When it comes to plants at Halloween, it's about
much more than pumpkins...
The origins of Halloween are thought to be rooted in the Celtic celebration of Samhain, a festival to mark the season of bringing in the harvests in preparation for winter.
It was thought that on this day, the 31 October, the boundaries between the worlds became blurred.
The dead returned to haunt the living, causing terrible catastrophe and illness.
Many myths and legends surround this day, with various rituals being performed in order to protect people from wandering evil spirits, as well as to predict fortunes and destinies.
Country hedges have been full of fruit this year,
but where are the berries in our cities?
London-based urban gardener, Dan Combes, wonders why there aren't more berries in city centres...
Towns and cities of Britain, why aren't we cultivating more soft fruits?
Over the last the two weeks I have planted thousands of bulbs. But why (London, I'm talking to you especially) am I not planting soft fruits? It is the perfect time to put in berries and currants.
As I write our native flora is abound with fruit. I have never seen our hedgerows so stocked. Clusters of red fruits weigh down hawthorn branches. Rose hips wreath their way through the arms of blackthorn, with their sloes ready to bring the best out of gin.
A native autumn harvest – an extra special
treat when it's from your own trees
As the leaves start to colour and fall from the trees and the cooling air is heavy with the smell of wood smoke there is nothing more gratifying than getting wrapped up and going out to gather the season's harvests.
Autumn is a most plentiful time of year. Along the hedgerows and verges plump ripe fruits hang from wayward trees and nuts crunch underfoot.
And it's possible to create that natural bounty in your own garden, giving you the benefit of having wonderful ingredients for all manner of culinary delights right on your doorstep – and it's fantastic for wildlife too!
With a little preparation this stockpile of preserved fruits and nuts will provide throughout the winter when little else is growing in the garden.
The 'False Widow' spider is spreading through
Southern England – this is a female Steatoda nobilis
(Image: Wikimedia Creative Commons)
London-based urban gardener, Dan Combes, tells us of his close encounter of the eight-legged kind...
Introducing the False Widow! Britain's deadly spider... or is it?
Recently both London and National media has been littered with articles documenting the rapid rise of the False Widow, labelling it "Britain's most deadly spider."
The Daily Star reports '...a plague of 10 million False Widow spiders.' Both The Independent and The Guardian discuss the potentially lethal bite of this small yet dangerous looking arachnid.
As a London gardener the only bite or sting I am likely to endure is that of a nettle or a wasp. Has this all changed?
The highly scented and delicately coloured
hybrid tea rose 'Twice in a Blue Moon'
Roses are by far the favourite among flowering garden plants.
They have been cultivated for an astonishing 5,000 years, the earliest having been collected for decoration or scent from the wild.
But by the mid 19th century over a thousand different varieties were available. Today this figure is somewhere around 13,000!
They are our most adored garden plant and our image of the country garden would not be complete without them.
Bristol-based author Andy Hamilton included two lavender recipes in his award-winning book, Booze for Free.Yes, lavender is pretty. And yes, lavender smells nice. But if you are wondering what use all those lavender plants for that you bought from us.... did you know it makes a cracking pint too?
With a catchy title like that, and with lavender as an ingredient, we could hardly ignore it...
English lavender – fragrance, colour,
wildlife value, and versatility
There are very few gardeners who fail to fall for the many charms of lavender – what is that you love about this beautiful, heavenly-scented and versatile plant?
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) has long been recognised for its numerous uses, medicinal ones in particular.
The Egyptians used it in the embalming process; soaking the shrouds in lavender infusions helped to preserve the mummies. The Ancient Greeks used it as a remedy for a huge number of ailments, and they were the first people to discover its sedative attributes as a cure for insomnia.
The Romans praised it for its antiseptic qualities, and used it in bathing and washing clothes. And it has been used in battles as a dressing for wounds – in the First World War it was included in soldiers’ first aid kits.
Yarlington Mill apples are a popular choice among
both amateur and professional cider makers
Cider making is not only an ancient tradition in this country, but it is also an important aspect of British heritage.
The Celts are known to have held the apple in extremely high regard, and there are numerous references in Celtic mythology praising it as a symbol of fruitfulness and immortality.
The apple had many uses in Celtic civilization, but perhaps its best-loved application was the production of a cider made from crabapples.
The art of cider making was improved further by the Romans, who planted well-ordered orchards of and caring for cider apple trees, and developed equipment to press the apples.
However it was following the Norman Conquest of 1066 that caused the popularity of cider to rise significantly, and cider production spread far and wide.
Beech turns a wonderful copper colour in winter.
The magnificent beech tree is quintessentially British – and not to mention elegant, flexible, award-winning, reliable, colourful...
Maybe surprisingly, beech is classed only as native to Southern England, and then only from as recently as 4,000BC. Nevertheless, the beech is an important (and much loved) part of our ancient British woodlands.
Whether grown as a beech tree or beech hedging, it helps support a vast array of wildlife – from the bluebells that take advantage of that brief window of warmth and sunlight before the deciduous canopy opens, to the insects, birds and larger mammals that find food and set up home in their boughs and roots. Continue reading
If you fancy leaving the beaten track of apples, plums
and the like, why not try growing some of these?
Have you already tried your hand at growing popular orchard and garden fruit trees like apple, pear, plum and cherry?
Has the thought already crossed your mind about growing something a little more peculiar. Something a bit more out of the ordinary, yet still a beautiful addition to the garden, and easy to care for?
If so, here's a few facts on three ancient fruits – the fig, the quince and the medlar.
Who knows, it just might give you a little encouragement to experiment!
For some Christmas is not Christmas without a Christmas tree (real or fake) but when did it all start and why?
The first use of Christmas trees as they're known today dates back to the 1500s. Some claim the tree originated in Germany in the mid 1500's, others claim it was Latvia in the early 1500's, and a few even believe in a legend that St. Boniface created the Christmas tree in the 7th century.
The Christmas tree first came to England with the Georgian Kings who came from Germany. At this time also, German Merchants living in England decorated their homes with a Christmas tree.
The British public were not fond of the German Monarchy, so did not copy the fashions at Court, which is why the Christmas tree did not establish in Britain at that time.
As a nurseryman selling barerooted plants and trees, the onset of autumn is always exciting.
Nerve-racking too, as autumn brings the bareroot planting season with it, and the weather plays an enormous part in determining how well the season gets going.
Too warm and the plants need to stay in the ground longer despite the baying of waiting customers.
Too cold and the ground is frozen and trees and hedging cannot be lifted at all, let alone planted.
But too wet is the grower’s dread.
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