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 – – 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.

Hillier Celebrity Auction

Hillier Nurseries Celebrity Memory Tree Auction

Own a piece of RHS Chelsea history

A charity auction is giving 13 people the chance to own a piece of RHS Chelsea Flower Show history, as well as raising funds for a cancer charity.

The online auction is the culmination of the ‘Memory Tree’ project by Hillier Nurseries, whose charity partner is Wessex Cancer Trust.

Hillier has exhibited at Chelsea for almost a century and has a record-breaking 72 gold medals. With so many amazing memories connected to the show, the ‘Memory Tree’ was created so visitors could share their garden memories too.

At the show, visitors signed tags to hang from the tree and wrote down their most treasured garden memory in a special book with more than 500 memories by the end.

Alan Titchmarsh, a long-running supporter of Wessex Cancer Trust, was the first to sign up, followed by Dame Judi Dench, Joanna Lumley, Piers Morgan, Jo Whiley, Nigel Slater, Matt Baker, Alex Jones, Carol Klein, Anton du Beke, Ainsley Harriott, Nigel Havers and Cerys Matthews.

Wessex Cancer Trust is now auctioning the tags signed by the celebrities, each displayed in a frame, complete with certificate and a copy of the person’s memory.

Aim to raise lots of funds

Alan said: “It was a pleasure to visit the Hillier garden at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show and to kick of the Memory Tree.

“It was nice to take a moment away from the busy show to reflect on my many, many memories of gardening. Fingers crossed the auction raises lots of funds for the Wessex Cancer Trust who I have supported for many years.”

The auction is open now until Monday, October 16. To bid, visit Wessex Cancer Trust’s website at

Hillier has also launched a digital copy of the Memory Book called ‘Your Garden Memories’, visit

Pheasant Acre Plants

RHS London Autumn Garden Show 2017

End-of-season spectacle, October 25-26 (late event October 24)

After the RHS’s decision to have fewer but more spectacular London shows, with proceeds going towards paying for RHS apprentices, this is the first Autumn Garden Show.

It replaces the former Shades of Autumn Show, but will still take place in the RHS Lindley and RHS Lawrence Horticultural Halls.

You’ll have the chance to learn about urban foraging and seasonal growing techniques along with plant-based crafts.

There are talks from Roy Lancaster, Anne Swithinbank, and Nick Bailey, as well as ornithologist Bill Oddie.

Highlights of the show

  • The Autumn Ornamental Plant Competition, open for all to enter.
  • Specially selected nurseries and exhibitors offering seasonal plants, bulbs, and accessories, including The Botanic Nursery, Plantbase, and Harperley Hall Farm Nurseries.
  • Floral exhibitors including Calamazag Nursery, Strictly Daylilies, and The Salutation Garden.
  • In the Lindley Library, see the exhibition ‘Codlings, Costards and Biffins’.
  • Free tours of material from the library collections, including a curator’s introduction to the exhibition.
  • Foodie delights from Chelsea-based foraging restaurant Rabbit, in an indoor foraging forest full of unusual edibles created by Jon Davies.
  • Nick Bailey talks about ‘Unusual Edibles in the City’; Anne Swithinbank discusses ‘Foraging from the Garden’.
  • Floral installations from RHS Floral Artist in Residence 2017 (Electric Daisy Flower Farm).
  • A celebration of seedheads from RHS Gold-medal winning designer Paul-Hervey Brookes, and a ‘remix’ of the Chatsworth Path of Least Resistance Freeform installation.
  • Workshops including floral design, autumn-leaf crafting, and micro-green sowing.
  • Award-winning bonsai collection from Bonsai Kai, the oldest bonsai club in Europe.
  • The Late event has a preview of the show and a complimentary drink for the first 200 guests who book in advance. Free pumpkin carving workshops, delicious food, and live music.

Getting there, etc

  • RHS staff give advice
    RHS staff give advice. Picture; RHS Media Image collection

    Addresses: The Lindley Hall, Elverton Street, London SW1P 2QW; RHS Lawrence Hall, 80 Vincent Square SW1P 2QD.

  • Public transport: St James’s Park underground station or Victoria train station are the closest to the halls – expect a 10-minute walk. Limited on-street parking is available and there is off-street parking in Horseferry Road.
  • Opening hours: October 24 (late), 6pm–9pm; October 25-26 10am-5pm.
  • Ticket prices: Members £5, non-members £6 in advance, £9 on the day.
Transplanting seeds

RHS Big Soup Share

10th anniversary of RHS Campaign for School Gardening, October 2-8

More than 1,000 schools and youth groups across the UK will be taking part in the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) Big Soup Share this week to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Campaign for School Gardening.

Some 75,000 three to 18-year-olds have been harvesting their produce, devising soup recipes and cooking up a feast to share with their classmates, friends, family and local community.

Since its launch in 2007, the RHS Campaign for School Gardening has called for all children to be given the chance to garden, to support their learning and wellbeing and inspire them in future careers.

Now, 69 per cent of primary schools and 79 per cent of secondary schools are signed up to receive free resources and support from the RHS.

A survey of these schools found that 96 per cent said gardening had enabled young people to connect with nature, and 83 per cent and 82 per cent of schools felt it had improved the mental and physical wellbeing of pupils.

Other benefits cited were helping youngsters to develop a wide range of skills (91 per cent) and actively green the environment (89 per cent).

Schools selling plants

Two in every five schools (40 per cent) are using their garden as a source of income, selling plants to plough money back into the school.

Andrea Van-Sittart, RHS head of community outreach, said: “I’m delighted that over 34,000 schools and groups have joined the campaign, giving around six million children and young people the chance to garden.

“Not only is gardening a fantastic way of bringing the curriculum alive, it helps to get young people outdoors in the fresh air to improve their wellbeing. They’re encouraged to be active, spend time relaxing and enjoy all the health benefits of being immersed in nature. We’d love to see every school reap the many rewards of gardening.”

Schools and youth organisations can sign up to RHS Campaign for School Gardening by visiting

Chilli Loco

Year of the Pepper 2018

Tone down the chilli heat and look for flavour

The heat is on… 2018 has been designated the Year of the Pepper, but there’s more to this vegetable than just fire.

If you’re wondering who decides this, Fleuroselect Home Garden Association, an international non-profit organisation, chooses a vegetable and flower each year, designed to boost seed and plant sales.

Seedsman Mr Fothergill’s wants gardeners to forget about the fire and explore the wide range of flavours in the chilli kingdom.

If you don’t like the heat, growing the world’s hottest chilli isn’t going to be your thing, but the capsicum family has something for everyone.

Just as sweet peppers have different flavours (orange cultivars are sweeter than red ones, and green ones have a level of bitterness) so too do chillies.

Among the commonly cultivated species, Capsicum annuum, chinense and baccatum, there are thousands of cultivars, with many different heat levels and flavours, from sweet to sour and smoky to fruity.

100 varieties trialled each year

Mr Fothergill’s trials about 100 varieties each year. Trials manager, Alison Mulvaney, said: “We work with the top chilli breeders in the UK to find the best flavours and the best plants suited to UK growing conditions.

“The recent introduction of Capsicum annuum Biquino Yellow to our range is a perfect example of a chilli chosen for flavour, not heat. This mild Brazilian pepper carries an interesting smoky flavour with just a little heat to add a mild spice and aroma to any dish.”

Apart from C. annuum, mild Peruvian ‘Aji’ chillies are favourites with chefs at the moment. These Capsicum baccatum varieties produce an abundance of medium-sized chillies with a sweet, fruity flavour laid over a mild to medium heat.

Havana Gold is new for this season and is a good introduction to the Ajis, providing a complex fruity flavour and manageable, mild heat.

Capsicum chinense is the dominant species in the Caribbean, with fiery habaneros and Scotch bonnets bringing a balance of sweet, sour and fruitiness to dishes along with intense heat. There are also varieties that carry the pungent flavours with no heat, such as Trinidad Perfume.

For more information, visit

The Scoville Scale

The heat of a chilli is measured on The Scoville Scale in Scoville heat units (SHU), or capsaicin concentration, named after its creator, US pharmacist Wilbur Scoville.

SHU values range from 0 in a sweet bell pepper to 2,000,000-2,200,000 in a Trinidad Moruga Scorpion or Carolina Reaper.

Chilli Loco

I’m no fan of hot chillies, but Loco is compact (about 2ft), bushy and covered with inch-long cone-shaped fruits held above the foliage like little fairy lights.

The fruits start purple/cream, changing from orange to red – the look like plump blackcurrants. Despite its name, Loco is not that hot, slightly less than a cayenne pepper, a medium heat level of about 24,000 SHU.

Which Gardening Chilli Trials 2012 recommended it as a Best Buy and it is UK bred, so makes an excellent plant for the patio.

You’ll find it at Thompson & Morgan, Suttons, chilli specialists Sea Spring Seeds, The Eden Project, Dobies and DT Brown Seeds.

Mr Fothergill’s RHS Award of Garden Merit seeds

New range celebrates preferred partner status

A new flower and vegetable seed range from Mr Fothergill’s has been tried, tested and recommended by experts at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).

The RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM) seed range follows the appointment of the seed supplier as the preferred partner for licensed seed products for the RHS.

Mr Fothergill’s retail marketing manager, Ian Cross, said: “We trial all varieties in UK conditions before releasing them into our general seed range, but we have gone even further in the search for trusted garden varieties with our new RHS AGM collection.

“We have worked closely with the RHS to develop a range that we all agree is the best it could possibly be for home gardeners.”

To carry the AGM logo, all plants in the range have been grown and tested in RHS gardens and judged by a forum of industry experts.

Excellent garden performance

Plants only receive the award if they have excellent garden performance, are stable in form and colour and show reasonable resistance to pests and diseases.

Cathy Snow, RHS licensing manager, added: “The AGM ‘seal of approval’ tells gardeners that the plant performs reliably in the garden and is the ultimate guarantee of quality.

“Mr Fothergill’s has a well-earned reputation for its passion to supply the very best quality gardening products and we are delighted to be partnering with such a highly respected company. Mr Fothergill’s seeds are the only RHS endorsed seed range available.”

Available now from garden centres and, the range consists of 61 flower varieties and 57 vegetables.

The flower varieties have, wherever possible, been selected from the RHS Perfect for Pollinators list, maintained by RHS entomologists and beekeepers.