Strawberries: late summer planting

Order strawberries now to plant next month

Plan ahead now for next year’s strawberries. Picture; Lubera

August is the ideal month to plant strawberries, as they’ll establish well in warm, dry soil.

So what are the best varieties for you? Swiss fruit specialist Lubera is always a good port of call for something a bit different.

By crossing old varieties with modern ones, they’ve achieved the best of both worlds – large fruits with a good balance of sugar and acidity, and a strong perfume. Continue reading “Strawberries: late summer planting”

Hampton Court: new roses & top bloom tips

Four new roses unveiled at RHS Hampton Court

Lovestruck Rose of the Year 2018
Lovestruck Rose of the Year 2018. Picture; RHS Media Image Collection

Everyone loves the first flush of roses, even in these days of perpetual flowering plants that don’t have to rest before giving another display – and there is always excitement when new varieties are released at Hampton Court and Chelsea.

It’s simple to get the best out of your roses and a little work done earlier in the year means you can be reaping the benefits now – but first, here are seven new roses to pique your interest, including Rose of the Year 2018. Continue reading “Hampton Court: new roses & top bloom tips”

Sweet peas: heritage v new varieties

Old or new flowers – which are best?

Sweet peas Night Sky and Prince of Orange
Sweet peas Night Sky and Prince of Orange (background)

This summer’s sweet peas are just starting to bloom and I was intrigued to see whether heritage types or a new variety would come out on top.

I’ll judge again at the end of the season but here are my findings so far. First, the contenders:

Night Sky (Matthewmans,, £3)

A new introduction, an unusual mauve flake colour (speckled white/blue), bred by David Matthewman in Yorkshire. Described in the catalogue as ‘highly scented, almost shimmering florets set on long stems’. Continue reading “Sweet peas: heritage v new varieties”

Planting trees near houses

NHBC’s guide to safeguarding homes and trees

Eucalyptus gunnii kept well pruned

It’s the peak time of the year for new gardeners to plant trees and shrubs – but do you know some root systems can damage your home?

Inexperienced gardeners often pick up the first thing that catches their eye with little regard to its eventual height or demands on a garden.

The prime culprit is the Leylandii conifer, often seen towering over gardens, planted when they were tiny and often sold as ‘dwarf’ conifers by unscrupulous (or ignorant) sellers in the 1970s.

Even experienced gardeners can fall foul of this – in my case, a now huge Phormium in the front garden which is proving impossible to tame, sold as a ‘medium-sized’ plant. Continue reading “Planting trees near houses”

Greenhouse cleaning tips

Be clean to beat pests and diseases

Forest Garden
Nicola Simpson, head of marketing at Forest Garden. Picture; Forest Garden

It’s a horrible job but one worth doing – a real ‘outdoor housework’ chore – preparing your greenhouse for the season ahead.

With the weather starting to get warmer, failing to do this job will lead to an explosion of pests and diseases, making your gardening hard work a complete waste of time.

Here are some helpful tips from Nicola Simpson, head of marketing at Forest Garden. She said: “Now is the time to reorganise your greenhouse.

“One of the key benefits of a greenhouse is that it allows you to grow plants and crops that need more shelter and higher Continue reading “Greenhouse cleaning tips”

Tomato guide – September

Skimp on stakes at your peril

tomato plant
Weight of the tomato plant on a short stake makes it keel over

Cutting corners gets you nowhere, especially with tomatoes. I couldn’t reach the 8ft canes when I first potted them up in June, convinced I would add bigger ones as the plants grew.

Of course, I didn’t, leading to the collapse of several plants under their own weight last week.

If this has happened to you, it’s not the end of the world.

Simply insert a long cane into the soil and firmly tie it to the old cane before gently lifting the bent stem and securing it with string/twine every few inches. Continue reading “Tomato guide – September”