Chandelier in situ

Clever ideas to light your garden at night

Warm summer evenings are what many gardeners live for. It’s time to kick back, relax and enjoy the fruits of your labours. This thought struck me last night as I sat out with a glass of wine at as the sun set, lent back and was gently assaulted by the wayward branches of my tobacco plants. Their ivory-white blooms shone in the dusk, and their fragrance stopped me in my …Read More

1 Honey bee on lavender at The Green Backyard

It’s Bees’ Needs Week!

Our gardens are full of small miracles. The billions of tiny organisms in every teaspoon of soil that are the difference between a fertile tilth and sterile dust. The joyful, tumbling swifts and swallows that somehow fly here every summer from thousands of miles away in Africa. The wonderful feeling you get from smelling that first cut of the lawn on a warm day in spring, each time as good …Read More

Climbing hydrangea

The Marmite plant

Hydrangeas: love them or loathe them? Not always an easy question for me to answer. The very word conjures up images of fusty pom-poms of flowers in a dirty, granny-knicker pink. But recently I’ve begun to see one hydrangea in particular in a new light…

When I moved into my new house back last August, there were just two plants in the garden. One was an enormous dicentra (bleeding heart, now …Read More

Let parsley flower and it attracts many insects

The scent of summer

It’s a wet and windy night – big fat raindrops are lashing the steamy kitchen windows as the last of May’s delicate flowers are swung wildly to and fro in the looming dusk. No idyllic sunlit shots of the allotment for Instagram tonight.
It’s the kind of weather that makes me want comfort food. For me, when I need to make something from the cupboard and not set a foot outside, …Read More

How to tame a Robin - Birds - Bakker Holland

How to tame a robin in half an hour

Last weekend I realised a long-held dream: taming a genuinely wild creature to eat out of my hand. I’d like to say it was a carefully thought-out process, but nothing could be further from the truth.
I’ve always seen robins around on the allotment. I love them for their beady-eyed, inquisitive nature – looking at you as if bemused, cocking their heads to one side, as if to say “are you …Read More

Rhubard Picking - Bakker Spalding-w850

The Secret Life of… rhubarb

There’s more to good old-fashioned rhubarb than meets the eye. Firstly, it has a somewhat shady back story. Don’t ask about the relatives – it’s part of a plant family that you just wouldn’t mess with: the knotweeds – Polygonaceae – which includes fearsome plants like Japanese knotweed and the equally fearsome (though not nearly as invasive) gunnera (Gunnera manicata ) – which I once saw recommended in a catalogue …Read More

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What to do this week

Ah the joys of spring – seedlings bursting forth, bulbs flowering and a cacophony of birdsong – all of which for me tends to bring a mix of heady optimism and mild panic. It’s such a busy time of year –  I always wish April was twice as long! Where to start? Based on past experience (both successes and regrets), here’s my April ‘bucket list’:

Plant summer bulbs – …Read More

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Grow your own… cuppa?

 I’ve seen quite a few column inches devoted recently to growing your own tea. It’s a topic that’s naturally very appealing to our tea-loving, gardening-obsessed nation. Did you know that tea comes from a kind of camellia, not too different to those we grow in our gardens? Or that in the UK we drink 165 MILLION cups of tea every day?

It’s an attractive idea – step outside the …Read More

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Quick and dirty tips: grow your own oranges and lemons

I’m just back from a wonderful gardening holiday in the south of France, one of the highlights of which was a Lemon Festival in Menton, just next to the Italian border. It’s a delightful setting – steep terraces of lemon and olive groves tumble down towards the turquoise sea, and the streets of the town are lined with orange trees and palms. In winter, it’s the warmest place in the …Read More