Today We are 5 and other exciting things

Yesterday was rather momentous for us I was checking my emails when an alert came in telling me the blog was five years old. Well howdee down doodee and Happy Birthday I thought to myself. It must have taken me a day to get my head round this new technology back in 2012 as I didn’t actually publish anything until the 1st of February so today is officially the blog’s 5th Birthday.

So how to celebrate this most momentous of days, well cake would be a good start, most five year olds like cake. And yet I feel it should be marked with something more and as luck would have it I know just the thing. More than cake, I know, it sounds hard to beat but I hope you’ll agree with me that finally being able to say to all and sundry

‘Ive designed a Show Garden for the new RHS Show at Chatsworth’ is better than cake.

Moveable Feast – RHS Chatsworth

It’s all been a bit of a secret, firstly when the design went in we didn’t say anything, who knew if it would be accepted. Secondly when it was accepted you have to keep it hush hush until after The RHS Chatsworth press release.

I’m thrilled to have this opportunity and also extremely grateful to have been advised and encouraged along the way by a fabulous mentor, thank you Paul, but beyond that the concept of this garden is something I feel passionate about. So apologies in advance but having kept quiet for so long you may, just, get sick of hearing about it.

Now who’s for some cake?

The Language of Plants – Part 1

There  be rumblins on social media, just for a change, and not just about European breakfast or why Orange is the latest must have colour in the USA, but why we still use Latin in horticulture. More to the point how it’s use is alienating new gardeners because they don’t understand it’s frightening, elitist, antiquated ways.

I absulutely understand the reluctance of some, but I still think there is a case to be made for keeping and championing the current system. So over a few posts, in my own way, I’m hopefully going to put forward my own case.

For or many years I ran a club in a primary school teaching all things horticultural. In fact ‘Horticulture’ was one of the first words they learnt, it comes from the Latin words ‘Hortus’ meaning garden and ‘Cultura’ meaning to cultivate, and I felt it summed up what the club was all about. During the term time they would learn about different types of plants and seeds, how to grow them, propagate and prune them. We looked at soil science, composting, crop rotation and pest control. And yes these under 11’s got to grips with Botanical Latin.

The thing about Botanical Latin as its often refered to is its not all Latin, there’s a pinch of Ancient Greek, a smattering of Persian and a hint of ego. So what are the objections to using It in Horticulture?

1) It’s frightening. Is it though, I find tall buildings, sitting next to learner drivers and snakes scary but I’ve never had a nightmare featuring Latin Plant names. What is scary I think relates to number 2).

2) It’s elitist. Nobody likes to be made to feel stupid and there is a tendency to be a bit sneery when it comes to pronunciation. If that’s you stop it, nobody likes a smart arse. For instance I’ve been told off for my pronunciation of Hemerocallis in the past, mind you I’ve been told off for lots of things. I’ve always known it as hemero-callis, but have been told it should be hem-er-okal-lis with all the syllables running into each other, like an Ibix skipping over boulders. So who’s right, to be honest I don’t know. However I do know that Hemerocallis comes from the Greek ‘hemeros’ meaning a day and ‘kallos’ meaning beauty and that Polly Maasz, grower of unusual and rather special Hemerocalis, doesn’t take issue with my pronunciation. Also I can’t help thinking a gardening code which means I can converse with any Hort, anywhere in the world, with words we both understand is far from elitist, it’s actually universally inclusive.

3) It’s antiquated. Absolutely right, but there is a good reason for combining ‘dead’ languages in science. Language is like a river running through time, it’s constantly picking up influences as it flows, evolving and leaving behind the evidence of ancients in literary ox-bow lakes. An ancient or dead language will never alter, it’s meaning will always stay the same, so *Systema Naturae written in 1735 could still be read and understood in 2735


*Systema Natura written by Swedish botanist, zoologist and physician Carolus Linnaeus introduced Linnaean taxonomy (now known as binomial nomenclature) as a way of grouping living things in a consistent scientific way.





Spot the Epiphyte

Vergette Garden Design Coastal Oak Tree
Coastal Oak furnished with Ferns

It is a universal truth that tree surgeons never look at what they’re walking on, this can be nightmarish for the gardener whose main focus tends to be on that ground and all the precious plants they’ve added. Sometimes though it would be as well for a gardener to emulate the tree folk and look up into the canopy, for who knows what delights may be hidden amongst the boughs.

It’s a good life

We humans are multifaceted beings and I am no exception. I rather think of myself as having a practical nature but a romantic soul, if you like part Margot part Barbara. For those of you watching TV in the 70’s you’ll get the reference for anybody else you’ll have to search “The Good Life” on YouTube.

For most of the year these two sides of me rub along quite well, one side saving me from flights of fancy and the other reminding me that it’s not against the law to add a bit of sparkle. However when it comes to Christmas I often unleash my inner Barbara. Like the year I decided to make everybody chocolates, Cherries steeped in Brandy, covered with ganache and dipped in dark chocolate. By the end of it the smell of chocolate made me truly nauseous and my father managed to find the only cherry I’d forgotten to stone. It might have been at that point my inner Margot pointed out Thorntons would be a great deal easier and probably cheaper.

Then there was the year I decided diddy cakes would be a fabulous idea. Or the Christmas I thought making miniature fruity gins and vodka would be fun. To be honest both years had Margot and Barbara wanting to lie down in a dark room.

And so to Chrismas present, Barbara had decided it would be everso jolly to add home grown to the home made Christmas fare. Margot ruefully reminded her of the time they’d felt like exhausted elves by Christmas Day and a compromise was reached. Barbara would supplement Margo’s purchased presents with a home made gift, likewise food for the table. And so as I type Barbara’s stock pot of home grown vegetables is bubbling away on the hob and Margo is wondering if it’s time to go to the pub yet.



No matter if you’re a Barbara, Margot, Gerry or Tom wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Silver Linings

As gardeners we are all subject to the vagaries of the weather and nature, who amongst us hasn’t lost a cherished plant to rot in a wet winter, or discovered a freeze dried specimen that was perhaps a bit more tender than we hoped. We can shrug our shoulders and chalk it up to experience and tell ourselves we won’t make that mistake again. The silver lining being we get to buy/swap/grow a replacement, and who doesn’t like a new plant.

This ho hum attitude doesn’t seem to extend to the wildlife we experience, gardening can all too soon turn into a series of battles with little or no hope of actually winning the war. For various reasons I choose not to use insecticides in the garden, and so I expect to put up with a nibbled leaf or three. I can put up with that so long as they leave the flowers alone, it’s all about give and take.

That’s not to say I was happy when I discovered that the scarlet leaves on my bog standard  Tellima grandiflora were not in fact due to Autumnal senescence, but a rather a bad case of evil weevil. Ho Hum, I thought as they came up from the surface of the compost, at least they should survive if I repot them, and the silver lining is instead of one I now have three.

Now just because I choose not to poison pests doesn’t mean I’m happy to give them board and lodging through the winter once they’ve been discovered. It’s not too onerous a task to knock the compost out of the pot and sift thorough the contents for the Vine Weevil larvae. I can almost hear your thoughts gentle reader ‘Sounds like a lot of faff to me, why bother?’ Well as I said before this gardening malarkey is all about give and take and handing feeding Evil Weevil to a Robin is pretty high on my silver linings list.

Robin accompanying today's gardening exploits in Hereford
Gardening it’s a spectator sport for some

Problem Solving

Problem solving is an everyday part of a job, any job, not just garden design, and so it wasn’t unusual to have a phone call last week asking for my help. It went a bit like this……

“Hi I’m a bit worried about one of my trees, it’s changing colour”

‘Right, do you know what type of tree it is?’

“No, could you come and look at it and tell me what’s wrong?”

Well I’m always happy to help, and having established that it wasn’t a deciduous tree (I have had enquiries at this time of year about yellowing leaves) I booked a visit into the diary.

Well the tree in question is a form of  Cupressus and it was indeed yellowing. It was also listing in the fashion of a first year student during Freshers Week and possibly like said first year is only partially upright as it is slumped against a handy nearby tree, in this case a rather sad looking Sorbus.

At at this point I can’t see the base of the tree, so I’m thinking about all the possible rots and fungi that could cause problems with the roots. Sometimes you just can’t tell what’s caused a tree to keel over but it does help when choosing a replacement so as to avoid planting something that may also be susceptible.

As I clear away the carpet of ivy, looking for bootlaces in the soil, I’m also wondering if whatever’s caused this sad demise might spread to other surrounding shrubs and trees. After a thorough investigation I haven’t found signs of honey fungus but I have worked out what the problem is.

It’s not a problem I’ve ever come across before, one that obviously occurred at the planting stage but happily isn’t going to cause a problem when we come to replant, which is a relief.

Probably best to take it out of the pot before planting

I havent been able to find the Latin name for this affliction but my lovely reader if you should know please feel free to enlighten me.


Woodland Wonder

Aster divaricatus now Eurybia divaricata but if you like you can still call it a Wood Aster. I love this little plant it’s what’s known as a good doer, and as its common name will tell you it’s not averse to growing in a bit of shade.  Aster divaricata now Eurybia divaricata common name Wood Aster

Aster divaricata now Eurybia divaricata

We sourced this beauty for a client in Much Marcle, Hereford who was looking to add some interest to a shadier part of the garden. Shade loving plants have a tendency to be earlier flowering so to have something flowering in August and September is a great addition to a woodland border.

Wood Aster
Eurybia divaricata formerly Aster divaricata

If you’re a neat freak you can cut it back in late autumn, however, I would urge you to leave it standing until it becomes too irritating to bear as the Goldfinches seem to rather enjoy the seeds.