A quick peek in my pottingshed tonight…..

Here’s a quick peek in my pottingshed tonight. I’ve been having a go at begonia leaf cuttings.

I’ve never done this before.  I had a look on the RHS website.  Then I placed the leaves on a chopping board and, using a sharp knife, cut through the main veins. I filled a seed tray with compost, topped with perlite. Laid the leaves on top, and pinned them down with my daughter’s hair grips -the only wire I had in the house. Sometimes you just have to improvise.

I put the seed tray in my Rainbow shallow trug and left it to soak up water.  I’m finding these trugs really useful in the pottingshed. I use them for collecting foliage for flower arrangements, and as a moveable potting station when I’m sowing seeds.

My cuttings  were popped into a plastic bag and into my propagator. The best time to take leaf cuttings is in the summer. But when a friend gave me these leaves, I couldn’t turn down the chance to have a go. You never know- they might grow lots of  new little plants. Then I’ll pot them up into 7cm pots- and display them at the shaded end of my greenhouse. I’ve always loved the foliage of begonias. This might be the start of a new collection for me.

The RHS website says leaf cuttings can be taken from streptocarpus and eucomis as well as begonia masoniana and x Begonia Rex hybrids. I also found the National Begonia society handbook a useful source of information.

It was getting dark by the time I’d finished. I just had time to look at these snowdrops on the pottingshed window. They’ve burst into flower today. Such a cheerful sight on the last day of January.

Have you tried any new gardening techniques recently, or have any collections of favourite plants? I’d love to hear about them.


Winter Pruning

We are getting on top of winter jobs.  Pruning a red- stemmed Acer tree, to keep it in bounds in a small garden. As a bonus there will be beautiful pea sticks for the vegetable garden.

 The tree is growing in my in-law’s garden. It is far too vigorous for its position. But the stems are a glorious bright red in winter, and the leaves have good autumn colour. So we Pollard  it to keep it manageable and to ensure that it doesn’t cast too much shade. 

This will be the second year of looking after my in-law’s garden- hoping to keep them in their own home for as long as possible. They have lived in this house since it was built 60 years ago. The garden is my father in laws pride and joy and is totally immaculate. Now they have carers calling twice a day, and various other health care professionals  regularly popping in, it is wonderful to have a beautiful  garden for them all to enjoy. It’s lovely to see visitors smile when they look out of the windows. Their jobs can’t be easy. But a colourful well-tended garden lifts everyone’s spirits. 

Pollarding is a method of pruning where the upper branches of a tree or shrub are removed, creating a dense head of foliage and branches. It’s a technique  to keep trees smaller than they would naturally grow. Of course, it would be best to plant the right tree in the right place, in the first place. But this doesn’t always happen in real life.

The bark of this acer is beautiful too. I am glad we are able to save this tree, by careful pruning every year. And the colourful pea sticks will be a joy in summer when we grow deep purple Shiraz Mangetout through the scarlet twiggy sticks. 

Trees that respond to pollarding include: lime, London plane, mulberry, oak, ash, liriodendron and willow and some acers.

At home, I pollard shrubs including Cotinus Grace, to keep it within bounds  and  to encourage the large purple leaves it produces. And a Salix Britzensis or scarlet willow, which produces the most colourful stems on new growth. 

Our trees require only a hand saw and loppers and a short ladder.  For larger trees I would recommend a tree surgeon. To search for a qualified professional look on line at the Arboricultural Association

#WordlessWednesday – finding seed heads in the garden. 

Bramble Garden

I don’t cut back plants until spring. Any creature requiring a duvet of leaves, or a seed head sojourn, is welcome in my garden. Caught in sunlight, seed heads provide a heart-sing moment in January. Just when we all need some cheer.

Rudbeckia seed heads. Sunny all summer, a joy all winter. I love the mini five “petal” flowers in the centre of the seed head. A flower within a flower.

What are your favourite seed heads at the moment?

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#WordlessWednesday – finding seed heads in the garden. 

I don’t cut back plants until spring. Any creature requiring a duvet of leaves, or a seed head sojourn, is welcome in my garden.  Caught in sunlight, seed heads provide a heart-sing moment in January. Just when we all need some cheer.

Gaillardia seed heads. Sunny all summer, a joy all winter. I love the mini five “petal” flowers in the centre of the seed head. A flower within a flower.

What are your favourite seed heads at the moment?

#Perennial Party…..Taking a piece of my garden with me.

I don’t travel well. I’m much happier surrounded by familiar sights and sounds. I’ve become accustomed to green fields and birdsong.  My favourite place is the potting shed. A quiet, peaceful haven- shared with a cheeky robin. The scent of potted Carnegie white hyacinths and creamy Paperwhite narcissi wafts around. I’m reluctant to leave….

But I need to travel to London. So after much fussing with packing and checking train times and tickets, at least 50 times,  I set off for the unfamiliar.

Just at the garden gate, I see some violets in flower.   Nearby, the first snowdrops are in bud. There’s a primrose poking through the leafmould. And there’s a tiny hellebore flower wearing a hat of  compressed beech leaves. The leaves have protected the plant and forced the flowers into early growth.

So I pick a few flowers and gather them into a tiny posy. I wrap them in dark green gutta tape  to lock in moisture. I twirl around some string, add some lavender from the potting shed table, and set off for London- carrying a tiny piece of my garden with me. A talisman. A kind of amulet. Protection against the noise, hustle and bustle.

Propped up on the flip-down table on the train, the scent from the violets is a welcome reminder of home. I look about to see if anyone else is bothered by the noise and diesel fumes. They don’t seem to notice.

I’d forgotten that snowdrops have a strong honey scent. The flowers start to open as we travel along. These are   Galanthus elwesii, the first to flower in my garden.

The hellebore is called Jacob. It’s a  strong, healthy variety. Dependable and hardy. The violets and primroses arrived  as seedlings from my grandfather’s garden. I have happy memories of grandad Foulds arriving each Sunday with a little piece of his garden; a cutting, a seedling, or division. He loved walking around the plot, pointing out the weeds, giving advice on growing veg and cut flowers. After we had  pottered in the greenhouse and orchard, he’d settle down in a cosy armchair with home-made cake and tea. Such memories are a comfort, brought back to life by these few flowers.

And this is the place I’m travelling to. The Barbican conservatory, for the annual party for Perennial. I’m a fish out of water. A country mouse. But I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone to support a charity that is dedicated to helping all people who work in horticulture.  I’ve been lucky enough to make my living from horticulture for this past 20 years, and I care about the gardeners, contractors and tree surgeons I work with. Perennial provides a “lifebelt” to anyone in a crisis. Advice, help and financial support, for anyone of any age.

The auction featuring luxury holidays and events  raised more than £11,000, and there were raffle prizes too. It’s the most hectic and noisy event I’ve ever attended. But I’m glad I’ve pushed myself out of my little potting shed. The chance to support a valued charity, and see friends from all over the country, has been worth it.

Looking in the pink are from left to right  Fran SuermondtTanya BatkinPerennial’s Laura Garnett,  host James Alexander-Sinclair,   writers Naomi Slade , Alison Levey, and in front, Barbara Segall.

Do you have a favourite charity to support? Do you ever carry a piece of your garden with you on your travels? What measures do you take to cope when you are stepping outside of your comfort zone? I’d love to hear your news and views. 

Read more about Perennial here.

Summer Sunshine- for anyone who needs some today

Not everyone likes winter. By mid January, we’ve eaten all the Christmas cake, planted all the bulbs, and start wishing for  sunshine and warmth.

Easton Walled Gardens can always be relied on to provide some sunshine. Just as temperatures start to tumble and frost and snow hit, they announce the winners of their summer-themed photography competition, Halcyon Days.

OVERALL WINNER - TessaSmith - Early morning Somerby.jpg

Tessa Smith from Somerby, Leicestershire, takes us to “Early Morning” in her overall, first prize-winning entry. We can almost feel the rising warmth at dawn and smell that fresh-new-day scent.


Geoffrey Leng won the Summer Life category with his photograph called “Fun in the Sun.” Brings back happy memories of family holidays and  time on the beach with my two  daughters. Hold on to those  heart-warming thoughts. They are so precious.


Karen Antcliffe won the Wildlife category with her entry called “Sitting Pretty.” I’m currently planning more flowers to attract butterflies to my own garden. One of the joys of summer.


Maralyn Smith won the Countryside At Work category with this striking image.It makes me want to join a photography course right now. There’s so much energy in this photo.

HC - EWG - Peta Banks, Grassy Terrace in the Evening Sun.jpg

Peta Banks  was highly commended for  “Grassy Terrace in Evening Sun” in the EWG category. This is a favourite view of mine. Mum and I have stood on the lookout platform and surveyed this scene many times. It’s a sight that makes the heart sing.

WINNER - Plant Portrait, WilliamCollison.JPG

William Collison won the Plant Portrait category with this fabulous close up. The flower looks like it has been sugar-coated. So beautiful.

There were well over 1,000 entries in the competition which was sponsored by Savills. The gardens, just off the A1 near Grantham have been restored over the past 17 or so years by the Cholmeley family. There’s been a garden on the site for around 400 years, and it’s  famous for its sweet peas in the summer, and snowdrops in the winter.

Ursula Cholmeley from Easton said :” We’ve had a fantastic response with entries from all across the country. The overall winner captures the peace and tranquillity of a summer’s morning. Something in the depths of winter, we can all truly appreciate.”

A gallery of the winning photos and runners-up will be open at Easton during Snowdrop Week from 11th to 19th February.  For more information about opening times and for travel directions look on the website at Easton Walled Gardens.

Hopefully these photos have helped to dispel any winter gloom. And if you are a keen photographer, why not send in an entry this summer. You never know,  you might find  your work appearing in the  annual Easton exhibition, and be £500 better off!