Sowing seeds: mollycoddling versus tough love

As with most hobbies you can choose the level of challenge you wish to set yourself when it comes to gardening. Take seed sowing for example: you can choose just to sprinkle annual seeds onto the bare ground in March or April and rake them in, or germinate some tomato plants on your kitchen windowsill – even Caroline managed this last year.  But as your interest grows, you will need to learn and understand more about plant biology and ecology. Seeds have inbuilt mechanisms, often embedded in their tough seed coats, to make sure they only germinate when the...

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Hellebores: a tale of lost innocence?

Did you know the latest fad (you know I like to be bang on trend) is to have freckles tattooed over your nose? I hated mine when I was young and now that they’ve morphed into the liver spots of advancing age, they’re the reason I try to keep my hat and shirt on (mostly). However, freckles are looking fabulous right here, right now…. inside a hellebore. I have a huge range from the glowing chartreuse green of tall Helleborus argutifolius to the dark sultry opalescence of the H.orientalis varieties. They are nothing short of a February miracle (just like Louise’s Great Plant this Month – and what a fabulous eye she has for planting combinations)....

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Battle lines are drawn over snowdrops

If snowdrops flowered in midsummer we would probably  barely notice their presence. We might even find them a nuisance the way they clump up so quickly and leave behind a great mound of boring foliage which must be religiously left to feed the cursed little bulbils for next year. I can almost feel myself reaching for the Roundup. Louise’s Great Plant this Month shows a far more attractive winter flowering star. But snowdrops have the immense good sense to flower at a time when we are all sick of cold cheerless days of frost, when their promise of better things to...

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Willows: Infuriating fad or firm favourites?

‘Very pretty’, ‘beautiful’, ‘lovely’, all totally over-the-top hyperboles used by Laura and Elaine  in our video to describe a few dun-coloured stems in Laura’s garden. Really? Willows and dogwoods seem to be the ‘in’ thing for horticultural types to be excited about in winter. I don’t understand why they get so enthused by these featureless spikes just because they’re green or red. Graffiti is colourful but generally not popular. I can only imagine gardening contractors sold the idea of dogwoods to cash-strapped councils as a way to keep roundabouts looking tidy for six months of the year (nine in Scotland) and the fad has spread...

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