Savill Garden - Extended Opening Hours

The Savill Garden is one of the UK's finest ornamental gardens. Depspite not being either a botanical garden, or a kitchen garden attached to a great house, it is a garden for the garden’s sake, enjoyed by horticulturalists and enthusiasts alike. It never fails to charm visitors who come to explore its 35 acres of contemporary and classically designed gardens and exotic woodland.

Developed under the patronage of Kings and Queens, The Savill Garden was created in the 1930s by Sir Eric Savill. It began as a woodland garden, with native oak, beech and sweet chestnut trees, but has since evolved by incorporating many new plants over the years.

Over the period of the Olympic Games, 27 July to 12 August, The Savill Garden will, for the first time, be offering a special treat for visitors by extending its opening hours to 8.30pm. Visitors will be able to go to the Games and do other activities during the day, and then come to The Savill Garden to relax and enjoy the hazy summer evenings when the scent from the Rose Garden, the herbaceous borders, and Golden Jubilee Garden, is at its heady best. A light supper menu will also be available to enjoy at the Savill Building restaurant. (Normal Garden entry fees apply).

More information at the gardens website.

Growing vegetables in pots

Lots of people don't really have enough room for a vegetable patch or are able to get an allotment, but many delicious varieties of salad, vegetable and fruit will do well in pots and containers and don't take up much space. Follow our guide if you want to grow your fruit and vegetables on patios, balconies, windowsills and roof gardens. There is a whole range of crops suitable for growing in pots. As always for the widest selection and variety of veg, grow from them seed, but if you don't mind exactly what variety you grow, then buy ready grown plants or plug plants from your local garden centres.

For the best results try to use smaller more compact plants for example sweet peppers, chilli peppers, aubergine or trailing types of tomatoes, as opposed to tall growing vegetables such as Brussels sprouts that require an abundance of water and are more susceptible to being blown over in the wind. With lettuces for example, select types that you pick a few leaves at a time rather than having to harvest the entire plant in one go. Herbs are particularly suitable to be planted on their own or try growinga selection of different varieties in a strawberry tower.

If growing your plants from seed, always check the instructions that come on the back of the packet. Start them off in small pots or seed trays before planting into larger pots or scatter the seed across the surface of the compost and water in. If you are going to grow larger fruit bushes for example blueberries, figs, peaches or apricots then select a larger pot and make sure you check the compost requirements on the plant label. If you can involve the children then it makes it a fun activity for the whole family.

A Lasting Legacy

A devoted Gloucestershire farmer painstakingly planted a tribute to his late wife, Janet, using 6,000 oak trees to etch out a giant heart in the middle of his field after she died suddenly from cancer 17 years ago.

Farmer Winston Howes now in his 70s, planted the fledgling trees across a six-acre field after carefully marking out a heart shape in the grass, with the heart pointing in the direction of her childhood home of Wotton Hill. The labour of love has now blossomed into a mature meadow, a peaceful oasis where Howes can sit and remember his wife of 33 years.

Mr Howes told the Telegraph Newspaper "I came up with the idea of creating a heart in the clearing of the field after Janet died. I thought it was a great idea - it was a flash of inspiration - and I planted several thousand oak trees. Once it was completed we put seat in the field, overlooking the hill near where she used to live. I sometimes go down there, just to sit and think about things. It is a lovely and lasting tribute to her which will be here for years."

Seeds to Grow in July

July is the middle of the allotment year and the month for harvesting many crops such as early carrots, lettuce, mange tout, radish, new potatoes, cauliflower, Courgettes, Spinach, runner beans and more. Despite the wet weather recently remember to keep your vegetables moist, although the rain is doing that job for you. July is the time to sow seeds for Winter and Spring harvesting, so get sowing!

Here's Five crops you can still sow this month.

Pak Choi

This leafy green Chinese vegetable belongs to the cabbage family (though tastes nothing like cabbage!). It has long green, slightly ribbed leaf stalks and soft oval green leaves. The leaves and stems are best suited to brief stir-frying or steaming to retain their mild flavour. Occasionally you may be able to find baby pak choi which can be cooked whole. It is a fast growing crop and can be used in salads, stirfries or can be steamed. Pak Choi doesn’t require a lot of water as its roots are fairly shallow.

Christmas New Potatoes

If you want new potatoes to harvest from October to December its time to act now. Tubers can be planted out in large pots or containers with drainage holes at the end of July to mid August.If any tubers appear at the compost surface, cover them with a little compost, otherwise they will turn green (due to exposure to light) and become inedible. To help avoid blight keep the leaves as dry as possible as the fungal spores are only produced on wet leaves so only water the compost with a watering can. For the same reason, if a rainy spell is forecast, pop the potato container temporarily under cover.


Chicory has an astringent flavour that not everyone likes – taste it before you start growing it! There are two types – forcing and non-forcing.
Chicory is a multi-use plant which is not commonly grown by the amateur gardener. However, it is reasonably easy to grow and provides a crop of leaves from early summer to mid-autumn. If the roots are lifted and stored in the dark then chicons are produced which will provide a delicacy in the winter months.The non-forcing varieties are easier to grow but the forcing varieties are better flavoured. Chicory is not suitable for close spacing or pot growing.

Winter Radish / Mooli

Winter Radish or Mooli is a form of giant radish which is also known as daikon. Mooli is the Korean word for this popular East Asian root vegetable, which is used in the cuisine of many nations. You can eat mooli in both raw and cooked form, and it is suitable in a dizzying array of dishes from salads to stir fries. These type of radishes are often more milder in taste than the smaller summer radishes. Winter radishes are very hardy and can be lifted and stored like other root vegetables.


Beetroot are extremely easy to grow. The typical round beetroot is well-known but there are also long cylindrical varieties. All globe beetroot are suitable for close spacing and container growing. July sown crops can be left in the ground to mature fully. Lift them in October and store in the same way as carrots and parsnips.

Tiger Lilly (Lilium lancifolium)

Lilium lancifolium  is a species of lily native to north and eastern parts of Asia, notably Japan. It is one of several species of lily that are commonly called Tiger lily but this is the species that is usually called by this name.

Like other true lilies, the flowers are borne on an stem that varies between 80cm and 200cm. The stem is covered with leaves that range from 6cm to 10 cm in length and 1cm to2cm wide.  Lilium lancifolium is one of a few lily species that can produce aerial bulbils, in the leaf axils along the stem. These can be removed and then used to propagate the plant. In common with many other lilys the beautiful flowers only last for a short amount of time before they fade and die.

In the six to eight weeks after flowering the stem bulblets should be left alone to develop and fatten up. After this time the bulblets can be removed from the stem, it is important to plant the the bulblets as soon as possible after removing. As long as they are given enough room to grow they should flower after just a year or two depending on the initial size. Obviously larger ones will flower sooner than smaller ones, so give them plenty of time to develop on the stem. If you prefer to plant them in a nursery until they get to flowering size, be sure to label them carefully as until they flower it will be hard to identify the cultivar. If you are keen to grow a large number of new plants quickly then you should remove the flower buds before it has flowered. This ensures that the plant will put all of its energy that would have gone to the flowers back into the bulblets and these will be a lot larger and therefore produce better plants faster.

It is widely grown cultivated in Asia not just for its flowers but also the edible bulbs. While most parts of the plant are edible for humans, the pollen is poisonous. All parts of the plant are toxic to cats, resulting in kidney failure in a few days after eating it, so take care if you have feline companions.

How to Grow Celery

Celery is often  regarded as a tricky crop to grow, usually because the more traditional types need a lot of work and attention. They need to be planted in deep trenches and require layers of soil added regularly to blanch the green stems. Fortunately modern plant breeders have developed strains that do not need earthing up to produce tender white stems due to developing self blanching types. Plants can be grown from seed sown in early spring, although its often easier to buy plugs. Young plants can be planted out in May or June.

Celery prefers a moist but well-drained soil with plenty of pot. It's a great plant  for an allotment, but a short row can be squeezed into a garden as long as you get the sun, individual plants could be grown in long tom style pots.

Preparing the soil

As Celery has specific needs then preparation is key. Start off by digging over the soil in early spring well before planting, make sure you remove any large stones as well as  weeds and add in a generous amount of  compost or well-rotted manure (make sure its well rotted as fresh will burn the plants).

About a week prior to planting planting out, hoe in  a general purpose granular fertiliser into the surface layer of the bed, follow the manufacturers instructions about the amount needed.

If time permits then the plants can be started off  yourself by sowing seeds in March or early April. Plants are best started in small seed trays, Celery seed is very small, lightly sow  the seed across the surface of the seed tray. As the seed is small place the tray in a larger tray of water to wet the soil rather than by watering from above as this will disturb the seeds. Finally cover the seed with a thin layer of vermiculite  and place on a windowsill or if you have one in the greenhouse. Remember not to let the soil dry out.

Once the seeds have germinated, these can be pricked out into individual pots once the first adult leaves have grown. Keep the pots watered and about 5 or so weeks later they should be about 8-10cm tall and will now be ready for planting out.

As with all seedlings grown in doors or a green house they need to be toughen up first by placing in a cold frame or if you dont have one take them out during the day and bring them back in at night.

Planting out

Plant them out into the prepared ground about a foot apart (30cm), Celery grows better if they're planted in a grid-pattern, instead of long rows.

Keep the plants well watered and weed free, additional plant food can be added during the season.

Your celery should be ready for harvesting from August until the first frosts, lift plants as required using a small hand fork, making sure you don't damage nearby plants.

RHS Flower Show Tatton Park

Despite the rain and wet weather we have had recently, the RHS have announced the 2012 RHS Tatton Flower Show will go ahead as normal.

Kris Hulewicz the Show Manager said "This year’s show will go ahead no matter what the weather. Our team on-site is doing everything possible to ensure this will be a great show – just don’t forget your umbrella and wellies!"

New for 2012 are the orchestra gardens, local schools are competing to fill trugs in the RHS Summer Fruit & Vegetable Competition and three young designers are battling it out to be named National Young Designer of the Year 2012. In the flower bed competition, entrants are marking the London Olympics with a 'Celebration of Sport' theme.

Local authorities and community groups from across the UK have risen to the challenge of designing a flowerbed with the theme 'A Celebration of Sport' as part of the annual RHS National Flower Bed Competition. Groups will exploit a wide range of plant material to create designs befitting to Olympic sports such as archery, cycling and athletics. Watch out for Birmingham City Council's floral display of Britain's sailing team featuring a depiction of Olympic hopeful Ben Ainslie, Birmingham have had quite a lot of well deserved attention this year with stunning displays at Chelsea and Gardeners World Live.

Tickets are still available. See the RHS website for more details.

Kew at the British Museum - North American Landscape

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the British Museum have teamed up tol create a North American-landscape on the Museum’s west lawn. The garden will focus on eastern and central North America, from Florida in the south to New England and Canada in the north. North America hosts a large percentage of the world’s broadleaf forests, temperate grasslands and Mediterranean-climate vegetation.

The North American Landscape will take the visitor through the North American continent showing unusual as well as a selection of rare plants from its various climates, and showcasing its rich biodiversity as well as contextual information on exploration, plant discoveries by Europeans and introduction into the UK, plant uses and threats, and indigenous themes.

Examples include sweet grass (Hierchloe odorata) that is used as incense because of its vanilla scent and is sacred to many of the indigenous Peoples of North America, who believe smoke from burning dried sweet grass welcomes in good spirits. Many of the grasses’ natural habitats of wet meadows, lake-shores, stream banks and low prairies have been lost and in Pennsylvania, Maryland and North Carolina sweet grass is now endangered. The orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida) is a member of the daisy family and is a prairie wildflower that thrives in open woods, meadows and pastures. The species was first described in England in 1789 by William Aiton the first curator of Kew Gardens in his catalogue of plants cultivated at Kew. Loss of habitat means this species is now endangered in New Jersey.

10 May – 25 November 2012: British Museum Forecourt: Admission free
See the website for more information.

Seed Competition Winners

Congratulations to Maria and Clare who have won the Seed Parade competition. Your seeds should be with you shortly.

For those who didn't win do check back regularly for more competitions or have a look though the Seed Parade website for a great selection of affordable seed.

Sad loss at Abbotsbury

Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens has lost one of its grand old trees, with the poor weather. The soil was saturated and they lost some 'top heavy' trees along with all the streamside paths being washed out. The banks and gardens along the stream will be rebuilt, but graceful old giants like this one cant be replaced quickly. The giant tree in the pond is a Cupressus macrocarpa, which was planted in the gardens about 1896.

Graptopetalum paraguayense

Graptopetalum paraguayense
This Mexican Native is commonly called the "Ghost Plant" and is a small and fairly hardy succulent plant which forms small rosettes of silver-gray leaves with a slight pink tinge. Plants can get up to about 30cm or so with each rosette reaching perhaps 15cm. The fleshy leaves are fairly fragile and will fall off fairly easily if the plant is handled roughly.

Graptopetalum paraguayense need full sun to light shade and a well-drained soil.  If kept potted during the winter months, only water enough to keep the leaves from shriveling. This plant is planted into a raised border in the garden in a fairly heavy soil and has come through recent hard winters without any significant problems (Last winter reached minus 10C).

Ancient fertiliser

Moss plants that survive the freezing conditions of Antarctica have an unusual food source, scientists say.

The vibrant green plants take nutrients from the poo left behind by penguins that lived in the same area thousands of years ago. Scientists made their discovery whilst testing the plants to find out how they manage to survive in the icy landscape.

The findings were presented at the Society for Experimental Biology's annual meeting in Salzburg, Austria. Prof Sharon Robinson, from the University of Wollongong in Australia, has been studying Antarctica's plants for 16 years.

She explained that she was interested in where the plants get their nutrients, because the Antarctic soil on which they grow is so poor.

Hampton Court Round Up

There were lots of interesting gardens (and some not so interesting) on display at the 2012 Hampton Court Flower Show, which finished yesterday. Here are a few personal highlights.

The Coral Desert - Hampton Court Flower Show 2012

Designed by Antonia Young, "The Coral Desert" highlights the plight of the worlds Coral reefs. Three-quarters of the world’s coral reefs are at risk as a result of pollution, overfishing and climate change. This garden is planted with cacti and succulents to represent a coral reef. Visitors can cross a bridge to reach the heart of this garden, which has been designed to offer a fully immersive experience that challenges all the senses.

Live Outdoors Garden - RHS Hampton Court

The Live Outdoors Garden at RHS Hampton Court Flower show 2012 was created on a budget of just £13,000, and demonstrates that a private outdoor living space can be created in an urban environment.

Stepping up through the lush planting to a raised deck, styled with comfortable furnishings and covered by a living pergola. The pergola structure also functions as a planting channel, offering extra growing space and adding colour and design interest. The living wall located behind the wood fired oven provides vertical space for additional planting.

Designed and built by Garden House Design who specialise in garden design and landscape construction, working in both domestic, school and commercial markets. Garden House Design’s inspiration comes from a common client brief to create gardens for eating, cooking and socialising, with simple yet stunning planting. “live outdoors” shows that budget restrictions need not compromise great landscape design.

David Nash at Kew Gardens

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, has announced that David Nash, one of the UK’s most prolific sculptors, will produce and exhibit his work across Kew Gardens from April 2012 through to April 2013.

The exhibition opened to members of the public in June 2012, with sculptures, installations, drawings and film in various places through out the Gardens, glass houses, as well as the exhibition spaces at Kew. Nash has been working at Kew on a ‘wood quarry’ since April 2012, creating new pieces for the exhibition using trees from the Gardens that have come to the end of their natural life. This ongoing work will form part of the exhibition, with the fruits of his labour on display from October 2012.

For more information see Kews Website

Kew Opening Times: Summer opening hours (until Aug 27 2012) 9.30am-6.30pm daily, until 7.30pm Sat, Sun & Bank Hols (last adm 30 mins before closing; glasshouses, galleries & treetop walkway close 5.30pm)

2012 Hampton Court Flower Show Video Highlights

Fantastic video capturing the vibe of the 2012 Hampton Court Flower show from Implausible blog.

Vicious Spanish Slugs Eating Our Veggies

As if winning the European Championships were not enough, the Spanish are launching an invasion on British Gardens this year. The unsettled weather recently is causing an explosion of Spanish Slugs eating their wat though our gardens.

Heavy rain and warm spells have provided the perfect conditions for the giant alien pest, which can grow to more than 10cm (4in) long (Thats pretty big for a slug!) and also can produces hundred more eggs than the typical British slug.

The olive green creature is breeding with our own good old British slugs to create powerful, highly fertile super slugs that can outpace and take over from the natives. In the North West of the USA, the hybrid slugs have even been known to be a threat to motorists as they leave behind huge slimy patches of squashed slug when they are driven over, incresed by cannibal slugs devouring their own type.

Slug expert Les Noble, from Aberdeen University, told The Times that the UK was not taking the threat of the super slug Arion Flagellus seriously enough, However DIY chain B&Q has reported a 74% increase in sales of slug pellets and Dr Noble says squashed slugs have been covering the streets of North Wales and upland in the West Country. 'The invasive species is carrying diseases and parasites that are going to wipe out our native slugs', said Dr Noble. 'Our slugs self-fertilise and are so highly inbred they can't keep pace with new diseases and parasites, and together with several other snails may become extinct.'

Another super slug, called Arion vulgaris, has taken a strong hold in parts of northern Europe, such as Norway. They have been eating their way through various crops and its even feared that the invasion could push up the price of chips because of its negative impact on the potato harvest. Organic growers are finding it increasingly difficult to keep the pests under control because they do not use chemicals or pesticides to spray on their crops. All they can do is cut back vegetation around their crops to remove hiding places for slugs and snails, or encourage birds who feed on them.

Have you been affected by super slugs, whats your best tip for getting rid of them? Do you use pellets, or perhaps a beer trap?

A New Month and some flowers...

And so we are into July, after the wet and cool start to the summer will this get any better, yesterday was fabulous, blue skies and sunny weather, but today we are back to rain, and it seems to be forecast for the rest of the week as well!

With the moist soil and sunshine we had over the last week several plants in the garden are now looking pretty good. The flowers above are on the hardy tree tomato, Cyphomandra corymbiflora, which is a relative of the common tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) and has a similar smell to the leaves and fruit. Well worth adding as an unusual plant in the garden.
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