Downsizing a garden in style

Moving to a smaller plot is never easy but it’s a problem that one Gloucestershire gardener has solved with style.

When it comes to plants I’m a greedy gardener. I want to grow something of everything and whatever’s in flower is my current must-have. Downsizing my garden is unthinkable.

But it’s something that many gardeners have to do – unless they have the money to employ help – and it can be challenging. What do you keep and what do you resign yourself to not growing? How do you plan a smaller plot when you’re used to the space to indulge your plant passion?

downsizing a garden
Veg was the first thing to go into the new garden

It’s a dilemma Pamela Buckland faced when she moved from her cottage in Coalway in the Forest of Dean to a nearby bungalow. Well known in the Gloucestershire National Garden Scheme – she’s a former assistant county organiser – she swapped a third of an acre for a plot that’s roughly half the size.

Think ahead

The key is to downsizing a garden is planning ahead and don’t leave moving plants to the last minute: “I potted up my favourite perennials early in the year,” Pamela tells me.

downsizing a garden
Grasses were one of the collections that moved with Pamela

Limit yourself to those favourites and unusual varieties; in Pamela’s case these included heucheras, geraniums, her collection of around 20 different varieties of hosta and several grasses.

She took on a garden that had obviously been loved but was badly in need of an overhaul. Paving slab paths criss-crossed the area – “Everywhere I moved something or cleared a space there were paths” – and the many shrubs were too large for the space, while a heather bed spread 8ft by 6ft and there was an enormous pampas grass.

“You really couldn’t see what was here,” she recalls.

downsizing a garden
Bird cages add a decorative element

Pamela started by sorting out the sloping ground at the side of the bungalow, which became two distinct levels: vegetables in raised beds at the top and flowers below.

“The vegetable garden was the first thing I did.”

Putting in a small greenhouse came next – it’s used for tomatoes, cucumbers and raising seeds – and only then did Pamela start to think about the rest of the garden.

Plan carefully

It’s tempting to start by clearing a bit of space and getting on with planting but it’s far better to get rid of everything you don’t want first rather than doing it piecemeal.

downsizing a garden
A large magnolia is one of the few original plants

In Pamela’s case, this included removing several large shrubs, including hydrangeas, weigela and choisya, the many paths and filling 10 green refuse bins with Spanish bluebells.

Once the garden was cleared, it was easier to see how to change the design.

Keep it simple

The danger with moving from a large garden to a smaller space is that you try to have a bit of everything with the result looking far from planned.

downsizing a garden
Sticking to simple colour themes helps with planning

It’s a pitfall Pamela has avoided by grouping plants according to colour. Two side borders have distinct themes: one is pink and white with dierama, geraniums and astrantia; the other a hot bed of reds and oranges, including Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’.

Meanwhile, at the front, she’s ‘disguised’ the driveway by bringing planting into the gravel and putting many of her pots of hostas into one corner; the rest now occupy a side path.

“I like what you can do with pots,” she says, adding that not all are planted up but instead form a feature in their own right.

downsizing a garden
Pots are used as a feature

The main area of garden at the back of the bungalow has a blue and green theme that’s reinforced not only with the planting but also with the hard landscaping. An ugly concrete path has been painted, as have the fence and a table and bench, while a necessary storage shed blends in thanks to a coat of blue paint. Even a breeze block wall has been painted and reused as a trough for lavender.

downsizing a garden
An old wall has become a planter

“I find the greens and blues such a relaxing colour scheme.”

In one bed, her collection of grasses is a delightful mix of green and cream with touches of bronze, while Ammi majus and pink cosmos give some seasonal colour.

Height comes from a pergola, which also helps to draw the eye away from neighbouring properties, while climbers such as clematis along the fences blur the boundaries.

downsizing a garden
The remodelled wall and painted path

Pamela’s also made a feature of what was a crumbling wall that divided the plot. The loose top and an end section have been removed and the ‘gap’ between bungalow and wall filled with a custom-made wrought iron gate and screen. The iron is continued over the top of the wall, creating a strong unifying effect.

“I like the fact you can see different areas.”

And that’s the real achievement: despite its size, this feels like a much bigger garden.

20 Forsdene Walk, Coalway, Gloucestershire, is open by arrangement for the National Gardens Scheme from May to September 2017. See NGS website for details.

Christmas countdown

Christmas is looming and to mark the festive countdown I will be running a Flower Advent Calendar again.

So that subscribers aren’t bombarded with daily emails, it will go out on Twitter and Facebook with a final gallery roundup on the blog.

If you can’t wait until then, do like the Facebook page or follow on Twitter – the links are on the top left.

Meanwhile, you can take a look at last year’s calendar here



Roy Strong on Shakespeare, gardens and hanging baskets

The history of garden restoration can be traced back to the knot garden on the site of Shakespeare’s home in Stratford, says historian and gardener Sir Roy Strong.

Sir Roy told an audience at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust that work to create the garden at New Place in 1920 marked a new departure in gardening.

“It was the first time anybody seriously tried to recreate an historic garden. Think how many of you have visited gardens that have been restored at historic houses. The knot garden at New Place is the beginning of all that.”

The former director of the Victoria and Albert Museum and The National Portrait Gallery, was speaking at an event to launch his new book, The Quest for Shakespeare’s Garden, which traces the story of the playwright’s garden.

roy strong
Sir Roy Strong was launching his new book

It follows the re-opening in the summer of the New Place garden following a £6m project by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to revamp the area.

An archaeological excavation uncovered the outline of the last house there, which was demolished in 1759, and this is now depicted in bronze laid into paving.

There’s a representation of Shakespeare’s desk, references to his plays and poems and many modern sculptures, including a bronze tree at the heart of the garden.

Work has included renovating the knot garden (pictured top) for the first time since it was created by Ernest Law, who later worked on the knot garden at Hampton Court Palace.

Roy Strong
The New Place garden has been revamped

During the conversation with Glyn Jones, head of gardens at the trust, and Roger Pringle, former trust director, Sir Roy Strong warned against believing any restoration was historically accurate.

“There’s no such thing as an accurate recreation of an historic garden. It can only ever be an approximation.”

It’s a view that’s upheld by the recent work at New Place: the audience was told the team have had to use Japanese euonymus as a replacement for box that had succumbed to blight.

The new layout was praised by Sir Roy, who admitted to being nervous about seeing it, having not visited New Place for some years.

“I didn’t have happy memories about it all.

“I was thrilled with what you had achieved. I think it’s marvellous and very different from how I remembered it.”

And he described the previous planting scheme of begonias and pansies as “absolutely horrendous”.

In a wide-ranging talk, that saw him describe Ellen Willmott as “a dreadful woman”, take a sideswipe at municipal planting and declare that “hanging baskets should be abolished”, Sir Roy talked about his early experience of gardening. He described it as a “big minus”, as he didn’t get on with his father, who “dominated” the garden behind his childhood terraced home.

Roy Strong
The terrestrial sphere in New Place garden

He didn’t enter what he calls his ‘garden period’ until he and his late wife, Julia, bought The Laskett in Herefordshire.

“I don’t think either of us realised we were going to create what is thought to be quite an important garden.”

An big influence on its design, along with Italy and the theatre, was Hidcote Manor Garden, where Glyn was head gardener before joining the Trust. In particular, The Laskett makes full use of vistas, spaces and structure.

“If a garden looks amazing in winter you really don’t need to worry about flowers,” explained Sir Roy.

“Flowers are the sign of a complete failure.”

The Quest for Shakespeare’s Garden by Roy Strong is published by Thames & Hudson, priced £14.95.

For more information about The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust including opening times and prices, see here here

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Paul takes RHS Hampton Court challenge

The RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show will see Cotswold designer Paul Hervey-Brookes challenging the idea that dogs and gardens don’t mix and that the colour yellow is difficult.

hampton court

 Designing for man’s best friend

He may be known for beautiful planting schemes but when I call into Allomorphic, his Stroud shop, designer Paul Hervey-Brookes wants to talk about origami. Not the paper kind but metal carefully folded to create dogs. They are going to feature on his garden at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and he’s justifiably proud of them.

“They’re made of powder-coated metal to look like origami and I’ve had them made to my design,” he says, adding with a glint in his eye that the dogs will be in a number of lifelike poses.

It’s just one element of the garden for The Dogs’ Trust that Paul hopes will challenge not only the idea of what makes a classic English garden but also assumptions about the sort of spaces he designs.

“I thought it would be very nice to make a garden that is contemporary English because the last two show gardens I’ve made in the UK have been traditional,” he explains.

“I want to show people the kind of garden I’m making abroad.”

hampton court
Paul has designed the origami dogs

These foreign designs have included both private and show commissions in America and France over the past 12 months.

So while the garden will have his trademark plant-heavy mainly herbaceous borders, there’s a modern edge with a metal pavilion and curved granite seat.

“It feels slightly more masculine and a little bit more edgy.”

It’s Paul’s second visit to the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show – he won gold and came top in the World of Gardens category for the ‘Discover Jordan’ garden in 2012.

The garden will celebrate the charity’s 125th anniversary and has been designed with dog owners and their pets in mind; Paul and his partner Yann have three dogs.

RHS Hampton Court
Paul’s 2012 gold medal-winning garden ‘Discover Jordan’

Making the design dog friendly has presented some challenges, not least when it came to choosing plants as many are poisonous to dogs, including bergenia, foxgloves and yew.

“It’s been a challenge,” admits Paul, “but it makes you re-evaluate the plants you are using. You can’t just rely on your three favourite plants.”

Then the colour is not the more commonly seen pastels but a blend of blue and iridescent yellow; both colours that dogs are believed to see most clearly and the charity’s colours.

Yellow, I suggest, is often viewed as a difficult colour to use.

“I did a big planting scheme in Philadelphia of golden yellow and aubergine colours. It just looked amazing. So many people said ‘I don’t really like yellow but I really like this.’”

hampton court

What is well within his comfort zone is the scale: the deep herbaceous borders will have just over 3,000 plants.

“True to my character, it will have a lot of plants, a lot of varieties,” he smiles.

Bringing blue tones will be agastache, agapanthus, nepeta, and salvia, while yellow comes from anthemis, cosmos, kniphofia, and Cephalaria gigantea.

Ammi, calamagrostis, green fennel and mint will give the planting a loose, relaxed feel and there is height with a grove of birch and in the centre of the garden, three Acer saccharinum, which have distinctive trifoliate leaves.

“Most people don’t realise it’s an acer.”

The garden follows a dog’s journey from first being taken in by the charity to finding a new home; the Trust prides itself on never putting down a healthy animal.

More dog sculptures, this time made from wire by artist Paul Tavernor, are in a long canal of water.

“It symbolises a dog who has just come into the home. Everything feels quite bare, empty and abandoned.

hampton court
It will be Paul’s second Hampton Court show garden

The journey to a new owner is through the herbaceous planting with the origami dogs on ‘sniffer’ tracks through the border with a rill and metal water spouts from a rendered wall giving them somewhere to drink.

Finally, the dog and its new owner meet for the first time in the round pavilion, which provides a safe, controlled environment; the pavilion is going to be re-sited after the show at a Dogs Trust centre.

Yet, despite all the dog elements, Paul is hoping the garden will appeal to both dog owners and those without pets.

“A show garden should inspire. You should come away and re-evaluate your own garden with a fresh pair of eyes.”

RHS Hampton Court Flower Show runs from 5-10 July. Tickets are available at

For an overview of the show see here here

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Product review: Fiskar Xact™ Weed Puller

Duelling with dandelions

“Over-engineered,” muttered my other half as we struggled to get the generous quantity of packaging off the Fiskar Xact™ Weed Puller.

I could see what he meant. Described as the perfect tool for ridding lawns of weeds without needing to resort to chemicals, it seemed a bit excessive for a few dandelions.

It was an impression that was reinforced by our first view: a 1m-long black pole with a sliding handle, a ‘step’ coming off at right angles and a menacing steel claw at one end. If the dandelions weren’t scared, I was.

I must admit I was dubious when approached by the company and asked if I would like to test this revolutionary weeding kit. I’m not one for gadgets and couldn’t really see how spending nearly £40 on something to weed the lawn would be worthwhile.

So, it was with a deal of scepticism that we headed out to our none too pristine lawn to put the tool to the test.

fiskar Xact weed puller


And were duly forced to reconsider our preconceptions.

Dandelions, thistles and even a solitary daisy all succumbed with ease – and roots intact.

The  Fiskar Xact™ Weed Puller weighs 950g and is straightforward to use: place it over a weed, push the steel claws into the ground, step on the pedal and pull gently back. Finally, slide the handle to eject the weed out of the claws. Simple.

Our only quibble was that a core of earth came up with the weed. It was easy to shake that off and plug the gap in the lawn but it did add another step to the procedure. Possibly it was caused by the wet ground and might not be a problem during a dry spell; that dry spell has yet to materialise so I’ve been unable to put that theory to the test.

Certainly it did away with all the grubbing around on the ground and trying to dig out long-rooted weeds with a knife or similar. I have yet to try it in the borders but can’t see why it wouldn’t work just as well there.

At £39.99 it isn’t affordable for all and would probably not be worthwhile if your weed problem is small. However, if getting down close to deal with weeds is difficult, or, if like me, seed drifting in from neighbouring plots is causing a dandelion deluge, this is a quick and green solution.

I was given the Fiskar Xact™ Weed Puller to test, which is designed for heavy use. There is also the Light Weed Puller, which is only 90cm long and weighs 900g. It is priced at £34.99.

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Chelsea Flower Show 2016

The Cotswolds go to town

The Cotswolds are well represented this year at a Chelsea Flower Show that promises more than a touch of theatre with an 80ft train, an acoustic garden and spinning topiary.

Visitors will be greeted by floral arches over the Bull Ring and London Gate entrances, created to celebrate The Queen’s 90th birthday. The tunnel by Rock Bank Restaurant will be hung with more than 5,000 roses, and part of the Royal Hospital grounds will be carpeted in nearly 300,000 hand-crocheted poppies, a tribute to those who have served in war.

chelsea flower show
Floral arches will welcome visitors

Those with a pass for the Hospitality Village will see ‘Le Jardin Blanc’, created by Cotswold designer Paul Hervey-Brookes and former Hillier boss Andy McIndoe, using veg grown at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.

Cleeve West returns with a garden inspired by Exmoor, the plight of modern day slaves is highlighted in an Fresh garden by Juliet Sargeant, and Diarmuid Gavin is again set to be a talking point with a garden for Harrods celebrating British eccentricity that will have bobbing box balls, patio furniture emerging from a trapdoor and twirling bay trees.

Elsewhere, hosta and fern specialists Bowdens are planning a display around a 1920s Belmond British Pullman carriage, disability charity Papworth Trust has worked with percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie to produce a garden of sound and award-winning Great Pavilion exhibitors Jekka McVicar and Rosy Hardy are both making their show garden debuts.

Jekka’s A Modern Apothecary explores the links between herbs and well-being with a palette of plants that will include fennel and chicory, which aid digestion, wild celery for treating gout and several red-leaved herbs, important in preventing heart disease. A herb lay – a mix of grass and plants such as sorrel and chicory – will be used instead of a traditional lawn.

chelsea flower show

She’s growing 90 per cent of the 15,000 plants needed at her South Gloucestershire herb nursery.

“I really want to show how fantastic herbs are as garden plants. They are the one group of plants that look good, smell good and do you good.”

After the show, the garden will be rebuilt at St John’s Hospice, London, which is sponsoring it.

Rosy’s garden highlights the fragility of chalk streams, under threat from climate change and pollution, and, if the pressure of her first garden wasn’t enough, she is also putting together the display for Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants, the nursery she runs with her husband, Rob.

chelsea flower show

Catching up with her at the recent launch of Allomorphic in Stroud, I questioned the wisdom of building two exhibits simultaneously at Chelsea and just weeks after exhibiting at Malvern.

“I try not to think about it all,” she admitted, adding that while husband Rob would put in the hard landscaping for the nursery stand, only she did the planting.

“Nobody else can put it together. It has to be me.”

Partly, this is because she has no detailed planting plan and there’s no ‘dry run’.

“I just go and paint with my plants.”

Here are some of the Gloucestershire designers, growers and artists taking part in this year’s show.

A life-changing disease

Designer John Everiss’ garden celebrates the 30th anniversary of Stroud-based charity Meningitis Now.

chelsea flower show


The Artisan Garden depicts the life-changing effect of the disease with 3D wooden sculptures, modelled on real children, seen travelling across the garden from health, through a wall of disease to life after meningitis. One of the figures is seen reaching for help through the wall, another fails to reappear.

John explained: “It’s important that those who have lost children or young adults are represented in this garden as well.”

Country-style planting in pastel shades will be shot through with orange, the charity’s colour, while its Gloucestershire roots are suggested by the use of Cotswold stone for walls and a folly.

A garden for GOSH

There’s also a children’s health theme to Cheltenham designer Chris Beardshaw’s show garden, which is for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, sponsored by Morgan Stanley.

chelsea flower show

Designed to be relocated to a rooftop at the hospital, it relies on texture to create a soothing, green space for patients and their families.

There’s a central water feature and an interlocking Japanese-style pavilion with woodland planting, including acers, cornus and epimedium.

“The flowers are deliberately small and hidden within the garden and not blousy and ostentatious,” said Chris.

More colourful will be fabric on the seats, which is based on leaves drawn by some of the hospital’s young patients.

Bringing France to Chelsea

A small piece of Provence will be created at the Chelsea Flower Show with the help of contractor Peter Dowle, who runs a nursery near Ruardean in the Forest of Dean.

chelsea flower show


He is working with designer James Basson to mark the 40th anniversary of beauty firm L’Occitane, founded in Haute Provence by Olivier Baussan. Last year, the same team won gold at Chelsea for their depiction of a perfumer’s garden.

Plants native to the region, including sage, small-leaved holly and thyme, will be used to recreate a scene looking across a lavender field to the rolling hills and woodland of the area.

Earlier this month, Peter won gold at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival with a Japanese-style garden.

Forest plays its part

Stone from the Forest of Dean will underpin Cleeve West’s nostalgic look back at the landscape of Exmoor where he spent his teenage years.

chelsea flower show

Nearly 90 tonnes of undressed stone, including one piece of nearly nine tonnes, will be used along with polished pieces.

The stone has been sourced by Cotswold firm Lichen Antiques, who supplied gates and paving for Cleeve’s 2014 gold medal-winning garden.

“We’ve spent days and days in the quarry choosing the right pieces of stone,” explained the firm’s owner, Darren Jones.

The firm is also supplying Westmorland stone for Hugo Bugg’s Royal Bank of Canada Garden which celebrates the importance of water.

chelsea flower show

Influenced by a trip to Jordan, it will show how arid landscapes can still have beautiful flora.

Westmorland is no longer quarried and Darren was lucky enough to have the 15 tonnes needed in stock.

“It’s beautiful,” said Darren, “and works absolutely perfectly in this garden.”

Both designers had a ‘dry run’ at positioning the stone at a yard in Gloucester before it was transported to the Chelsea showground.

Inspired by pineapples

The number sequence that underpins nature has inspired a Cotswold water sculptor’s Chelsea Flower Show commission.

chelsea flower show

Giles Rayner used the Fibonacci sequence as the starting point for a copper water vortex sculpture that will feature on The Winton Capital Beauty of Mathematics Garden.

“It was inspired by pineapples,” explains Giles, from Avening. “It’s got quite a complex shape.”

More of Giles’ work will be on show at his own stand, set into a garden designed by a student from Inchbald School of Design. It will feature a freeform hedge of Ilex crenata as a backdrop to the copper sculptures.

Florists head for Chelsea

Gloucestershire flower arrangers are also taking part in this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

Katherine Kear is leading a team building the NAFAS display in the Grand Pavilion, full story here

Meanwhile, in the floral art contest, Jayne Morriss is hoping to delight judges with a surprise.

The theme is ‘Garden Delight’ and Jayne, from Brimscombe Hill, has subtitled her arrangement ‘Twas Around the Corner I Beheld’.

“I think every garden should have a surprise as you turn the corner and this will be a beautiful planted urn”

For her ninth time at Chelsea, Jayne is planning an arrangement in pale pink, lavender and purple using delphiniums, peonies, roses and stocks.

Peacocks, pots and watering cans

Several Cotswold firms will be among the trade exhibitors at the Chelsea Flower Show among them garden antiques firm Architectural Heritage from Taddington.

chelsea flower show

Their stand will feature period sundials and lead urns alongside their reproduction copper planters.

Cheltenham sculptor Christopher Lisney will be unveiling his twist on a traditional garden roller at the Chelsea Flower Show with a 7ft-high piece complete with a butterfly landing on the handle.

He has also reworked his popular watering can sculpture, adding a bird perching on the handle. The original watering can was shown at his first Chelsea visit in 2003 and is the only piece to have been on the stand every year since.

chelsea flower show

Meanwhile, wire sculptor Rupert Till will be unveiling a new 8ft-high peacock on a hoop at the show. It’s part of a new range that has seen cockerels and parrots balancing on rings.

It is, he says, a way of putting a dramatic piece of art into even the smallest town garden.

In a nod to The Queen’s birthday, he will also have a fell pony’s head, while his popular boxing hares will be the centrepiece.

chelsea flower show

For information about the show, visit the RHS

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RHS Malvern gets romantic

Weddings are preoccupying Jonathan Moseley when I call to chat about the Malvern spring festival. No particular wedding, you understand, but the whole paraphernalia surrounding them and in particular the flowers.

Forget traditional roses or lilies, the award-winning florist and judge on BBC’s Big Allotment Challenge believes brides should be choosing seasonal – and preferably British – flowers for the big day.

“There’s a whole host of things out there,” he says. “Every bride has got her own individual personality, so have flowers. Let’s marry those flowers to that bride’s quirky style.”

Malvern spring festival
Jonathan will be hosting floral workshops and demonstrations

It’s a message he will be promoting at this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival where he is part of a move to reinvigorate the cut flower element – “I hate flower shows with competitive entries that look like they’re in a museum”.

It follows success at the autumn show where Jonathan hosted floristry workshops and demonstrations alongside the floral art displays.

“It had a real buzz, a real energy to it.”

‘Grow Your Own Wedding’ will have talks and demonstrations from florists, floristry colleges and British flower growers with advice on raising your own cut flowers, or sourcing something individual for bouquets and buttonholes.

To make sure it’s at the heart of the four-day event, it will all take place in one of the show gardens, ‘The Garden of Romance’, which will become a floral theatre. Designed by award-winning Jason Hales, of Villaggio Verde, it is based on an rustic Italian cloister garden.

It’s an unusual use of a space that is normally off-limits to the public and one that Jonathan believes will be a “real treat” for visitors and a natural setting for the floristry industry.

“A garden is the inspiration for any florist who is worth their salt. Certainly, for anybody who’s a supporter and user of natural material, a garden is the starting point for it all.”

And it’s these garden flowers that he believes should be used more in weddings: “I’m a great believer in bringing back some of the wonderful perennials.”

malvern spring
Jonathan believes brides should be adventurous when it comes to flowers

These include larkspar, and peonies, which he describes as “absolutely adorable, the most amazing flowers”.

Roses are not off the list, just the usual tight buds. Instead, he suggests opting for blousy, old-fashioned English roses to add a touch of romance and nostalgia.

Annuals, such as scabious and cornflowers, are another often overlooked area.

“They have that just picked look that’s so fresh, so energising and just like a wedding should be.”

And we shouldn’t be worried about them lasting, says Jonathan, who points out that the transience of flowers is part of their charm.

“If a wedding bouquet looks absolutely stunning for that day, does it matter if it’s going to be dead the following day? It’s done its job.”

More important is choosing flowers that fit with the season; an October wedding, he suggests, should make full use of dahlias, autumn foliage, seedheads, grasses and berries.

Indeed, flowers are only one part of a successful display.

malvern spring
Flowers don’t have to be exotic to make a striking arrangement

“It’s like watching a production. Flowers are the divas, they’re the star performers but no production exists with the orchestra, the choreographer and the make-up artist. All those things, like the grasses, the seed heads and the foliage, they’re all the back-up cast but they’re absolutely vital because they allow those few special flowers to really stand out.”

Among the experts on hand at the Malvern spring festival to offer advice on everything from successional sowing to flower combinations will be Georgie Newbury, author of ‘Grow Your Own Wedding’, South Gloucestershire-based Organic Blooms from South Gloucestershire, Far Hill Flowers, near Chepstow, Great British Florist, who raise cut flowers in Herefordshire, and Flowers from the Farm, a network of farmers and smallholders who together promote locally grown cut flowers.

“When I first started in floristry I could go down to my local wholesale market and there would be a whole load of British-grown flowers there and I think we should get that back,” says Jonathan, whose passion for plants began with the present of a greenhouse for his eleventh birthday.

malvern spring
The Malvern Hills make a spectacular backdrop to the show

“There is still a British flower market out there. It’s in its infancy but we want to see that grow from strength-to-strength.

“I want to see British flowers back in supermarkets, back on street corners, outside your local village shop. It makes people connect with nature and realise that sweetpeas are in summer, cornflowers are in summer, daffodils are this time of year. It’s bringing that seasonality back into people’s lives.”

And if the idea of growing your own is a step too far, Jonathan suggests asking a grower to produce them for you: “It can become a really personal experience where you’ve got a real bond, a real connection to those flowers.”

With a wedding often the first time some people really think about flowers, he’s hoping it could signal the start of more than one life-long relationship.

“What we are trying to do at Malvern is to make people realise that flowers are important, that they’re there for anybody to enjoy any age, any gender and that there’s no point in your life when you can’t get excited about flowers and get in touch with flowers.”

RHS Malvern Spring Festival runs from May 5-8. For ticket details, visit

Jonathan will be taking questions about ‘Grow Your Own Wedding’ via Twitter @jpmoseley

Container gardening

Container gardening is one of the best ways to expand both what you grow and the space available. Pots, windowboxes and wall-mounted containers mean you can provide just the right growing conditions be they soil type or position, brighten up the dullest of patios and grow in even limited space.

It’s also a great way of keeping an ever-changing display as flowering plants that are past their best can be replaced with others that are just coming into bloom. And you don’t need dozens of expensive pots to achieve this: keep your plants in ordinary plastic and slip them inside something fancier. This is particularly good for bulbs, which can be hidden out of sight to die back.

container gardening
Pots are a good way of brightening up a path

I use pots a lot. Hostas, which would not survive the attentions of slugs and snails in my crammed borders, are grouped in a shady corner where I can keep a closer eye on them. Acid-lovers, such as camellias, would hate my Cotswold ground and putting them in a pot of ericaceous compost is far easier than making an acid bed and far better than going without their spring blooms. In the summer, containers of cheerful pelargoniums give the air of a Mediterranean holiday even if the weather doesn’t match.

A few simple rules apply to growing in containers. Make sure there is adequate drainage; few plants like waterlogged soil. I like to cover the drainage holes with pieces of broken terracotta pots to stop soil blocking them.

container gardening
Hostas are well suited to growing in containers

Match the pot size to the plant: a small shrub may eventually grow to be big but will look wrong starting off adrift in a large pot. It is far better to repot as it grows – beware though pots that narrow from the bottom as it can be difficult to get plants out.

Above all, remember to feed and water; use irrigation systems and slow-release fertiliser, if time is short or your memory poor.

When it comes to choosing the right container the range is vast and much is down to personal taste. Here is a sample of some of the things available.


Think of plant pots and chances it will be terracotta that comes to mind. From old-fashioned clay pots that are still my favourites for herbs and pelargoniums to those with fancy patterns, terracotta has long been a popular choice.

container gardening
Whichford produce a range of pots

In the Cotswolds, we are lucky enough to have Whichford Pottery on our doorstep. The family firm, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, sends its pots to gardens across the country, including National Trust properties, and they are sold in the Highgrove shop, suitably embellished with the Prince of Wales feathers.

Handmade, they come with a 10-year frostproof guarantee and range from traditional long toms to huge urns. Details:


From traditional galvanised steel and burnished copper to shiny contemporary pots, metal is another widely used material for containers.

New this year are a range of windowboxes by garden planter firm Arthur Jack & Co, whose water butt was shortlisted for the RHS Chelsea garden product of the year 2015.


Arthur Jack’s new windowboxes

Made of galvanised steel, they come in two sizes and have adjustable legs to allow for slanted sills, a fitted bottom tray to stop dirty water damaging paintwork and bolt fixings to allow them to be hung from railings. They can also be used as edging on terraces or decking. Prices start at £170. Details:

copper planter
Copper planters from Architectural Heritage

If you need something bigger, Cotswold-based Architectural Heritage has copper and lead planters. The pieces, reproduced from traditional planters, include large circular copper urns and a rectangular lead planter patterned with squares. Prices start at £800. Details:

At the other end of the price range, Crocus have some clever ideas to maximise your space. Galvanised wall planters can be used to liven up a dull boundary or house wall and are ideal for small plants that would be lost in a border. A set of three costs £18.99.

plant stand
A corner plant stand makes the most of awkward spaces

The same style of galvanised steel with a clear lacquer finish is used in the firm’s corner stand of three pots (£44.99), a great way of filling those awkward corners. Details:


container gardening
Suttons’ painted crate makes an eye-catching container

Reusing old crates has become very fashionable but they don’t have to be plain. Suttons have produced a range in green, pink, blue and whitewash as well as natural that can also have a personal message added. Prices start at £20. Details:


If you think plastic containers are a bit naff, think again. New colours and sleek lines can be the perfect foil to plants and they have the advantage of being lightweight.

container planting
Elho pots offer modern container planting

Dutch company Elho has been producing synthetic pottery for more than 50 years and uses around 45 per cent recycled material. The pots are UV resistant, have a useful water reservoir and come in a range of colours from clean white and soft blue to lime green and cherry. They are stocked at many garden centres ( for details of stockists) and online at Amazon and Crocus. Prices start at £4.09 for a GrowPot.

plant pots
Colourful pots from Hum

For a touch of fun in the garden, Hum Flowerpots have contemporary designs and sparkling colours. Made in the UK, they are frost and fade-resistant and come in a range of styles. The company, set up two years ago, makes just one 22cm-tall pot but further sizes are planned. They are priced at £10 and available at

Something different

Anything can be used as a planter, providing there’s adequate drainage. The only limit is your imagination.

Container gardening
An old kettle makes an unusual planter
Container gardening
An old wheelbarrow planted with snowdrops and muscari

Looking beyond the trees

Arboretum seems almost the wrong word for Batsford. True it has a far-reaching range of specimens, is a National Collection holder and is involved in important scientific research, but it’s so much more than that and there’s a sense of fun and a garden-like quality that makes it unusual.

Red painted bridges and a Japanese rest house lend an Oriental flavour, there’s a water garden with pools and streams, and glimpses of Batsford House, no longer part of the arboretum, give the impression of having wandered into a large garden.

“It’s more than an arboretum,” explains head gardener Matt Hall. “It’s not just about trees.”

The Foo Dog is among the Oriental features

Much of this dual personality is due to its past: originally part of the estate of Batsford House, it was developed as a wild, naturalistic garden by Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford, later the 1st Lord Redesdale. He was a keen plantsman who was particularly interested in the Oriental style of gardening and involved in the running of Kew; Joseph Hooker, one of Kew’s directors, was influential in Batsford’s development.

The creation of the arboretum, which wraps around the garden elements, is the work of the 2nd Lord Dulverton, who inherited in 1956 and set about restoring Batsford and introducing rare and beautiful trees, resulting in today’s specialist collections.

Yet, even then the garden element was influential and Batsford’s collections, which include Japanese flowering cherries, acers and magnolias, are not arranged in botanical groups but scattered throughout the 60 acres with an emphasis on planting for visual impact.

It means that at this time of year the autumn colour runs through the arboretum with shades of gold, crimson and pink in every direction, a style that is being continued with many new acers being planted.

Batsford sorbus berries
Sorbus berries add a red glow

As befits a serious collection, among the more commonly seen birch, oak, prunus and sorbus, with berries of white, pink or red, there are some more unusual specimens. These include the Chinese pistachio, Pistacia chinensis, which has good autumn colour, the Korean mountain ash, Sorbus alnifolia, and Disanthus cercidifolius, whose heart-shaped leaves are turning fiery colours.

Meanwhile, a pair of vines are adding flame red to the display and Matt is hoping newly introduced bamboo Borinda papyrifera, which has stunning steel blue stems, will eventually form an impressive clump.

Batsford colour
There is beautiful colour throughout the arboretum

Elsewhere, the team have been thinning trees and clearing the understorey to create both planting areas for new specimens and an increased feeling of space.

Arguably the most important trees are also the most easily overlooked. In an extension to the arboretum, which opened in 2010, are some that form part of the International Conifer Conservation Project, run by Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden and designed to safeguard species that are threatened in their native countries.

“It will generate a bank of material,” explains Matt.

Among those at Batsford are monkey puzzles from Chile, Nothofagus alessandri, one of about eight plants growing in Great Britain and the golden Vietnamese Cyprus.

Countryside views are one of Batsford’s special features

They are found on the outer edges of the arboretum where another new development is taking shape. What was once a field is being planted up with a mixture of trees, including ash, acers and liquidambar. The centre is being left open with wild flowers and care has been taken not to obscure the long views that are one of Batsford’s strengths and something that makes it more than just a collection of trees.

Batsford Arboretum, near Moreton-in-Marsh, is open daily, except Christmas Day from 10am to 5pm. Last entry at 4.45pm. More information at: