Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Festival

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

I am very involved in the Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Festival that will take place on 16 & 17 February.  This is the third year of the festival, it celebrates the life of James Allen, the first man to hybridise snowdrops.  The festival is held in the Market Place and church although there are 100′s of 1000′s of Galanthus nivalis planted around the town (three years of community planting).   The festival includes specialist snowdrop stalls (Avon Bulbs & Triffids Nursery), workshops for children and adults , arts & crafts in the church, a gardener’s question time panel, a lecture on Galanthophiles, walks, poetry and photography competitions…

Sunday at 3pm at St Paul’s School there will be a lecture on Galanthophiles , tickets £8

Gardener’s Question Time at Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Festival in the marquee, Market Place, Sunday 17th February 11am – 12. Free event. 4 local horticulturists on the panel: Mickey Little from Avon Bulbs, Chris Inchley from Kilver Court, Christo Nicole from Wyld Wood Garden Services and myself.   Questions can be emailed in advance (to but we will take questions from the floor also.

For a full programme visit

Dahlias trending in 2019

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

“Dive into Dahlias” is a lecture by Noami Slade taking place Saturday 9th March at 11am at St Paul’s School, Shepton Mallet.  Everything you want to know about Dahlias including a propagation demonstration that I will run after the lecture.  Tickets £8

Green and white

Monday, June 25th, 2018

This is a friend’s garden – long and narrow creating an immersive experience with deep borders of tall herbaceous borders either side of the grass path. The garden is dominated by white flowers through the summer, here the oxeye daisies catch the eye but there is also white Hesperis matrionalis, Digitalis, Astrantia, feverfew, Centranthus, Philadelphus, Thalictrum, Ammi, Orlaya and Cosmos. Green and white creates a very relaxing feeling in a garden and can be lifted with spots of lime (e.g. Alchemilla mollis) or blue (Nepeta).

Invisible intervention – making space

Monday, June 4th, 2018

In my experience people are afraid to prune and take control but I see this as the pivotal role of the gardener. To garden is a verb, it is a doing thing, gardening is a creative process, a collaboration with nature and the gardener has to decide what stays and what goes (e.g. take control of self seeding), how big things are allowed to get (e.g. spreading perennials, size of shrubs) and even the shape of trees and shrubs. This month gentle tweaking will make the garden look even better, here are some tips:

  • Pull up 90% of Lunaria annua (honesty), leaving a few plants so that you still have some plants for next year. This will free up a lot of space in the beds and prevent too much seeding. I love the early purple flowers in the garden.
  • Be ruthless and dig up any Aquilegia in the wrong place or the wrong colour, this will also reduce seeding of this prolific perennial.
  • Snip off the seedheads of Aquilegia that have gone over, you can be quite ruthless, they are tough plants.
  • Cut back Arabis (Rock Cress) once it has finished flowering, there will be a lot to cut away but you will be left with a neat cushion.
  • Tidy and deadhead Pulmonarias
  • Pull up 90% of self seeding annuals & biennials as they start to pass their best (e.g. forget-me-nots, foxgloves)
  • Dig up / reduce a good number of self seeded perennials (e.g. Papaver cambricum, the Welsh Poppy – in my garden they pop up everywhere).
  • The chelsea chop, I have cut back half of my Campanula ‘Loddon Anna’, they are big plants so it also controls size a bit too.
  • Keep an eye on those weeds, I have small patches of bind weed and then there is the ever present bittercress that can set seed in only 8 weeks.
  • Staking, this needs to be done as early as possible (e.g. May). I move my metal cradle supports around the garden as plants get cut back / go over and others need support.
  • There is pruning to do too, at the weekend I pruned the Choisya ternata and the inherited Lonicera nitida both of which can be thugs unless kept in check.Done right, this removal of plants should not show!

A walk in the Picos de Europa

Friday, May 18th, 2018

Last week whilst the UK has basked in a mini heatwave, I was walking in the Picos de Europa (northern Spain)  enjoying the wild flowers of alpine meadows. The mountain weather was much cooler than here and trees were only just coming into leaf.  One high altitude walk was curtailed by snow and cloud and our alternative lower altitude walk was through a hail storm.  However I spotted wild Narcissus, notably the tiny Narcissus asturiensis (the size of a Euro coin), a lone Narcissus bulbocodium, lots of Narcissus triandrus and on the last day, high up valleys of Narcissus pseudonarcissus.

Walking through the countryside allows you to discover so much more than driving past and looking out of the car window.  Even when walking I didn’t at first notice the tiny Narcissus asturiensis and I would have certainly missed the Lathyrea clandestina lurking in the grass.

Other highlights / new plants for me were the lovely pink butterfly orchid (Orchis papilionacea) and an unsual Heart-flowered Serapias (Serapias cordigera). In woodland I came across Erythronium dens-canis and Scilla lilio-hyacinthoides.

Lithospermum diffusum
grows almost everywhere on exposed free draining rocky land whilst Primula veris, ( looks quite different from our cowslip with a much more open flower) and Asphodelus albus grow widely in meadows and woodland edges. Hepatica nobilis carpets woodlands and I found the tiny Narcisssus asturiensis both on thin soil at 1800m altitude and in high up woodland only recently free from snow.

Close to Potes, we climbed a very steep 700m up through Mediterranean scrub over acid shales dominated by evergreen oak, juniper, turpentine tree (Syncarpia glomulifera), Rhamnus alaternus, Lavandula stoechas and white rock rose (Cistus psilosepalus).  A mountain holiday is a fine way to learn about the native habitats of our garden plants.

I love walking in the mountains as you see so many plants that we grow in our gardens,  it reminds me of the 19th century plant collectors and the task they set themselves of getting what they thought were interesting plants, safely back to the UK down difficult rocky paths with mules and then all the way up through Europe and across the Channel.

The edible tassle hyacinth

Snowy tracks

Sunday, March 18th, 2018

The snow blankets the garden, bends snowdrop and hellebore flowers to the ground and reveals otherwise unseen tracks.  I am looking forward to warmer temperatures so I can get gardening and my vegetable seeds to germinate

Working against a slope

Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Steps, retaining walls and levelled lawn optimising space in this garden where there is an overall 10 metre drop.

Client recommends plants

Friday, August 4th, 2017

I spent a delightful morning re visiting a client in her organic wildlife garden.  It is now two years after planting and some gaps have appeared in the borders, these have been put down to to snail and rabbit damage combined with a high water table.  Astrantia, Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’ and Viola ‘Roscastle Black’ have failed whilst Thalictrum, Periscaria amplexicaulis ‘Fire Tail’ and Veronicastrum prove to be not only tough, but they don’t require staking and the later two are particularly good for the insects.

In another part of the garden, we happened across this  happy accident!  Agapanthus and Stipa tenuissima

Wildflower meadow ready for seed harvest

November colour

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

It is November and there is still plenty of colour in the garden, thanks to a record breaking warm October .

Geranium sanguineum & Geranium psilostemon, Verbena,  Dahlia, Erigeron karvinskianus, Aster frikartii ‘Monch‘, Abelia grandiflora, Fuchsia, Salvia greggii ‘Lipstick‘, Cyclamen hederifolium, Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve‘, Osteospermum and Penstemon ‘Alice Hindley’ continue to provide fresh flowers whilst some roses and Anenome japonica manage one or two last flowers.

Of course it isn’t all about flowers, autumn colour  is very good this year both in the herbaceous borders (e.g. Hakonechloa macra) and shrubberies (e.g. Viburnum burkwoodii, Hydrangea).  Textures of foliage and brightly coloured berries all add depth of interest to our gardens too, for  example the wonderful berries of Rosa moyesii, Rosa glauca, Rosa rugosa, Cotoneasters & Crataegus prunifolia or the cut foliage of many Geranium contrasting with grasses, Dianthus, Cyclamen

Exotic wildlife

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

I was rather pleased to spot this exotic looking grasshopper basking in the early autumn sun and maybe soaking up the heady scent of Rosa ‘de Rescht’ also.