This Week’s Guest Blogger is Geoffrey Juden the Chairman of the East London Garden Society


The Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree

The Bethnal Green mulberry tree is an ancient black mulberry tree in Bethnal Green in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The exact age of the tree is unknown, Chartered Arboriculturist Julian Forbes Laird states that the earliest probable year of origin of the Bethnal Green Mulberry is around 1800, but it could be up to 400 years old and the oldest in the East End of London, some say it dates as far back to Bishop Bonner of the later period of Henry V111’s time.

In the archive of the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel there is an inkwell made in 1911 from a preserved slice of a tree, which is recorded as having been taken from a broken bough of a mulberry ‘reputed to be that under which Bishop Bonner went to sit in the cool of the evening’. If Bonner’s tree is not the current Bethnal Green mulberry tree, it could have been the mulberry from which a cutting was taken to propagate the current mulberry tree on this site.
The site is a conservation area, designated by Tower Hamlets council, therefore should be offered a priority when it comes to redevelopment, considering the tree is classed as a veteran tree. These days and times it is also important to promote environmental concerns when it alludes to development.

The trouble with The Bethnal Green Mulberry tree is that it is symptomatic of a malaise within our present planning system, at the same sight there are 27 mature trees to be felled, within this 27 eleven protected trees are to be felled, together with placing the entire conservation area under ecological stress.

I always believe that there is a garden in people’s minds, we may not agree with the interpretation of their garden, never less it is a person’s right to engineer their own garden. The matter of the conservation area in which The Bethnal Green Mulberry stands is that it is a natural garden, pre-ordained by at least 400 years of time. Knowing Tower Hamlets planning decision to, initially fell The Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree, with its friends in the conservation area, left the local population to raise funds to save what is an iconic natural garden from extinction, the fact that the position was moved within the council to have The Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree moved to another area to placate the local population, bore no weight as no guarantee could be given that the veteran tree could be saved. Raising over £20,000 for a judgment on the council’s decision was the only way forward, luckily it was found the council were in the wrong over this natural garden, it makes a statement, although an expensive one, that when it comes to urban green space, something which is becoming a rarity, we must all beware.

We should not have to fight to save nature, our gardens, whether natural or not, there should be a commonality of sense on the best way forward.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Karin, who is participating in The Glasshouse project, a horticultural rehabilitation project growing, nurturing and selling house plants from disused prison glasshouses in the UK.

Neorodiversity and Growing in Prison

Like many of us in prison, things in my life have not always been happy and merry. When I look back, I realise I lived most of my life trying to fake normality, often very successfully. I longed to be ‘standard’ and to fit in. I was told as a young girl that I was rude, that I needed to listen, to pay more attention, not to interrupt

A hectic and rebellious early life and many reprimands for not being normal led me to see myself as lazy, absentminded, difficult and naughty. I was bright and capable in my own way but I didn’t know it. I fought myself and tried hard to be what I thought was normal. My parents were at a loss with what to do with me and tried make me good with strict discipline,

I am now 60 and in prison. Since being in prison, I have had 2 important self-awakenings. I was diagnosed with ADHD recently which has been the most liberating moment of my life. I also have learned a new passion in growing and nurturing living plants in the glasshouses of the prison. ADHD continues to hinder my communication and make me doubt myself but learning new skills helps. In prison I have been working toward new qualifications and a new life. The Glasshouse project nurtures house plants in UK prison glasshouses and has been a true blessing, allowing me to find my own green fingers and care for myself whilst caring for living green things. Being around plants, I have found comfort and tranquility that would have been unimaginable a year ago. I think every person with ADHD would benefit from learning the intricacies of growing and gardening. It truly slows down the feelings of urgency and the outcomes are so beautiful, full of love and life.

I embrace my neurodiversity. I look back at the decisions I made in my personal and professional life that led to super-high highs and fiasco lows and I wonder if I’d known about my ADHD, or learned skills like growing, if I could have negotiated things differently, allowed my talent to overcome my deficiencies.

I am in prison and it is what it is. Every day is a struggle. Every day is also a blessing. I try to make the most of my time here. Now I recognise what I am and I accept my ‘abnormal’ way of thinking. I’m making my disability my super-natural power.

Provided by The Glasshouse project, a horticultural rehabilitation project growing, nurturing and selling house plants from disused prison glasshouses in the UK.  For more information or to order direct delivery of our very special house plants, visit

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Adrian Thorne, Gardener and Owner at Peerless Gardening

Adrian Thorne has recently finished the RHS Masters of Horticulture program and chose the views of professional gardeners on adapting to climate change as his final dissertation project. This blog a very cut-down version of his dissertation, but he just wanted to give people food-for-thought rather than the whole thing.

I’m fairly sure I once heard gardening described as the art of problem-solving, and I’d imagine that chimes a bell with many of us. We make do, adapt, alter, come at problems from different angles – whether doing the smallest job or the largest project. Climate change is going to require us all to adapt in a variety of ways if we are to continue the hobby we love and need. Now bear with me….I’m hoping this won’t be too depressing reading.

I’ve spent the last nine months asking professional gardeners for their views on adapting to climate change, and what happens in professional gardening often flows through into amateur gardening. We talk a lot about mitigating climate change, stopping emissions (think about electric tools and peat-free compost) but we don’t talk so much about adaptation to the changing climate (think about heavy rainfall, drainage, heat waves, droughts etc). The results have been really interesting – we are already seeing a lot of professional gardeners start to change plants for species that are more resilient to climate change, those plants that can take the temperature extremes and are perhaps a bit more resistant to new diseases.

It’s not just the plants that need to adapt – we need to be looking at adapting the hard landscaping of our gardens too. We may want to make sure paths can cope with heavy deluges of rain and don’t become an impassable bog, or consider shade areas for those hot times of the day, or the important topic of water management and rainwater harvesting.

Domestic rainwater harvesting could become a necessity for some gardens

The third area of gardening I want to encourage people to adapt is the gardener herself – we may have to think about what times we go out to work in the garden, about when professionals can work in our gardens, and what our expectations of our garden are.

Shade areas from hot sun will be important not just for plants but for the gardeners trying to work

Nearly all of these problems are surmountable, and I said at the start of this blog gardeners are very good at problem-solving. We do need to get ourselves time and space to think through the solutions and to get them in place early so we’re not caught napping. I’m hoping to continue this research to look more into how are gardens and gardeners are changing.

This Week’s Guest Blog is from The Glasshouse Project, a horticultural rehabilitation project, growing, nurturing and selling house plants from disused prison glasshouses in the UK



Provided by The Glasshouse project, a horticultural rehabilitation project growing, nurturing and selling house plants from disused prison glasshouses in the UK.  For more information or to order direct delivery of our very special house plants, visit

Many of us are aware that poor mental health is a growing concern, but not many of us know that plants can help address some of the root causes and symptoms of mental health issues. A growing number of scientific studies find that nature not only benefits our physical health, but also that the presence of houseplants in our homes, schools, hospitals and places of work can bring improved psychological wellbeing1.


Stress is a common mental health challenge that can lead to anxiety and depression2. Studies show that when plants are introduced to our indoor environment, there are significant decreases in stress. Working and living in environments that include nature, people report up to 40% less anxiety, fatigue and hostility or anger, as well as a 15% spike in reported wellbeing3.

This year, RHS Chelsea Flower Show added an area of inspiring and beautiful house plant exhibits, which illustrates the growing trend for indoor gardening. We talk to so many gardeners who have beautiful gardens, but claim they are unable to grow indoor specimens! Caring for indoor plants does take a different approach – the number one killer of house plants is over-watering which even the most able outdoor gardener might struggle to comprehend. If you would like to enjoy the benefits of nature indoors, it will require a bit of care and attention, but don’t be daunted! Plants usually come with instructions but here are some easycare, hardy plants that just might improve your mental health and increase your air quality + they are all gorgeous!


The Zebra Plant (Calathea Concinna)

This beauty is a vibrant reminder of the natural rhythm of life as it follows a circadian rhythm, spreading its leaves to the sun and moving throughout the day to maximize light intake, resting at night. This will be the easiest pet you’ll ever have!

  • Place this plant in medium bright, indirect sunlight in a warm room
  • This plant doesn’t like to be too dry, so put your finger into the soil to test and water when the top inch of soil is dry, approximately once a week.


Aloe vera

Egyptian stone carvings depict Cleopatra using this in her skin rituals and Alexander the Great conquered the African island of Socotra in order to use its aloe to treat wounded soldiers.  This plant gives all the benefits that nature offers and requires very little in return.

  • Place in bright, indirect sunlight in a warm room.
  • Wipe the leaves with a wet cloth every month or so to clear dust for healthy sun absorption.
  • This plant likes it dry so water only when the top 2 inches of soil are dry to touch and ensure water drains, so roots don’t sit in water.


Monstera (Monstera deliciosa)

You’ll probably recognise this beauty as it sparked the latest interior jungle trend. It’s not just a pretty face though – NASA reports that the Monstera is one of the most effective plants for reducing air pollution.  Lucky for us, it’s also very easy to nurture.

  • Place in bright, indirect sunlight in a warm room.
  • Wipe the leaves with a wet cloth every month or so to clear dust for healthy sun absorption.
  • This plant doesn’t like to be over-watered, so err on the side of less.  Water only when the top 3 inches of soil are very dry to touch and ensure water drains, so roots don’t sit in water.
  • Mist weekly if you think of it as this plant loves a humid environment – perfect for a bathroom or kitchen!




1)    RHS:

2)    Mind:

3) Marie Claire

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Mike Rogers an Allotmenteer, Armchair Gardener, Blogger and Sofa Flying Book Buff

On the windowsill

Back in the early spring I sowed some annual flower seeds in small pots to start at home before taking them to the allotment to harden off then plant out.

They included Cosmos ‘Sonata White’, a compact shorter variety, three of which were noticeably smaller than the others. I decided to keep these at home so replanted in a 5″/12.5 cm pot to grow and hopefully flower during the summer on the living-room windowsill.
I’m glad I did as they grew to around 8″/20 cm by early June when they started flowering, and have continued to do so right through to the end of September.
At any one time there have been at least a handful of flowers showing , and I was surprised to find they have a slight fragrance which I hadn’t realized before.

I also did the same with the smallest of the sunflowers ‘Musicbox’, a knee-high variety, I grew. It had only reached 6″/15 cm by early summer then went on to just over twice that height by late August when it finally flowered, much to my delight. The flower lasted a couple of weeks when three more buds appeared, two which I pinched out leaving one to flower in mid September.
Even without flowers this sunflower looked good, remaining compact and well proportioned although it did lose a few of the lower leaves.

I had great fun growing these plants on the windowsill, was really pleased that they did so well and I’ll be trying again next year.

I write regular posts on Flighty’s plot blog  about my allotment. I’m @Sofaflyer on Twitter and in the charity’s excellent ‘Cuttings’ book