This Week’s Guest Blogger is Felicity O’Rourke a Garden Designer who runs her own business

An introduction

With an BSc Honours Degree in Biochemistry at Bristol University, I joined Accenture as a Management Consultant. I went on to be awarded sponsorship by Aer Lingus to train as a Commercial Airline Pilot. I subsequently flew Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s with easyJet for many years before taking a break to have my 3 children. Whilst studying my diploma at KLC School of Design last year, I was awarded a Bronze Medal at the Moscow Flower Show for my garden ‘The Eye of Providence’. I have now completed my Diploma in Garden Design with Distinction and the coveted awards of ‘KLC Top Student 2020’ and ‘Debbie Roberts Award for Vision and Excellence’. I am now on setting up my own design practice in Wimbledon, London.

Therapeutic Gardens

Our appreciation of life and the living world has been hardwired into our own genetic makeup, giving us an innate emotional and beneficial response to nature, known as Biophilia. Whilst all gardens bring a beneficial improvement in well-being through engaging our senses, gardens for the disabled should provide a focus on how to further improve this experience on a therapeutic level.

The Attention Restoration Theory defines how a therapeutic garden can specifically improve the quality of the experience. There are essentially four main elements:

Being Away: Giving people diversionary, time away from their usual everyday life.
Fascination: This is passive interaction, entered into almost involuntarily, catching and holding one’s attention.
Extent: Providing enough opportunities to capture our fascination, regardless of the number of times the garden is visited.
Compatibility: Enabling the people to view, enter and perhaps work within the garden with ease.

Here are some practical ideas for introducing these elements within your garden:

To instil a sense of ‘Being Away’ we can use different planting palettes from different regions of the world. For example, lush architectural planting could instil a sense of being somewhere tropical, in the same way that a Mediterranean feeling can be instilled in a dry, gravel garden by using plants with aromatic foliage in silvery tones.

‘Fascination’ can be achieved by stimulating all of our senses. For example, it isn’t just the mesmerising quality of watching water, listening to its calming sound, and the feeling of it running through your hands, but it is its attraction to wildlife that enables such a broad level of fascination for us too. Ponds can be raised within a retaining wall for example, to allow those in wheelchairs to get a better view and water features can placed with reach of hands and feet to provide another element to the experience of water.

It is a not only the seasonal changes which will provide the ‘Extent’ to which our fascination is captured over the course of a year, but on a daily basis it is wildlife that offers this in detail. Using plants for pollinators can attract not only insects, but in turn, the birds that feed on them. Using log piles is a great way to provide refuge for over-wintering pollinators as well as considering planting shrubs and trees that provide berries in winter.

Fundamentally, above all, enabling easy access to the garden setting throughout the year is key to any restorative garden. This can be as straight-forward as allowing smooth, step-free access to the site, as well as perhaps having a shelter/conservatory/garden room which allows all weather access to the garden. Facilitating the growing of edibles by building raised beds or using a pergola as a frame for growing, also allows access to plants for those who struggle to reach the ground.

For further ideas and advice, do not hesitate to get in contact to see how I can help you unleash the potential of your garden plot.

This Week’s Guest Bloggers are the Owner, Head Gardener and Assistant Head Gardener of Hole Park Gardens

Hole park is a family owned and run estate in the Kent Weald covering two and a half thousand acres.
It has been owned by the Barham family since 1911. Essentially the estate is family run and foremost is a family home and the owners Edward and Clare Barham get involved in making the decisions about the running and development of the Gardens, unlike our nearest neighbours Great Dixter and Sissinghurst.

Edward and Clare, Quentin Stark the Head Gardener and Joe Archer the Assistant Head Gardener have meetings in a different part of the garden each week, to discuss how that area currently looks, then make a plan for future short and long term improvements to that area. This can vary from hard landscaping like paths to improve access or perhaps cut down overgrown shrubs to rejuvenate them or under plant with new and interesting plants as we are keen to increase plant diversity.

Edward Barham

After a long winter and with spring now well underway, there is an air of excitement about opening the garden for the new season . Our five gardeners, have worked hard over a long winter with the usual routine tasks of preparing the borders, pruning the roses and mulching the beds, amidst which we add a series of projects. These are, if you like, the amusement or the icing on the cake, redoing a bed, adding to a planting scheme or making some new paths. They make sure that the garden evolves and provide interest for our regular visitors who come to see what has changed.

This year the heather bed has been extended, with a tremendous stone that we found on the estate place there to represent a Kentish rockery, adjacent to which we have laid one of several new paths. We use recycled stone as the base and then rock fines above, a semi cemetaceous natural product which goes down tight once dry. It provides better access for the garden machinery and for our visitors, ever mindful of those in wheelchairs and on some occasions the weight of numbers.

As Covid eases, there is great excitement amongst visitors to be able to get out, after a long winter, and in some cases a full year, cooped up in their homes under varying levels of lockdown. Covid has taken its toll on the estate too with two death in our community and many others remaining naturally uneasy about returning to pre-Covid levels of normality. So we welcome several new members of staff on the opening garden opening team which will give a fresh look to the front gate and to the Coach House Cafe.

Last year Hole Park was amongst the most forward gardens in the country, open from the beginning of May and we even managed to get in some of our well-known events. Sadly the Wealden Times Summer Fair was cancelled but it returns in 2021, this time spread over a four day period 1-4 July. And our Napoleonic weekend is also returning 25-26 September.

Very few coach parties are schedule for the year, which has previously been a significant part of our business, so we will adapt to relying more upon individual visitors for whom advance ticketing is available through a new platform, with all its associated technical problems as we learn new skills. But we will always welcome pay on the day ‘walk-ups’, as they are known in the trade.

We very much hope that you will come and see our garden, the result of 99 years of my family’s input into them, since my great grandfather Arthur started planting in a serious way in 1922/23. He first opened to the public in 1928, as a founder member of what has evolved to become the National Garden Scheme. As we approach our garden centenary, I think we have a lot to be proud of and I hope that Arthur will look down for on high and approve that the family are still so actively involved and sharing it with so many.

The Wealden Times Fair 1-4 July marks the end of our regular opening. I might not write these words with such optimism after a hard three-month campaign of being open 24/7. But for now, we are genuinely excited about sharing Hole Park with you. I wish Easter was forecast to be a little warmer.

Quentin Stark

I’ve been Head gardener at Hole Park for twenty years, I was employed by Edwards Father David, who used it as a family garden with limited opening mainly for the NGS. Over the years I have seen many changes including the longer opening season, this year it will be longer than ever but I relish the opportunity to share this beautiful garden with our paying guests. My role has developed from maintaining a predominantly family garden to one that balances both the needs of the family and public alike. Over the years I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to redevelop areas of the garden and improve the range of plants we grow to extend our season. We used to be known for our bluebells alone but now I think we are a garden for all seasons. Whether it’s from the first snowdrops in spring, through to the monochrome of the bluebells, closely followed by the riot of colour with the rhododendrons and on to the herbaceous borders in summer, exotic plantings in late summer through to autumn colour in the woodland.
My staff have changed over the years, some like Steve have been there for 20 years and then my trainees from the WRAGS scheme are only placed with us for a year, each of them brings skills and life experiences that are reflected in the gardens and each of them have left their mark. I often look round the garden and have a smile reminiscing about a day we planted up an area in the pouring rain or see a plant the owners insisted on having or a planting scheme one of the team designed. Each of these has made Hole Park Gardens what they are today and I am pleased to be able to take round a group of visitors explaining what the gardens mean to me and I hope I am able to convey the passion I have for gardening. I am proud to be Head Gardener of Hole Park.

Joe Archer is the Assistant Head Gardener who joined the team at the end of March 2020

Joe Archer

My horticultural inspiration derived from an uncle who worked as Head Gardener at the Longstock water Gardens in Hampshire. Throughout my life I was treated to private tours of his amazing water gardens and was struck by the idyllic lifestyle he led including his tied thatched cottage. This always resinated with me and it became a career ambition to become a gardener and to have a slice of this rural way of life.

The chance came to me just over a year ago in March 2020. Having lived in London my whole life I seized the opportunity to take up a position of assistant head gardener at Hole Park in the Kent countryside. My role is to support Head Gardener Quentin Stark in maintaining and developing the extensive gardens. Together with the owners we strive to keep the grounds looking at their best and in turn please the many visitors who come and enjoy the gardens.

What I love most about being a gardener is working through the seasons and the variety of tasks this brings. Working at Hole Park epitomises this, it is a garden for all seasons and with just a small gardening team we are all involved whatever the job. It is a pleasure to work in a garden with so many horticultural assets and my skills as a gardener are constantly expanding and improving.

The gardens are a hive of activity right through the year. In the lead up to opening in April the team work hard by pruning, mowing lawns, mulching and preparing beds to get the gardens ready. Visitors are treated to quintessential English woodland walks surrounded by bluebells and a garden packed full of flowering spring bulbs.

During summer the flower borders take centre stage. Many months of work pay off to achieve colourful displays. Plants propagated in the greenhouses and grown on for the herbaceous borders, rose garden and the tropical border fill what were once bare beds with foliage and flowers. The final showpiece in our display is the autumnal colour, none more impressive than our collection of Acers. Different shades of reds, yellows and oranges turn the woodland into a kaleidoscope of colour.

Autumn is also the time when staff from all departments work collectively on the Christmas tree harvest on the wider estate. There is a great sense of camaraderie and a chance to work in the surrounding countryside in the build-up to the festive season. It is hard but rewarding work and a great way to finish the year.

The joy of working in such scenic surroundings is capped off by having my own tied cottage on the estate. Where once I would struggle to work through train delays and grey surroundings, I now have a five-minute cycle whilst listening to the birds sing. I am very pleased to have found what I was looking for.

For more information regarding opening time please visit their website

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Jo Newton a Garden Designer who runs her own business

My Top 5 Flowering Shrubs

Now that we’re halfway through spring and many of the plants have come up in our gardens, we’re finding ourselves reviewing what’s there and what isn’t. Spring bulbs have been putting on their cheerful show, and we’re looking forward to the summer bulbs and corms. Hardy perennials are emerging into life with all their promise of greenery and colour throughout the coming months. But we may find that some plants haven’t survived and that we have ‘gaps’. Some of these spaces may be best filled with shrubs, giving you that backbone, height and structure that a garden needs.
Difficult though it is because there is so much choice, I’ve come up with my top 5 flowering shrubs that would suit most gardens and very importantly, between them, will provide interest all year round.

  1. Viburnum tinus: There are quite a lot of Viburnums but ‘tinus’ is one of the evergreen varieties with mid-deep green glossy leaves (see pictured). Perhaps its main attraction is its flowers which last right through from December to April, and what’s more, bees and hoverflies love them! After flowering it develops bunches of blue-black berries. It’s a medium-sized shrub which would suit the middle of a border, or perhaps to the back if you don’t want large plants, and is happy both in sun and part shade. Its weak spot is, like other Viburnums, Viburnum beetle, so if you notice brown notches or patches on leaves, remove them promptly and get rid of all fallen leaves. Other than that Viburnum tinus is a beautiful, good all-rounder shrub which keeps giving.
  2. Lavandula angustifolia: I can’t imagine a garden without some lavender! Within this fully hardy group are the well-known ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’ varieties much more capable of surviving our UK Climate than the French lavenders – at least that’s true here in the northwest of England. Many of us enjoy the smell of lavender as we brush past, and bees and other pollinating insects enjoy the flowers which can last from July to September.
  3. Mahonia x media ‘Charity’: Another evergreen shrub, this time with spiky, holly-like leaves and yellow flower-spikes which attract bees and insects (there’s a theme developing here!). They have a beautiful scent –in fact, this winter on a lockdown walk I smelt a Mahonia in a garden we passed before I saw it. Such a pleasure in the middle of winter, this and some of the other Mahonias flower from November to March. They’re taller than Viburnum tinus and can be grown in shade so they’re great plants for something architectural at the back of a shady border.
  4. Weigela ‘Florida Variegata’: I’ve chosen this shrub because it is quite different from the others in my list. It is deciduous with variegated foliage, has pretty pink flowers and has a bushy but fairly tall habit with arching stems. The leaves which are grey-green with white edges can really brighten up a border, as do other variegated plants. The pale pink funnel-shaped flowers are quite profuse and can last from May to June, and sometimes beyond. Weigela grows easily on most soils, and once it has reached the height you want it responds well to pruning after flowering (probably to about half its height).
  5. Fothergilla major (Mountain witch alder): I’ve saved this special shrub till last as it’s one of my favourite finds (see pictured)! It is deciduous and very slow-growing but has some wonderful features. As the leaves appear in late spring, so also do the unusual bottle-brush-like white flowers which stay through to mid-summer. The leaves, which in summer resemble the shape and green of Hazel leaves, turn in autumn into a plethora of reds, oranges and yellows which I think are quite unique. We gained so much pleasure last year from watching these changes which lasted at least four to five weeks! Fothergilla thrives on acid soil and its colours are at their best in full sun but partial shade is ok too. If your garden is on alkaline soil, you could plant this shrub in ericaceous soil in a container, as you can with rhododendrons and other acid-loving plants.
    So I hope that my list here of flowering shrubs is helpful and has given you pointers to some beautiful plants that will add structure and interest to your garden all-year round. And I wish you a full and enjoyable growing year!

For more information please visit my website

or visit my Facebook page jonewtongardendesign

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Keily Rutherford, a Passionate Garden Designer and Horticulturist

I’ve learned many things in this last year and whilst I’m sure I don’t need to highlight the individual challenges we all face to some degree or another. The one thing I do hope we can all take away is that when the way we decide to live our everyday life is no longer our own choice, it affects us as human beings, hugely. Be it by disability, chronic pain, pandemic, illness or the invisible barriers of mental health challenges such as crippling anxiety. Freedom to choose is something we all need control over and because of that, these unique circumstances have forced us to be adaptable and proactive. I think perhaps, as humans we all understand each other a little better and can accept that each individual is unique, with unique ways of dealing with any challenges laid at their feet. I think we are more compassionate. I hope we are more empathetic.

But what if coping is something that is just a hairs breadth from giving up, what if some of us are merely surviving.

I am Keily Rutherford and I have served 12 years in the British Army as A Dog Trainer with 2 tours of Iraq and 1 tour of Afghanistan, I worked as care assistant in a residential nursing home and after becoming a Mum became very addicted to gardening. I now run a Gardening business in beautiful Melton Mowbray which is passionate about creating beautiful individual outdoor spaces and mentoring new gardeners into this rewarding career.

With a military background it is safe to say that almost 20 years ago the focus on mental health wasn’t what it is today, and I saw so many soldiers struggling especially on tour after being injured or involved in major incidents. Anxiety is something that has plagued me all my life and actually the Army pushing me outside of my comfort zone meant my confidence grew and grew. Since leaving service I have to remind myself that doing something that scares me every day is good for me, but often I can choose, and I raise my hand to taking the easy route out at times.

As I prepare to study FdSc degree in Horticulture at Nottingham Trent University this year it compels me tell you about the practical everyday strategies I use to motivate myself to do the thing I love and most of them revolve around gardening, my business and my lifestyle. You don’t need heaps of space and if you really are short on enthusiasm. Start with an idea, creativity is the spark that lights the fire, trust me on this! Just some paper and some cheap pencils will be fine (it’s how I started) and make a list of what you’d like your garden to give you. Let’s keep the simple things in life, they’ll be different for everyone but for me it was;

  • Being able to watch the birds
  • A shady place to drink a cup of tea
  • Borders to plant my beautiful flowers

And to keep things interesting for you, I used my front garden which required two cars to be parked, I had a tight budget of £150 and I wanted to recycle as many things as I could. It turned out to be a free activity for my children to help with during lockdown and it was named The Nature Garden. We are one of only a couple of gardens that have not completely resurfaced with tarmac and it is a hot spot of activity with birds, frogs, hedgehogs, bees, butterflies and in the morning when sometimes the day ahead seems a bit long and a bit unmanageable, the peaking of Galanthus nivalis or Helleborus in depths of winter, the presence of a little robin drinking from the pond and the sweet scent of Sarcococca humilis as I clumsily bustle into my front door all give such unplanned joy. We even pop a little table and chairs out now as a lovely addition to our lockdown garden where I can watch the kids scootering and I think a few of the neighbours wish they had more than just tarmac now!

Good luck with your planning, I hope it gives you focus and fills you with hope as the year progresses.

If you feel inspired to create your own little sanctuary and need any plant advice or help you can find me on instagram @kr_gardendesign.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Beverley McAlpine, a Garden Designer and Horticultural Therapist at Greensense-design

When we plant a seed we set it on it’s way . We lay the foundation for growth with good soil and water , we cherish and nourish the small seedling over the weeks as it sprouts up to the light and we transplant these seedlings and roots into larger pots before placing outside to face the great
outdoors . This process takes months and requires memory , observation , encouragement and careful handling- sometimes disappointingly we have to change course and try again.

In a way our own lives follow a similar pattern to this tiny seed . In 2008 I returned to the UK after 12 years away, repatriating slowly over the coming months . I began to feel unfulfilled , unsettled and unhappy until it dawned on me that despite my exciting time overseas , I had withdrawn from truly connecting with nature .That day a seed was planted- but how was I going to set this idea on its way and what skills did I need to grow it into
something valuable ? This is what happened .

Step One : Setting the seed on it’s way
My background was in Occupational Therapy and I wanted to be able to share the new journey with others who needed support , so I volunteered to work on an organic farm with adults who had challenges . I learnt about seed planting , growing flowers and vegetables and I learned to drive a
tractor . Life was good and I loved every minute of my time on the farm, sharing skills and learning from all those around me.

Step Two : Nurturing the seed with care and observation
In order to gain more horticultural knowledge I gained a foundation in horticulture and went on to become a garden designer but the direction felt disconnected – remember the seedlings that don’t quite grow ?

Step Three : Potting on with care and attention
I needed something else to run alongside the design work and found part time work as a Horticultural Therapist at Walworth Garden in London working in the allotment growing vegetables, in the the garden maintaining the plants and in the colder months inside the unit, creating indoor gardens and having such fun. Biophillic design and nature deficit disorder continue to be at the heart of my journey and I have had opportunities to work with Gayle Souter – Brown on creating landscapes for health and well being

Step Four : The Garden
Since 2009 horticulture , design work and horticultural therapy have all come together to become Green Sense Design, a freelance service designing gardens for health and well being, a Community Interest Company for horticultural therapy working in care homes and with individuals, linking
up with social prescribing services and opening up opportunities to connect with amazing people who work in all aspects of horticulture . This is my garden and I hope it continues to grow.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Mel Speak a Garden Designer who runs her own business

Designing a Sensory Garden

I think a garden is a great place to lose yourself in the beauty of plants and nature, to relax and re-energise and to plan or work through any problems you may have. Take in the colourful sights and sounds of the garden, touch and work with the soil and the plants and smell the fragrances as well as ultimately taste produce that is grown there. Gardening can truly stimulate all our five of our senses and the result of this for me is tremendous wellbeing and satisfaction. It has created a passion that I love conveying to others – hence the reason why I have become a garden designer!
Having worked with people with learning and physical disabilities for many years prior to becoming a garden designer, I know first-hand of the benefits a garden can provide to all the senses. This is why I now love to create gardens for all types of people and situations taking into account what different plants and elements have to offer to us mere mortals! Whether it is a peaceful haven or a stimulatory learning environment you wish to create it pays to think of the sensory benefits of everything you are going to use in the garden.
So how do you go about creating a sensory environment? Firstly you do not need a great expanse of garden – a series of containers or window boxes spaced in different areas can work very well. Importantly you need to consider who the garden is going to be enjoyed by and structure it accordingly. If children are going to be the main users then the planting and features need to be accessible to them at a low height and any access areas safely constructed. If the space is going to be access by wheelchair users then consideration must be given to the level access of all areas, the width of any paths, the height of features such as arches and the positioning of planting. Lastly I would recommend creating a journey through the garden – a true sensory experience interspersed with places to sit and take in the sensory stimulus on offer.
So here are some ideas of what can be used within a sensory environment.
When thinking about stimulating SIGHT in a garden the first thought turns to colour. Vibrant bright colours can provide stimulus for people with a visual sensory impairment. Bright red flowers such as Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, oranges such as Echinacea ‘Tangerine Dream’ and yellows like Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ are far easier to distinguish for someone with a visual impairment than pastel shades. Think also of the colour contrast and the use of boundary materials. For example, try painting a boundary fence black and growing white or yellow flowers to contrast and ‘pop’ out to the garden visitor. Or plant tall contrasting grasses that move in the wind. Also don’t forget to consider using colourful foliage and plants that have fruits and berries especially through the winter months.

When incorporating SOUND in a garden it is important to remember this is not just about what is in the garden but what is attracted to it and visits it. Placing bird feeders and a bird bath in the garden should attract our feathered friends who joyously flap their wings and calm us with their birdsong. Likewise, bees and other buzzing insects are attracted to nectar rich planting. Sound can also be provided by plants that rustle or create moment with their leaves or seedpods and also by different floor material such as crunchy gravel. Try planting specimens such as Phyllostachys aurea (bamboo), Lunaria annua (Honesty) and Phormium (New Zealand flax) to bring sound into the garden.
SMELL – Having plants that exude fragrance at different parts of the garden can excite or calm. Who doesn’t love a plant that smells of chocolate (Cosmos atrosanguineus – Chocolate cosmos) or curry (Helichrysum italicum – curry plant)? Highly scented planting placed adjacent to a seat or on a paths edge or scaling a walk-through archway can provide pleasurable scent along the garden journey. Try a scented Jasmine such as Jasminum floridum. Herbs which can be touched, crushed or brushed past such as rosemary, mint and lavender are particularly good for providing scent in the garden.

TOUCH – a sensory garden needs to be tactile whether this be through the planting or the construction materials and features. From soft feathery grasses such as Stipa tenuissima ‘Ponytails’ (Mexican Feather grass) to spongy mosses like Stipa tenuissima ‘Ponytails’ (Mexican Feather grass), from smooth pebbles to flowing water, elements should be easily accessible to the inquisitive hand.

And finally maybe the best of all – TASTE! So many edible plants fruits and vegetables can be cultivated in the garden. As well as the usual strawberries and well-known herbs don’t forget to add some surprises like Borago officinalis (Borage), Tropaeolum majus (Nasturtium) or Calendula officinalis (Pot marigold) which can all be picked in the garden and sprinkled on salads.

I hope this provides you with some ideas of how to create a true sensory experience in a garden which calms the mind and body and creates a beautiful place to spend time in.

By Mel Speak – Mel Speak Garden Design –
based in West Yorkshire working across Yorkshire & Lancashire.

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