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Gardeners Visit to London 2022

Gardeners Visit to London 2022

Not what you would expect for a garden called ‘The Phoenix Garden’  in the middle of  Tottenham Court Road near Crown Point. It isn’t a phoenix from the ashes of a great fire or a WW11 bomb site at but was built on a disused car park in the 1980s. It may be part of an overflowing burial ground for St Giles-in-the-field church back in the 1600s and is reputed to be the last surviving Covent ‘Garden’. The entrance is located in St Giles Passage

Despite being surprisingly close to the busiest part of central London there is a peace and tranquillity about the small but well formed, free to visit garden. It is maintained to a high standard by volunteers with lots of flowering plants and secluded seating. I was walking or ambling from Kings Cross to Westminster and unexpectedly came across the garden where I spent a tranquil time in a well stocked, well planned space. The large number of insects and wild life is a tribute to the planning and care that has gone into maintaining this community asset. The surrounding buildings do not intrude on the space but the photo below shows the competition from concrete.

Not Making Gardens Anymore

Not Making Gardens Anymore

It is a sad fact that the British hobby of garden-making is in decline. That is partially due to social changes and more importantly there being no new land for gardens.

Scarce Resource

  • Land is a scarce resource and what the suitable land is required for a multiplicity of other uses.
  • Concrete jungles are preventing the sensible development of gardens other than for displaying onroof top gardens, patios or other man made efforts.
  • The Dutch have developed plant growing to a fine art utilising land reclamation whilst our East Coast is eroded and some gardens fall into the North Sea.

Social Expectation and Change

  • Our UK population continues to grow, even though there is a blossoming interest in ecology and the environment, such growth is not noticeably translating into new gardens.
  • There are fewer new parks and gardens in public ownership (unless you count skate parks and playgrounds). At least not in proportion to population growth.
  • Living accommodation has changed in several ways with many more retirement villages, apartments and single occupation homes. Land  is being converted in to a concrete jungle that will not return to a garden opportunity for many life times.
  • There are many competing activities to distract potential garden aspirationalists. Whilst RHS membership may be growing that may reflect the hobby of observing not gardening.
Destroying Gardens

Destroying Gardens

New drives, block paving and concreting over may and I emphasise may seem a good investment but think of the gardens destroyed and the habitats lost under hard landscape.

Some ‘Reasons’ Gardens are Destroyed

  • Housing extensions, extra garages and granny flats can consume land fit for gardens but who cares when  a green resource is lost and  drainage becomes a problem.
  • New housing in green fields, with high density just like the density of the planners who approve the development in the first place. Add in the infrastructure (if any) such as facilities, roads and access leads to more wet misery.
  • One off builds or converting a house with a  large garden into two or more dwellings (often with capital gains tax protection). An admittedly large house near me has built in the front and the back garden now is managing to squeeze in two more detached houses. Five on to one has gone and so has the garden!
  • The advent of E-motor vehicles has led to charging points on house walls and thus more hard standing for more large cars.
  • Decking patios and trendy designer features have the ability to send water and money needlessly down the drain. Save our gardens.
Rooted in Nature

Rooted in Nature

Mankind has proved to be adaptable at least enough to survive as one of nature’s multitude species. However there are warning signs that for the long term all is not well in our environment. As one small contribution to a ‘rooted in nature movement’ we should consider the gardener as a key player and influencer.

Lest we forget nature is essential to provide our current and future sustenance, health and wellbeing. Food and shelter are axiomatic to the survival of the human race and us as individuals. In a small way gardeners can root each of us in nature and provide a significant contribution to our understanding and appreciation of our natural surrounds. Enough of the overview now a few words on a micro perspective.

Helping Nature One Potato at a Time

  • The hippocratic oath has a useful phrase ‘first do no harm’. Thinking about this in the garden can be a good starting point. Consider e,xcess chemical use, limited native species, plastics galore, food mile products failure to consider cause and effect.
  • Helping nature should help the gardener and local environment. There are many healing, mood enhancing and medicinal plants to grow beyond the humble potato. Colourful and scented plants are just some examples.
  • Designing and operating a garden in a ‘rooted in nature’ manner  is very therapeutic helping develop emotional and wellbeing. Calming water features and contemplation space may be inspirational for mind, body and soul.
Cop these 26 Gardening Tips

Cop these 26 Gardening Tips

Cop hold of these gardeners tips designed for the upcoming Cop26 summit on the climate

  1. Grow and eat your own produce.
  2. If you have the space fruit is my favourite. It can be eaten fresh or stored, preserved, frozen or made into jam
  3. If you are short of space you can grow salad and bean sprouts in the kitchen on a windowsill.
  4. Potatoes can be ready 9 months of the year. Try a mixture of earlies, second earlies, main crop, salad potatoes and special varieties. I plant some in late summer to have new potatoes ready for Christmas.
  5. Green leaved veg take up space, the more the better, but root crops give a good yield even in confined space.
  6. If you are adventurous you can eat many berries from shrubs and hedge rows but check them out for toxicity.
  7. There are many alcoholic drinks you can brew at home I even have a ginger beer plant.
  8. Use no chemical insecticides, live and let live.
  9. Use no chemical fungicides, find a natural alternative
  10. Good husbandry  helps control problems and maintain fertility
  11. Rotate your vegetable crops between legumes, brassicas, onion family  then potato & tomatoes
  12. The tops of young nettles can be cooked and taste like spinach.
  13. There are edible flowers like nasturtiums to try as well
  14. Plan to store excess fruit and vegetables but be wary about lettuce and cabbage that do not keep.
  15. Arrange a swap system with other gardeners to share seeds, seedlings and excess produce.
  16. Collect rain water at every opportunity.
  17. Tap water isn’t free and is not as good. It is treated and pumped around.
  18. Water veg when they start to flower to increase the crop.
  19. Do not let veg get short of water as they will run to seed early and stop producing
  20. Don’t water lawns during a drought, they will recover.
  21. In a drought make some water available for birds and insects.
  22. Watering the leaves of peas and runner beans helps set a good crop
  23. Collect seed from your crops to sow for next year. You don’t need to buy new each year.
  24. Be frugal and conscious of the negative impact your gardening actions may create.
  25. Be frugal and conscious of the positive impact your gardening actions may have.
  26. Enjoy you gardening.

Recycling at my Garden Center

Some Seeds Sowing Stories

Some Seeds Sowing Stories

The recent history of my seed sowing is not a traditional gardeners tip more a recollection of my own gardening method or lack thereof. These seed sowing stories are neither best practice nor a road to success.

Allium Seedhead ready to Harvest

Sources of my seeds

  • I don’t like waste so I collect a lot of seed from existing plants. Sweet peas, poppies, calendula, aquliegia and legumes feature regularly. I have had recent success with growing yellow tree peony lutea from seeds. I used to collect wild seeds when on holiday or where I thought I could get away with doing so.
  • I buy more seed than I need or ever convert into plants. Salad and vegetable seed is usually a considered purchase as a result of previous success or catalogue recommendations. I am an impulse buyer of other seeds often for experiments or to try new flowers. I buy gardening magazines that have free seed packets on the cover.
  • I obtain seed from societies such as the RHS, cyclamen or alpine seed schemes. I haven’t found anyone local with whom to swap seeds.
  • Old stock of previous seasons remnant seeds (kept in an airtight tin) last longer than expected particularly tomato and salad crops. I don’t worry about fertility, if they germinate it is a bonus.
  • I suppose my garden benefits most from self seeders although many are weeds or unwanted specimens.

Reasons For Seed Sowing

  • My prime seed sowing is for vegetables.
  • Flower sowing is usually to meet an aspiration for shock and awe from the results. Seldom achieved but fun to attempt.
  • Some I sow intending to obtain more cut flowers but only really successfully with sweet peas which I recommend as well worth the effort.
  • I silly reason for buying them is because they are cheap. A local garden center treats them as a loss leader and all year they are 50% of the packet price. I buy more than I need and sow wastefully. I did well this year on a variety pack of sunflowers.
  • If I want perennials or gap fillers like Lupins I will try seed even though it may work out more economical to buy plants.
Know Your Abscission from your Zygomorphic

Know Your Abscission from your Zygomorphic

I have been reading the Penguin Encyclopedia of Gardening which aims to provide ‘….an explanation of words used in a technical sense in a horticultural context in the UK and USA.’ Set out as an A to Z this resulting post, missing a thousand definitions, is unlikely to rank highly with search engines.


The separation of a leaf or fruit from it’s stem. Most notable as a deciduous tree sheds its leaves in autumn. Two layers of cells are formed to facilitate this process, an abscission layer and a corky tissue layer. The corky layer cuts off the food supply to the fruit or leaf and protects the the wound formed when the drop occurs.


A botanical term  referring to a flower having floral parts that are capable of division into essentially symmetrical halves by only one vertical or longitudinal plane passing through the axis. Examples include  Peas , Snapdragons and Orchids.




Little Conifers Little Tree Tips

Little Conifers Little Tree Tips

What are Miniature Conifers

  • Natural slow growing conifers that have not been deliberately stunted can be grown as miniatures.
  • The annual rate of growth is ¼” to 1″
  • Miniature conifers can be grown from several species including abies, pine, picea, chamaecyparis, cryptomeria and juniper
  • They are propagated from seed or as cuttings of existing miniatures.
  • Cuttings from sports or mutations can produce new varieties.
  • True miniatures differ from dwarf varieties and slow growers which also produce small trees
  • Miniatures are the shortest of the conifer family used in alpine gardens, scree gardens, troughs and display pots.

Little Conifer Tips

  • Miniatures can grow in troughs with 3″ depth of soil or in window boxes.
  • Allow them to spread the roots rather than delve too deeply
  • If grown as commemorative trees they can become long lived family treasures.
  • Contour the site in proportion to the trees you are growing making allowance for the anticipated height
  • Do not allow trees to be heavily overshadowed or left too dry.
  • Beware juvenile foliage may look different.

Read more on Gardeners tips

Miniature and Dwarf Conifers  from above

Read More Read More

Commonsense Apple Trees

Commonsense Apple Trees

Basic Facts

  • There are many thousands of apple tree varieties (7500+)
  • Apple trees can live for more than 30 years
  • Apple trees fruit better if they are pollinated from another variety (two more varieties for some apples).
  • Trees need a balance of roots, new wood and leaves to perform well on fruit production.
  • Most trees are grafted on to a special stock (not grown from pips). This determines the size of the tree.

So how to use this Information

  • Think about the apple(s) you want and the conditions in your garden.  Match your choice from information about specific varieties. Soil conditions geographic location and other knowledge is available from  specialists, a quality nursery or the RHS fruit group.
  • Buy with care bearing in mind the tree is their to last. Give it space and appropriate soil conditions as the tree will want air and light as well as sustenance.
  • Pruning stimulates new growth, do it between winter to early March. Train tree to shape before serious pruning and do not over prune in any one year.

Other Commonsense Comments

  • Apples can be grown in pots. Choose a large one that will be stable and hold moisture and feed weekly from July to September.
  • Protect the roots of pot grown apples from drying out caused by sunshine on the pot.
  • I am not keen on the use of chemical ‘icides on fruit but rely on a clean environment and early removal of problems. I will add sulphate of ammonia to increase vigour or potash to help fruit production.
  • When staking a tree ensure the trunk isn’t damaged or rubbed.
  • Apples can be stored for 4-6 months and should be left on the tree as long as possible ie November in many cases
  • Apples are ripe when the pips have turned black and should come off the tree with a gentle twist.
English Walled Kitchen Gardens

English Walled Kitchen Gardens

Walled gardens make great spaces for your special kitchen garden. Traditionally associated with larger estates, country houses and stately homes many were designed to provide a continual supply of fresh fruit, flowers and vegetables for the ‘big house’. It is the micro climate that walled gardens induce thus creating the facility to grow more exotic fruit trees against walls or with the aide of heated glasshouses.

There are many more discrete kitchen gardens where you can model your own food producing plot with ideas in this National Trust book. Even one well situated wall can provide shelter climbing space and support within a kitchen garden.


Book Cover