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…

A Year at Warley Place, Part IV: Daffodils

Miss Willmott had a thing for daffs. No, really, she was crazy about them. On joining the male-dominated Royal Horticultural Society she promptly invaded the all-male Narcissus Committee and won gold medals in four consecutive years. Warley Place would have been sunshine-yellow with prize hybrids, named for her sister and brother in law, and a much-missed sister…

Cymbidium Challenge

After the glories of Kew, I have a confession. Me and orchids don’t get on. Don’t get me wrong, I love ’em. I just can’t keep them. No matter how much effort I make, they just don’t stay. They eventually get carted off to my sister’s orchid hospital kitchen. She is some kind of miracle-worker…

Orchid Frenzy

Okay, I’m not going to witter on here. The orchids speak for themselves. On a windy day when Storm Doris is rattling the windows and sending roof tiles shattering to the ground, here are exotic orchids to fuel a thousand dreams of paradise. All as viewed at Kew’s glorious Festival of Orchids. It’s on until…

Product trial: Pelargoniums

Oh, the joys of the Garden Press Event, held once a year in London for people who write about gardens. I always love it as it’s brim-full of people who love gardening in all its forms. There’s inspiration a-go-go, with new people to meet, new ideas to try and new products to test. Last year’s…

A Honey Hit of Sarcococca

My front garden’s going through a bit of an ugly duckling phase at the moment. Last year I took out a bunch of really ghastly, mildew-infested drudge-shrubs. They did not want to go. My muscles are still aching from the toughness of the roots. I replaced them with a row of yews, under-planted with tête-a-tête daffodils that…

Forcing Lily of the Valley

Such a harsh word. Pretty much any spring bulb grown indoors this time of year is ‘forced’ – hyacinths, crocuses, daffs – none of them really want to come out for Christmas, but they’ll show their faces, not too grudgingly, if they’re treated nicely. I first came across the idea of forcing Lily of the…

Houseplant Holiday

I may not be getting a vacation this year (sniff) but that’s no excuse not to let my houseplants have a little holiday. They normally live in what I laughingly call my conservatory (a 6′ x 4′ lean-to) and are perfectly happy in there, but there’s nothing like a bit of fresh air blowing round…

Trial Update: Pelargonium ‘Tommy’ and ‘Apple Blossom’

Back in April, I was sent two new varieties of pelargonium by Vernons Nursery, Tommy, a deep, blackcurrant-purple trailing variety with ivy leaves, and Apple Blossom Improved, which I’d desperately tried to grow in the past as I’d adored the delicate cream and pink blossoms, but been frustrated by when the tight buds failed to…

Dividing Hostas

I adore hostas. Of course I have to share them with the giant mollusc population, but a combination of grit, copper vessels and my boot on an early morning means I generally get a good show. I’ve had several for many years and they’ve been getting more and more congested and this year I really…

On Test: Pelargoniums

I’ve been sent samples of two gorgeous-looking pelargoniums from the Vernon Nursery, that specialise in all manner of geraniums. I’ve long-loved ‘Appleblossom’ – a delightful specimen plant with tiny, rosebud-style flowers in pale pink and cream, but I stopped growing them some years ago as I found the buds tended to stay half-unfurled, never actually opening…