Beningbrough Hall and Gardens

Beningbrough Hall and Gardens near York is a stunning red-brick Georgian stately home maintained by the National Trust, which houses a large collection of 18th century treasures including over 100 portraits loaned by the National Portrait Gallery with seven new interpretation galleries. It has one of Britain's finest baroque interiors and amazing cantilevered stairs, exceptional wood carving and unusual central corridors which run the length of the house. As well as the fantastic house, the property is surrounded by stunning gardens and parkland, as is typical of stately homes. Beningbrough has a working walled vegetable garden from which the produce is used in the restaurant, so you can see and then taste the crops they produce.

Beningbrough Hall, was built in 1716 by John Bourchier Yorkshire landowner to replace his family's previous home on the site. He employed William Thornton to oversee the construction, however the actual architect at Beningbrough's is not recorded and despite investigations by the National Trust it remains a mystery. There is however a suggestion that it may have been Thomas Archer.

Bourchier was a wealthy landowner and was also the High Sheriff of Yorkshire between 1719 and 1721, however he died at the age of only 52 in 1736. The estate passed down through the Bourchier family for over 100 years, until in 1827 the estate eas passed to William Henry Dawnay, the future 6th Viscount Downe, a distant relative. He died in 1846 and left the house to his second son, Payan, who was High Sheriff for 1851.

However over this period the house and gardens had become quite neglected, prompting fears that it may need to be demolished. But the estate had a turn of good fortune, when in 1916 Enid Scudamore-Stanhope, Countess of Chesterfield, bought it and immediately set about its restoration, filling it with furnishings and paintings from her ancestral home, Holme Lacy.

In common with many similar estates the property was used by the government during the Second World War when it was utilised by the RAF. Lady Chesterfield passed away in 1957 and in June the following year estate was acquired by the National Trust in lieu of government death duties.

Bumble bee by the Lavender

The planting schemes focus on herbaceous perennials, and long borders are packed with hostas, alchemilla mollis, lavender, astilbes and various other traditional garden plants to great effect. they have fantastic leaves on the hostas, successfully keeping the slugs away. 

The gardens near to the house are more formal, with parkland beyond the immediate areas. This formal pool surrounded by clipped box balls and well tended lavender works particularly well. The planting in the grounds do follow a fairly restricted planting palate and a little more diversity would be beneficial. However everything is very well tended.
Water droplets on alchemilla mollis
Beningbrough Hall and Gardens are located very close to York and the Holiday Inn Hotel in York which would make a good base to stay. It is located just next to York Racecourse and has recently won a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence award. We spent a long weekend in York and explored not just the Beningbrough Hall and Gardens but also many of the other sites in York itself. There is so much to do such as vistiting York Minster or the Jorvic Viking centre. York is pretty well connected by road and rail from elsewhere so although it was quite a long way to travel for us it wasn't a difficult journey. If you want to stay further afield then the Crown Plaza in Leeds is within an easy drive of the gardens which would give you a great base for shopping!

The Hall and Gardens are well worth a visit! Hope you have a great time  

Edinburgh Botanic Gardens

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to give the garden its full name is a beautiful garden and also scientific centre for the study of plants, their diversity and conservation. The garden was originally founded nearly 350 years ago in 1670 as a physic garden to grow medicinal plants. However roll forward to today and the gardens occupy four sites across Scotland, in Edinburgh, Dawyck, Logan and Benmore each with their own specialist botanic collection. The Botanic Gardens living plant collections contain more than 13,300 individual  plant species, whilst the herbarium contains in excess of 3 million preserved specimens.

The Herbarium in the gardens is a large and important botanical collection, it contains in excess of 3 million specimens, many of which date back to the early Scottish Plant hunters.. Prior to the formation of the Herbarium, plant collections tended to be the private property of the Regius Keeper. The Herbarium in its present form came with the fusion of the collections of the University of Edinburgh and the Botanical Society of Edinburgh in 1839-40.

Over the years, a large number of collections have been added, belonging to individuals such as R.K. Greville and John Hutton Balfour, and institutions including the Universities of Glasgow, St Andrews and Hull. The most important historical collection is that of George Walker Arnott, which came with the University of Glasgow's foreign herbarium deposited on permanent loan in 1965. This collection contains specimens from all the major mid-19th century collectors, especially from India, North and South America, and South Africa, including type material of species described by ‘Hooker & Arnott'. From the early 20th century, collections have been made by members of staff.

Edinbugh itself is a fantastic city that is geared up to tourism. It is a World Heritage Site, and highlights include historical sites such as Edinburgh Castle, the Palace of Holyrood and the Old and New Towns. The Holiday Inn Edinburgh and Edinburgh City West hotels would make a great base for your stay to explore the gardens and the city itself

What to Grow in Summer

Although the weather has been very warm and lots of us are busy watering the garden and allotment there is still a number of great seeds to get sowing in the summer months for harvesting later in the year. To help you plan what to do here is a guide as to what can be sown between now and early September to give you plenty of additional fresh produce between now and throughout the autumn, winter and right the way thrugh into next spring.

Most can be sown into the ground but some are less hardy and should be grown in pots so you can move them into the greenhouse later in the year to protect from frost.

Calabrese can be sown outside until the end of July to provide you with a late autumn crop, alternatively you can sow in a heated greenhouse during August or September which will provide you with a harvest in early spring. Success can vary depending upon the weather for the rest of the year, however it is worth trying.


Sow from now until September every ten days for a constant supply. Young carrots can be picked within just four weeks. Crops that are sown after May should avoid the first carrot fly problems however in areas where it is a problem, cover the crop with horticultural fleece.

See our guide from earlier this year.

Chard can be sown up until the middle of August outside or undercover until early September. The young leaves are ready to be harvested after just three weeks.

Can be sown until the end July or sometimes in early August. 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.

Sow up until the end of August with repeated sowings every ten days for a constant supply of fresh coriander. You can harvest the leaves after 2 weeks or so or you can let them develop for seeds.

French beans
Sow French beans in July for a late crop of dwarf beans. In mild areas you may be able to start picking by the mid to end of September. Grow in pots so that they can moved under cover if the weather turns cold.

Sow Kale under cover in autumn for baby leaves after six weeks, or outside for an over-wintering crop.

Oriental greens
Sow Oriental greens outside until the end August. Pick young leaves at 2 weeks or more for salads, or leave the plants to become bigger for cooking. Home grown greens will give far superior flavour to anything you can buy in the shops - and they're cheap and easy to grow. You can buy seed mixes at garden centres or try
Pak Choi, Chinese Kale, Tatsoi Tah Tsai, Kaillan White, Choy Sum and Yukina Savoy.

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 

Peas can be sown until the end of July, but probably no later than mid-August. Sow a quick growing, 'early' variety.

If you have had problems with blight this summer, then try them again now in containers and you'll have fresh potatoes over the winter period. Tubers planted as late as September will give you a good crop in time for Xmas.

Winter radishes are not much grown in the UK but are popular in other countries for stir frying, salads and pickling.

Salad leaves
Salad leaves are quick and easy to grow and if you have a greenhouse, you can keep some going all year. If the soil temperature is above 25C the seeds won't want to germinate and it is better to sow in the evening into well watered soil and keep them shaded with a light horticultural fleece for a couple of days.

This post was brought to you in association with Mole Valley Farmers who supply a wide variety of quality tools and equipment for use in both the garden as well as at home.

Enjoy whatever you decide to grow!

Cambridge Botanic Gardens

The Cambridge University Botanic Garden is located fairly centrally within in Cambridge, close to Cambridge railway station. It is quite a long established garden, initially founded back in 1831 by Professor John Stevens Henslow who was the Professor of Botany at Cambridge from 1825 - 1861. The gardens were opened to the public in 1846 and cover some 40 acres (16 hectares) housing 10 National Collections.

Henslow laid out the Garden to accommodate a wonderful tree collection. But he also planted his ideas about variation and the nature of species that would be taken up in a revolutionary fashion by his famous student, Charles Darwin.

The eastern part of the original plot of land purchased in 1831 remained undeveloped until the University received a significant legacy over 100 years later from Reginald Cory in 1934. Cory had been a life-long supporter and benefactor of the Botanic Gardens, and his legacy provided the funding to develop the remaining 20 acres of land. This exciting task fell to Bob Younger, who was the then Superintendent of the Garden and his staff, and it began after the war in 1951.

Although the western and eastern parts are stylistically linked through a consistently Gardenesque style and the continuation of the sinuous perimeter path, they are very different in feel, character and curatorial content. This reflects how the the primary foci of plant science studies had changed since the Garden's foundation in the mid 19th century. Whereas Murray's 19th century plan for the layout of the Garden in the western twenty acres focused on naming and organising of individual species into family groupings, the eastern part of the Garden developed from 1951 onwards is generally concerned with how plant communities develop. Thus, the 20th century science of ecology permeates the philosophy of its plantings such as the Fen Display and Limestone Mound in the British Wild Plants collections, and climate and sustainability issues dominate the thematic plantings of the Dry Garden, for example.

The Glasshouses flank the north side of the Main Lawn, and are full of a wide range of tender plants providing a full year-round interest - from the daintiest alpine to exotic tropical climbers such as the Jade Vine. The Glasshouses have been transformed over the last five years through a major restoration and replanting programme that has seen the glasshouse plants, all requiring some protection from the Cambridge climate, re-presented to reveal the drama of plant diversity and explore how plants have evolved to survive in key environments such as icy mountains and oceanic islands, desert and jungle. My favourite plant in the glass house is the Jade Vine, a native to the Philippines it really is a stunning plant.

Cambridge is well connected to the rest of the UK by both road and rail, the city as well as the garden are worth exploring fully. The Holiday Inn at Cambridge makes a good base from which to explore the city and gardens as it is well worth making a long weekend of any trip to the city.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we did and that the Jade Vine is in flower for you!


Adapt the mind frame of a landscape gardener and produce a truly luscious garden

We weren’t all born blessed with green fingers and radiating creativity in our every step. While exuding imaginative ingenious in garden design and maintenance is the trait of a lucky minority, the good news is that with a little know-how, training and determination we can all adapt the mind frame of a landscape gardener and create an outdoor space blossoming with life, colour and exquisiteness.  

Thoughtful landscape gardening can not only improve your overall satisfaction with your home but it can also increase the value of your property, substantially in many cases. In fact if a landscaping project is done well, according to CNN Money the investment can add as much as 11% to the overall value of a property.

You are however more than aware of the many advantages a well-landscaped garden can bring to your home, both for your own personal pleasure and when, or if, you come to sell the property. The most pertinent question on your lips is how do you acclimatise yourself into the world of landscape gardening and create a garden of truly palatial dominions.

Plan ahead

The key to effective and successful landscaping is, similar with all design projects, to plan ahead. Adapting the artistic mind set of a landscaper simply cannot be achieved without generating some sort of landscape plan.

Before you plant one single seed in your garden it will be profitable to devise a layout plan for your outdoor space. A backyard centred with a pond and surrounded by verdurous vegetation and brimming with colourful petals might be your idea of a heavenly backyard, but do you realistically have the resources and finances to accomplish such a lush back garden.

A landscape gardener, while wildly artistic, will be realistic in the possibilities of a garden. It is therefore important that you plan the design of your garden with your budget, resources and goals in mind.

Hardscaping and softscaping

Savvy landscape gardeners know that some of the most effective and aesthetically pleasing gardens combine hardscaping and softscaping. If you are not familiar with such terminology, to really adapt a landscaper’s mind frame, not only will you need to be conversant in such gardening lingo but you will need to apply it.

Softscaping refers to all the pretty plant life in a garden. By contrast, hardscaping denotes all the non-plant life in a garden, such as patios, walls, paved paths, rocks, walls and ornaments. Hardscaping is widely deemed to be the “foundation and anchor of landscaping plans.”

The most effective outdoor spaces combine elements of carefully thought of and inventively combined hardscaping and softscaping. While the softscaping element of your garden provides the decorative and pretty edge, effective hardscaping will need to have some very useful and practical functions. For example, it should provide a place to sit or a path one can walk down to reach the other end of the garden.

Go native

Native gardening has become particularly fashionable in recent years. Native gardening involves growing native plants, or those that have grown naturally in your local area prior to the European settlement, in your garden. The essence of the concept is that native plants, which have evolved to withstand certain climates and diseases, will outperform imported plants.

Perceptive landscape gardeners will research what plants are native to a particular area, which will influence their decision in what type of plant life they introduce or expand on in a garden.

In order to get into the artistic and knowledgeable mind of a landscape gardener it would therefore prove invaluable to carry out some research into the native plant life of your geographical area. This way you will be more adept in producing a truly luscious garden that won’t wilt under the unpredictable weather Britain inevitably presents before too long.  

Qlawns have provided an insight into ways that anybody in society can adapt the mindframe of a landscape gardener in order to produce a picturesque garden.

Bristol Botanic Gardens

The University of Bristol Botanic Gardens located in the Stoke Bishop area of Bristol. The University of Bristol originally established a botanic garden in 1882 at Royal Fort House and this site was later known as the Hiatt Baker Garden. The site of the Garden was used to build Senate House meaning that the botanic garden was moved to a site on Braken Hill. In 2002 the botanic collections were relocated to a site in Stoke Bishop opposite Churchill Hall where it became the first new university botanic garden to be created in thE UK in over 40 years.

Fantastic water lillies growing to an enormous size!

The evolution area shows off many ancient plants that are still with us today, such as tree ferns (dicksonia antarctica) from Australia and monkey puzzle trees (Araucaria araucana) from south America.

Native to Bristol is Sorbus bristoliensis which grows nowhere else in the world. There are believed to be just 250 trees growing in the Avon Gorge and the Bristol Botanic Garden plays a major role in the conservation of this rare plant.

In the glasshouses the frangipani (Plumeria rubra) is currently flowering. This plant is native to parts of Central and South America but it is also cultivated across many of the tropical regions of the world and has naturalised in large parts of Asia. Plumeria has become an important plant in many cultures, Pacific Islanders use it to make leis (garlands), it is often planted in cemeteries in southeast Asia and in Bangladesh the flowers are associated with funerals, in the Philippines the plant is associated with ghosts, Sri Lanka with worship and in some parts of India a Plumeria garland is exchanged at weddings

The Hot border is looking lovely in the sunshine now summer is here
Getting to Bristol is easy from most of the country, with it situated close to both the M4 and M5 motorways. If you are planning a longer stay and want to take in many of the other local attractions then The Holiday Inn at Bristol  would make a great base to explore the gardens elsewhere in Bristol.

The Bristol Botanic Gardens may only be fairly new and also modest in size, but it is well worth visiting

I have a Dream Garden at Hampton Court Flower Show

'August 1963, I have a dream' is a garden designed by Stephen Anthony Ryan for the next RHS Hampton Court Flower Show 2013

The garden remembers 50 years since Martin Luther King gave his famous and groundbreaking speech at the Lincoln memorial in Washington DC. The speech talks about the injustice of racial segregation and prejudice and how he dreams of a time where children of all different colours will play together and how a man "will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character'

 The garden has separated black and white planting and an area of mixed colour planting, a black and a white water feature that flow and meet in the centre and also the scene is inspired by the shape of the Lincoln memorial. The garden celebrates the progress of the multi racial society and reminds us that segregation and prejudice still need to be resisted.

And the final result - Silver Gilt

Summer Vegetable Soup

With the allotment in full swing I thought it would be good to share a delicious and quick recipe for a summer vegetable soup.

10 Spring onions, finely chopped
2 Baby fennel, thinly sliced
3 Baby courgettes, cut in half lengthwise and cut across into small half moons
Sunflower oil
Handful freshly picked peas
Handful freshly picked baby broad beans
Small handful beet tops, destalked and shredded
Small handful little gem leaves, shredded
Handful parsley leaves, finely chopped
Few mint leaves, finely chopped

Sweat the onions, fennel and courgette in sunflower oil, for a few minutes over a medium heat until they have turned soft but not started to change colour. Add the stock to the pan and bring everything to a simmer. Next add your peas and beans, and season to taste with salt and pepper and then cook everything together for a couple of minutes. Finally add the beet tops, the shredded lettuce and the chopped herbs, give the soup a final stir and serve. This should only take about 10 minutes or so for a delicious meal!


Win Rod and Bens Hamper

Its competition time again and this time we have a fantastic seasonal produce hamper from Rod and Ben's to give away.

Rod and Ben’s, an award-winning organic food producer in Devon, produces vegetable boxes, a range of sumptuous seasonal soups and wholesome new organic food pots, all of which will be included in the hamper along with other local Devon goodies. Rod Hall runs his farm with the knowledge that the best-tasting, most nutritious and honest food is picked and eaten in season without endangering the environment. 

The veggies from the farm either land in boxes or find themselves in Rod & Ben’s soup kitchen within a matter of hours, where they are blended together using simple recipes so the ingredient’s integrity – colour, flavour and texture – is preserved.

To be in with a chance simply answer the following question:

Which is the current Soup of the Month?

A) Gazpacho
B) Moroccan Vegetable
C) Spicy Parsnip

Extra entries can be made by sharing this competition on Twitter (include #DiligentGardener) or by liking our page and sharing the competition on Facebook.

An additional entry can be made by "following" this blog via Google Friend Connect

Terms and conditions: This competition closes at 23.59 on 15 July 2013. Any entries received after this time will not be counted. Entrants must be UK residents aged 18 years or older to enter. By entering this competition you agree and consent to your name being published and by taking part in the competition, entrants are deemed to have read, understood and accepted all of the Terms and Conditions and agreed to be bound by them. The winner will be selected at random from the valid entries and will be announced here on the blog. Please make sure we are able to contact you if you do win.Entries can be made as "anonymous" on the blog but if you don't leave a Twitter name or other way to contact you then those will not be counted.
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