This Week’s Guest Blogger is Gary Webb, Head Gardener and Garden Blogger with Gardening Ways

As a gardener, I count myself lucky to have worked in some stunningly beautiful locations throughout my career. There has been a good deal of heavy and physical labour I can assure you, but there has also been many times when my gardening activity would simply fall in the areas of mental stimulation or mindful observation.

Throughout my gardening life though, I’m drawn to recall that whilst many of my most enjoyable moments have been in the midst of serious graft and team effort, there have also been countless happy moments spent gardening in complete isolation. Even in some of my biggest gardening venues, there have been moments when it has been just me, immersed in designed landscape and charmed by the sounds of wildlife.

When I stop and think therefore about the importance of gardens and gardening to me personally, I can easily split the whole into two parts. Firstly, has been the value of all those moments shared with some very special people, be it in the working environment, whilst visiting gardens for recreation, or whilst at home enjoying a memory making time with my family.

Secondly, and amounting to significantly more time than the first, is the importance of those many moments spent working alone with my thoughts. Those moments, even if I didn’t realise it at the time were vitally important in providing a balance, and have provided opportunity to soothe my soul yes, to consider and form strategies yes; but most often they have simply given time to be at peace and to study how exquisitely amazing the many elements of a garden can be.

All things considered then, whilst I’ve become accustomed to the physical aspects of tending gardens, I have learnt that it is equally, if not more important to consider the wellbeing benefits that gardens can provide. The value to me therefore of engaging with a garden hasn’t always come from the doing, but often from simply observing it, from mulling it over and talking about it, from seeing how wildlife interacts with it, and from opening my mind to the real values of the garden and its connectivity with the world around.

If I can therefore offer a morsel of advice for anyone, it would be to make sure you get into a garden, any garden, regularly, and that you pause there to consider the elements that are around you. Close your eyes for a while and allow your senses time to tune into the environment. Try if you can to make time to ‘be in the moment’ as people say. You can do this in a public park or garden, where no maintenance issues exist for you, in a show garden, from a balcony or in a favourite part of your own garden.

All that matters I guess, is that you make time to be there, to immerse yourself to a degree that you’re happy with, and you simply enjoy the garden both for itself, and for yourself.

Gary Webb is the Author of Gardening Ways

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Tanith Perry-Mills, a Freelance Garden Writer living in in Saskatchewan, Canada

Tanith Perry-Mills is a freelance garden writer for hire specializing in gardening, landscaping, and homesteading. When she’s not writing, she’s keeping her two cats out of her houseplants and growing her own sustainable vegetable garden.

Find out more about her services at

Three Ways to Make Your Garden More Accessible for Chronic Fatigue

I discovered my love for vegetable gardening at the same time I realised that my debilitating fatigue was not going to go away on its own. I still tried to grow a 200 sq ft garden, through which I learned a lot, but it quickly grew unmanageable.

This year, I don’t have access to an in-ground garden of any size, only a 2m x 2m patio. It could have felt like a letdown. Instead, it was an exciting opportunity for me to make a garden that is way more me-friendly.

Here’s 3 ways I’m making my garden more accessible:

#1 – Container gardening with an elevated planter

Last year, I struggled with kneeling down, planting seeds or weeding, then standing back up to move and do that over again. And that was before the heat wave destroyed my remaining stamina and gave the weeds super growing powers.
So this year, I built (with the labour of my husband) a 4 ft x 2 ft elevated planter with a handsaw and a power drill.
Elevated planters are fantastic! They allow you to:
Cut down or eliminate weeds altogether
Bring the garden up to you, whether that’s sitting or standing (which is easier for me)
Be short enough across that you can reach the back without having to strain
If you’re in a wheelchair, buying or making one with a sloped box can give you more space to get close to it.
I also added a few other large containers at ground level with climbing plants like cherry tomatoes.

#2 – Tank sprayer / pump action pressure sprayer

I don’t have access to a hose and holding up a 2 gallon watering pot is just not in the cards for me. Instead, after seeing it crop up in a video by Garden Answers, I bought a tank sprayer.
With a tank sprayer, I can set the heavy tank part down on the ground or on a stool, pump it a few times (or have someone else do it), then just hold the wand to spray water over my plants. The pressure lasts a pretty long time. It’s slow at moistening large amounts of potting soil, but it’s fantastic for seedlings. I used this when starting seeds this year, and the difference between using a spray bottle and this was incredible. 10/10 would recommend.
While they’re more expensive than a plastic watering can, it’s still pretty inexpensive overall (mine cost $30), and has made watering so much easier for me.

#3 – A dedicated potting station

I struggle with pacing. When I had to pull out the potting soil and clean up afterward, it seemed way more efficient to do all the seeding and potting up in one go. 2 hours later (why do seed trays always take way longer than expected?), I’m so exhausted I have to haul myself up to bed.
Learning from this mistake, I set up a potting station in my house using a Rubbermaid bin. I can do one thing a day with minimal setup and clean up. Seed 3 trays one day. Pot up the tomatoes the next day. Direct sow the day after. That way, I can limit my active time.
And this has one other bonus: because I don’t need to somehow put aside 2 hours of energy for gardening on top of other essential things like work, I’m actually getting more done with less procrastination.

Using these three methods, I feel way more on top of the garden this year and I’m confident that I can grow as many healthy vegetables as I have space for, without the crashes.

Tanith Perry-Mills is a freelance garden writer for hire specializing in gardening, landscaping, and homesteading. When she’s not writing, she’s keeping her two cats out of her houseplants and growing her own sustainable vegetable garden. Find out more about her services at

This Week’s Guest is Michelle Starling, a Gardener at the Wellcome Geonome Campus in Cambridgeshire

Always being out in the garden with my dad when I was a little girl ,eating peas straight from the pod instead of helping to weed round them.
Dad then gave me a little corner of my own ,to grow veg in, easy to grow stuff, like radishes and carrots.
i left school ,worked with horses for 10 to 12 years and then went in to factory work. Working indoors, I missed the fresh air, the summers and wet winter days. Anyhow I got chatting to a fellow, he had an allotment which had been in his family for years. This chap was getting old and was struggling to keep up with the allotment. I offered to help him but instead he signed it over to me.

It wasn’t in a terrible state but needed time and work to bring it back to a plot to grow vegetables in.
The plot measures 5 x 200m. Two thirds is for vegetables, flowers and fruit, the rest is fruit trees, a mini orchard if you like. In the mini orchard I only cut the grass in late September. I have done this over a few years now and this has enabled lovely wild flowers to flourish, such as cowslips, bluebells, even bee orchids.
I also made a little pond last year during lockdown. This pond with the wild flowers, has helped attract insects and more birds, so I kind of got my own ecosystem going.
Having the allotment gave me the confidence to look for jobs outside ,and was lucky enough to work for a countryside management company. I gained a few qualifications with them.

In 2012, I started work at the Welcome Sanger Institute as a gardener, and am still there.
Over 100 acres of wetlands nature reserve, lawns, orchard and gardens to look after. There are 8 gardeners in total, sometimes we work on one job together, sometimes we work on our own.
Whilst I have worked there, I have been able to learn lots about gardening, nature and ecology, and we are encouraged to learn.

It can be a miserable job, sweeping up leaves on a cold wet day, but in the spring when the blossoms appear on the fruit trees. Then in summer, when the flowers are at there best, its a great job to have.
Now people are starting to return to campus after being at home, due to lock down, we are getting comments on how much they have missed the gardens and seeing us gardeners too.
We are on Instagram, pictures uploaded most days find us we are genomegardeners

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Tom Cutter, a Senior Gardener at the National Trust’s Glendurgan Garden.

Fern Your Keep

Some of my favourite plants in a garden are often those overlooked by so many, but ferns play such a vital role in creating the atmosphere that allows you to appreciate a space.

It is often said that green is the most important colour in the garden, and I couldn’t agree more. While it often plays the extra in the show of a garden it makes its importance none the less essential, it embodies the whole atmosphere of the show. Ferns are great for providing this atmosphere with their almost Jurassic foliage, transporting to a time of dinosaurs and jungles. While they may not catch your immediate attention like an individual bloom from a Rose, collectively they make you feel, daydream even, and that could be one of the most important things a garden can do.
Caring for ferns is surprisingly easy provided you choose the right fern for the right spots; they really aren’t needy at all. So, make sure to do your research before buying them; look at your soil, consider your climate, look up – how much light is there?

We are lucky in Cornwall to have the climate that we do as it creates plenty of humidity for moss to form on trees and in turn lends itself to epiphytes. Our native Polypodium vulgare is a natural at forming colonies on the branches of trees but with our milder winters, we can experiment with some more tender ferns. The most successful being Microsorum pustulatum, otherwise known as the Kangaroo Fern, which has these incredible shiny but deeps lobed fronds that look jungle like and unlike anything you would expect to see growing in this country. The Kangaroo Fern does exactly as I said earlier, it makes you feel, you daydream that you’re in a jungle waiting for the dinosaurs to run past; and there is nothing more you could ask of a plant.
I hope I have inspired you to try more ferns out in your gardens, if you are a dreamer, you will never look back.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Alan Jolliffe JP Vice President at Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture


The Pohutukawa is one of New Zealand’s best known trees. It has been drawn, photographed, admired, talked and written about throughout the years. First Maori and in later years Pakeha have recognised the Pohutukawa as a very important tree.

Flowering at Christmas time each year and covering itself with bright dark crimson flowers, it is no wonder it has been called New Zealand’s Christmas tree. In New Zealand Christmas is in summer.

The flowering of the Pohutukawa has been described by many people as “perhaps the most magnificent plant in the New Zealand flora” and “one of the floral delights when at Christmas its whole broad crown is a solid mass of red flowers”. Anyone who has seen a large tree in full flower must be impressed. If not impressed by the display, one must be impressed by the thousands and thousands of flowers that cover each tree.

If you are a little late seeing the tree in full flower, then you will see another spectacle. Millions of dark red stamen carpeting the ground.

The flowers are not flowers in the traditional sense. It is about 75mm across, comprises three smaller flowers and has no petals. Protruding from a little cup at the base are masses of bright red stamen. It is the brilliantly coloured stamen, each about 25mm long that produce all the colour.

Each little cup brims over with copious amounts of nectar and the birds and bees will come to feast; notably Tuis and Bellbirds. The bees collect the nectar and take it to their hives to provide honey. Rata honey is renowned for its strong flavour.

It is abundant along coastlines, and in coastal forests of Three Kings Island in the North Island. Also found around Lake Taupo and other lakes of the Volcanic Plateau. It ranges in altitude from sea level to 700 metres. The coastal environment is tough and in some exposed rocky places it may be dwarfed by the elements to a tree only lm high.

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.

If you are interested in receiving my catalogue and garden journal, please email me at or visit my website at

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Janice Shipp a Freelance Garden Writer

Visiting Gardens

Since switching from full time work in horticulture to part time freelancing a couple of years ago, I’ve had more time to go garden visiting. There were quite a few really well-known gardens that I’d heard people talking about over the years but was slightly embarrassed to admit I’d never visited, so with more time at my disposal I was keen to get out and see some of them. It’s been an interesting experience and I’ve seen some great gardens, though I have to admit I wasn’t always blown away by the ones I’d expected to find exceptional. In fact, there were a couple of very highly regarded gardens which didn’t float my boat in the way they evidently do for a lot of other people. I suppose you could say that after all the anticipation, I was at times a little underwhelmed.
Of course, gardens change over time, and possibly I didn’t see some of them at their best. There’s ebb and flow in any garden. But I realised it is also a matter of personal taste. If, for instance, I stand in the famous white garden at Sissinghurst and can’t help thinking I’d like it better if someone would throw in some other colours, that might sound like sacrilege to some. There’s no point feeling that I ought to like it, though. It’s not a matter of right and wrong. Personal preference is as relevant in appreciating a garden as it is in the clothes we buy, the art we enjoy and the films we like to watch. Some people love a carefully restricted colour palette and some of us just prefer to mix it up a bit.

So which of the gardens I’ve visited in the last couple of years have really made an impression on me, and why?
RHS Hyde Hall in Essex has made an impression on me. A transformation has been wrought here in recent years with the introduction of a sinuous winter garden adding to the appeal of the huge borders that overflow with waves of colour in summer and autumn and the justifiably famed and fabulous dry garden. There’s also a gorgeous rose garden and circular kitchen garden that combines skilled growing with an education about the origins of the vegetables on display.

In Cambridge I love to go to Anglesey Abbey, home to another outstanding winter garden (also beautiful in spring and autumn) and plenty of stunning autumn colour from a spacious shrub garden, avenues of hornbeams, a sea of cyclamen and many trees in the arboretum and across the park.

Lytes Cary in Somerset was another highlight. I was so taken with the beautiful displays of late summer perennials – asters, rudbeckia, tithonia, salvias and so on – billowing over paths, buzzing with bees and perfectly matching the warmth of the architecture, that I wished I could work there. Or better still, live there.

My last choice, although there have been other good gardens, will be David Austin’s Rose Garden in Shropshire. It is relatively small, and I must admit I went there on one of those glorious, blue-sky June days that fill you with joy to begin with. But it was the roses that really made the day. Swags, drifts and mounds of vibrant colour so gorgeous I walked round the whole place twice to make sure I’d taken it all in.

And that sums up the vital part of a garden visit to me. Like a work of art, a really good garden speaks to you. For me, the plants are the stars and if they look happy, I feel happy. Simple really!
Janice Shipp’s Plant News blog is at