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Gareth Richards - Garden ExpertSpalding Plant & Bulb Company are delighted to welcome on board our new horticultural expert Gareth Richards. Gareth has had an interesting and varied career in horticulture having trained and completing, an honours degree in horticulture at Writtle College in 2004. Since then he has worked at a leading plant nursery, as a researcher for BBC Gardeners’ World, at a private garden in Provence – and he is currently working for the Royal Horticultural Society’s members magazine, The Garden. 

As you would expect, Gareth’s personal interests include gardening and he maintains his own large allotment plot growing a large range of fruits and vegetables. Gareth has kindly volunteered to write a weekly blog to keep us updated on his own gardening crusade and also keep us informed as to what is ‘hot’ in the gardening world.

Gareth will also be on hand to answer any burning questions you may have to help you with your gardening. Anything from caring for wildlife through to forcing bulbs. Click here to read the latest Q&A!

Gardening with expert Gareth Richards

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

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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

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Back to the fuchsia

Human beings are fickle creatures. Imagine if someone introduced a new bedding plant that gave unique, colourful flowers, bloomed for months on end and even grew well in the shade – it would set the gardening world alight.

And yet the trusty old fuchsia, which does all of these things, has steadily fallen from favour through no fault of its own. We’ve just taken it for granted and been distracted by …Read More

Chickens - My Girls - Bakker Spalding

New chooks on the block

The memorial service was short – just a couple of dozen well-wishers and a brief eulogy from a local Archbishop. RIP Battina the ex-battery hen. Joking aside, I was really quite surprised how attached I’d grown to ‘Batty’ as she was called for short. For creatures without much brain, chickens have rather a lot of character. Batty was queen bee of my trio of hens that were rescued from the dog …Read More

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A long wait for a kiss

Funny, isn’t it, how some plants overwhelm you with their abundance of growth, while others are so slow they make you wonder whether they’re still alive.

My home-grown mistletoe is a case in point. Back in January, I gleefully ‘sowed’ lots of mistletoe berries all over my apple trees, squishing their disgusting slime into almost every crevice I could find.

It was not one of my most resounding successes, to …Read More

Apples Bakker UK Spalding

How not to garden

Ever looked through other people’s Facebook feeds and thought how their lives must be way better than yours? I reckon it’s something most of us feel from time to time.

But of course, for every immaculate beach sunset there were dozens of grey rainy days – it’s just that online, everyone tends to present edited highlights rather than a warts-and-all account of what’s going on. And this blog is no exception. …Read More

Holly Berries

10 things you (probably) didn’t know about… holly

There’s more to ivy’s festive counterpart than first meets the eye…

Holly is one of just three native trees to keep its green leaves in winter (Scots pine and yew being the other two) – so it is steeped in ancient myth and legend.

Holly was often allowed to grow taller than other trees in hedgerows – to give farmers a line of sight during winter ploughing (the more fanciful …Read More

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Salad days

It might seem weird, writing about salads as we career headlong into the darkest days of the year. But trust me, there’s plenty to be munching on, if you know where to look and what to grow. And crisp winter salads are sometimes the best of all – the perfect ‘detox’ antidote to too much stodgy food and the inevitable boozy excesses of the season.

What with the chaos of starting …Read More

Frost Leaves Garden

For the love of… frost?

I missed it. Dahlias frazzled and a thick layer of ice in the water butts were the only clues as I wrenched myself out of the house and hurried to the allotment into the watery light of a hazy November Sunday afternoon. Jack Frost had well and truly paid a visit.
Despite the devastation, I was glad. Why? Well, frost is very useful to us gardeners, for a number of reasons. …Read More

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Newbie’s guide to… oranges and lemons

When I was a kid, growing fruit from pips was a great passion of mine – and the results were sometimes as spectacular as they were varied. Early experiments with unwieldy avocado plants and spindly apples gradually gave way to some real treasures such as a beautiful loquat tree, clothed in shiny, foot-long evergreen leaves that grew to over 10ft tall.

One of my favourite pip-grown progeny, however, was a mandarin …Read More

The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Spalding Plant & Bulb Company.