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Harlow Carr Library

RHS and Books

This week I revisited RHS Harlow Carr library for the first time in several years. I previously volunteered in the ‘old potting shed’  library before the new building was completed. Then I was part of the team that moved and reshelved all the books from one part of the garden to the ecofriendly new premises.

At the time of our relocation there had been a spate of thefts from the Lindley Library and some very valuable tomes had been taken. Good old artistic books with frameable prints were also susceptible to loosing pages to the ner-do-wells. So the powers that be decided to install anti theft devices in the spine of all the books at Harlow Carr. After much painstaking work we volunteers were told the exit was not compatible with the spine tags and another exit system had been purchased. As a consequence new RFID tags a couple of centimeters square had to be fixed inside all the books that already had a metal spine. Several good looking end papers were damaged or covered in this process. Imagine my ‘surprise’ (not) when the 3 books I borrowed this week were passed to my by the librarian in a way that circumvented the exit alarm because it wasn’t working properly.

The harlow-carr-library-learning-centre-is-eco-friendly as reported here eight years ago see’ library’


Garden Library

Orville Lyttle    A Tree of Knowledge?


RHS Lindley Library Disaster Prone

  • Named after botanist and artist John Lindley the library is a multisite operation with books, paintings, photographs and old documents at Wisley, London HQ and other RHS gardens.  In addition to old and modern books  the RHS has an extensive collection of paintings and photographs plus horticultural paraphernalia.
  • When I tried to visit the library last January it was closed for stock taking!  Now I bother to check the website and warn you it is again ‘Closed: First fortnight in August’.
  • The library in Vincent Square London was saved from a proposed closure in 1995 by refurbishment of the downstairs area. Then in 2011 it was damaged by fire but reopened in 2012.
  • Bigger disaster occurred when a notable book thief stole 13 volumes published between 1848 and 1860 of  ‘Une Nouvelle Iconographie des Camellias’ by nineteenth-century Belgian horticulturist Ambroise Verschaffelt.
  • William Jacques, also known as the ‘tome raider’ stole antique books worth £50,000 from the world-famous Lindley  library and was jailed for three-and-a-half years after skipping bail and evading recapture for several years.
  • Jacques used a false name to sign in to the Library before stuffing valuable books under his tweed jacket and fleeing, Southwark Crown Court. I was shown how easy it was to circumvent the security gates by balancing items on your head (but keep that under your hats).


RHS as Hard Copy Publishers

  • The most popular RHS publication is probably ‘The Garden’  a members monthly magazine that often ends up in charity shops or NHS waiting rooms.
  • Also very popular are the annual Members’ Handbook, The Plantsman and the RHS Plant Finder
  • Coffee table books are produced regularly often in a joint venture with other publishers like Dorling Kindersly. This supplements the technical treatise on specific subjects under the RHS own imprint including Botany, Genealogy, Latin for Gardeners and encyclopedias.
  • I have cheekily chosen the following title to highlight because I am not sure ‘How Do RHS managers Work?’

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What Others Say about RHS

  • RHS is a charity generating over £82m last year 2016/17. The accounts are silent on how much of this relates to publications, RHS enterprises ltd operates some commercial activities with profits gifted back to the charity.
  • The Lindley Library contains works dating back as far as 1514. It is widely regarded as one of the world’s most extensive horticultural collections, including books, journals, pictures and art concerned with botany, garden design and history, as well as practical gardening.
  • The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded £4.8 million in a first stage grant towards an overall project of £160 million  10 year development project.   HLF said  “Wisley is such an important site in the history of plants and gardens – a superb setting for some rare and fascinating plant specimens along with thousands of books, artifacts and photographs…….

My Books on How to Garden

My Garden Books

My Gardening Books 

I am almost as keen on books as I am on gardening so it is natural that I should combine the two by collecting books related to gardens and gardening. The attached pdf is a cold list of my current collection by title, authors, publisher and date of publication. The extra columns were for my amusement showing the number of pages ( over 100,000) and a score that I attributed when I first browsed the book. The collection is a bit eclectic as a result of acquiring what was available and affordable at the time augmented by family gifts.

Why Collect Garden Related Books

  • A good book with knowledgeable content is priceless as long as I apply the ideas in my own husbandry.
  • A good picture is worth a thousand words. Where would we be if we were not seduced by a good picture on a seed packet, plant label, magazine or more importantly inside a book.
  • A bit of history goes a long way and all plants and species have their own tale to tell. Keeping old seed catalogues and public garden brochures will remind us how things were. Books about plant hunters and patrons can highlight our social fabric.
  • Before the internet and google, knowledge was power and attracted a price for those who shared their know how via books, magazines and radio shows. Much of my collection was produced during of just after WWII when growing larger crops was vital.
  • If I was more industrious I would have recorded my books using the Dewy decimal system where  all books have a classification number and reference. 580 is generally reserved for Plants with the following subsections

    • 575 Science of parts of plants
    • 580 Plants
    • 581 Specific topics in natural history of plants
    • 582 Plants noted for specific vegetative characteristics and flowers
    • 583 Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledones
    • 584 Liliopsida – Monocotyledones
    • 585 Pinophyta – Gymnosperms
    • 586 Cryptogamia – Seedless plants
    • 587 Pteridophyta  -Ferns
  • Some 20th century books will become more valuable as evocations of a bygone era. Good writing and art work, first editions and special books by key designers may lead the way.
  • One challenge for me has been to find a niche within the published gardening books where I do not currently have any coverage. There are some monographs and old classics where I would like to invest but for the time being I will content my self with a look at planting in accordance to the phases of the moon. This area, also called Biodynamic gardening, is often popular in the press and media at the turn of the year or following blue moons (both of which we have just experienced.)

New Books on Biodynamic Gardening

Book CoverAnecdotally biodynamic gardening increases yields with quality,  edible crops with a good depth of flavour. Science has not yet proved how this can be measured

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These guides have been published annually for over 50 years to help gardeners choose the optimum days for sowing, pruning and harvesting various plants and crops.

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Get help from nature – my garden needs all the help it can get and maybe just the sun is not quite enough so I’ll give the moon a go as well.
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The moon garden is planted and tended in harmony with phases of the moon to take advantage of gravitational pull on the earth’s water table. Sow when the moon is waxing never plant anything when the moon is waning.

Book CoverExpanding into growing beyond the garden is a book that includes tips and ideas on large-scale farming,  livestock market gardening. cereal cultivation and commercial vegetable growing.



My Ground Cover Ideas

Ground cover plants are designed to do what they say in the title. They can cover the ground by design, happy accident or conscious neglect.

Creeping Jenny

Benefits of Ground Cover

  1. Treasure the ground cover plants that clothe the soil and rocks with leaves or stems preventing wasteful moisture loss.
  2. Ground cover reduces weed seed germination as the seed can’t reach the soil. Any weeds that do grow will likely be smothered or hidden from view.
  3. Most ground cover will flower and even foliage only plants are more aesthetically pleasing than bare or patchy ground.
  4. Ground cover is useful on hard to access land such as scree or steep slopes.
  5. Ground cover may creep or mound but most will grow lower than one feet high and be ornamental.
  6. They are easy to maintain with an occasional clipping after flowering or an edging trim to keep them in control.
  7. Ground cover can support wild life and help create a special habitat.

Hart’s tongue fern Asplenium scolopendrium

Selected Ground Cover Plant Species

    1. Ajuga reptans like plenty of water to produce purple-green leaves and spring flowers of blue spikes.
    2. Erigeron karvinskianus has small white flowers like lawn daisies. A copious self seeder.
    3. Lysimachia nummularia also called creeping jenny for reasons you will discover as it moves around your garden. In summer it has numerous smal,l yellow flowers.
    4. Sedum acre or Stone crop is a popular low growing succulent for ground cover.
    5. Stachys byzantina has grey wooly leaves on 6″ high stems. They look like Lamb’s ears hence the common name.
    6. Often excluded from ground cover plant list is lawn grass. I guess meadow achieves a similar purpose.


Happy Accidents

Many times a garden will develop its own style with a series of what I call ‘happy accidents’. Looking at ground cover I would include the semi-evergreen strawberry with its habit of forming runners in my list of accidents. Other ground hugging evergreen plants include a range of recumbent or prostrate dwarf conifers such as Juniper horizontalis or Juniper squamata blue carpet.

Whilstnot planted as ground cover I notice saxifrage, Euonymus, Bergenia and even clumpy Dianthus are all fulfilling the cover role. The special evergreens have the edge over plants that loose there leaves in winter but I have some great covering clumps of cyclamen at the moment. Ivy, I would not consider a happy accident more a gardening disaster.

Pink Flowered Strawberry Lipstick

Conditions for Good Ground Cover

  1. There are plants for most circumstances and conditions. Problem areas of poor soil and poor access are often the drivers of the decision to plant ground cover.
  2. Heaths and heathers are good for soils with acidic ph and will cope with a comparatively low top soil on top of stone or rubble. Some ferns may be suitable in these conditions.
  3. Flowering ground cover generally appreciate full or partial sun with a soil that retains some moisture.
  4. Damp conditions offer there own challenges and plants from the primula, iris, polygonum or marsh marigold families may suit.
  5. Once the ground is virtually covered you may not want lush growth and for that a reason I do not apply extra fertiliser as it is not required.
  6. Delineate the boundary of the ground cover to give a smart appearance.
  7. If you are happy with an informal aspect allow several varieties to inter-mingle.

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Foliar Feeding Hints & Tips Frenzy

Foliar feeding does at least some good. First and foremost it makes me, the putative garden expert, think I am doing some good for the plants in my care. If the fertilised plants pick up any extra nutrients so much the better. If they also repay me with a better crop or display then wow!

What is Foliar Feeding

Foliar feeding is the method of supplying nutrients to plants through their foliage. It involves spraying water-dissolved fertilizers directly on the leaves. Many believe that foliar feeding is preferable to soil application and that it is associated with higher yields and better quality. However I am firmly of the belief that both forms of fertiliser application is best.

Foliar feed can involve the drenching of leaves and stems with suitably diluted liquid fertilizers. This allows nutrients and trace elements to pass into the plants system through direct leaf and stem absorption.

Greenhouse spraying helps humidity and the removal of dust from leaves so why not add some weak feed to the spray and add  nutrients to plants through their foliage.

I personally believe this method is a supplement to normal root based feeding  which is naturally derived from water uptake.

How to Foliar Feed

Mix up your chosen feed by diluting concentrated liquid feed or dissolving  fertiliser salts in warm water. Using  a very fine spray apply the solution on top and under all the leaves.

Evening is the  best time for plants to be treated with a foliar spray without jeopardizing the plants other root based feeding schedule and risking burn from strong sun.

Small amounts of nutrients should be applied little and often. I find foliar feeding useful for specific situations such as ailing plants in need of a ‘pick them up’. I spray the leaves of tomato plants all over.

To increases the retention of the spray solution, by reducing the surface tension of the droplets, add a surfactant like a couple of drops of vegetable oil in the spray. This will contribute to a more uniform coverage of the foliage.

Benefits of Foliar Feeding

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A Garden Jim but not as we know it

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Fiona Weir, has been supported by the Freedom board and was invited to take the creation – a traditional black cab festooned with hundreds of colourful bee-friendly plants to the fringe festival at the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill.

I regularly fill the boot of my car with large bulky garden waste that would take more than 2 years to rot down. I have never tried using under the bonnet for extra space but console myself with rear seats that lay flat hatchback style. If I still had my chipper it may be a different story. I would still have my chipper it it didn’t clog or rust! Perhaps Santa can beam me up to an intergalactic compost heap that will do away with roots, weed seeds and compost undesirables.

Hull had a bee in it’s bonnet for the City of Culture 2017

The photo of the Black Cab garden by Adele an artist and designer who was helped by Fiona Weir. Fiona is a  landscape architect and bee specialist from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust work together ‘to plant temporary beelines and insect friendly gardens in the most unexpected scenarios’.

Other Garden Sculptures

 Memorial Garden Bradford City Fire Disaster 1985

Klingons on the starboard bow, starboard bow, starboard bow there’s Klingons on the starboard bow, starboard bow, starboard bow – not quite Klingon language.



The North of England Horticultural Society.


The North of England Horticultural Society (NEHS) is over 106 year old and has been the premier gardening and horticultural charity supporting the north of England through out that time. It is independent of the RHS! The NEHS is not to be confused with Northern Horticultural society 1963-1988 or The Northern Horticultural society 1988 – 2009 which were subsumed along with Harlow Carr gardens by the RHS. Their magazine ‘Northern Gardener’ was replace by RHS publication The Garden.

Every spring and autumn the NEHS organise the Harrogate Flower Shows, widely regarded as the biggest and most prestigious independent shows in the gardening year. In autumn there are ‘shows within a show’ featuring displays by  20 different specialist groups. The autumn veg are fantastic, spring flowers are fine and the shows feature many retail opportunities to help with the charities funding.


Odd Facts about The North of England Horticultural Society

  • The Prince of Wales is the Patron and Jonathan Moseley is the current President 
  • Profits from the Harrogate Flower Shows Ltd are handed back to the NEHS, to enable the charity to continue its important work in promoting horticulture.
  • The NEHS   grant programme is aimed at community societies, friends groups and organisations committed to improving their local landscape. They also support those seeking to build a career in gardening and encouraging schools and colleges to become involved with horticulture through hands-on activity and development.
  • Over the years the Yorkshire thrift has seen an accumulation of  over £1m in investments with £1.3m reserves at the end on 2016.
  • The 2018 show is open 26th to 29th April from 9.30am to 5.30pm Thursday, Friday & Saturday; 4.30pm Sunday.

Floral Language

This curious 19th century craze which engaged the hearts and fancies of the Victorians had no historical or mythological basis but became the fertile sand on which a folklore was built. Using images from the Lindley Library this intriguing display tells the story of popular 19th century code used by lovers to exchange messages.The snowdrop signified friendship and forget-me-nots meant true love, but a gift of a pumpkin or a gourd was considered the height of bad manners – find out why … and discover much more by visiting the display at RHS Harlow Carr Library

‘The Artistic Language of Flowers’, 1880, published by Meissner & Buch, Leipzig © RHS Library Collections Digitised version from Amazon


Garden Advice to a Daughter

These notes are designed as advice to a daughter who has just moved into a 1920’s house with a long, narrow back garden and a postage stamp sized front grass patch.

Current Layout and Issues

  • The front is open to cats and the quiet road with a footpath at one side leading to the door, edged by a rough hedge.
  • The other side of the front is partnered to a well kept neighbors garden fence and a motley collection of shrubs. Under the bay window is ruble trouble.
  • The extended kitchen at the rear provides a small sit’out’ery  and place for pot plants.
  • A high trellis fence along the length of the garden displays nothing much and there is only a pencil strip of soil at its base.
  • I don’t expect the garden to look like this next time I visit but annuals and begonias can add a splash of colour

Quick Fixes

  • Cut and edge the grass at the front even though the ground is very uneven. Don’t worry about the weeds in the grass until you can call it a lawn.
  • Lower the 6 foot high privet hedge to say 3 feet and make it narrower at the top than the bottom. An ‘A’ shaped hedge is easier to maintain. Privet, Yew and mixed hedges will regrow, only looking rough until next summer.
  • Get the neighbors to cut down the overgrown inappropriate sized tree that is over-shadowing your garden. At best a good trim of over hanging branches would be a start.
  • Get a new lockable garden hut.
  • Clear up old attempts at compost heaps by spreading or burying. I would go for a themo plastic box composter.

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Photographs from Our 2000 Posts

This is Gardeners Tips 2,000 extant post since April 2008. I have lost count how many photographs and images have been included but here are just a few repeats.


In addition to our own images we would like to thank creative commons and other organisations that helped with contributions as we were starting out.
Around 100 books have been recommended to highlight a subject such as The Garden Photography Workshop by Andrea Jones below.

Book CoverWe would also like to thank the million plus visitors to our website and hope the tips and humour demonstrate how gardening can have a lighter side.


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