A new ‘babe’ joins the team

I would like to welcome the lovely Beata

I feel truly privileged to have Bea with us, as she has worked in so many disciplines in the horticultural world already, from orchards to propagating to 7 years Head Gardener with Sarah Raven…

We have  had so much to talk about already and have been throwing ideas around for what we will be growing this year together.

Not only is Bea knowledgable and interesting but she is amazingly talented, particularly in floral design.  I will shortly be offering a link to her website if anyone has a special occasion coming up that they would like to celebrate with beautiful cut flowers.

She is also a master in plant supports so I am looking forward to getting to grips with these over the coming months.



Welcome to the team!

Into the woods

Some woods have carpets of bluebells,  our woods have snowdrops.  At this time of the year the woods are magical.

I love standing here completely undisturbed, listening to the trickling stream and gazing at thousands of tiny delicate white flowers nodding in the breeze against the dark green ivy foliage and fallen leaves…


Interestingly there were no snowdrops in the garden borders of the house, so over the years Alix and I have been gradually gathering them from the woodland and planting them here and there, where they can be seen more readily.

I have also noticed how quickly they bulk up, so you can divide the bunches every year and keep spreading the love 🙂


It’s also nice to put some in a small vase on the dressing table or in the bathroom to take advantage of their beauty up close.


How about collecting and offering a small bunch on Valentines Day?

It’s got to be the cutest bunch of flowers ever!



Another day another dollar

The new red shoots of the Peony ‘Molly the witch’ are bursting through the icy soil crust. We therefore bestow on this plant the honour of being the first in the garden to be given the decoration of home grown plant support.

Bea – the newest recruit to the ‘Babes with Spades’ team has created this very lovely support from hazel and willow:




and a reminder of how the plant will look in Spring…



We moved onto pruning roses in the wild garden, starting with the pink rose seen here on the right of the picture in July last year



It’s in the Wild Garden.  A stunning rose covered in flowers every year.  However some of the wood is very rotten.  We have had to cut out some of the old stems.IMG_2632


Inspired by a pruning course I took last year and an episode on Garden Revival currently on the BBC, I have decided to experiment with pegging down new growth so it is more horizontal than vertical:



Again a bit tricky to see in this photograph, but I am excited to see

how well this works as it should (in theory) break out in flower spikes along the entire length of the stem now.

WE did this to 3 other large roses in the wild area as there is plenty of space to do it here.  I can not wait to see what happens…

Day of the long shadows…

I couldn’t resist sharing with you more winter garden photos and the reason why we leave some grasses and perennials still standing through the winter…


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And let that be a lesson to you

IMG_2547The day started so well.  I hopped out of bed, made myself a nice cup of tea and had plenty of time for breakfast and organising lunch.  I receive a text from gardener Emma ‘It’s snowing! – Still wanna meet at 8?’. I look out the window and it’s still pretty dark.  I live by the sea – doesn’t look too bad.  It’s so easy to be put off and actually miss a good day’s gardening. ‘Yep’ I reply, and off we go.


The sky and views were pretty amazing on the way.  We decided it was definitely worth getting out of bed for…

Our 30 minute journey took an hour and by the time we had crawled along the country lanes, slipping and sliding along the way, we were both relieved to reach our destination and not end up in a ditch.  In fact Emma was quite impressed with my ‘ice driving’ – her knuckles were white upon arrival.

On a day like today, the only job we felt comfortable doing was pruning roses – but which ones? We decided to stick close to the house where the snow had melted – in fact prune the roses on the house.


Safety measures were discussed and soon Emma was up on the platform, two hands free, bucket and loppers beside her, accessory belt with secateurs, scissors and string, and phone all easily accessible.




Radio on and happily pruning away.

I had two feet firmly on the ground. pruning the lower roses.

Morning passed into afternoon all the snow had melted and phew we were in a heady 4 degrees and we had nearly finished. I brought out the longer ladder to do the tops of the roses by the guttering.

Safety first.. Emma stood at the foot of my ladder as I wrestled with the rose in the guttering and tied in some new growth. Back down again, chatting I noticed I had left a long end of string dangling and as I nipped up to cut it off, the bottom of the ladder started sliding away from the wall…

The next couple of seconds seemed to go so slowly as I tried to work out what to do whilst clinging to the ladder as it was going down.

There was nothing either Emma or I could do. I landed still holding the ladder taking all the weight on my arms and as it turns out, on my left hand.

A little bit shaken, we packed up – well Emma packed us up and I had a hot cup of tea and a sit down.

I’m home now, my hand is very sore and rather bruised…



I’m just glad it didn’t end worse than it did, as it easily could have done.

Thank you lucky stars. Thank you M & D for my ‘Bones of Steel’

Next time it snows I’m staying in bed.

The Willow Harvest

Growing willow to weave was a project I started 3 years ago after participating in a basket making course.

When my client asked me to make some planting suggestions for this area next to the moat, it was the best plant that came to mind.

It would provide a leafy screen for the Holiday Cottages in the summer,  richly colourful stems over winter, pretty pussy willow for floral displays in the Spring and a bounty of willow to weave and create plant protection and supports for us in the summer.

Initially I called West Wales Willows for advice on which, of the many varieties of Salix, I should plant for colour, flowers and weaving.  They sent me some cuttings and we were away…




Oooh so lovely.

Once coppiced the willow can be stored horizontally in a dry place for several years.  It can be woven now without any preparation as the wood is very malleable.  After a month or so, it will be too dry and will require soaking before weaving or it will just crack.

Im going to be busy weaving this month, that’s for sure…

The Winter Garden

One of my favourite sights in a winter garden is seeing the formation of the swan-neck like flowerhead on the Euphorbia chariacas ‘Wulfenii’:





I imagine they develop the flowerhead upside down like that to protect themselves from possible frost and snow before they boldly and brightly light up our Spring gardens…


Those stems with leaves below this canopy, without the ‘hanging heads’ are the shoots that will grow up this year and will flower in 2016:


Casting my eye around this small area of garden I notice other jobs that we could busy ourselves with today like:


Cutting back the Fuchsia  to about 30cm from the ground, and the same with the Gaura:


Leaving some growth to protect the base of the plant from snow and frost, from which new shoots will emerge later on.


We are growing this adorable little Cotula hispida to fill in around the paving stones. To speed up the process, I am going to divide it today and plant it over a wider area.


There were foxglove seedlings dotted all around this area in the garden too, at the base of roses and under shrubs, places they will just not grow well in. So we dug those up and moved them to a shady spot at the foot of a hedge where they will thrive with little other competition and a beautiful dark green backdrop.

The Cotinus coggygria always benefits from a prune at this time of year. Not too dramatic… we took about a third off. The leaves will then be much bigger this year than if we didn’t prune it.


The framework is not that easy to see here unfortunately.

After all these jobs we found ourselves pruning more roses again – and so they keep going and we’re still not bored with them yet…


The Bigger Picture

I turned up to work today and was confronted with the very hairy Pittosporum. I fully admit to having ‘turned the other cheek’ for a while now, prioritising other jobs first,  but now I felt it really was shouting for help to be brought under control. ..



After consulting with the client as to what shape they would prefer the choice was left down to me. Naturally of course, the untamed shrub wants to be round and shaggy but when I cast my eye into the background there were the large square cut Beech  and Leylandii hedges beyond.  Perfect.  Let’s just square it up



There was then the temptation to square up the Hebe shrubs behind


– which I just couldn’t resist.

Luckily time ran out before I squared everything else in the garden…

Happy New Year 2015 and it feels like the sap is rising already…

My wish for this gardening year is for it to be at least as fulfilling as the last – which I’m sure won’t be difficult-  and my challenge is to have the courage to experiment more with planting times, cuttings and growing new plants. Watch this space!

So let’s jump in with the first gardening week of the year:

Pruning roses tends to be the back bone of our winter work.  because there are so many to fit in to a few months we start at the end of November and continue through to February/March supplemented by other jobs.  Other jobs at the moment still include weeding as the weather is still relatively mild here in the south East of England.

Yesterday I pruned one of the Wild roses in the garden.  I have no idea which kind of rose it is, but think it may be a rambler.  What I love about it most is it has the habit of a bouquet.


Winter after pruning



Today we checked up on the dahlia tubers that were dug up at the first frost and left to dry out in the shed



We stood them upside down and left quite a lot of the soil to dry out on them.  Normally by now we would have wrapped them in newspaper to insulate, and then store  in boxes.  Again, it has been so mild,  that we have decided to skip this step and pot them up in fresh reasonably dry compost today. We would usually leave this until March.




They still need protection from frost so they are back in the shed.

Those that were too big to fit in pots we gradually teased apart to create smaller plants.  As long as the tuber has some stem attached it will be fine. If the tuber breaks off without stem, I find these rarely grow again.