Garden delights

June 19th, 2015

The beauty of a garden never reveals its whole self to you in one visit, tonight whilst spot watering some new plants, a tiny goldcrest caught my attention. Apparently unafraid, it hopped from branch to branch in the Buddleia then flew over me to the pond and back. It was so close I was able to marvel at its distinctive yellow and black striped head and hear its delicate squeaks. This sighting made my evening but there was more to come when later we spotted a resting privet hawkmoth – large, majestic and elegant with beautifully pointed black wings.

Formal and informal – Devon

May 29th, 2015

In it’s first year of planting, this wild flower meadow has been designed to reach right into the heart of the formal garden. From here you can step out over the river to glorious Devonshire meadows whilst insects and birds are invited in with rewards of safe nesting in the walls of the kitchen garden.

This finger like meadow creates contrast with the formal canal, rill and clipped hedges (when they have grown that is). It is planted with 1000′s of spring bulbs and wildflower perennials.

The wildflower mix is from Emorsgate Seeds: Cornfield annuals mix

Client feedback

May 22nd, 2015

21 May 2015 20:29:59


I am simply delighted….. you have re invigorated my enthusiasm – thank

Best wishes

Sarah T.

(This was for some garden consultancy in Sherborne)

Garden design clinic

May 14th, 2015

Dobbies garden centre at Shepton Mallet are organising a Ladies Garden Party Night on 18th June 5-9pm in aid of The Wildlife Trust. The £1 tickets will get you a glass of bubbly, canapes, as well as lots of free events such as a fashion cat walk, sugar craft & flower arranging demonstrations, an endless chocolate fountain… I will be there too offering free garden advice on any aspect of your garden.

Thursday 18th June 5-9pm
Dobbies Garden Centre, Mendip Avenue, Fosseway Industrial Estate,
Shepton Mallet BA4 4PE

Natural stone in the garden

May 5th, 2015

Old stone properties usually have a disused pile of stone somewhere in the garden whilst local quarries are exciting places to source from.

These projects: Devon, Dorset and Somerset illustrate how stone can be used creatively linking garden with the larger landscape.

Dry stone walls – perfect for wildlife

Water in the garden (2)

April 23rd, 2015

I have just come back from Marrakech, a city that exists and functions as a result of the water channelled from the Atlas mountains. As any short break should do, I have come back refreshed and intrigued by the architecture, the culture and the contrasts of that city. Back home things couldn’t be more contrasting, a lush landscape in the full throws of spring, where we tend not to think much about water in our daily lives, where we can be free to play with it in our gardens and even waste it.

Water in hot countries is used in gardens for its cooling effect, for example in Marrakech the ‘riad’ courtyards are open to the sky with a simple pool of water at their centre, this creates an upward draught of cool air. Here in our gardens water is not usually taken very seriously however it can be a fantastic addition to the garden attracting insects, birds, amphibians (snakes!) as well as being attractive, creating dancing patterns of light, possibly introducing sound and supporting a range of interesting aquatic plants. The bigger the water feature, the bigger the benefit!(

In my garden, the pond is the main focal point, at coffee time, I often sit outside my office next to the pond, and marvel at the life it supports, it is a haven for newts, they are a joy to behold, gracefully gliding through the water and the more I look, the more diverse life forms reveal themselves – last week we discovered that great crested newts have adopted our pond, a large, majestic but rather shy beauty!

The pond in our garden is about ten years old, approximately three metres square and 0.7 metres deep, the base is deeply covered with oxygenating weed (therefore offering different niches, oxygen, shade, shelter, breeding sites…). It has been fish free for about 6 years and it has gradually become inhabited by newts. Last year we had breeding grass snakes in the garden and feared for the future of our newts but happily they are still doing well.

Landscape architect, Kim Wilkie, has a great approach to using water in his projects, in his words “I try to understand the memories and associations embedded in a place and the natural flows of people, land, water and climate” (

Rain garden feature – Cyber park – Marrakech

Ruthlessness in the garden

March 25th, 2015

Spring has sprung, buds are bursting, it is nolonger safe to move plants around the garden, it is too late to prune most shrubs (wait until after flowering for spring flowering shrubs (Forsythia, Ribes sangiuneum, Spiraea ‘Bridal Wreath’)), in theory we should be able to sit back and enjoy the sunshine. But oh no! There are seeds to sow and nurture, grass to cut, weeds to keep on top of, staking to be positioned, lawn edges to tidy, dahlias to ease out of hibernation, plants to plant …. the fun is just beginning!

The sunny March weather has been most welcome by us gardeners as well as to bees and wildlife in general. I’m afraid that I haven’t been able to make the most of the fine weather in my garden as I have been snowed under helping clients with their gardens, I have to steal an hour here and there for my own garden. But it was in the sunshine of a client’s garden that I was told of a 16th century saying “a peck of March dust is worth a king’s ransom” (a peck was a dry measure of two gallons) – an interesting thought.

Another quote, this time from Victoria Glendinning “The test of a good gardener is ruthlessness” (said to be Rita Sackville-West’s quote) – this is something I see all the time and definitely something for us to ponder on!

Bees venture out

February 12th, 2015

On Sunday we enjoyed glorious spring sunshine, I spent the afternoon tidying the garden as bees from my hives tentatively sought out fresh nectar from early flowering plants. It was a joy to feel the warmth of the sun – for everyone and everything. Here is a bee on  Daphne Jacquline Postil

Exhibition at Glastonbury Abbey

February 12th, 2015

I have been working towards a joint exhibition with Angie Rooke (landscape painter) and Jo Lucksted (ceramics) at Glastonbury Abbey which opens on Saturday.  It is a lovely event and venue – an oasis in the middle of a busy market town.  From the exhibition you can see carpets of snowdrops and crocus and if you venture out into the extensive grounds you might find the Ginkgo biloba from which I collected leaves in the autumn and then experimented with in my studio (the results are on show!).  Do come along, the exhibition runs until 4th May and when the weather warms up there is an outdoor cafe!

No Digging with Charles Dowding

February 5th, 2015

At university there was talk about direct planting into stubble after wheat crops, saving fuel, time, reducing soil compaction and reducing the number of annual weed seeds, being brought up to the surface where they germinate.  Permaculturists never dig the soil and neither does Charles Dowding.

I completed a Permaculture Design course about 10 years ago and the reason for not digging made sense to me for the reasons mentioned already but also because in nature everything has its own niche.  The soil flora and fauna have their own niches within the soil profile – where they each have their own jobs to do – if we start turning the soil over then we destroy the micro habitats of this invisible but crucial world and also make hard work for ourselves.

The action of digging temporarily breaks up the ramifying mycorrhizal strands in the soil profile as well as exposing bacteria that live in the dark to damaging UV light.  It is not irreversible damage of course but it is worth pondering on this before reaching for the spade.  There is growing awareness about the importance soil has to play in sustaining life on earth (for example in a recent BBC broadcast and did you know this year is the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s International Year of Soils.  Growing without digging – give it a go!

Here is a summary of last night’s meeting with Charles Dowding:


No dig gardening is a fine way of taking the back ache out of gardening and reducing the number of annual weeds in your garden however you will need to tackle the perennial weeds.

The key is to suppress light from the surface of the soil until the weeds die, bearing in mind that different weeds take different amounts of time to die, for example: dandelion about 4 months, buttercup about 3 months, couch grass 9 months and field bindweed about 10 years! Old black plastic is good for excluding light in the early stages of clearing ground / killing weeds, but you can use ‘landscape fabric, cardboard and biodegradeable membrane (which doesn’t exclude enough light on its own) – experiment with what you have. Note: cardboard with mulch ontop – the cardboard rots too fast and couch grass grows up through.

Loosen and lift out regularly any weeds that come back (i.e. those perennial weeds)

When growing vegetables make beds approximately 4 feet apart, paths are 15-18inches wide.  A raised bed can be made using timber then placing a layer of cardboard over the ground then fill bed with well rotted organic matter (18 months old). Use cardboard on the paths and cover with sawdust (or other organic matter) (cardboard alone will break up under your weight)

By not digging annual weed seeds are not brought to the surface to germinate. Only 2 hoeings a year will be necessary, the first hoeing is usually at the end of winter

Top up each bed with well rotted organic matter every winter (ideally in December) to keep the surface looking clean, to allow the weather to start breaking down the organic matter, to encourage worms to take it down too and to create a dark brown bed which will warm up quickly in spring.

The wooden sides can be removed once after a few months as they tend to harbour slugs and woodlice (Charles only uses them to form new beds)

Do not dig woodchip nor sawdust into the soil, leave it ontop


It is probably better to crop intensively a small area rather than less intensively a larger area (saves time and effort), therefore after onions plant your second crop (e.g. endive for autumn), after early potatoes plant carrots, leek, salads, celeriac or cucumber.

Space salad plants generously, pick outer leaves of salads only, each plant will crop for 10 weeks, you will only have to do 2 repeat sowings (+1 for the winter) instead of 4 (+1). Towards the end of the 10 weeks underplant with rocket, endive, white mustard…

Charles does not harden off plants but plants plug raised seedlings directly outside then covers them with horticultural fleece.

Have a ready supply of seedlings in the green house growing in plugs ready for planting out. Charles only sows carrots and parsnips directly into the ground

Green manure – white mustard is killed by the frost – a very easy green manure


Don’t start sowing too early. “If you sow carrots now (February) then you won’t have to eat carrots”

February – sow onions (4-6 seeds per module), Boltardy beetroot (4-6 seeds per module) , broad beans, peas (2-3 seeds per module)

Apply well rotted organic matter to beds ideally before Christmas (late February is OK) – the idea is that you are feeding the soil not the plants (winter application gives time for the organic matter to break down).

Salads for the winter in a polytunnel – sow September, plant out in polytunnel October

February – plant out seed grown onions under fleece (sow 4 or 5 seeds per module), approx 15cm apart, in a 1.2m (4”row) you can crop approx 30 onions

You can bend the rules a bit, for example sow sprouts in May, plant out in July after salads…

Sow Florence fennel in June so it doesn’t bolt

Runner beans – you can let them go to seed, harvest the dry seeds and store dry, soak prior to cooking…

Strawberries – Cut back all foliage on strawberry plants after cropping in July to stop them spreading – keeps the orignial plant

Tomatoes – remove all foliage up to first truss. Tip the plants on 10th August. Underplant with salads

Celeriac likes good spacing (15” 35cm) and lots of well rotted organic matter

Sow seeds 2 days before the full moon


Use horticultural fleece or Enviromesh on leeks against leek moth

Horticultural fleece, Enviromesh or bird netting on vegetables against rabbits, pigeons and deer


Taunton Dene kale – crops all winter

Basil Sweet Genovese

Sungold tomatoes – early and prolific

Melon Sweet Heart (for polytunnel)

Crown Prince squash

Charlotte potatoes

Lettuces – Winter Density, Freckles, Green oakleaf (Avoid red and green saladbowl as tend go to seed fast) A website worth checking regularly as it is full of tips and informations

6 September 2015 2pm -5pm open day at Homeacres, Alhampton, Shepton Mallet BA4 6PZ

Bulk supplier well rotted organic matter – Viridor compost from the recycling centre at Dimmer near Castle Cary