This Week’s Guest Blogger is Justine Dixon who writes about her gardening life

Well finally I think we see light at the end of the covid tunnel what a couple of years we’ve all had but what as asset our gardens have been to those of us who are lucky enough to have them, but the local parks and outdoor spaces have been a blessing to others too.

All of our lives have been shaken up through Covid whether or not we’ve lost someone close or a neighbour, friend or a villager it affects us all and makes us look on life differently. But on a positive note, we battled on wearing facemasks, social distancing, lockdown and throughout all this our gardens and greenspaces were there for us.

A place to site, wander or potter I’ve been trialling & reviewing some peat free composts this springtime trying to persuade people peat free is the way to go!

I also opened my garden for the National Garden Scheme again following a 3-year break (should have opened 2021 but wasn’t comfortable in doing so) and it was a great success just under 300 visitors from far and wide it was so lovely to see familiar faces as well as intrigued new visitors who have just got into the open gardening visiting circle. Chatting about my garden, pointing out my 4-year mistletoe growing experiment, complementing me on my living willow arch and the way I garden with nature clover avenues in my lawns & supplement feeding hedgehogs throughout the year. My raised veg beds were a talking point too. People are so kind I love listening to the visitors chit chat whilst they wander around.

Gardening gets you thinking about the next growing season I’ve just placed my spring bulb order for Hook Gardening Club fundraising. Always very popular Spring Bulb & Cake stall I hold at the end of February but have to plant up all the pots of bulbs when they arrive in September, for this I use my folding potting bench aka old ironing board.

I’ve just started planning to restart Hook Gardening Club Meetings in January 2023 I’ve Horticultural Speakers to book, venue to confirm and rally together volunteers We had big plans to celebrate our 10th anniversary in March 2020 (I had booked Chris Beardshaw 2 years ahead of our anniversary), but it all was cancelled with Covid…. So maybe we’ll celebrate our 15th anniversary in 2025 instead better start thinking of how we might like to celebrate #thinkingcapson.

So back to our gardens as I type this, we are experiencing extreme heatwave 30 degrees forecast today. I did venture out into my garden briefly this morning, but it was too hot so decided it was a day for writing gardening blogs and I also write a voluntary monthly gardening column for my local rag The Goole Times Newspaper

My job has changed through the pandemic (following a 30 yr. professionally nannying career) I am now a parttime community minibus driver for The Goole Gofar which offers a MEDiBUS door to door service to the elderly, disabled and those who would have difficulty getting to medical appointments. My weeks vary as they also have school bus contracts too and community shoppers. I love the variety each weeks brings and even get recognised whilst driving the bus ‘your Justine who writes the gardening column.

My other seasonal job is working at Mires Beck Nursery near North Cave as a retail plant sales assistant on weekends March – end September, I’m like a kid in a candy shop. Mires Beck has been a registered charity since 1994. They provide work experience and social therapeutic horticulture for adults who live with the challenges of learning difficulties, Autism and physical disabilities at their 14-acre nursery and conservation site. Exposed to the benefits of the natural rural environment on which the nursery sits, the work with our services users enriches lives with improvements in their physical and social abilities. Over the last 25 years we have grown to supporting 100 adults weekly through our adult day service and commercial enterprise and they are still growing. 

So, my life has changed too but gardening is still very much in my heart and will always be.

Happy Gardening

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

Don’t Be Afraid of Roses

I always like to say there are two kinds of gardeners who don’t grow roses. Those who tried but were sold a bad rose and gave up because it was as difficult as they heard it would be and those who heard they were difficult and never tried in the first place. If you don’t grow roses, I suspect you fall into one of those two groups.

To the contrary the right rose for your garden, grown using sound sustainable methods will be no harder than any other plant in your garden. I would also argue that roses are among the best group of gardening plants we have. They come in every colour but blue, many are fragrant and will bloom all season and they grow from half a meter to almost 8 metres tall. What a versatile plant for any part of the garden.

It all starts at the same spot as all good gardening and that’s the soil. Having a good healthy soil environment is a must for any garden. There are terrific resources out there for learning how to achieve that, so I won’t go into that here.

The next step is choosing the right rose for your area. Like all plants, not all roses work well in various climates. Good local information is important. This can be local rose societies, garden clubs and even on-line forums and groups. Just make sure to say where you live. Your local botanical garden may have a rose garden. If so find out which ones do well in your area. Good garden centres are also great resources.

Like any plant include a good feeding program. I like a time release in the spring and then seaweed and/or fish based liquid feeds once a month. You can rotate between them. In terms of grooming just do so during the season like you would any other plant. Always do the three Ds which are dead, diseased and dying. Groom out weak growth as well. No need for the formal pruning methods as those were designed to get long stem blooms for the show table. When pruning roses take them down by at least a third to half. Cut down to healthy, stout growth and then do the 3 Ds. Keep it simple.

A friend of mine who is in the rose industry once said that it was remarkable that the rose industry as a whole has spent the last 70 some years scaring customers away from the very plant, they were trying to sell them! I’m happy to say that I’m going on growing roses sustainably for close to 25 years. During that time, I’ve grown thousands of roses using the same care methods and the other shrubs, perennials and bulbs I plant among them. And you can, too!

Happy Roseing
Paul Zimmerman

To find out more about roses please visit Pauls’ website

This week’s guest blogger is Alison Quigley a volunteer gardener at Holehird Gardens an RHS partner garden in the beautiful Lake District.

Holehird Gardens

With glorious views over Windermere lake to the fells beyond, Holehird Gardens repays a visit at any time of the year. This 10 acre site was originally landscaped in Victorian times, the current gardens were created and are maintained entirely by volunteer members of the Lakeland Horticultural Society. The Society’s aim is to ‘promote and develop the science, practice and art of horticulture, particularly with regard to the conditions prevailing in the Lake District’. Those conditions include an exposed site with neutral-to-acid soil in a cool, wet climate, compensated by the superb fellside setting and extensive views.

The highlight for many visitors is the walled garden, with its splendid herbaceous borders and island beds, all enclosed by the original Victorian wall. Beyond the walled garden, visitors can explore the wide range of planting conditions presented by the site, and the plants chosen to suit those conditions. These range from the thin soil of the rock and scree gardens to the streamside beds with their moist, sometimes boggy, conditions. Plants that flourish at Holehird include alpines, rhododendrons and azaleas, camellias, magnolias, heathers, bulbs (especially snowdrops, cyclamen and wild daffodils), gentians, Hosta’s, meconopsis and ferns. Varieties of hydrangeas and roses, not usually expected to thrive in Lakeland conditions, have been carefully selected by volunteers to demonstrate that, by choosing the right varieties, it is still possible to grow them. Do take a look at our website:

National Collections

Holehird Gardens in collaboration with Plant Heritage own National Collections of Astilbe, Dabeocia, Meconopsis and Polystichum. We are also in the process of being awarded National Collection status for Tanacetum parthenium and Hosta Mouse Series. Additionally, we own the Lakeland Collection of Hydrangea, all these collections are open to the public and are best seen at different times of the year.

Volunteering at Holehird Gardens

I have volunteered here for two years and I manage the amazing hosta bed with over 200 giant, large and medium hosta, along with two plant theatres and a raised bed of small and miniature hosta. I love to volunteer here alongside others who share my interest and passion for the outdoors and plants, volunteering gives an immense sense of achievement and belonging. As the gardens here are run entirely by a plethora of volunteers, there are many other roles and responsibilities so always something for all to do year-round. Additionally, to gardening, I am on the education committee and I manage the social media for the Society. Do find Holehird Gardens on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @HolehirdGardens

Access and Facilities

Visitor reception is operated by Lakeland Horticultural volunteers from Easter to the end of October, for information and the sale of publications and hot drinks. The gardens are open year round – there is always something worth seeing, whatever time of year you visit Holehird. The garden is set in a fell side setting and has some accessible facilities, assistance dogs only. In Autumn 2022 there will be extensive improvements to allow better access for those with mobility issues. This is a very exciting and extensive fellside path project whereby we hope to give better access to our visitors, watch this space…

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Mark Alexander, who has an Instagram account documenting his endeavours to grow produce for his family using organic principles

I work in the live music industry, but outside of that, I derive real pleasure from gardening organically with the intention of feeding my young family.

There’s been a lot of talk over the last decade or so about the benefits of eating seasonally, but I feel the only true way of putting that to the test is by growing your own. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to berate those that don’t share my view, but at the same time I feel that us home-growers have the potential to contribute to a future which places food-sovereignty front and centre.

I grow crops from all origins, including F1 hybrids, but my focus as a gardener is on taking traditional, open-pollinated varieties and growing them under local conditions/soils to ultimately produce strong, well-adapted, home-saved seed that is suited to individual environments. So much of the seed we sell in the UK is developed in countries where conditions differ wildly from our own. It’s about time we took back ownership of our seed sovereignty, and mobilising local growers is the first step in achieving that.

To find out more about Marks’ endeavours please visit his Instagram Account @markhomegrowndad


This Week’s Guest Blogger is Elaine Fraser-Gausden, one of three sisters who like to garden and have a website dedicated to a light hearted look at seasonal gardening issues

My love affair with roses

I have been conducting a very long love affair with roses, and they and I are not done yet! After over forty years of gardening, I have grown almost every kind of rose, not every variety, of course, but still … awful lot. Over the decades, I have found out a few things about them through trial and error (mostly error) and I thought it might be of value to enumerate a few:

  1. Roses in general love clay – and I reckon the heavier and claggier the better. Though they will grow on the chalky alkaline soil of my Eastbourne garden, they HUGELY prefer a rich clay loam, and the more you can give them that, the happier and more flowery they’ll be.
  2. I have now given up spraying them against aphids. I have come to the conclusion like many folk that insecticidal sprays are too blunt an instrument. I am not prepared to jeopardise all our precious pollinators for the sake of slightly fewer perfect blooms. I stroke them off with my hand if I see them, or jet them off with a water-sprayer; otherwise, I leave them for the birds and ladybirds to feast on them.
  3. Miniature roses are extremely difficult to grow successfully for any length of time, and I don’t bother with them any more. They can look extremely sweet in the garden centre, and then they might flicker on for a couple of years with you (meaning ‘me’) before I chuck the spindly things out as being not worth the space. And they’re horrible to weed around!
  4. Roses grown on their own roots have a naughty habit of producing suckers all over the place. My sister tells a nightmare tale of a rooted cutting of the glorious old rose ‘Charles de Mills’ that I gave her, which then suckered all over a corner of her garden. It had to be killed off and the whole area left fallow for a year. Ooops sorry, Sis
  5. Old rose varieties IN GENERAL have the glorious cabbage-like blooms, a swooning scent, the propensity to blackspot and only flower once (yes, I know there are a few exceptions). Modern roses mostly have less scent, more resistance to disease, and flower all summer. But: David Austin English roses have it all – the petals, the perfume, the disease-resistance, the repeat-flowering………they may be expensive, but utterly, utterly worth it, and a helluva good investment.
  6. Some roses are really rubbish in the rain – I’m mostly talking about the very double-flowered kinds here. I have a deep pink rose called ‘Mme Isaac Pereire’, for instance, whose scent is to die for, but a quick summer downpour turns all her emerging flowers into browning soggy balls of mush, which really isn’t a good look.
  7. Epsom Salts are very good for rose bushes – the magnesium makes them stronger, more resistant to disease and better able to absorb Phosphorus – another essential ingredient for healthy growth. The generally-accepted dosage is I tablespoon of salts to I gallon for each foot of rose bush. Purists apply this treatment every month through the growing season. I do it when I remember, and sometimes even just sprinkle some round the bottom of the roses to let the rain and the worms take it down to the roots.
  8. While the cabbage-roses are fabulous, I have come in recent years to appreciate the single-flowered roses much more, and now grow lots of them. Bees and butterflies love them for the ease with which they can reach the nectar – indeed a large bush of a single-flowered rose can often resemble a huge flock of dancing butterflies – delightful!
  9. Roses aren’t just for one season. I have learnt to look for varieties that have plum-coloured shoots that look fabulous with spring flowers, or bear beautiful rosehips and autumn leaf-colour – the rugosa types score highly here.
  10. Lastly, roses are mostly tough old things and they are quite hard to kill. They can usually put up with a lot of mistreatment (wrong soil, wrong pruning, wrong feeding, wrong position…. – believe me, been there, done all that). They might not thrive as they would if you got it right, but they are quick to forgive you when you do.

And then they will repay you in spades.

Elaine Fraser-Gausden

I am one of the3Growbags – three sisters (all getting on a bit now!) who write a popular light-hearted weekly blog about gardening. I am actually a retired Classics teacher and have a small garden in Eastbourne (open yearly for the National Garden Scheme) and a much larger garden in Lower Normandy created from a field.

Please visit my website to find out more