2012 – The end of the…..


The only thing that ended this year, was the prolonged spell of dry conditions, that had affected many of us in the UK since March 2010. We had very little rain between 2010 and June 2012, with only the odd wet spell that amounted to very little; including in the winter months. Between March and June of 2010 in Cambridge, we had only 21.1mm of rain, which was roughly only 19% of the average for that period.

The dry period continued like this right through until the early part of this year. For me, the only time that we seemed to have any significant rain was around the May Ball …. thanks for that!

The lack of rain at this time was a major concern, we ourselves lost some well established perennials, the lawns were struggling, everything was suffering from heat and drought stress, as well as us gardeners were struggling.  The dry spring had intensified the workload in some areas e.g. the annual bedding, new plantings and the lawns, admittedly we wasn’t mowing as often. We had decided not to irrigate the lawns, but in the beginning we had put some irrigation on just so we could wash in the fertiliser that we had put on earlier in the season.

We very quickly started wishing and praying for more rain, then when the water companies issued a hosepipe ban in most parts of the country, we all started to prepare for yet another hot, dry spring, summer and Autumn/Winter.

Then along came spring 2012 and this happened…..



Picture apr2011 1116

June (Our temporary road. Laid down because of the rain)

Picture apr2011 1250


Picture apr2011 1295

Some might remember this one….  (Sorry- This Garden is now Closed)



You probably thinking I have missed the odd month out …. but I can assure you, it did rained then as well, just don’t have the photos for them months.

Picture apr2011 2070


Picture apr2011 2073

“And at last it comes. You hear a patter… you see a leaf here and there bob and blink about you; you feel a spot on your face, on your hand. And then the gracious rain comes, gathering its forces—steady, close, abundant. Lean out of window, and watch, and listen. How delicious!… the verandah beneath losing its scattered spots in a sheet of luminous wet; and, never pausing, the close, heavy, soft-rushing noise.” ~John Richard Vernon, “The Beauty of Rain,” 1863

The prolonged dry spell now seems a distant memory, like with the wet weather at first it was great, then it turned into a serious problem; as for this on-going rain …. this has made it the most challenging year many of us gardeners have ever seen. I do not want to become one of those who constantly bangs on about the weather, but this year it has played a massive part for many people; many of my blogs (this included) have been influenced a lot by the weather conditions. Obviously, the weather has affected some more than others and what has happened in the garden, does not compare to those who have had there homes and businesses flooded this year.

This year has brought us many new challenges in the garden. Many of us can remember years where we have had a lot of rain mixed in with short warm/dry spells, but as for this continual wet weather, with very little chance for us and the ground to recover … this has to have been the most challenging year ever.

The one area that I will be tackling early part of next year is the fungal problems in some of our lawns. This I have dealt with before, but because of the weather conditions of this year this has been a lot worse, especially Rust and Red Thread. Never to much of a problem in recent years but as for this year, Red Thread has taken hold in a couple of our main plots of grass this coupled with the chafer grubs means the grass is not looking it’s best. Thankfully this is not the case in all our lawns, as we have over 37,000 square metres of lawn. It’s the hidden affects that all this rain is having, especially on the larger perennials we have in the garden (i.e.  trees and shrubs) is what worries me the most. The bleeding canker and the leaf minor on the Horse Chestnuts for a start, not to forget Phytophthora and Armillaria (Honey Fungus), are all diseases which may become even more widespread due to the adverse weather conditions.

Picture apr2011 2080

Leaf Minor

Picture apr2011 2085

Bleeding Canker


As for next year? Well, we will have to wait and see, not going to make any predictions on that one …. not in this post anyway. All this said, next year is something I am very much looking forward to, the garden will always reward you in some way or another, reminding you why we do this job. As for the weather? You can’t beat it, control it, predict it but whatever it does throw at you … you cannot allow it to get you down (easier said than done). Although if it does knock you down, give it the old V’s up sign, put the kettle on, walk away and let the Elve’s sort it out next winter.


As for the bees … they now have a new home away from any of the flooding, so at least that is one less thing to worry about.

Picture apr2011 2014

Picture apr2011 2057

“Look not at the days gone by with a forlorn heart.  They were simply the dots we can now connect with our present, to help us draw the outline of a beautiful tomorrow.”  ~Dodinsky

The Christmas Rock Garden.

This is really a ‘Rock Garden VI’, but as with all these music compilations … you always get a Christmas edition.

For those of you who have had the misfortune in reading these before, you already know the way it works. If this is your first time, it is just a sad excuse for me to connect songs, bands or singers in some way or another to a particular plant; I do try and add a little information so it’s not a total waste of time …. well sometimes at least.
With it being Christmas, this gives me just yet another excuse to put more crap on the Internet, by the way …. I did find a Wizard connection 😉

Coleus Wizard

We use Coleus Wizard mix every year. Great summer bedding plant, a good gap filler which never fails. This one is not to everyone’s liking and I myself have seen some colour schemes of this, that clearly don’t work … but I will always make sure we make room for some.

Wizzard – ‘I wish it could be Christmas everyday’

One of the most popular Christmas songs and is known by virtually everyone. Released in December 1973, even though very popular, this song never reached it to no 1.

Lettuce Cavalry

It is a Lettuce which is good in salads and sandwiches …. that’s it really. I only put this one in because of the word ‘Cavalry’, it gave me the connection I needed. Oh, it is a red lettuce.

Jona Lewie – Stop the Cavalry

I love this song. Released in 1980 and reached no. 3 in the charts, it was never intended as a Christmas song but as a protest song. It is a anti war song that was kept from going to number 1 because of John Lennons death, when they released two of his songs.

Clematis cirrhosa ‘Jingle Bells’

A beautiful evergreen half hardy to hardy Clematis. With wonderful creamy white flowers from December to February, that likes full sun to partial shade, reaching approximately 3.5m in height.

Bobby Helms – Jingle Bells Rock

Originally released in 1957 by Bobby Helms, but this version I had to include, even though I’m sure it was done very much tongue in cheek.

And another rock version…………..

Poinsettias – The Christmas plant

For many this is the most popular Christmas plant. You have likely been given this or received this plant, or more than likely … both. Native to Mexico, where many years ago the Aztecs used them for medicinal and for dyes making.

Slade – Merry Christmas Everybody

Released in December 1973 and was the Christmas UK no. 1 that year, the reason why Wizzard did not get the top spot that year. If Poinsettias  are the most popular plants at Christmas, this is most definitely the most popular song.

We all say we hate it, but as soon as it comes on at a party or a disco, nearly everyone will get up too sing and dance to it … that number increases the later it comes on.

Tracey Thorn – Tinsel and Lights

I couldn’t find anything that I could connect this song with but I had to get it in somewhere. Great song, found it by chance one day whilst I was messing around on Youtube.

Mistletoe – Viscum album

Partially parasitic that grows on woody trees and shrubs. All parts are poisonous to humans if ingested, known throughout history for its medicinal and magical properties.

Cl*ff R*****d – Mistletoe and Wine

Cl*ff R*****d …. what a …………!!!

Sorry had to heavily censor the previous paragraph, as they say for … legal reasons. The following video has a slight twist to it though.

Holly and The Ivy

Ilex aaquifolium

Hedera helix

No need to say anything about these, as we all know the connection they have with Christmas and both are very commonly known plants.

Now, the following version of this song I found when putting this together, never heard of him before but I’m sure you will like this.


There’s no plant connection with the following video’s, well …. I didn’t even try, I just couldn’t leave these two off a Christmas Rock blog.

Last one………

Merry Christmas



Happy New Year

It’s a Kind of Magic.

“From December to March, there are for many of us three gardens – the garden outdoors, the garden of pots and bowls in the house, and the garden of the mind’s eye.”
– Katherine S. White

Now there is one place I can lose myself in and that place is the garden. It is a place where I can go and feel safe, a place where you can remove yourself from the stresses of everyday life.

For me it is a place that often opens the secret door into another garden, which is the one in your head. Especially when times are stressful at work and in life, the times when life’s worries and stresses get on top of you and you need that time out.

“In my garden there is a large place for sentiment.  My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams.  The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful.”  ~Abram L. Urban

For me, there is no better place than in the garden. Finding a nice quiet spot away from everything and everyone, closing your eyes taking in the sounds, smells and the atmosphere of the garden around you. Then visualising your own secret garden merging the two together.

“Of course there must be lots of Magic in the world,” he said wisely one day, “but people don’t know what it is like or how to make it. Perhaps the beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen. I am going to try and experiment.” ~Frances Hodgson Burnett

With the sounds and smells of the garden around you combined with the vision of your own secret garden, tackling the issues of the day or your life in general feels a lot less threatening.
Opening your eyes again to the real world, seeing the reality of the garden around you, at work it is a real pleasure at home … well that’s not go there, too much to do; often feeling a lot calmer and refreshed knowing that you can always go back to it at any time. With me I am usually brought back down to earth with a bump, when my phone starts ringing, usually somebody asking the bleeding obvious, or my Deputy telling about a meeting that I have forgotten all about.

As a child I was very lucky that I had a very real secret garden to go too with my Grandad … Green Knowe (Hemingford Grey Manor). The more I think about it, this is the garden I go back to in my sub-conscious. It is a place that I feel very safe, happy, calm with all the good memories; it is a place of hope and somewhere were you have no visitors … only the ones you allow.

It is a place that is very much in my thoughts at this present time, as I near the 21st anniversary of my Grandads death. My Grandad passed away on the 19th December 1991 and he was buried on the 24th December. Christmas Eve was always a special day for me, even before the death of my Grandad, but since then, even more so. At the time of his death I was 21 and with the 21st anniversary this year, I have now realised I have had half my life without him. His death did hit me hard at the time but I was able to move on. It is because he played such a big part in my life that he is often in my thoughts and I have a lot of good memories of him; these help me in times of stress in the present day.

Going back to that secret garden in your head, how many times do you close your eyes to try and visualise that particular plant, border, planting scheme or garden ornament, to see if it will fit into place … it will nearly always give the answer you were looking for.

The garden itself is a magical place, admittedly not every garden, I have seen some real nightmares in my time, I have already mentioned my garden at home. However all gardens are full of life, unless you have tarmacked everything, they are place full of flora and fauna both friend or foe; a place to relax, to play, work, laugh and cry; a place where many grow up in, get laid to rest in and a place to learn in. The garden itself is one of the best teachers in life you could ever have.

“Teachers who inspire know that teaching is like cultivating a garden, and those who would have nothing to do with thorns must never attempt to gather flowers.”

The garden is not just good for the environment, but it is also good for a persons piece of mind. A place to escape and it doesn’t matter how big, small or how grand that garden is, just as long as it gives you that feeling of belonging a place that is good for the soul. As for the secret garden in your head …. now that can be whatever you want it to be.

“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?” ~ Douglas Adams

Wordless Wednesday: A Wintery Wednesday 2





Wordless Wednesday: A Wintery Wednesday




Do Gardeners Hibernate?

“Winter came down to our home one night
Quietly pirouetting in on silvery-toed slippers of snow,
And we, we were children once again.”
~Bill Morgan Jr.

Picture apr2011 1890

Ah the Beginning of December …. the leaves are nearly all down and raked up, the spring bedding is all in, so all we need too do now is …. to find a nice cosy little corner to curl up in until the spring.

How many of us hear comments every year like ‘I suppose there’s nothing for you to do this time of year’ and ‘you might as well go home, you can’t do anything in this weather’. If that was the case, I would have gone home at the end of March this year and still not returned.

Well this is what some people think. That come the winter, all us gardeners do is drink tea (some truth in that) and then go into hibernation until the spring, because as we all know … there is nothing to do in the garden over the winter.


The thing is … we do … go into hibernation that is. But before we do, we have too hand over the garden to those ‘cheeky little garden elves’. Who then busily go round the garden doing them all important winter jobs, that no one ever sees getting done; it is very clever and magical how they get away without being seen working.

Then when March arrives, we wake from our slumber, thank the garden elves for all there hard work they have done over the winter, then we take all the glory in the spring and summer when the garden is blooming .

So, I thought it only fair that I introduce them cheeky little garden elves for all the hard work they do for us gardeners over the winter months, listing a few of the many jobs they do.

Be warned some of them are a little cheeky……….


The Allround Garden Maintenance Elf


Garden maintenance … now these are all the fun jobs. This is anything from, path maintenance, repairing wooded edges, repairing fences, cutting down herbaceous borders, tidying nursery/glasshouse area (this includes, cleaning and sorting out your pots and seed trays).

Other jobs for the elves if the weather plays ball is, double digging (groans), mulching of the borders, pruning roses climbers/shrub etc, plus renovation work on ramblers. Many other wall shrubs need pruning this time of year as well, Wisteria, Campsis etc.

The Lawn Maintenance Elf


Usually a happy little elf. Quietly getting on with the job at hand, whether it is aerating, rolling, brushing and the clearing of any debris off the lawn. These are all jobs that can be done in the winter, depending on the weather. Getting some soluble iron on your lawn, is always a good one to do, helps strengthen the blade, greens it up a bit and helps control that moss.

The Snow Clearing Elf


Often clears snow by making and throwing snowballs at fellow workers. Snow plough, shovels, blowers, brushes, crystals and salt whatever it takes too clear them paths. Very hard working, happy in their work and doesn’t mind working out of hours.

The Garden Machinery Elf


General servicing of all garden equipment. If the job is not to major, this can be done in the mower shed. There is one particular Elf that I know, thinks all you need is a hammer in his toolbox and know other tools. He has no patience what so ever, has been seen losing his temper over the slightest mechanical problem and has been known to kick the odd lawn mower that has played up.

The Admin Elf


Watch out for this one. Has often been heard complaining about all those, Risk Assessments, Safety Data Sheets and COSHH Assessments that needs to be done (they are very good with Elf and Safety). Can be quite snappy, grumpy, argumentative and always complaining that stuff is not getting done in the garden. When it comes down to the planting plans, plant orders, garden design and planning the Christmas party they are a little more approachable.


So there you have it, those busy little winter helpers, doing the jobs that seem to be invisible to some. You have to be thankful to them for two reasons: firstly, for helping us out in the garden during the winter months, because these important jobs would never get done if it wasn’t for them; secondly as we all know …. they are also very busy around the 25th December.



You probably now think that I am a, cynical, moaning old git, that expects everybody to kneel down and praise thee …. not true! Us gardeners, do a grand job all year round, I know it is only the minority that think we just drink tea and play cards through out the winter months. Anyway, this post was only done for a bit of fun … or was it? 😉

A lot of the hard ground work is done in the winter, that lays the basis of what you see in the garden in the warmer months. You may also think that being a Head Gardener, I could hide away in a nice warm office while others are out in the cold …. not me, I enjoy the cold weather. If by February we have had no snow, I will start thinking of doing a little snow dance …. a dance routine with the elves, if they are still around.

“The gardening season officially begins on January 1st, and ends on December 31.” ~ Marie Huston