This Week’s guest Blogger is Louise Bateman, a life long gardener and plantaholic who opens her garden for NGS

My trip to the Isles of Scilly

The islands are an archipelago made up of granite ending at the infamous storm battered Bishops Rock Lighthouse. There are five inhabited islands and many smaller ones where seals bask and seabirds nest undisturbed by human activity. Before the last ice age when sea levels were lower it was part of the mainland, and has a huge number of ancient archaeological sites. It is an area of exceptional beauty and when the sun shines the sparkly quartz and granite sand reflects the light offering crystal clear deep blue seas.

This holiday has been on my bucket list for a great many years, with my interest being focussed on the famous sub-tropical Abbey Gardens on Tresco. It was developed by Augustus Smith who on signing the lease, started planting wind break trees in 1834 which protected the garden from salt laden winds. His descendants still lease the island from the Dutchy of Cornwall. Most of the garden is terraced on a steep south facing slope offering maximum warmth and sunshine. It is frost free in most years and has high UV levels, so there are many choice plants grown such as Protea and Leucospermum from South Africa and Puya from South America.

It is estimated that there are approximately 4000 species, many of which self-seed around the property. The most iconic is the biennial Echium pininana which towers up to the sky and is a bee magnet.

Many plants have escaped the confines of the garden and have found places on the other islands. On St Martin’s there is a Puya which offers blackbirds and bees a nectar feast, as the co-evolved hummingbirds are in short supply!

Aeoniums are particularly happy growing in many walls and often sold from honesty stalls around the islands.


The decimated cut flower industry is evidenced by volunteer Narcissus, Gladiolus and Alliums growing through meadow grassland between high protective evergreen hedges of Pittosporum crassifolium.
Now for the trip advisor part. Would I recommend a visit? Yes! It is a perfect very quiet getaway in the UK offering spectacular views, sandy beaches galore, water sports, walking, bird watching and feasting. For those with limited mobility staying on St Mary’s is recommended as the main ferry and plane arrives here and all transport to the off islands are by small open tourist boats accessed by steps from the quays. Transport to and from the isles is frequently affected by poor weather, both rough weather or fog in the case of planes. If you’d like to give it a try you need to book it well in advance. Many people get addicted and go year after year, so there is a limited amount of available accommodation and it is pricey. Get your money box prepared and give it a go!

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Christine Fowler, Owner of Christine F Garden Design and Consultancy

Creating a Wildlife friendly garden

Wildlife can make its home in our gardens in many different ways. There are lots of things that we can do, from planting to maintenance that will make them as welcome as possible.

Making our gardens wildlife friendly doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to leave them to grow into wild jungles. Every space, whether it’s a huge estate or a busy family garden, can give a home to nature.

There are lots of simple things that we can do to help the animals we share a space with, from making sure that they have access to different habitats, to nurturing well-stocked feeding grounds for them.

A wildlife friendly garden is accessible to everyone whether we’re maintaining an established garden or creating a new one altogether.


Even the smallest of gardens can offer a huge variety of different habitats for wildlife. It’s good to create as many habitats as possible without cramming too much in. You may not even realise that some of the most common unassuming garden features can house thriving worlds of wildlife.

Lawns for example are an important habitat for all sorts of insects, as well as providing a feasting ground for hungry birds which feed on them. Try keeping an area unmown for at least part of the year and see the number of visiting birds dramatically increase.

Borders , filled with flowering plants and shrubs, give nectar rich food to butterflies, bees and beetles. All plants will fulfil this purpose, they do not have to be native plants and a variety of flower shapes will attract different visitors. Simple flower shapes are best and bees in particular are drawn to blue flowers.

Crocus and hellebores(the Christmas rose) provide a food source for bees early in the year as they emerge from hibernation and seeds and berries produced later in the year ensure that the garden has a fully stocked larder for wildlife all year round.

Trees and hedges offer roosting and nesting sites for birds and mammals, as well as valuable shelter and cover from the elements and possible predators.

Ponds and water features are the single most important feature if you want to attract wildlife into your garden, from amphibians( newts, toads and frogs) and invertebrates to bathing garden birds and hedgehogs. Even a simple shallow tray or sunken washing up bowl will be appreciated by garden visitors and remember if you are going to put in a garden pond to include a shallow beach area to allow wildlife to safely get out again.

A huge variety of animals will travel through your garden unknown to you, the trick is to provide a suitable habitat to encourage them to stay!

Even woodpiles, compost and trimmings, the decomposing and discarded off-cuts from your gardening can be incredible places for animals to live feed and hibernate.

To breed and shelter

A basic need for all wildlife is somewhere safe to breed and shelter, which a garden can provide in many different ways.

Growing climbers against walls can provide brilliant shelter, as well as roosting and breeding sites for birds. Trees, bushes and hedgerows can also be great havens for the bird world, as well as small mammals like hedgehogs. Cutting a small hole at the bottom of your fence between gardens will give access to wandering hedgehogs if you have a fence instead of a hedge.

Providing bird boxes, bat boxes and hedgehog homes can be a great way of introducing additional shelters for nature in your garden. Natural roosting and nesting sites can be increasingly hard for animals to find and our gardens give them an ongoing safe alternative.

Butterflies need breeding sites too, and growing the right plants can give them a place to breed and lay their eggs. Honesty and hedge garlic can be good for orange tip butterflies and buckthorn bushes are favourite food for breeding brimstones. Don’t forget that you will need to provide for and tolerate caterpillars if you want butterflies in your garden!

If you are looking to cut back overgrown areas, or untidy borders, wait until late winter or early spring to give any wildlife sheltering from the cold winter months the chance to move on.

Thinking sustainably

So many of our actions have an impact on wildlife which goes beyond our gardens and it is important for us to think about this when choosing materials and creating our spaces.

Peat extraction destroys vital habitats, so avoid using peat based composts, there are many alternatives now widely available. You can even try producing your own with a composter or compost heap.

Save rainwater in water-butts. Pond life much prefers natural rainwater if you need to top up your water features.

Buy FSC accredited garden furniture and charcoal.

Recycle wherever possible. Use reclaimed material when building raised beds and other garden structures. Old pallets and scaffold planks make great material for building.

Avoid using pesticides and use non-toxic, non-chemical alternatives.

If you have enjoyed reading this article head over to my website to find out more. I post a monthly BLOG giving a month by month guide on what to do in the garden..

You can follow me on Facebook @christinefowlergardendesign and read weekly tips on gardening.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Peter Welsh, co-founder of Tadpole Garden Village

‘The Greenhouse Project’

Neighbours and Friends, Stu Olden & Pete Welsh co-founded Tadpole Garden Village (TGV) In Bloom. TGV is a brand-new garden village concept set on the northern outskirts of Swindon, a stones throw from the Cotswolds.

Peter Walsh and Stu Olden flanked by two volunteers

A strong community foundation, both Stu – Ex Army and Pete – Currently serving in the RAF, wanted to bring the community together through the RHS three pillars; Horticulture, Environment and Community. This concept would encourage people of all ages and abilities to take pride in where they live.
A community allotment plot saw the group grow on plants, fruit and vegetables for village planters, homeless soup kitchens, nursing homes and local charities. With two storms and two temporary greenhouses lost to the elements it was time for something with a bit more structure and space!
A £5,000 grant was successfully awarded by The National Lottery Community Fund which was set aside to build a greenhouse on the community allotment plot.

Our volunteers building the base on the unused allotment plot

Our volunteers worked the ground, built the base and created the look it has today. We wanted to appeal to all ages and abilities and prove that Gardening and an allotment was accessible to all.
The Greenhouse has a ramped access, our ‘living path’ is decorated with alpines and herbs and our rest area has space for a wheelchair to turn. Both were built with donated patio slabs that allows access to a wheelchair to run along the path. A local grant allowed us to purchase a custom-built ND Rhodes reduced mobility potting bench.
Although our plot is accessible to those with reduced mobility you will find small steps, stony ground or wood chippings. These allow people to improve their motor function and gives them progression.

Andy working on the reduced access path around the greenhouse

Though it’s not just the physical challenges. Mentally and socially the Gardening club allows interaction on the plot, it allows people the space and time for reflection, for quiet or for teamwork, for interaction – it simply gives people access to greenspace and a learning environment should they wish.

The National Lottery Funded Community greenhouse and allotment plot  – ‘living’ path, ramp access, rest area and wheelchair accessible path

A project that cost an estimated £10,000 has been completed with funding, donations and kind offers from local businesses. More importantly it has been completed by a team of volunteers of all ages and abilities.
COVID may have slowed us down, but it hasn’t dampened our spirits!

The reduced mobility potting bench – custom made by NB Rhodes funded by the Wiltshire Community Fund

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Nikki Cooper, Owner of Old Hogden, seeds straight from the potting shed, the heart of the garden

The Herb Garden

I always think that the best part of the vegetable patch is the herbs.  How nice it is to cook a meal; suddenly realize you need thyme and oregano.  Out the back door, to that special spot to tweak some leaves, giving magic to your food.

Yes flavour, but so many other things as well.  Herbs have many healing properties.  Take chives for instance.  They are antibacterial and a great circulatory stimulant.  Chopped up in scrambled eggs, added to sour cream and butter on a baked potato – it’s enough to make your mouth water!

Parsley is another great herb.  It is quite slow to germinate, sometimes taking 6 weeks to pop through the earth, but once up you have a tasty herb that is around for a full two years and gives far more than it takes, being full of vitamins A and C, iron, calcium and magnesium, just to name a few.  Brilliant anti-inflammatory and antihistamine, so makes a good herbal tea in the hay fever season.

Herbs are easy to grow.  Mostly they are best started off in small pots on a sunny windowsill.  Basil loves warmth, so I always start mine off in the airing cupboard.  Water it, then cover in cling film to make a ‘mini greenhouse’.  Just don’t do what I did and forget about it.

My favourite thing is to give all the herbs a full on ‘haircut’ around July/August time.  I have a large sieve that I got a long time ago.  All the herb cuttings go in here and then they sit in the airing cupboard until I get round to seeing to them. Pop them in a blender, taking out any large tough stalks first and add a good dosing of celery salt. This makes an amazing condiment for the table as a replacement for salt, giving flavour and good heath all round.

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