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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

Split Corona Narcissus

360 extravagance!

On first inspection you may wonder why you have been gifted a box of tissues – for the packaging of these supersized bulbs is often akin to our nasal wiping friends’ holder. But fear not, for this parcel is Pandora at her brightest.

Amaryllis (or Hippeastrum to give them their correct botanical name) are the Cartier of the horticultural jewels. Rather like diamond from carbon, comes 360 extravagance from a dull …Read More

Flower Fields

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

So, the results are in and the exciting new rainbow collection of tulips is available. But what’s the story behind these quintessential spring flowers? And what secrets do they hide?

Although Holland is famous for tulips, they’re not really Dutch at all – tulips actually come from Iran and Central Asia. They are a significant plant in Iranian culture – the country’s flag even contains a stylised representation of the …Read More

10 things you didn’t know about… sunflowers

2015 is ‘Year of the Sunflower’ – and here are 10 incredible facts about these easy-to-grow, joyful flowers…

Sunflowers aren’t just pretty to look at – they’re edible too! And I don’t mean just the seeds – you can sprinkle their petals onto salads, or cook the flower heads just like globe artichokes – either once they have opened, or as buds.

You can sprout the seeds for a super …Read More

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Lunch with Gareth

I hadn’t been to Gareth’s allotment before, it really is like no other! So many wild flowers with an abundance of buzzy wildlife busying themselves around it. Fabulous veg growing in an array of super colours, it truly is a feast for the senses.
Gareth showed us around his idyllic plot delving into green houses and rows of neat veg asking us to taste different morsels to see what we might …Read More

Bee hard at work

Half an hour to help solve a housing crisis

Yes you read correctly. Half an hour to help solve a housing crisis. Not a human one, admittedly, but one that’s very definitely in our interests. As I wrote in my blog a fortnight ago – every third mouthful of our food depends on bees. And bees are in trouble.
 So, in the name of nature conservation, this afternoon I took an old plastic chair out into the allotment and spent …Read More

Honey Bee

Bee counted – before it’s too late

When faced with a small buzzing insect many of us (and this includes me) are often a bit clueless. Reactions vary from outright fear to mild curiosity as immortalised by Ab-Fab’s Patsy Stone.
We tend to think of bees as a single thing but you’d be amazed to learn there are more than 260 species of them in the UK! Pretty amazing, considering we only have 30 native land mammals and …Read More

Visitors enjoying Keukenhof in the late afternoon sunshine

Going Dutch

Nothing quite prepares you for a visit to Holland in the springtime. People talk of ‘flower fields’ but when you get there, it’s so vast and colourful that you feel as if you’ve been shrunk in size and placed in a giant surreal painting. It’s rather strange and wonderful at the same time.

You can’t help but be impressed by the scale and efficiency of the horticultural industry in the Netherlands. …Read More

Scratchy

Here come the girls

Meet Thelma and Louise. They’re the latest additions to our rapidly growing (home garden) hen count, just over three weeks old and already full of chirpy energy. They, and their sisters (we hope they’re girls!) arrived as eggs from our local community garden, The Green Backyard in mid February, and spent the first three weeks here in the alien-looking incubator.

They’re hybrids of a very cute breed called the “silkie”  – …Read More