I’m Growing New Potatoes for Christmas.

New potatoes are more than just a treat for early summer, you can enjoy them into the winter too. Started now, they will be ready to eat by Christmas. Here’s how I’m growing mine.

Special seed potatoes are available online, in catalogues and in garden centres now. I’m growing Charlotte and Pentland Javelin which are favourites for taste. You can also buy Nicola and Maris Peer. These are cold stored potatoes, primed ready to plant in August. You can also hold back some of your spring-bought seed potatoes, but you have to keep them in the bottom of the fridge until now, before planting.

Royal Horticultural Trials at Wisley showed that potatoes grow best in bags rather than rigid-sided plastic plant pots. You can buy special potato sacks, but I’m re-using compost bags. It’s a good way to recycle them.

I’m using Dalefoot salad and vegetable compost. Roll the tops down to form a collar, spike the bags to give good drainage, and fill them with 30cm of loosened compost.

Sit the seed potatoes on top of the compost. Ensure they are not touching, place them about 20cm apart.

Cover the potatoes with 5cm compost and water well. Place outdoors on a sunny patio. As the shoots start to grow, cover them with more compost and roll up the compost collar. Keep doing this until there is a 5cm gap left at the top for watering. What you are doing is “earthing up” the potatoes, without all the effort involved on growing them in the ground.

Move the bags, before the first frosts, into a greenhouse, porch or conservatory. By now the top growth will have died back and can be removed. Stop watering and keep the potatoes stored in the dry compost until you want to cook them. Because they have not been harvested and exposed to sunlight and air, the potatoes will not form hard skins and will retain that new potato taste and texture. In the past growers would have stored them in damp sand. My grandfather used to make “clamps” for vegetables such as potatoes and carrots, when vegetables had to last right through the winter without the availability of fridges and freezers.

I use soil association-approved Dalefoot Compost which is made from sheeps wool and bracken. It gives farmers in the Lake District an income for their wool which might otherwise go into landfill. It’s 100 percent natural and peat free, and contains a source of potash which makes fruit and flowers grow well.

My summer potatoes did well this year. I’m hoping for a small but tasty crop of new potatoes just in time for my Christmas dinner.

After planting my potatoes, I am sitting in my summerhouse with Grace cat, enjoying sunny weather and 23C temperatures, thinking of winter days ahead. I’m sure those tasty treats will be so welcome when the days are cold and wet.

You can listen in to my 10 minute gardening tips during BBC Gardens Hour today at 1.40.47 on the timeline on Sounds https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p07hst9m Each week we try something new, do pruning, take cuttings, grow something from seed, help wildlife. Sometimes our projects work, sometimes they fail, but it’s a lot of fun trying, aiming to get the best from our garden plots.

Links: Seed potatoes https://www.amazon.co.uk/Taylors-Autumn-Planting-Potatoes-Christmas/dp/B008M4MHFC

Dalefoot compost : https://www.dalefootcomposts.co.uk/

Karen twitter : https://mobile.twitter.com/kgimson/status/1149241935502225408

Karen on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karengimson1/?hl=en

Please feel free to share this blog post. Thank you for reading!

You might also like to read: https://bramblegarden.com/about/

And : https://bramblegarden.com/2019/08/04/dancing-with-bees-a-journey-back-to-nature/

Response on twitter. @bimblegarden said:

Last Minute Christmas Presents for Gardeners

Here’s my last minute recommendations. I would love to receive any of these. They all last longer than Christmas Day. Prices vary, depending on special offers and discounts.

1. Vouchers for a course at Common Farm Flowers.

https://www.commonfarmflowers.com/workshops.html .

I joined the Grow Your Own Cut Flower Patch course a few years ago, and I’m self-sufficient in flowers for my friends and family. There was enough information to grow plants commercially, if I had wanted to. I’m delighted to be able to wander about my garden at any time of the year and create beautiful hand tied bouquets and pretty jam jar posies. There’s something special about home-grown flowers. It’s all a matter of planning and knowing what varieties to grow. Georgie is an excellent teacher. After attending one of her courses, you feel as if you can conquer the world. It’s a rather wonderful feeling!

Courses on offer range from £15 for a garden tour to £290 for a painting course.

Courses: Flower Farming, encouraging wildlife, social media for small businesses, starting a kitchen table business, grow your own wedding flowers, hand tied bouquets.

2. RHS Membership. From £61.

Develop your gardening skills with an RHS membership package. Membership includes unlimited entry to RHS gardens, discounts for show tickets, personalised advice, and entry to 200 partner gardens. The RHS magazine,The Garden, is worth the membership price alone. It is packed full of inspiring ideas and information. Written by experts we all trust. I always look forward to my copy, and it keeps me up to date with new plants, ideas for recycling, using less plastic in the garden and information on the latest research into plant diseases. It’s great to see The Garden magazine will be delivered in recyclable paper packaging instead of single-use plastic next spring.

https://www.rhs.org.uk/shop/special-offers/active-offers/rhs-gift-membership-offer

3. Support the Woodland Trust with a membership package. £48.

Explore 1,000 Woodland Trust woods. A walk in a wood lifts your mood and re-energises you. It will do you a power of good.

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/membership/

4. Membership for St Tiggywinkles wildlife hospital. £36.

We all rely on our wildlife, hedgehogs in particular, to help us combat slugs. This is a wonderful way to support wildlife and learn more about them.

https://www.sttiggywinkles.org.uk/top-navigation/help-us/membership.html

5. Join The Hardy Plant Society. £17 a year.

A great way to discover more about hardy plants, find like- minded gardeners and join in with events such as talks and slide shows, conservation and plant sales. There’s two issues of the The Hardy Plant magazine a year, free advice and a chance to take part in the free seed distribution scheme.

http://www.hardy-plant.org.uk/whyjoinus

6. Charles Dowding No-dig course. Various prices. Approx £150 a day.

Learn all about growing all kinds of vegetables and fruit, productively and with less effort. Charles has helped me to garden with a poorly back. I fractured my spine in a car crash 15 years ago. Without his advice, I would probably have had to give up my one acre garden. With his no-dig techniques, I have managed to keep on top of weeds, and grow all the fruit, veg and flowers I want to, without aggravating my spinal injuries.

I hope these last-minute suggestions have been useful. If not for Christmas, they make a lovely birthday present.

What’s the best course, or membership, you would recommend? Let me know so I can share your ideas too.

Coming up in the new year, I’ve been invited to try out some weekend holidays for gardeners. I’ll let you know how I get on. I’ll be taking my Mum with me, of course. Something to look forward to in 2019.

In a Vase on Monday- spring flowers for Mum

Flowers for my Mum this week. There’s nothing as beautiful as spring bulbs and ranunculus are among my favourites. They are easy to grow. Plant them 8cm deep and the same distance apart in bulb fibre or John Innes compost. I grow mine in pots, starting them off in the greenhouse for an early crop. But they can be grown outdoors in full sun and well-drained soil. Plant them with the “fingers” facing downwards. The RHS has a sale on – 12 corms for £1.60 instead of £4. Aviv Rose is an excellent variety. I also grow Purple Heart . They last for a week in a vase. I made a small posy for the kitchen table with mine.

Red tulips look fabulous with blue hyacinths. I’ve placed these with lots of twigs from the garden. I’ve got grey catkins, red dogwood, spirea, and field maple. Some of the stems came from my new “Hedge in a Box” kit from Hopes Grove Nurseries. I wrote about planting my new florists’ hedge Here.

In amongst the stems are daffodils from Waitrose, grown in West Cornwall. “Surprise Bouquets ” contain 30 different stems for £4. You can’t tell what they are while they are in bud. The mystery is only revealed as they open. I love something a bit different and new marketing ideas to promote British flowers. Greenyard Flowers have been supplying Waitrose with daffodils for 23 years and grow more than 1,000 different varieties.

Some of the daffodils open up with creamy- white outer petals and a darker lemon trumpet. They have a delicate scent too.

All my bouquets for friends and family contain some of this evergreen glossy-leaved shrub that originally came from my Grandfather Ted Foulds. It’s called Euonymus Japonicus. I loved his visits here each week. He would always bring a little pot of seedlings from his garden, or a cutting from one of his plants. It’s lovely to walk around the garden now and remember him from all the flowers and shrubs in my garden.

There’s nothing more cheerful than popping a few twigs in amongst the spring flowers and watching them burst into leaf in the heat of the windowsill. This one I think is common field maple. The lime green leaves are almost as beautiful as any flower.

Thank you to Cathy at Ramblinginthegarden for hosting this meme. Why not go over and see what Cathy and all the others are putting in their vases this week. It’s an international favourite.

End of the Month View – March 2nd 2018

Thank goodness there’s some colour in the greenhouse right now. I planted these Iris reticulata last October. And just when I need something cheerful to look at, they’ve sprung open like a jack-in-a-box. As soon as the sun hit the greenhouse glass, they pinged open. A lovely moment. Glad I was there to see it.

Such an inky blue. I planted Iris Pixie and Harmony, and then somehow lost the labels. A common occurrence in my garden. I must address the problem of how to keep labels this year.

I’ve no need to tell you what the temperatures are like at the moment. One look out of the window and you can see for yourself. We are white over in the UK. So today I’ve been mooching in the potting shed and greenhouse.

Planted last September, these Carnegie hyacinths are a joy for months. The buds are pretty, with just the green tips showing. I think there’s as much pleasure in anticipating what’s to come, as there is when the buds finally burst into bloom. The scent fills the whole greenhouse and makes it a pleasure to work in there on a freezing cold day. I heat the greenhouse to between 5 and 7 degrees. It is an old Alton Cedar greenhouse -second hand, renovated and painted black. Being cedar, the wood swells in the winter and cuts off any draughts – keeping it warm and cosy in there.

Prepared -or temperature treated bulbs – are planted in September in individual 3″ pots. The bulbs are given a cold period to fool them into thinking they have been through winter. We then put them in a cool, dark cupboard in the potting shed or garage for 20 weeks which finishes the treatment. Then, the bulbs are gradually brought out into a cool greenhouse and grown on. You can delay development by just keeping them cold and on the dry side, which is how I’ve managed to keep them flowering right through winter.

Choose bulbs that have flowers roughly the same size to plant into bowls and create displays for the house.

Today, I’m looking out at a snow, right across the back fields, and there’s icicles dangling from the greenhouse roof.

All along the top shelves are succulents and cacti- which need virtually no water between November and mid-March. These Echeverias have grey -blue leaves and striking orange flowers in summer.

The potatoes are starting to chit. Hard to believe, I will be planting them in a few weeks. I’m growing Charlotte and Lady Christl- both delicious. These varieties are on the RHS recommended list for growing in containers. If you are thinking of growing in containers, you need 8 litres of compost per potato. So put five in a 40 litre bag or 16″ -18″pot. Start off filling the bags with 20 litres of compost and 125g organic potato fertiliser. Sink the potatoes into the compost, and water. As the haulms or stems grow, add more compost to cover them and gradually fill up the pots. The secret to success is not to overwater. Soggy compost deprives the plants of oxygen and leads to stunted growth. Start feeding with potash when the leaves are out of the top of the pots. Other varieties I’ve tried and are RHS recommended include Casablanca, Golden Nugget, Sharpes Express, Maris Bard, Jazzy and Vales Emerald. I don’t grow Sharpes Express as much though, as it tends to disintegrate when it’s cooked and you end up with a pan full of soupy water.

Just behind the potatoes and bedding plant cuttings is a pot of wild rocket. I sowed the seed in autumn and now have lots of little pots like these from which I can pick a few leaves each day. Pick from the outer leaves, leaving the centre of the plants to keep growing.

Here’s a quick peek in the potting shed at dusk. The last of the Paper White narcissi are cheering up the potting bench. Another fabulous scented flower.

And in the potting shed window there’s snowdrops. This one is a very pretty Galanthus Viridapiece which has delicate green-tipped flowers. A favourite of mine.

Thank you to Helen at Patient Gardener for hosting this EOMV meme.

How are you coping with the weather? Get in touch and let me know how your garden is faring in the snow. Keep warm everyone.

In A Vase On Monday -Christmas flowers and foliage from the garden

One of the joys of winter is mooching around the garden and still finding flowers and foliage to bring indoors. This week’s mooching produced hydrangea Annabelle flower heads. They have dried to a beautiful pale parchment colour.

In late summer, Hydrangea Annabelle has creamy white flower heads, often the size of footballs. I leave them to create architectural shapes in winter. They look fabulous with a topping of frost or snow. At Christmas I cut a few for the house. A quick spray of silver gives them a festive flourish. I use Oasis floral spray for my arrangements. It dries in seconds and gives a good finish. You don’t need to use very much to give foliage and flowers a silver sheen. I love the way it highlights the veins on the back of the petals.

In keeping with the silver theme, I’ve added some willow twigs. They are just starting to produce soft, furry grey catkins. A welcome sight and a reminder that spring won’t be far away. Some fluffy seed heads add texture. These are Clematis tangutica orientalis Engelina, also know as My Angel. It scrambles up through the hawthorn hedge and produces the most beautiful, delicate flowers in autumn. I wrote about it Here.

Adding a touch of colour is my Mum’s Chinese lanterns, Physalis alkegengi. This grows by Mum’s front door and is always such a cheerful welcome to any visitors. It’s rather a rampant plant and to be honest it looks like it’s trying to get in through the front door. Every autumn we pick a few of the seed heads to dry, leaving most of them to provide a glowing approach all along the front drive.

I’ve added some Scott’s pine, Pinus sylvestris, complete with beautiful resin-scented cones. A little pile of cones stands beside our fireplace ready to be thrown into the fire. Along with some precious apple tree logs, saved for Christmas. The scent drifts through the house to the kitchen where I’m making spiced ginger biscuits.

Thank you to Cathy at ramblinginthegarden for hosting this, my favourite meme. Go over and have a look what Cathy and all the other gardeners are doing for their IAVOM this week. You can also follow me on twitter @kgimson and Instagram karengimson1 and on iPlayer at BBC radio Down to Earth.

Have a wonderful Christmas. Thank you all of you for reading and sending such lovely, encouraging comments each week. It is always appreciated. Love from Karen x

Fairy Lights for the Greenhouse- and an update from this week’s BBC radio programme for gardeners

It’s amazing how a few little touches can make all the difference. In defiance of the cold, dark days, I’ve brightened up the greenhouse with mouldable lights. These are tiny fairy lights on a copper wire. They can be twisted around floral arrangements and basically they hold their shape without damaging the flowers. I’ve used chrysanthemums from the poly tunnel for this display. It makes a lovely warm glow at a time when we all need some winter cheer.

I’ve chosen indoor battery-powered lights from the Christmas range at Wilco . The 2.2m cable contains 20 warm white lights for £3.50 and includes the battery. I’m going to wrap them around plant pots in the greenhouse next.

We talked about mouldable lights on this week’s BBC radio gardener’s phone-in programme. You can listen in on your phone or computer on the i-player. I wrote about how to tune in Here. https://bramblegarden.com/tag/radiogardening-howto-i-player-bbc/.

You can listen to any radio programme for 28 days after the broadcast. And there are special programme clips and podcasts too. The gardeners’ phone-in is on BBC Radio Leicester every Wednesday between 11am and 12 noon on 104.9 FM and digital. And on Sunday there’s local radio’s longest-running gardening programme, Down to Earth hosted by Dave Andrews, between 12 and 1pm. We will be taking phone calls live in the studio this coming Sunday, December 3rd.

Here’s a link to this week’s Wednesday programme hosted by Ben Jackson. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05m8p6x. Move the timeline round to 2.07.57 where the programme starts. We talk about making Christmas presents from materials found in the garden- including jam jar succulents and cacti, and making bird feeders with fir cones. And our mid-morning studio treat, for all the staff, was Chocolate Tiffin made with fresh autumn raspberries from the plot.

Here’s some details on the prepared hyacinths we mentioned. These are some I grew to flower for Christmas 2016.

You will need to buy “prepared” hyacinths which means they have been put into cold storage to fool the bulbs into thinking they have had winter already. To complete the treatment at home, place the bulbs in John Innes No2 compost in 3″ pots. Put the pots in a cold dark cupboard in the potting shed, garage or basement. Or put them into a black plastic bag. Store them for 9 to 10 weeks at 9C. Water just once. At the end of 10 weeks, check over the pots and those with about an inch of leaves and a flower tip showing can be brought out into a cool bright place to grow on. You can make up displays for Christmas by selecting bulbs that look about the same height and putting them into larger plant pots together. Don’t bring them straight into a centrally heated house or the flowers won’t develop properly. The bulbs need to be grown on in cool conditions for another 22 days.

Here’s some hyacinths and forced narcissi I used to create an early spring display this year. You can also bring twigs of cherry blossom into the house and they will give an earlier flowering too. I wrote about forcing Paperwhites Here.

The scent is quite glorious. Interestingly, different varieties of hyacinths need varying periods of cold/dark treatment. The variety Pink Pearl needs 10 weeks, but Anna Marie needs just 8. So experimentation is needed if you wish to mix the varieties in a display. I would set the 3″ pots at weekly intervals and grow more than I needed so that I could select the right number of plants for my display. Just a reminder- always wear gloves when handling bulbs as they can cause skin irritation.

A very quick and cheap Christmas present idea we mentioned was jam jar succulents. Here’s the materials I took into the studio. You will need a small recycled jam jar, handful of ornamental washed shingle, small amount of moss from the garden, and a succulent or cacti from the garden centre. Mine is an offset from one of my own plants. You half fill the jar with shingle, wrap the succulent stem with moss and plant. Finish the present with a ribbon. Plants need virtually no water over the winter. In summer, water once a week with a tablespoon of water. Tip the jar up to allow any excess water to drain out. Do not allow the succulent to become waterlogged.

This one has been in the jam jar for two years.

Talking of Christmas presents ideas I love these RHS Gold Leaf Gloves. I’m practically living in them, they are so comfortable. I may be a fairly scruffy gardener, with old trousers and holes in my jumpers, but my hands are glamorous.

Here’s a quick peek of Ben’s garden, which we talk about on the show. It’s a 2.5 by 2m raised bed, a bit overshadowed and plagued by slugs. But we’ve planted winter veg, salads and flowers – to see how much we can grow in a small, less than perfect plot. The kale and chard keeps growing through the cold weather. You just harvest the outer leaves, leaving the growing tips to keep going. I’ll keep popping by now and again to see how Ben’s getting on with the project. I’ve got a matching plot at home so we can compare progress. I have to say, Ben’s is looking better than mine at the moment. My plot is on a windswept ridge, and his is in a pretty, walled garden.

And after all that talking- we tucked into my Chocolate and Raspberry Tiffin. I wrote the recipe the recipe Here. Click on the link to see the recipe.

Do you have any recipes to share – or ideas for Christmas presents using materials from your garden? I’d love to hear your views.

Brownfield Metamorphosis at Hampton Court Flower Show

We are all captivated by projects such as the High Line in New York  where  former industrial spaces are transformed into havens for wildlife.
Martyn Wilson’s garden at Hampton Court this year is all about nature taking over. Rubble and decay is replaced by trees and self-seeded plants amongst the rusting monolithic steel structures. 

“Inspiration came from places such as the High Line in New York and the Landschaft Park in Druisburg, Germany, and also the regeneration of the former MG Rover site in Longbridge, Birmingham.  The High Line is an example of a successful project, turning  a derelict brownfield site into a thriving contemporary space. The  public is invited into what was a forbidden and dangerous space.  

“For the Hampton Court garden, sculpted  steel and  concrete blocks form the structure. I wanted to soften the urban features by introducing grasses, ferns, perennials, self-seeded annuals and shrubs such as buddleja.” 


In amongst the silver birches – multi-stemmed Betula pendula are Buddleja davidii Wisteria Lane and white-stemmed Rubus cockburnianus. The perennial plant list features golden Achillea Walther Funcke, Terracota and softer yellow moonshine. 


Herbs thyme, fennel and origanum  mix in with verbena bonariensis, scabious, leucanthmums and umbellifers.  Grasses such as the quaking grass Briza media mingle with Deschampsia cespitosa and flexuosa and Festuca amethystina. 


Annuals featured in the garden are Dauca carota Dara, Californian poppies, eschscholzia Sun Shades and Red Chief, poppy Peshawar White and albiflora, and poppy rhoeas.


Wild flower orange Hawkweed, Pilosella aurantiaca- also known as fox and cubs- stands out against the crushed concrete scree and monolithic steel structures which were designed by Ledbury-based sculptor Simon Probyn.



Martyn Wilson’s garden shows a new approach to weaving our industrial heritage into new landscapes for the benefit of wildlife and people. He wants us to see the beauty in these spaces-  not just walk on by without a second thought. 

For me, I understood his “beauty in decay and regeneration,” theme. With some show gardens, the ideas behind them can be puzzling to say the least. But this one was obvious. A new approach which celebrates the relics of our past, to create flower-filled spaces for wildlife, insects and people. 




The garden, which was awarded a gold medal, was sponsored by St Modwen Properties PLC and raises awareness for UCARE  urology cancer charity  www.ucare-oxford.org.uk.

Simon Probyn http://www.simonprobyn.co.uk    sculptures

The Pot Company http://www.thepotcompany.com

Easymix http://www.easymixconcrete.com

Smiths of Bletchington http://www.smithsbletchington.co.uk

Louis Masai- London-based artist outdoor murals for the hoardings http://www.louismasai.com

hortus Loci plants http://www.hortusloci.co.uk

Cotswold gardening School http://www.cotswoldgardeningschool.co.uk

Keyscapes Ltd http://www.keyscapes-easigrass.co.uk

If you visited Hampton Court  this year, or watched the television coverage, which gardens caught your eye? Have any of you visited the High Line garden? It’s on my must-visit list. Thank you for reading, and for taking the time to comment. 

#wordlesswednesday- RHS Hampton Court

I wish you could smell these Malmaison carnations. They are old fashioned glorious! 


More like a rose than a carnation, these historic flowers were displayed by Jim Marshall at RHS Hampton Court this week. They rightly  won Gold and Best in Show in the plant heritage section of the floral marquee.


They remind me of buttonholes, Floris soap, and country house glasshouses. Such a romantic clove-like scent, and a story of rescue and revival. The Malmaison carnation originated in France as a chance seedling. It was named Souvenir de la Malmaison after the rose grown in the Empress Josephine’s garden and quickly became fashionable. Nurserymen started to breed new forms in a sumptuous range of colours. Favourites of English country houses until the Second World War,  they gradually died out due to disease and labour intensive requirements. Malmaison carnations are prone to damping off disease and red spider and need constant renewal by cuttings and layering. 

Grower Jim Marshall has made it his life’s work to save the carnation and now uses micro-propagation to improve vigour and disease resistance. Plant supplies for sale are still in relatively short supply and favourite colours soon sell out. They are a bit of a challenge, but well worth the effort for the beautiful colours and unforgettable scent.

For more information contact Plant Heritage,  jim@malmaisons.plus.com. 01473822400 Hullwood Barn, Bolton Lane,Shelley, Ipswich IP75RE. 

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.

img_7212
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.

img_7216

A Visit to the Garden of Ninfa

These photos are for anyone who, like me, can’t visit the RHS London Rose Show this weekend. 

Curated by Rachel de Thame, the second annual show at the RHS Lawrence Hall, promises to be a “celebration of England’s favourite flower.” I’m really sorry to miss out, as Rachel tends to have an eye for all things elegant, and is well known for her knowledge and passion for roses.

Instead, I’m beavering away at work – but in my tea break, I thought I’d share my photo album of Ninfa. 


I was lucky enough to be invited on an Italian gardens tour at the beginning of May. Family commitments and work means I’ve not ventured abroad for around 10 years. I’m not complaining, I love British countryside and gardens.

But when a friend decided to celebrate her birthday with a tour of gardens, and invited 12 pals along, I couldn’t turn down the chance to go along.

We spent a week touring the gardens of Lazio near Rome. On our last day, we visited Ninfa. 

The garden planted among the ruins of the ancient town of Ninfa, is the work of generations of the Caetani family, most notably, Princess Lelia. Virtually every wall, tower and tree is draped in roses. They look as if they have grown naturally-all on their own- with no help from anyone. 

The approach to the garden is down a path with white rambling roses engulfing the boundary wall.

It was our lucky day. Our guide was the Director’s wife, Stella. Wherever there was a Sign saying no entrance, Stella lifted the rope barring our way and ushered us through. What a treat to see the secret areas of the garden, not open to the public. Such kindness is always appreciated, and never forgotten. 

The whole garden is filled with such fragrance. 
American Pillar, possibly. So beautiful against the blue/green walls. All the roses look so healthy.


Rosa Mutabilis- an old fashioned China  variety-quite often called the butterfly rose. 


We ducked down under this cloud of tiny red roses to cross the bridge.

The garden of Ninfa is open infrequently to protect its delicate environmental balance. More information from http://www.fondazionecaetani.org. We travelled on a bespoke gardens trip organised by  Success Tours  www.successtours.com accompanied by tour manager  Wendy Viney. We had the most luxurious coaches ever  and the best driver, Enrico (who saved our lives at least five times a day).Coaches by http://www.corsiepampanelli.it . We stayed at Villa Vecchia Hotel http://www.villavecchia.it   

Read more about Ninfa in RHS Lessons from Great Gardeners by Matthew Biggs, published by Mitchell Beazley.  www.rhsshop.co.uk 

Look out for next year’s RHS London Rose Show. http://www.rhs.org/shows-events/rhs-london-shows/rhs-london-rose-show. I’m determined not to miss it next time.

Have you been to any gardens that have had a big impact on you?