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.