This Week’s Guest Blogger is Anita Kundu from New Zealand who has found that gardening helps her mental health

Hi! My name is Anita Kundu and I live in Auckland, New Zealand. I used to be a lawyer. I spent five years living in London and Paris working at a Magic Circle law firm. In 2010, my life changed quite suddenly when I had a psychotic episode out of the blue. Three years later, I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. It has been a very long and difficult journey but one of the things that has really helped me is gardening. It is great therapy for my condition and depression, which I also suffer from. Over the past decade, I created an urban homestead at my mother’s property and we are largely self-sufficient. I am also a passionate flower gardener. Before the pandemic, mum and I used to host wwoofers (travellers with working holiday visas) who would stay with us in exchange for some help around the garden. We really enjoyed getting to know young people from all around the world who shared our passion. I run a not-for-profit enterprise called Anita’s Garden to help people learn about gardening. I write a free weekly gardening newsletter and blog. I also have some collaborations. My website is You can also follow me on Instagram at and look me up on Facebook by searching for “Anita’s Garden”.
We had a very long lockdown in Auckland last year from August until December. One of the things that helped us get through this time was our spring garden. I love growing spring bulbs, especially tulips. Here are some peony tulips which flowered in September.

We have a lot of standard roses. I love David Austin roses. One of my favourites is Abraham Darby.

I am a huge fan of Floret Flower Farm and really enjoyed reading their latest book, Discovering Dahlias. Last summer, I added a number of dahlias to our garden. One of our favourite varieties is called the Labyrinth. Dahlia mania and the scarcity of this tuber in New Zealand has sent the price skyrocketing. I paid $10 for it two years ago and in spring it fetched $400 in an auction.

Every summer, I look forward to growing zinnias. They are so colourful and cheerful. Zinnias are also a great bee and butterfly magnet.

We have a large edible garden. Fruit we grew last summer include strawberries, raspberries, boysenberries, blueberries, peaches, apples, figs, passionfruit, guavas and feijoas.

We also grew the following vegetables: potatoes, pumpkins, butternuts, spaghetti squash, gem squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicums, chillies, zucchini, beans, okra and eggplants.

There have been two major challenges as a gardener. The first is climate change. When I first started gardening, the summers were long and hot with little fluctuation in temperature. I was able to grow melons successfully. My record is 38 rock melons in one summer. That was about five years ago. Now, I can’t grow them at all. The second is the increasing number of new pests and diseases. In my early years of gardening, garlic was one of the easiest things to grow. I simply popped cloves in the ground on the shortest day of the year (21st June for us) and harvested enormous balls of garlic on the longest day (21st December for us). In recent years, this has changed for many gardeners in New Zealand due to a particularly aggressive strain of rust. I have trialled many different sprays, to no avail so I have simply given up. There is also an insect called the guava moth which targets many different fruit trees including feijoas, stone fruit and citrus. It destroys the fruit and is difficult to control. While I have not yet had this problem, there is another insect called the Tomato Potato Psyllid (TPP) which infects everything in the tomato family. Commercial growers drape mesh over potatoes to protect crops.
My dream is to spend time gardening in other countries so I can learn about different plants and growing conditions.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Matthew Thomas, The Sales Director at Frank P Matthews Ltd.

How to Plan an Orchard

An orchard can be any planting of three or more fruit trees. Domestic orchards vary according to the size of the garden and an individual’s personal requirements. Commercial orchards can be thousands of trees, selected and managed to produce maximum yield.
The first thing to consider when planning a domestic orchard is what size tree would work best in the space available.
The most vigorous rootstocks, such as M25 for apples or Pyrus communis for pears, will produce large, traditional, standard trees that are best planted about 30ft (10 metres) apart. Trees this vigorous can reach 20ft tall and whilst they may take a few years to produce a good crop, they will ultimately live much longer than trees on dwarfing rootstocks and provide lots of fruit for many years.
Semi-vigorous rootstocks are an excellent choice for a typical domestic orchard, MM106 for apples or Colt for cherries, for example. This size tree can be pruned as a bush with branches lower down or as a half-standard with a clear stem of a metre or so. Lower branches make harvesting fruit more straightforward but a taller stem makes it easier to mow between the trees. A planting distance of about 15ft (5 metres) is recommended. Semi-vigorous rootstocks are also ideal for training trees as espaliers or fans against walls or along wires.
Smaller trees on dwarfing rootstocks are ideal for growing more varieties in a limited space. They can be planted 10ft (3 metres) apart and tend to start cropping within the first few years. Some varieties can be kept in a container. Cordons and step-overs are also worth considering for small spaces.
For more information on rootstocks visit
Once you have decided the most suitable sized tree, you can calculate how many trees will fit in the space.
The next task is to research which varieties will thrive in your location. Most fruit trees will do well in most areas of the UK, but some may not be very successful in coastal regions, high altitudes or northern parts. Earlier flowering varieties, such as peaches and apricots, prefer a warm, sheltered location so the blossom isn’t damaged by frost. Apples and plums are usually very hardy, pears and cherries do better in sunnier locations.
Deciding which particular varieties to plant will be mostly down to personal taste. Choosing a selection that produces fruit over several weeks will extend the cropping period. It is also worth checking which varieties produce fruit that stores well for later in the year.
Pollination is generally not something to worry about, unless the planting site is very remote. Bees and other insects travel long distances so there should be no issue in urban areas. You can aid pollination by including some self-fertile varieties.
Tree stakes and ties are recommended for the first few years whilst the trees get their roots down. After this they can be removed, except for trees on dwarfing rootstocks which can benefit from a permanent stake, especially in exposed areas. A sachet of rootgrow at planting and some liquid Tree Feed can help provide a good start. If the soil is poor, adding some general purpose compost is recommended.
If there is any risk of rabbits or garden strimmers then a guard around the tree trunk is essential! More substantial protection will be needed if there are deer or large animals such as sheep, cattle or horses.
Trees should be watered well in the first summer. The following years will require less watering and once the tree is established it shouldn’t need watering at all.
An orchard will provide plenty of fruit for many years and will enhance any garden. The trees also make great habitat for wildlife, so well worth planting.
If you would like assistance with planting an orchard on any scale, please email

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Paul Zimmerman who owns his own business, promoting the cultivation of roses.

Paul Zimmerman

Paul Zimmerman is the owner of Paul Zimmerman Roses, a company dedicated to Budding the Rose Grower In All Of Us. He is also an Independent Consultant to Jackson & Perkins as well as a garden designer and consultant to
botanical and private gardens.

He has written articles for Fine Gardening, Organic Gardening, American Nurseryman and other gardening magazines. He hosted the blog “Roses Are Plants, Too” on Fine Gardening Magazine’s website for numerous years.

He lectures internationally and has also served as an International juror for numerous Rose Trials. He is the author of the book “Everyday Roses’ published by Taunton Press.

While living in Los Angeles, California Paul founded and ran “Hundred Acre Woods Rosescapeing”, a company specializing in the care, design and installation of rose gardens; particularly Antique, Shrub and David Austin Roses.
After moving to South Carolina he started Ashdown Roses Ltd a rose nursery offering A World of Garden Roses, which he closed in 2009 to focus on rose growing education.

Among some of his other accomplishments are founding a You Tube Channel on rose care with to date some 4 million views, creator and host of the Craftsy) class “A Gardener’s Guide to Growing Roses”, was hired by the New
York Botanical Garden to review their care protocols and was hired by the Chinese Government to present a two day seminar on the American Rose Industry and American Rose Gardens to a delegation of rose experts from China.

He is now also leading garden tours in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. It is this hands on experience with roses in a general garden setting that Paul draws on for his Talks, You Tube Videos, Articles, Tours, and Workshops

To find out more about roses please visit his website

This Week’s Guest blogger is Caroline Crooks who is an Allotment Holder, Teacher and Mum and blogs about her gardening adventures through the seasons

I’ve had my allotment for just over a year and I’m loving the challenge and the way the whole community shares their wealth of experience and advice! It has massively improved my well-being, particularly being a primary school teacher and mum of two girls.
Here’s my blog all about seed sowing…

Seed sowing for summer colour

Last year, I created a raised bed surrounding the patio area of our allotment plot and filled it with lots of flowers grown from seed. The pollinators loved it and it was a great riot of colour right through until October. I managed to use lots of them as cut flowers to brighten up my kitchen and to give away as gifts to friends and family!

Cut flowers from our allotment last year- zinnia, cosmos, calendula, cornflower and nigella.

This was last year’s flower bed surrounding our patio area and picnic bench. The lupins were bought as small plants and everything else was grown from seed.
This year, I have collected seed from some of the flowers we grew last year and I’m hoping that I can create another burst of colour like last year. Sowing flowers from seed is extremely satisfying and much more economical- especially if you can collect seeds from your own plants

Calendula and marigolds This year I am using collected seeds and hoping to grow enough to plant throughout the allotment- both of these are great companion plants for many fruit and vegetables that we grow on our plot. I started off the marigolds first using a windowsill heated propagator and it didn’t take long for them to germinate. The calendula I started off just in a seed tray on the windowsill and it wasn’t long before they began to germinate also.

Calendula seeds collected from last year’s flowers

Marigold seeds

Marigolds in the heated propagator

Calendula seeds beginning to grow

A few weeks on and the marigolds are doing amazing! I have potted them on into individual modules and they have even got buds on them! I’m going to keep them indoors a while longer before moving them to the unheated greenhouse.

Marigolds with flower buds already! The calendula are almost ready for potting on too and are just getting their true leaves.

Cosmos I’ve grown Cosmos from seed for a few years now for the garden but last year I added them to the allotment too. I’ve started them off from seed just on a warm windowsill and they have germinated really well!

The Cosmos have started to get their true leaves and will be ready for potting on very soon.

Zinnia.  Zinnia were a first for me last year – I hadn’t really even heard of them but I got a free pack of seeds in a magazine. I sowed them and planted them out on the allotment- what a stunning flower! Each one slightly different from the next and they almost seem to have a second flower inside the first!

Beautiful zinnias- such bright, bold colours! I knew they were a definite for the allotment and the garden this year so I have sown quite a lot of seed! They have germinated really well and I have begun to pot them on. I can’t wait to see their bright colours again this year!

Zinnias emerging from the seed tray.

Potted on zinnias with their true leaves beginning to show. When potting on any plant it is important not to damage the root- tease it gently out of the soil and hold the plant carefully with the leaves before placing in the fresh compost.

I have also sown some cornflower, nigella and nasturtium seeds to add to the mix!

Sowing your own annual flower seeds is extremely rewarding. The resulting blaze of colour in the summer is worth all the time and anticipation at this time of year!

Cosmos are planted in the ground now and some have begun to flower. I’ve been pinching out the tops to encourage side shoots and a bushier plant.

The allotment is coming on a treat and we have planted out marigolds, calendula, nasturtium, Cosmos and zinnias as companion plants throughout the allotment.

This week I have sown a few more zinnia in gaps for use as cut flowers. The soil is lovely and warm now so hopefully, they’ll germinate quickly!

To read more about Caroline’s adventures on her allotment follow her on Instagram @plot23_our_allotment_adventure