vertical spread.
  • Tidy up the foliage, runners and old flower stalks of strawberry plants growing in pots and the open ground. Rake up any straw that has been spread around the plants during the summer to remove any overwintering haunts for slugs, snails and their eggs.

See the September issue of BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine filled with inspiring ideas for your garden as well as reminders of other jobs to do this month 

Read this before you embark on the great garden tidy!

David Hurrion, Associate Editor of BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, reflects on our changed attitude to getting the garden ready for winter, which may have unseen benefits for you and your plot.

As the first frosts blacken foliage and put an end to the last blooms in your garden, there’s a great temptation to cut everything back and tidy the garden in an attempt to put it to bed for the winter. The last summer bedding plants pulled out; herbaceous plants cut back to within an inch of their life; fallen leaves raked up and soil forked through to get rid of all your footprints and the last weeds; wayward shrubs pruned. The trouble is that the result of all this meticulous attention is not always good for you, your plants or the wildlife that you share your plot with.

End of season gardening was always seen as an exercise in confirming to 20th century ideas of hygiene, and satisfying the requirements of the human ‘tidiness’ gene. But thankfully we’ve started to realise that chopping things back too soon leaves the garden looking bereft, especially after all the exuberance of summer and autumn. Added to that is the fact that we like to get out and use our gardens more and don’t want to look at bare soil and a few twigs. Leaving the dead seedheads and stems of plants in our borders brings subtleties of form and colour that is easy to appreciate. The ghostly outlines gradually take on a greyish silver tone as all the pigment is sucked from the desiccated growth, and provide a wonderful contrast to the evergreen foliage, berries and a smattering of winter blooms.

But it’s not only the visual appeal of the garden that can be enhanced by leaving the secateurs in the shed. The majority of herbaceous border plants will benefit from the protection that their stems give against penetrating winter cold – whether they are bone hardy or on the verge of being tender. After all, that’s what happens in nature. Here nature does the job in a sensible way, leaving the stems in place to weather by the action of frost and alternate wetting and drying through the winter, so that they finally disintegrate in spring as growth restarts. It’s all part of the decomposition process and all you really need to do is tailor your actions to suit this, wielding the secateurs at the end of the winter and consigning the partly broken down remains to the compost heap. Here the recycling process can take place to completion and you have tidied your borders just in time for them to be refilled with growth.

And last but by no means least, there is the huge benefit that these plant remains have for wildlife. The stems provide an overwinter refuge for the eggs and pupae of all manner of insects, while the fallen foliage creates a soil surface mulch under which beetles, spiders and all manner of soil organisms, as well as amphibians and small mammals can escape the worst of the cold. This web of life will produce its fair share of plant pests, but also a whole host of things that will eat them, and they all need somewhere to hunker down till next spring. Cut out all the old stems and you take them all out; instead leave everything till spring and you’ll maintain a balance that is good for your whole garden and the natural balance of our environment. 

 

David Hurrion’s August Tips

Award winning Garden writer David Hurrion’s top tips for August.

  • Keep deadheading, watering and feeding your summer containers and hanging baskets to promote the formation of more flower buds that will keep the display going on through the rest of the summer and into autumn.
  • Soak your compost heap in hot dry weather and cover with a lid or a piece of old carpet to keep in moisture so that decomposition continues. Avoid adding too many grass clippings at this time of year, bagging them up instead to add in the winter and spring months.
  • Move pots and containers to a shady part of the garden and water them well before you go off on holiday, that way you can reduce the number of times a neighbour or friend will need to come in to care for your plants.
  • Continue to pick runner and French beans to encourage more flowers and beans to form. Water the plants thoroughly in the evening and spray down the foliage to cool and moisten the leaves and flowers.
  • Push in twiggy supports around herbaceous perennials such as heleniums, asters and rudbeckias to stop them being battered down during heavy rain storms.
  • Sow an autumn crop of salad rocket in a pot of multipurpose compost. Select a place in part shade and water well after sowing to encourage quick germination.
  • Cabbage white butterflies will be active this month, laying their eggs on brassicas. These will hatch into caterpillars that can decimate your plants, so protect them with netting to exclude the butterflies now!
  • Encourage onions to start their drying process by using a border fork to gently ease up the soil under the bulbs to break contact with the roots. Bend over the stems of the plants as they start to turn yellow.
  • Make more of your plants by taking softwood cuttings of fuchsias, penstemons, geraniums (pelargoniums) and hebes. These are all quick to root in pots of multipurpose compost on a cool, bright windowsill indoors.

For inspiring garden ideas, tips and more jobs to do in your garden this month, see the August issue of BBC Gardeners' World Magazine.

An inside peek at Daylesford Organic Farm, Oxfordshire

After a six month programme of Brewin Dolphin Secret Garden events around the country, Rosy Hardy completed the final one of the year with much gusto and enthusiasm.

This was Rosy’s first visit to Daylesford Organic Farm in Oxfordshire, one of the most sustainable organic farms in the UK, which farms, grows, produces and sells food according to sustainable principles, and in harmony with the environment.

However, she already knew quite a lot about the organic background to the farm and of Lady Bamford’s involvement with the Chelsea Flower Show, when she designed a show garden in 2008.

She’s a tough lady to impress but the whole Daylesford operation in Rosy’s words, “evoked quality and tradition and the crowd seemed to enjoy my talk. We concluded with a wonderful walk around the market / kitchen garden where I felt particularly at home as I began my horticultural journey growing vegetables”

Summer divas

August sees the start of the dahlia season, their haute couture blooms erupting to add eye-catching impact to summer borders and pots. 

The resurgence in popularity, over the past 10 years or more, of these glamour-puss plants is undoubtedly down to the smouldering good looks of 'Bishop of Llandaff', a scarlet flowered beauty with dark bronze foliage that quickly became the gardeners' must-have plant back in the 1990s. But our love-affair with dahlias is nothing new. Post-war gardens in the 1950s and 60s were filled with these accommodating plants, the breeders then concentrating on developing the spikey, so-called 'cactus' types with their quilled petals fulfilling the demand for modern forms and an enthusiasm for the futuristic space-age. And yet even before that era of dahlia delirium, the early decades of the twentieth century saw a huge popularity in the 'decorative' types that made these blooms such stalwarts of church flower arrangers.

So why have these fabulous plants enjoyed periods of meteoric garden stardom, only to plunge into a horticultural black hole and be kept going only by the passion of specialist societies and nurseries? Well, like clothes on the catwalks, the plants in our gardens are affected by the fickle hand of fashion. Just as hemlines rise and fall, our tastes in flowers ebbs and flows, and while dahlias are still in the ascendant at the moment, they'll eventually lose their mass appeal, to be overtaken by other 'must-have' plants. Fashions in gardening, however, have been generally slower to catch on but last longer than in clothing. OK, so there have been some flash-in-the-pan plants that fade into obscurity after a single season – usually due to poor garden performance – but if a plant becomes truly 'de rigueur', then it will stay top of the pops for many years. Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff', Verbena bonariensis and Begonia 'Apricot Shades' are all proof of this.

But such plant trends could be set to become more extreme and transient as we consume more and more information in our modern world. While every gardener has their own favourite plants and colours, based on their own experience, our hobby can be greatly influenced by visiting other gardens, flicking through the pages of books and magazines, as well as watching the horticultural glitterati on the telly. Now the booming world of social media is allowing us to share pictures of plants and flowers, and make our own comments and judgements about gardening. You might think that this could be liberating for gardeners, allowing us to set the agenda and lead the trends. But it's not just us who can access such new forms of communication: the breeders, nurseries and garden centres are ahead of us, using their marketing and sales teams to seed themes, trends and ideas into social media streams to influence our buying in the future.

So, who knows? Dahlias could soon fade into obscurity, once again, but for now at least they are filling our gardens in all their glorious diversity of flower colour and form. And I for one love them!

Glasgow and Leeds Secret Garden Events

The Brewin Dolphin Secret Garden roadshow continued with events at the Glasgow Botanic Gardens and the Yorkshire’s magnificent Castle Howard.

Rosy Hardy, designer of Brewin Dolphin’s 2016 RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden and winner of 21 gold medals, was keynote speaker at both events, providing guests with an exclusive insight into the inspirations and techniques that underpinned the show gardens’ design.

The Kibble Palace (pictured) originally stood on the shores of Loch Long, at the Coulport home of Victorian entrepreneur and eccentric John Kibble. In 1871 Kibble entered into negotiations to have the structure dismantled and moved by barge to Glasgow where it was to be reconstructed in the Botanic Gardens. It was during the move that Kibble added the 150ft circular dome and extended transepts,  providing the impressive front elevation to the glasshouse that Rosy Hardy remarked, made the Botanic Gardens the most impressive venue of the entire Secret Garden roadshow, both from an engineering perspective and in terms of the plant life on show. 

The event was held in conjunction with The Incorporation of Gardeners, who donated ‘The Commonwealth Tree’, a corten steel sculpture designed and created by David McAllister, to commemorate the 2014 Commonwealth Games and provide a lasting reminder for future generations of this historic event held in the city of Glasgow (pictured).

The second venue was Castle Howard, a magnificent 18th century stately home set within 1,000 acres of breathtaking landscape in the Howardian Hills, an Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the heart of North Yorkshire, that has been the family home of the Earl of Carlisle for more than 300 years.   It is a haven of peace and tranquillity with extensive woodland walks, temples, lakes and fountains where you can spend a day relaxing in the informal parkland dotted with statues or admiring the formal gardens and meandering through woodland or along lakeside terraces.

Rosy Hardy recounted her many childhood memories of the Castle Howard estate, where she spent many of her teenage summers competing in the three day horse eventing competitions.  Following Rosy’s talk, guests were given a private tour of the estate gardens – which many recognised as the iconic setting for TV hit Brideshead Revisited.  The house is prominently situated on a ridge and this was exploited to create a traditional English landscape park which opens out from the formal garden and merges with the surrounding parkland. Two major garden buildings are set into this landscape: the Temple of the Four Winds at the end of the garden, and the Mausoleum in the park.

 

Building A Legacy From The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016

The Stunning Coccolith sculpture that formed the centre piece of Brewin Dolphin’s medal winning 2016 RHS Chelsea Flower show garden has been donated to Horatio’s Garden at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Spinal Injuries Unit in Glasgow.

Horatio’s Garden is a charity that creates and lovingly cares for beautiful accessible gardens in NHS spinal injury centres, to provide stunning sanctuaries for patients and their family and friends.

Following a capital appeal, £500,000 was raised in just six months to enable the building work to start on the garden in March this year. Throughout the summer, a team of volunteers have been working tirelessly to prepare the garden for the opening.

Designed by award-winning garden designer, James Alexander-Sinclair, who described the space as “The most meaningful garden I have ever designed.” Horatio’s Garden is made up of six distinct spaces, each with a different purpose and designed to stimulate different senses – sight, smell, touch and all providing a sense of wellbeing. The courtyard is at the heart of the unit and is accessible to everyone to enjoy.

There is a woodland garden overlooked by the wards to encourage wildlife into the garden, a play garden for children who are visiting relatives in the unit and a physiotherapy garden which will be functional as well as beautiful.

Stephen Martin, Head of Brewin Dolphin’s Glasgow office and Rosy Hardy, designer of Brewin Dolphin’s 2016 RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden and winner of 21 gold medals handed over the Coccolith sculpture, which has been reimagined into 3 smaller sculptures, to better blend with the low-growing shrubbery of the scented garden.

According to Stephen Martin:  “Both Brewin Dolphin and designer Rosy Hardy were keen to create a legacy for the garden. It is always sad to see the show gardens disassembled after such hard work has gone into the design and building them. In this instance it’s exciting to know that the garden will live on at the fabulous Horatio’s Garden in Glasgow and can be enjoyed by others for many years to come.”

This is the second legacy made by Brewin Dolphin to Horatio’s Garden.  It donated a mature beech hedge from its Chelsea winning garden 2012 designed by Clive West, to Horatio’s Garden in the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre, Salisbury District Hospital.

 

Cook up a floral feast

There might still be plenty of foliage and flower in the garden at the moment, but in the dark days of January and February you’ll be yearning for some colour.

There might still be plenty of foliage and flower in the garden at the moment, but in the dark days of January and February you’ll be yearning for some colour. Thankfully, garden centres racks are currently dripping with packets of spring-flowering bulbs, from the earliest snowdrops and crocus, through daffodils and fritillaries, to tulips and alliums. And the bulb growers have done all the hard work for you, nurturing them so that when you buy them they’ll have flowerbuds pre-formed inside – all you have to do is plant them and you’re guaranteed an eye-popping display.

For maximum impact it is important not to scrimp when buying spring-flowering bulbs. They’re easy to pack into pots, larger containers and flowerbeds where their massed blooms will create bold blocks of colour. And with so much choice, it’s easy to get creative in colourful ways. Many gardeners love harmonious combinations of cream, pink and mauve flowers, and you could also try warmer shades of yellow, orange and red. However, the strong hues of spring bulbs lend themselves to more adventurous mixes, so try teaming strong, rich reds with sumptuous purple, or sunny yellow together with sky blue – the palette is endless. Even if you aren’t a colour schemer, a riotous, jelly-bean mixture will be equally effective at welcoming spring.

But perhaps the best way to enjoy a long season of colour from spring-flowering bulbs is to create your own floral ‘lasagne’, whether it is in pots or garden borders. This simple technique involves planting different varieties in multiple layers, starting with the largest bulbs, such as daffodils, alliums or tulips, at the lowest level and grading up through dwarf narcissi, muscari and fritillaries to the smallest at the top, including crocus, chionodoxa and snowdrops.

Cover each layer of bulbs with compost or soil before planting the next one, and use the planting depths on the back of the packets as a guide. If in doubt, then measure the height of the bulb and then plant at least three times as deep. Three to five layers works well and by choosing bulbs with different flowering times – something to bloom in each month – you’ll have colour to coax you out of the depths of winter and into the warmth of early summer.

With all this promise of what’s to come next season, it’s important to have some interim colour in the run up to Christmas, so plant some winter pansies, polyanthus, bellis or mini cyclamen as the topping to your lasagne of bulbs. It’ll be a recipe for success.

Cesar Manrique - a holiday surprise

Our 2015 RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold medal winning garden designer, Darren Hawkes, talks about how he stumbled across the work of Cesar Manrique.

Back at the tail end of Easter my wife and I decided to escape with our two girls for a week’s holiday and have some time together where gardens, garden design and the daily conversations about work wouldn’t occupy my time.  We opted for a week in a hotel in the quiet South West of Lanzarote.

After a couple of restful days getting to know the immediate area we headed off around the Island to see what we could find. Little did I realise but we were about to stumble upon the work of Cesar Manrique and have our senses invigorated by his wonderful spaces.  I was aware of Manrique’s geometric sculptures, but much to my shame had no knowledge of the spaces we were about to explore. 

Landscape architects and garden designers are always talking about the greater landscape and having an understanding of the vernacular. Manrique is someone who not only understands but has such an affinity with his Island materials that his ability to shape, manipulate and decorate the landscape borders on genius.  Walls that curve, slide and melt back into the volcanic lava lead the eye gently from one area to another.  Steps built from volcanic rock that have both an uneven sur-face and an irregular rise, fly in the face of modern commercial safety requirements  and instead challenge, forcing us to engage and remind us of the greatest of pleasures….play.

Our first destination was Manrique’s Cactus Garden, a huge elliptical walled garden with many ter-raced sides which are a home to a huge variety of species.  These could quite easily be stand-alone sculptures when you see the myriad of forms.  

Huge ball shaped Parodia sit together in front of giant Saguaro reminiscent of Box balls and fastig-iate Hornbeam with the warm tones and textual complexity of the honeycombed lava walls acting as foil behind.  Birds fly from roosting points on the upper terraces and people mill about with a look of wonder on their faces, transfixed by this oasis in the middle of the lava strewn landscape. Everywhere you look details in steel, stone and timber show a lack of censorship and a freedom of expression rarely enjoyed in the public realm.

If the Cactus garden was an eye-opener then Jameos Del Auga was a mindblower.  This is a space that you discover amid acres and acres of Euphobia obtusifolia and enter through a narrow passageway before opening out into a fern laden, open sided, cave / night club / gar-den/architectural wonder/ James Bond hideout, that made me smile so much I felt I may get jaw ache.  Plants used sparingly in the most specific spots allow them to be seen as art pieces in their own right.  Pools, hanging cages filled with ferns, manmade landscaping merging with natural stone all make for an enchanting experience. 

Being unexpectedly inspired is one of the greatest of treats in life and coming back from a holiday not only having rested but having found a renewed passion for ones work is more than I could have wished for. My clients can therefor expect a renewed commitment to detail and consistency of material but most importantly a reinvigorated sense of fun.

A conversation with Matthew Biggs

David Hurrion caught up with Matthew Biggs, while they were both accompanying a Gardeners’ World Magazine 25th anniversary cruise around the coast of France. Here’s what they talked about…

David:
How did you become involved accompanying gardening tours?

Matt:
I was working with the great plantsman Roy Lancaster and we were staying in a hotel in Wales. One evening as we were about to step into a lift, he said ‘Would you like to go to the Caribbean’? I couldn’t reply ‘Yes, please’ quickly enough and the rest is history!

David:
What has been your favourite itinerary?

Matt:
The most memorable visit was to Zimbabwe, a beautiful country with extraordinary wildlife, beautiful scenery and unbelievable plants. A helicopter trip over the Victoria Falls and along the Zambezi river was a highlight, a privilege and something I never expected to see.

David:
And what’s the most exciting plant you have seen in the wild?

Matt:
I am fascinated by the stories of the great Victorian Plant Hunters, who suffered great hardship and risked their lives to collect plants for our gardens. I once saw Rhododendron yunnanense, in Yunnan, in an area where three of the ‘greats’ – Frank Kingdon-Ward, George Forrest and Joseph Rock – collected. It was an honour to follow in their footsteps and view some of the plants they had encountered on their travels.

David:
We’re also used to hearing you on Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time. What the most frequently asked question?

Matt:
It has to be, ‘How do I get rid of slugs and snails’, with the regularity of the question varying according to the severity of the plague each season. It is interesting how the answers have changed over the years. Once it was to use chemicals, now biological controls and creating a natural balance of pests and predators in the garden is recommended. 

David:
And the most unusual question?

Matt:
Someone who thought that slugs were eating the carpet in her hallway. I eventually deduced that the slugs were somehow getting into the house, but that the wool based carpet was infested with the larvae of carpet beetle. So, for once, the slugs were not to blame.

David:
Now, what about your latest book, Lessons from Great Gardeners.

Matt:
I’ve loved compiling this book. Published by the RHS, it recounts stories and anecdotes encapsulating the lives of forty great gardeners, from history and the present day, then highlights what lessons we can learn from them. The gardeners represent a range of styles from oriental to exotic and cottage garden, and were selected in chronological order and were gathered from around the globe. The passion, skill and dedication of every one of these gardeners was unsurpassed and incredibly inspiring.

David:
Who was the most fascinating gardener in the book?

Matt:
I unearthed some fascinating new stories about great characters like Claude Monet, Christopher Lloyd, Vita Sackville-West and William Robinson but the most eccentric and fascinating of all was Madame Ganna Walska. She married six husbands, five of them extremely wealthy, before falling in love with gardening and creating Lotusland in California. She sold millions of dollars’ worth of Jewellery to finance her passion and create a remarkable conservation collection of unusual, rare and highly desirable plants. The garden itself reflects her personality, it is a flamboyant, eccentric extravagance.

David:
And have we got any more books to look forward to?

Matt:
I’m thrilled to be currently ghost writing the autobiography of a plant Conservationist at Kew, known to many as ‘The Plant Messiah’ who has saved some of the world’s rarest plants from extinction. At the same time, I am co-authoring a book for the RHS about Village Shows; both are due for publication next spring, so life is both hectic and fascinating, at the moment.

Pictured: The Gardeners’ World Magazine 25th anniversary cruise visited Bois des Moutiers, Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens house and garden, Northern France.

About Matt

Matt regularly appears on the BBC Radio 4 programme Gardeners' Question Time and has been a professional gardener for over 20 years.

Click here to buy Matthew Bigg’s book, Lessons from Great Gardeners

 

David Hurrion’s July Tips

Award winning Garden writer David Hurrion’s top tips for July

  • Water pots and containers daily in hot, dry weather making sure that you give them a good soaking to get down to the roots of the plants.
  • Feed bedding plants twice a week using a high-potash liquid feed such as tomato fertiliser to encourage the production of more flower buds and to toughen up the foliage making the plants more resistant to pests and diseases.
  • Tie in the growth of climbing plants using soft string. Knot the string onto the support first, then wrap around the stem and loosely tie it in place so as not to cause damage.
  • Remove the faded blooms from all flowering plants to keep them looking good and to channel energy into further flower production rather than setting seed. Deadhead using scissors, snips or pinch out using your finger and thumb.
  • Plant out cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprout plants for a harvest during the winter. Firm plants thoroughly using the heel of your boot after planting.
  • Cover fruit bushes with netting to exclude birds which would steal your crop. Check the netting daily to release any feathered friends that have found their way in and become trapped.
  • Sow seed of foxgloves onto the surface of seed trays filled with multi-purpose compost. The seed will germinate quickly and can be planted out in autumn ready to flower next spring.
  • Grow salad leaves in large pots of compost to provide fresh, home-grown pickings for the rest of the summer and on into early autumn. Sow seed on the surface and cover with a fine layer of compost. Position your pot in a sunny spot, water 2-3 times a week and you’ll be able to start picking the outer leaves in around 14 days.
  • Scoop out blanket weed from ponds to stop it choking other aquatic plants and pond life. Use a bamboo cane to twirl it from the water, or a rake to dredge out the fine green filaments.
  • Pick beans regularly while they are tender and before they become ‘stringy’. This will promote more flowers and beans to form. Harvest your crop first thing in the morning, when the plants are full of moisture and the beans firm and fresh.
  • Cut out the flowered stems of rambling roses as soon as the blooms fade. Prune out the older stems back as low as possible, leaving the strongest new, green shoots to train back into their supports. These will carry next year’s flowers.

See the July issue of BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine filled with inspiring ideas for your garden as well as reminders of other jobs to do this month.

Building a Show Garden

Dan Riddleston from contractors Bowles & Wyer describes the complexities of building gardens like those at Chelsea Flower Show.

My first ever Chelsea garden, built over 20 years ago, was a lovely Mediterranean garden for the Sunday Times with Randle Siddeley.  It was a very tight budget of £25,000 – a fraction of the budgets nowadays.  Everything in that garden was begged, borrowed or stolen. At that time there weren’t that many large show gardens, ours was 10m x 10m and the stars of the show were the gardens on the rock bank with their rock water features and brightly coloured rhododendrons.

I was then fortunate enough to have worked alongside Waterers Landscape and subsequently Crocus on some of their gold medal winning gardens before Bowles and Wyer Contracts built our first garden in 2011. 

We worked for Tom Hoblyn on his Memories of Cornwall garden for Homebase for which we won a Silver Gilt medal. I was pleased with this result for our first garden, but really thought we’d done just enough to get gold.  The judges may not have quite interpreted it in the way it was intended but we all know they have to work to a set criteria and that’s just the way it is. This garden continues to live and now has a permanent residence at The Eden Project. 

The following year we worked for Tom again on his Italian Renaissance garden with a contemporary twist for Arthritis UK. This was perhaps the most challenging garden I have built at Chelsea with its many layers of water, just like its classical inspiration, Villa d'Este. There was a lot of construction with travertine stone with each stone numbered and the planting of some seriously large Italian Cyprus.  This was awarded another silver gilt medal, but with the added prize of being voted the ‘People’s Choice’ garden.

Working at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show can take its toll and can be disruptive to the running of a company if not managed well, so with a full order book we took time off in 2013.

In 2014 we started our relationship with Brewin Dolphin and their chosen designer for that year, Matthew Childs. This was Matthew’s first main avenue garden at Chelsea and like Tom Hoblyn’s Italian Renaissance garden technically very challenging. The garden was well received by the public and was awarded a silver gilt medal.

The following year brought another fresh face to Chelsea in the form of Brewin Dolphin garden designer Darren Hawkes.  It is always exciting to work with new and emerging talent and in Darren, we had someone who is extremely practical. We were given the challenge of building on the rock bank, something I had never done before and brought its own unique set of challenges. 

Construction was a much bigger excavation job than on the flats of Main Ave or Royal Hospital Way, the logistics are much greater as access is trickier and storage is extremely limited.  That said, Darren’s design for sponsor Brewin Dolphin was perfectly suited to such a situation. 

Darren’s inspiration came from Neolithic dolmens and the work of artist James Turrell.  Floating platforms and naturalistic planting were above an underground stream which flows into a pool. Woodland style planting comprised of ferns, aquilegia, and bleeding heart.  Elms were used for the first time in many years and were to represent those trees that continue to thrive in Cornwall despite Dutch elm disease.  

A larger than normal garden, with 22m frontage, this was too big a project to just turn up and start building. The floating platforms had in excess of 40,000 pieces of hand cut slate forming stepping stones over the stream and garden.  Building off site started in Cornwall in January, with a full size mock-up in timber and hardboard, and the painstaking cutting and gluing of slate. The garden was a great success and gained a gold medal, our first as Bowles and Wyer.
 
This year we worked with the wonderful Rosy Hardy. As in previous years we had been planning the build of the garden from as soon as we were approached in November 2015. The raised walkway was built off site by our engineers in Trowbridge and the Coccosphere by our model makers/sculptors in Teddington. We mocked up the gabion walls and spent hours in meetings working out the best way to build the garden. The end product was spectacular.

Planting paradise

David Hurrion reflects on how the planter’s art at Chelsea Flower Show is often overlooked by visitors and viewers alike.

The greatest flower show on earth may be over for another year, but the incredible gardens that were created there will live on in our memories, through photographs and on BBC iPlayer for many months, if not years to come. 

I first started going to Chelsea more than 40 years ago and, from my very first visit, have always been in awe of how established these ‘instant’ gardens look. The sheer quality of finish and attention to detail sets them above most other events and a medal at Chelsea, whatever its colour is hard earned and well deserved.

I’ve designed, built and planted at many gardening shows. But for me the biggest and most exciting challenge has been planting for other designers – most notably Adam Frost on his Urban Retreat show garden in 2015. So when I was asked by Jekka McVicar to help plant her garden, A Modern Apothecary, at this year’s show, I was thrilled and terrified all at the same time. Thrilled because it is an honour to be asked to help out at such a prestigious show, but terrified because of the responsibility to get it right.

Show gardens are judged across a range of criteria including overall concept, design, hard landscaping, and suitability and quality of plant material. But for me, one of the most important considerations that the judges take into account is the art of the planting itself – how the plants have gone into the ground and how they ‘sit’ in relation to their surroundings. OK, so what’s the big deal with that? Surely it’s just a matter of digging a hole and putting the plant in the right way up? That might be fine for planting in a domestic garden where the growth of a plant can adjust gradually to the direction of the sun, settling into position and spreading out to intertwine with its neighbours. But there isn’t the luxury of this time at Chelsea; for the show garden to look like it has always been there, the planter needs to have a wealth of experience of how plants grow, together with an artistic eye. And, as all plants have different growth habits and respond to the conditions in which they are growing, it is crucial to have knowledge of a wide range of different species and to have watched them grow and develop over time. Such knowledge will enable a good planter to turn each individual specimen this way and that until it looks natural and to plant at a density that is in balance with the garden without it appearing ‘overstuffed’.

So, with other garden shows on the horizon – Gardeners’ World Live and Hampton Court are just a few weeks away – spare a thought for all the skills of the planters who have added the finesse and final flourish that brings life to these fleeting glimpses of heaven.

Brewin Dolphin legacy – Horatio’s garden

The RHS Chelsea Flower celebrations are over and the gardens have been dismantled.

The Brewin Dolphin Garden entitled ‘Forever Freefolk’, designed by esteemed nurserywoman Rosy Hardy achieved an impressive silver medal for her first ever show garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

The stunning Coccolith sculpture has been donated to Horatio’s Garden, designed by James Alexander Sinclair, at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Spinal Injuries Unit in Glasgow.

Horatio’s Garden is a charity that creates and lovingly cares for beautiful accessible gardens in NHS spinal injury centres. Leading garden designers develop the stunning sanctuaries for patients and their family and friends, creating an environment which becomes an integral part of their lives and care whilst spending many months in hospital.

Both Brewin Dolphin and designer Rosy Hardy were keen to create a legacy for the garden. It is always sad to see the show gardens disassembled after such hard work has gone into the design and building them. In this instance it’s exciting to know that the garden will live on at the fabulous Horatio’s Garden and can be enjoyed by others for many years to come.

As the RHS Chelsea Flower Show drew to a close the plants were also sold to the public and raised £2,000 for Naomi House Children’s Hospice.

David Hurrion’s June Tips

Award winning Garden writer David Hurrion’s top tips for June.

Keep a look out for greenfly on your roses this month. A few innocent looking adults can quickly multiply into thousands of sap-sucking pests that turn foliage sticky with their sweet honeydew which is then infected by black mould. Pick them off small numbers of aphids between your thumb and forefinger and pop them on the bird table for a high-protein snack for your feathered friends. Alternatively use a hose to squirt them off the leaves.

  • Now that the sun is reaching its highest point in the sky, it’s a good idea to shade your greenhouse or conservatory to stop plants overheating and scorching during the summer. Paint the outside of the glass with shade paint, or try pegging a layer of horticultural fleece to the glazing bars inside.
  • Now that box hedges and topiary have made their first spurt of growth, it’s time to trim them into shape. Use secateurs, hand shears or powered clippers – depending on the amount of box you have to trim. These soft clippings can be stored in bags to add to the compost heap in small quantities over the rest of the summer.
  • Guarantee better crops of summer fruiting veg – such as tomatoes, peppers, courgettes and beans – by feeding them with a high-potash liquid fertiliser. Formulations sold for tomatoes are suitable for all fruiting crops. Apply as directed on the packaging.
  • Border plants can quickly become stressed during hot, dry weather and it pays to give them a good soak once a week, rather than a quick sprinkle every day. Soaking the soil will allow the water to drain down deeply where the roots can use it.
  • Deadhead bedding plants in pots and borders to encourage the formation of new flower buds and to keep them looking at their best. Pinch off the faded blooms between your thumb and forefinger or use a pair of garden snips.
  • Keep on top of weeds by hoeing once a week between your border plants. Use the blade of the hoe to slice through the soil, just below the surface, to decapitate weeds. This will also create a dry, dusty ‘mulch’ layer which is inhospitable to the germination of more weed seeds.
  • Harvest lettuce, radish and other salads as soon as they are ready, rather than leaving them to run to seed. The best time to pick crops is first thing in the morning, when the plants have had time to plump up over-night.
  • Pull off the last of dying foliage from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils, tulips and crocus. Mark the position of any vulnerable clumps of bulbs that might be disturbed if you intend to do any major planting this month.

See the June issue of BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine filled with inspiring ideas for your garden as well as reminders of other jobs to do this.

The build and finished garden

It has been a hectic build-up to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016. The hard work has been worth the effort, as you can see from the finished Show garden.

Brewin Dolphin build part 2

Part 2 of our exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the build of our Chelsea Flower show garden.

The Brewin Dolphin garden has quite suddenly blossomed and is starting to look very much like a floral masterpiece showcasing the painterly skills of plantswoman Rosy Hardy.  Everything is coming together in perfect harmony, an exhibitor’s dream! 

With the Chelsea Flower Show just days away, it’s now crunch time, every detail must be perfect for the 160.000 visitors attending this great British summer event.

Jekka McVicar - Queen of Herbs

David Hurrion Interviews Jekka McVicar - Queen of Herbs

David: So Jekka, I’ve heard you described as an herb guru and the queen of herbs…. Where did your interest come from?
 
Jekka: Plants are in my genes as my great aunt was a wonderful gardener, and I learned about herbs from my grandmother and mother. But this remarkable group of plants saved my life when I was playing in a taverna on Crete in the late 60s. I became very ill and the taverna owner treated me with Origanum dictamnus which worked and so I became fascinated by the healing properties of herbs.
 
 
David: Why are herbs important to us? Aren’t they old-fashioned? Surely most of our medicines are synthetic today?
 
Jekka: The tradition of using herbs to make food more palatable and to cure health problems has featured in our lives for millennia and if they didn’t help us then herbs would have fallen out of use. Science is still only scratching the surface of what plants can do for us and we're discovering beneficial compounds that help in the fight against cancer and a wide range of other diseases. Aspirin was first extracted from the willow and although it is now produced synthetically, we wouldn’t have it in our medicine cabinets if it weren’t for the plants.
 
 
David: And I gather you have a herbetum. What’s that?
 
Jekka: Having started our herb nursery back in 1987, I’ve accumulated a huge amount of knowledge and folklore about which are the best herbs, both for culinary and medicinal use. I wanted to hand this information on to others so I decided to plant up a collection, grouped together under different genera, in the style of an arboretum which is a collection of trees. The suffix - etum means ‘a collection of’ hence the word Herbetum, a collection of Herbs. We have the largest collection of culinary herbs in the UK with more than 500 different varieties from all round the world.
 
 
David: This is your first Chelsea show garden, but you’re no stranger to creating Gold Medal winning displays are you?
 
Jekka: I love Chelsea and we've been lucky enough to win 14 Gold Medals for our nursery displays in the Floral Marquee and its successor, the Great Pavilion. In fact, in total from 1993-2009 we were awarded 62 RHS Golds in total at different shows and the Lawrence Medal for our 2009 Chelsea exhibit, but never for a show garden. So I am absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to be doing one this year at the Chelsea Flower Show. It’s wonderful to think that herbs will be taking centre stage, the last time one of the show garden featured herbs was in 1993.
 
 
David: So tell us about your Chelsea garden.
 
Jekka: It is the St John’s Hospice Garden, ‘A Modern Apothecary' and specifically designed for Chelsea. In fact the whole thing will be relocated to St John’s Hospice, this autumn after the show. The garden aims to demonstrate the crucial role that herbs play in medicine and the benefits of all plants in health. It’s full of sweeping curves emanating from a circle which demonstrates the cycle of healing. The rich tapestry of foliage and flower colours is both restful and encouraging, while the essential oils from a host of herbs provides soothing scents that help relax and calm. It’s a garden for reflection and contemplation, somewhere to get away from the stresses of the modern world and the anxieties of ill health.
 

David: You’ve spent years as an RHS judge and chaired the judging of the Great Pavilion, so how will it feel to be judged yourself this year.
 
Jekka: I know how important it is to get things right for my own standards as well as for the judges. I’ve walked into the Chelsea show ground so many times over the past two decades, wondering about the outcome of the judging, but I’ve never lost the sense of trepidation. This year is a big one though, being with so many great garden designers and wonderful show gardens, all I can say is that I and my amazing team will give it 100%.
 

David: So lastly Jekka, you’ve inspired so many of us to grow and use as many herbs as possible but, in true Desert Island Discs style, what is the ONE herb you wouldn’t be without?
 
Jekka: That is incredibly difficult to answer as I have favourites that change with the seasons. So I will not give you just one, but one family it has to be the Lamiaceae family which includes mint, rosemary, sage and basil to name but a few. OK so I know it's a cheat, but I hope you'll forgive me?

Brewin Dolphin Build

Building a garden at the Chelsea Flower Show is always a challenge, and this year has proven to be no different.

“Forever Freefolk”, the Brewin Dolphin garden designed by Rosy Hardy, has seen it all since the the build  began almost two weeks ago, a drop in temperature from 24°C to 4°C, pouring rain and even the odd hailstone, but in spite of the weather the team led by Dan Riddleston from Bowles & Wyer has continued working hard to get the garden ready for the 23rd May.

In this video Rosy Hardy explains the initial works and major features of the "Forever Freefolk" Brewin Dolphin garden at Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

Designing The Magic Garden at Hampton Court Palace by Robert Myers

When I first heard about the competition to design a new garden at Hampton Court Palace I knew immediately that it was the project for us.

It was the chance to design a completely contemporary space in a wonderful historic setting, something my landscape architecture practice specialises in. But this project particularly appealed to the little boy in me. This was to be a space for adventure and outdoor activity – somewhere to run, climb, explore and hide in – as well as to be a flexible setting for experiencing elements of palace life in a playful way. A garden in which to prepare a feast or take part in mock cavalry combat; a space for jousting, archery, quintain or performing in a play; a place for falconry demonstrations or digging for archaeological relics.

Located within part of Henry VIII’s former tiltyard, The Magic Garden embraces the rich historical, cultural and mythical legacy of the Palace to deliver an innovative landscape of discovery that is unlike any other. Woven through the whole layout are ideas exploring routes to power, hierarchy and status, display and secrecy, illusions of grandeur and the swiftly changing fortunes of the royal court. Stories of the Palace and its inhabitants are referenced in the fabric of the design creating a sense of occasion and identity.

Hampton Court was Henry VIII’s ‘pleasure palace’, where he could indulge his love of jousting, tournaments and other sports.  Littered with mythical beasts, heraldry and dazzling state rooms, it has a magical, fairytale-like quality. The Tudor king set about creating a magnificent Tiltyard there in 1537, when his third wife Jane Seymour had taken up residence at the palace to await the birth of their child.  Although he had been bitterly disappointed so many times before, Henry confidently anticipated that this time he would have a son.  And he was right.  Edward was born at Hampton Court on 12 October 1537 to great rejoicing.  The Tiltyard Towers were decorated with Prince of Wales feathers to celebrate.  There is no record of the Tiltyard itself being used until 20 years later, however, by which time Edward was dead and Henry’s elder daughter Mary was on the throne.

For the new 21st century garden, my team and I developed a strong design upon which a series of character areas are layered. These include a tournament ground, wildwood, mythical beasts’ lair, strange topiary garden, encampment, and a spiral mount with moat and grotto.

The rich historic environment of the Palace provided endless inspiration:  the wildwood evokes the hunting grounds that Henry VIII knew and loved, and also provides the perfect place for a spot of hide and seek; a perspective pergola plays with visitors’ sense of perspective but also reflects the changing fortunes of the royal court - one moment you are high in the King’s favour, the next you are under threat of a treason charge. Outsized thrones and chairs dotted along the pergola reflect changing status and fortunes.

Henry had a series of ‘Tiltyard Towers’ built in the Tiltyard area during the 1530s. Used as vantage points for spectators of his tournaments, they were like miniature palaces in themselves, complete with banqueting suites and withdrawing chambers.  We recreated five of them in The Magic Garden, each with a particular theme for exploration and learning.The aerial walkways between three of the Towers are one of the most exciting aspects of the garden, teetering high above with spectacular views of the palace and gardens. Although there were no such walkways in Henry’s day, the historical references can be found in the form of the supporting steel poles, shaped like Tudor lances.

We already had substantial experience of working with artists and craftspeople to commission site-specific art and sculpture; in The Magic Garden we could let our imaginations fly, and one of the most enjoyable aspects was working with artists who have created various mythical and heraldic beasts which occupy the garden:  Andrew Tanser  designed a steam-emitting head for the 30 metre-long dragon, as well as a panther, yale and unicorn. Harry Gray created a stone lion that magically disappears and reappears,  Chris Bailey’s work included a carved griffin and falcon and Tom Hare,  a fantastic giant dragon’s nest in woven willow.

We incorporated playfulness and magic into every aspect of the garden. It has been designed as a relaxing and stimulating environment, with spaces to pause and rest and places that are truly active and adventurous. Our aim has been to create a garden full of beauty, an essence of escapism and an exciting setting for learning, interaction and expression through exploration and adventure.

My Chelsea 2014 experience

Matthew Childs looks back on his experience designing our 2014 Chelsea Flower show garden.

It was a blistering hot summer day at the Hampton Court Palace flower show in 2013 and I was midway through taking a gardening club around my show garden for Ecover. I’d been awarded a gold medal and best in show and I’d been flying high all week… it surely couldn’t get any better than this. At the back of the group I spotted two smartly dressed city types looking very out of place listening intently to my gardening patter.  Little did I know that these two individuals were from the Brewin Dolphin marketing team and held the golden ticket in their hands to the biggest opportunity I’ve had in my garden design career to date.

The ‘golden ticket’ was a chance to pitch for Brewin Dolphin’s main avenue Chelsea garden the following year. I think I must have been a wild card entry as I wasn’t given long, but I was going to give it my all. I presented a concept that was inspired by the energy of new life and new beginnings in spring – perfect for Chelsea time.  My concept was a hit and I got the gig.

For the next nine months I lived and breathed Chelsea.  My preparations for the garden saw me working with some of the country’s best horticulturalists and nurseries, artisans, sculptors, water feature specialists and the cream of the landscaping industry.  I travelled far and wide searching for trees throughout Europe and stone at the foot of Snowdonia.  My every move was followed by the BBC for their show coverage with cameras, soundmen and directors all in tow.  I still can’t quite believe the experience I had. 

When I think back to this time two years ago with only weeks to go until we were on site digging the first foundations, I remember the pressure I felt was enormous. If anyone tells you they aren’t going for gold when they design a show garden they are telling a big fat fib!  I wanted to do the best I could, not only for myself but my client and the amazing team of people around me.

20 intensive days of building and planting the garden was the most surreal experience ever. The Chelsea show ground during this build period is the most exhilarating place for a garden fanatic like myself.  Surrounded by passionate and skilled people and an explosion of the most wonderful plants everywhere you look… it is a gardener’s paradise.

After blood, sweat and a few tears the vision was made a reality.  I couldn’t have asked for any more, the team camaraderie and commitment had been a wonderful thing to be part of and we had all made a very beautiful space.

Spruced up in a new suit and shiny shoes, my first Chelsea press day arrived and the garden I had dreamed up in my head nearly a year before was adorned with celebrities and royalty, followed by a week of entertaining Brewin Dolphin’s clients on the garden and showing off our creation to the public.  The Chelsea week went by in a whirlwind.

The garden was awarded a silver gilt medal… not bad for my first Chelsea garden… and yes I would have loved that gold, but on reflection I think it was the best outcome for me at that stage in my career.  You see Brewin Dolphin had seen in me potential and they nurtured this by giving me the opportunity to rise to the challenge and create a garden on the world’s biggest gardening stage.  I learnt so much from the experience; it was a springboard for my career and a lesson that there is always more to learn… I’ve still got that Chelsea gold to aim for!

The River Test and History of the Huguenots

Inspiration behind the Brewin Dolphin ‘Forever Freefolk’ Show Garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.

Inspirations for the garden design have been many and varied, but the chalk streams on the river Test in Hampshire, the Huguenots, who fled persecution from France to England, and the impact that they had on the way in which money is produced in the modern day are all key elements.

The Huguenots were French Protestants with origins in the 16th centuries. The Foreign Protestants Naturalisation Act, of 1708, allowed foreign protestants to migrate and settle in Eng-land. An estimated 50,000 fled to England.

Huguenots quickly rose to prominence in banking, stock-broking and insurance, together with the trades of printing and paper-making. One Huguenot that was particularly inspirational for Rosy Hardy when designing the Brewin Dolphin garden 2016 was Henri de Portal. Portal was twenty when he settled in Hampshire, where he began working at a paper mill in South Stoneham and quickly became friends with Sir William Heathcote, who gave Portal the lease to Laverstoke Mill. This mill was on the river Test, and would soon become one of the most successful paper mills in the whole of England.  This mill happens to be in the same village as Hardy’s nursery.

The River Test runs 63km long, and is one of the longest and most prominent chalk streams in England. The purity of the water in the Test makes it perfect for paper making, specifically the manufacturing of bank notes.

Portal won the contract to make paper for Bank of England notes in 1724. The paper that Portal created was 80 to 90 grams per square metre, manufactured from cotton fibre (sometimes mixed with linen) and impregnated with polyvinyl alcohol or gelatine to give it extra strength. Portal also invented the metallic thread incorporated into the paper (the dotted line called ‘windowed thread’), which continues to be used to this day.

There are around 200 chalk streams in the world under threat from pollution and climate change; 160 of these are in England, one of them being the river Test. Visitors to the garden are invited to consider the fragility of chalk streams, a rare and vital natural resource and the importance of protecting them for future generations. Brewin Dolphin has a similar responsibility to strengthen, grow and protect their client’s investments.

A visit to Chatsworth House and Mamhead Estate

The Pre-Chelsea roadshow continued in these two beautiful venues.

Our pre-RHS Chelsea Roadshow visited new locations, reaching Chatsworth House, Derbyshire and the Mamhead Estate near Exeter, on the 15 and 18 April respectively.

Standing on the east bank of the River Derwent, Chatsworth House looks across to the low hills that divide the Derwent and Wye valleys. The house is world renowned for its unique collection of priceless paintings, furniture, Old Master drawings, neoclassical sculptures, books and other artefacts.

It was the equally famous gardens and landscape that were the focus of an opening presentation from Steve Porter. Formerly of the National Trust, Steve Porter now heads up a 20-strong team of gardeners, trainees and volunteers all of whom maintain and enhance the Chatsworth grounds.

Having run through the history of the house, from the work of William Cavendish and Elizabeth Talbot in the 1550s through to Capability Brown’s involvement in 1760 and on to the role played by the sixth Duke (1830s) who installed, what was at the time, the largest free-standing glasshouse in the world.

Steve Porter then covered his experiences of Chelsea Flower Show and his pride when Chatsworth’s show garden was crowned best in show. Designed by Dan Pearson, the Chatsworth show garden was inspired by the idea of moving water – featuring a small stream that meandered through stone channels, bordered by natural grasses.  300 tonnes of rock travelled from Chatsworth to Chelsea for the designed, before being reinstated as a half mile trout stream back on the estate.

Introducing this year’s designer for Brewin’s show garden, Rosy Hardy, continued the theme of deriving inspiration from the natural landscape.  She detailed the chalk streams, rolling hills and winding banks of the river Test surrounding her nursery that inadvertently became the basis of her design submission for Brewin Dolphin’s CFS brief. Rosy strongly believes that being surrounded by such powerful natural features have paved the way for her transition from 24 years in the pavilion to a show garden on Main Avenue.

Situated on the high ground of the Haldon Hills, fringed by dense woodland, the Mamhead Estate dates back to Domesday. Though in 1823, Mamhead was bought by Robert William Newman, who completely rebuilt the house on slightly lower ground, with designs by Anthony Salvin.

Today’s owner is Richard Fuller, a property developer by profession, who reflected on the changes to the house over the years. Clearly enjoying the thought of 26-year-old architect Anthony Salvin being given free reign of the purse strings during the redevelopment of 1823 – he joked that the architects and designers behind today’s redevelopment have been given no such freedom!

Rosy’s presentation at Mamhead was very much on the planting style utilised in her Chelsea Flower Show designs. Though based on the seemingly simple ethos of ‘right plant, right place’ Rosy and her team at Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants have found themselves nurturing 6,000 potted perennials for Brewin Dolphin’s show garden.

David Hurrion’s May Tips

Award winning Garden writer David Hurrion’s top tips for May.

  • Fuchsia and other tender bedding plants will be growing strongly now and it is a good idea to pinch out the tip of the main stems to encourage more side shoots and flower buds to form.
  • It should be warm enough in most parts of the country to plant out your summer bedding in pots and borders. If it looks like temperatures will dip below 5oc by night, then have a piece of garden fleece ready to lie over the top of the plants to give them a little protection from the cool conditions.
  • Summer salad – such as lettuce, oriental leaves, radish, spring onions and beetroot can all be sown outdoors in large pots, with multi-purpose compost or direct into garden soil. Just sow a few seeds now and then and a few more every couple of weeks to make sure you get a steady stream of produce to use.
  • Cut back your spring flowered shrubs as soon as they finish flowering. Remove about a third of the oldest branches to stop the bushes getting too big. Leave strong new stems to grow up for next year’s flowers.
  • Sweetcorn, courgettes and runner beans can all be planted outside now. They all like a sunny, sheltered position to do their best with soil that has been improved with lots of well-rotted garden compost.
  • Slugs and snails will be on the rampage now that the days and nights are warmer, so get out in the evening with a torch and check vulnerable plants like hostas for silvery slime trails and signs of nibbling. Track the culprits down and dispatch of them in the best way you see fit.
  • Remember to keep feeding the birds all through the year, especially as they need to stock up on energy to fuel them as they search out grubs and worms to feed their young.  In return, they’ll help keep down the pest numbers in your garden.
  • Garden ponds can quickly turn green at this time of year, so check them for signs of blanket weed, twirling it onto a bamboo cane to remove any as soon as you see it. If you have fish, don’t give them more food than they can eat in a maximum of five minutes as waste food will sink and turn the water cloudy as it rots down.
  • Get out the barbecue and any stored garden chairs and tables to give them a good clean ready for the summer. Hopefully you’ll have chance to use them in May with two bank holiday weekends on the calendar!

See the May issue of BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine filled with inspiring ideas for your garden as well as reminders of other jobs to do this month.

The trials of a Chelsea show garden continue....

Rosy Hardy discusses the trials of finding the perfect materials for her Show garden.

Flints as a wall building material have been used for centuries as they make good filling material adding strength to the wall when held in place by brick or stone. Flints used to be traded in the same way as gold and were worth far more, both brick and flint create a timeless feature.

How do we use the idea of brick and flint walls in a modern way to go with the conceptual idea of the Brewin Dolphin Garden at Chelsea?  Gabions are used for effect and as structural walls.  Sourcing the correct flint and gravel has caused me to have more than one or two sleepless nights. Not many people can say that flints are giving them nightmares.....

We are using wire casements to provide rigidity and form, with the fill of brick and flint making the structure stable. The beauty of the different surfaces of the flint is visible through the wire, without the need for mortar.

The dried riverbed floor is a mixture of different sizes of flint gravel. Through this will be colourful plants which thrive in these stony conditions:

  • Erigeron Quakeress a wonderful summer flowering perennial can grow to 45cm when in flower.
  • Centaurea simplicicaulis makes tight mounds of grey foliage with these lovely pink cornflowers.
  • Nigella or 'Love in the Mist' will self seed giving a carpet of blue. Then its seed-heads look good for the rest of the season.
  • Achillea 'Gloria Jean' a good strong pink form that thrives in gravel areas.

All of these plants and their close relatives make excellent gravel bed plantings.

Centaurea simplicicaulis

Adam Frost – A Passion for Garden Design

David Hurrion interviews award winning garden designer Adam Frost.

Increasingly well known for his Gold medal-winning Chelsea gardens and from appearances on BBC Gardeners’ World, Adam Frost is one of the rising stars of gardening. So we sent David Hurrion to catch up with him.
 
 
David:
“First of all, congratulations are in order for winning the Royal Television Society Award for New On-Screen Talent! How does that feel?”
 
Adam:
“All a little strange really, it was a complete surprise! But a nice one. The BBC Gardener’s World team had entered the work that I had done for them last year, so I have them to thank really.” 

David:
“And I hear that you’ve literally just got back from Singapore. What was that for?”
 
Adam:
“I have been invited to the Singapore Flower Show to design and build a garden, it is a bi-annual show, a bit like our Chelsea Flower Show, quite an honour really. This visit was to meet the landscapers, I am going back in July to build and plant the garden.”

David:
“What else is going on at the moment?”
 
Adam:
“We have got loads going on at the moment. Some really interesting design work, both in this country and abroad, but that said, the most exciting thing is that we are moving. We are taking on a big garden, where I would love to set up a school covering all elements of gardening and encouraging people to have a go. Watch this space!”
 
David:
“Will you miss not having a garden at Chelsea this year?”
 
Adam:
“I thought that when this year’s gardens got announced I would feel a little strange, but not at all. It actually feels nice just to take a step back and have a year out. Mind you, I’m sure I will be there during the show doing something and it’ll be great to have a really good look round.”
 
David:
“How and why did you get connected with the Homebase Academy? You got them involved building the garden last year didn’t you?”
 
Adam:
“Yes and we won a Chelsea Gold, too. The Academy was born due to me moaning to one of the Homebase directors about the lack of young people coming into our industry. It’s crucial that we encourage the next generation of gardeners and horticulturist. Homebase have been great, really backed me all the way. So, the first year we took on 12 students and now, in our third year, we are up to 80 students. It’s probably the best thing I’ve been part of in my career, it’s let me give something back.”
 
David:
“Where did you get your love of gardening?”
 
Adam:
“Like a lot of people first with my grandparents. But my professional career started at North Devon Parks Department. I trained as a gardener, then landscaper and eventually a designer. It has been a fantastic journey, but it was essential to start at the grass roots and get to know how to grow things.”
 
David:
“Who are your gardening heroes?”
 
Adam:
“Number one has got to be Geoff Hamilton. I was lucky enough to work with him for around seven years. He had a way of enthusing the nation and getting them out gardening. Oh and another great gardening hero has to be Roy Lancaster. I could listen to Roy talk plants all day. His knowledge is incredible.”
 
David:
And lastly, a little bird tells me that if you weren’t a gardener, you might have been a chef?”
 
Adam:
“Not sure how you have heard that, but yes, I love cooking. It is an important part of my life. Mind you, I am pleased with the direction I took. Cooking for pleasure is probably better than doing it for a living. Who knows though, I might enter Masterchef one day.”
 
 

Belvoir Castle – The start of the Pre-Chelsea roadshow

On 8 April the Duchess of Rutland kicked off the pre-Chelsea roadshow by welcoming guests to her Leicestershire home - Belvoir Castle.

Guests listened to inspired talks from the Duchess herself, Rosy Hardy – designer of the 2016 Brewin Dolphin Chelsea garden – and Nikki Applewhite, Head Gardener at Belvoir Castle.

Emma Manners, the 11th Duchess of Rutland described her experiences growing up as a Welsh farmer’s daughter. These experiences helped keep Emma grounded and gave her the ability to deal with situations ranging from birthing a baby lamb, helping her mum run their B&B, becoming a chalet girl through to setting up her own decorating business.

In 2001 the Duchess moved into Belvoir and she was keen to teach her children to be humble with heritage, to respect it, to work for their living and to keep their feet firmly on the ground.

Rosy Hardy, opened by telling the audience that it will be her 25th year exhibiting at Chelsea and that 2016 is even more exciting as it will be the first time she has designed a show garden at Chel-sea.

She introduced herself as one half of Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants who are based in Freefolk in the beautiful Hampshire countryside. The herbaceous perennial nursery employs several people to assist the husband and wife team - Rosy and Robert. They have built their reputation on the mantra of ‘right plant, right place’; a philosophy Rosy will be sticking to with her planting for the Brewin Dolphin Garden 2016.

Rosy went on to describe the style of planting on the Brewin Dolphin garden and the inspiration she found in the beautiful chalk streams of the River Test. The key message being that we have to look after our precious natural resources and natural environment.  We have to invest in the future and ensure that we don’t extract too much.

Nikki Applewhite, Head Gardener at Belvoir Castle, discussed her role and the history of Lancelot Brown, who visited Belvoir in 1780 at a time of high demand for his expertise, particularly among the landed aristocracy.

Nikki talked about Brown’s initial arrival at Belvoir, a neglected castle with run down grounds but he believed the landscape had potential.

At the age of 66 Brown died with little or no progress having been made on the garden, apart from initial oak tree planting. The Duke died shortly after Brown, leaving a heavily indebted estate to his nine-year-old son.

Things improved financially and when the 5th Duke turned 21, work began in earnest. The Duke married Duchess Elizabeth and she helped with the implementation of Brown’s plans.

The current Duchess Emma has almost completed the huge restoration of Brown’s landscape at Belvoir.

Then followed a Gardeners Q&A session - questions and answers can be found here.

Gardeners Question Time

Rosy Hardy answers your questions on all things horticultural in our first Gardener’s Question Time.

What is your biggest challenge as a plant’s woman Rosy Hardy?
R: Biggest challenge for me from the point of view of the nursery is getting the plants to be in tip top condition at exactly the right time. We have done it for the last 24 years so we should be able to do it again. However, it doesn’t get easier - we are always dealing with the weather. Chelsea is not the same week every year - it alters. You can guarantee that day five before we have to have everything there, there will be a frost. We can be going out there covering things with fleece, dragging stuff inside just to protect. We used to forget about this when we first started.

How many extra plants do you do in addition?
R: If I’m going to use 10 plants, I will grow 30. This is to make sure I get 10 spot-on plants - I have grown 6,000 of one variety.

What frost protection do you have?
R: The main protection comes from inside the tunnels. What we use is a woven fleece material which is very light. Once put over the top of plant material, it will keep it 2oc higher than the outside temperature. The frost that you get in May is ‘snap frost’. Last year I drove to Chelsea on the Saturday (last day) and I had to scrape the ice off my car.

Is the fleece frost protection expensive?
R: You buy it by the roll. It is not too bad; it has come down in price. It’s used a huge amount in the vegetable industry. We use it all the time. Ours gets destroyed after about 2 or 3 years because the mice come in and nibble at it.

Is it too late to move perennial bushes and trees around the garden?
R: You can move them at any time, as long as you move them carefully. We carry on splitting the nursery all the time. If you are doing it for the garden, you don’t want to do it in the middle of the year because you have to cut off all the top growth because you want to make them stop growing, split them up and put them somewhere where they’ll start growing again. Right the way through until the end of April, you can still lift and move stuff around. You have to be careful with root growth, as long as you’re not damaging that then it will be fine. Don’t forget to have good, prepared ground, that’s what people tend to forget. If you don’t have that done properly then you won’t succeed.

What gives you the greatest satisfaction?
R: At Chelsea, on Sunday evening when everything is completely finished. That is the best point, then I can go ‘right I have done it, there’s no more I can do’.

What’s it like waiting for the judging to take place?
R: It’s awful. I do not sleep the night before the Tuesday morning. I’m usually awake by 5.30am, and my husband at 6.00am says ‘go on then, go to the show ground and see what you have got’ because he can’t stand my fidgeting anymore. I quite often go to the marquee at 6.30m each year on that Tuesday morning. I still get the feeling of trepidation and elation of seeing the medal.

Have you ever been approached by a National Plant Collection?
R: Yes, I was approached about 15 years ago and asked as to whether I would hold a collection of Heucheras. This was before they really became the plant and everyone tried to collect every colour of leaf. I actually turned it down because there is an awful lot of material that you have to keep with a collection; knowledge of the breeders, exactly where it came from, all sorts of numbers. At that time we weren’t in a position to do all that. I have since then (last year) thought about going back to do another collection and this time doing something we are breeding. And I was considering doing it this year too, but somehow something else got in the way. It will be my next challenge perhaps!

Shooting at Chelsea Flower Show

Allan Pollok Morris discusses the thrill of photography at Chelsea Flower Show.

The Chelsea Flower Show is world’s leading garden festival, there is nothing like it, the most acclaimed gardeners, designers and plants’ people gather to demonstrate their expertise and élan to the most discerning of audiences.

My role amongst them is something of a borrower, making a record of other people’s art and sharing it with the wider world through a variety of mediums. 

Not everyone gets such privileged access to these places and even after 15 years of covering the show gardens it’s still a magical experience.  My secret weapon is being allowed unlimited access to the show ground every morning from 5am and on quieter evenings I can return for sunset and night photography. 

The magic of the early morning in particular can’t be overstated, even though the buses thump down the embankment and the planes circle overhead, there is a visceral sense of having the world to yourself in the most beautiful light.  The freedom to shoot key features while exploring these fine gardens in solitude is, I imagine, as close as you can get to guilt-free scrumping for apples in the gardens of Eden!

With that said it’s not without its pressures and deadlines, particularly on the Monday morning before the show opens to the public and when the press and VIPs have a preview, followed by the Royal visit in the afternoon and the Gala in the evening.  This is when the gardens are at their peak and ready for the RHS Judging panel, so this is the optimum time to photograph them, in the early morning before the show ground gets too busy. 

There is a great deal to accomplish in a brief window, but even though the photographer is at the mercy of the weather, there is a real buzz and some of the contractors are still adding finishing touches to the gardens, this is the perfect time make a photographic record of the gardens with the sun rising through the London plane trees in a moment of time that expresses the zeitgeist in this field of design.

The large format Phase One digital camera I work with creates an exceptional level of capture, but time is of the essence, I am usually finished before the breakfast tours begin as the light is often too harsh by 7:30am.  This means I have to be very selective, but at the same an open mind is the most important tool in looking for a subject or composition that has the sense of something I may not have seen before. 

In a few hours the gardens will be taken over by TV crews and become a playground for press and celebrities, but with my work done I can’t help but feel emotionally invested in the success of the project and for all the people behind the gardens. 

I usually have the help of a good team at the show, many of my clients have a clear brief and give me in-house or agency press and marketing support taking care of press relations and face-to-face reception when the photography moves to portraits of celebrity visitors and press calls.  The world’s media are hungry for such photos around the day, but the congenial atmosphere of Chelsea means there are no media scrums or paparazzi hiding in the hedges!

However, a quick turnaround is needed and I’ll have a digital technician editing my large format imagery on a high quality colour calibrated photo-editing suite on site. It’s such a busy time of year I couldn’t do the flower show work without them. Once I had to shoot the gardens on press day at the RHS Hampton Court  Palace Flower Show and then be at a magazine shoot in the Hamptons 100 miles East of New York the following day, but thanks to my digital technician we were still able to deliver the photos on time.

There is a very close link between the way a garden is made and the way it is photographed and so it is important to look at it, in part, with the eyes of its designer.  The contractors and designers of the gardens are hard at work up to a year in advance and so there is a fine art to gleaning the designer’s vision to make the photographs without getting in the way of their work - literally moving mountains of earth!

The garden designer takes complex, technical ideas, channeling them through a wealth of disciplines to reach the result.  When they work with a sponsor at the Chelsea Flower Show the success of the mix is even more rewarding to work with on camera.  In recent years Brewin Dolphin have been respected supporters of the Chelsea show, raising their flag in the middle of the Main Avenue show gardens and it has been fascinating to work with the wider group of designers they have partnered with.  

The proudest moment for a sponsor has to be achieving the highly coveted ‘Best in show’ award and gold medal as they did with Cleve West and Robert Myers in 2012 and 2013.  With time a little more risk was added to Brewin Dolphin’s portfolio of Main Avenue gardens as they went on to form inspirational partnerships with emerging talent such as Matthew Childs and Darren Hawkes. 

Recently I visited Rosy Hardy’s nursery in Hampshire, to learn more about her garden for Brewin Dolphin at the 2016 RHS Chelsea Flower Show.  I can’t help but be excited by the potential that surrounds this garden.  Rosy’s 20 plus years as a veteran Chelsea exhibitor in the Floral Marquee is now taking her exceptional expertise and critical eye to the making of her first show garden.

Rosy imparted to me her love of the English landscape, particularly its native plants and chalk streams that have inspired the garden.  As a photographer, this can only be a positive, photographically speaking this could be the first Chelsea garden that takes me out of the show ground and in to the countryside and I look forward to sharing more of those results here.

Horticulture - A little more than meets the eye

RHS Ambassador Jamie Butterworth discusses his passion for gardening.

I’ve had a passion for gardening since the tender age of 9, after watching an episode of Gardeners’ World, I’m still not sure why. Anyhow, Monty Don was sowing some seeds, and I remember thinking, ‘that looks easy, maybe I should have a go’. So I did.

I asked my mother to get me some seeds, compost and pots, and I still remember to this very day the feeling of excitement and awe I got. It was just like real life magic, seeing something as small as a pin prick germinate, grow and flower. It was only a simple cornflower, but this was enough to captivate my imagination.

After experimenting in both my own back garden, and converting my grandparents back lawn into my allotment, there was no hesitation when it came to choosing what I was to study at college. Defying my careers advisors advice…“Don't go in horticulture, you're a bright lad, you should do your A levels, do a degree, study medicine or law, contribute to society.” I think it’s fairly safe to say I’ve proven them quite wrong.

I studied for two years at Askham Bryan College in York, before migrating ‘darn sarth’ to spend two years working in the magical RHS Wisley garden. This was the most incredible opportunity, and one I relished. Being able to live, work and study on one of the country’s most beautiful gardens was an enormous privilege, and gave me the knowledge and connections with some of the biggest names in horticulture, that led to the dream job that I have today.

Since leaving Wisley, I now work at Hortus loci, a nursery based in Hook, Hampshire. My job here is ‘Joint Show Plant Manager’, which in essence means I am responsible for growing the plants for the prestigious RHS Chelsea Flower Show, and all the other major flower shows for that matter! 

I have been watching the show since I was 12 years old, and always one day dreamed of visiting. I would never have imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be responsible for growing the plants for no less than 5 main avenue gardens. An incredible honor, albeit it a bit of a nerve-wracking one.

The thought that the plants I am growing will be admired by people from across the world is one that truly excites me and scares me in equal measures.  Chelsea is the one week of the year where gardening and horticulture suddenly becomes cool to the rest of the world, the epicenter of horticultural excellence. And as such, I think it’s a great platform to show the rest of the world exactly what a career in horticulture actually can be about.

As an industry, we face somewhat of a negative image, seen only as a career option if you’re either reaching retirement, or have failed academically. This simply isn't true. Horticulture truly is one of the most fun, exciting and diverse careers I can think of. From travelling the world to find plants that no one has ever come across before, to working with NASA trying to find ways in which to grow plants on Mars, yes, this is actually someone’s job.

A career in horticulture really can take you around the world. A big part of my job, growing the plants for RHS Chelsea Flower show, is to find some of the most rare, weird and wonderful trees, that will be used to bring the garden to life and create that illusion the garden has been there forever. In the past month, I’ve been to Barcelona, Hanover, and Valencia, not bad for a Yorkshireman who had never left the country prior to working for Hortus.

As a child, my grandfather always told me to find a job that I love doing, and by doing so, I’ll never have to work a day in my life. He couldn't have been more right. It sounds clichéd, but I genuinely don't feel like I'm going to work on a morning. Instead it’s another day of getting to practice my hobby, the thing I love to do the most. Sometime you can have your cake and eat it.

Brewin Dolphin garden relocating

The stunning 2015 Gold medal winning Brewin Dolphin Garden designed by Darren Hawkes Landscapes has found a new home at the Tremenheere Sculpture Garden in Penzance.

Now in its fourth year, Tremenheere sculpture garden is constantly evolving since opening in 2012. The garden is situated in a protected valley with stunning views to St Michaels Mount and has both exciting sub tropical planting and contemporary art installations.  It is home of many conceptual art works by artists such as James Turell and Kishio Suga.

The Chelsea Flower Show design has been re-configured and re-imagined to make the most of Tremenheere’s unique location.  This installation will be a pleasure for all the senses. The magnificent hand cut slate platforms create a tactile standing space from which to enjoy the sound and sight of nearby series of ponds and enjoy the ever changing light from the canopy of trees above.  The vast platforms will be arranged in a subtle arc to allow the visitors to travel through the space experiencing the play between hard and soft landscaping.

Both Brewin Dolphin and designer Darren were keen to create a legacy for the garden and a sustainable future. It is always sad to see the show gardens disassembled after such hard work has gone into to design and building them so in this instance it’s marvellous to know that the garden will live on and can be enjoyed by visitors for many years to come.

Darren is thrilled to see the sculptural elements in the same gardens as James Turrell’s work as they were one of the key inspirations for his Brewin Dolphin Chelsea design.  Many elements of the design were also inspired by the Cornish landscape so for the garden to find a home at Tremenheere completes the circle and although the planting palette is different at Tremenheere the slate platforms look like they were made for this the idyllic woodland setting.

As well as the ‘Floating Garden’ the imposing vertical slate structure entitled ‘Monolith’ which was also part of Darren’s Chelsea Garden can be found by the visitor entrance and cafe.  The installation and a new sculpture by Peter Randall-Page will be unveiled on Friday 20 May 2016.

Darren Hawkes

Find out more information here:
http://www.tremenheere.co.uk 
http://www.darrenhawkeslandscapes.co.uk

Gardeners Question Time

Questions and answers at our first gardeners q&a

What is your biggest challenge as a plant’s woman Rosy Hardy?
R: Biggest challenge for me from the point of view of the nursery is getting the plants to be in tip top condition at exactly the right time. We have done it for the last 24 years so we should be able to do it again. However, it doesn’t get easier - we are always dealing with the weather. Chelsea is not the same week every year - it alters. You can guarantee that day five before we have to have everything there, there will be a frost. We can be going out there covering things with fleece, dragging stuff inside just to protect. We used to forget about this when we first started.

How many extra plants do you do in addition?
R: If I’m going to use 10 plants, I will grow 30. This is to make sure I get 10 spot-on plants - I have grown 6,000 of one variety.

What frost protection do you have?
R: The main protection comes from inside the tunnels. What we use is a woven fleece material which is very light. Once put over the top of plant material, it will keep it 2oc higher than the outside temperature. The frost that you get in May is ‘snap frost’. Last year I drove to Chelsea on the Saturday (last day) and I had to scrape the ice off my car.

Is the fleece frost protection expensive?
R: You buy it by the roll. It is not too bad; it has come down in price. It’s used a huge amount in the vegetable industry. We use it all the time. Ours gets destroyed after about 2 or 3 years because the mice come in and nibble at it.

Is it too late to move perennial bushes and trees around the garden?
R: You can move them at any time, as long as you move them carefully. We carry on splitting the nursery all the time. If you are doing it for the garden, you don’t want to do it in the middle of the year because you have to cut off all the top growth because you want to make them stop growing, split them up and put them somewhere where they’ll start growing again. Right the way through until the end of April, you can still lift and move stuff around. You have to be careful with root growth, as long as you’re not damaging that then it will be fine. Don’t forget to have good, prepared ground, that’s what people tend to forget. If you don’t have that done properly then you won’t succeed.

What gives you the greatest satisfaction?
R: At Chelsea, on Sunday evening when everything is completely finished. That is the best point, then I can go ‘right I have done it, there’s no more I can do’.

What’s it like waiting for the judging to take place?
R: It’s awful. I do not sleep the night before the Tuesday morning. I’m usually awake by 5.30am, and my husband at 6.00am says ‘go on then, go to the show ground and see what you have got’ because he can’t stand my fidgeting anymore. I quite often go to the marquee at 6.30m each year on that Tuesday morning. I still get the feeling of trepidation and elation of seeing the medal.

Have you ever been approached by a National Plant Collection?
R: Yes, I was approached about 15 years ago and asked as to whether I would hold a collection of Heucheras. This was before they really became the plant and everyone tried to collect every colour of leaf. I actually turned it down because there is an awful lot of material that you have to keep with a collection; knowledge of the breeders, exactly where it came from, all sorts of numbers. At that time we weren’t in a position to do all that. I have since then (last year) thought about going back to do another collection and this time doing something we are breeding. And I was considering doing it this year too, but somehow something else got in the way. It will be my next challenge perhaps!

Exploring the Japanese art form of cloud trees

Cloud trees are amazing sculpture-like trees pruned and formed using an ancient Japanese art form. 

These sculptural trees create a maximum impact in any garden not just Japanese gardens. However Japanese cloud trees are synonymous with Japan and its heritage.  These are statement trees providing focus in the garden.

In Japanese gardens it is not about using masses of planting - more about creating a calm retreat.  The key elements to Japanese gardens include balance, space and nature. 

Cloud trees look stunning planted alongside other Japanese plants including  Camellias, Magnolias, Tree peonies, Bamboos and Japanese Acers.

Many trees can be shaped into garden bonsai cloud shapes and you can give it a go yourself or buy already shaped trees.  Ready shaped cloud trees tend to be expensive because of their age and the work involved in creating these "works of art".

Niwaki is the Japanese method of cloud pruning ie training trees and shrubs into shapes resembling clouds.  Garden bonsai are also shaped trees but tend to be more simplistic but still have elegant shapes.  The garden bonsai are fantastic as a starting point to add structure to the garden.  Garden bonsai are typically 10-15 years of age.

There are many tree varieties which can be shaped into bonsai cloud trees:-

The most popular cloud Trees tends to be the Ilex Crenata (Japanese Holly) cloud trees.  These trees are created over many years (usually 20 years plus) using Japanese Holly which is an evergreen and has small glossy mid to dark green leaf.  Ilex Crenata cloud trees are extremely easy to maintain.

Ilex Crenata grows in any aspect in sheltered or exposed conditions.  It copes with any soil type – chalk, clay, sand and loam and in any PH. It is also a great alternative to Buxus.  However, Ilex Crenata is faster growing and does not suffer from the problems which Buxus has, such as box blight.

Other varieties of cloud tree include Japanese Yew, Pines and Podocapus these varieties are slower growing than Ilex Crenata (Japanese Holly).

Taxus Cuspidata – Japanese Yew, is a Japanese form of yew which is slow growing but easy to maintain.  It is tolerant of shade (even deep) as long as it has sunlight in Spring.  Yews prefer fertile, moist well draining soil and need to be protected from strong drying winds.

Pines
The pines can be trickier to look after than other varieties.  The easiest pines to grow as cloud trees are the European grown Pinus cloud trees, such as Pinus Sylvestris or Pinus Nigra.  You can prune these using normal garden secateurs or shears usually done in early summer when new growth is about to emerge.
Pines grow well in open sunny aspects in sheltered or exposed positions – in fertile well drained soil, yet in any PH and any soil.

Podocarpus Macrophylla
Podocarpus grow in any soil conditions in any PH and tolerate sun or shade.  Keep Podocarpus out of cold drying winds. These trees are especially good in pots.

An unusual cloud tree the Podocarpus Macrophylla makes an interesting statement in the garden and has a more tropical and exotic appearance than the other cloud trees with long wide needles. It is known as the Pine of the Buddhists.

Podocarpus can grow fairly successfully indoors in a well lit spot but will dry out without proper humidity like most coniferous plants.  If kept indoors the soil must be kept moist - do not allow to dry out.  The leathery leaves of the Podocarpus will not lose much water from transpiration which makes it essential to avoid overwatering.  There are several easy ways to raise the level of humidity for plants by the process of misting or by using a humidity tray. A humidity tray is a shallow tray filled with small stones and has water in the bottom of the tray.  Liquid feed every two weeks in warm weather if kept indoors. Cloud trees are suitable for any style of garden.

What to look for when choosing a Japanese cloud tree?

When looking to buy your own Cloud Tree these are the most important factors to look out for:

  • Natural shapes - more about irregularity
  • A balanced shape rather than straight lines is preferred
  • Naturally arching main stem
  • Structure and quantity of clouds

However at the end of the day when choosing a cloud tree it has to be a tree that you love, as it will form a beautiful piece of art in your garden for many decades to come.

David Hurrion’s April Tips

Award winning Garden writer David Hurrion’s top tips for April.

Roses need to be pruned before they make too much growth. Cut back the stems of bush roses to 4-5 buds from the base, pruning to a bud that faces out of the centre of the bush.

Seedlings benefit from being separated out and potted into their own compost to grow on more strongly. This process is called ‘pricking out’ and I like to use these cellular trays putting one seedling into each section.

Spring-flowering bedding plants, like polyanthuses, will go on to produce more flowers if you remove the old blooms as soon as they start to fade. Pinch them out between thumb and forefinger, or use a pair of small scissors to snip them off.

Newly planted perennials and shrubs will benefit from a good soaking in dry weather, especially if it hasn’t rained for a couple of weeks. This will help them get established with a good root system for the summer ahead.

Some of the hardier vegetables and salad leaves such as carrots, beetroot and rocket can be sown outdoors now, directly into the garden soil. Cover them with a cloche if you have one, to speed up germination.

Patios and paths could do with a clean now. After a winter of rain, they will have moss and algae growing on their surface which can be slippery in the wet. Use a stiff brush and plenty of water to scrub them clean.

Weeds grow just as well as your other plants at this time of year and can soon compete for water and food. Look out for seedlings of weeds and pull them out by hand or with a hand fork.

Climbing plants need coaxing to grow in the direction that you want them to, so keep an eye on the new growth and tie it in loosely to its supports using soft garden string.

Spring bulbs will have been in full bloom for at least the last month or so. As soon as they start to shrivel it’s time to remove the flower heads, but don’t cut back the leaves as these will make food to bulk up the bulbs underground ready for next year’s display. Instead let the foliage die back naturally, only removing it when it starts to turn yellow in about six weeks’ time.

Lilies are a real treat in the summer garden, so pot up some bulbs to start the growth indoors. Remember that lily bulbs can cause an allergic skin reaction in some people, so wear gloves as a precaution when handling them.

Lost Landscape at Belvoir Castle

The Duchess of Rutland discusses ‘Capability’ Brown’s landscape design of the gardens of the Duke of Rutland’s ancestral family home Belvoir Castle.

There were always rumours in the Manners family that the legendary Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (nicknamed Capability for seeing ‘capabilities’ in a landscape) had designed the vast 2,300-acre landscape that surrounds Belvoir Castle, the ancestral family home of the Dukes of Rutland in Leicestershire. But we had no proof. 

Then, one day in 2008, completely out of the blue, our archivist discovered a huge dusty old plan dated 1780, by Lancelot Brown himself.  Even to my untrained eye, the plan started to explain why our garden appears - quite frankly - gardenless. Apart from a compact rose garden on one of the steep terraces below the front door, we don’t have acres of formal gardens. There are no manicured beds, borders and parterres that surround many stately homes.

Instead, our garden champions our vertiginous topography - with jaw-dropping views - on a massive scale. We have 500-acres of woodland gardens bursting with Japanese plants, wildlife and birdsong, 15 acres of lakes and ponds, enormous swathes of parkland, and a 10-mile walk round the perimeter.

John Phibbs, a top surveyor and advisor for historic landscapes, came to see the plans in 2013 and at first glance, it appeared that much of what was on paper was in our landscape, just as Brown had intended. But a closer look revealed so much more. Our plan was enormous in every sense. Even more exciting, it appears that at such a late stage in Brown’s career (he was 63), he was creating an entirely new way of presenting naturalistic landscape at Belvoir.

Lancelot Brown was born in 1716 in Kirkharle in Northumberland. He shone during his apprenticeship on the Kirkharle estate, where his late father had worked, and he was soon working under eminent architect William Kent at Stowe in 1742.   It was there that he developed his hallmark designs for parkland with trees, appearing haphazardly in a natural fashion: dotted, clumped and belted over undulating pasture that enveloped magical serpentine lakes, and views - for which Belvoir, meaning beautiful view in French, is famous for.

After eight years, he left Stowe with his young family and set up on his own, becoming to horticulture what Jane Austen is to literature. His legacy is still very much alive. From the 270 estates he worked on, he has left us all with the classic picture of our bucolic English countryside.

Luckily for us, he had chosen not to settle into retirement and knock out pastiches of his earlier work for a fat fee. He was still searching for new ideas – and they were radical. In the past he had been criticised for wiping out existing formal gardens – but he left ours in. He never worried about sweeping away villages if they interrupted a view – but he left our villages intact.

And he embraced Belvoir’s genuine mediaeval history to make a huge feature of the family’s hunting grounds in the chase and the free warren that extended for several miles. We were looking at something truly awe-inspiring.

Despite family debts and the death of the 4th Duke of Rutland in 1787 who had commissioned Brown only seven years earlier, the work was finally completed in the 1820s.

In 2013 we invested £200,000 to restore the landscape at Belvoir to mark the tercentenary of Capability Brown’s birth. We have felled over 110 acres of woodland, planted 83,000 new trees, over 10,000 shrubs, cleared 110 acres of overgrowth in woodland gardens, put in 17 miles of new roads and restored 15 acres of water in long abandoned ponds and lakes. We have also erected an obelisk to mark the tercentenary, contributed to a television programme for More4 with Alan Titchmarsh and written a book Capability Brown & Belvoir: Discovering a Lost Landscape. It has been a huge privilege to restore a truly great eighteenth-century landscape that is still as relevant now, for aesthetic, recreational and agricultural purposes, as it would have been in 1780.

For information on Private Tours of the castle and gardens, opening hours or to purchase a copy of Capability Brown & Belvoir – Discovering a Lost Landscape by the Duchess of Rutland with Jane Pruden please visit www.belvoircastle.com

By the Duchess of Rutland

 

Rosy Hardy’s Gardening Blog - The beauty of the Coccolith

Rosy Hardy discusses the feature sculpture in the Chelsea garden and her inspiration behind this.

Why have we used the pattern we have, for the feature sculpture within the garden?

Who could not marvel at the beauty and intricacy of this structure?

What is it?

This is a Coccosphere, or in simple terms a group of phytoplanktonic creatures from the Jurassic period, individually known as Coccolithophores.

Chalk is an amazing sedimentary layer, laid down when our seas were at 20 degrees centigrade.
I would have loved to have been around then to scuba dive in such amazing waters with so much incredible life.  Using this wonderful matrix we designed both our sculpture and the coccolith stepping stones.

A coccolith is the skeletal remains of the creature, which is what we see today under the microscope within chalk.

The vision was to make the sculpture look as though it is floating above the source of the crystal clear waters of the chalk stream.  Models help with the idea giving a 3D aspect, to iron out any flaws. With the help of our in-house architect we were able to make an initial model. From this not only do we see how the sculpture will sit within the garden but also where we need contouring.

Going on from that, is the realisation of how to forge this in Aluminium and also how to make the whole thing work.

Attention to detail is the way to make all of these plans come into realisation. Sketches always help to consolidate the ideas; but although they give a certain perspective you still need to have working models.

This is where modern computerisation comes into its fore. The foresight is brought into reality, showing the floating Coccosphere with the elevated path going through. The designer’s vision is visible giving everyone a great perspective of the idea.

The process from here on is to have the model in physical pieces at a 5th size to make sure the joints work and look exactly as required. It is from this stage that foundry casts will be made. Once made there is the possibility of changing colour. This can be an endless task as it can be spray painted to give any effect required. Definite decisions have to be taken.

Who knows what the finished Sculpture colour and texture will be?
That is for you to wait and find out....

Coccolith

The Brewin Dolphin Garden 2016

With less than 70 days to go - first sighting of our Chelsea Plants – 9 March 2016.

The designers for the Chelsea flower show gardens were announced by the RHS way back in November 2015.  Since then, journalists and prospective Chelsea flower show visitors alike are all keen to gain some insight into the plans and construction of the Brewin Dolphin Chelsea RHS Garden 2016 which is being created by Rosy Hardy, already the most successful individual female exhibitor to date.

As we get closer to the Show in May 2016, Brewin Dolphin is introducing the plans and build of the garden.  The latest of these ‘behind the scenes’ has been a media presentation and private tour of both the nursery and Brewin Dolphin’s hospitality partner, Coates & Seely Winery.  For the press who joined the day, this was an intimate way to introduce the inspiration, colour and planting plans at the nursery situated in Hampshire.  From there, the guests went on to an additional tour of the winery, near Overton.  Both the nursery and winery are situated in the English North Hampshire Downs, around the chalk downlands and slopes of the River Test.

Tour of Hardy’s cottage garden nursery

The seven journalist guests included those from Horticulture Week, the Daily Telegraph, The RHS journal The Garden and several leading freelance writers. At Hardy’s cottage garden, an herbaceous perennial nursery owned by Rosy and her husband Robert, this was the first step in witnessing seedlings and the first signs of those more than 6000 show plants Rosy is currently growing for the Brewin Dolphin garden.

The morning tour followed Rosy through her personal walk-through into the propagation area, the potting shed and then a series of poly tunnels - each one at a different temperature and containing plants at different stages. Rosy explained about the irrigation system and the process of looking after so many plants for the Chelsea Garden and the challenge of ensuring that all plants are perfect in time for one week in May. This was our first sighting of the Rosy Shimmers, as the seedlings came through.

The inspiration for The Brewin Dolphin garden is the glorious chalky landscape that surrounds the neighbouring River Test, which in itself is just about the most perfect example of a chalk stream. The underlying message of the Brewin Dolphin garden is one of conservation and stewardship of this precious resource, given the level of threat that these chalk streams face. Rosie has said that it is from her morning walks with her dog that she gained the inspiration and plans for the Brewin garden.

From gardens to a vineyard: Hardy’s to Coates & Seely

The geological make-up of this Hampshire chalk landscape complements that of the Champagne region of France and as a result several English wineries have sprung up in recent years.  Brewin Dolphin has partnered with multi award-winning English sparkling wine producers Coates and Seely to be the purveyors of sparkling wines for client functions and events.  The beautiful vineyard is almost neighbouring Hardy’s cottage garden, near the villages of Whitchurch and Overton. 

Next stop was lunch at the home of Virginia and Nick Coates, co-owners of Coates and Seely. We were treated to a marvellous lunch prepared by Virginia, a Leith’s trained chef, with a menu that consisted of delicious canapés most of which drew on a local provenance.  A selection of the vineyard’s wines and magnificent rosé complemented the food.  Host Nick Coates led an exclusive tour, explaining why the chalk terroir creates wine of such outstanding quality in England. Even the French are buying up land in Hampshire it seems with recent acquisitions by leading champagne house Tattinger.

Nick talked about the history of the vineyard including the laborious task of hand planting around 150,000 vines and expounded on the production process. Our guests were able to observe the aluminium presses and the rather interesting and organic ‘looking’ concrete eggs. The bottle room was stacked up to the ceiling with thousands upon thousands of bottles of glorious wine.

The English weather did not disappoint – but rain and sunshine didn’t detract from a full day out, allowing all of our guests to understand the footprint for our garden in the making, and how the River Test flows through this and our prospective hospitality as we count down to RHS Chelsea 2016. 

The Brewin Dolphin Chelsea Flower Show Garden 2016

Rosy Hardy describes her design and inspiration for this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

The search for a Chelsea Flower Show garden designer is quite a task - selecting the right person with a design that inspires and has the potential to engage show visitors and the great British public, who tune in to the BBC TV coverage, is challenging to say the least.

For 2016 we have chosen the very talented Rosy Hardy, a celebrated nurserywoman who also happens to be the holder of an impressive 20 RHS Chelsea Gold medals for her displays of herbaceous perennials in the Great Pavilion. The Brewin Dolphin Garden 2016 will be Rosy’s Chelsea show garden debut.

Rosy has been growing herbaceous perennials commercially for 20 years at her nursery in Hampshire which she runs with husband Rob. She is a regular on national television regularly contributing to the Chelsea Flower Show and Hampton Court Flower Show TV specials. She has been a consistent medal winner at RHS Westminster Flower Shows, Chelsea Flower Show and Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, picking up a Gold for her first ever garden at Hampton Court in 2001, getting the double in 2004 and securing 7 consecutive gold medals at Chelsea from 1994-2000. She is currently the most successful female exhibitor ever in the history of the Chelsea Flower Show with more golds than both Beth Chatto and ‘Queen of Herbs’ Jekka McVicar.

The garden is entitled ‘Forever Freefolk’ and it will invite visitors and TV viewers to consider the fragility of chalk streams, a rare and vital natural resource.

There are around 200 chalk streams in the world, under threat from pollution and climate change; 160 of these are in England - one of the best examples is the River Test which flows through Freefolk Hampshire, neighbouring designer Rosy’s own nursery.

This English chalk terroir is also the landscape in which our Partner Coates & Seely have chosen to produce their award winning English sparkling wine which crafted to the highest standards of French winemaking. Our Chelsea Flower Show guests and those joining us on Rosy Hardy’s Pre-Chelsea Flower Show ‘Road Shows’ will have the opportunity to sample some of the superb Coates & Seely fizz but more about the ‘Road Shows’ and our Secret Garden events later…

The garden will take visitors on an experiential journey exploring the fragility and unique nature of these streams by casting the eye through a dried up chalk stream bed, past lush planting onwards towards the source. The garden references the changing context and form of the landscape. The sense of loss for the stream is balanced in part by the potential for renewal and the chance to turn back and contemplate the garden. It is also an opportunity to remind us of what water offers, given that chalk aquifers supply 70 percent of Southern England’s water.

The garden will showcase more than one brand new plant introduction and some breathtakingly beautiful features. Several planting zones are represented including; lush, shady, dry and a grassland area. All trees, plants and hedging are representative of those grown in this part of Southern England. The garden is designed to be a sensual, accessible and thought provoking educational experience.

Have you got galanthomania?

You can’t see it, feel it or get medication to treat it, but this is a very real condition that affects an increasing number of gardeners and it’s caused by the humble snowdrop or, to give it its proper Latin name, Galanthus.

Those who go on to develop full-bloom symptoms are usually known as galanthophiles, so I guess the condition should really be referred to as galanthophilia, but I prefer to use the term galanthomania in homage to those who suffered in a similar, but more costly way, most particularly in 1636-37.

Then, during what has come to be called the Dutch Golden Age, it was tulipomania that gripped the Netherlands as new species and varieties of tulips were received from Turkey and eventually bred in Holland. As seeds of tulips then took in excess of seven years to produce bulbs of flowering size, and it couldn’t be guaranteed what they would end up looking like, this fuelled speculation in a horticultural futures market the like of which had never been seen before. Traders signed contracts for the outcomes and while tulips continued to increase in popularity such investments proved lucrative. Prices for single bulbs soared – one particularly rare tulip which cost around 1,000 guilders in the 1620s was valued at 5,500 guilders by the start of 1637 when some contracts reached 20 times their valuation just three months earlier. But in February of that year, the trading bubble burst and prices crashed, taking the Dutch economy with it to cause a severe recession that lasted many years and put tulipomania firmly in the history books.

So what about galanthomania? Thankfully speculation on these even more diminutive spring bulbs isn’t linked to the stock market, but trade continues at a brisk pace, particularly on eBay. It seems as though last year’s record of £1,390 for a single bulb won’t be broken this season; the variety in question, Galanthus plicatus ‘Golden Fleece’, was the result of years of breeding to produce flowers whose white petals flare out rather than in, and which are distinctively marked with golden splodges. In 2015, when these bulbs were as rare as hens’ teeth, bidding was fast and furious up to the eye-watering amount; this year, bulbs have sold at around £750 for the same variety. I guess it is the same with anything new or novel, where people are prepared to pay a huge amount of money to share in the rarity; but already they’re already on the lookout for the next new thing.

There aren’t many galanthophiles, however, that have the resources to splash out on the latest varieties. Thankfully the majority are content simply to make collections of their own, less costly, favourites. They also take delight in visiting the collections of others, and to view and discuss the minutiae of different markings, petal arrangement, flower stalk, leaves and proportions.

Finally, that brings me on to the tell-tale symptoms that denote someone with galanthomania – whether it is early onset or they’ve had it for many years: the condition causes the sufferer to bend at the waist, stick their bottom in the air and reach out to tilt the flowers of snowdrops up for inspection. Should you hear them let out an appreciative sigh, however simple the ‘drop’, then your diagnosis will be complete. And if, like me, you recognise any of these symptoms in yourself, then don’t despair; I’ve found the anticipation of the snowdrop season is one of the best ways to beat the winter blues and set yourself up for the delights of the growing season to come.

Snowdrop with butterfly

Rosy Hardy’s Gardening Blog

Rosy Hardy provides an update on her Brewin Dolphin Chelsea Garden

Chelsea flower show 2016 will be a challenge for me as I embark on a new venture. I have taken on the challenge of designing a full sized Main Avenue Show garden for the first time.

This will be the 25th year I have exhibited at Chelsea and not only am I doing my first Chelsea show garden but I will continue to oversee our Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plant’s display within the Floral pavilion. As far as I am aware this will be the first time anyone has taken on this monumental task.

Just to give a taster as to what is required to pull off a Chelsea garden.

  1. An outstanding sponsor - Brewin Dolphin
  2. A brilliant contractor - Bowles & Wyer
  3. Fantastic plants - Hardys Cottage Garden plants
  4. The most amazing back up team
  5. As per Nanny Macphee – have faith

Designing a Show Garden on Main Avenue at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show raises the burning question; how long can it take to go from bidding for sponsorship to applying for the space and getting accepted?

For many designers it is a long process of well over a year but in truth we had 48 hours to put a proposal forward to our sponsor Brewin Dolphin and after this a short-list was drawn up, which thankfully included us. We then had to prepare a presentation of our concept in 36 hours, jump on a train to London and do our best. Thankfully Brewin Dolphin loved our ideas and after some tweaks here and there the RHS Show Panel also gave us the green light. In total from sketch to acceptance it was a whirlwind 5 weeks.

Numerous ideas were condensed into a starting sketch but began with a scrap of A4 paper with a list of buzz words to try and describe the wonderful area in which we live, in Freefolk Hampshire. The geology of this very special landscape has changed significantly, over the years.

The underlying area is made of chalk, a very interesting material that can act like a sponge. Chalk was laid down over a prolonged heating of the oceans many millennia ago. The seas were at 20 degrees Celsius the planktonic life was rich and the dying bodies of these coccolithophores ended up on the seabed. The skeletons made from calcium carbonate of these creatures are known as coccoliths and this is the backbone of the chalk.

The next step was how to integrate this beautiful natural structure into the garden design. We subsequently narrowed down all our ideas and decided to base our design on chalk streams and their surrounding landscape known as ‘chalk down land’.

This landscape was crucially important for some of our local industry, in particular the Portal’s tradition of making bank notes for the Bank of England with the water marks and silver threads that are still on our notes to this day.

The Huguenots moved to this area in the 1730's and settled here to make paper and developed the watermark technology that is still relevant. The chalky landscape and pure water of the River Test was perfect for the paper making trade. The river and path running through the garden are symbolic of the silver thread running through our banknotes.

There will be nods to some of the naturally occurring elements of this Hampshire landscape in the show garden but the underlying concept of chalk streams is key to the story.

'Chalk streams are our Rainforests' and are very much a fragile and important ecosystem that needs protecting for future generations. Too much water extraction could lead to dried up streams as will be depicted in our concept garden with gravel planting and coccolith gabion stepping stones.

More news soon.....so keep logging in for more enticing snippets of how we are getting along with our Chelsea Flower Show garden.

The opinions expressed in this document are not necessarily the views held throughout Brewin Dolphin Ltd.

To Hell with the Weather....Let’s get Gardening

Award winning Garden writer David Hurrion’s ruminations on the current weather.

Was it sunny where you were yesterday? What about last Tuesday? Or on New Year’s Day? Though we seem to bemoan it all the time, our memories are notoriously bad when it comes to the weather. Conditions need to be really extraordinary, or have a big impact on our day-to-day lives, if they are to register permanently in the little grey cells.

But this year’s winter will surely be etched in our minds for a couple of different, but not unrelated, reasons; firstly, the terrible flooding in the North of England and Scotland during December and secondly, the wealth of flowers in our gardens. Both occurred as a result of the unusually warm conditions brought to us courtesy of the Jet Stream. This air flow, high in the atmosphere, not only blocked the advance of cold from the north and east, but allowed mild, moisture-laden air from the Atlantic to flow over our islands and brought us into record-breaking territory: the wettest December in Scotland, since records began in 1910; and, with a mean temperature of 8C across the UK, the month was as warm as an average April.

Think back further, and such un-seasonal warmth was also a feature of October and November, so much so that many of our plants continued to grow and, in some cases, kept on blooming. The fuchsias, zonal pelargoniums and roses in my garden seemed to think that it was still summer. Flowering of these plants is not much influenced by day length, so the shortening winter days didn’t do anything to dampen their enthusiasm.

But as the mild weather continued ever closer to Christmas, it also duped many of our spring-flowering plants. I saw roadside daffodils out in early December. A few weeks later, at home, I had snowdrops, hellebores and even a lone hyacinth in bloom. To celebrate the New Year, they were joined by polyanthus, ornamental quince, winter sweet and sarcococca (winter box). Growth of all these spring plants is normally held back by the cool conditions that set in during late October, effectively creating a natural form of ‘cold storage’ that allows slow, steady development and delays flowering until spring. The mild weather this year allowed quicker growth, bringing forward the ‘normal’ flowering date by six, eight and even 12 weeks (in the case of my hyacinth).

Although I’ve said that our memories of the weather are bad, I think that mine are better than most as I’ve gardened since I was a child. The weather is crucial to every gardener, giving cues about when to do particular tasks – the best time to sow, plant or cut plants back, for example. So when I look back over more than 40 years of exercising my green fingers, I can’t remember an autumn and early winter period that has been milder or seeing outdoor daffs in flower three weeks before Christmas. However, it is not the ability of plants to flower at this time of year that is unusual. It is the weather.

In the longer term, increasing global temperatures have seen the UK’s overall average temperature rise by 1c in the past 100 years, with more than half of this change accounted for in my lifetime. This seemingly small increase in temperature makes our climate more volatile giving rise to greater extremes of temperature, rainfall, and even frost and snow. There is lots of debate about other factors that could have given rise to this season’s unusually mild weather, including melting of Arctic ice, solar activity and a particularly strong El Nino event thousands of miles away in the Pacific Ocean. What isn’t in doubt, however, is the weather’s unpredictability across the British Isles. In the first month of 2016, the mild weather gave way to freezing temperatures and snow, only to return after little more than a week.

So how do plants cope with these wide ranging temperatures? Well, the cold will have finally put paid to the last of the summer flowers – the fuchsias, roses and more tender plants – together with any soft, new shoots which they may have made. But don’t despair - any hardy plants will be able to shrug off the cold and will grow back when spring arrives ‘proper’. Many of the plants that continued growing till late into the autumn and early winter will benefit from having stored more energy in their tissues. This means that they should make stronger growth and better flowers during the coming season.

What about the spring species – the snowdrops, daffs and hellebores – that were wooed into early flowering? Thankfully they have evolved naturally to cope with wide fluctuations in temperature, from heat of a bright sunny day to the chill of a long dark night under clear skies. Their stems and flowers contain high levels of sugars and other organic compounds that act as anti-freeze, so that they are able to recover even if they wilt in the cold. The only downside is that, by blooming earlier, the flowers will fade earlier too, meaning that you won’t be able to enjoy their display at the normal time.

As many gardeners will tell you, nature has a way of balancing things out and in the short to medium term our plants should survive unscathed. But in the face of ever more extreme weather our favourite hobby will have to adapt and change. In the meantime who knows, perhaps next winter will stick in our minds and break the record books again as the mildest – or coldest – on record.

Star Gazing

Hampshire based Gaze Burvill, designers and makers of fine outdoor furniture talk craft, skill and all things oak!

To make our furniture in Hampshire was one of our best decisions we made in the early days of Gaze Burvill. I have always been determined that there should be no compromise on quality, functionality, or environmental impact in producing our oak furniture, and, when everything is made right here under our noses, from the design studio to the craftsman’s finishing touches, we can be sure of getting things right.

Sourcing our oak is a high-rolling business, as we jostle with the French barrel makers for the very best of the prime grade oak crop. Although the portion of British oak we use is steadily growing, the French have swathes of beautifully well managed oak forests, which still follow the guidance set down by Napoleon, keeping a sustainable forestry tradition thriving through the centuries, as well as providing some wonderful wildlife and wild flora habitats.

We are of course very dependent on the quality of our raw material, as well as the French oak auctions, we inspect the wood at source, to check that it has been expertly managed to produce our prime grade oak, so we know it will survive the rigours of steam-bending and seasoning, and the weather of course, once it is living outside in its new home.

Oak is the perfect material for outdoor furniture – it is beautifully strong, naturally impermeable and durable, and, key to our signature design style, you can bend it when it has been heated in a steam chamber. The graceful and comfortable curves you see in many of our furniture pieces are not just about the aesthetic – by creating a curve which follows the grain of the wood, it will stay strong and solid.

Gaze Burvill works with some of the very best interior and garden designers in the world, sometimes they are looking for a simple dining table and chairs, some sun loungers to go by the pool, or something more adventurous like a bespoke tree seat for a special place in the landscape.

Our ‘A la Carte’ outdoor kitchens are becoming more popular with discerning al fresco home chefs who want the same quality of kit outside on the terrace as they insist on inside the house. Think top-of-the range grill, warming drawer, fridge and sink all correctly specified for outdoor use. A stunning outdoor kitchen made easy!

We work with private clients and professional garden designers and landscapers who can realise a dream for their client. I will often visit a site in the very earliest stages of work to advise on furniture placement, then I visit again when the magic has happened, and a beautiful garden has taken shape. Job satisfaction is high!

I would like to invite Brewin Dolphin clients to visit our workshop and factory in Hampshire to see how we produce our oak furniture, you will be amazed!

Call Caroline to book an appointment
Tel: +44 (0) 1420 588 444
www.gazeburvill.com

Rosy Hardy’s March Tips

Brewin Dolphin garden designer Rosy Hardy’s top tips for March

Pruning:

Finish off the pruning of apple trees making sure the secateurs in use are clean and sharp. Do not tear any of the branches, clean cuts only.

Plums and Cherries can also start to be pruned at this time of the year.

It is also the time to do the last winter prune of your Wisteria, making sure not to be too brutal, but not leaving too much wispy growth either.

In the vegetable patch it is time to plant your garlic, if it was not done in the autumn. Also time to plant the broad beans and remember the heritage seed varieties are usually the best flavour.

If you like early forced rhubarb your cloches need to be over the crowns now.

There are still bulbs that need potting up in March in order to give you early summer displays.

This is also the time to start planning the flower borders. Some hardy annuals can be started off in the greenhouse, whilst others can be directly sown out in the garden.

Wonderful old-fashioned annual plants such as Cosmos give that extra bit of lift to any border or container. Remember 2016 is ‘The year of the Cosmos’.

It is the time to start ordering your herbaceous perennials to add to or even start new borders. Make sure all borders are properly prepared before planting looking after the soil is the key to great gardening.

Special offer for Brewin Dolphin Gardening Platform subscribers: 5 packets of annual seeds for £8 with free P&P (a saving of £2).

How to improve your soil for borders that thrive

By improving the soil around trees and shrubs, they will repay you with strong, healthy growth and long life. A failsafe guide by our partners, Amateur Gardening.
It's amazing that established mixed borders planted with trees and shrubs thrive as well as they do in gardens around the UK. Most people snip bits off these large plants when they overhang paths or generally get too big, but never think that they need feeding and watering in the same way as bedding, or plants in pots. Planted fairly densely, they’re awkward to get to, and anyway, they generally get by.

But to get the best from your garden borders, all plants need feeding and the soil improving. Border plantings can be in place for decades, and big plants suck the goodness out of the soil. Putting it back is quite a straightforward job. It should be done each year, any time between late autumn and late March, as long as the soil is not frozen or waterlogged.

Rake and weed 

First, rake out loose fallen leaves and debris from under all plants. Next, identify and mark positions (usually around the edges of the border) where bulbs and deciduous perennials are nestling under the soil. If you spot any perennial weeds such as dandelions, dig them out, root and all.

Add fertiliser 

Once you know where everything is, spread a generous amount of bonemeal fertiliser around the root area of all plants (pictured). Bonemeal is high in phosphates, which promote strong root growth. It’s OK to apply this type of feed in winter as it does not promote tender top growth or flowers that would be damaged by frost. 

Apply two to four good handfuls over the root area of bigger shrubs, and a good sprinkling around the crowns of perennials. This usually means covering the whole soil area of the bed. 

Hoe the soil

Now use a Dutch hoe or a long-handled cultivator and tickle up the top surface of the soil so it’s loose and fluffy. Work around bulb plantings and the crowns of perennials. Don't dig deeply, as many shrubs are shallow rooted and could be damaged. Hoeing does three things: it removes any small weeds; helps to incorporate the bonemeal into the soil; and opens up the surface to help water penetrate.

In the highly unlikely situation that the soil is very dry, water well after hoeing. It's probable at this time of year that rain will have penetrated deeply, so watering should be unnecessary.

Add mulch

Finally, apply a mulch of home-made garden compost, well-rotted horse manure (available bagged from garden centres) or similar humus-rich material such as bark chippings (pictured) over the surface of the soil, 1in to 2in (2.5-5cm) deep. Don’t cover the crowns of dormant perennials or bulbs, and keep the mulch an inch or two away from trunks and stems of trees and shrubs, as direct contact may cause damage.

The mulch suppresses weeds and locks moisture into the soil. In time it will be drawn into the soil by worms, improving its structure and adding nutrients.

Winter planting of bare root shrubs and trees

Winter is the ideal time to plant deciduous trees and shrubs, including roses. Follow this step-by-step guide by our partners, Amateur Gardening.

Container-grown shrubs and trees can be planted at any time of year, thanks to modern growing techniques (though you pay a higher price for this convenience). But before these were introduced, most hardy, deciduous trees and shrubs were sold ‘bare root’ – with no soil around the roots. The advantages are a bigger range of varieties to choose from, and substantially lower costs because postage is cheaper. Because they're dormant, being dug up and sent across the UK does not harm them.

Planted correctly, bare root trees and shrubs establish quickly. They’re available from specialist nurseries by mail order until the end of February, and should be planted as soon as possible when you receive them, providing your garden's soil is neither frozen nor waterlogged.

From apple trees and currant bushes to native hedge whips (small hedge plants) or ornamental specimens such as the dogwood Cornus kousa (pictured), all can be planted bare root, in the same way. Here's how:

1. Stand the roots in water. When plants arrive, remove all the packaging and stand the roots in a bucket of water for a couple of hours.

2. Prepare the planting site. While the roots are soaking, prepare the site by digging in lots of well-rotted garden compost or manure over a wide area. On poor soil, add a generous dressing of Growmore fertiliser, then rake the soil level.

3. Choose your planting spot and dig a hole wider than the roots of the plant, and slightly deeper. Break up the base of the hole with a fork, adding a little compost and a couple of handfuls of bonemeal fertiliser. Scatter the same amount of bonemeal over the soil you dug from the hole (this will be used to backfill).

4. Retrieve your plant from the bucket, and check the depth of the hole. In most cases the plant needs to stand in the soil at the same depth it was previously growing. This will be indicated by a ring or a colour change around the stem at the point where the rootball meets the stem/trunk of the plant.

You can check the depth by laying a cane across the planting hole and raising or lowering the plant until the soil ring is level with the cane (pictured).

There is one particular exception to this. Grafted roses should be planted with the graft union – a distinct bulge on the stem just above the rootball – 2in (5cm) below soil level.

5. Plant it. Hold your plant at the right level, with roots in the hole, and push soil back into the hole around and in between the roots. Hold the plant steady and firm the soil as you go. With all the soil returned to the planting hole, firm it carefully using your heel, pressing hard to remove air pockets and give the plant stability.

6. For trees or tall shrubs, add a support stake. Drive this into the soil diagonally, on the downwind side of the plant stem, so it’s almost touching at about a third of the height of the stem. Secure the stem to the stake with a tree tie (pictured).

Water very thoroughly, then mulch over the rootball with garden compost, keeping it a couple of inches clear of the trunk/stem of the plant. Finally, enjoy the satisfaction of having planted something that will give enjoyment for many years to come.


 

How green are your fingers?

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions? All the usual ones about getting fitter, saving money and giving up smoking spring to mind, but what about making your garden a bit greener? 

I’m not suggesting that you grow more foliage plants. I’m thinking more about upping your environmental credentials as a gardener, and those of your plot. 

As gardeners, it’s easy to be a bit smug and complacent when it comes to our favourite hobby. After all, aren’t we the nurturers, the ones who plant things, grow our own food, and fill the garden with pretty flowers. And that’s not all: lots of us feed the birds, put up nest boxes and dig ponds for water creatures, as well as adapting when we prune and cut back our plants so that wildlife can benefit. 

But, while we may think that we’re doing our bit for the environment, we’re not as ‘squeaky green’ as it seems. OK, so gardening and the environment is a huge and complex issue, something it would be impossible to sum up here, but let’s just touch on three aspects that could help with my proposal for you to make 2017 the year when you become a greener gardener.   

For a start, as with food miles, it pays to think where your plants come from. Mass-produced cuttings, bedding and a huge range of perennial plants come from Europe and around the world. This may help to cut the monetary cost to the consumer, but in many cases ignores the environmental cost of burning fossil fuel to raise plants under glass and transport them to the garden centre. Growing at least some of your own plants from seed, cuttings and by division at home, in their natural season, will be kinder on the environment, as well as your pocket.

It’s also crucial to think seriously about the waste plastic that results from your favourite hobby. How many of us relish the thought of accumulating yet more plastic flowerpots, carry trays, picture labels and packaging, but it continues to be the scourge of plant buying. And, while the majority of local authorities provide recycling schemes, relatively few of these horticultural plastics are of a type that can be widely recycled. When you think of the bedding and seasonal plants that are bought in such quantity, it’s hardly surprising that we produce masses of landfill waste in the form of trays and small pots. There are glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel, in the form of biodegradable plastics and coir pots, but they’re still not widely used. Bare-root nursery stock – available in the dormant season, between October and March – is an alternative to buying trees, shrubs and perennials in pots, but mail order packaging all too often involves polystyrene chips, plastic shrink wrap and yards of plastic packing tape. So, where possible, check the environmental footprint of any new plants to help you make an informed choice of whether you are prepared to buy them.

And what about compost? No, not the debate over the use of peat, I’m talking about ANY of the bagged compost that you buy whether it’s peat-based or peat-free. It’s mass produced and you most certainly get what you pay for. But here again there is a hidden environmental cost of sourcing the raw materials, producing and transporting the compost to where it is sold. However, the ultimate, top quality compost can be made at home, in your back garden, using waste materials from your own plot – surely the pinnacle of green, environmentally friendly recycling. It’s always struck me as odd that we produce masses of green leafy growth, woody prunings and kitchen peelings, yet don’t see this as personal ‘wealth’. That wealth lies in the potential of these raw ingredients to be recycled into compost and back into our garden plants. After all, you’ve invested money in feeding and nurturing the plants that produce the compostable waste so why take that investment to the dump or send it off in the green waste bin?     

As with all matters to do with using the earth’s infinite resources and our impact on the natural environment, making green gardening choices is simply about thinking about the consequences of your actions. There are plenty of other things that gardeners can do to reduce their contribution to global warming. But, like any New Year’s resolution, those who succeed tend to be people who set achievable targets and change their habits gradually. Imagine if we all did a few small things in 2017 to help our planet and, ultimately, each other.

 

David Hurrion’s January Tips

Award winning Garden writer David Hurrion’s top tips for January.

  • New Year is the time to reflect on the successes and failures in your garden. Think about the position of shrubs and border plants – have they grown too large in their current position and can they be moved to the back of a border? Look at the size of your beds and borders – are there enough plants to fill them and cover the soil during the summer. You might consider lifting and dividing some of your perennials to make more plants to fill the space. And if your borders are overflowing with too many plants, you may want to make them larger by cutting back further into the lawn or making an entirely new flower bed.
  • Is your garden lacking interest in the depths of winter? There are lots of winter-flowering plants – such as this Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ – that will cheer up the darkest days. Many are scented, so make sure that you plant some of them close to the house where you can enjoy and smell them.
  • Avoid walking on your lawn during icy weather as the weight of your steps will snap and crush the frozen grass. This will then lead to brown patches on the lawn and may promote fungal disease problems.
  • Check plants that you are overwintering the greenhouse or conservatory, picking off any yellow or brown leaves. Open vents, windows and doors on mild, sunny days to allow fresh air to circulate and reduce the risk of grey mould and mildew.
  • Float a plastic ball in the water of garden ponds to prevent the surface from freezing solid in cold weather. This will allow oxygen to diffuse into the water for fish, amphibians and other pondlife, and prevent toxic gases building up under the ice.
  • Take the opportunity to clean garden furniture. Use warm water and detergent to scrub the dirt from plastic and rattan furniture, then rinse off. Wooden furniture can be lightly rubbed with fine wire wool and warm water to lift dirt from the grain, then apply an outdoor furniture oil with an old cloth.
  • Clean out garden sheds and the space under benches in greenhouse, discarding or recycling unused items, sweeping out the dirt, and tidying tools and equipment so that they’re easy to find as you need them during the coming growing season.
  • Cover bare soil in vegetable plots with a layer of black polythene to prevent cold winter rain washing out nutrients, suppress the growth of weeds, and start the slow process of warming the earth ready for sowing seeds in early spring.

See the January issue of BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine filled with inspiring ideas for your garden as well as reminders of other jobs to do this month.

Jo Thompson's blog

After eight show gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, I’m heading north to the new RHS Chatsworth show this June to create the Brewin Dolphin Garden for 2017.

It’s an exciting project for me. The 1,000-acre Chatsworth estate is extraordinary in scale after the rigid confines of RHS Chelsea where I spent many years designing gardens to sit within a 20 x 12 metre boundary. The incredible setting of Chatsworth offers quite a different perspective. I hope my intervention to the site is one that will feel appropriate in the landscape surrounding the elegant and beautiful Chatsworth House.

I’ve been given a wonderful position on the banks of the River Derwent in an area of the show known as the ‘Free Form’ arena, which is intended to encourage “a diverse freedom of express through sculptural design”.

The garden is more of a horticultural installation than a traditional show garden. It’s made up of a series of garden areas dotted throughout an imposing contemporary sculpture that will sweep through the space in a series of wide curves, before cantilevering dramatically out over the water and sweeping back to the riverbank.

It’s very different to the gardens I’ve designed for RHS Chelsea: the sheer size and scale of the setting has allowed me to push my boundaries this year and create something that I hope will inspire and excite everyone who visits the show. It will also provide a fabulous contemporary viewpoint from which you can enjoy some of Chatsworth’s historic vistas. Chatsworth has a rich history of combining the surprising and contemporary with the historic and traditional. It’s this spirit that I want to reflect in The Brewin Dolphin Garden this year.

There are many challenges ahead. The biggest of which is creating a garden where the excavation needed to support a cantilevered sculpture of this scale is hampered by the many archaeological restrictions of such an historic site. More of these challenges to come in my next post...

RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2017

Brewin Dolphin are proud Festival Partners of this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival.

This year’s festival is taking place between 11th – 14th May 2017 with many well-known gardening experts such as Alan Titchmarsh, Monty Don and Jo Thompson in attendance.

As a festival partner, Brewin Dolphin Gardening Club members receive a 10% discount on any tickets purchased in advance.

To book your tickets online please click here and enter discount code BREW17.

To book via telephone please call 01684 584 924 and quote discount code BREW17.

David Hurrion’s December Tips

Award winning Garden writer David Hurrion’s top tips for December.

  • Harvest branches of berried holly (pictured) now using a pair of secateurs or a long handled lopper to collect them. Plunge the cut ends of the stems in a buck of water to keep them fresh and store them in frost free shed or garage for a few days until you are ready to use them for Christmas decorations.
  • Plant the last of your spring bulbs this month before they dry out too much or start to rot. Tulips (pictured) are the most likely to be successful if planted this month as they have firmer bulbs, but don't be disappointed if other types of bulbs fail to come up. You really should have got them in by the end of October!
  • Plant winter flowering shrubs and perennials that will bring you cheer during the short, dark days of December, January and February. Look for Mahonia japonica (pictured), Lonicera purpusii and Viburnum 'Dawn', all of which produce fragrant, colourful blooms.
  • Check trees and shrubs for signs of snapped or broken branches or twigs that are still attached to the plants, pruning them off before they tear the bark or do further damage by smashing into other plants as they fall.
  • Spend an evening with the seed catalogues or online to order all the veg and flower seeds that you want to grow in the coming year. And without dampening your enthusiasm, bear in mind the amount of space you have to raise the seeds and don't overdo your order. Seeds also make a great Christmas present for green fingered and beginner gardeners alike.
  • Pick off faded flowers from winter pansies and other winter bedding plants to keep them looking neat and to encourage the development of more flower buds that will open during mild winter weather.
  • Move houseplants away from the cold radiating glass of windows. Position them in a well lit place instead, but keep them away from the drying effects of radiators, heaters or open fires.
  • Clean bird baths and feeders with a scrubbing brush and plenty of clean water to prevent the build up and transfer of diseases. Don't use detergent when washing. Make sure bird baths and feeders are kept topped as the birds will come to rely on them in cold weather.
  • Avoid walking on lawns or areas of short grass during frosty or snowy weather to prevent dieback where your footprints fall.

For inspiring garden ideas and tips of more jobs to do in your garden this month, see the December issue of BBC Gardeners' World Magazine.

What do you buy a gardener?

I'm not sure what's on your Christmas list, but I wonder if it is anything like mine. OK, so I know that I'm a dyed-in-the-wool gardener, the sort with almost permanently dirty fingernails (sorry if that offends) and an ability to strike fear into any shrub at fifty paces when armed with a pair of secateurs, but I was pondering on why my letter to Santa usually bears little resemblance to the gifts that I receive.

All the things on my list would be useful, help me to get the most from my favourite hobby and give me an enormous amount of pleasure. Don't get me wrong; I appreciate the huge generosity and thoughtful effort on the part of my family and friends in choosing a present for me, but gardening gifts rarely seem to occur to them.

Perhaps it's because they're scared of buying the wrong thing for someone who makes their living out of growing plants and writing about gardening; it might be they think that I must surely have everything I need, having been a gardener nearly all my life; or could it be that their own lack of gardening knowledge means that gift inspiration withers on the vine.

At risk of appearing cheeky, I've decided to share the things that gardeners might want for Christmas. This could not only help the non-gardener to buy a 'gift that keeps on giving' (who wouldn't want to give that as a present), but also provide inspiration for gardeners about the sort of hints to drop in the last couple of weeks. 

So here are six ideas of gifts for the green-fingered. They're things that will make the festive season all the more special for a gardener and make them look forward to the growing year ahead. And remember, if none of these appeals, there's always a National Garden Gift Voucher.

1. Manure. Top of the list has to be a trailer full of good, old-fashioned, well-rotted muck. This is like giving gold to a gardener and will help them improve their soil to grow the best plants and crops. Look on-line for local suppliers, but quiz them about where it comes from and check that any straw in the manure hasn't been contaminated with weed killer.
2. Seeds. Something small and simple, but a good gardener will love to get the gift of something to sow and grow for 2017. Try to do a little homework first, by asking a few probing questions about flowers or veg that the intended recipient grows and which varieties they normally go for. Then look at the seed racks at the garden centre or go on-line to find new or lesser known varieties. Work on the principle that anyone with green-fingers likes to grow something different. And don't forget that easy-to-grow seeds are great for novice and young gardeners as well.
3. Stainless steel border fork. With a narrow head, a border fork is ideal for lightly turning the soil between plants in the border or between veg. Being smaller than a standard garden fork, it will also weigh less making it less tiring to use for long periods. And stainless steel types are less likely to get clogged with mud and are easy to clean. Look out for Burgon & Ball, Bulldog Tools and Spear & Jackson.
4. Cold frame. This is one of the most useful things to have in a garden, allowing you to protect and bring on early crops under cover, as well as to harden off seedlings in spring ready for planting out. Wood and glass models are more traditional, but coated metal versions require less maintenance and perspex glazing might be a better choice where children may be playing in the garden. Try Two Wests & Elliott, Access Garden Products and Gabriel Ash.
5. Gardening course. The great thing about gardening is that there is always something new to learn, whether you're a novice or have well-seasoned green fingers. There are seed sowing days, pruning workshops and a host of courses and garden experience day and a Google search will reveal a boggling array, so do your research carefully. Start by looking at Gardeners' World Magazine Masterclasses, Jekka's Herb Farm and Waterperry Gardens.
6. Subscription to a gardening magazine and website. This is often seen as a real treat for a gardener, and something that they may well not buy themselves. The best subscriptions also allow access to a host of other information on-line via their own websites, as well as providing masses of special subscriber-only offers. Go for the tried and trusted options, but check if the recipient already has their own subscription. RHS membership, BBC Gardeners' World Magazine, and Grow Your Own.

Meantime, have a Happy Christmas and all the best for the growing year to come.

 

How to grow micro greens and bean sprouts on your windowsill

Mustard and cress have had a modern makeover! They're now called micro greens, and there are all sorts of interesting seeds you can either grow into greens or sprout.

It's quiet in the garden at this time of year, but keen growers can still enjoy raising and harvesting crops for salads and stir-fries – without taking a step outdoors! What’s more, these crops take just five to 14 days from sowing to harvest; super fast, super fresh, and absolutely delicious.

Micro greens are fashionable restaurant fare, but they’re simple to grow. Think mustard and cress but using different types of seeds so offering a range of flavours, from your favourite herbs to peas and earthy, colourful beets.

Most of us are also familiar with bean sprouts, that favourite of Chinese takeaways. Bean sprouts are simply mung beans in the early stages of germination. Like micro greens, they’re easy to grow, and there are other seeds you can sprout to enjoy in the same way.

Both techniques use a fairly large volume of seeds, so if you enjoy this process it's worth growing some of your favourite varieties through summer in order to harvest the seeds, which you can then sprout or raise as microgreens in the winter.

Sprouting seeds

Seeds suitable for sprouting include mung beans, adzuki beans, green lentils, alfalfa, peas, leeks, radish, broccoli and chickpeas. Many of these are available from major seed suppliers, and specialist suppliers are easy to find online.

You can also buy seed-sprouting germinators. These are clear plastic tiered trays that are drilled to allow water to trickle through from top to bottom. Or you can use a jam jar with a piece of muslin cloth as a lid (pictured).

To start sprouting, soak about a tablespoon of seeds in clean water for a couple of hours, drain them and put them in your jam jar or seed sprouter. Cover the top of the jam jar with muslin cloth and hold it in place with an elastic band. If using a seed sprouter, put the lid on. Place your container on a bright, warm windowsill. 

Rinse the seeds every day with fresh water, drain thoroughly and replace on the windowsill. Using a jam jar, do this by running water in through the muslin top, and draining it out again the same way. With a seed sprouter, pour water into the top tray and empty it out when it drains to the bottom tray. In four to ten days the seeds will germinate, or sprout. When the sprouts are 1 to 2 inches long (2.5 to 5cm), they’re ready to use in salads or stir-fries. It’s as easy as that!

Growing micro greens

This is a slightly different technique. Suitable seeds include just about any herb or vegetable that has harvestable top growth. Good herbs include basil, coriander and fennel, and for vegetables, choose radish for a hot, spicy taste or beetroot for a sweet, earthy flavour. Peas are great, too. 

Use a clean, shallow plastic tray – the trays that cold meat or some vegetables from supermarkets are packed in work well, though you can use any shallow receptacle (pictured). Put several layers of paper kitchen towel in the base. You could use a shallow layer of compost, but paper towel is less messy indoors. Make the paper tidy and flat. Dribble water on to it to soak it thoroughly. Sow the seeds densely, but in a single layer, on top of it. 

Place the tray on a warm, bright kitchen windowsill. Check the paper every day and add water to keep it moist at all times. In four to ten days the seeds will germinate. 

Allow them to grow into seedlings 2 to 6 inches (5 to 15cm) tall depending on the type you’re growing, with the first pair of seed leaves fully open. They’re now ready for harvesting. Cut off bunches of seedlings close to the base and use them in salads, sandwiches and stir-fries.

A practical guide to winter pruning

Winter is the time to prune plants that dropped their leaves in the autumn. Find out how, with practical advice from our partners, Amateur Gardening.

Most deciduous ornamental trees and shrubs* are pruned while dormant between October and February, after their autumn leaf fall. This should only be done where necessary, and promotes vigorous new growth next year.

This means cutting out dead, damaged or diseased limbs; cutting back growth where a plant has outgrown its space; pruning to reinvigorate a shrub; or pruning for a particular effect such as pollarding (cutting it back to a stump to encourage the growth of lots of vigorous new stems, which often improves the quality of foliage on ornamental plants).

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What to prune

Prune summer- and autumn-flowering shrubs such as hardy hibiscus, hydrangea and clerodendrum in the autumn and winter. Vigorous new growth from spring will carry the following summer’s flowers. 

Prune spring-flowering shrubs such as forsythia and flowering currants immediately after they have flowered in spring.

How to prune

Tools you need include sharp, clean secateurs for thin branches, long-handled loppers to cut branches up to 3/4in (2cm) thick, and a suitable pruning saw for thicker branches. Gloves and eye protection are also a good idea.

First, check over the plant and cut out dead, damaged or diseased stems. Cut back into healthy, living tissue (which will be white or pale green inside). Cut back to 1/4in (1cm) above a bud – preferably facing away from the plant, which is the direction you want a new shoot to grow (pictured).

Then, once all the unhealthy stems are removed, stand back and assess the shape of the plant. If more stems need to be removed to reduce the size of the plant, try to cut out whole stems back to where they join another stem or the trunk. If you cut stems part of the way down (tip pruning) the plant will often produce multiple stems the next growing season and this may spoil the natural look of the plant. 

Sometimes tip pruning is necessary to tidy small shrubs. If so, cut with care and keep the shape of the plant balanced all round.

Multiple-stemmed shrubs such as philadelphus and deutzia should have up to a quarter of older stems cut right to the ground every couple of years, to promote vigorous new stems that will carry more flowers.

Cutting thicker branches

When cutting off thick, heavy branches use a good pruning saw. First, make a cut underneath the branch about a foot from where it joins the trunk (pictured). Now cut down on to the undercut from above to remove the branch. This method avoids the wood splitting. Now cut off the 1ft stub close to the trunk, but leave a slight collar (the curved bit between branch and trunk) as this will help the wound to heal. It is unnecessary to seal winter pruning wounds.

After removing large branches, step back and reassess the shape of the plant. Prune to balance the growth if necessary.

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Shrubs to cut right back

Some shrubs including buddleja, cotinus, Cornus alba and some hydrangeas should be ‘pollarded’ – all stems are cut back every year close to the trunk, which is also cut back to just a couple of feet tall. This is done in late winter just as buds break. Cut the stems back hard to a healthy, opening bud. This will contain the size of the shrub and produce vigorous new stems the following spring.

Pruning roses

Shrub roses: Reduce these (pictured) in height by about a third in the autumn after leaf fall, to reduce wind rock. Follow this in late winter/early spring with further pruning by about a third, to leave vigorous stems to produce new stem growth and flowers. Always cut back to just above a healthy looking bud.
Climbing roses: In late winter cut side shoots from the main framework of stems back to three buds from the main stem.
Rambling roses: In winter cut out older stems to ground level, leaving vigorous younger stems to flower next summer.

Which plants not to prune in winter

*There are three ornamental deciduous trees/shrubs that should be pruned in summer (early June) to avoid silver leaf disease: ornamental cherry, Laburnum and hawthorns. In all cases, prune them sparingly, and only if essential. Seal the cuts with wound paint. 

Also, these tips don't apply to fruit trees and shrubs, which should be pruned differently. Watch out for our guide to this in the new year – or join our club and you'll receive our monthly newsletter with all our new articles.