Hebes: one class of plants barred for use in RHS shows after Chelsea in a bid to stop Xylella bacteria spreading to the UK

RHS bans 9 overseas plants from shows to stop Xylella

Drastic action to stop destructive bacteria reaching the UK

Nine plants grown overseas have been banned from all of the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) shows in 2018, beginning with the Chelsea Flower Show, in a bid to stop a devastating form of bacteria from reaching the UK.

If you haven’t heard of Xylella fastidiosa, it’s because it hasn’t reached our shores yet. Being imported through trade ornamental plants is seen as the most likely route into the country.

Show exhibitors have been told overseas high-risk Xylella specimens of hebe, rosemary, oleander, olives, lavender, polygala, coffee, Spanish broom and Prunus willed be barred. Only plants grown from seed in the UK or that have been here for at least a year are exempt.

The bacterium has the potential to cause disease in a wide range of woody garden and native favourites.

Symptoms of infection include leaf scorch, wilt, dieback, and death – all easily confused with frost damage and drought, or other diseases. Xylella is spread by insects which feed on infected plants.

Spread of Xylella infection in Europe

It is native to the Americas and was absent from Europe but in 2013, Xylella started to infect, and kill, olive trees in Italy. It has since been found in France, Germany, Spain, and the Balearic Islands, affecting oleander, polygala, numerous ornamental plants, cherry trees, and almonds.

Nurseries, designers, and the landscaping industry are concerned that all imported stock may have to be screened to prevent Xylella, with many implications on price, sourcing, selection, etc.

The arrival of Xylella in the UK would have a huge negative impact on the entire industry, right down to us gardeners, so it’s in everyone’s interests to be aware.

Chief Plant Health Officer’s plea

Professor Nicola Spence, Chief Plant Health Officer for the UK, has issued a plea to the horticultural industry to be vigilant.

She said: “The impact on the sector were Xylella to arrive in the UK would be significant – commercially and environmentally important trees and plants would be at risk, while restrictions would include a ban on movement of host plants from premises within 10km of an outbreak for at least five years.

“In the UK, we are carrying out inspections of all consignments of host plants of Xylella imported from outside the EU and have an inland surveillance programme, targeted at host plants being grown and traded. We are also disseminating publicity material, including information on the high-risk plants and guidance on sourcing plants.”

This is a complex and changing issue – more information and updates are available on https://www.gov.uk/guidance/protecting-plant-health-topical-issues. Also, the RHS has a very useful page for gardeners on new pests and diseases, with further links if you need them – https://www.rhs.org.uk/science/plant-health-in-gardens/protect-your-garden/new-pd-risks.

Beamish Museum

Beamish Museum: October half-term 2017

Week-long musical celebration, October 21-29

Beamish Museum is a great place to take the kids this half-term – whatever the weather, there are plenty of things both indoors and out to keep them amused.

The themes this holiday are very much music and dance-based, exploring the traditional tunes and dances of North East England during various time periods.

Starting on Saturday, October 21 (and every day until Friday, October 27), join in the sing-along in The Sun Inn, in The Town, at 11am, 12.30pm, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm.

There are also gramophone demonstrations in No.2 Ravensworth Terrace, The Town at 10.15am, 11.45am, 1.15pm, 1.45pm, 2.45pm and 4.30pm, and at 10.45am, 1.45pm, 3.45pm & 4.45pm in No.4 Ravensworth Terrace, The Town.

There is a theme each day – here’s what you can expect:

  • Monday, October 23: Musical Monday, join in with traditional songs, music and dance in Hetton Band Hall in The Pit Village.
  • Tuesday, October 24: Enjoy thrilling tales by the storyteller and enjoy 1800s music at Pockerley Old Hall.
  • Wednesday, October 25: Be part of the musical activities at Hetton Band Hall in the Pit Village.
  • Thursday, October 26: Join the Tea Dance at The 1940s Farm at 11am-noon and 1-3pm.
  • Friday, October 27: Put on your dancing shoes and take part in the ceilidh at Pockerley Old Hall at 11am-noon and 1-3pm.
  • Saturday, October 28: Here’s your chance to have a go on a brass instrument, at Blasting Brass in Hetton Band Hall, from 10am to 2pm.
  • Sunday, October 29: Musical activities for everyone in Hetton Band Hall throughout the day, including Singaround Sunday from 11am-2pm.

Half-term activities are included in admission to Beamish and are free for Unlimited Pass holders.


Address: Beamish Museum, Beamish, County Durham, DH9 0RG, call 0191 370 4000 (9am-4pm, Monday-Friday).

Opening hours: Until October 29, daily, 10am to 5pm, last admission 3pm. From October 30 to March 23, 2018, open daily, 10am to 4pm. Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and Mondays and Fridays from January 8 to February 9, last admission 3pm.

By road: From the North and South, follow the A1M to Junction 63 (Chester-le-Street exit), then the A693 towards Stanley for four miles, following the signs. From the west – take the A68 to Castleside, near Consett, and follow the Beamish Museum signs along the A692 and A693 via Stanley.

By bus: Go North East’s Waggonway service 28/28A runs from Newcastle, Gateshead, Birtley, Ouston and Chester-le-Street every 30 minutes Monday-Saturday daytimes, hourly in the evening and on Sundays. Connections with other bus, train or Metro services can be made in Newcastle, Gateshead, and Chester-le-Street. Coast & Country service 8 runs every 30 minutes Monday -Saturday from Sunderland Interchange, via Washington, Chester-le-Street, and Stanley. Travel to Beamish on any Go North East bus and get 25 per cent discount on a standard individual admission charge.

For further information, visit www.beamish.org.uk.

The Armed Forces Memorial at The National Arboretum, 2017

Armed Forces Memorial holm oaks

Barcham Trees’ fitting tribute to fallen heroes

A decade after the Armed Forces Memorial was dedicated in the presence of HM The Queen, in October 2007, the pyramidal holm oaks have been clipped into circular forms.

The trees, supplied by Barcham Trees, are at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

They stand sentinel at this nationally significant focal point for remembrance, honouring members of the Armed Forces killed on duty or as a result of terrorism.

Barcham’s David Johnson said: “It seems incredible it is now 10 years since the holm oaks were planted, and we are delighted they have proved worthy of their position in this important place.

The holm oaks’ journey – from nursery to memorial

“Even while they were still on the nursery in their formative years, they formed a dramatic feature, impressing many of our visitors.”

Liam O’Connor, the architect for the project and designer of the landscape setting, and David Johnson selected more than 50 trees before they underwent a rigorous cultural programme on the Cambridgeshire nursery to meet Mr O’Connor’s specifications.

He also produced a drawing during the memorial’s construction to show how the maturing trees should be pruned during their first decade in situ.

The National Memorial Arboretum – www.thenma.org.uk – is in Alrewas, Staffordshire (DE13 7AR for satellite navigation), close to all Midlands motorways.

It is an evolving woodland landscape, featuring 30,000 trees and more than 350 memorials. The 150-acre site serves as a living tribute to those who have served and continue to serve the United Kingdom.

The winning pumpkin grown by the Paton twins. Picture; Thompson & Morgan

Brothers break UK pumpkin record

Paton twins head list of four record breakers

Everyone loves monster veg and last weekend four British records were broken, including the biggest pumpkin ever grown in the UK.

Gardeners from all over the country converge at The Jubilee Sailing Trust Autumn Pumpkin Festival and Scarecrow Avenue in Southampton is well-known for its mammoth veg.

The event, sponsored by Thompson & Morgan, ended in triumph again for the superstars of the monster pumpkin growers, twins Stuart and Ian Paton, also from Southampton.


They broke the record that they set last year for the heaviest pumpkin to be grown in the UK, weighing in at 2269lbs or 162 stone, beating the 2016 entry by 15lb.

Ian said that producing a giant pumpkin is no mean feat – he and his brother Stuart spend on average three hours a day tending to their pumpkin patch, often using 100 gallons of water to keep the pumpkins irrigated.

For the first time, the pumpkins were kept at a constant 18°C even during the night.

Matthew Oliver, of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Hyde Hall garden, in Chelmsford, beat the record for the heaviest outdoor-grown pumpkin with a 1498.4lbs whopper.

Last year, he famously hollowed out his giant pumpkin – which had weighed in at 1333.8lb – and rowed it across the lake at the RHS garden!

Other UK record breakers at the weigh-in were Steve Bridges, who took the prize for the heaviest UK-grown squash (457.3lb) and David Maund with his 176.5lb field pumpkin.

Paul Hansord, of Thompson & Morgan, said: “We’ve been sponsoring the Autumn Pumpkin Festival event in Southampton for many years and it’s always exciting when a record is beaten, so this year we’re thrilled to see four records broken.”

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/JSTPumpkinfest/ or for seeds, www.thompson-morgan.com.

Cat boxes. Picture; Mr Fothergill's

Gardening smiley collectables for kids

Mr Fothergill’s adds new faces to children’s growing kits

Seedsman Mr Fothergill’s is adding to its children’s Munakuppi grow kit range with four new smiley face characters and four cool cats, creating a series of 14 ceramic planters for bedroom windowsills, kitchens and offices.

Each is supplied with two packets of seed and a soil pellet, so you can grow long locks of rye grass or a short back and sides of fresh basil. Simply sow, water and watch the green hair grow.

The easy-grow varieties can be sown year round, making them ideal gifts for birthdays and Christmas. They also prove popular as desk ornaments and make great secret Santa presents.

The basil can be used fresh in the kitchen, while cats love rye grass, as it aids their digestion – perfect for indoor moggies that don’t have access to fresh grass. If there are no cats to keep growth in check, the rye grass hair can be tied into bunches or trimmed into style.

Unlike traditional grass heads, these ceramic characters can be used again and again. There is enough seed supplied with each character to replant and continue the fun many times over. When all seed is gone, you can add your own or use the ceramic pots as an egg cup.

Each character is supplied with simple sowing instructions and growing tips. Available now, price £3.95, at good garden centre or visit www.mr-fothergills.co.uk.

Virginia creeper-covered lychgate, Rowntree Park, York

Cool Gardens: Rowntree Park, York

Restful park near York city centre

Another in my Cool Gardens series – and another from York. Rowntree Park is new to me and I imagine to a lot of tourists, but not to the locals. Next time you’re in the city, make a detour and get some fresh air back into your lungs. Pictures by Vanessa Sundin.

Rowntree Park, which has won a Green Flag Award every year since 2004, is just a short walk from the city centre, on the banks of the River Ouse, and was the perfect setting for an autumnal stroll.

After a £1.8million Heritage Lottery Fund-aided refurbishment, the 30-acre park was restored to its original splendour – but thanks to cuts, for how long? (We’ll get onto that later.)

The park was a gift to the City of York by Rowntree & Co in 1921 and is a memorial to the Cocoa Works staff who fell and suffered during the First World War.

A set of decorative wrought-iron gates off The Terry Avenue entrance, made circa 1715, was also presented by the firm, in 1954, as a memorial to those killed during the Second World War. The park’s centrepiece, a lychgate covered in Virginia creeper, has two bronze plaques commemorating both occasions.

Planting and wildlife

As we visited in early autumn, we were too late for the best of the borders and too early for the most vibrant tree colours but it was still a lovely place to explore.

Herbaceous perennials in abundance, bamboo and grasses, pockets of annuals, a rose pergola and a wonderful woodland walk make it a great place to chill out away from the city.

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The park is also home to the tansy beetle, the ultra-rare (and ultra-green) insect found only around 30km of the River Ouse floodplain. It’s Yorkshire’s arthropod version of China’s giant panda, existing only on tansy flowers. We may have caught one on camera – any experts out there?

As in the Museum Gardens, there were grey squirrels everywhere, stocking up for winter, along with ducks and geese aplenty.

The Friends of Rowntree Park

The group was formed in 1996 to work with City of York Council. The Young Friends and the Very Young Friends have since been formed.

I was astounded to read there were no permanent council gardeners anymore in the 30-acre park due to cuts and volunteers did the gardening work! Apart from them doing a fantastic job, parks are vital to the health and wellbeing of their neighbourhood and desperately need investment.

If anyone in the York area can help, please do – this is one asset the city cannot afford to lose.
For more information, visit http://www.rowntreepark.org.uk/.

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Park facilities

  • The events and entertainment space is available for hire year round
  • Woodland walk and tree trails
  • Ornamental lake, half of which is available for use by model boats
  • 6 tennis courts
  • Skatepark
  • Basketball court
  • Rowntree Park Reading Cafe
  • Toilets
  • War memorial
  • Children’s play area
  • Orienteering map, activity sheet and information leaflet are available to download
  • Dogs on lead welcome
  • Table tennis tables
  • Rowntree Park Tennis Club

Useful information

  • Address: Rowntree Park, Terry Avenue, Micklegate, York YO23 1JQ.
  • Opening hours: The park is open daily apart from Christmas Day, from 8am Monday to Friday and 9am Saturdays and Sundays, closing at dusk.
  • Accessibility: There is easy access with mostly level paths. See the DisabledGo website for information for the Rowntree Park Reading Cafe.
  • Getting there: Buses run frequently from the city centre to Bishopthorpe Road then follow signs down Butcher Terrace to the Millennium Bridge. Travel by bike or foot along the riverside or across the Millennium Bridge.
  • Parking: Car park on Terry Avenue, or on-street parking in the surrounding streets (don’t be rude and block residents in!)
  • Flooding: As the park is in the River Ouse floodplain, it is closed when river levels are high, even if water has not entered the park for safety reasons. If a flood occurs, it may take several weeks to reopen.