Shrubs, so often part of the supporting cast rather than the star of a garden, will be thrust firmly into the spotlight at a Cotswold lecture in April.
Chelsea gold medal-winning designer, author and plantsman Andy McIndoe will be showing how choosing the right shrubs can transform your plot.
Andy, who masterminded Hillier Nursery’s 25 gold medal displays at the world famous show, is giving the first in a series of lectures by celebrity gardeners and experts.
The talks are being run by luxury garden shop Allomorphic, which opens in Stroud in March. There are also workshops on offer covering everything from garden design to how to draw.
The business has been set up by award-winning designer and RHS judge Paul Hervey-Brookes who says the opening talk promises to be a lively affair.
“Andy is known to many for his colourful shirts when interviewed on the RHS Chelsea coverage,” says Paul. “I am anticipating his talk to be as wild and flamboyant with a good dose of humour.”
In May, the secrets of the head gardener will be revealed when Benjamin William Pope from Trotton Place discusses ‘The Working Garden’. Trotton, a private estate, was designed by Chelsea gold medalist Arne Maynard and features stunning perennial planting and a large walled, working kitchen garden.
“Ben will share his passion for getting the very best from a garden with us and revealing his top secrets to glorious success,” says Paul, who is busy planning a show garden for Hampton Court Flower Show in July.
Other speakers in the series include Bob Brown, of Cotswold Garden Flowers, Michaelmas daisy expert Helen Picton, and Rosie Hardy, of Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants, who is building her first show garden at Chelsea this year. The talks, priced at £12.50, include wine and nibbles, and a series discount is available.
Running alongside the monthly lectures are day and short courses including DIY wedding flowers and floral arrangements inspired by woodland, how to revamp your border, and the basics of drawing using the techniques of the old masters.
Barnsley House’s head gardener will be leading the hunt for a rare seasonal flower this Easter.
Richard Gatenby will head a morning trek in search of the meadow Pasque Flower. Extremely rare in the UK, this delicate purple bloom is found in only a few places, including a spot a few miles from Barnsley.
The trek is open to guests on a special package at Barnsley House, the former home of garden designer Rosemary Verey and now a hotel.
The package, includes an evening screening of ‘Greenfingers’ in the hotel’s private cinema, and use of the spa facilities. Provisional dates, subject to flowering, are April 12/13 and 19/20.
Highgroveis holding its first garden festival this spring with talks by celebrity gardeners, tours of the Royal garden and a special plant fair.
Alan Titchmarsh, Jekka McVicar, Raymond Blanc and Sarah Raven are just some of the speakers at the event, which runs from April 11 to 16. Topics range from growing food organically and plant care to garden history and topiary.
Cheltenham-based Chris Beardshaw will discuss making a show garden, designer Bunny Guinness will talk about transforming a garden and award-winning Andy Sturgeon will explore how to create a contemporary garden.
There will be two evening events with a talk and supper: Carol Klein will present one on her latest book, Making a Garden, Successful Gardening by Nature’s Rules, and Bob Flowerdew will host the other on the perfect garden.
Other events are for a lunch, a talk and a tour of the garden while special hour-long tours of the Highgrove grounds include afternoon tea.
Highgrove: The Garden Celebrated is billed as a celebration of one of Britain’s favourite pastimes and is based on the principles behind the Prince of Wales’ organically run private garden, which has been created over the past 35 years.
One of the main features is the wildflower meadow and BBC Gardeners’ World presenter Rachel de Thame will present a joint talk with botanist Trevor Dines on growing wild flowers.
Topiary is another important element and this skill will be discussed by cloud pruning specialist and topiary expert Jake Hobson.
Other speakers include Highgrove’s head gardener Debs Goodenough, TV gardener and broadcaster David Domoney, Caroline Tatham from The Cotswold Gardening School, and designers Julian and Isabel Bannerman.
“The festival truly captures the essence of Highgrove,” said Chris Prescott, chief executive at Highgrove Enterprises. “It will be a unique insight into the ethos and sustainable approach behind the gardens, as well as a reflection of the horticultural interests and enthusiasms of HRH The Prince of Wales.”
Running alongside the talks will be a spring plant fair and a retail pavilion with exhibitors hand-picked by Highgrove.
All profits from the event will go to The Prince of Wales’ Charitable Foundation, which supports a wide range of causes.
“If it’s successful, we would love to make it an annual event,” added Nikki.
There’s no doubt that when it comes to grow your own, spuds have an image problem. Potatoes may be a staple of many diets but for the average vegetable gardener they are seen as space-greedy and suitable only for allotments. Why devote time and effort to something that’s cheap to buy and, frankly, a bit dull?
The answer, as with so many crops, lies in the taste. There’s nothing quite like newly dug potatoes and growing your own gives you the chance to try varieties ignored by the supermarkets. They can also be raised in containers, so even balcony gardeners needn’t miss out, while choosing one of the colourful varieties means you could be harvesting rainbow nuggets of gold.
The start of the potato growing season is one of the highlights of the year at Dundry Nurseries. The Cotswold business hosts an annual Potato Weekend that sees thousands of seed potatoes sold to customers who travel from all over the country for the event. As little as one tuber can be bought, making it the ideal way for beginners to start, or for old hands to try something new.
This year, the 19th event, there will be around 135 different varieties on offer with coloured spuds set to steal the show.
“We like to be a bit different,” says Steve Mercer, manager at the family-owned nursery. “As with everything we do, it’s a bit of fun.”
Unlike varieties such as ‘Red Duke of York’, it’s not just the skin that’s coloured on these spuds but the flesh as well. Some are Heritage varieties, others newer introductions.
‘Violetta’ and ‘Salad Blue’ are both a deep blue-purple, ‘Red Emmalie’ is a glorious pink-red, while ‘Highland Burgundy’ has almost all red flesh with just a narrow band of white under the red skin. ‘Shetland Black’ has dark blue skin and creamy flesh with a distinctive purple band.
When it comes to more mainstream varieties, ‘Charlotte’ is still the bestseller.
“It’s because everybody knows it and it always grows well. Why change a good thing?” says Steve.
There has been a trend though for growers to move over to ‘Annabelle’, which crops earlier than ‘Charlotte’ and with more uniform tubers. In the same way, ‘Mozart’, which Steve describes as “bombproof”, is gradually becoming the spud of choice among former ‘Desiree’ growers. Meanwhile, ‘Jazzy’, a popular waxy spud with great flavour, sold out on the first day at last year’s event.
“We’ve tripled the order this time,” says Steve.
Last year, around 1,800 people visited over the two days of the Potato Weekend with many more calling in during the run-up to be sure of getting a particular variety.
“Around eighty per cent still come back for the weekend to talk to fellow growers. It’s really a social gathering.”
• Dundry Nurseries, Bamfurlong Lane, Cheltenham, holds its Potato Weekend on Saturday and Sunday January 16 and 17 from 9am to 4.30pm. Tubers are 20p each; £1.75 a Kg; £4.50 3Kg. Nursery owner Chris Evans will give cookery demonstrations using coloured potatoes on the Saturday. Gloucestershire gardening groups will have stalls, there will be advice about growing potatoes, antique tools on display and a potato-themed play on the Sunday. Refreshments will be available. For more details, visit http://www.dundrynurseries.co.uk/default.asp
How to grow spuds
• Always use certified disease-free tubers.
• Tubers should be chitted to develop shoots before planting. Place, eyes uppermost, in a light, frost-free place, such as a conservatory or porch. Old egg boxes are an ideal container.
• Ground should not be freshly manured – prepare it in the autumn. Pelleted chicken manure is a popular fertiliser when planting.
• Plant around the end of March for first earlies; early to mid-April for second earlies and mid to late April for maincrop.
• First and second earlies are planted 1ft apart, 5ins deep with 2ft between rows. Main crop: 18ins apart, 5ins deep.
• As shoots start to grow, earth up by drawing earth around them to protect from frost and stop light turning the tubers green. Keep well-watered.
• Harvest first and second earlies from June, when the potatoes are egg-sized. Harvest main crop from September when the flowers go over.
• Allow potatoes to dry before storing in a dark, frost-free place in sacks. Do not store damaged tubers and check remainder regularly.
• A 35L bucket can be planted with three tubers. Keep well watered and either fill the bucket immediately or earth up as the tubers grow.
Walking around a wood on a cold winter’s night isn’t the most obvious way to launch the festive season, yet for thousands that’s exactly what Westonbirt’s Enchanted Christmas does.
Indeed, the spectacular light show, which opens on Friday, has become so popular – last year saw more than 33,000 visitors over the 12 nights – the arboretum has been forced to limit some evenings to pre-booked tickets only.
“It’s because of the sheer number of people who want to come,” explains Recreation Manager Simon Hough. “We were getting to the point we could not get any more in.”
Limiting the numbers on Saturdays to 3,500 pre-booked visitors will, he says, help to preserve the atmosphere.
“The great thing about this landscape is it soaks people up and even when it’s very busy you still feel you’re having a unique experience out there.”
Now in its 19th season, Enchanted Christmas turns the world famous National Arboretum into a magical world of colour not due to the usual autumn foliage or spring blossom but with thousands of lights that pick out groups of trees or individual specimens.
Sometimes it’s the twisted shape of the leafless branches that are highlighted against the night sky, on others it’s the weeping form or intricate pattern of bark, while colours range from white, green and blue through to red, orange and yellow.
This year’s route is nearly a mile-and-a-half long around the Old Arboretum and highlights will include lights along Holford Ride towards Westonbirt School, some beautiful Scots pines and cedars on the downs.
“The big cedars lit up look magnificent,” says Simon.
Visitors are being encouraged to sing out in Savill Glade where sound-sensitive lights will respond to the volume and in Pool Avenue banging a base drum will bring on the illuminations.
This year, Father Christmas, dressed in a traditional green costume, will be joined by Mrs Christmas, who will be entertaining children with stories.
Other entertainment includes carol singing, stilt walkers, a children’s carousel and Christmas crafts.
“The Enchanted Christmas is our unique thing,” says Simon. “You cannot replicate a place like this. It’s magical.”
• The Enchanted Christmas is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night between November 27 and December 20. Pre-booking is advised and is essential for entry on Saturdays. The trail opens at 5pm, last entry to the car park is at 7pm and to the trail at 7.30pm. Stout shoes, warm clothing and a torch are recommended. For more information and to book, visit www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt-christmas
There’sa rare chance of a glimpse into the Rothschild’s private family garden at a Cotswold talk this month.
Gloucestershire writer and designer Mary Keen will explore Eythrope in Buckinghamshire in an illustrated talk at Sapperton.
The garden is renowned for its standards, use of traditional techniques and sheer scale that sees it producing year-round flowers and produce for the family’s country house.
Mary, who writes for The Telegraph and Garden magazine, has just published a book on the garden, ‘Paradise and Plenty’, which not only pays tribute to Eythrope but also outlines some of the cultivation methods used there.
Her talk, organised by the Yellow Lighted Bookshop, will be held in Sapperton Village Hall on Friday November 27 at 7pm. Tickets are £7.50 in advance, which gives £5 off purchase of the book, and can be booked on 01666 500221.
•‘Paradise and Plenty, A Rothschild Family Garden’ by Mary Keen, photography by Tom Hatton, is £50, published by Pimpernel Press.
A bumper year for apples will see a huge range on show at Snowshill Manor’s annual apple festival.
The National Trust property’s two orchards have more than 50 different apples, including many heritage varieties, such as ‘Gloucester Underleaf’, ‘Hunts Duke of Gloucester’ and ‘Gloucester Royal’.
In addition, head gardener Vicky Cody has sourced many others from other orchards and the festival will showcase more than 100 varieties.
“We want to encourage people to look at the many varieties of apple which exist – the vast majority of which can’t be found in supermarkets. We have eaters, cookers, crab apples and cider apples each of which can be used in a different way,” explains Vicky.
“There are some delightful surprises. We have Devonshire Quarrenden growing in the Snowshill Manor orchard which is a tiny little thing, first recorded back in the 1670s. Barely an inch in diameter and deep red, it is somehow packed with flavour, a bright little thing which is quite unexpected for its size.”
Visitors will be able taste apples in pies, puddings, sausages and chutney in the manor’s tea rooms and there will be demonstrations of apple juicing by a cider maker, talks on successful apple growing and a glass-fronted bee hive on show.
• Snowshill Apple Festival runs from Friday October 16 to Sunday October 18 2015 from 11am to 5pm. Normal admission prices apply. More information is available at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/snowshillmanor