Healthy Garden, Body and Soul

A new study published as an online journal on the Environmental Health Perspectives website has proven that natural environments are beneficial for human physical and mental health.

With growing concern for our next generation’s lifestyle, which shows a marked decline in outdoor activity, this finding will hopefully encourage healthier living through gardening and landscape design. Potentially seeing more design projects like the High line, a garden build on a disused rail line through New York.



A group of scientists; Peter James, Jaime E. Hart, Rachel F. Banay, and Francine Laden researched the connection between residential greenness and mortality. Their results concluded that higher levels of green vegetation were associated with decreased mortality, suggesting regular proximity with vegetation might help people live longer. A research associate from the Harvard Chan School stated “We are surprised to observe such strong associations between increase exposure to greenness and lower mortality rates.” Harvard research shows a 27% reduction in the risk of a heart attack or stroke by doing active tasks in the home or garden. This study spanned over 12 years and nearly 4000 participants. The study also found that women living in areas of vegetation had lower risk of death via cancer or respiratory disease.


As well as the physical benefits, greenery has shown a positive effect on mental health. These findings will hopefully create new policies and guidelines requiring city planners to incorporate more space for plants when designing or regenerating urban areas.  In addition to the health benefits identified, more green spaces in cities reduce air pollution, reduce noise pollution, increase social interaction, and provide greater opportunity for physical activity.

Another study carried out at Exeter University used images and MRI scans to demonstrate that images of natural landscapes activate an area in the brain associated with calm and medatation. Where as, images of cityscapes resulted in a delay in reaction as the brain tried to process the complexity of the images. It has been suggested by Professor Michael Depledge a former environmental scientist, that people living in urban areas could be suffering in the same way as animals kept in captivity.

To read more studies about human and environmental relationships, visit

To help get you started on creating your own healthy green patch, use Shoot  to select suitable plant that you will be able to maintain with monthly care list and newsletters with gardening inspiration and tips.


Growing with nature

We all want to control pests and weeds in our gardens but more and more of us want to do this organically. We love healthy good food free from chemicals and we worry about the plight of bees and other beneficial insects – so let’s use natural control methods. We are all part of a bigger picture, a food chain that was in place long before pesticides and herbicides were created.

The first line of natural pest defense is healthy soil. It provides young plants a healthy start and gives them strength to withstand some pests and diseases. Adding organic matter every year will encourage organisms (soil bacteria, fungi, nematodes, etc.) to break that matter down further, releasing nutrients that aid plant growth and defenses.


Encouraging wildlife to inhabit your garden is the next plan of action. You can use techniques to encourage the species that will benefit your plants but not destroy them. For example, birds are a beautiful addition to a garden. They will help reduce pests such as caterpillars, aphids and beetles, but they will also feed on your soft fruits like raspberries, blueberries, cherries, and more. To avoid having your fruit and veg munched, keep allotment planting and natural garden planting separate. Consider including a section in your garden with enough shelter and food source so birds won’t need to eat your prized fruit. If you don’t have the space for a separate area, or your crops are still being devoured, you can protect your soft fruit with cages or netting.

Hedgehogs are superb garden-friendly animals who will happily help you with slug management, avoiding the need for poisonous slug pellets, a particular concern for those of us who have children and or pets. Slugs will chomp through leafy crops and lush ornamental plants such as Hostas and Chrysanthemums. Hedgehogs numbers are declining severely in Britain but there are some simple ways to encourage them back into our gardens where they can thrive. Hedgehogs need more than one garden to survive. If you live in a residential street with adjoining gardens, talk with your neighbours about cutting or raising fences to create a 12cm (5in) hole for hedgehogs to crawl through. After creating this ‘wildlife corridor’, plant hedges and create areas of debris, provide feeding boxes with either cat or dog food, and a water supply. Finally, if your garden has a pond, add ramps or sloping banks to give hedgehogs an escape route so they can get out of the pond easily.

If hedgehogs are not a viable in your garden, then nematodes are an excellent biological control when it comes to controlling slug and snail populations. These micro-predators are invisible to the naked eye and can be purchased at many garden centres. Harmless to our pets, plants, and ourselves, they are easily applied and watered into the soil.

Aphids (greenfly and blackfly) can smoother roses, tomatoes, cabbages and many other plants. They suck plant juices out of the leaves, buds, stems, and roots of plants. This not only damages and weakens the plant, but can potentially introduce harmful viruses. To control these winged pests, you can physical squash them, wash them away using water, or introduce plants that encourage hoverflies and ladybirds, both of which feed on aphids. Plants that encourage hoverflies and ladybirds include Tagetes tenuifolia (Signet marigold), Potentilla crantzii (Alpine cinquefoil), Achillea filipendulina (Yarrow), Anethum graveolens (Dill), Angelica gigas (Korean angelica), Tanacetum vulgare (Tansy), Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel), Veronica spicata (Speedwell), Allium tanguticum (Lavender globe lily), Ajuga reptans (Bugleweed) and Rudbeckia fulgida (Black-eyed Susan). You can also buy live ladybirds to do the job but it is much better to entice them naturally.

For more information other troublesome pests and diseases such as Winter moth caterpillars, beetles, and red spider mite, visit our pest and disease page and build your own personal plant list to see what to look out for.

Upcoming RHS event

There are some great RHS events coming up in April and May.


First off is the London Spring Plant Extravaganza featuring the RHS Orchid Show, held in the Lawrence Hall and Lindy Hall, London from the 1st to 2nd of April. Find out about plant growers favourites, get inspired by vast Spring planting displays and bring your purse along as you will have the chance to buy plants and sundries too.


Next up is the first RHS Show of the year, from the 15th to 17th of April and held in Bute Park, the RHS Flower Show Cardiff  opens the year with a flurry. This year the RHS are celebrating the centenary of the birth of world-famous author Roald Dahl. The show is full of entertainment for all ages, with activities; learning to forage, building a den and visit the 58 nurseries with impressive displays of Daffodils (narcissus), Tulips (tulips) and many more .

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Then to top it all off, we have the excitement and suspense of the world famous RHS Chelsea Flower Show from the 24th to 28 of May. A great place to see new plants, trends, style and gain inspiration for your own garden design.  We will be updating articles and blogs from the show gardens, Artisan gardens and Fresh Gardens, so watch this space.

And remember if you do visit any of these events, please email or tweet us your photos.






Best Plants For Bees

Many of you will already be aware that our bees are in trouble and that garden flowers can be a really important source of food for them. But its not always easy to work out which plants are best for them. There are quite a few lists of recommended plants and the RHS has developed a ‘plants for pollinator’ logo for plant producers to use on labels, but the trouble with lists is that they imply all those plants are equally valuable.

_3008490Tiny solitary bee on Helenium autumnale

To try and find out more about which plants attract the most bees, Rosi Rollings, a keen gardener and beekeeper, started doing some research five years ago and has now published her findings.

Her method is simple: from the lists of recommended plants, she chose 69 species and planted each in a block of one square meter then regularly counted a ‘snapshot’ of the bees that visited each planted block. All different species of bee were counted including some you might not normally spot in your garden like the tiny solitary bee in the picture above.

 She concluded that both the number of bees at any time and the number of weeks that plant is flowering are important factors and combined average bees with length of flowering time to produce a rating.

Out of the 69 different bee-friendly garden plants tested, here the top 30 rated plants based on the data for 2015 and 2014:

Screenshot 2016-03-18 12.32.52 “Top 30’ plants for attracting bees

The top 3 plants are, Helenium autumnale (sneezewort), an american prairie daisy, Sedum spectabile(ice plant) and our downland native biennial, Echium vulgare (vipers bugloss).

IMG_0614Honey bee and solitary bee on Sedum spectabile

These findings also support recent research by the RHS that native plants do not attract more bees than non-native.

Rosi Rollings now runs an on-line plant nursery that specializes in ‘plants for bees’. For more details on the research go to


New Plants at Chelsea Flower Show

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show has always been the place to showcase new, rare, and beautiful plants and this year is no exception. The Brewin Dolphin Garden, designed by eminent nurserywoman Rosy Hardy, marks the launch of four new varieties of herbaceous perennials.

Cirsium rivulare Frosted Magic

Rosy frequently uses the classic Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’ in her designs, but this garden features an unusual white-flowered form of this popular thistle, Cirsium rivulare ‘Frosted Magic’. This plant is a sturdy, upright, easy to grow perennial with a long flowering season in summer, perfect for the garden or a landscape with “prairie-style” planting. At maturity, it should reached 120cm with a max spread of 60cm.

Another newcomer, Nepeta x faassenii ‘Crystal Cloud‘ sports whorled spikes of delicate, pale lilac flowers, an exciting new colour for this species. The plant is compact and bushy with an upright habit. It’s as easy to grow as other Nepeta and, it’s grey-green leaves and pale flowers make a great partner for plants with dark foliage. Geranium ‘Midnight Reiter’, with its dark purple leaves and dark blue flowers, is an excellent choice. ‘Crystal Cloud’ grows to a max height of 45cm and flowers from late spring to late summer.

FD14681 Veronica Mountain Breeze

Also new are Veronica ‘Mountain Breeze’ and Gaura ‘Rosy Shimmers’, the latter bred by Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants and is a contender for Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year. ‘Rosy Shimmers’ is tall, eventually reaching 1 metre with  reddish pink leaves and large, pale pink petals. Forming a compact mat no more than 40cm tall, ‘Mountain Breeze’ has lightly-striped, mid blue and is a repeat flowerer!


Rosy will be planting all of these new cultivars exactly where one would find them naturally, adhering to her mantra of ‘right plant, right place’. Entitled Forever Freefolk , The Brewin Dolphin Garden 2016 aims to highlight the fragility of chalk streams which have dwindled to around 200 worldwide and are further endangered by pollution and climate change.

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The River Test in Hampshire is a perfect example of these rare and vital natural resources. The Test runs through Rosy Hardys’ Hampshire village and is very much the inspiration for this, her very first Chelsea show garden. Forever Freefolk is divided into four distinct planting zones: shady, dry chalk grassland, part shade/damp and lush damp. Nearly 6,000 plants, all grown by Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants, will fill these zones.

A dry chalk stream bed, surrounded by Achillea ‘Moonshine’, Alchemilla sericata ‘Gold Stike’, and Iris ‘Jane Phillips’, leads the eye back to the stream’s source. The planting gradually changes to reflect the change in habitat. The final zone, a lush, damp place, includes Astrantia ‘Ruby Giant’, Baptisia australis, Caltha palustris and Campanula porskyana.

Shade loving plants in this zone are Aquilegia chrysantha ‘Yellow Queen’, Bergenia ‘Wilton’, Brunnera ‘Looking Glass’ and, if the weather cooperates, there could even be another new introduction, Digitalis ‘Gold Crest’. Key plants in the grassland zone are Dianthus armeria, Eleagnus ‘Quicksilver’, Erigeron krvinskianus and Eriophyllum lanatum.


The Pollen is coming, be prepared.

Spring has sprung and everything is waking. However, as flowers start to bloom, that ‘everything’ may include your hay fever!


For those of you who like the outdoors, but suffer from pollen allergies, we want to help! As all doctors agree, prevention is better than a cure so understanding what kind of pollen you are allergic to is more than half the battle. If you can work out what triggers your hay fever, you can try to avoid it whilst still enjoying outdoor activities , especially gardening!

Since pollen is primarily carried by wind or insects, it is impossible to avoid it altogether. Airborne pollen is at its highest concentration in the morning as the temperature starts to warm and in the evening as the temperature cools. Warm, windy days are the worst for airborne pollen, but many allergy-suffering gardeners cannot stop working due to these conditions. In this situation, seeking medical advice and wearing personal protective equipment are the best ways to lessen allergy symptoms. Generally, different plant groups create more pollen during a specific time frame throughout the year. You may be able to identify what type of pollen you allergic by what time of year you have symptoms:

  • Tree pollen usually affects people from January to May
  • Grass pollen is released in May through to the end of the grass growing period (this is usually autumn).
  • Weed pollen season is late summer into autumn.

Easy ways to reduce your pollen contact:

  1. If you suffer from a tree pollen allergy, avoid planting trees or shrubs with catkins such as: alder (Alnus) , ash (Fraxinus) , beech (Fagus) , birch (Betula) , elm (Ulmus), ginkgo, hazel (Corylus) , mulberry (Morus) and oak (Quercus) . If you desperately want to plant one of these trees in your garden, check if it is dioecious so you can select a female plant that won’t produce pollen but will produce fruit.

  2. Choose plants that attract wildlife. Their pollen is generally collected by insects so it is less likely to be airborne. Plants like foxgloves (Digitalis), Campsis and other trumpet-shaped flowers are also good options.

  3. Grass pollen sources include lawns, ornamental grasses, and meadows. Luckily, ornamental grasses such as Muhlenbergia, Stipa, Carex, and Miscanthus are low maintenance during the warmer months. Also, lawn grass pollen can be greatly reduced by frequent cutting.

For more information on allergic reactions, moulds, and more gardening tips for positive avoidance, please visit Allergy UK  



Mother’s Day Walk and Talk

A walk in an open space allows us to open our lungs and stretch our legs, see the beauty of gardens and the natural wilderness and also has a way of opening us up. Being surrounded by fresh air and lush green has a very positive effect on the brain, it calms the mind, boosts creative thinking and gives us a chance to reflect.

This Mother’s day weekend there are 20 NGS gardens open across the UK. Here are just 5 of the 20 for your to visit with your Mum and entire family:

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Open on Saturday only: Capel Manor Gardens, Enfield, a great for all the family; there are 30 acre of gardens that surround the Georgian Manor House and Victorian Stables, model and historic gardens including a Chelsea Flower Show Gold medal garden. And for the little ones who are not yet the avid gardeners, there are animals to see and an evergreen maze and Jungle Gym to play in for hours of fun.


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Photo by Alan and Diana Guy of Kitemoor Cottage

Visit Kitemoor Cottage in Dorset to view the beautiful varieties and cultivars of the beloved Christmas Rose. Plants person Diana Guy invites you to walk amongst her 1/2 an acre garden filled with; an orchard,fruit and vegetable garden, mini meadow, naturalistic planting and cottage borders. Diana also has a large collection of Hellebores with the opportunity to purchase some too.

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Fingers crossed they have had a perfect winter and the crocus field is full! For a look at naturalistic bulb planting and a field full of colour, visit Swarthmoor Hall in Cumbria. They are happy taking admission by donations and also serve light refreshments in the Barn Cafe.


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Boughton House is a great spot in Northamptonshire with fantastic vistas, newly created sensory and wildlife gardens and a wilderness woodland open for visitors to view the spring flowers. You may even see the emergence of their herbaceous borders that will tempt you back for more.



Close to the Sussex/Kent border, a Romantic garden for all seasons will open it’s gates for the first time this year. King John’s Lodge is 4 acres composed of a formal garden with water features, rose walk and wild garden and pond. Rustic bridge to shaded ivy garden, large herbaceous borders, old shrub roses and secret garden.

For more information on all of these gardens and more please visit the NSG find a garden.

And remember if you do visit, please email or tweet us your photos celebrating Mother’s day.



The Big Problem with Sudden Oak Death

Although this may seem like old news, Sudden oak death is something all gardeners should look out for.

It is not just our beautiful old oak trees that suffer from this pathogen but many other smaller trees and shrubs that you are likely to have in your garden. The plant pathogen Phytophthora ramorum known as Sudden oak death also effects garden plants such as; Rhododendron, Viburnum, CamelliaCalluna, Erica, Hamamelis , Lonicera , SyringaTaxus and Laurel.

Symptoms vary depending on each plant, therefore is especially hard to identify. Our advice would be to visit the DEFRA site to see the list of symptoms and contact them directly if you need any further assistance in this matter. If you do find an issue please share it with us on Twitter.


RHS London Botanic Art Show

The RHS are very busy bees and have lots of spring time shows scheduled for 2016.

First off is The London Botanic Art Show from the 26th & 27th of February. Head to RHS Lindey Hall, London for an exhibition of botanical art from around the world.


b7b64f838364947910e36887efd112e2Botanical illustration by Louis van Houtte,Fuchsias, 1877

You can wander through the pop up exhibition spaces, talk with the artists, watch them in action, pick up tips for your own artistic works and even get creative with prints and pressed flowers.

For more information and to book tickets for this show visit the RHS

Are you attending The London Botanic Art Show? Please email or tweet us your photos of the event.

And watch this space for updates on upcoming events…




An Historic Spring Time Adventure

Geoffrey & Etta Wyatt will be opening the gates of their parkland garden for all to see.

The magical place can be found in the South downs National Park with views towards Cissbury Ring and the sea.

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This spring time garden was designed by Oliver Wyatt in 1945, a member of the Royal Horticultural Society and a snowdrop enthusiast who discovered and named two varieties of snowdrops; Galanthus Maidwell L and Maidwell C,  and these can both be found at Cissbury.

The garden boasts a wilderness filled with breathtaking drifts of Snowdrops, Daffodils and Bluebells, as well as a magnificent dawn redwood, holm oak hedge, many cedars and shrubbery.

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The garden is open to all on Saturday  27 February and Thursday 3 March from 10am – 4pm. Admission is just £4.00 per adult and children go for free.  Dogs welcome and home made tea is available.

For maps and more information visit NGS Cissbury

As a NGS garden, the proceeds go to charities such as; Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie Cancer Care and many more.