Remarkable Gooseberry Crops

Sweet or sharp and sour the gooseberry is a remarkable soft fruit. Summer 2014 has been a remarkable year for the size of my crop and the freezer is bulging (like my waste from numerous crumbles).

Gooseberry Summary
Plants prefer a cool climate and will withstand a windy position with light well drained soil.
Do not feed excessive nitrogen which encourages mildew.
Water with a liquid feed as the fruit start to set – this increases berry size and limits splitting.
Fruit appear on new and old wood so aim for a balance between the two.
Varieties are classified by the colour of the fruit as Red, Green, White and Yellow. At home you may want a mix of kinds.

Gooseberry Calendar
Bushes fruit in June and/or July
Take cuttings in September,
Prune cordon shoots in March but reshape and reinvigorate by pruning in winter.
Plant new bushes in November or March if the soil is very heavy.
Varieties come in early, mid season and late (examples Early Sulphur, Gunner, Lancer)


What a grand way to grow Gooseberries ‘up a stick’ (or Cordon).   Trained like ballerina apples this  Gooseberry variety London was grown as one vertical trunk. Gooseberry London has very large oval fruit with a smooth skin. The flavour is good and is normally a spreading bush but it makes few branches. It is renown as heavy yielding as can be seen below from a 1st June photo below.

Planting Layout for Legs or Cordons
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Get Cracking Indoor Bulbs for Christmas

Bright colour and attractive scent are special features you can add to Christmas from indoor bulbs.
If you get cracking and plant your bulbs in Autumn you will have gifts to give away or an indoor show to be proud of.


Indoor Hyacinth Bulbs for Christmas

  • Hyacinths are fragrant and colourful.
  • Buy new bulbs each year and select those that have been treated to flower early.
  • Pot up in early autumn and keep in cool dark conditions.
  • Bring into the light a few weeks before Christmas, then into the warmth. Flowers will last longer if not too warm.
  • Do not let your pots dry out.

Smaller Bulbs for Christmas

  • Crocus can be encouraged to flower for Christmas. Try a special pot with holes in the side where bulbs can peak out. Crocus chrysanthus are the small species best suited for Christmas.
  • Iris danfordiae are likely to give a good show if kept cool until ready to flower.
  • Tulips may be forced into Christmas flower.

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Hyacinth Growing Tips

hyacinth & primrose

Growing Hyacinths

  • Hyacinths like brilliant drainage
  • Hyacinth need full sun and a good baking during summer
  • Feed with a potash fertilizer in early spring to help roots and bulbs.
  • Plant between September and December. Christmas indoor bulbs need to be ‘prepared’ and planted as soon as available.
  • Put an inch of grit in the bottom of a pot to help drainage and cover the top of the bulb with 3″ of soil.
  • Deadhead and allow leaves to die down naturally.
  • Propagate by dividing clumps in early autumn.

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Top Ten Flowers – Two Different Lists

Gardeners World ran a series looking for Britains favourite top ten flowers. The BBC didn’t name specific varieties or offer much insight so I have added some Gardeners Tips

  1. Lilies -  Soak in water water for an hour lay sideways on a bed of grit and shade the root run.
  2. Roses – Encourage growth from the ground by planting deeper than they originally grew. Scented varieties Margaret Merrill and Rosa Westerland are worth looking out for
  3. Daffodils – Feed with tomato fertilizer as they finish flowering and leave leaves for 6 weeks. Miniature DAffs are now very trendy but if you have the space go for King Alfred.
  4. Fucshias - Pinch out the tip when they have 4-6 pairs of leaves. I grow Lady and Tom Thumb as well as Winston Churchill
  5. Delphiniums – Treat for slugs in Autumn so they don’t feed on the roots all winter. The white varieties are not as strong as the trditional
  6. Clematis – Plant 6 inches deeper tha the top of the rootball and keep roots cool.
  7. Sweet Peas – Train the strongest side shoot not the main stem for show blooms.
  8. Primulas – Mark plants in flower if you want to split them in June.
  9. Poppies – Cut oriental poppy foliage right back after flowering and stake early.
  10. Irises – Plant in groups of 3-5 to make quicker clumps.

Bulb historian Anna Pavord has also chosen her favourite top ten flowers and surprise, surprise they are all bulbs or corm based flowers. I have put them into alphabetical order

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Specimen Eucryphia in Yorkshire Dales

Eucryphia can be amongst the highlights of  summer flowering trees and shrubs. Performing in late summer the profusion of scented white flowers on a conical tree can be exceptional. The flowers also have a further profusion of interesting stamens, distinctly coloured pink or yellow.

Specimen Varieties

  • Eucryphia Nymansay has cup-shaped, fragrant white flowers 3inches across, with very prominent bosses of yellow stamens, and elliptic leaves that are strongly toothed
  • Eucryphia glutinosa, is particularly recommended as it makes a fine 25 foot tree with lots of handsome flowers and leaves that colour up in the autumn.
  • Eucryphia milliganii is a smaller evergreen tree with a narrow growing habit. Even young specimens have freely produced flowers.
  • Eucryphia intermedia is frost hardy and extremely free flowering.

Growing a Specimen Eucryphia.

  • Eucryphias are upright and columnar in shape and make natural specimen plants if given the right conditions.
  • Plant it in early spring in moist acidic soil in a sheltered position where the roots are shaded from the sun yet the branches are in good light.
  • Underplant to cover the roots if necessary to avoid warming sun.
  • A good parent should produce good offspring so select from the species above. There are some Eucrphia that can grow to 120 feet tall in there natural habitat.

Eucryphia growing above a hedge at Parcivall Hall North Yorkshire. The grounds contain several acid loving plants and the under planting included several Hydrangeas. Whislt the gardens are nearly 1000 feet above sea level the shelter of the dales hills and damp conditions suit the Eucryphia down to the ground (Oops)

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Tips on Making A Compost Heap.

Compost heap

A compost heap is an excellent way of recycling dead plant material and generating the best possible soil fertiliser. A good compost heap also gives a feeling of satisfaction because it helps the gardener to become part of the natural cycle of growth, decay and regeneration. Using a compost heap will also save many unnecessary trips to the local tip. See also: Benefits of Composting

How To Make a Good Compost Heap

The Compost Bin A compost bin should be about 1 square metre. It is important to have a good size, but, it should also be compact because otherwise the generated heat will be dissipated. It is also best to have at least two bins. This enables one heap to rot down, whilst the other is added to. A compost heap should also be aerated and enable water to enter. If you have an enclosed plastic bin, make sure you water where necessary.

Positioning. A compost heap can be really be put anywhere; most people want to choose a spot that is not too prominent. However, if it receives direct sunlight the process of decomposition will be faster.

Base Layer.
At the bottom of a compost heap it is good to use some twiggy material to make sure there is good drainage; if you have a heavy clay soil, you might want to add some grit to provide good drainage. If a compost heap becomes waterlogged, the process of decomposition will slow down and it will become slimy.

Mixing Layers. The next important strategy is to provide a good mix of material when building up a compost heap. For example, grass is a high source of nitrogen and can break down quickly to generate heat. However, grass needs to be mixed with other more woody material, otherwise it will not rot down properly. Similarly on their own stems and twigs will take a long time to rot down unless they have an activator like grass or over very green material. When adding grass clippings spread them out to form a thin, equal layer; then add a layer of more twiggy material. If necessary store a potential layer for adding at the right time.

Breaking Up Twiggy Material. Thick stems will take a long time to break down. If you have a shredder, it will make the job of composting a lot more successful. It will break down the material and enable much faster composting. If you don’t have a shredder, you can just squash the stems or break them in a few places. A rather crude, but effective, tip is to get a spade and hit down on the top of the heap to break a few stems. Even this small step will help quite a lot; what you are doing is to increase the surface area, enabling faster decomposition.

Water. As mentioned before, water is important. It is important to water a compost heap a bit like watering a plant. If there is no water, the compost heap will dry out and will not decompose. If it is waterlogged it will stagnate. Most compost heaps suffer from being dry, so every now and then throw on some water to speed up the process of decomposition.

Cover. When the compost heap is finished with adequate amounts of water, it is good to cover with a plastic coating. This enable the heap to generate more heat, speeding up the process of decomposition; it also prevents excess water.

Aerate. In hot weather when a compost heap is generating a lot of heat it is a good idea to get a garden cane and poke the heap, every now and then. This allows air to enter and expedites the process of aerobic decomposition. A good heap will have steam coming from it when you aerate it.
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Growing Plants for Aromatherapy Oils

French lavender

Just a drop of aromatherapy oil can have a stimulating or calming influence just as the scent in a good garden can. It is no surprise then that many scents come from plants. Unfortunately for most gardeners the plants , trees and shrubs are native to hot and or damp climates and need special conditions to thrive.

Bergamot is one of the most popular oils coming from the Orange citrus family. Bergamot provides the flavouring in Earl Grey tea. Citrus aurantium ssp. bergamia The bergamot orange is unrelated to the herb of the same name, Monarda didyma.

Ancient oils provided medical remedies, Black Pepper for catarrh, Cedarwood for dandruff, Eucalyptus as an antiseptic. A couple of drops of Rosemary on clothing is said to get rid of sluggishness. Both Myrrh and Frankincense grow as small trees or shrubs; they are of the botanical family Burseraceae. Their natural growing range is limited, but this has been extended by cultivation in Arabia.

Oils for perfume include Patchouli extracted from the leaves of a variety of mint and Otto of Roses made from a Bulgarian rose damascena but needing 60,000 roses to produce one ounce of oil. Ylang Ylang oils name means the Flower of Flowers. Ylang-ylang blends well with most floral, fruit and wood smells.

Tea Tree oil has no link to the Tea plants of the Camellia oleifera. It is extracted from Melaleuca bark and used as an antiseptic.

Herbs that we grow can produce oils but large quantities and distillation equipment is probably required for Basil, Lavender, Peppermint, and Rosemary. Whilst it may be practical to grow many plants in the UK most on the list below need sun and a warm temperature. For small quantities a greenhouse or hot house may be the answer.

Plant Based Essential Oils

- Anise Star Essential Oil
- Basil, sweet Essential Oil
- Bay,  Essential Oil    – practical to grow in the UK
- Bergamot FCF Essential Oil
- White Birch Essential Oil
- Black Pepper Essential Oil
- Cardamon Essential Oil
- Carrot Seed Essential Oil
- Cedarwood Atlas Essential Oil
- Chamomile, German/Blue Essential Oil – practical to grow in the UK
- Clary Sage Essential Oil – practical to grow in the UK
- Clove Bud Essential Oil
- Coriander Essential Oil
- Cypress Essential Oil
- Dill Essential Oil – practical to grow in the UK
- Eucalyptus Globulus Essential Oil
- Fennel, sweet Essential Oil – practical to grow in the UK
- Geranium, Egyptian Essential Oil
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Dianthus the Perfect Pink Pinks

Indian Pink

Bright brash ‘Indian Pinks’ are verging on red in this cultivar. It looked great in the first season but I lost the plant over winter so perhaps the variety should be grown as an annual. All that glitters is not Pink. I hope to do better with a new bed I have created just for a collection of Pinks or Dianthus plumarius

Pinks prefer neutral to limey soil and Rhododendrons like soil on the acidic side yet these two plants have thrived together for several years and both produce a good show of flowers in their season. The soil is very open and reasonably fertile and I leave them to their own devices.
Single pinks
The same clump in winter.
Pinks & Rhododendron

Top Feeding and Watering Tips

  • Feed regularly during the growing season with a rose or tomato fertiliser.
  • Feeding is particularly important after the first flush of blooms has finished in order to encourage them to flower again.
  • Pinks will tolerate dry conditions but will only produce continuous flowers if you water regularly.
  • Water the base of the plant to avoid damaging the blooms.
  • Do not over water young plants and make sure excess water can drain away.

Dianthus Species of Pinks

Dianthus alpinus – Alpine Pinks
Dianthus amurensis – Amur Pinks
Dianthus arenarius – Sand Pinks
Dianthus armeria – Deptford Pinks
Dianthus carthusianorum – Carthusian Pinks
Dianthus caryophyllus – Carnation or Clove Pinks
Dianthus chinensis – China Pinks
Dianthus deltoides – Maiden Pinks with green foliage
Dianthus gallicus – French Pink or Jersey Pinks
Dianthus gratianopolitanus – Cheddar Pinks
Dianthus monspessulanus – Fringed Pinks
Dianthus microlepsis – Tiny 1″ high species
Dianthus myrtinervius – Albanian Pinks
Dianthus plumarius – Garden Pinks, Wild Pinks
Dianthus seguieri – Sequier’s Pinks
Dianthus superbus – Large Pinks
Dianthus x hybrid – Sweet Pinks


The Star series are single Dwarf Pinks  notable for their toughness and hardiness. Most varieties like the Night Star above will make a lovely compact mound of grey-green foliage, topped by a mass of sweet smelling flowers. They will repeat flower if dead headed and fed. Ideal for planting in rockeries, containers or pots. Flowering height approximately 5 inches.

Seeds and plants are available from Thompson Morgan

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Cottage Garden Sweet William – Dianthus

More on a topical favourite Dianthus the Sweet William.
Sweet William

This selection of Sweet Williams are grown from one packet of seed. The frilly flowers look almost double and when massed together in one flowerhead they look stunning.

Sweet William

A cottage garden favourite the Sweet William is in flower from July to September. They make good cut flowers and a nesting spot for earwigs. (Give them a good shake before bringing them into the house.)
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Gardening as A Stress Buster

Gardening is good for you not just physically but mentally and emotionally acting as a stress buster and promoting optimistic activity.

Book Cover


  • A garden can and should be an oasis of calm so a specific quiet area is worth creating.
  • Make paths long and curving  to extend the journey through the garden. If paths are  narrow you will need to concentrate on where you put your feet and hopefully forget your problems.
  • A solitary seat placed with a calm view can help your contemplation.
  • Water helps with it’s light reflective nature and the gentle sound of moving water can be soothing and calming.


  • Green is a natural neutral colour often found in Hospitals for its therapeutic effects. It is not hard to combine  foliage like Bamboos, Ferns and Mahonia for shape, texture and the green colours.
  • Red is the most stimulating colour and can increase your heart rate and stimulate your appetite.
  • Blue has the opposite effect generating calm and lowering blood pressure.
  • The colour effect can be enhanced by including a small quantity of the complementary colour orange with blue, green with red.


  • Stimulating all the senses means you need some good scent. Lavender is calming and not stressful to grow.
  • Herbs like Basil, Rosemary, Mint and Thyme can have a stimulating effect.
  • Relaxing or balancing aroma comes from Camomile, Clary Sage or Marjoram.
  • There is an added bonus from herbs as they can have culinary and medicinal purposes in addition to the scent.
  • Floral scents are a matter of taste but the power of  Lilies, Phlox, Hyacinths and Roses can sweep away all my moody thoughts.

Physical Therapy

  • It may be a cliche to say ‘exercise is the best therapy’ but it may be a cliche because it is true.
  • 10 minutes in the garden can lead to hours disappearing as you find you are drawn to more garden jobs  because you can always make a further impact.
  • Vigorous digging can be as  therapeutic as along walk or run and your garden is improving at the same timedue to your activity.
  • Grass cutting and lawn edge trimming seems to work well for my wife (I am happy to let her do this job as my therapy).
  • My physical therapy is standing over the compost heap chopping down stems and twigs so they rot quicker and more comprehensively.

‘The Healing Garden a Practical Guide’ from Amazon

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