November 2017

November 12th, 2017

Monets garden

Peter and I had a lovely week in France in September, gently pootling along the Seine. The highlight for me was a visit to Monet’s garden at Giverny. We went to this glorious garden many years ago in May, when the wisteria covered bridge over Monet’s favourite waterlilies was in its full glory; so iconic and subject of so many paintings and photos. That was definitely worth seeing, but in Autumn the whole garden in my view was even more beautiful and spectacular with its late summer blousiness. Read More...

October 2017

October 19th, 2017

Getting on trend with hydrangeas!

Gardening, like most things it seems, is victim to fashion. Some years ago, many gardeners wouldn’t dream of going near dahlias, now they are right back in fashion, especially the Bishop of Landaff, which has been glorious here at Charnwood this year and is still going strong as I write in mid September. If I remember to dead head it and give it a little feed and plenty of water, it will carry on until the first frost. Hydrangeas are one of those shrubs now back in fashion. They were all over the big garden shows this year including Chelsea and some, such as Hydrangea ‘Limelight’ now has the prestigious Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. Read More...

September 2017

September 16th, 2017

Hardy cyclamen looking lovely at Charnwood today

Such pretty, easy plants, they look especially good in under trees where not a lot grows. Read More...

August 2017

August 17th, 2017

Time to make more plants for free - taking cuttings

I’ve been taking some cuttings. It’s really satisfying to get more plants from you own garden for free and now is a good time to give it a go. Make sure you find a good healthy plant and try and find a non-flowering shoot if you can, but it’s not crucial, just nip the flower bud out. You need a cutting of around 6 inches or 15 centimetres if you’ve gone metric, cut just below a leaf then strip off most of the lower leaves and pop them into a pot of gritty, well drained compost. If the soil is too heavy they may rot. Read More...

July 2017

July 1st, 2017

Astrantias, Inulas and Penstemons

Astrantias are my current favourite plant in the border at the moment. At Charnwood we have a deep red flowered plant next to a red leaved Berberis, the combination works really well. Astrantias self-sow gently, an attribute in my view. They don’t take up a lot of room, grow to a metre at most and gently in fill the gaps giving the border a natural look, their heads of tiny flowers are reminiscent of a pin cushion. One of the oldest and best loved varieties is A. ‘Shaggy’; it has white flowers with green tips. The colour range tends to be white through pink to deep wine red. Read More...

June 2017

June 1st, 2017

The Meadow Project at Charnwood

Several years ago I wrote in this column about a new venture. We have an area under some elderly silver birch trees that was in need of a bit of TLC, a bit more interest. So we decided to try and establish it as a meadow. Read More...

May 2017

May 1st, 2017

Euphorbias and the joys of Spring

If you travel round the ring road towards QMC and take the slip round that takes you down to the Dunkirk roundabout, on the island straight in front of you, you will see a large, striking group of Euphorbia characias wulfenii. Or, to use its common name, a spurge! Euphorbia is big family, large and small, shrubby and deciduous. They can add fabulous acid green contrast as well as structure to the clear bright reds and yellows and glorious chaos of the spring garden. They are not always that huge. E. ’Fens Ruby’ is tiny but still makes its presence felt with its pretty bright, deep red leaves . It can be a bit invasive once it gets established, but it is easily dug up. Be careful though when handling as all Euphorbias exude a milky sap when wounded which can give you a nasty rash. Read More...

April 2017

April 1st, 2017

Primroses, violets and cherries....

The violets and primroses have been wonderful this year. I guess it’s because they prefer damp conditions – and they have certainly had that in recent months! We brought some of the gorgeous, pale yellow native primroses to Charnwood when we moved up from the Isle of Wight in 1987. They have thrived; I can’t recall where I planted the original small clump, but they have happily and gently seeded themselves around and so pop up all over the garden. You can help them along a bit if you want more; they can be gently lifted and divided into smaller clumps after they have flowered. Bear in mind they are a woodland plant, so prefer a fairly cool spot, not a dry bed in full sun. If you plant some at the top of a grassy bank, they will seed themselves downwards and look fabulous in a few years. Read More...

March 2017

March 1st, 2017


March to me is pruning month, the time to get out those secateurs and into the garden for a good old sort and tidy. Time spent now in the garden always pays off and prevents more work later on when things have grown and gone a bit wild. So to clematis. Now don’t panic and please keep reading. It’s not as hard as some make out and the worst you can do is cut off potential flower buds for this year and, if that is the worst thing you do this year, it’s not that bad is it? If you are planting new clematis, or did so last autumn, plant deep, give a good mulch and prune to a decent bud about 30cm (1 foot) from the ground. That way you will set it up to grow good, strong roots and many flowering stems. Keep it well watered and tie it in regularly. Clematis fall into 3 groups: Read More...

February 2017

February 11th, 2017

Snowdrops, Helebores and weeds

Snowdrops are so lovely, and so welcome this time of year. When time and energy allows we have very gently been increasing our coverage here by lifting and dividing a clump or two at this time of year and establishing them in another part of the garden. This is usually called ‘planting in the green’, meaning while they are still in leaf and it is the accepted way of planting snowdrops. A small clump can be divided into several smaller ones and will cover a wide area. This has the advantage of you being able to see clearly where the best spot is; for example you don’t want to put them on top of other emerging spring bulbs. In all honesty it is probably not the absolute best method for the plant, as it is a bit brutal to dig them up at this stage. Read More...