• Mothering Sunday

    The story behind Mothering Sunday

    In the UK, Mothering Sunday is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent in the Christian calendar. It comes as no surprise then, to learn that the origins of Mothering Sunday had more to do with the church than it did with mothers.
    Mothers Day
    Hundreds of years ago, churchgoers would, on one Sunday each year, attend service at their ‘mother church’ – defined as the church in the parish where they were born. The fourth Sunday of Lent was the chosen day.

    Over time, Mothering Sunday evolved and gradually became a day for sons and daughters to say ‘thank you’ to their mums. This might well have been because Mothering Sunday had become an annual family get-together.

    Historians believe that many boys and girls – working in other parts of the locality as domestic staff or apprentices from an early age – would pick springtime wild flowers on the way to church on Mothering Sunday and present them as gifts to their mothers. And so Mother’s Day as we know it today, was born.

    In those early days, the flowers were often sweet violets because these would have been widely available to pick along the lanes at this time of year. Later, carnations became the most popular flower to give on Mothering Sunday, because it was seen as a symbol of mother love.

    Today, mixed bouquets are the order of the day, bought from the local florists or store. But it’s still possible to retain the spirit of those days when people would hand-pick spring flowers.

    Ask your florist to create a seasonal bouquet with flowers such as Lily of the Valley, Magnolia, Forsythia and Hellebores. Other colourful flowers to add to the mix are bright yellow Narcissus and vibrant tulips.

    For a beautiful scent, include roses in the bouquet, too. And by adding some seasonal foliage – from your own garden if possible – you’ll be able to create that natural, ‘just picked’ look.

    If your mum is a keen gardener, why not buy her bulb flowers that are still growing? They’ll look lovely indoors in a pretty pot, and the bulbs can then be planted in the garden. Again, choose local flowers that are in season.

    Using seasonal, British flowers is much better than buying flowers with a big carbon footprint – and it’s thoughtful to make that extra bit of effort.

  • March - Scarification

    MARCH – at last! Even if the weather is poor, there’s something in the British gardening psyche that says it’s time to get going! And the great thing is that while it may be too early to do much else, it’s a great time to get your lawn set up for a fantastic year ahead. Better still, get ahead now, and you’ll have more time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your work in a few month’s time. 


    If there’s one thing you can and should be doing now, it’s to renovate your lawn after its winter sleep. And that means scarifying – and yes, even if you don’t have moss!

    Many people think scarifying is simply to deal with moss, but they’re wrong. Instead, think of it is pruning. You see, mowing deals with the top of the grass plant, the ends of the leaf blades and encourages better growth, but it does nothing to sort out the mess lower down, closer to the ground. And it’s down there, with our bents and fescue grasses, that you need to thin out the dead organic matter that forms excess thatch. Some thatch is essential, but too much is disastrous. Scarifying thins this out and prunes the plant to let air and light back into the lower parts and also to regenerate new plant growth.  A double whammy!

    Proper scarification is a light intervention – and must be done with the correct machine. Yes it makes a mess but only for a short while; the grass will soon thicken back up all by itself and look healthier than ever. Surely that’s better than having to rely on reseeding?

    Start scarification by setting the machine high on the first pass and then lowering if need be on the second pass.  Don’t ever try and remove 20 years of dead material in one go and always do it in a diagonal direction to the main mowing direction.
    Once you have finished scarification and cleaned all that mess away, apply a moss control and then a quality feed.  This will allow the grasses to thicken back up, helped by the other form of ‘pruning’ we have to do, mowing. In fact, a great tip when you have finished scarifying your lawn is to try not to change your mowing regime at all.  Apart from maybe the first week afterwards, keep the mower set at your normal height (or a fraction higher) and continue to lightly ‘top off, even the smallest of growth.


    You can still hollow tine aerate your lawn too; it’s not too late.  And you can do this before scarifying so that you needn’t worry about filling up those holes (unless you cylinder mow of course, in which case you’ll need to add some top dressing material to restore a smoother surface).


    So, seize the moment! Make March the month for getting the ‘hard’ work out of the way. It’ll make the rest of your year much easier – and give you a much happier lawn.

  • Golden daffodils herald the arrival of Spring

    Daffodils. A modest, humble flower that has inspired some of the world's greatest artists and poets to eulogise about their beauty and what they represent.

    William Wordsworth's most famous poem, 'I Wondered Lonely as a Cloud' is also known as 'Daffodils'. The romantic poet was moved to write the poem following a walk in Ullswater in the Lake District with his sister, Dorothy. The 'host of golden daffodils' that he described might not be such a familiar sight today as they were in the early 1800s, but perhaps that’s what makes them even more welcome when we do manage to catch a glimpse of them out in the wild.
    Image by AJ Garcia (Unsplash)
    Of course, there's another reason why we all love to see daffodils start to poke their heads up. Their emergence is a colourful sign that winter is - at last! - about to turn into spring. It's why daffodils are referred to as "the heralds of spring".

    Britain lost many of its daffs during the war, when every available piece of land had to be used for food. One of the most prolific areas for daffodil growing used to be the Tamar Valley on the Devon-Cornwall border.

    Here, the market garden heritage goes back generations – it helps to explain why there is such a connection to the dear old daff in this area. When landowners and flower producers pulled up their daffodil fields to help the war effort, they simply tossed them aside or into hedgerows, which is why today, you can see all sorts of local varieties in seemingly random places throughout the valley.
    field of Daffodils
    Image by Katherine McCormack (Unsplash)
    There are now a number of national campaigns to help restore our daffodils. Because daffodils aren’t just a part of the British landscape. They’re also part of our heritage.  

    The Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) was awarded National Lottery funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for their ‘Heralds of Spring’ project. Volunteers are out and about in the valley this spring, locating, identifying and mapping daffodils so the sites can be protected as much as possible in future.

    Now in its second year, the project has already identified more than 100 old local varieties. Wow! Who knew that there were so many different types of daffs, even in such a small part of the world.

    In 2016, English Heritage launched its biggest ever bulb-planting initiative to help save native and historic varieties of daffodils and bluebells. The charity’s gardeners planted 25,000 heritage bulbs at its historic gardens.

    We can all do our bit by making sure we plant native varieties in our gardens. Daffodils (Latin name Narcissus), should be planted in September to October to guarantee a beautiful display from February to May. They’re hardy and they enjoy a sunny spot or somewhere with light shade. They’re great for pots, too.

    Because they’re so easy to grow, they’re unlikely to let you down. And what a sight for sore eyes they are at the end of those long winter months!
    Daffodils in vase
    Image by Annie Spratt (Unsplash)

  • 3 of the best gardens to see in South Korea, hosts of the 2018 Winter Olympics

    South Korea is the first Asian state outside of Japan to be chosen to host the Winter Olympics and Winter Paralympics.
    Winter Olympics 2018
    The 2018 Games got under way on 9 February in the mountainous area of Pyeongchang in the north east of the country. South Korea is hoping the event will boost the tourism industry.

    At one time, forests covered two-thirds of the country, but most of these are now gone. However, several thousands of plant species are known to remain.

    So, what can visitors expect if they want to see beautiful landscapes and gardens? The answer is: a lot! For thousands of years, Koreans have created stunning gardens, using the landscape around them. Historically and to this day, the people here just love beautiful gardens.

    Here are three of the finest.

    The Secret Garden of Changdeokgung

    The World Heritage-listed Changdeokgung Palace is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting South Korea’s capital, Seoul. Dating back over 600 years, the Palace is one of the city’s five main palaces and regarded as the most majestic.

    Among the grounds is the secret garden, a serene glade reached through a wooded area. The focal point is a pond with a series of ornate pavilions and trees and shrubs awash with colour. Tourist visits are tightly managed on a booking-only basis.
    Secret Garden in Seoul

    Seoullo 7017

    A complete contrast to the regal splendours of Changdeokgung, the Seoul Skygarden is South Korea’s newest world class garden. Seoullo 7017 is a pedestrian walkway with 24,000 trees, shrubs and plants boasting some 250 varieties.

    What makes this 1km-long garden so remarkable is that it has been transformed from what was previously the dangerous Seoul Station overpass highway. Costing over $50 million – much of which went on strengthening the structure – it’s a contemporary example of the walk-orientated gardens the country is famous for.

    Why the name, 7017? Because the original road was built in 1970 and its rebirth as a sky garden came in 2017.

    Garden of Morning Calm

    Some 50km outside of the capital, this privately-owned garden was created in the 1990s and offers 30,000 square metres of largely indigenous species. What you see depends on the season – but whatever time of the year, a riot of colour is guaranteed. The name comes from ‘Land of the Morning Calm’, the descriptive term often used to describe Korea.


    But what of Pyeongchang itself? Apart from the world class skiing and winter sports facilities, the area offers plenty of mountain and woodland scenery. The top tourist attraction in the area is Woljeongsa Temple in the Odaesan Mountain National Park, which administers 60 Buddhist temples. Relics relating to Buddha, including bones, were said to have been brought here.

    If gardens and green landscapes are your thing, then maybe it’s time to get your skates on and head to South Korea!

  • Red Roses - the universal language of love

    February 14 … Valentine’s Day, and the day when red roses sell like hot cakes across the world.

    There are a million and one stories about why Valentine’s Day is on this particular day. Our favourite is that people in England and France in the Middle Ages wanted to mark what they believed was the start of the bird mating season – 14 February.
    Valentines day Red Rose
    But why do love birds give red roses on Valentine’s Day? We’ve been digging deep to unearth some of the folklore and facts surrounding roses.

    Saying it with a red rose

    – Of all the theories, the most probable is that this developed out of ‘floriography’ – the language of flowers. Giving flowers as a message, without words, is said to date back thousands of years, possibly originating in the Middle East. The red rose was associated with romantic love and so the tradition grew.

    In Victorian times, the term “tussie-mussie” was coined to describe a posy that would be carried as an accessory – and to convey a message to an intended recipient. Of course, it was important that people used the correct flowers to convey their message. It was apparently not uncommon for people to get the wrong end of the stick because the incorrect flowers were worn or presented as a token!

    Aphrodite’s tears

    – In Greek Mythology, the red rose was created by Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love. When her lover, Adonis, was killed, her tears fell into his spilled blood, out of which a blanket of red roses bloomed.

    Roses go back a long, long way

    – Fossils have been discovered in Colorado which suggest that roses were grown there 35 to 40 million years ago. However, it’s thought that they originated in Asia long before then.

    There are plenty to choose from

    – It’s believed that there are 30,000 different varieties of roses grown all around the world.

    The oldest rose

    – There is a rosebush in Hildesheim near Hanover in Germany that has been dated at over 1,000 years old. It climbs on the wall of Hildesheim Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The pale pink flowers tend to blossom in late May and last for a couple of weeks.

    The Wars of the Roses

    – Roses can symbolise division as well as union and love. The series of civil wars between the houses of Lancaster and York bedevilled England from 1455 to 1486. Lancaster’s symbol was a red rose, York’s was a white rose. It ended at the Battle of Bosworth, when Henry Tudor (Lancaster) defeated King Richard III. Richard was killed in battle and Henry became the first Tudor king. He famously combined the red rose of Lancaster with the white rose of York, which was the central part of the rose. However, for some reason, the white part of the Tudor rose has been lost over time and has developed into the red rose of England.

    The final word – we’ll leave that to the King of Quotes, William Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet.

    What's in a name? That which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet.

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

  • FEBRUARY means one thing for certain..

    FEBRUARY means one thing for certain: spring is getting closer! But it’s not here yet and, even though the days are growing longer, this month can feel like the darkest, saddest one for gardeners. Fortunately your lawn is the gift that just keeps on giving – there’s always something to do; and right now you can do the work indoors as well as outside!
    February Moss Control


    This is the job that you can do from a comfy armchair. If you kept a simple record of your lawn care last year, now is the time to review it, see what worked well and what didn’t, and make some adjustments for this year’s schedule. And if you didn’t keep a diary, now is when you can start one. Set it up so you can log the main interventions month by month, note any extreme weather, and of course remember to record how the lawn responds. It takes very little time but can transform your lawn care, making it more efficient and more effective.


    Don’t just leave your mower gathering dust until you need it. You may need it right now! Grass does like to be ‘topped off’ during February; it keeps the air circulating and stops it becoming a dense wet mess that attracts disease. But it will need the same sharp blades you’ll need once your spring mowing begins. So first things first, get the blade sharpened – and get the rest of the mower into good order too, lubricating, tightening, generally making sure this much neglected machine becomes the jewel in your lawn kit for the year ahead.


    You can be nourishing and supporting your grass right now by applying a ferrous sulphate feed (if not already done), and also by doing a hollow-tine aeration. UK weather is unpredictable, so do pay attention to the prevailing conditions, but if they’re right then these two jobs can really help your grass stay fit until the warm spring sunshine does its stuff.


    Too early for a spring clean in the house? No problem; start outdoors! “But it’s too wet to get the leaves off the lawn; and what’s the point of moving the wooden benches?” Common excuses, but there’s a reason the professionals will be out there doing exactly that. And that reason is prevention. Some routine housekeeping on your lawn will help prevent disease and other problems from taking hold.
    Hollow Core Shot
    So, don’t just peer nostalgically through your window into the garden; get out there and get busy. Just a note to finish with, however: there’s a lot of bad lawn advice circulating out there, which is why I’m always telling people to learn from the professionals. But just as important is to decipher what we learn. You don’t have to become a lawn obsessive; just take the common sense stuff and only do what your lawn needs. It’s just good simple lawn husbandry.

  • 6 Nations From muddy mayhem to perfect pitch – the story of rugby down the years

    We’re kicking off the 2018 Rugby Union Six Nations Championship with an affectionate look at the game’s colourful history …

    Mountfield 6 nations rugby
    Image by Ben Hershey (Unsplash)

    Remember when rugby matches used to be played on muddy quagmires? When, by the end of the game, there was hardly a blade of grass still to be seen and all the players would leave the pitch caked in mud?

    How things have changed. In December 2017, the French club side Racing 92 inaugurated its new indoor stadium which has an artificial pitch and a permanently closed roof. No chance of rain or mud here!

    It’s just the latest development in a sport that, like so many other things, appears have been started by the Romans 2,000 ago, when they played a game called harpastum.

    A rugby-type game was later documented in France and Britain, where players were at times guilty of over-exuberance.  In England, the game was blamed for causing injuries and even death! Laws were passed in medieval and Tudor times, banning the “devilish” and ‘beastlie’ game, which often involved hundreds of men from neighbouring communities.

    The game became somewhat more refined in the 1800s, although there was still no rugby pitch to speak of – it was usually a case of two teams of indeterminate numbers doing battle in fields. The most famous fields were in Rugby.

    Rugby School in Warwickshire had moved to its new site in 1749. It was a large plot, with three rough fields for sporting activities. It was on these fields that the game was to undergo its biggest change in 1823. At this time, teams could have as many as 200 players and the ‘try line’ at Rugby was a tree. Teams had to reach their opponents’ line (or tree) to have the chance to ‘try’ to kick a goal – again, this would involve the tree. If they successfully dropped the goal, they would earn a point.

    Unsurprisingly, games could last for days without a point being scored!

    Having so many players on the other side made reaching the line difficult. As did the rule which said that players were not allowed to carry the ball. They could kick the ball, like football, but carrying the ball was a complete no-no.

    Not exactly a winning spectator sport. No wonder local lad William Webb Ellis decided to shake things up a bit in 1823 by collecting the ball and running with it. Sometimes rules are there to be broken. It became an accepted part of the game and was written into the laws in the 1840s.

    In other major changes, the round ball became oval, rugby split into two – Union (15 players) and League (13) – and the rule-makers agreed the game would benefit from more points being awarded.

    As for the Six Nations Championship, this grew from the Home Nations, first staged in 1883, to the Five Nations with the addition of France, and finally, in 2000, to its current format with Italy becoming the 6th team.

    Which seems like a perfect full circle, given that the Romans probably gave us the game in the first place!

  • RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

    RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

    House Sparrow by Andy HayImage by Andy Hay (

    How we can all help the RSPB to help our garden birds

    January sees the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch – the world’s biggest wildlife survey. In 2017, eight million garden birds were sighted by the 500,000 people who took part across Britain.

    The 2018 birdwatch takes place on 27-29 January. To be part of it, download a pack from the RSPB website – it includes a picture chart so you can correctly identify the birds you spot. Simply spend one hour looking out for birds in your garden or in a public space and note down your sightings.

    The Big Garden Birdwatch gives the RSPB a snapshot of how our garden birds are faring and enables the charity to compare figures to previous years, providing a picture as to which species are doing okay and which are struggling.

    And, just because a species comes top of the list, it doesn’t mean that historically, they’re doing well. The fact is, the UK bird population has suffered a huge decline since 1970 – some species are down by 95%. The main cause is modern agricultural practices in the UK and Europe. Most species have been affected. A notable exception is the house sparrow, because populations in urban areas appear to be self-sustaining.

    It’s no surprise, therefore, that it was top of the league at the last count. The 2017 birdwatch produced this Top 10:

    Robin by Ben AndrewImage by Ben Andrew (

    1 – House sparrow

    2 – Starling

    3 – Blackbird

    4 – Blue tit

    5 – Woodpigeon

    6 – Goldfinch

    7 – Robin

    8 – Great tit

    9 – Chaffinch

    10 – Long tailed tit

    Things you can do to help our birds

    Great Tit by Chris GomersallImage by Chris Gomersall (


    Birds benefit from all-year-round feeding. In autumn and winter, make sure they get two good meals a day, in the morning and early afternoon. High fat bird foods are especially helpful during these months, as they give the birds the increased energy they need.

    In spring and summer, garden birds need protein. Black sunflower seeds, mealworms, and quality seed mixes are good. Even mild cheese will go down a treat. Birds also love fruit such as soft apples and pears – slice them in half for them – and bananas and grapes. Don’t use peanuts, fat or bread during these months as they can harm chicks if adults take them back to the nest to feed them.

    Whatever the season, use the same feeding times so the birds get used to their ‘dinner times’ and visit your garden accordingly. And regularly clean the feeding area to prevent the risk of disease spreading among the birds.

    Blue Tit by Ray KennedyImage by Ray Kennedy (


    Keep a supply of water for the birds to drink – they like to drink a couple of times a day. A bird bath is equally important. It keeps them clean and preening their feathers also improves their insulation. Again, keep the birdbath and the water hygienic with weekly cleans if possible.


    It’s not just nest boxes that help garden birds. Allowing trees, shrubs and hedges to grow undisturbed also provides a safe haven. Check with the RSPB before doing anything that might disturb birds. Remember: all birds, their nests and their eggs are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

  • 11 ways to put your old Christmas tree to good use in the garden and home

    Christmas Tree in bin

    11 ways to put your old Christmas tree to good use in the garden and home

    If you haven’t got rid of your Christmas tree yet, then don’t worry – there are loads more useful things you can do with it than just taking it to the recycling centre.

    An estimated eight million people in the UK bought a real tree. Sadly, many of the trees will end up in landfill because a lot of owners put them straight into their bins – bad for the environment and a real waste in every sense, when they could be put to great use.

    Bear in mind that if you’re going to saw the trunk, if your tree is sappy, it’s best to wait until it’s dried out to avoid damaging your saw and making a mess of you!

    Here are 11 great ways to make use of your old Christmas tree, otherwise known as our ‘Logs 11’

    1 – If you have a log burner or fireplace, use the trunks and branches for firewood or fire starters.

    2 – Create mulch for your garden – pine needles make excellent mulch.

    bird feeder from christmas tree

    3 – Birds will love your old trees. With their pot or stand as a secure base, they provide shelter and sanctuary for garden birds. Or you can use the tree to tie bird feeders.

    4 – Cut off the boughs and use them to insulate perennial beds, providing a warm covering during cold spells.

    5 – Cut the trunk into round discs about 5cm thick (2 inches) and use them as decorative edges for paths or borders.

    6 – Cut the trunk into a good height for flowerpot risers.

    7 – Slice the trunk thinly to make coasters. Sand and treat them, to prevent the risk of sap damaging your furniture. These are real eye-catchers and a talking point when you have guests.

    8 – Tealight holders are another creative way to use the wood.

    9 – If you’re feeling particularly creative and confident, you can even make a log bird feeder.

    10 – Logs, sliced up and imaginative arranged, can make for a stunning piece of rustic wall art.

    Christmas Tree recycling

    11 – And finally, we love this one … how about cutting lengths of log or reasonably sturdy branches, with the top bit sliced at a downward angle, and painting a gnome’s face onto the wood. Instant woody gnomes for your garden!

    Do you have any other great ideas for making practical or creative use of your Christmas tree? Share your photos on our social media pages – we’re on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

  • January Garden Care Tips

    January Garden Care

    JANUARY for many can be a dark and cold month, the middle of winter with spring still months away. However, there are still things going on out there – nature doesn’t stop – and there’s always something you can do for your lawn. Here are a few things to think about.

    Disease : Cold temperatures together with a lack of sunshine can really stress the lawn, making it more prone to disease. And you can help your grass by keeping it clear of debris. Just simple leaves and twigs can create ideal conditions for fusarium, a deadly disease. So remember to pop outside and do a little routine cleaning up, especially after windy weather.
    Fork aeration
    Changing weather: This is affecting all of us and changing the gardening calendar we’ve been used to for decades. So there may be some jobs you would normally have left for a month or two that should be done now in January. Here are the three most important:

    1. Feed: That’s right, a mid-winter feed! And just by including an application of Sulphate of Iron or FE (no NPK so don’t panic) you can perform little miracles - helping the turf to harden off against disease attack, locking up any leftover nutrients, killing off any moss bloom and even gaining the lawn a little colour! It’s what the pros do all over the world, and it could just be one of the most important feeds you will ever do! This can be applied via lawn sand, but as this product is a foliar feed it is better to use a sprayer or even a watering can, for a much better coverage.
    2. Mowing: If it’s still growing, then keep mowing! And even though your winter feed lacks nitrogen, it will still help invigorate the grass enough to warrant getting out the mower. Give the blade a good sharpening first, and set the cut high for a light trim. With the extra colour from the winter feed, you can even get creative with stripes! Believe it or not, light winter mowing can be really good for the lawn; good mowing is good maintenance and prevents problems from occurring – the best of proactive lawn care!
    3. Grass Topsoil Subsoil
      Soil: Lawns and grasses are all about the soil. And good lawn soil is all about aeration, stimulating the soil to keep it healthy. But don’t reach for your garden fork; put it away and leave it for the rest of the garden. It’s not meant for the lawn and you will only get poor results. We want maximum impact – and that means hollow tine aeration. Pick some good weather conditions, use an efficient machine or hollow tine fork, and remember to collect those cores from the surface. Add them to the compost bin or you could even use them to fill in any hollows. This way you won’t even need to reseed these as the cores are full of the natural grasses that are already in your lawn.

    So, unless there’s snow and frost, don’t let the January blues stop you enjoying a little light lawn care. It will all help your grass to start the growing season in a much better condition.
    David Hedges Gower
    David Hedges Gower
    The UK's Leading Lawn Expert

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