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This Week’s Guest Blogger is Chris Jesson, a RHS Student and Blogger on Instagram

How I believe Autism inspires my emerging and revitalising journey into Horticulture

At the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022

I’m Chris Jesson and since January 2021 I have been publishing my gardening adventures in my distinctive style on Instagram at @groovygardeninguk. Aside to my work as a Chartered Town Planner, I presently study the RHS Level 2: Principles in Horticulture (Distance Learning) with Craven College. I am elated to be a volunteer gardener at Renishaw Hall & Gardens in Derbyshire and for the National Trust at both Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire and Wentworth Castle Gardens in South Yorkshire.

I live in North Nottinghamshire with my partner. We moved to this newbuild property in 2019 and this gave us a baseline from a gardening perspective to do exactly what we would like to achieve and evolve the space; except we didn’t know quite how much at the time. The garden is set on two levels, split by wooden sleepers and steps. It is framed beautifully by border landscaping and a wonderful English Oak that ensures some dappled shade in parts of the garden and plenty of leaves come the Autumn. The garden is south-west facing. My story explains the journey this garden has taken me on.

Life is of course unpredictable and that implicates every one of us. Sometimes you can be proceeding ahead successfully and then all of a sudden various barriers come to challenge you. I’m not exclusive in this, though I would say that as an autistic person there is consensus that barriers (particularly social and communication ones) can appear daily as we navigate the confusion and rush of modern neurotypical worlds.

It is often spoken that gardening can appear seemingly out of nowhere and provide comfort as a saviour when times are tough. That is exactly what happened to me in 2020 during the initial lockdowns. Work stress, extreme anxiety beyond the usual, combined with the requirements for swift societal change during a pandemic proved troublesome to the highest degree in over a decade. Despite my diagnosis I had experienced many years of defying the face of adversity to get where I am now, in a good full-time job (statistically for this the odds are against me), living independently with a partner in a home we own. I spent many years being busy, busy and more busy, filling out every last hour with a mixture of work, voluntary efforts as a representative and advocate of the town planning sector, meticulously planned holidays and travelling considered to be ‘time off’. It was a merry go round of time-intensive obligations destined for burnout, but a life lesson that taught me a great deal and turned me inadvertently towards the garden to generate a sense of place.

During an extended period of time off ill in the Autumn of 2020, I took a step back in many of my extra pursuits to help but it was the outside space that I chose in small steps to form the healing process. This ultimately proved to be the right decision. There had been a modest interest in gardens before; their colour and design, their contribution to the historic setting of country estates and various family members’ interests in visiting gardens had often involved my attendance. There had however been very little understanding of the way of the role gardens had for wildlife and conservation, the identification of plants, colour schemes, successional planting and the horticultural practices of propagation and simply looking after plants properly. All of this was outside of the realms of my understanding and experience, but the way my brain is ‘wired up’, I would say, poses as a key asset.

The Garden when we moved in (August 2019)

When we first took the garden on, plants were bought willingly from nurseries and garden centres but without a particular strategy or understanding of where to go. Plants were arranged with an eye for combination but without attention made to composition, cohesion or simply how they might fare in that position. For the first year of us living here, this strategy continued acceptably enough, with a willingness to improve the garden to but not carried by the enthusiasm that I now possess. I had a small zip-up greenhouse where I began to experiment with free packets of seed, with good success but zero expectation. More for a reason of adding to the long-term garden design and layout rather than knowing of its opportunities, I fortunately made a snap decision to order a proper bespoke metal greenhouse as the initial foray appeared to be a welcome one. At the time the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading across the world at relentless pace and little did I know how important that judgment would end out to be.

Ultimately the lockdown and resulting emotional experiences I faced in the ensuing months appeared to be the turning point. While it was initially a novelty to work from the home office, following the Easter holidays I began to really suffer with the competing demands that were subtly different to experiencing them in a physical office or on site. Those deadlines, juggling a challenging full-time job with intense voluntary work, ended up colliding head on with one another in this lonely existence of being at home, a place I’d seldom been at.

Thankfully the weather in the first major lockdowns ended up being warm and sunny; itself directing me to the outside space in our spare time as we were all confined to the home. I contemplated and browsed the space in the spare time and discovered that the garden plot here was a chief reason why we chose the house. An unusual trapezium shape it may be, but it is ripe for improvement and is enveloped, almost cossetted by the borrowed landscape beyond, led by the English Oak. With the burnout and anxiety becoming regular and cyclical occurrence, come the Autumn of 2020 I was particularly unwell, and this coincided with the arrival of the greenhouse. While I was in too much disarray to help construct it, with the help of my partner and his family the bespoke lean-to greenhouse was constructed to the back of the garage in time for the cooler Autumn and I was able to get started on some early sowing such as the Sweet Peas, Cerinthe major, Nigella damascena and Cornflowers.

The practice of sowing in peace during the period where I was off in the Autumn proved to be the ideal tonic, where the brain could stop spinning at 3,000mph and I could narrowly focus with precision on a single task, return back to it and nurture it. This would often be in the comfort of classical music, or simply birdsong. I quickly realised that in doing so I could be quite quickly distracted from the turmoil, rebuild the brain, be less forgetful and agitated. I returned to work part-time where I have remained since, supplementing my days off with gardening and developing horticultural skills out in the garden.

I set up @groovygardeninguk to initially to stop boring friends and family with endless photos of the garden on personal social media. This quickly started to build an association whereby a journey could be mutually followed, and I didn’t quite realise just how much the account would ultimately grow, to some 6,200 people internationally at the time of writing. Nor did I realise how beneficial it would be to me, learning about planting combinations, finding gardening tips, meeting new people, and ultimately retraining. All of the subsequent studies have been borne out of my life experiences into horticulture from my own garden space and showcasing them online. The ability to show photos, videos and do live tours around the garden continues the skill I have put to good use before as an advocate or representative of current and earlier professions. Testimonials to the account suggest I am an approachable and enthusiastic person in the way I present myself online. Moreover, the voluntary work I undertake allows me to be exposed to practical learning as a supplement to the theory based RHS course. It no longer represents voluntary work of the kind that feels relentless and not on my terms; while still busy I have greater control over what I choose with my time, and of course I’m fortunate to be able to accept lesser hours at work in the process. The process of gardening in essence is a gift that keeps on giving.

Those facets of gardening I didn’t truly appreciate back in the day – the role gardens had for wildlife and conservation, the identification of plants, colour schemes and successional planting and the horticultural practices of propagation looking after plants, are now at centre stage. This is aided by the propensity of my brain, with its photographic memory, to be able to retain certain information. I can feel my brain and body leaping at the chance every time I see the garden from the back window. The palpable sense of wanting to be out there, and then immersing yourself is invigorating. I have not felt that feeling about a destiny of mine for a good while. As a person, once I have that feeling and vision, I set out my hardest to get there and one way or another have got there, with plenty of mistakes to learn from as is par for the course. The capacities I learned when successfully representing disabled people at university in the late 2000s and town planners in the 2010s now extends to gardeners in the 2020s. I’m more driven with this than has often been historically the case, but since having to reinvent myself I now try and be less modest and more bold given I traditionally had been hard on oneself. There is the hurdle of tricky exams to navigate but one is definitely in the zone.

Having this space is a real privilege to me. It has both restored aspects of me but also been a powerful generator of a new crowd of people to be carried by, and for me to inspire. The distinctiveness of me as a person has been brought out once again with vigour and enthusiasm. In July 2010 I stood on the stage at graduation to receive the University of Sheffield Chancellor’s Medal for services to disabled people. The kind of spirit I had in that role has cascaded into every pursuit since; place autistic individuals in the right environment and they can absolutely flourish. The garden as it is now is the best proof that gardening is good for me and that I am good for gardens. While there can be shortcomings, I could not be without the diagnosis to be this way and owe a lot of credit to it.

You can follow Chris on Instagram @groovygardeninguk or on Facebook as ‘Groovy Gardening with Chris’

The garden as it is now (July 2022)

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 http://www.rosemarycottagehook.co.uk 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. http://www.ngs.org.uk

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 http://www.hookgardening.club 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 http://www.gooletimes.info

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 http://www.Goolegofar.org.uk 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 http://www.miresbeck.co.uk 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 http://www.paulzimmermanroses.com

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 …..an 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 http://the3growbags.com

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 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 http://www.anitakundu.co.nz You can also follow me on Instagram at @anitakundu.nz 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 www.frankpmatthews.com/advice/fruit_rootstocks/
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 enquiries@fpmatthews.co.uk

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 http://www.paulzimmermanroses.com

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