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This Week’s Guest Blogger is Helena Glassup a lecturer in Horticulture and garden consultant based in West Yorkshire.

The allotment site where we have our plots is a small privately owned site between
two streets in the village where we live and all of the plot holders have a garden
backing onto the site. When we moved into our house 15 years ago the site was
under full cultivation so all we could do was turn our front garden over to produce
and chat over the fence to the wonderfully knowledgeable gentleman who had the
plot behind our house.
A few years after we moved in we were approached by our next door neighbour to
see if we would consider taking on half a plot from Gordon* the eldest of the plot
holders as he hadn’t been well and needed someone to help him out for the
season, just until he could get back on his feet, nothing permanent and no rent to
pay. Naturally we jumped at the chance as Gordon had a greenhouse at each end
of his plot and one of these would also be available to us. In that first season we
took on the challenge of the plot with relish. It was clear that our half hadn’t been
looked after for a while and there were a lot of accumulated ‘resources’ on the site
to be moved and weeds to be tackled. The following year Gordon was still not well
enough to return so we were asked to act as guardians of this site, again no rent to
pay no matter how much we insisted.
We didn’t see much of Gordon that year. Occasionally on a warm day we’d see him
moving slowly about on the allotments, but only for a few minutes at a time and In
recent years we’ve not seen him at all although his wife has continued to cheerfully
assure us that all was well and that he was determined to be back out growing
beans the following year. Meanwhile even though our half plot has gone from
strength to strength it’s always been considered to be ‘Gordons allotment’ at the
back of our minds

Growing on Gordon’s allotment in May 2019

Three years ago at the start of the first Lockdown our next door neighbour
approached us again. The plot at the bottom of our garden became available. The
knowledgeable gentleman had moved away from the village and the new
inhabitants of his house had decided that they did not have time to look after an
allotment so were we interested? Once again we jumped at the chance. It was a
good well maintained site and despite looking a little neglected after a period being
out of cultivation it still had lots of potential. For the last 3 years we’ve been growing
on both plots, vegetables and fruit on our own plot and a cut flower patch on
Gordon’s allotment.

March 2020 A plot of our own (with Gordon’s plot in the background)

Recently we heard that Gordon had passed away in what we think was his 100th
year. While this is obviously sad news, it’s not unexpected as we hadn’t seen him
outside for a long time and the other half of his plot had been taken on by another
neighbour. This coming season our guardianship of the now thriving half plot will
become official.
I’ve been reflecting on the news with the changing of the season. as I write this
Spring is making a welcome return with the earliest flowers appearing including, for
the first time the deliciously scented pink blooms of a Daphne odora
‘Aureomarginata’ which I bought as a very poorly looking plant off the reduced to
clear bench at my local garden centre. I’m a very optimistic gardener and can’t
resist nursing lost causes back to health. The joy I feel at the sight of those waxy
blooms is intense and one of the most rewarding things about gardening.
Optimism must be a trait that all gardeners possess, we plant trees knowing we
may never see them reach maturity, we sow seeds each year and patiently wait to
see them grow. We strike cuttings and wait for a miracle to happen as the tiny
vulnerable sections of plant sprout roots and grow into new plant and we are driven
year after year as Winter turns to Spring to continue this cycle of growth even as
our own bodies slow down and age and we register the passing of the years in the
gardens we create as they mature and grow

February 2023 our own plot has been turned over to raised beds while the original space is now used for cut flowers

As a dedicated allotment holder it must have been hard for Gordon to admit he
could no longer tend the plot he had so lovingly cultivated for so long, building in
true allotment style, greenhouses out of old window frames and compost bins out of
surplus wood. After all, to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw

“we don’t stop because we grow old, we grow old because we stop”.

So at the start of the new growing season, I shall raise a plant pot to Gordon and
the knowledgeable gentleman whose allotment legacies I now continue and once
again get growing because of course, the coming year is going to see my garden
and its neighbouring allotment look the best it has ever looked!

*Names have been changed to protect identities

For more information you can follow Helena on Instagram as Euphorbia_Gardens  or visit http://www.euphorbiagardens.co.uk

This Week’s Guest Blogger is C J Ward a Retired Garden Designer and Self-professed Plant Nerd who iscurrently writing a book

In Praise of Primulas

The cheerful countenance of a primula is such a welcome sight. They pierce late winter’s gloom with their earnest wee faces, announcing the arrival of spring. Their dainty, little beauty speaks to a simpler time, of childhood innocence and bygone days, wistfully recalled. And within these small, brightly coloured packages come the best of things- the warmth of remembrance; the renewal of hope; and the sweetness of life in that very moment.

Bird’s Nest and Primroses c1855 Watercolour on paper by William Henry Hunt English artist 1790-1864

Primula denticulata growing in the moutain valley in Armenia with Ranunculus and Achillea


Primulas are happiest in the damper, shadier places and can be found adorning mountain valleys and rocky ridges; gracing the grasslands and open woodlands; thriving on embankments and under hedgerows. Growing from northern and eastern Europe, across North Africa to the Himalayas and through China to Japan, there are around 500 known species.

Primulas are multi-flowered, rising from a sturdy stem in loose umbels or tightly-packed spheres or nestled low, atop a rosette of leaves. Left to their own devices, primula species merrily interbreed in nature, constantly creating new hybrids.

Primula japonica growing along the tree lined Yanagizawa River In Japan

Primula bed in the Bog Garden Butchart Gardens Victoria, British Columbia Canada. Photo by C.J.Ward


Primulas suit a variety of styles, from the pleasant ramble of a cottage garden to the clean, modern aesthetic of an urban garden. Depending on the species, they grow well in rockeries, beds, borders, bog gardens, containers and in Auricula Theatres. An amiable companion plant, they mix well with a lot of other genii that enjoy similar conditions. These carefree flowers tend to look their best when allowed to naturalise freely. They will form neat clumps that will soon carpet the area with their vernal optimism.

Primula japonica

Primula bulleyana

Primula Rosea, Germany

Primula elatior Munster, Germany


The primula has meaning in many cultures.

To the Celts, it is associated with the fairies. Used with yellow gorse as a Beltaine decoration, bunches of primroses were left on the doorstep, encouraging the hidden folk to bless the house within. T’was said that if one ate the blossom, one could expect to see a fairy soon after. Patches of delicate yellow primroses were believed to be portals to the fairies’ realm, for primroses grew in Tir na nOg.

The gateway to Tir na nOg or a simple patch of Primula vulgaris growing near the railway line in Chipping Sodbury, England

In Norse mythology, primulas are one of Freya’s flowers, for they are golden like the goddess of love. Called “Lady’s Keys”, oxlips could open the gates to milady’s hall and were used in Vernal Equinox ceremonies of life and rebirth, dedicated to the Norse Goddess.

Primula veris

In the mythology of the Romans, primulas were a gift to the earth from the gods Flora and Priapus to honour their son Paralisos after he died of a broken heart. The Victorians took this myth as the basis for their custom of planting primula on the graves of children, accounting for their abundance in churchyards across England.

In the Victorian Language of Flowers, however, primulas symbolise young love, the I-cannot-live-without-you kind.

While in Japan, primula indicates the longer lasting variety of love and is often used in spring Ikebana arrangements, given as a token of abiding affection.

Primula allionii


Primulas have been employed for similar uses, wherever they are found, to treat a variety of conditions. In Sino-Himalayan cultures, they have long been cultivated for their medicinal properties, for everything from rheumatitis to gout and from headaches to ulcers.

In England, Ireland and Scotland, fresh leaves were rubbed on toothaches or used in salves and poultices on wounds. In the spring, the flowers were gathered to make Cowslip Wine. Its sedative properties make it a good treatment for insomnia and later, by Tudor herbalists, in a tincture to calm nervous conditions.


Skylarks and Primroses, Woodblock print with ink and colour on paper c. 1805-10

Kubo Shunman, Japanese artist 1757-1820

Still Life with Primroses, Pears and Pomegranates, Oil on canvas, c. Late 19th century

By Henri Fantin-Latour, French artist 1836-1904

Tuft of Cowslips, Gouache on vellum 1526, Albrecht Durer, German artist 1471-1528

Pansies and Primroses, Oil on canvas c.1941, Alfred Arthur Brunel-Neuville, French artist 1851-1941

Still Life with a Book and Primroses, Mixed media on canvas 1886, Marga Toppelius-Kiseleff Finnish artist 1862-1924

Still Life with Apples and a Pot of Primroses, Oil on canvas c.1890, By Paul Cezanne French artist 1839-1906, Image via The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Ring-ting! I wish

I were a primrose,

A bright yellow primrose

Blowing in the spring!

The stooping boughs

Above me,

The wandering bee to

Love me,

The fern and moss to

Creep across

And the elm-tree for

Our king.


By William Allingham Irish poet and diarist 1824-89

Primula vulgaris blooming in Slovenia

Behold, my love, how green the


The primrose banks how fair;

The balmy gales awake the flowers,

And wave thy flowing hair.

– ” Behold, my love, How Green the Groves”

By Robert Burns

Scottish poet and lyricist


Primula rosea growing in the Altai Mountains, Mongolia

The primrose opens wide

In spring

Her scent is sweet and good:

It smells of every happy thing

In sunny lane and wood.

-The Primrose Fairy

By Mary Cicely Barker

English author and illustrator


Primula vialii growing in the mountains of China

Thy smiles I note, sweet early Flower,

That peeping from thy rustic bower

The festive news to earth dost bring,

A fragrant messenger of Spring.

– To a Primrose

By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

English poet


Primula elatior blooming for the Fairy Queen in Aveyron, France

Give us again the song of birds,

The scent of blossoms on the air,

The rustle of the growing grass,

The dainty primrose, sweet and fair.

“Primrose Time”

By Mary Dow Brine

American author


Primula ‘Belarina Pink Champagne’

Over hill, over dale,

Thorough bush, thorough brier,

Over park, over pale,

Thorough flood, thorough fire!

I do wander everywhere,

Swifter than the moon’s sphere;

And I serve the Fairy Queen,

To dew her orbs upon the green;

The cowslips tall her pensioners be;

In their gold coats spots you see;

Those be rubies, fairy favours;

In those freckles live their savours;

I must go seek some dewdrops here,

And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear.

“A Fairy’s Song”

From A Midsummer Night’s Dream

By William Shakespeare

English poet and playwright


Primula marginata peeping from its rustic bower in the Italian Alps

CJ Ward is from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She is a Retired Garden Designer and Self-professed Plant Nerd, currently writing a book. To find out more about her follow her on Instagram @cjwardgardens

All images, except where indicated are via Wiki Commons. Contact C J Ward for a full photo credit list

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Dr Elizabeth Dauncey, freelance poisonous and medicinal plant scientist

Poisonous plants can be an emotive subject. Every year the press covers stories about deadly plants encountered in the countryside or sprouting unbidden in someone’s garden. Often, the general conclusion is that this shouldn’t be allowed. The British flora includes some very poisonous plants, and a number of our valued and beautiful garden plants are also toxic. But accidents can be avoided if reasonable precautions are taken. Eradication is not the answer – education is.

30 years ago, as I was approaching the end of my PhD (a taxonomic revision of a group of Dendrobium orchids from South East Asia) I got a job as a botanist working for the National Poisons Information Service and based at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. It opened my eyes to a fascinating area of plant science, and ever since then I’ve enjoyed learning about and researching poisonous plants, sharing this knowledge and creating various resources for the public, medical professionals, and horticulturists.

A recent piece of work that I did for the UK’s Horticultural Trades Association enables growers and the public to be aware of which plants on sale in the UK may be poisonous to people or pets. Some growers and suppliers will have the resources to label these plants with the recommended warning, but this is voluntary. But never fear as you can download a copy of the HTA’s Guide to Potentially Harmful Plants, 3rd Edition (2022) for free:


Many gardeners will be unconcerned about the toxicity of the plants that they grow. After all, they probably aren’t planning to eat their delphiniums. For others, such as those with small children or curious pets, knowing which plants should be treated with caution could prevent a trip to A&E or the vet. And even experienced gardeners may be interested in which plants might be responsible for the mysterious rash that they sometimes get after gardening.

The plants in the HTA Guide can be grown safely provided a few precautions are taken, and those precautions will vary depending on who is using the garden. A few basics are:

  • don’t eat any plant unless you are certain that it, or the part you want to eat, are edible. It sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how many people consider the toxicity only after they or their child have eaten something.
  • avoid growing poisonous plants amongst those that are edible, aromatic or tactile.
  • move poisonous plants to the back of the border, or contain them with a physical barrier, if young children or pets will use the garden unattended. The HTA Guide also covers house plants and it’s advisable to grow these out of reach of curious hands and mouths.
  • berries are tempting and these can be removed, if necessary, by pruning after flowering.
  • wear gloves and cover skin if handling or working near plants that are harmful to the skin or eyes, such as Euphorbia. These plants don’t mix well with footballs.
  • wash your hands after gardening (and before using the toilet!).

So, with your hazard assessment completed, please continue to enjoy growing these beautiful but potentially harmful plants. Where would our cottage gardens be without foxgloves, lupins, or delphiniums, and what can be more lovely in early summer than a house draped in wisteria?

You can follow Liz on Twitter: @liz_dauncey

If you want to learn more about the World’s most poisonous plants, you may be interested in:

Plants that Kill, by Elizabeth Dauncey and Sonny Larsson; Kew Publishing and Princeton University Press, 2018.


This Week’s Guest Blogger is Andrew Humphris, Head Gardener at Parham House and Garden in West Sussex

I have been in horticulture for over 40 years and have been lucky enough to have worked at some stunning Houses and gardens through my career. This has given me an in depth understanding of Gardens and plants, but it never ceases to amaze me that every day you are learning something new. This is the joy of gardening, continually striving to learn more and do things better.

It may seem daunting to start with but the simple pleasures of sowing a seed or taking a cutting and watching it grow into a full-size plant never goes away.

For the past two years I have been working at Parham House and Garden in West Sussex as Head Gardener. The garden has always had a bindweed issue and during lockdown, when staff and volunteers were largely absent, the size of the problem was fully realised. It was decided that a major programme of renewal was needed involving emptying beds completely to enable the control of the bindweed more effectively. Once some of the beds were clean, we could start thinking about the new plantings in these beds. Many of the borders at Parham have a colour theme which we wanted to maintain, but I was also very conscious of our ever-changing climate and coming off the back of a very hot summer we are looking at plants that can tolerate these extreme conditions.

Trying to maintain the feel of an historic garden with exuberant borders while taking in to account these changing conditions is a challenge but certainly not unsurmountable. I have long had an interest in Salvias and in these times, they are becoming more and more valuable.

There is a huge variety of species and cultivars, from 4-metre-tall perennials to ground hugging shrubs to tender annuals and everything in between. A lot of these plants are tolerant of a wide range of conditions and have scented foliage and a long flowering season. Undoubtedly my favourites are the smaller shrubby Salvias from Mexico. Of these Salvia microphylla and its varieties are the hardiest as they come from higher elevations in the mountains. Salvia gregii comes from lower elevations and is less hardy and these two hybridise to form Salvia x jamensis. All of these three are crossed with other shrubby Salvias to get new colour breaks and two colours on one flower such as Salvia ‘Hot Lips’.

Three of my favourites are in the picture and are planted in the beds in front of the house at Parham. Salvia ‘Nachtvlinder’ with its rich velvet flowers is a low spreading shrub, whilst Salvia microphylla ‘ Pink Blush’ has a pale pink flower and is a little taller. Salvia ‘Dayglow in the background has richer magenta pink flowers on an upright shrub to 1 metre tall and in my opinion is the best of them all. All of these have an incredibly long flowering season form June until October, in fact the picture was taken in the third week of October and very drought tolerant once established. Their flowering does seem to slow down in extreme heat but perks up again once a little cooler. They are also robust hardy plants although with our milder winters there are few of these shrubby Salvias that do not survive our winters now so long as they are given reasonable drainage and do not get waterlogged. Surely there is a place in most gardens for these wonderful plants.

Parham House and Gardens open again on Sunday 9th April 2023 to find out more visit their website



This Week’s Guest Blogger is Laura McEwen, a Gardening Enthusiast with a focus on wellbeing

Hello, I’m Laura and I became enthusiastic about gardening two years ago after we moved house. Before that I had a small paved courtyard and so used to tend to my pots, but my larger garden needs a lot more care and attention.

I started to learn a lot more about the positioning of plants, soil types and care (after some unsuccessful planting and wasted money at the garden centre!) as well as growing things from seed which I had never done before. I became more and more enthused to look at each area of my garden and see how I could make my mark on it. At the back there was some old worn out decking that had previously been used as a seating area. We ripped it out and transformed it into a mini allotment and wild flower meadow. It was so satisfying to watch the transformation take place from a bare, muddy patch of earth to an area thriving with flowers, vegetables and wildlife.

During this time, however, I was diagnosed with SLE, better known as Lupus. I knew something had been wrong for years and so although it is never good to be diagnosed with a chronic illness, in some ways it was a relief to have an explanation. Despite this, I was keen as ever to carry on gardening and managed my Lupus by not going out if the sun was too strong, always wearing a hat and getting plenty of rest when possible (with two kids!). I felt determined that the benefits of gardening would outweigh any setbacks.

This worked well for me for a while and I enjoyed experimenting growing new things in the allotment and building up my displays of flowers. Unfortunately, at the start of the year I had a setback I couldn’t ignore: one of my lungs collapsed. In between the ups, downs and hospital appointments I still managed to do some ‘light’ gardening as I did not want to stop. I have since had surgery to hopefully rectify the problem and am now on the road to recovery. In the New Year, I am looking forward to the getting back into the garden more, rejigging my allotment and filling the gaps in my boarders with new varieties of plants, flowers and grasses. I need to stay active to help my recovery and gardening will be the perfect way to do this as long as I ask for help when it comes to the heavy work. Next project: renovating a very old and battered greenhouse!

Follow me on Instagram @wildgardentherapy

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Melanie who owns and runs Bishy Barnabees Cottage Garden that sells cottage garden seeds

Hi I’m Melanie and I set up my business selling seeds and happiness in 2020.

I have loved gardening since I was a very small child, helping my dad in his vegetable patch or following behind my grandmother as she selected tomatoes from her warm greenhouse or picked armfuls of fragrant sweet peas for her house.


As I grew up gardening became ever more important to me. It’s been a sanctuary when times were tough, a place to enjoy and play in when my own children were small. A space to grow vegetables to feed my family and to grow flowers to feed the soul!
And of course, a place to encourage wildlife in to live alongside us.

Gardening has always been essential to my well-being and never more so throughout many years of debilitating joint pain that I suffered.
At this point in my life, I was very limited in what I could do in the garden, but I needed it more than ever. I needed it for peace and tranquillity, to watch the insects busy at work, I needed it for colour and for hope.

Nothing brings as much positivity and hope as sowing a few seeds and then the excitement of watching them germinate, grow and bloom…..it makes you dream of new possibilities and hope for the future.

6 years ago, after many, many appointments I was eventually diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and was finally able to get the help I needed to start to recover. With the correct medication the pain has subsided, and movement has returned.

With this relief came a dream and a desire to bring gardening to others. To inspire people to pick up their trowel and to reap the huge physical and mental benefits that gardening brings.

I wanted to get everyone (whether they had an enormous garden or just a small balcony) to get outside, sowing some seeds and beginning their gardening journey towards positivity, joy and happiness.

The dream was to sell beautiful, healthy flower, veg, herb and chilli seeds. And so, in November 2020, during the second lockdown, I made my dream a reality.

I named my business Bishy Barnabees Cottage Garden because I live in the gorgeous Norfolk countryside and here in Norfolk ladybirds are known as Bishy Barnabees!
And ladybirds are truly a gardeners best friend. Gobbling up hundreds of pesky aphids in their lifetime and so helping enormously with organic pest control.

8 months after setting up I decided to take a leap of faith and left my teaching job to concentrate full time on Bishy Barnabees Cottage Garden…..to let my creative side take over and to make the business a place of inspiration, motivation and positivity.

The business has grown (organically of course!) and I now sell fabulous boxes of carefully curated seeds as special gifts for gardeners.

Sustainability is at the heart of everything I do and produce.
I garden organically, I make my own comfrey fertiliser, I encourage into the garden as many pollinators and wildlife as I can, and all my packaging is either recyclable or compostable.

In my experience gardening and well-being go hand in hand and so I am on a mission to get everyone out into the garden. To find out what makes them tick and what will bring them joy and satisfaction.

Is it growing vegetables to feed their family? Or creating a cut flower garden so they can pick bunches of flowers to gift to loved ones?
Is it wanting a place to rest and recuperate or a place to work through the frustrations of the day?

Whatever it is you can be sure you’ll find it in the garden!

To discover more about me and my business you can visit my website


Or follow me on Instagram

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Philip Oostenbrink, the Head Gardener at Walmer Castle and Author of Jungle Garden

Jungle Gardening in a Historic Garden.

Walmer Castle and Gardens lies on the East Kent coast, about 10 minutes north of Dover and is looked after by English Heritage. The gardens are approximately 8 acres, but the grounds, which include the beach, are about 22 acres. Within the gardens a woodland and meadow can be found, as well as an extensive kitchen garden, perennial borders with cloud hedges and a garden designed by Penelope Hobhouse for the Queen Mother’s 95th birthday.

The first time I visited Walmer Castle and Gardens I loved the space in the dry moat, up to 20 metres wide in places. About 6 metres below the level of the rest of the garden, it was created as a defence when the castle was built in 1539. It was never built to hold water, but once the enemy got in, it was very difficult for them to get out in a rush again, creating easy targets for the soldiers within the castle.

Throughout the centuries the moat had other functions too. It was filled with trees and shrubs at one point, was turned into a kitchen garden during the time the Duke of Wellington lived at Walmer Castle and had a tennis court in the early 20th Century. For the past 30 years or so it just had shrubs in borders along the castle walls and wasn’t high on the priority list.

When I applied for the job of Head Gardener I was very keen to hear about what would be possible in the moat. The Senior Gardens Advisor told me exactly what I was hoping for; that it just shouted out to be turned into a more tropical scene. As I love the style and have written a book called ‘The Jungle Garden’ I was looking forward to using different leaf shapes and sizes in the existing borders, making it look attractive from within the moat as well as from above. The reason we can use quite modern plantings in this historic part of the garden is that at Walmer Castle we haven’t got historic planting plans. With it (still) being the official residence of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, the gardens have always seen many changes and we work more with a type of planting instead of particular plants. This means that within the moat we work with trees and shrubs in the planting but can work with more recent introductions. This means we have planted plants such as Tetrapanax, Pseudopanax and tree ferns, with underplanting of Boehmeria, Persicaria and Hakonechloa.

To have such freedom and being able to use modern introductions in a historic garden is quite unique. Within English Heritage we are curators of the gardens, so period gardens usually have to keep their planting period correct. We are after all looking after these gardens for future generations so people will be able to see a certain style of garden, or a garden by a certain designer in centuries to come. This is why we have gardens of all kinds of different periods within English Heritage. Although it can seem limiting to some, if you look at Victorian gardens and the number of plants that were introduced by the Victorians, you may discover otherwise. Some fine examples of period gardens within English Heritage are Brodsworth Hall and Gardens in South Yorkshire, Wrest Park in Bedfordshire and Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.

To see our progress in the jungle moat and visit Walmer Castle and Gardens you can book your tickets via the website. Although pre-booking isn’t necessary, it will always give you the best offer. Entrance is free for English Heritage members.

http://Walmer Castle and Gardens | English Heritage (english-heritage.org.uk)

You can also follow our progress via my personal Instagram account: @Mr. Plantaholic, or Twitter: @HG_Philip.

My book The Jungle Garden is available at many (online) bookshops, or more information can be found on


This Week’s Guest Blogger is Sally-Ann Harte who has an Instagram Page and posts photos of flowers she grows in her garden

I have always enjoyed gardening and I get such pleasure from just being outside in the sun, wind and rain, I really don’t mind what the weather is doing as long as I’m wearing the right clothes! The rewards are plentiful and if something isn’t successful there is always next year! Gardeners are so optimistic! With gardening you are always looking forward so it creates a very positive attitude and this spills over into my whole life.

I concentrate on the single flower from a simple daisy to everyone’s favourite, the rose. Much to my surprise my followers have grown steadily and are still rising! I find this astonishing and have wondered why my photos are so popular but I think just focusing on the beauty of a single flower can really make you look in depth at the exquisite detail and perfection nature gives us in
return for a little water and attention.

Plants can be expensive but buying from a local plant sale not only saves your pocket but you can be reasonably confident that it will grow in your garden too. Also being a member of your local gardening club will get you out and about and gardeners are incredibly generous in sharing their knowledge. Growing plants in whatever medium you can be it a flower bed, a pot or a
window box is a surprisingly rewarding experience and the flowers will ignite all your senses. Seeing the colours, enjoying the scents, the rustle of the leaves, the taste of the fruit and softness of the petals. Simply everyone can enjoy something from gardening.
Go on, give it a go! @sallyannharte

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Katie Mack, A Professional Gardeners’ Guild Trainee

Top Tips for Autumn Interest

Hello, my name is Katie and I am a professional gardener from Yorkshire. I’m currently
enrolled on the 3-year traineeship with the PGG (professional gardeners guild). This is a
wonderful opportunity as it gives me the chance to work across the country with different
teams, plants and landscapes. Today I’m going to be giving my top tips for bringing Autumn
interest into your gardens!

1. Delay the seasonal cut – you may be familiar with the gardening phrase ‘if it’s brown,
chop it down’; but, personally, I love to see the full cycle of plants – including their dying off
stage – right through the autumn months. As conditions on the planet becoming increasingly
difficult for wildlife, these autumn seed heads and natural structures provide a living refuge
for biodiversity. Poppy seed heads, hydrangeas and teasels are particular seasonal
favourites of mine.
Often, with many herbaceous plants, you can give them a cut back mid-season (aka the
Chelsea chop) which allows you to control the size of the plant throughout the summer
months, meaning a ‘desperate border tidy’ can hold off a little longer. It also encourages
some earlier blooming plants to give a second late flush, allowing you to get a longer
flowering season from your garden.

2. Acers are ace – Acers are probably the one tree that people can identify, and for good
reason too! The vivid colours of Acers throughout the autumn months, certainly justifies
their popularity. Dotted sporadically through a garden, they can help give the space a sense
of perspective and depth, drawing the eye to key areas. A recommendation of mine would
be the Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’ – with stems like a crimson red whip, contrasting the
delicate dripping of the autumnal yellow/green leaves, this acer certainly compliments a
seasonal garden.

3. Structure of the shrub – for me, a good autumn garden focuses on the idea of structure.
An easy way of achieving this is through the use of evergreen shrubs. Whilst a bright,
colourful herbaceous boarder optimises the English summer garden, installing a mixed
evergreen shrub border is a fantastic way of gaining that instant impact through the colder
months. Mahonias, Viburnums and Photinia all offer their own unique charm within an
autumn garden and can provide a beautiful compliment to the brown dying back structures
of the summer.

4. Don’t forget to underplant – layering is an essential part of any garden and autumn is no
different. We can often be guilty of neglecting this throughout the colder months, yet
swathes of colour can provide such joy in the starker days. My recommendations would be:
• Cyclamen
• Autumn crocus
• Erigeron

5. Feature food – one of the key events at this time of year is Halloween, so you could
consider growing squashes or pumpkins in your garden for that ‘seasonal interest’. Not only
do the vibrant colours have an autumnal feel, the sense of achievement from growing your
own pumpkins (for carving or eating) is an added bonus! They are super easy to cultivate
too; and who knows, it may inspire you to keep on growing your own sustainable food!

6. Tones and textures – we tend to associate autumn with browns, yellows and orange but
there are plenty of trees and shrubs out there that give a vivid kick of colour through the
autumn months. Some favourites worth a mention:
Euonymus alatus (for a dramatic red to liven up borders)
• Cherries (which give an almost pink/coral – glow in the low sunlight)
Cotinus (for the muted red and purple hues of autumn)

7. Pyracantha – Hedgerows come alive in September with the berries of hawthorns,
rosehips and elderberries. But the autumn berries of pyracantha are so abundant and
charming to see, that it can really liven up a dull space. It’s thorns are tough and unforgiving,
so I would personally suggest keeping them out of the way & at the edges of the garden. I
was converted to appreciating Pyracantha through seeing it trained espalier, so would
recommend giving this a try!

8. Featuring flowers – it can be a tricky time of the year for more tender plants as,
depending on your location, the frost may come quite early. Even so, it’s always nice to have
a part of the garden set aside for seasonal cut flowers to liven up the home. Fortunately,
there are some measures you can take to protect against the (early) frost. Where possible,
avoid planting tender species in open and exposed areas of the garden, or in particularly low
spots where cold air settles. An autumn top dressing can protect the roots but if you’re
mulching to keep the plants warm, ensure it’s done on a day where the ground isn’t frozen;
otherwise you’ll be counter productive and insulate the cold instead. Some late flowering
plants include:
• Dahlias
Nerine bowdenii

9. Make time for the fungi – though they are rarely an intentional part of gardening, they
are an essential part of the seasonal cycle, hence funguses being worth a mention in this
article. They are a vital part of the life cycle and help break down organic matter, thus
releasing carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and phosphorus into the soil and the atmosphere.
They’re also a fun part of autumn, and I enjoy going for walks, hunting for them and
identifying the different species.

10. Rustling grasses – after a busy flowering season through the summer, I always
appreciate the calming effect of ornamental grasses as we move into October & November.
They look great in a long border, especially dotted amongst the seed heads of Phlomis.
There is such a vast variety of grasses ranging from the dominant architectural structure of
pampas grass, to the slow growing nature of mondo grass. Some of my favourites are:
• Stipa
• Molinia
• Pennisetum
Looking ahead to the future seasons – autumn is a great time to have a good tidy in the
garden. With many herbaceous plants dying back and deciduous shrubs dropping their
leaves, it gives us chance to see the bones of the garden. Now is the time to be planning
ahead and get your spring bulbs planted. Remember to care for your lawn too. Often we can
be guilty of neglecting turf during the colder months, but as we draw to the last cut of the
season, it is a good time to consider aerating and over seeding the lawn to make it even
better next summer.

Hope you enjoyed the tips – happy gardening!

For more garden inspo, you can follow my Instagram: @katiemackgarden

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Cindy Seeley, the Owner of Amber Cottage Flowers

Hi there my name is Cindy and I am the owner of Amber Cottage Flowers. It feels so strange saying ” I am a self employed flower farmer florist”, because this is actually a world away from the care sector where I spent 25 years working previously.

You may be wondering how this change came about, well back in 2020, I (along with many others), decided that life needed to take a new path. I had lost both parents and suffered through menopause and I felt myself slowly slipping away.
With lockdown, came time, and the time that had been bestowed upon us gave rise to the importance of freedom, family, health and well-being. Things that I ( we) had taken a little too much for granted I feel.
I realised that being out in the fresh air, surrounded by nature and birdsong was where I wanted (needed) to be and the stress of being behind a desk each day was damaging my mental health. So I took the decision to go part time.

I have always loved flowers, so much so, my youngest grandson gave me the nickname Nanny Flowers some years ago. I decided in May of 2020 that I wanted to grow my own blooms and have a garden full of them. I had no experience and even less knowledge, so off I went and goggled pretty much everything from seed to compost.
I joined the Instagram community who were, and still are so supportive and knowledgeable and happy to share their wealth of experience. I also joined the university of ‘YouTube’.
I put my first seeds in the soil and I watched in amazement as life appeared. From that moment, I became hooked. I was in complete awe of that tiny speck that could turn into such a thing of beauty, I just marvelled in the power of ‘ mother nature’.

I decided from day one that I would not use any chemicals within my growing and I would recycle any plastic that I would need to use. I wanted to be an eco-friendly grower.
At this point, I was a ‘ hobby grower’. My first flowers appeared at the end of the July, beginning of August. I had obviously been a little late to the party, but I became well and truly, smitten. ” If I could produce these beauties in this short time, just think what I could produce next year “…
Things seem to naturally evolve, my son is an organic vegetable grower and he delivered weekly veg boxes and we come up with the idea of offering organic flowers to his customers.
Again, I researched how to put bunches of flowers together, how to cut and condition, how to wrap etc. YouTube become my best friend

The feedback I received was lovely, people commented on the ‘ garden style’ and the scent of the flowers, and someone even asked me to make their wedding flowers… I initially declined due to fear and lack of experience but this lady had every faith in me and loved my flowers and style so I agreed.
The wedding flowers were loved and my confidence grew.
By 2021 I had lost my job in care so I decided to throw myself wholeheartedly into being a flower farmer/florist. I pushed myself out there as being different. There were no other organic flower farmer/florists in the local area, all the other florists were still using floral foam in their design work.
I had decided long ago that I would never use it.
My principles were from the offset to use organic methods , to always encourage pollinators, to reuse all plastic pots and not use single use plastics and never to use foam. I knew who my customers were, so I set out to find them.

I advertised locally, and attended a start up business course, and Amber Cottage Flowers was born. It has been slow but I am starting to get my name out there as more and more people become environmentally conscious.
Supermarket flowers have predominantly been imported from all across the globe in refrigerated vehicles and are usually covered in chemicals in order to preserve them further. These processes, as I am sure you can imagine, have a huge detrimental effect.
When flowers are bought from Amber Cottage, you can rest assured that they are fresh and colourful and full of scent and are free from chemicals. I use only brown paper to wrap or will send flowers out in recycled jam jars to keep them hydrated.
2022 has been a whirlwind of different life experiences. I was asked to deliver a bouquet of flowers to the Queen for her birthday

I joined Flowers From The Farm and this led me to being part of the team that won LARGE GOLD at the Sandringham flower show and I met the then, Prince Charles and Camila.

I have also had the privilege of meeting and building friendships with other Norfolk growers and I have had the honour of creating wedding flowers and farewell flowers

Is gardening, flower farming hard work? Most certainly Yes! Are there uncertainties? Again, Yes! Mother nature does not work to our schedule, she will do her own thing, however, one thing is for sure, despite the crazy weather and the unpredictability, it will, for certain, always be magical….
So, I then forget the achy joints, the bruises and long hours worked, as before me is beauty and I get to see people’s faces light up when they receive their arrangements.
I have come a long way and this new way of life found me when I probably needed it the most.
“Just living is not enough….one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower” Hans
Christian Andersen.