The Joy of Strep

It may sound like a throat infection but Streptocarpus is my all-time favourite houseplant. I know some people don’t care for their fleshy, knubbly leaves but I can forgive streps pretty much everything when they come into flower – and, given the right conditions, once they’re in flower they keep on giving for months on…

Temperate House, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

When Decimus Burton’s extraordinary Palm House opened at Kew in 1844, the world gasped. Burton’s star, already in the ascendant, had reached dizzying heights. Glory was all very nice, but now he faced a challenge. How on earth could he top innovation on that scale? Kew’s magnificent Temperate House, twice the size of the Palm…

Sheppy’s Cider Farm

Somerset’s rich soil and lush climate cry out for apples. Even the legendary Isle of Avalon, rumoured by some to be Glastonbury, was once known as the Isle of Apples and the county’s most famous product, cider, reaches back at least a thousand years. Cider was vital to the rural economy. Without a good brew…

The Long Haul

I understand William Hill are taking bets on whether or not this bloomin’ hedge of mine will survive. It certainly don’t look good – even worse than before, if that’s even possible. To recap, about a month ago, my gorgeous, 14 year-old hedge looked like this: with its cute little baby sister next to it,…

Events a-go-go

Anyone would think it’s all been doom and gloom on the plot recently. It hasn’t. There have been events a-go-go and if I lost all my strawberries and raspberries to my intruders’ munchie-attacks, at least they’ve clearly been too stoned/busy enabling others to get stoned to take any interest in taking anything that needs actual…

WAR! HUH! What is it good for? Exterminating Caterpillars!

Okay, I went away. I went to the West Country for FOUR DAYS. When I got back, my lovely box hedges had turned from this: had turned into this: Seriously – FOUR BLOOMIN’ DAYS! Just look at these two: At first I thought it was blight but then I recognised the nasty, lacy, cobwebby skeletons…

Site security

I’m not a naturally frightened person. I deal with stuff as it comes and handle crises reasonably well. Some years ago, I came home to find my flat burgled. It freaked me out – not because of what was taken but because someone had invaded a world I thought was personal and private. They’d been…

White currants a-go-go – but what the bloomin’ heck to do with ’em?

I give myself this problem every year. I like white currants; they’re sweeter than their red sisters, less mouth-puckering than their black cousins. You can eat them straight off the bush but, frankly, they’re not so exciting you’d actually want to. I have three white currant Blanka bushes. They crop excellently, give me no trouble…

Event: Garlic

  So, for the past n years I’ve been growing bog-standard, hardneck garlic, in what I now consider the mistaken belief that it has a better flavour. I forget the variety, I’ve been saving the bulbs for next year – apparently garlic ‘adapts’ to the local soil. I have no idea if that’s true. It…

Event: Peas are like Love

‘Peas will break your heart,’ a chap on my last allotment told me as I gaily sowed a couple of rows in my rookie year as an allotmenteer. Bob had a few choice other comments to make about my attempts as a gardener and although at the time I didn’t take them too kindly, I…

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

…at Warley Place, anyway. Most people love Warley for its drifts of daffodils. After all, Daffs mean Prizes – Miss Willmott won RHS medals a-go-go for hers. She even boobytrapped the best ones and carried a revolver in her handbag against bulb thieves. There must still be a few prize specimens in there, it’s a…

In Defence of the Spanish Bluebell

Listening to Gardeners Question Time I was shocked to hear the venom with which virtually everyone regards Spanish bluebells.  In the wild, yes, absolutely, they are to our delicate native bluebell what the grey squirrel is to the red. If they are going to be anywhere near our dainty wildflowers, where they might hybridise, you’re darn tootin’ they…