10 of the Best Gardens to Visit this Summer

Many gardens have now reopened to the public for summer. Hannah Stephenson selects 10 of the best.

Still short of things to do during summer holidays? Why not visit some of our most glorious gardens, which have reopened to the public.

They all detail the Covid-19 safety measures they’ve put in place on their websites. Most require pre-booking tickets (check websites for specific details) and all have regulated social distancing – take a mask to be on the safe side too.

Here’s 10 of our favourites…

1. Arley Hall and Gardens, Cheshire (arleyhallandgardens.com)

Arley Hall and its glorious gardens have provided the setting for some familiar TV series, including Peaky Blinders, Antiques Roadshow and Great British Garden Revival. Head for the herbaceous border, its best known feature, which boasts some spectacular planting, then wander through the pleached lime avenue of trees and lose yourself within The Grove. There are many different areas within its eight acres of formal gardens, as well as an arboretum and woodland walk. The hall remains closed.

2. Abbotsford Gardens, Roxburghshire, Scotland (scottsabbotsford.com)

Abbotsford was Sir Walter Scott’s home, and his imagination extended to the outdoors with the creation of these beautiful formal Regency gardens. Highlights include the kitchen garden, the third of his interconnecting outdoor ‘rooms’, which house a mix of flowering and scented plants, herbs, fruits and vegetables.

The gardens are currently open Wednesday to Sunday, with hopes to reopen the historic house in August. Check the website for updates.

3. The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall (heligan.com)

With some 200 acres of garden and estate, you simply can’t do all of Heligan in one visit – so if you’ve only got a day, seek out summer highlights. An incredible 15 acres of wildflower meadow has been planted, featuring cornflowers, corn chamomile, poppies and corn marigolds, to create a stunning visual backdrop, perfect for butterflies and bees.

Families are invited to pick up a ‘Heligan Summer’ booklet from the ticket office before setting off. Pre-booking essential for timed tickets.

4. Montalto Estate, Co. Down, Northern Ireland (montaltoestate.com)

The trails and gardens within this magical estate have now re-opened, so visitors can explore a wealth of features – including the cutting garden made up of annuals, biennials, perennials and shrubs, the formal garden with its defined geometric shapes and stunning views of Montalto Lake and boathouse, and the alpine garden, with its impressive collections of plants.

The trails and gardens are currently open Wed-Sun but all visitors must pre-book tickets online. Access to some gardens may be restricted due to events.

5. Wightwick Gardens, Wolverhampton, West Midlands (nationaltrust.org.uk)

Comprising 17 acres, this might not be the biggest National Trust garden but it certainly packs a punch in the style stakes, thanks to 20th century Arts and Crafts garden designer, Thomas Mawson. The dominant design feature of the garden is its ‘rooms’ – areas marked by clipped yew hedges or terraces, giving the space a wide variety of different feelings.

Tickets are released on Fridays for the following week and pre-booking for timed visits is essential. The Manor House remains closed until further notice.

6. Brodsworth Hall and Gardens, South Yorkshire (english-heritage.org.uk)

Spectacularly restored to their full Victorian splendour, the 15 acres of gardens at Brodsworth are home to a collection of grand gardens in miniature, filled with colourful seasonal plantings and displays. Stroll through the statue walks and the beautiful wild rose dell, with over 100 varieties of historic rose. You can also admire period bedding plants in the Flower Garden, including cannas and gingers for dot planting, with salvia, gazania, ageratum and verbena.

Pre-booking essential for timed tickets. House and play area remain closed. A family-friendly summer explorer quest is taking place throughout summer.

7. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (kew.org)

The world famous botanical gardens opened doors to visitors in June. They’ve now reopened the glasshouses too, so you can admire an array of tropical treasures, desert species and more in the Palm House, Temperate House and Princess of Wales Conservatory.

In a final flourish to Kew Gardens’ summer landscape, a bespoke botanical sculpture – created by the winning duo from the acclaimed Netflix television programme, The Big Flower Fight, will be on display in August.

Pre-booking essential for timed entry. Toilets, shops and some outdoor food facilities are currently open and screened regularly. Check website for details.

8. RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey (rhs.org.uk)

Visitors to the jewel in the crown of the RHS gardens will be able to enjoy its summer highlights, including sizzling dahlias and tropical banana plants in its exotic garden, which showcases plants that have a tropical look but flourish outdoors in a typical UK summer climate. Don’t forget to stroll along the mixed borders for a riot of summer colour and surround yourself with lavender on the viewing mount.

Pre-booking essential for timed tickets, card transactions only on site. Glasshouse, alpine houses, learning centre and library and advisory desk remain closed.

9. Wollerton Old Hall Garden, North Shropshire (wollertonoldhallgarden.com)

Set around a 16th century hall (not currently open to the public), Wollerton Old Hall incorporates a formal modern garden on an old site covering four acres. Its garden rooms are beautifully planted with stunning perennials and offer some terrific design ideas. The garden is famous for its salvias, clematis and roses and the clever use of colour, form and scale. The main perennial border in late summer is still awash with colour, so don’t miss it.

Currently open Thursday, Fridays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays. Pre-booked tickets essential.

10. Witley Court and Gardens, Worcestershire (english-heritage.org.uk)

Survivor of a devastating fire in the early 20th century, Witley’s romantic gardens are full of delights. A spectacular lake, vast fountain of Perseus and Andromeda, and colourful French parterre are among the highlights. In summer, the East Parterre at Witley Court is spectacular and includes variegated pelargoniums, ageratum, evening primrose (Oenothera) and verbenas.

This summer, take the family on a free fun adventure quest with an historical twist. You can download your trail map on the website before you go.

Pre-booking essential for timed tickets.

How to Create a Garden Getaway to feel like you’re on Holiday

Choosing a staycation? You can still capture a feel of the tropics in your garden with plants and accessories, experts insist.

While many of us may be staycationing this year, there are ways to create a holiday haven in our gardens using plants and decor that mimic a host of exotic destinations.

RHS Garden Wisley’s exotic garden, for example, houses not only tropical-looking pineapple plants, striking palms and giant banana trees which flourish in summer, but shows what will survive the winter.

RHS Wisley’s garden manager Emma Allen, who looks after the exotic garden, says: “When experimenting with tropical plants at home, remember the ‘right plant, right place’ rule. If you have a shady corner, make sure you plant shade tolerant options, and if you have sun trap areas, select plants that will flourish there.”

Allen’s top plants for a tropical sensation…

Trachycarpus fortunei – a really hardy palm (down to between -10 C and -15 C), this will give your garden the exotic look and feel without the need to worry about whether it will survive through winter. They are rather slow growing, ultimately reaching a height of over 12m after 20-50 years.

Canna – any type of canna will bring large juicy leaves and exotic looking flowers in pink, orange, yellow, white or red. Some have variegated leaves such as Canna ‘Stuttgart’ or ‘Phaison’.

Passiflora caerulea – a hardy semi-evergreen climber with the most striking flowers. This vigorous plant will cover a wall or pergola in no time.

Fatsia japonica – a medium-sized evergreen shrub with palmately-lobed leaves to 45cm in width, and small white flowers in clusters and small black fruits.

Dahlia – extravagant and flamboyant flowers, plus they flower all summer long. For drama and colour, try ‘Karma Choc’ (Decorative Group) with dark red velvety flowers, or ‘Edwin’s Sunset’ (Waterlily Group) with beautiful vivid red flowers that almost glow.

Use decor and accessories…

Blend your tropical-looking plants with exotic accessories and seating to create a holiday feel. Experts at Dobbies Garden Centres (dobbies.com) offer five design tips to help you into the holiday mood…

1. Go totally tropical

Fill patio containers with a selection of vibrant bedding or perennial cottage garden plants for an instant display of foliage and flower colour, including Cordyline australis ‘Peko’, along with potted palms such as Phoenix canariensis, Chamaerops humilis (dwarf fan palm) and Trachycarpus fortunei to add height and interest and look great in groups. Position pots behind garden furniture to create the illusion that they are planted in the ground.

2. Create a colour pop

Bring a brilliant burst of sunshine and add some zing to your exterior space using an eclectic array of brightly coloured pots, mixing and matching flowers in contrasting shades for maximum impact. Fun accessories will quickly brighten patios or balconies. Choose pots in vibrant primary colours, which will really pop against white or neutral backdrops.

3. Bring the indoors out

Brighten your garden getaway by bringing houseplants outside for the day. Adding your favourite indoor orchid to a bistro table will create a tropical centrepiece – just be sure to return them to their normal home later on to ensure they don’t get exposed to too much direct sunlight.

An outdoor rug will instantly transform your space and offers protection to patios and decking from sun cream spillages or melting ice creams. They also help to zone an area, adding a stylish decorative touch. Day beds and hanging egg chairs are the ultimate garden getaway luxury if you have room.

4. Make it magical

For atmospheric evenings, accessorise with a variety of lanterns, fairy lights and candles to enhance the mood – it is amazing how magical a space can look at twilight. A stylish lantern, or a solar-powered string of lights draped across trees and fences will stretch out the time spent outside. Use blankets, floor cushions and chunky knit throws to keep warm and curl up under the stars.

5. And when the sun sets…

Take the chill out of cooler evenings by investing in a practical chiminea or fire pit for your patio, adding warmth and light to extend outdoor entertaining.

And think about how you are going to protect your plants during the cooler months, RHS expert Allen advises. “As many domestic gardeners do not have the time or space to bring plants inside over winter, it is essential to protect in situ. If focusing on the tropical look, select hardy options such as trachycarpus, fatsia, eucomis, tricyrtis, schefflera and zantedeschia, which will re-emerge after winter.

“If you want to have bananas or half-hardy palms, try wrapping them throughout the winter using horticultural fleece or hessian and fill the inside with straw for extra insulation,” she adds.

How to Combine Veg and Flowers in Pots for an Eye-Catching Display

veg pots

Horticulturist Tom Harris explains how to combine edibles and flowers to create colour and flavour in containers.

Throughout his life, plantsman Tom Harris has planted thousands of containers to enhance gardens nationwide and beyond. He’s perked up unpromising small spaces with both flowers and edibles, and says you can have a brilliantly colourful effect by combining both, as he demonstrates in his new book, Pots For All Seasons.

“People have different criteria when growing veg. I don’t approach it on the basis of what will provide me with the most food. I just find that many veg and herbs are just as ornamental, and if I get some crops from them, that’s a bonus.”

So, how do you go about growing plants such as lettuce, beetroot and tomatoes, alongside pretty annuals?

veg pots

Go for good-looking veg

“Firstly, look for good-looking vegetables. I don’t grow anything which I don’t consider to be good looking,” he says. “Tomatoes, aubergines and peppers provide brilliant colour in pots, while leafy veg and carrot tops provide the green you also need.”

veg pots

Find out which veg grow better in pots

“Some do better in pots than they would in the ground. Chillies and aubergines, for instance, tend not to do as well in the ground, while you can keep a better eye on leafy salads in containers, where you can crop them young and keep them protected off the ground.”

veg pots

Grow them separately

Harris recommends growing veg separately from flowers in pots, moving them around to experiment with what gives the best effect. “Try to grow them in individual pots and group ornamental and foliage plants around veg, rather than putting them in the same pot,” he explains. “Having said that, I had a great success planting lobelia and lettuce in a pot together. They work really well in a wall pot or a basket. Nasturtiums also work well with lettuce.

“Certain veg don’t like too much competition. Aubergines, for instance, resent anything else competing with them and look great in pots on their own. I grow them in old olive tins which make the fruits look that much more striking.

“Courgettes should be put singly in the largest pot you can. The yellow-fruited or round-fruited ones – I grow one called Greyzini which has beautifully marbled leaves and grey-green fruits – look great.

“The ‘Baby Rosanna’ small-fruited aubergines are very productive but manageable in a container, and with tomatoes in pots, I’d go for the bush or trailing cherry tomatoes such as ‘Sweet and Neat’, a compact variety which comes in yellow or red and ‘Tumbling Toms’ are the most productive.”

veg pots

Combine herbs

If you want your herb garden to be changeable, plant pots of basil, chives, thyme and parsley separately, then group all the small pots into a much bigger container, he suggests.

“Lots of herbs get too big, too quickly. Keeping them in their smaller individual pots allows you to pull them out and put something else back in and repot them, and helps keep rampant herbs like mint in check. Again, it’s about creating a picture; keeping herbs in a display, but neatly separated.”

Make the most of ornamental leaves

Colourful leaves also add interest to your combined pots, says Harris. “Some of the coloured mustard mixes look great, and my favourite chilli is ‘Prairie Fire’ which is very compact and I grow it in a long trough. You might want to grow a taller variety in a single pot.

“In a display, each one can show off the other in terms of texture, colour and shape, and the fruits bring you something extra that you wouldn’t just get with flowering bedding plants.”

veg pots

Which combinations work best together?

If you have a crate, intermingle sun-worshipping Verbena ‘Lollipop’ with trailing pink calibrachoa and cherry-fruited tomatoes, Harris suggests. “In baskets I always plant thunbergia with free-trailing tomatoes and parsley, so you have that wonderful contrast of different greens and then pops of bright colour from the tomatoes and the thunbergia.”

In larger planters with wigwams, grow sweet peas with climbing beans and you’re likely to get a better crop, as bees will be attracted to the sweet peas and will then pollinate the beans, he adds.

“If you group crops of veg with crops of flowers, you will be encouraging biodiversity and hopefully warding off some predators by confusing them,” he says.

veg pots

Think about pot height

In a mixed display, make sure your pots are all at different heights, Harris suggests. “Choose pots of different heights and different widths. I use anything from stacks of bricks with a paving slab, or upturned pots to raise my containers. You need some kind of variation in height and size to get a good look.

“Play around with the pots, rearranging them and placing one plant against another until you have the right combination. You might need to take something away or bring something else in. The display is all part of the fun.”

veg pots

Use colour combinations

Chillies might be partnered with rich-leaved heucheras and sedum, he notes. “Coleus is another great foliage plant. The bright coloured leaves bring out the tones in tomatoes or the chillies, or even echo the red leaves of lettuce or mustard.”

Pots For All Seasons by Tom Harris is published on June 25 by Pimpernel Press, priced £20.

What will the Gardens of the Future Look Like?

future gardens

Tougher plants, smaller plots and more communal spaces may all form the gardens of the future. Hannah Stephenson finds out more.

Gardens are extremely important for both physical and mental wellbeing – which has become increasingly apparent this year. But what are they going to look like in the future?

“We are finally starting to re-evaluate how we spend our leisure time and appreciate the real benefits, both mental and physical, that access to the outside world provides,” says award-winning designer Joe Perkins (joeperkinsdesign.com), who won a gold medal at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show last year with his Facebook-sponsored garden Beyond The Screen.

“These factors, along with our changing climate and the need to protect and support wildlife, will have greater significance for designers when it comes to planning gardens, and means that gardens could look radically different in 10 or 20 years’ time.”

Here, Perkins shares more thoughts on what gardens of the future could look like…

future gardens

Will gardens be smaller?

“As the price and pressure on available land becomes greater and we extend our interior living spaces, gardens will be smaller. We will see a mixture of balcony and roof space with limited outdoor areas at ground level.”

future gardens

What about lawns?

“Manicured lawns will become, for the most part, a thing of the past. Essentially a green desert for wildlife, they have little benefit and they will be replaced with either wildflower versions or removed and replaced with productive areas or larger flower and shrub borders.

“Social media is flooded with nature appreciation at the moment, so I hope that a more relaxed approach to gardens will start to emerge, with the focus less on control of wildlife and more in support of it.”

future gardens

How will technology play a part?

“Walls and boundaries will become clothed with plants and we could see advanced hydroponics being used to transform our spaces into hi-tech allotments, growing fruit and veg very productively with a minimum requirement for space, water and nutrients. We could even turn our roofs green to help improve air quality, as well as insulate our homes.”

future gardens

Will outdoor socialising change?

“Socialising has always been a priority in the garden, so I believe gardens of the future will incorporate more permanent places that we will use year-round. No more dragging the garden furniture out of the shed and dusting off the umbrella; we will have covered, heated areas for eating, entertaining and even working, now that we have all proved that we can do this from home.

“Practically, these areas will allow us to use make the most of the changing climate too, enabling us to escape the downpours and provide shade through the hotter dry spells.”

future gardens

Will plant choices change?

“Our plant choices will need to change and we will need to select varieties that are more resilient to extreme weathers, choosing plants that cope with high winds and flooding followed by long periods of hot dry weather.

“Southern France, northern Italy and either side of the Pyrenees can provide us with inspiration and many of the plants that thrive there are familiar to us already. Iris pallida, agapanthus, many of the herbs, as well as tough characters like acanthus and cistus will work well.

“Some from further south, such as the European chain fern (Woodwardia radicans) and even the more exotic palms such as Phoenix canariensis will start to migrate northwards. We could even see abutilon, hibiscus or Prunus dulcis (almond) in drier parts of the UK such as East Anglia.”

future gardens

What will be the major emphasis?

“Planting for pollinators is crucial, as we all know, but will become more so as the growth cycle of plants becomes longer. Higher average temperatures will mean earlier activity from animals such as the solitary bee.

“Providing food sources throughout the year for these creatures is something we should be thinking about as gardeners and designers.”

future gardens

Could smaller trees gain popularity?

“Trees have a vital role in mitigating flooding, alleviating rising temperatures, cleaning the air and preventing soil erosion and yet few people would contemplate planting one in their garden, let alone on their balcony.

“Acer palmatum, Amelanchier lamarckii, Malus domestica are all varieties that can be grown in pots and have almost year-round interest with blossom, fruit and winter colour.

“We need to get behind creating urban forests. Think of the trees of Singapore that cloak the sides of skyscrapers. There are many small trees we can plant in our gardens which contribute to this urban forest: Crataegus persimilis ‘Prunifolia’, Malus toringo, Stewartia monodelphato.”

future gardens

What about communal gardens?

“I would hope we would have greater access to larger areas of communal gardens or landscapes, areas with diverse habitat and productive gardens, accessible for our enjoyment and wellbeing, especially when our collective mental and physical health is under threat, but which also provide critical homes for wildlife.”

Simple and Stylish Ways to Transform your Outdoor Space

stylish garden upgrades

Whether it's a poky patio or decadent decking, all outdoor spaces can be spruced up with some stylish touches. Gabrielle Fagan reveals how.

Spending so much time at home has made us really appreciate our outdoor spaces – even if it’s the tiniest balcony or terrace.

Sales of outdoor furniture and accessories have rocketed, as we’ve lavished TLC on our patios so that they’re a sanctuary that truly reflects our taste and needs.

“There’s a growing recognition that an outside space really is the ‘fifth room’ in your home, and should be furnished and decorated with the same amount of care and attention to detail as any indoor room,” says Lynsey Abbott, seasonal buyer at Dobbies Garden Centres.

“This should be a space that begs you to throw open the windows and unwind at the end of a long day during the spring and summer months. Whether it’s a set of French windows, the door to your balcony, or simply your outdoor patio, your home probably has an ideal place to style as that fifth room.”

Tempted? Take your pick from these ideas for creating the perfect outdoor space…

stylish garden upgrades

Small can be beautiful

Size truly isn’t everything when it comes to creating an inviting outdoor space. With a dash of imagination and flair, you can work magic on even the tiniest spot. “No matter how compact your space, it can be turned into a little sanctuary perfect for morning coffee or evening cocktails,” agrees Nadia McCowan Hill, resident style advisor at Wayfair.

“I love a relaxed boho look for summer, with wall hangings and outdoor rugs in all colours and shapes. Layering rugs has a striking effect and will add depth to a balcony or outdoor space with limited square footage.”

TOP TIP: Light coloured seating will look less dominating in a small area. Add punchy colour and pattern with colourful, textured cushions and blankets, handy for warding off the chills on cool nights. A decorative wooden ladder is a super way to display hanging succulents or small lanterns.

stylish garden upgrades

Take it tropical

Summer holiday to that far-flung hotspot on hold? Ramp up the temperature at home by creating your own Caribbean-style retreat outside your back door.

Kit it out with neon patio furniture, a palm-fringed bar, potted palms (fake or real) and accessories in exotic prints. No passport or suitcases required – and pina colada optional!

Shake up some style

TOP TIP: Adding a lick of paint isn’t just for indoors. Get creative and bring hot colour and character to your outdoor space with an exterior paint. You can also use a shade to complement or contrast with the planted areas of your garden, depending on the look you’re going for. Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Bright Orange Gloss Multi-Surface Paint, from £9 for 0.25L, B&Q.

stylish garden upgrades

Treats for the table

Al fresco tableware is so stylish now, it’s tempting to use it all year round, indoors as well as out. Keep garden table dressing pared-back for the best effect – it doesn’t want to be fussy, as that will ruin the casual, kick-off-your-shoes atmosphere you’re trying to create. Just choose a couple of statement pieces and then match a key colour with napkins or a table runner.

stylish garden upgrades

Create a fifth room with furniture

“Choose furniture that suits your indoor style, then there will be a real follow-through of your look into the outdoors that blurs the boundary,” says Abbott.

“Consider the height of furniture. Low-backed furniture, for instance, won’t block your view of your garden. Add cushions and throws to soften the contrast between garden furniture and indoor furniture. Reflect key garden colours in accessories to further tie the scheme together.”

TOP TIP: Large, leafy palms and striking succulents can star in an outdoor space and be brought indoors in the colder months to bring greenery inside. Displaying a collection of plants by the entrance to your patio or balcony area is another way of merging the divide between the indoor and outdoor areas.

stylish garden upgrades

Go super natural

One of the hottest trends in patio style is a laid-back look, which combines natural materials with an easy-on-the-eye neutral palette. It’s perfect for a sophisticated stylish space.

“We’re seeing a growing emphasis on fabrics made from recycled materials and furniture made from natural, organic material, as well as responsibly-sourced sustainable woods such as A-grade teak,” says Tina Mahony, director at Go Modern (gomodern.co.uk).

“Teak is weather-proof and retains its beautiful warm honey-tones. It blends wonderfully with any surrounding style and is perfect for creating an ‘outside room’ look,” she adds.

Mahony highlights new material Tricord – a weather-resistant synthetic that’s now often being used in place of natural rattan because it won’t fade or rot, is easy to clean and extremely comfortable.

Go Modern’s range includes a Tribu Elio Garden Sofa, in teak with Tricord rope backs and seats, £2,890, Garden Armchair, £990, and Tribu Roots Garden Teak Block, £1,350.

stylish garden upgrades

Light up the night

“Outdoor spaces, whether small or large, have so much untapped potential to be transformed at night into a warm, welcoming haven with the addition of lights,” says Becky Tasker, brand creative at Lights4Fun.co.uk.

“Arrange lights in your courtyard, garden or balcony just as you would in an indoor room. It’s important to have three levels of light. I’d suggest stringing festoon lights overhead for a twinkling canopy, add waterproof candle-style lights on a table top, and arrange candle lanterns on the ground to zone the area “

TOP TIP: A group of lanterns, candles and micro lights on a mirrored tray makes a stunning focal point for a table. String lighting on your fencing, solar lights around pots and bedding plants and enjoy a night-time garden landscape that rivals the daytime one.

How to Dry Home-Grown Blooms

home grown dried flowers

Make everlasting mementoes and gifts by growing and drying your own flowers, with help from expert floral artist Bex Partridge.

Gardeners may be looking for new ways to make the most of their fruit and flowers this year – and dried flowers are once again catching on. Head-dresses, gift cards, wreaths and framed indoor displays can all be made using dried flowers you’ve grown yourself.

Floral artist Bex Partridge, author of a new book, Everlastings, explains: “Most of us have probably done this at some point and felt the joy of discovering a forgotten pressed bloom as it flutters from the pages of a book.

“While I usually press smaller flowers and leaves, I’ve recently enjoyed drying bigger branches and ferns. The results can be quite stunning and, when included in arrangements, add structural charm.”

home grown dried flowers

What are the best flowers for drying?

“As a general rule, the best plant material to dry tends to have slightly woodier stems that are less juicy in feel – think delphiniums rather than dandelions,” advises Partridge.

The best include Alchemilla mollis (lady’s mantle), astrantia, foxgloves, delphiniums, meadowsweet, honesty, globe thistles, sunflowers, nigella, hydrangea, allium, poppies, scabious and statice, although there are many more, she says.

“Start with perfect specimens, making sure the petal edges are nibble-free. It’s important to press them as soon as you pick them too, otherwise the petals will begin to droop and that will negatively affect the end results.”

Avoid big, blousy blooms

“Most flowers respond well to pressing, with the exception of big, blousy blooms that are too full of moisture or have too many layers to dry out properly, although individual petals can be separated and dried,” says Partridge.

“Daisies, nigella, bluebells and poppies will bring you stunning results. Think about the form of the flowers when pressing – you can press the heads alone or the whole stem and leaves for a striking display.”

home grown dried flowers

What about air drying?

This is the simplest way to dry flowers en masse. Begin by stripping all unwanted foliage from the stalks, leaving some of the top foliage surrounding the flower as it adds extra texture and gives a more natural appearance to arrangements.

Gathering a handful of stems together, wind a length of string or twine around them a number of times, securing it with a tight knot at the end, and leaving enough string to form a loop to hang them with. The stems themselves will shrink as they dry, so make sure you’ve tied the bunches tightly enough to keep them together, but not so tight the stems get crushed.

Ideally, bunch flowers of the same variety together for ease when you use them, or store them in boxes and try to ensure the flower heads aren’t sitting too close together to allow for good air circulation.

Air dry bigger blooms upright

Bigger headed blooms dry better facing upwards, as it results in a more open appearance and, if they have particularly heavy heads, ensures they don’t droop. Partridge uses a reclaimed riddle (flat sieve) for this.

“Stripping the stems of all foliage, I slot each stem individually through the small holes until the head of the flower rests on the mesh. I attach a hook in the centre of the riddle or an upside down wooden crate, and hang it in my drying cupboard.

“If you don’t have a riddle, you can use some fine metal mesh or chicken wire secured to a frame – or a cardboard box with holes punched through would do.”

home grown dried flowers

When air drying…

Always try to dry your materials in a dark place, as light bleaches colour out of flowers. The space you use should be normal room temperature and completely free of moisture in the air. Ideal spots are airing cupboards, cupboards under the stairs, or a dry, shady shed.

You can buy hooks and herb hangers to hang from the ceiling.

How long will it take?

Most things will have dried within three to five weeks, and can either be left hanging where they are or transferred to storage boxes lined with newspaper or tissue paper.

Avoid placing too many bunches on top of each other, to prevent crushing delicate buds and flower heads, then store them in a dark, dry space until you need them. Materials can last many years stored this way.

home grown dried flowers

What if you’re short of time?

“Possibly the easiest method is dry evaporation,” says Partridge. “The beauty of it is, you can enjoy the flowers while they dry, and if it doesn’t work as you’d hoped, you can just compost them.”

After stripping the flowers of any unwanted foliage, and definitely anything that sits below the waterline, put the flowers in a vase and add approximately two inches of water. Ensure the ends of the stalks sit in the water.

Then wait – it can take a few weeks for the flowers to dry completely. There is no need to top up the water. This method works particularly well with hydrangeas, which can be fickle when dried in other ways. Gypsophila, spray roses and mimosa respond well too.

If you’re using a flower press…

Cut off unwanted foliage and use flowers in their prime. If necessary, dry the petals and leaves with kitchen paper or a tea towel to ensure they’re totally dry before pressing them. Store in flat large envelopes or cardboard boxes, with the pressed flowers separated with tissue paper.

And if you don’t have a flower press…

A big book works just as well – as long as you don’t mind a few marks on the pages.

Everlastings by Bex Partridge is published by Hardie Grant, priced £14.99. Available now.

12 Ways to Feature Florals at Home

Floral home decor

Florals never go out of fashion and this season they're in full bloom. Gabrielle Fagan reveals her top petal power picks.

If you’ve been missing your outdoor floral fix, there are plenty of ways to ‘grow’ your own dazzling display of blooms at home.

You can take your pick from wallpapers, fabrics, crockery, and a host of other home accessories all with blooming beautiful floral designs, which are bursting forth this season.

No green fingers required – just pick from our bouquet of 12 fantastic floral fixes to take home this season…

Floral home decor

1. Go wild on walls

“We’re noticing a greater demand for floral murals,” says Rachel Kenny, studio manager for specialists in murals and wallpaper, Wallsauce.

“At this time when we’re restricted in travelling, it seems people are really missing visiting beautiful gardens, going to the famous flower shows, and are just longing to bring the beauty of nature and all its blooms into the home.”

And, she points out, a wonderful floral display is an eye-catching and soothing backdrop for those video meetings. Wallsauce’s Delicate Floral Meadow wallpaper, from £29 per square metre, features individual blooms on a pure white background.

Floral home decor

2. Make a floral statement

Just one chair is all it took! Make an impact with a single furniture piece upholstered in a bold floral print. Leave the space around your statement piece uncluttered, so you really allow it to star. For added impact, pick up on one colour in the design for a selection of accessories, such as a cushion, vase or rug, elsewhere in the room.

“Florals and botanical prints are such a popular choice for spring and summer and striking designs can really add a wow factor to a room,” says John Darling, founder of Darlings of Chelsea. “This chair suits any room, from a traditional conservatory to a contemporary living room, and is a classic which will never date.”

Floral home decor

3. Plant up a home office

In a home office or workspace, you need a design that will boost energy and creativity, while also giving you a lovely view.

“Working from home is becoming the new norm and a bold floral design for a window blind can perfectly disguise a poor view, as well as transforming an unremarkable corner into a personal space full of character,” enthuses Michael Ayerst, managing director at Surface View, who can recreate images on wall murals, canvasses, blinds and ceramic tiles.

“Florals have definitely made a big return to interiors,” he adds. “Our collection of historic botanical drawings, tropical palm paintings and colourful horticultural illustrations from across the centuries are proving particularly popular.”

Floral home decor

4. Spread a little sunshine

Think outside of the vase. A perfectly placed petal – or more – on a print or quirky accessory will refresh the look of a room and really show flower power is growing on you.

Floral home decor

5. Take to the floor

“If you’re looking to incorporate colourful statement flowers, one of the easiest and most affordable ways to do it is by featuring a bright, bold rug,” says Jemma Dayman, buyer at Carpetright.

“The variety of hues in a floral rug will allow for an eclectic selection of furniture and accessories to be used throughout the room, bringing further pops of colour and creating a cohesive and stylish scheme.”

Floral home decor

6. Play with flower power

Treat a sofa like a window-box – replacing tired old plants with new ones would give it an instant update, and new cushions in a pretty floral print could have the same effect.

“Times of uncertainty make us want to reconnect with nature, give us an appreciation of what matters, and mean we look to our surroundings to comfort us,” says Georgia Metcalfe, founder and creative director, The French Bedroom Company.

“Florals are great for bringing the outside in, whether it’s a floral fresco wallpaper design, patterned bed linen, or simple bunches of hand-picked wildflowers from a walk. Filling our rooms with floral spring tones has the effect of a visual revamp, which can’t help but lift our spirits.”

Floral home decor

7. Serve a floral feast

Interior designers know how effective ‘trompe l’oeil’ (realistic imagery which creates an optical 3D illusion) can be in rooms, and they use it to conjure stunning vistas or talking-point effects.

These are ideal used in one section of a wall, paired with a neutral background which fills the rest of the space, allowing the image to ‘pop’ without overpowering the room.

“Murals are great at adding drama and depth and can give the illusion of an impressive landscape, which is restful on the eye,” says Surface View’s Ayerst.

Floral home decor

8. Blooming table treats

There’s such a profusion of floral-inspired tableware around currently, whether you favour delicate ditsy patterns, punchier designs or something in-between.

“For those who enjoy experimenting with statement colour and bold motifs, Marimekko tableware is such a playful addition to a dining room,” says Emily Dunstan, home buyer, Heal’s.

“Vibrant flowers on the Elakoon Elama and Unikko crockery offer plenty of personality and you’ll impress guests with your distinctive, creative flair.”

Floral home decor

9. Fake it to make it

Faux blooms are such high quality now, they’re often indistinguishable from the real thing, and so it’s perhaps not surprising their popularity is soaring. They’ll never wilt or droop, provide instant cost-effective decoration and if you can’t manage to keep indoor plants alive, faux ones are a good option.

“Faux flowers can be used to inspire a romantic and atmospheric setting. Match pastels with deep berry and lavender shades and showcase fresh greenery in natural, organic vases,” advises Dunstan. “Bouquets such as hydrangeas and peonies, by Abigail Ahern, add a sense of boutique luxury, while bringing a gentle warmth and softness to a room.”

Floral home decor

10. Shine a light on petals

A lampshade which takes inspiration from faraway fields filled with profusions of wild blooms and charming country gardens, could be a small way to capture the spirit of sunny, flower-filled days.

Floral home decor

11. Blooms for the boudoir

“If you’re nervous about experimenting with colour, incorporating floral designs in the home is a subtle way to introduce it into settings,” says Bethan Harwood, home design stylist, John Lewis.

Clearly we’re all yearning for flowery details, especially in our bedrooms, as John Lewis has seen floral bed linen sales rise by 58% compared to last year.

“Focus your choice by first considering whether you want full-on florals or something less bold for curtains or bedding,” Harwood advises. “Floral wallpaper is more of a commitment but it will always add depth and character to a room and works well on one wall or as a feature on a ceiling, especially if the remaining walls are left plain.”

Top tip: generally, small, ditsy prints can make a large room feel too busy and distracting but they can really suit smaller spaces, such as a compact bathroom or dressing room, Harwood notes.

Floral home decor

12. Picture petals

One of the easiest ways to bring this trend home is with artwork. A floral print or poster can look dynamic hung on its own, or you could create a ‘living’ gallery of prints.

Pick a theme – botanical drawings, your favourite flower portrayed in different ways, or a collection of still life flower paintings – and link them by using the same colour and style of frame throughout.

Which are the Best Antiviral Herbs to Grow at Home?

WHICH ARE THE BEST ANTIVIRAL HERBS TO GROW AT HOME?

Herbalist Lucy Jones leafs through 5 of the best antiviral herbs to boost wellbeing through lockdown and beyond.

Medicinal herbalist and grower Lucy Jones believes in the powers of antiviral herbs and how they can play a positive role in helping to maintain our wellbeing in lockdown and beyond.

“Herbal medicine has a very long track record in supporting the immune system and helping patients to recover from respiratory infections,” she says.

Jones, author of a new book Self-Sufficient Herbalism, recommends five top antiviral herbs to consider and shares her growing tips for each.

Remember, do talk to your doctor before changing your diet. Some conditions that mean therapeutic doses of a particular herb should be avoided are highlighted below, but do make sure this is safe for you.

WHICH ARE THE BEST ANTIVIRAL HERBS TO GROW AT HOME?

1. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

“I find it very helpful for patients with various different respiratory weaknesses as well as being wonderful for acute coughs and colds.

“Drinking a cup of thyme infusion daily is a great way to strengthen the lungs and support the immune system. Simply use a couple of sprigs of fresh herb per cup and pour on boiling water, cover the cup and leave it to steep for at least 10 minutes until it’s quite strong.”

Growing tips: Thyme is a hardy perennial which thrives in full sun and well drained poor to moderately fertile soil. Plants should be spaced 25cm (10in) apart. Plant in a sheltered place and cut back after flowering to prevent plants from becoming leggy.

Harvesting: “I like to take a small harvest before the plants flower, and then take a second harvest once they’re in flower. Leave the plants enough green growth so that they can recover their strength after harvesting.”

Caution: Avoid therapeutic doses if you’re pregnant.

WHICH ARE THE BEST ANTIVIRAL HERBS TO GROW AT HOME?

2. Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

“I grow nasturtiums in my herb garden and dry the leaves each year to use in herbal tinctures and infusions during the winter months,” she says. When the plant is crushed or chewed, peppery, mustard-like compounds clear the sinuses as well as directly fighting respiratory infections.

“You can make nasturtium vinegar by picking one cup of nasturtium flowers and putting them in a bottle with a peeled garlic clove and a few black peppercorns. Pour over 500ml cider vinegar and ensure that all the herb material is covered by the liquid. Leave for four weeks in a cool dark place and then strain and bottle. A teaspoon of this vinegar twice a day will give you a daily dose of antiviral goodness and help ease catarrh if you’re prone to it.”

Growing tips: Nasturtium is a half hardy annual which enjoys full sun to partial shade and a rich moist soil. Grow from seed in situ once the danger of frost has passed or start seedlings off indoors and plant out later after hardening off. They will ramble about and self-seed exuberantly.

Harvesting: “Harvest when there’s a high proportion of flowers on the plants. As I intend to dry my nasturtium crop, I cut individual leaves and flowers without the fleshy stalks attached.”

WHICH ARE THE BEST ANTIVIRAL HERBS TO GROW AT HOME?

3. Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea, E. angustifolia and E. pallida)

Echinacea is a medicine known and used for generations by native Americans. Initially it was used mostly for rheumatism and snake bites.

“I use echinacea tincture for people experiencing active infections, including upper respiratory infections and infected wounds such as dog bites.

“The root is the most effective part of the plant, so if you have a large clump of echinacea now may be the time to divide it and take a harvest of the roots. Wash them and cut them into matchstick shapes of even thickness and dry them on a tray in a cool, dark, airy place.

“You can make your own echinacea tincture by putting the dried root into a small jar and covering it with the strongest vodka you can get hold of, preferably at least 60% proof. Leave your jar in the dark for a couple of weeks and then strain and bottle. Take 1-3 teaspoons per day in a little hot water at the first sign of an infection.”

Growing tips: “This hardy perennial prefers full sun and fertile free draining soil. Plants should be spaced 30-45cm (12-18in) apart.”

Harvesting: “Dig the roots of third or fourth-year plants in autumn. Wash the roots thoroughly and cut into matchstick shaped pieces for drying. Alternatively harvest fresh flowers to add to your teapot during the flowering season.”

WHICH ARE THE BEST ANTIVIRAL HERBS TO GROW AT HOME?

4. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

“Research has shown that lemon balm is good for fighting the herpes family of viruses. It’s a great home remedy to relieve cold sores, chickenpox, shingles and mononucleosis. It has a track record of reducing the unpleasant symptoms associated with the early onset of influenza.

“To make a tea from it, pick a sprig of fresh herb and place it into a cup, add boiling water and leave it covered to infuse for 10 minutes before drinking.”

Growing tips: “This hardy perennial likes a moist, rich soil in full sun to partial shade. After flowering, cut the dead stalks down and remove them.

Harvesting: For tea, harvest early on in the season while the stems are still soft and there’s a mass of foliage. Cut stems about 15cm (6in) from the base, or above the lower faded leaves.

Caution: Avoid therapeutic doses if you have an underactive thyroid.

WHICH ARE THE BEST ANTIVIRAL HERBS TO GROW AT HOME?

5. Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus, formerly Rosmarinus officinalis)

“As well as being associated with youthfulness and improved memory, rosemary has significant antiviral properties. Among its many constituents, it contains oleanolic acid which has displayed antiviral activity against influenza viruses, along with herpes viruses and HIV in test tube studies.

“Rosemary is also considered to be an excellent herb for recovery after a debilitating viral infection. It gently supports the digestion and the circulatory system, whilst relieving tension and lifting the spirits.

“It’s one of the herbs that I always include in my daily pot of ‘garden tea’, not just because it tastes so good but because it has so many health benefits.”

Growing tips: “Rosemary is an evergreen shrub which prefers full sun and a sandy, dry soil. Plants should be spaced 60-90cm (24-36in) apart.

Harvesting: Combine harvesting with necessary pruning of established plants. Cut stems with secateurs and be conscious of maintaining a good shape to the shrub. Cut individual springs as required for teas.

Caution: Avoid if you have epilepsy.

WHICH ARE THE BEST ANTIVIRAL HERBS TO GROW AT HOME?

5 Ways to Style a Small Garden or Outside Space

Only got a dinky yard or balcony? You can still transform it into a dream garden, as award-winning designer Ula Maria tells Hannah Stephenson.

Wondering how to style a small garden?

Whether you have a roof terrace, balcony, small back yard or patio, you can still create a dream design with some thoughtful planting and innovative additions, says award-winning designer, Ula Maria.

“Try to understand your space and what will grow there, the light levels, how much sun you get and where the shade falls, as well as the type of soil you have to work with,” says the former RHS Young Designer of the Year, whose new book, Green, offers design ideas for small spaces.

“Take inspiration and learn from nature, whether it’s artwork for colour or an aspect of past holidays, or something else which has inspired you,” she adds.

How big should the plants be in a small space?

“Don’t be too scared to bring in larger plants, because they always seem to make a small space appear grander,” says Maria. “If you are worried that planting a big tree may block your light, think about another statement plant, such as a tall grass. If you have a balcony garden, you may just want to include tall-growing perennials or something that will make a big impact.”

The book features a mixture of small and innovative gardens offering a range of design ideas. Here, Maria shares tips on five styles for inspiration…

1. Balcony garden

Merge florals inside with the balcony outside, she suggests, maybe in the form of a chair covered with a floral material which echoes the flora and fauna on your balcony. “It’s important to make the transition between inside and outside seem as seamless as possible,” says Maria.

Place houseplants close to the window of your balcony to enhance that connection and blur the boundary between outside and in

2. Contemporary Mediterranean

Use materials such as graphic tiles, presenting them in a contemporary way, she advises. Look for companies which sell reclaimed tiles and furniture for ideas. “You don’t have to do a whole wall. You could cover one section of a wall, creating an artwork,” Maria suggests.

If you have a busy wall, you may want to play safe with planting, sticking to green rather than going for a eye-popping colour contrast. “Try not to introduce more than two colours at a time, and see how it works. Ferns are good stalwarts. If you are using busy tiles, keep the planting simple.”

3. Romantic Idyll

Create layered planting with soft, gentle hues, and use fragrance to create a small romantic space, she suggests.

This space has been assembled by an artist, layer by layer, using antique furniture, sculptures and planters to blur the boundaries of the garden and planting in layers to create different heights.

“Layers create interest because you have something to discover in every corner,” says Maria.

“Hydrangeas are great because they have these big, soft blooms. Ornamental roses also look brilliant, along with campanula and ivy, to create a fairy tale garden.”

4. Interior approach

This style is for those who want their outside space to look like an additional room, featuring comfortable seating framed by flora and fauna. “There may not be many plants but there should be enough to create a sense of a garden,” says Maria. “It’s ideal for people who are too busy to maintain many plants.”

An inward-focused space enables you to forget what happens outside its walls. Outdoor rugs have also become a trend in recent years, giving the sense of extra outdoor living space.

If you’re worried about storage of garden cushions, consider buying furniture with in-built storage inside the seating framework, Maria suggests.

5. Container cottage garden

For people with a city garden or roof terrace with no natural planting area, but who still want to feel like they are in the countryside, make the most of containers. These will soon have your space overflowing with plants, Maria assures.

“Large agapanthus, verbena and rosemary add accent colour, texture and scent and you can even grow a fruit tree in a large pot,” she says.

“Plant a mixture of cosmos, lavender, foxgloves and lupins for a joyful and informal look. Experiment with growing herbs, vegetables and fruit in large containers for the full cottage-garden experience.

“Again, allow many layers for different types of plants,” Maria adds. “Containers also provide flexibility for those who one day might want to relocate their garden to a different home.”

Climbers such as clematis or jasmine will cover privacy panels and fill the air with fragrance.

Remember, though, containers can dry out fairly quickly, so consider installing a simple automated watering system if you’re not going to be able to water your pots regularly, she says.

Green by Ula Maria is published by Mitchell Beazley, priced £20. Available now.

How to Grow Flowers that are Ideal for Cutting

These are the best blooms for cutting so you can enjoy them outdoors and in, as florist Arthur Parkinson tells Hannah Stephenson.

If you love flowers both outside and in, now is a perfect time to start growing blooms in your garden that you can cut for DIY bouquets later on.

You can dig out old seed packets or buy new ones from mail order suppliers such as Suttons.co.uk and mr-fothergills.co.uk, which have seen huge increases in sales.

Keen to get started? Here, gardener and florist Arthur Parkinson shares some top tips on growing the most colourful, eye-catching flowers, which will offer masses of interest whether you leave them outdoors or cut them for your home…

Dahlias

There’s still plenty of time to pot up dahlia tubers. They need to start off undercover and be kept frost-free, so plant them either in a greenhouse or on large windowsills.

For small numbers, plant the tubers up individually into two or three-litre pots using peat-free multipurpose compost. The tuber only needs to be a few inches below the surface of the pot’s compost.

If the compost is moist to the touch then you will not need to water the tubers until they send up their first few shoots, as this will be enough to stir them into growth. Overwatering growing dahlias can cause them to rot.

If you really want to go to town with dahlias, the quickest way to pot lots of them up is to crate plant them. Plastic crates can be lined with old, pierced compost bags and into each six tubers can be planted together.

Once they are large and growing well, you can take each plant from the crate like slices of cake and transplant them into large containers or out into the garden.

Hardy annuals

You can sow hardy annuals now, these include calendulas, cornflowers and borage. It is too early to sow most fast half hardy annuals such as cosmos, as it is better to sow these from mid-April.

If you are growing on a windowsill then keep your seedlings cool and put them outside on mild days to prevent them getting leggy, bringing them inside at night until they begin to grow their adult leaves.

Sweet peas

Pinch out sweet peas if you sowed them over the winter. Once they look strong with several pairs of leaves, pinch out the growing tip with your thumb and forefinger. This encourages the seedlings to grow sideshoots that will flower well.

If you haven’t sown sweet peas yet you still can sow them. Those that are seedlings now will be ready shortly to be planted out in their final positions. Dig in as much well-rotted manure that you can, as sweet peas are very hungry plants.

Staking

The mild winter is seeing the sap quickly rise in many trees. Now is the time, if you haven’t already, to secure a source of hazel and silver birch for pea sticks and poles if you can.

Birch is often found to have self-seeded itself along roads in urban places, so you may spot it on your one walk a day. However, you could also use the prunings from apple trees, or paint old bamboo canes a good deep green or even a Moroccan blue to add to a display of dahlias.

Alternatively, use mail order willow sticks that are dried and preserved, so that they can’t root but look very nice in the garden. Hessian pea and bean netting can be draped over canes for sweet peas too.

Mulch

Feed your borders and beds with a good two-inch mulch using homemade compost. This will feed the soil for the season ahead. Online suppliers are still delivering although garden centres are closed.

Dahlias, cosmos and sunflowers will grow well on soil that is enriched. Don’t dig it into your soil but spread it thickly and let the worms do the work for you.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR GARDEN DOG-FRIENDLY

dog friendly garden

RHS Chelsea Flower Show designer and dog-lover Sam Ovens offers tips on ensuring your garden is a dog-friendly space. By Hannah Stephenson.

So often, pets are considered a bit of a nuisance among gardeners, who don’t really appreciate their lawn being dug up by pooches burying their bones, or bounding through their flowerbeds.

But award-winning Chelsea designer Sam Ovens, a dog owner himself, is adamant gardeners and their pets can share outdoor space in harmony.

He’s teamed up with the Animal Health Trust (aht.org.uk) to share top tips on how you too can create a dog-friendly garden for your pooch…

dog friendly garden

What plants may be beneficial to dogs and stimulate interest on all sides?

Ovens suggests: “For me, a dog-friendly garden can be beautiful – dogs love to explore and I think actually a plant-filled garden is great place to investigate and play.

“Care just needs to be taken to ensure the plant selection is robust and will bounce back when our doggy friends decide to take short cuts across the borders!

“Choose robust plants, as well as ornamental grasses like miscanthus and pennisetum, but in any case, beware of spikes and thorns, particularly at eye level,” he adds. “For something both dog and owner can enjoy, plant herbs like oregano, fennel and nepeta, all good, safe choices.”

dog friendly garden

Which design ideas could be incorporated into a dog-friendly space?

“Dogs will enjoy a shady spot for those hot summer days, and different textures, from paving and grass to cobbles and mulch. Also, a clear path around or through the garden space for the dog to run around, fresh water to keep dogs hydrated and cool, but with shallow sloping edges so they can easily get in and out, and herbs and other scented plants that smell great,” says Ovens.

dog friendly garden

Anything to avoid that’s likely to be trashed by a boisterous dog?

“Boisterous dogs can damage young and delicate plants, either by digging them up or running through them. It’s best to avoid small and delicate plants that are slow growing, as these will struggle to recover from the rough and tumble of dog play,” says Ovens. “Planting larger and more established plants than normal is also wise, as established plants are more resilient.”

dog friendly garden

Any features both dog and human can enjoy in unison?

“I think sensory elements are great, as they are stimulating for both man and dog,” he suggests. “A simple water feature set among planting can provide a natural sound that’s as calming for dogs as it is for us. It’s also a source of water for thirsty dogs, as well as an attractive thing to sit and watch.”

Other elements enjoyable to human and dog include scented plants, as well as natural sounds from ornamental grasses and bamboo, which create a calming environment.

dog friendly garden

What else should you avoid in a dog-friendly garden?

Heather Covey, head of internal medicine at the AHT small animal clinic, advises: “When planning a garden, remember that our dogs are great scavengers and can find a number of things to eat, many potentially dangerous to your dog.

“Certain plants, such as foxgloves and delphiniums, are toxic. Be careful with bulbs which can be dug up and eaten, as these can cause stomach upsets and in some cases severe irritation of the mouth and throat.

“Make sure your dog doesn’t eat snails and slugs, as these can cause lung worm (a serious condition in your dog) and instead of using slug pellets, use the old remedies for slug prevention, such as eggshells and copper tape.

dog friendly garden

Don’t forget about your compost heap, she adds.

“This can contain food scraps, such as avocados, grapes and onions which, although may be tempting to your pet, can be harmful.

“Your compost heap can also contain mould toxins, which if ingested can have worrying neurological or liver side-effects. If you want to compost at home, then a sealed bin is a good idea. Finally, if an owner is concerned about their animal’s health, they should always consult their vet.”

10 Fragrant Gardening Gifts for Mother’s Day

mothers day gardening gifts

Choose a fragrant gift for your gardening mum, whether it's plants, flowers or botanicals. Hannah Stephenson sniffs out 10 ideas.

So many plants offer fantastic scents – the sweet headiness of lily-of-the-valley in spring, the strong perfume of roses, mock orange and lilies through summer.

From shrubs whose scent is carried in the wind and can be enjoyed out on the patio, to houseplants that fill a room with fragrance, along with scented balms, oils and candles aimed at gardeners, your mum can inhale the joy of her garden with a fragrant Mother’s Day gift.

Here are some of the most perfumed offerings to buy now…

mothers day gardening gifts

1. Scented Crab Apple Blossom Tree Gift, £35, notonthehighstreet.com

Planting a tree can make a gift last a lifetime, and this fragrant crab apple from The Gluttonous Gardener offers the most spectacular display of aromatic blossom, beginning with clusters of fragrant white flowers that open from pink buds in spring.

They’re followed by crops of golden fruits in early autumn, which remain bright and beautiful on the bare branches into winter, when birds will flock to the garden to feast on them.

mothers day gardening gifts

2. RHS Flowers for Fragrance seed collection, £4.99, Mr Fothergill’s (mr-fothergills.co.uk)

This collection of seeds, which will produce flowers to give you a mixture of delicate fragrance and rich aromas, is part of a new range from Mr Fothergill’s Seeds in partnership with the RHS. The packet contains chamomile, mignonette, nicotiana, lupin, monarda and stock, which can all be sown in spring.

mothers day gardening gifts

3. Aromatherapy Gift Set – Pelargonium and grapefruit, £28, Denys & Fielding (denysandfielding.co.uk)

If your mum likes natural products made using essential oils, this plant-based gift set may be one for her. It comprises a floral, fresh bath oil, with a slant on reducing stress and enhancing mood, while grapefruit is great for combating fatigue and lifting spirits. It comes with a matching aromatherapy votive candle with a 20+ hour burn time, a choice of candle container and a biodegradable bath mitt.

mothers day gardening gifts

4. Stephanotis gift crate, £24.39 (from £27.99), crocus.co.uk

A bridal bouquet favourite, this climber has deliciously scented flowers, and can be trained onto a support. The jasmine-like perfume of the summer flowers will fill a room, and as it matures, it develops vigorous climbing stems, and glossy evergreen leaves. You can put it outside when the weather warms up too.

mothers day gardening gifts

5. Moorland Myrtle and Rose scented candle, £29, notonthehighstreet.com

With elements of gorse, heather and myrtle, this candle – hand poured into a scientific beaker no less – has a bold floral scent with earthy undertones.

mothers day gardening gifts

6. Lasting rose bushes

There are a number of new roses worth earmarking, including Rosa ‘Silas Marner’ (from £22 for bare-rooted, David Austin Roses, davidaustinroses.co.uk). An unfussy rose, it’s a soft mid-pink, with relaxed medium-sized cupped blooms, ruffled petals and a rich medium-strong Old Rose fragrance with accents of fruity lemon, green banana and apricot. Plu it’s shade tolerant.

If a namesake is more your mum’s bag, there’s Rosa ‘Mum in a Million’ (£11.95 for bare root, Peter Beales Roses, classicroses.co.uk). This hybrid tea, with large soft pink, highly fragrant blooms, flowers repeatedly from May until first frosts, and is ideal for beds, borders or a large patio pot.

mothers day gardening gifts

7. Limited edition English lavender collection, £50, 30ml, jomalone.co.uk and Jo Malone London boutiques

This new collection from Jo Malone combines lavender with a trio of different additions to create three different scents – coriander (aromatic), silver birch (cool woodiness) and wisteria (soft florals). The collection also includes Lavender & Musk pillow mist and diffuser.

mothers day gardening gifts

8. Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’, from £10.99, Thompson & Morgan, thompson-morgan.com

If your mum likes a shrub that offers year-round interest and fantastic spring scent, ideally in a patio pot or border, treat her to this fragrant semi-evergreen daphne. It bears non-stop white blooms, which turn from pink in bud, from April to October. It has neat, compact growth, so is best appreciated in a patio pot or near a pathway, where everyone can enjoy its rich scent.

mothers day gardening gifts

9. X oncidopsis ‘Nelly Isler’ scented orchid, £16, root-houseplants.com

The X oncidopsis ‘Nelly Isler’ is a crimson red orchid with a mood-enhancing, sweet and lightly citrus fragrance to brighten up Mother’s Day. Its exotic-looking flowers provide a long-lasting display and could bloom a few times a year – if they’re happy. They usually flower between autumn and winter and are most suited to a north or north-east facing window.

Easy to keep, position in bright filtered light, water weekly and feed fortnightly (diluting fertiliser to half the recommended strength). Misting is also advised.

mothers day gardening gifts

10. Baylis & Harding Royale Garden Fragranced Luxury Soap Bath Petals Mother’s Day Gift Set, £10

What better way to relax after a hard day in the garden than with this beautifully packaged box of delicate soap petals? They dissolve in warm water and smell of rose, poppy and vanilla.

Are we Harming Garden Wildlife with Plastics, Toxic Food and Bad Design?

dont harm wildlife

Dodgy seed mixes, plastic netting and leftover scraps can all hamper garden wildlife. Here's how to remedy bad habits.

World Wildlife Day is on the horizon, meaning gardeners will be thinking about how to attract more creatures to their plot through nectar-rich plants, bird food and good garden practices.

But what if you are killing your wildlife with kindness? Are you unwittingly putting out the wrong scraps for animals, creating a pond in which creatures become trapped, or tidying your garden to the detriment of nests and sheltering spots?

Here are some common mistakes gardeners make when trying to be kind to wildlife, and advice from experts on how to keep wildlife safe.

dont harm wildlife

DON’T… Serve up fat balls in plastic netting

Peanuts and fat balls are regularly sold in nylon mesh bags. Never put out any food in mesh bags, the RSPB (rspb.org.uk) advises. These may trap birds’ feet and even cause broken or torn off feet and legs. Birds with a barbed tongue, such as woodpeckers, can become trapped by their beaks.

Instead, hang a half coconut filled with fat balls in a tree or from a bird table, the RSPB advises.

DON’T… Feed birds dodgy seed mixes

The RSPB advises bird lovers to avoid seed mixtures containing split peas, beans, dried rice or lentils, as only the large species can eat them dry. They are added to some cheaper seed mixes to bulk them up. Any mixture containing green or pink lumps should be avoided as they are dog biscuit, which can only be eaten when soaked.

Poor quality peanuts can carry the aflatoxin fungus, which can kill birds if they eat it. Instead, make sure you buy peanuts that are guaranteed aflatoxin-free from a reputable supplier. And buy seed mixes from a reputable source such as the RSPB, checking which species the mix is likely to attract before you buy.

dont harm wildlife

DON’T… Use pesticides

Many gardening experts agree that chemical pesticides are mostly non-specific, so will destroy beneficial insects as well as the nuisance ones, which will then start to upset the balance of nature.

Instead, go organic and opt for different methods. You can use beer traps or hand-pick slugs and snails off your plants after a downpour, wipe or wash aphids off badly affected plants as they appear, and use parasitic nematodes as a biological control for vine weevil.

DON’T… Cut hedges at the wrong time

Resist cutting hedges and trees between March and August, as this is the main breeding season for nesting birds, although some birds may nest outside this period, says the RSPB.

dont harm wildlife

DON’T… Box creatures in

You may love seeing creatures visit your garden, but wildlife is not a pet, and should be free to roam in and out of the garden. So don’t box wildlife in with mile-high fencing – a hedgehog, for example, needs to walk a mile a night searching for food and a mate.

Instead, create safe corridors from your garden to the one next door, by making gaps at the base of your fence.

Also, let some of your lawn grow longer. Voles, shrews, frogs, toads, beetles and hedgehogs like to move through long grasses rather than out in the open, the RSPB advises.

DON’T… Tidy your garden too much

If you remove all your leaves and other garden debris from your beds and borders, you’re effectively depriving any visiting wildlife from shelter and food.

Instead, tidy up (if you have to) in spring, when wildlife is waking up rather than going to sleep. And at least plant some strong perennials such as Sedum ‘Herbstfreude’ whose seedheads will be left standing when you prune the rest, to provide birds and insects with shelter and food.

When pruning, save some of the bigger branches and logs to make a log pile in a quiet, sheltered part of the garden, which will provide insects with a haven in the cooler months.

dont harm wildlife

DON’T… Let creatures drown

Yes, wildlife will always be attracted to water, but getting in and out of a pond can be tricky if the pond has a hard edge that sits above the water level. Hedgehogs, for instance, are adept swimmers, but if they can’t climb out of steep-sided ponds or pools, they will drown.

Instead, use a pile of carefully positioned stones, a piece of wood or some chicken wire to create a simple ramp to allow creatures to exit, Hedgehog Street (hedgehogstreet.org) suggests.

DON’T… Give milk to hedgehogs

You may be tempted to treat your visiting hedgehog to a bowl of milk instead of water, but it doesn’t agree with them and can cause diarrhoea, says the RSPCA. Instead, give them a shallow bowl of water and some additional food, such as meaty cat or dog food, and hedgehog food.

dont harm wildlife

DON’T… Think that only the most showy blooms will attract insects

Flowers that come from intensively bred plants, with huge double flowers, may not offer much to visiting insects in the way of nectar.

Instead, go for good nectar plants including foxgloves, wallflowers, Verbena bonariensis and heleniums, as well as herbs including chives, borage and rosemary. For a list of nectar-rich plants visit the RHS (rhs.org.uk) .

World Wildlife Day is on March 3. For details go to wildlifeday.org.

These are the Best Garden Shows and Festivals to Visit in 2020

2020 garden shows and festivals

Put a date in your diary to visit these inspiring and informative plant-filled shows and events

If you’re looking for inspiration, colour, or just a lovely day out, there are plenty of flower shows and other horticultural events to mark on your calendar this year.

Here’s a look at some of the best and brightest gardening shows and festivals on the line-up for 2020…

2020 garden shows and festivals

Daffodil delights

To mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of William Wordsworth, four main RHS gardens, Wisley, Rosemoor, Harlow Carr and Hyde Hall, have planted enough bulbs to make each spring garden a sight to behold.

Meanwhile, in Buckinghamshire, Cliveden is staging its daffodil spectacular The Gilded Gardens (Feb 29-May 1) for the second year.

Inspired by the 24-carat gilded golden gates on the Sounding chamber and the hundreds of thousands of daffodils across the estate, you’ll be able to see narcissi springing up throughout March and April and rolling displays of rarer, pot-grown varieties will be on show in the Ferneries. For details visit nationaltrust.org.uk.

2020 garden shows and festivals

Irish blooms

If you’re in Dublin, don’t miss Bloom (May 28-June 1), a show spanning 70 acres of Phoenix Park, with show gardens and other attractions based on other successful shows such as Chelsea and Hampton Court.

Launched in 2007 by Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board), Bloom has numerous highly creative gardens and plant displays which are used to inspire and excite the public about gardening and garden design.

The show gardens, created by some of Ireland’s top garden designers, are the heart and soul of the five-day festival which not only focuses on flowers but also on the best food Ireland has to offer. For details visit bloominthepark.com.

2020 garden shows and festivals

Scottish celebration

This year, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is celebrating its 350th birthday with a year of community celebrations. Don’t miss the exhibition Think Plastic (Jan 31-Apr 26), which brings together local artists and scientists to explore the possibilities of transferring sustainable, recyclable and environmentally-responsible plastics from the laboratory into craft and arts productions.

2020 garden shows and festivals

Garden party and giant veg

The Malvern Shows (Spring Festival, May 7-10; Autumn Show, Sep 26-27) in Worcester should be on every gardener’s calendar. The RHS Malvern Spring Festival celebrates its 35th anniversary this year with a new feature, Music At Malvern, with two spectacular evenings of performances featuring the 54-piece English Symphony Orchestra led by Lesley Garrett, performing a special VE Day commemorative concert on May 8.

The following night, Radio 2’s Jo Whiley will be hosting the Gardeners’ Party as she plays music throughout the decades, chosen by the show’s special guests. This will be along with the show’s stellar lineup of experts, including Alan Titchmarsh, Carol Klein, Joe Swift, Jonathan Moseley and the new show ambassador, Chris Beardshaw.

In the autumn show, grow-your-own fans shouldn’t miss the ever-popular popular CANNA UK National Giant Vegetables Championship, top quality plant specialists in the Floral Marquee and a throwback to Forties and Fifties Britain in the Vintage Village. For details visit rhs.org.uk.

2020 garden shows and festivals

Northern show-stopper

The Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate (Jul 14-16), an iconic three-day event and one of the biggest agricultural shows in the English calendar, features spectacular nursery displays, including several RHS Gold medal-winning exhibitors from far and wide. This year the show will be welcoming back floral designer and celebrity florist Jonathan Moseley, who will be appearing daily on the Garden stage, creating some fantastic displays. For details visit greatyorkshireshow.co.uk.

Chelsea perfection

It’s considered the most elite gardening show on the calendar, and this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show is targeting the challenges of our changing climate. Gardens will highlight the future of cities in the face of climate emergency, while there will also be a slant on sustainable materials and growing methods adopted by the world’s leading garden designers and growers. Running from May 19-23, for details visit rhs.org.uk.

2020 garden shows and festivals

TV expert advice

BBC Gardeners’ World Live at Birmingham’s NEC (Jun 18-21) may be a more commercial show than some of its rivals, but it packs a punch with its top-notch TV gardening experts, including Monty Don and Alan Titchmarsh, who’ll be offering advice in the GW Live theatre during the show.

Visitors can admire a range of innovative show gardens and bag a bargain from the many plants and accessories outlets. Less for the specialist, more for the practical gardener, you can bag yourself some bargain plants and get advice on how to grow them too. For details visit bbcgardenersworldlive.com.

Flower power

If you want to see a riot of colour, book your ticket for the Wisley Flower Show at the RHS flagship garden (Sep 8-13), where you will see an array of spectacular blooms, feast your eyes on the National Dahlia Society Show and browse the offerings from more than 50 specialist nurseries selling a range of horticultural goodies.

Learn how to make gorgeous flower arrangements from the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies and enjoy talks and demonstrations in an Expert Zone. For details visit rhs.org.uk.

Orchid mania

Kew’s 25th annual Orchid Festival (Feb 8-Mar 8) will for the first time celebrate the incredible wildlife and vibrant culture of Indonesia – an archipelago of more than 17,504 islands, including Java, Borneo, Sulawesi, Papua and Bali. Indonesia’s landscape is as diverse as the flora and fauna that inhabit it, from tropical rainforests to spectacular volcanoes.

The festival features an immersive journey through the different zones of the glasshouse, where visitors will find spectacularly beautiful orchid displays which each represent an aspect of Indonesian wildlife and culture. For details visit kew.org.

2020 garden shows and festivals

Festival fever

The RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Garden Festival (July 7-12) rebranded itself as a ‘Garden Festival’ in 2019 and remains high on the list of go-tos among gardeners for its royal setting, show gardens, floral marquees and trade stands, to buy everything from artisan goods to basic tools.

From contemporary to traditional, its show gardens will be awash with ideas on how to revitalise green spaces, while plants people, celebrities and foodies will be making guest appearances. For details visit rhs.org.uk.

Bulb bonanza

Brighten up your day with a visit to the RHS Flower Show Cardiff (Apr 17-19) to see thousands of beautiful spring bulbs. This year, the show is celebrating its 15th anniversary and to mark the occasion some 15 exhibitors that have had a presence at every show will be there.

The event will also tie in with the Visit Wales theme, the Year of Outdoors. Health and wellbeing will be much promoted at the show, displaying the benefits of of being outside and connecting with the natural world. For details visit rhs.org.uk.

5 Clever Time-Saving Tips for Busy Gardeners

garden tips to save time

Back to work? So when are you going to find time to get all those gardening jobs done to make sure your plot looks pretty?

garden tips to save time

Well, you can save hours later on in the year by making a few changes now to give you that time back when you most need it.

Here are five ideas to give you a head start on maintaining your garden when others will be digging, mowing, watering and weeding every chance they get…

garden tips to save time

1. Use permanent plantings in containers

Plant containers with evergreens, shrubs or perennials that will come back year after year, to save time having to replant annuals with every change of season.

Lavender is a good stalwart, or you could also choose patio roses, which make a good low-maintenance alternative to summer bedding, with a long flowering season. Plant them in a big enough container and they can stay there for several years.

garden tips to save time

2. Consider automatic irrigation

Installing an automatic watering system in your garden will save you hours in the summer months. You can introduce seep hoses into borders and subtle irrigation systems to take care of patio plants.

It may involve some effort initially to get to grips with the timers and securing the hoses where you want them, but it will be worth the effort. Some systems have sensors that are placed in the soil, which can assess how dry it is and adjust watering accordingly.

garden tips to save time

3. Stop weeds before they start

You can save hours of weeding by spreading a thick mulch over your beds and borders, which not only suppresses weeds but will also help retain moisture. Loose mulches such as cocoa shells and compost will provide nutrients to the soil, while bark chippings and gravel will be long-lasting.

Mulches should really be applied annually and should be at least 5cm (2in) thick to be effective. If you’re a busy gardener, a thicker mulch of 7.5cm (3in) of good quality bark chippings should last up to three years, and can be applied at any time, although it’s better to mulch in late spring when the soil is moist and warm but before the weeds emerge.

garden tips to save time

4. Create no-dig vegetable beds

Save time in the long-run by making a no-dig raised bed with room to walk in-between. The soil won’t become compacted because no-one will be walking on it and will negate the need to dig. Make each bed between 1-1.5m (3-5ft) wide, so you can reach to the centre from the path.

The depth of the raised bed depends on which crops you are growing, so if it’s root vegetables you will need to make it deeper, while shallow-rooted crops such as lettuces will thrive in shallower beds.

garden tips to save time

5. Go for a natural lawn

Keeping a lawn looking pristine can be extremely time-consuming, as annual jobs include removing moss and thatch, reseeding bare patches, feeding, getting rid of lumps and bumps and regular mowing during the growing season. So, go for something that will take up less time.

Create a clover lawn for a longer, more natural look. It will need much less maintenance than a grass lawn, needs no feeding and only has to be mown once to remove dead flowerheads. Clover is also a magnet for bees.

Alternatively, go for a herb lawn with a mixture of creeping thymes or non-flowering chamomile, although these won’t stand hard wear, so you may need to cut a path if you’re going to walk through your herb lawn regularly.

×
Find a Property
M
Country & Equestrian