This Week’s Guest Blogger is Camilla Grayley, a Garden Designer who runs her own business

The Spring Garden

Seeing blossom on the trees is one of my favourite signs that spring has arrived, the warmer weather is just around the corner and the days are getting longer allowing more time to be spent in the garden. I love that there is a tree in just about any size to suit any garden, whether looking for fruit trees or ornamental blossom. Prunus ‘Spire’ has pretty white flowers tinged with pink and bronze foliage that turns orange and then red in the autumn, adding extra interest throughout the year. For a smaller garden Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ has deep pink buds opening to more delicate pale pink flowers, whether wanting to grow it on the ground or plant in containers, perhaps to frame an entrance. If there is a spare fence panel or wall then fan trained fruit trees are ideal for adding height along with some pretty blossom to a garden.

Walking through a local park or out in the countryside there are plenty of woodland plants appearing in spring that provide inspiration for the garden, to grow in dappled shade or to help cover bare soil underneath deciduous shrubs. Yellow is one of my favourite spring colours, adding an element of cheerfulness to the garden and is on trend in 2021, it is one of Pantone’s colours of the year. Some of the smaller narcissus are happy growing in partial shade from the freshness of lemon yellow, Narcissus ‘W.P. Milner’ or Hawera, which only grow to around 20cm in height. Along with pale oxslips (Primula elatior) and primroses (Primula vulgaris), which once established will happily self-seed around the place or the darker dog toothed violets of Erythronium ‘Pagoda’.

Either mixed in with some yellow or on their own there are plenty of shades of blues and purples around in spring too, from the tiny lilac petals of Viola odorata or the larger flowered white and lilac variety of Hungarian Beauty. For a few daisy shaped flowers Anemone nemorosa ‘Robinsoniana’ is a delicate shade or lilac or the pure white of Anemone nemorosa. Whether planting a swathe through an existing scheme or cheering up a few pots the rich blue of grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum) will pack a punch. Not forgetting the quintessential English bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) with their bell-shaped flowers, why not bring a piece of woodland to your own garden to enjoy.

Camilla Grayley Garden Design

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Michelle Irizarry, owner of Shellbie’s Garden

The Beauty of Dried Botanicals

I grow and sell fresh and dried flowers and botanical creations for gifts, crafts, and home décor.

I’ve always had a passion for flowers for as long as I can remember and is a special place in my heart for dried botanicals because they are everlasting. Dried flowers were popular in the ‘90s and they are making a huge comeback because of their unique beauty. Although I’ll always enjoy receiving a beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers from my husband (hint), or the smell of a fresh rose, there is something to be said about the ethereal quality of dried botanicals. Their colours are like nothing I’ve ever seen. They have many unique shades and hues and can be used throughout the year, for day-to-day crafts and items, as well as for holiday creations. The textures of dried flowers are interesting as well as they add dimension while having a light and airy look to them.

I love dried botanicals because I can enjoy the harvests of my garden without having to say goodbye to my precious flowers that I worked so hard to grow. By preserving them, I can enjoy the fruits (think dried berries) of my labour all year and can create everlasting, beautiful keepsakes to share with others. Another important thing to remember is that they are biodegradable, sustainable, and eco-friendly.

Some flowers I have decided to grow this season include: Centaurea, Artemisia, Strawflower, Gomphrena, Ageratum, Statice, Yarrow, Craspedia, Agastache, Matricaria, Love-In-A-Mist Nigella, Starflower Scabiosa, Sunflower, Zinnia, Marigold, Amaranthus, Celosia, Corn Poppy, Lavender, Hydrangea, and Dahlia, which I’m particularly looking forward to seeing in the garden.

In my upcoming blogs, I’ll share my garden experiences, what I’ve learned working with various flowers, and information on drying botanicals.

Keep Growing,

Shellbie’s Garden

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Mike Higgins Tree and Landscape Officer

Mike Higgins is a Chartered Horticulturist and Chartered Environmentalist working as a Tree and Landscape Officer at Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and Tree Consultant at Brecon Beacons National Park Authority. He is also involved with The Tree Council and Arboricultural Association, coordinates a volunteer tree warden scheme in Pembrokeshire and is a keen amateur photographer.

From an early age I had an interest in nature and the outdoors. Combining this with an academic interest in geology, biology and geography led to a desire to work for a National Park with a direct involvement in the landscape management side of horticulture.

My interest in horticulture began during my Geology degree when the relationship between plants and soils became apparent. This piqued my interest in horticulture and the environment and I subsequently completed a HNC in Habitat surveying for nature conservation which helped to further focus my horticultural interests towards the natural landscape.

Following on from my education I travelled and lived throughout the UK (including Scotland, Wales and England) for work and training opportunities, which provided me with an invaluable knowledge on different landscapes and land management techniques.

I am currently fortunate enough to work for the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority. This provides me with the opportunity to have a positive influence on landscape and horticultural matters in two of Wales’ three national parks. I also regularly work with like-minded individuals from various backgrounds, including: public bodies, professional bodies, private landowners, volunteers, gardeners and homeowners.

Although my academic qualifications are not directly relevant to horticulture; the horticultural industry in the UK has excellent opportunities to progress professionally through training, professional qualifications and membership to professional bodies. This can allow a person to learn and progress in the industry whilst still working.  There are also numerous courses available including degrees, diplomas and certificates with universities and colleges in all facets of the industry.

The horticultural industry is vast and varied with a wide range of specialisms available including gardening and arboriculture.  There are good career paths and structures that do not restrict the direction a person may wish to take; and as stated above, there are numerous opportunities to broaden knowledge and qualifications with related subjects. This can help to keep the job interesting and rewarding to the individual, as well as making it a career that can be tailored to your specific interests for the long term, and continue to be relevant.

Mike Higgins BSc(Hons) MArborA AssocRTPI CEnv MCIHort CHort


This Week’s Guest Blogger is Andrew Sinden, a plantaholic who runs his own business Andrew Sinden Gardening

Snail-proof Gardening

Visitors to my garden often point out snails and slugs and ask what I do to control them. I express concern that they are not getting enough food so they must be moving on to somewhere else in search of food.

The reality is that I don’t have any food plants for slugs so I don’t ever look to control them. Every evening or wet day I see hundreds of them climbing up the walls, presumably to escape.

I’m not one of those garden Nazis who spend hours of negative time in the garden finding irritants at the sight of slugs only to cut them in half using secateurs as a weapon. Treating any wildlife with such elitism shows no understanding of what happens in a garden.

Surely it’s better to see things from a different angle and think about the problem properly rather than chasing loose ends for the rest of your life. With good garden knowledge you can give up worrying about slugs and all the other pests and diseases to boot.

A while ago I planted a sumptuous Lupin plant from one of my favourite nurseries and each evening snails would dine out on my £3.50 bill which fed 29 of them. It looked like a completely overladen Christmas tree with 29 giant baubles of huge snails!

If you want to put your snails and slugs on a diet, here’s a list of plants that will only get nibbled in the most drought conditions.

• Tulipa whittallii

• Catananche caerulea

• Globularia cordifolia

• Gladiolus tristis

• Ferula communis

• Melianthus major

• Digitalis mertonensis

All Euphorbias and most grasses