Move On Up!

Actinidia kolomikta in landscape plan

Sultry, seductive, with a slight hint of chocolate – my first climbing plant was Akebia quinata. I fell in love with its photograph and set off to track one down for my very own!We had just invested in a beautiful pergola. It was delivered – a collection of posts and panels and a hefty stash of 3in nails – and assembled by a local builder. It was all looking rather good. Until the moment when we realised that we still had a rather large collection of nails and, on closer inspection, discovered that the builder had gone home before securing the rafters. And, right on cue, came the first gust of wind and rumble of thunder. The pergola’s first night...

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Dog’s Tooth Violets

Dog's Tooth Violets Garden Design Software Blog

The morning’s forecast predicted rain but I raced the east-flying rain clouds and flew out into the garden for a spot of tidying up.

Just outside our back door, there’s a welcoming, little border, with pride of place taken by a Fuji Cherry. In a few weeks time, its twisting branches will carry a dazzling display of blush-white flowers, but for the moment, the buds are tightly furled and clinging to the bare branches.

At its feet, the Daphne odora is valiantly breaking into blossom. It’s only frost hardy and the last two winters have taken their toll. Some of the glossy, cream-margined leaves have been blackened by frost and others have given up the fight and lie, carpeting the...

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Heralds of Spring

Snowdrop - Galanthus nivalis Gardening Software Blog

December’s snow and ice have given way to rain and mud here in the Forest of Dean and, while I’ll be more than happy to dig out the toboggans again if the weather turns Arctic once more, for the meantime I’ve been seduced into thinking that maybe spring is just around the corner.

A prowl around the garden and – yes, the first white bulbs are appearing amongst the green shoots along the hedgerow. The snowdrops – harbingers of spring – are well on their way.

From late January, gardens all around the country start welcoming visitors keen to take advantage of that brief time of year when the ground is carpeted with a blanket of snowdrops.

Family days out...

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A Good Year for Pears

Weatherstaff Harvest Pyrus Doyenne du Commice

The BBC reported that Herefordshire Perry cider makers were suffering this year from a poor pear harvest. Not so in my garden, I’m delighted to report. After 6 years of divvying up a solitary pear amongst our family of five, for the very first time I am hunting out cunning new recipes for enjoying our pear harvest.

I wouldn’t go so far as to report a glut of pears. What we have is one of those vertical, column-trained trees, carrying fruit along its single upright stem. Actually, we have two of these – one Beurré Hardy and one Doyenné du Comice – planted over half a decade ago and spectacularly failing to keep us supplied with pears – until...

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Does a garden add value to your home?

Narcissus Hawera

Most buyers are prepared to pay extra for a home with a garden. According to Phil Spencer, of Location, Location, Location, outside space could increase the value of your property by up to 20%.

We can be reasonably sure, though, that a well cared-for, colourful garden is a far more attractive proposition than a weedy, cluttered outside area.

So, whether you are intending to put your house on the market or stay put, you have all the justification you need for spending more time pottering in your garden.

Autumn is a good time for tidying up, cutting back spent flowers and clearing away fallen leaves. It’s worthwhile spending time thinking about how your garden has looked over the course of...

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Sloe Gin

Sloe Gin

A postscript to Season of Muddy Dog

The collected sloes lay like shiny glass beads in the colander, I had staggered back from the supermarket with an armful of gin bottles (“Couldn’t you just mention they’re for sloes?” muttered my embarrassed daughter) and amassed my kilner jars. I was all ready for a bottling session.

There’s something very therapeutic about being creative in the kitchen. I felt like a Victorian pharmacist, lovingly creating my recipes and remedies. Or perhaps an old wise woman. (Though not so very wise – having removed the metal bands from my jars, it took me quite a long time to reassemble them. Not so old either…)

The recipes I’d gathered were reassuringly varied. There were...

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Season of Muddy Dog and Mellow Fruitfulness

The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner blog - sloes in the hedgerow

It was a glorious autumn morning, the sun streaming low across the harvested field, the dog charging off to chase crows and investigate rabbit smells.

The dog is Marnie, our inquisitive, excitable, two year old Golden Retriever. One of the great advantages of working from home is being able to stride across the fields with her, before starting on the day’s work.

We clambered over a stile and into the next field. More accurately, I clambered over the stile. Marnie doesn’t do stiles. She adopts her bewildered “But you surely can’t expect me to jump over that?” expression, then goes off to scout out an alternative route.

The heavy rain of the previous night and the recently ploughed field were...

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