This Week’s Guest Blogger is Nicki Conlon, a gardener from Sussex who writes as Makinggardens on Twitter and Instagram

Too many Houseplants?

How many is too many Houseplants? At last count I had over 70! Maybe that’s not enough…

I have been gardening outdoor for many a year, yet I am reasonably new to Houseplants. Like my love of gardening, I am sure I have inherited my new found love for houseplants from my Mum. AKA my font of all garden and houseplant knowledge.

I can still remember a trip with my Mum over thirty years ago (eek!) to a garden centre. She purchased a Rubber Plant – Ficus elastica. This character has to be up there with easy care houseplants. A bit of bright indirect light, not too much water and it’s really happy.

I can also remember as a child helping to care for the plant by washing its leaves. What fun! I am sure there were more interesting things I could have been doing, but I loved it.

My Mum still has the plant to this day. I am now the proud owner of a full sized plant from a cutting my Mum started from the original plant all those years ago.

Mother plant and Child to the left, with an Aspidistra friend, who is actually older than me!

At my first house, I only had one windowsill in the kitchen that was viable for growing. This was used for growing herbs for cooking. The rest of the the house was dark with not a lot of space.

When I moved to my current house, I had so much more light and space to play with. It seemed rude not to decorate with plants. I had already planned and started work on the garden outside. On a trip to a certain Swedish furniture store, I happened upon their houseplant section. An Areca palm and that old favourite of the 70’s Monstera deliciosa aka Swiss Cheese Plant came home with me. Actually two Monstera came home and so it began….

Next I wanted to learn as much about houseplants as I could. I devoured every houseplant book I could find. Alongside the marvellous gardening community on social media, there is also a thriving houseplant community. What a joy to see so many beautiful houseplants that I want,  no need!

For many reasons houseplants have had a revival in popularity over the last few years. The selection and places to buy from have improved immensely.

With this great new selection, and the power of social media to promote their beauty, and how to care for them – even gardeners and non gardeners alike are being won over by houseplants.

They are such a joy to have inside, especially in the grey wet days of winter.

Here are just a few of my favourites:

Fittiona – Nerve Plant – another cutting from my Mum. Also used in terrariums and bottle gardens. As long as it doesn’t dry out, it’s happy even when not enclosed.

Aloe Vera- So useful! As a bonus it’s doesn’t need much water being from the succulent family.

Calathea– Another purchase from the Swedish Shop. Just look at those leaves! It’s fascinating how this plant, also called the prayer plant closes up at night.

Ponytail Palm – Beaucarnea recurvata – Take a look at this rockstar what hair! Even my Husband who doesn’t care about plants thinks it’s very cool.

With the joy they bring and the huge variety, I’ve concluded there is no such thing as too many houseplants.

Nicki has gardened for many years in Sussex. You can find Nicki at and

This Week’s Guest Blogger is James Godfrey-Faussett the founder of Wild Urban Spaces

The Native Forest.

We all understand and feel the need to plant trees. But if we switched our attention to planting forests, then we could repair the damage we have done, realign the environment and ultimately guarantee our future.

The key is to plant native forests, but why is native so important?  Native trees are the ones that have been here in the UK since the last ice age, that’s around 7000 years ago!

As such these tree have taken the time to adapt to their environment and biology. Nature knows which are the most suitable trees to grow in each environment. These trees also provide the suitable homes for all the other levels of life. The biology is correct and harmonious for the insects and these other levels of life.

If we just left them too it, all would be well.

The problems came when man, as far back as the Bronze Age, introduced non-native species. Non-native trees are not properly adapted to the biology they are forced to grow in. This causes disease, imbalance and low levels of biodiversity.

A great example is the English Oak (native) verses the London Plane (non native). The Oak provides a habitat for at least 360 different species of insect. The London Plane provides a home for less than 3 species!

So native works for a reason. If we then up scale this to the forest, native is vitally important too. The trees in a natural native forest will grow in harmony, complimenting each other and preforming different roles.  The Oak, Ash and Hawthorn ,for example, always used to grow together as they created a synergy of growth between them.

Biodiversity and a healthy ecosystem is the long-term result.

We should look to plant native forests, it’s not hard and is hugely rewarding for us, the environment and future generations.

This is basis of what we do at Wild Urban Spaces – creating rapid growth, low maintenance native forests in any environment.

For further information please go to

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Jason Stevens the Chief Executive Officer at Veterans’ Growth Charity

For me, I accidentally fell in love with gardening. I didn’t set out on a horticulture career, I set out on life with no plan. I joined the Army at 18 and my military career took off. I was lucky to travel the world and see lots of things in places others would love to, but I have also travelled to places I would not wish on my worst enemy!

I had a great career with lots of ups and downs but my biggest down was in 2016 when I received a medical discharge from the Army. I suffered a Bi-lateral stroke which has left me with no feeling in my left hand side, ataxia on my right and my hearing has been affected. When it happened I was a mess. Unable to walk for a long time (still struggling now), I was torn away from my military family and sent to a military hospital. My treatment was going ok but I kept being drawn to the hospital garden and to Carol, who worked there and was encouraging patients to try horticulture.

I loved it, I felt good being outdoors again putting all my pent up aggression into the heavy jobs in the garden and then making a space I could just chill out in and relax and enjoy the surroundings. Towards the end of my time I even spent two days a week at a local golf club working with the grounds maintenance team. Working in the garden I felt like me again.

I left the hospital and received a letter in the post saying I was no longer needed or wanted in the army as I was unable to complete my job to the standard required. While I accepted this, I was going backwards and hating everything in life. Just getting out of bed was a hassle and so was looking for work, especially when I had been advised there was nothing I could really do that would be suitable given my injuries. I fell into a spiral of despondency and just started to give up.

My fiancée Sarah grabbed me by the hand and fought relentlessly to get me the help I needed. It turned out I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and after getting a diagnosis I began to get the help I needed. I have regular therapy sessions and continue to keep my hand in with horticulture. Having a brilliant garden designer and horticulturist as a fiancée has helped me stay up-to-date and informed about all things garden-related.

In November 2018, I decided to set up Veterans’ Growth, a charity working with veterans from the tri-services who suffer with mental health issues. Bearing in mind my own struggle to get help, I  wanted to provide treatment and support to veterans who are unable to access help and support from the NHS or other charitable organisations. Given how much I benefitted from horticulture, I wanted to pass this opportunity on to others too, so the charity provides a programme of horticultural therapy to every veteran in the UK who’s interested in taking part.

I have to say that losing a family like the Army was hard but I have landed on my feet in horticulture. The industry has taken me in and been immensely supportive, everyone from gardening greats to amazing designers, from growers to product suppliers. I feel like I’ve found a new family and they’ve made me feel at home. The phenomenal support for has further enforced my conviction that I am doing the right thing and I hope to bring many Veterans into the welcoming world of horticulture.

Please follow our new journey on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

If you think you can assist or offer any donations of equipment or funds please send me a message on or donate on our JustGiving page.