Raising funds for Rainbows Children’s Hospice and Garden

Photo:A young supporter runs a fund-raising sponsored “hand print” wall at Rainbows open day.

Regular readers will know I’ve been mulling over ways to use my gardening skills to raise money for Rainbows, our local children’s hospice. And I’ve come up with a plan. I’m giving slide shows and talks to local garden groups. And I’ve asked some of my garden design customers to open their gardens for afternoon teas and guided tours – with all proceeds going to the hospice. Within a week of announcing my plans, I’ve got two talks booked, and one open garden. Times, dates and further details to follow! It’s a start!

Rainbows recently held their annual open day. Hundreds of people turned up to support the charity, and I joined them on a tour of the facilities. With Rainbows’ permission, I’m sharing photos here, to show you why I’ve decided to raise money for this amazing charity. The hydrotherapy pool, above, is used by children, their siblings and families. The key message I learned on my first visit is that Rainbows is a place to have fun. All members of the family are welcome. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, brothers and sisters come to the centre to spend time with poorly children. They all benefit from specialist care and support so they can spend precious time together- and make memories.

A key part of Rainbows’ work is symptom control and pain relief. This helps children enjoy and make the most of the time they have left. Rainbows provides a wide range of therapies and there are a number of dedicated rooms to help relieve pain and improve comfort. The multi-sensory room, has interactive light tubes, floor pads, and fibre optic features.

For children in wheelchairs, there’s a chance to take part in a cycle ride with this specially adapted bike.

Young people have their own rooms where they can chill out, use computers, watch tv, do some cooking or use a sewing machine with specially adapted equipment and aids.

No matter how small a movement a child is able to make, there’s a special piece of equipment or an instrument which will allow them to make music. Music therapy is accessible to all. Again the emphasis is on having fun, building memories for families, and enabling children to express themselves and relieve frustration.

The rainbows garden is a place for fun and games for children- and for peace and quiet and contemplation for parents, relatives and staff. I would be really pleased if some of the money I raise goes towards maintaining and developing the garden.

Rainbows provides respite, palliative and end of life care for babies, children, teenagers and young people who have life-shortening conditions. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare to be told their child will die before them. But for the families who come to rainbows, and an estimated 20,000 families across the uk each year, this is a reality.

I have pledged to do all I can to support the work of this amazing hospice.

Wherever I went within the hospice and surrounding gardens, I found a positive attitude -and plenty of smiles. The staff are fabulous and deserve all the help we can give them. Overwhelmingly there’s a message of love and hope.

I found this sunflower in the Hospice garden. I think it sums up the sunshine spread though their fantastic work.

I’ve never launched a fund-raising campaign before- and I’m not sure how good I will be at it. But I believe every little helps. Just by reading this blog you have helped. You can spread the message about Rainbows and help to raise their profile even further.

I still panic at the sight of an audience. I am terribly shy at heart, and quietly spoken. I shall need a loud microphone and plenty of Bach Flower remedies to calm my nerves. Wish me luck!

Read more about the hospice at www.rainbows.co.uk


@rainbowshospice on twitter and instagram

@rainbowsfanpage on Facebook

Chocolate and raspberry pots -Family Favourite Recipes- and how to plant autumn raspberries

Autumn raspberries are easy to grow and so prolific. I’m growing a variety called Polka – much earlier, and larger fruiting, than Autumn Bliss. Now is the perfect time to plant raspberries. They are sold bare-rooted, mail order, or from nurseries and garden centres. They are grown in nursery fields and lifted for sale at this time of the year. In garden centres, you’ll find them bundled together and plunged into 10″ pots with some compost to keep the roots moist. Tip up the plants and separate them out. Roots are fibrous and need to be planted shallowly in well-drained soil. I plant mine no deeper than 2″ and incorporate lots of well rotted home-made compost to improve drainage. It’s possible to buy soil improvers in bags from garden centres. There’s also composted maize fertilisers which I recommend as they are easy to use and weed free. Plant Grow is the one I use most often at Bramble Garden. Choose a sunny, or semi-shaded site and plant the canes 2ft apart, with rows 6ft apart. If space is limited, it’s no problem to grow them in pots on the patio. There’s dwarf varieties bred specially for containers and small raised beds. New variety Yummy grows to 45cm and fruits on the first year’s wood. There’s also a new variety called Ruby Falls which is very compact and prolific.

Here’s a favourite recipe, quick to make and cooks in just a few minutes in the microwave. It’s great not to have to turn on the oven, saving electricity or gas. It’s ready in a flash.


3oz SR flour

3oz caster sugar

3oz butter (or vegetable margarine for a vegan recipe)

1 egg (or 2 tbsp oat milk for vegans)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp milk (or milk substitute)

1 tbsp cocoa powder

Handful of fresh or frozen raspberries

You can use small mugs, cups Рor a deep glass Pyrex soufflé dish as long as they are microwaveable.


Throw all ingredients apart from raspberries in a food processor and whizz, or use a hand whisk to incorporate.

Place some raspberries in the base of the containers and top with the sponge mixture. Reserve some raspberries for the top.

Cook for 3 minutes. Open the door promptly and let steam escape. The sponge carries on cooking for another 2 minutes. They will be cooked when the sponge shrinks slightly from the sides of the dish. Use a skewer to check the mixture has cooked. If the skewer is clean, they are ready. If the skewer comes out with some liquid mixture, pop the dishes back in the microwave for another minute.

Serve hot with custard or double cream. Or allow to cool, sprinkle with reserved raspberries and icing sugar.

Makes a wonderful recipe for picnics and parties. Easily transported. Can be dressed up for a party with chocolate leaves.

This recipe can be used for any fruit. I use blueberries, pear, apple, blackberries, mandarins, whatever you can get your hands on. If you have no fruit, the sponge on its own is wonderful, or you can add a spoon of berry jam at the base instead as a change. To change it again slightly, omit the cocoa powder and you have a plain vanilla sponge. Add golden syrup to the base, if you like. Quick, easy and affordable. Just what’s needed to get us through this difficult time and with winter on the horizon.

Thanks for reading, and let me know if you make the recipe and how it turns out.

I’m talking on BBC Radio Leicester every other Wednesday at 1.10 am just after the news. Have a listen in on BBC Sounds, or DAB.

I’m also on twitter @kgimson and karengimson1 on instagram

More reading! I also write for Garden News Magazine. Here’s my most recent column.

Some listening as well….. Garden Chat At 13.12 on the timeline on BBC radio Leicester with Rupal Rajani. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p08v54lm


Raspberry canes Six Acre Nurseries : https://www.sixacrenurseries.co.uk/

Plant Grow fertiliser: https://www.plantgrow.co.uk/shop

Greenfingers charity : https://www.greenfingerscharity.org.uk/

Rainbows hospice for children: https://www.rainbows.co.uk/

Open gardens NGS: https://ngs.org.uk/

Garden News magazine: https://www.greatmagazines.co.uk/garden-news-magazine?gclid=Cj0KCQjwreT8BRDTARIsAJLI0KI75BpU1bb-p70Y54fdPoRq0TWoQw5dLmfJxEBPn2reluyg7pQCC70aAuWtEALw_wcB

What’s new for gardeners- what I’ve spotted at Glee

I am always on the look out for the latest gadget to make life easier in the garden. So I was really pleased to be invited to the garden industry event called Glee. Sadly there’s no singing and dancing – like the American tv show my daughters love to watch. Honestly, I didn’t think there would be….but I was hoping! Instead, there’s an array of new products you’ll get to see in garden centres, high street stores and supermarkets over the next 12 months.

Here’s what caught my eye at the sneak preview -held at the NEC in Birmingham this week.

Top of my list at Number 1 is a new nematode product from Neudorff. It controls chafer grubs, leatherjackets and vine weevils- but doesn’t need to be stored in the fridge. Neudorff is the first company to develop a nematode product that has a long shelf life- up to six months. This will make life so much easier. Currently, we have to order on line, or buy a voucher in a shop or garden centre, then wait for the nematodes to arrive in the post. Nematodes normally have to be stored in the fridge and used within a few weeks. I had an expensive failure when they were delivered by mistake to a neighbour, who was on holiday. By the time they arrived home, the nematodes were dead. Nematodes are a safe, natural biological control of pests and we are all trying to use them in preference to chemicals. Neudorff won the award for the best new garden care product at Glee.

No. 2 on my top list is this self-watering fruit and vegetable tower. I’m always on the look out for space-saving ideas, and this would be great for people with small gardens or patios. I’m going to grow strawberries, herbs and salads in mine. There’s a new compact blackberry that I might grow in there, called Little Black Prince, from the Lubera breeding programme. The self-watering tower was a runner up in the growing accessories awards category.

No. 3 on my list: Also from Haxnicks is this water saucer with a wick. You stand your container on top, feed the wick through the bottom of the pot – and off you go on holiday. No coming home to dead or wilting plants. Such a simple idea – and it works.

No. 4 on my list is this cream plastic container from elho. It has a see-through lid which makes it great for starting off seedlings in the spring. But the selling point for me is the integral hooks. The container will balance on a fence, or balcony rail. I’m going to use these at a school where they will brighten up a playground fence. The Green Basics Growhouse Flowerbridge won first place in the growing accessories category at Glee.

No. 5 on my list is this new weeding tool from Burgon and Ball. I never use chemicals on my lawn, and I don’t mind the primroses and self heal that flourish there. But I need to keep an eye on dandelions and thistles. So I’ve ordered one of these to keep a balance between weeds and grass. I’m hoping it will be better for my back, as less bending will be needed. The Wonder Weed Puller won first place in the new tools and machinery category.

No. 6 is this pretty and practical pin board, also from Burgon and Ball. Regular readers will know that I have a little potting shed at home. You might also have noticed a lack of photos recently from said potting shed. It is a complete mess in there. After a very busy summer, all my tools and equipment are in a heap and I can’t find the string. I’m determined to restore order and a pin board for keys, flower snips, string and my “jobs to-do” list would be just the thing.

N0. 7 on my list is this snazzy apron with lots of pockets- also from, you’ve guessed it- Burgon and Ball. To be honest, I could have just brought home the whole stand from Burgon and Ball. I loved everything from their new range at the show. The apron would be useful for me because I am always losing things. Tonight I’ve got to go outdoors and upturn five green recycling bins in search of the secateurs- last seen balancing on a wheelbarrow full of weeds. Sigh.

Also on show, and winning the home, gifts and clothing section, were some super comfy new gardening gloves from a company called Gold Leaf. The RHS Collection poppy, rose and Iris decorated gloves would be perfect for Christmas or birthday presents. I’ve made strong hints to my family. Several, in fact. No photos here I’m afraid, as the stand was so busy, I couldn’t get near it. Which is a good sign indeed for the company.

No. 8 are these new ceramic planters from……Burgon and Ball. I said I liked that company, didn’t I. I think it’s just become my new favourite. I was impressed B&B knew the plant names too. This one apparently is a rhipsalis – or mistletoe cactus. Isn’t it gorgeous. I hope they send me a cutting – and the pot! Fingers crossed.

Yes, I could really see these swinging from the potting shed roof. It would certainly draw attention away from the messy compost-strewn floor.

No. 9 Now, I can really picture this little oven outside my potting shed door. It would be great for impromptu snacks for visitors to my shack. Isn’t it adorable. It’s a fire pod- from the company with the same name called The Fire Pod. It won best new product in the outdoor entertaining category. I am not at all surprised. I love it.

Not on my list -but to give you a taste of what else is in store for autumn 2017/18 – I spotted these. Not at all sure where I would put them to be honest. I would love to know which gardens they are destined for. There seems to be a bit of a giraffe theme going on here.

However, at no. 10 on my must-buy list is this. Well, it really made me laugh. And who doesn’t need a baby dragon in their garden. It would be quite happy next to the fire pod, no doubt.

What do you think of my selection from Glee? Which are your favourites from the new product line-up. I’m just heartened to see money being invested in innovation. It’s good news for gardeners and also for the gardening industry.

Taking Mum to the Dahlia Show

Regular readers will know that Mum and I spend every Sunday visiting gardens -especially NGS gardens raising money for charity. But this week – we had a change in our routine, we visited a dahlia show.

We marvelled over the blousy, dinner plate- size flowers. None were nibbled by slugs or dashed by the weather, like mine have been.

We loved these huge white flowers, Kenora Challenger. They won the prize for best exhibit in show. They were literally perfect.

Here’s a slide show of our favourites. I loved this coral pink cactus dahlia.

Mum loved this single ruby collarette-type dahlia called Mills Purple Velvet.

My favourite was this small cactus dahlia with needle-like petals. Such a pretty delicate pink.

The show by Leicestershire Dahlia Society was held at Palmers Plant Nursery in Enderby. Mum and I have signed up for more information and will go along to talks and events to find out more. And in November there’s an event where members sell off their spare tubers. I’ve earmarked a few for my cut flower patch.

Best of all- at the end of the show, the flowers were sold off in an auction. I came home with armfuls for my MIL Joan. All her window ledges are now bursting with colour. Happy memories of when my dear Father-in-law had an allotment full of cut flowers- dahlias and chrysanthemums – and regularly came home with an array of first prize awards.

Have you attended -or entered any produce or flowers in any shows this year? I’d love to know how you got on.

#wordlesswednesday: Update on hedgehogs in the garden…..

Just a quick update on my baby hedgehogs. I wrote about them last week Here. I can report back that the Hogilo hedgehog house is a huge success. Three of the babies are in there this evening, and the roof is keeping them nice and dry.

I got in touch with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society to find out more about them. My babies need to weigh 600 grams before they can successfully hibernate. I will be weighing them tomorrow. Meanwhile I am feeding them up. Here’s a list of what we can give them.

Meat-based dog or cat food

Dried mealworms- not too many

Unsalted chopped or crushed peanuts

Sunflower hearts

Specially made hedgehog dried food- bought from pet shops and supermarkets.

Most importantly- they need a dish of fresh water. Not milk, which gives them stomach problems.

In the wild, my hedgehogs are eating the following:

Worms, beetles, earwigs, caterpillars, leatherjackets, millipedes, frogs, slugs, and fallen fruit. I know for a fact, they absolutely love windfall apples and plums.

Here are two of them with their dinner. They soon tucked in when I retreated to the house.

I was shocked to learn we have lost one third of our hedgehog population since the Millennium. The severe decline has been caused by the following:

Use of pesticides, reducing the number of invertebrates that make up the hedgehogs’ diet

Larger field sizes, making it difficult for them to move about

Mechanical hedge trimming which leaves gappy hedge bottoms and leads to poor nesting opportunities

Permanent pasture being lost to crops

Impenetrable fencing, limiting the area of connected land available for foraging

Gardens being lost to car parking, decking, etc, reducing the land available for foraging

Busy roads

Increased development

Over managed / tidied gardens reducing hibernation opportunities

Pesticide and slug pellet use, poisons invertebrates

Ponds. Hedgehogs are excellent swimmers, but they can’t get out of straight-sided ponds.

What we can do to help:

Leave untidy corners in our gardens with piles of logs and twigs.

Leave some fallen leaves, dry fern foliage, straw which can be used as nesting material.

Make or buy hedgehog shelters. Old wine crates can be converted, with the addition of a 30cm long tunnel entrance, to keep out predators, and a waterproof roof. Put the nesting material alongside as hedgehogs will carry it in themselves.

Create a safe, dry feeding area out of a clear plastic storage box with 13cm entrance hole.

Cut holes in fences so that hedgehogs can forage over a large area. The hole needs to be 13cm wide and 13cm high.

Use organic methods to protect plants. The Slug Gone wool pellets are really effective deterrents.

Make sure all ponds have a shallow beach made of stones at one end, or a plank wrapped in chicken wire, so that hedgehogs can escape.

I hope you’ve found this quick mini-guide useful. Certainly our hedgehogs need all the help they can get. It’s a sad fact that some children have never even seen a hedgehog- they were a very common sight when we were growing up.

I love this photo of a ceramic hedgehog 3,800 years old, found in an Egyptian tomb. It would be sad if they became extinct on our watch.

Photo credit : Brooklyn Museum and Big Hedgehog Map project where you can log sightings of hedgehogs in your area and find out more about them.

#mygardenrightnow: the autumn edition

If you ever visited my garden, you wouldn’t describe it as “lovely.” You’d probably shake your head and walk round muttering “what a flipping mess!” Waist-high stinging nettles and thickets of brambles are definitely an acquired taste. But despite its terrible weedy bits and uncontrollable corners- I love my garden and like nothing better than to ramble about picking a few flowers here and there and munching on blackberries (there are plenty).

So I’m joining Michelle at Veg Plotting again for #mygardenrightnow meme. Enjoy the view, but remember, I only show you the flowery bits. Behind the scenes- there is chaos!

Flowers from the veg plot are still going strong. New Calendula Snow Princess is a firm favourite. So prolific and pretty.

Jam jar flowers include annual chrysanthemums, white dahlias,verbascum and grasses from the hedgerow bottom. Here’s a posy I took into BBC Radio Leicester recently. I’m sitting in the reception area- waiting to join Ben Jackson for the gardeners’ phone-in programme. You can have a listen in at http://bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05btvd7 whiz past the news to 2.08.10 on the timeline. I’ll never get used to wearing headphones. They never seem to fit me. But Ben and the production team are very kind and let me mess about with the height of the chair and plug and unplug the headphones until I’m comfortable. Then the only thing to worry about is the fact that it’s live….and we never know the questions in advance. It’s an awful long time since I attended horticultural college. I might need a refresher course to be honest!

The sweet peas have been amazing this year. I used some new Plant Grow fertiliser which seems to have kept them going for months. Plus they are still healthy. Usually by now they are getting brown and mildewy. I’ll definitely be using Plant Grow again next spring.

In between the sweet peas I’m growing some white and pale blue gladioli. To save the trouble of staking them, I just tie them up with the sweet peas and grow them down the middle of my hazel rod wigwam. It doesn’t matter what the weather throws at them, they still grow upright. Much less trouble.

I love the way the flowers open from the bottom of the stems and work their way up. They last for two weeks in a vase.

My ¬£1 cactus dahlia Chat Noir from Wilkos has been such a bargain. It’s 6ft tall and full of glorious flowers. I do love a bargain.

Mum grew trays of pansies to pop in amongst the vegetables. They are perfect under tall brassicas such as kale and Brussels. We both love these jet black ones. They remind us of velvet.

It’s not just us appreciating the cut flower patch. This has to be the fluffiest bee ever to visit the garden.

In compensation for all these overgrown weeds and brambles, we had five baby hedgehogs born in the garden this summer. They are currently living under the rose pergola by the back door, and I’m trying to feed them up in time for their winter hibernation. Of all the things I’ve ever grown in my garden, I am the most overjoyed with these beautiful hedgehogs.

The hedgehog house was half price too. I’m sure it will keep them warm and dry over the winter. Do feel free to join in with Michelle’s meme and share your news on what your garden looks like this weekend. It’s fun to see what we are all getting up to in our gardens all over the country- and also abroad!