Category Archives: Gardening

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You can take a caravan anywhere…

imageThe Caravan Club’s first Chelsea garden takes us back to a golden age of camping, country lanes and the Coronation – but with contemporary planting and a modern, low-impact message.

Seizing the opportunity presented by two huge national events in 2012, the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, the Government has launched a £5 million advertising campaign, featuring Stephen Fry and Harry Potter star Rupert Grint, among others, to encourage people to stay in Britain for their holidays.

All of this means it is potentially a great year for that most British of holiday habitats: the caravan. Jeremy Clarkson may not like it, but caravanning is in danger of becoming cool. As well as embodying those fashionable-once-more British virtues of simplicity, austerity and forbearance in the face of the weather, a caravan is a terrific way to get close to Britain’s great outdoors, without leaving creature comforts at home.

Get the best out of your sweet peas

imageHow to grow beautiful, long-lasting sweet peas without too much hard work .

I have always thought that sweet peas are hard work. An expert exhibitor once told me that he dug his trenches 4ft deep before planting, and that non-stop deadheading was essential. To me, the frenzy of pink froth did not seem to justify all this effort.

A couple of years ago, however, I decided that I really should try again; we are frequently asked about sweet peas on Gardeners’ Question Time and I loathe giving theoretical answers.

I am not a fan of deep digging, and the soil depth in my garden is 50mm before it hits limestone brash. I wanted pyramids of sweet peas beside a yew hedge, and I knew this patch would be full of yew roots and dry as dust. Instead, I put three mini plants in a chimney pot, full of rich compost, directly on the soil, and gave them two gallons of water each, once a week.

Beautiful Flower Garden for Spring

imageThis spring make your garden look the most beautiful with the ideal flowers and plants. You can look after your garden and make it look like a true heaven if you keep in mind some basic steps of gardening and rules for spring gardening. Spring season is a much awaited season and this spring; turn your garden into a beauty.

With the end of winters, what most of us are looking forward to, is the spring season. The time of the year when nature’s beauty is at its peak is something worth enjoying. You can make the spring season even more fun and enjoyable by working on your spring garden this time and planting your favorite flowers in your spring garden. The spring gardens are always a pleasure to look at and it is a worldwide fact that there is no comparison of natural beauty with any other beauty. So why not create your own little heaven this spring?

Premium Home and Garden Ideas

imageThe connection between home and garden is like and unbreakable vow where both complement each other. The garden interior is a portrayal of your lifestyle and preference since it is the first element noticed by guests. So the decor of your home and garden will represent your taste. It is not a compulsion to have the best garden interior with a large space occupied rather just a small place can also provide the same comfort.

Decorate your Apartment Balcony Just the Way you Want

imageIt’s always a challenge what to do with the rented apartment’s balcony. If you want some spice in your house and don’t want to make your balcony look like the runt of litter, follow our useful tips to decorate the apartment balcony. Now, you wouldn’t have to leave it like storage for bikes or just the milk crates. All you need is a tinge of imagination to decorate a small balcony which can be turned into a simple seating area with some fresh-looking plants.

Premium Home and Garden Ideas

imageThe connection between home and garden is like and unbreakable vow where both complement each other. The garden interior is a portrayal of your lifestyle and preference since it is the first element noticed by guests. So the decor of your home and garden will represent your taste. It is not a compulsion to have the best garden interior with a large space occupied rather just a small place can also provide the same comfort.

You can give your home and garden a composed and decent look by using sober decor for the garden interior. Conversely, the opposite for your home and garden could be true if you use a mix of vibrant colors like red, blue, green for your garden interior.

Happiness is a shed of one’s own

imageFrancine Raymond explores the joys of a haven at the bottom of the garden

Home improvement? Life improvement is perhaps a more fitting description for garden sheds. From Wendy house to tree house, from tool shed to allotment hideaway, it seems that throughout our lives we all need a space of our own at the bottom of the garden.

Thorny problems: the green invader

imageHelen Yemm answers your questions on liverwort, yellow geranium and more.

Low-spreading liverwort

My garden has recently become infested with a very low-spreading green invader. I don’t think it is helxine (Soleirolia soleirolii), aka mind-your-own-business, as mine doesn’t look tufty or like anything you would want growing in your house. It seems to hold the same territory as moss, and I have therefore been working hard to improve the soil with loads of home-made compost. Have you any ideas or words of comfort?

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Warm up your greenhouse

imageAs you prepare to jump-start your garden, use tricks that protect your plants and save fuel at the same time, says Bunny Guinness Burning furniture to keep your greenhouse warm could be seen as rather extreme. But when last year’s big freeze coincided with an oil crisis, specialist herb grower Jekka McVicar had to sacrifice all her house and oven heating over Christmas to keep her precious stock alive in the greenhouse until the oil tanker could get to her in rural South Gloucestershire to refuel. As the greenhouse plants in question were for my M & G Chelsea garden, I was exceptionally grateful.

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This year’s Home and Garden Show will feature TV personality and author Steve Katkowsky, to lead seminars on how to make the most of small indoor spaces, and the “Green Building Institute” will be on hand to answer questions on how to make your home more “green.” More than 400 exhibitors in the home and garden field will be displaying their products, and offering their services, and over 100 crafters will be selling everything from pottery, to jewelry, to photographs, and designer homemade candles.

Activities for Adults and Kids:

Habitat for Humanity will be raffling off a playhouse to raise money, and providing a place to paint and build your own birdhouse (kits will also be available for purchase – great for the kids!).

The Maryland Fall Craft Show: 100 Crafters under one roof, with creative and unique gifts. Check them out to knock a little holiday shopping off your list a early!

400 Exhibitors: A huge variety of Landscapers, Interior Designers, and Home Construction companies, will all be available for questions and answers on all your tough home and garden topics.

Complimentary Design Consultation: The American Society of Interior Designers will be offering free 20 minute consultations about paint, fabric, and furniture choices and arrangement. Take advantage of a seasoned and professional eye, and bring some photos of your home to get advice on your home’s décor and style.

Go Green: Get the latest news on “green” home techniques, and products from the Green Building Institute.

Better Living Exhibits: From Health and Beauty, to making the best of a vacation, enjoy dozens of exhibits designed to help you live a better life now!

The Balloon Garden: 600 square feet of imaginative garden space constructed entirely of balloons.

Grow your own spirit of community

How to maximise your fruit and veg and share the surplus with friends and family.

Iwas recently chatting to a friend who also rears his own meat about the great advantages of the “nose to tail” eating of our animals – using up every scrap in different and delicious ways – and it got me thinking that we certainly do not always do that with our fruit and veg.

A glut of fresh vegetables from the garden can get on top of you, leading to wastage. We spend time selecting the best varieties, sowing them, tending them, but are not always efficient about using them.

Galanthophiles unite: in love with snowdrops

imageSnowdrops were love at first sight for Val Bourne, who was transfixed by their elegant pearl-drop flowers and soon on her way to becoming a collector.

In Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote about the primrose path of dalliance leading to a dissolute, if somewhat pleasant excess. However, my road to ruin has been lined by the snowdrop. It all began innocently enough 18 years ago when I read about a honey-scented snowdrop called ‘S. Arnott’. It was large and elegant, like the pearl-drop earring in the famous 17th-century painting by Vermeer, and I made up my mind to buy one. Then serendipity (a series of agreeable coincidences) took over. Within a year I was a serious galanthophile trapped under the spell.

Growing Basil In Your Home Garden

imageGrowing basil is easy, cheap and easy, provided you have the right conditions. There are many different types and varieties of basil that can grow in your garden, basil, often used in Italian cuisine, more exotic varieties such as basil, with its dark purple leaves. To find the type of soil with adequate water, sunlight, and care of your garden will flourish with little effort, no matter what kind of basil you choose to grow. Before you know it, you will be healthy cooking fresh pesto and pasta dishes with your own basil that grew and harvested.

Happiness is a shed of one’s own

imageFrancine Raymond explores the joys of a haven at the bottom of the garden

Home improvement? Life improvement is perhaps a more fitting description for garden sheds. From Wendy house to tree house, from tool shed to allotment hideaway, it seems that throughout our lives we all need a space of our own at the bottom of the garden.

Anyone would think it was the panacea for all human ills. Literature with titles such as A Shed of One’s Own: Midlife Without the Crisis, Shed Men, and Shedworking: the Alternative Workplace Revolution leaves you in little doubt.

Instant winter colour: hot gardening pots

imageSimple winter containers are a great way to brighten the gloom, says Ed Cumming.

Much of the country is recovering from snow, and gardens are drab and brown. It’s the perfect time to spruce things up with some instant winter colour. A few well-chosen containers can tide things over until spring. Though many garden centres offer pre-planted versions, nothing beats making your own from scratch. A pot, some evergreen foliage and a couple of trays of colourful bulbs or bedding plants are all you need.

Mail order flowers

imageMail order flowers: get ready for some colourful arrivals
Using mail order is a great way to add variety to your floral collection with minimal fuss – provided you know what to look for.

It’s always tempting to try something new – a new holiday destination, the new beaujolais. And in recent years the number of new plants appearing at mail-order nurseries seems to have become a flood; it can be hard to distinguish between what is just a “me too” version of an old favourite and what is both new and actually worth growing.

Chelsea Flower Show: Telegraph garden designer Sarah Price

imageElizabeth Grice meets Sarah Price, the young designer carrying Telegraph hopes for success at Chelsea this year.

If you were pressed to associate Sarah Price with a flower it would probably be the autumn crocus: a mauve, reticent cup of colour that spears through the earth with a startling lack of warning when everything around is beginning to die back.

Grow your own cut flowers

imageBetter-looking, better for the environment and easier on your purse. Once you know how to grow your own cut flowers, you’ll never go back.

Put the current national obsession, grow-your-own, together with make-your-own and it’s not surprising that growing cut flowers and using them to make arrangements for your home is the next fast-growing hobby.

Top gardeners inspire with new books

imageHow to get fired up by reading the successes and failures of gardeners.

If you are looking for a good gardening read now the cold, wet weather has set in, there are some fascinating new books on the shelves to choose from. The ones that caught my eye describe the creation of gardens by gardeners themselves. These titles are quite different to the more aspirational, picture-led gardening books, which can leave you feeling inadequate and unsatisfied. Quite the reverse, the tales of triumphs, setbacks and backaches will inspire you to start hatching plans for new projects.

As anyone who has designed a garden knows, this is a stimulating experience and one you learn a lot from. You feel there is part of you in the garden, giving you a strong bond with the place.

Fasten your seat belts. Chelsea’s finest garden is about to take off

imageBryony Gordon visits Diarmuid Gavin’s much-talked about Irish Sky Garden.
Honestly. Anyone would think there was an ash cloud hanging over the Royal Hospital in Chelsea. I had been hoping to go up in the air in Diarmuid Gavin’s much-talked about Irish Sky Garden, but when I get there I am told that for the time being all flights are grounded. Chaos! Dismay! A sea of disappointed faces stare glumly at the flower show’s star attraction: on previous days Gavin had treated Chelsea Flower Show-goers to some pantomime cheers from the pod in the sky (and, fittingly, Christopher Biggins has been for a “flight”).

Make a rotation plan

imageMake a rotation plan to plant vegetables in different areas every year.

If you grow vegetables, it’s very important to plant them in different areas every year – a practice called crop rotation. This discourages the build-up of soil-borne diseases and pests and also improves yields, because different crops deplete the soil in different ways.

Let’s all go wild in the garden

Let nature take its course in your plot and go wild in the garden.

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Just how much of this country do we devote to our gardens? More than a million acres, apparently. Imagine the impact it could have on biodiversity if we all gave up just 10 per cent of our plots to wildlife. This is the challenge that Jordans Cereals, partnered by farmer and science presenter Jimmy Doherty, is putting to the gardening community.

Apple day: A celebration of core values

imageOrchards around the country are hosting apple days to encourage everyone to make the most of a bumper harvest.

Autumn is here and apples are falling from the tree. They’ve had a great summer, particularly the English varieties, and orchards around the country are hosting apple days to encourage everyone to make the most of a bumper harvest.

With commercial growers feeling the financial pinch, there is special incentive to turn a profit from the fruiting weeks. Many growers are sticking to October 21, the official “Apple Day” started in 1990 when Common Ground, a collective of growers, held a celebration in Covent Garden. Others are holding their own apple days throughout the month.

Ted Hobday is head guide at the Brogdale Fruit Collection in Kent, which grows a staggering 2,200 different varieties of apple. The farm is holding an apple festival – Britain’s largest – on October 22 and 23. “The apples are coming two or three weeks early this year,” he says, “and they don’t seem to have lost any of their flavour. The plums this year lost a little bit of their taste, but the apples seem fine.

“Also, I don’t know why, but more seem to be dropping than usual. In spite of this, the crop seems pretty good.”

Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid prototype review

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The world’s first diesel/electric plug-in hybrid, based on the Volvo V60, goes on sale next year. We get an early drive.

They said it couldn’t be done, but Volvo has chipped away at the idea of a diesel/electric plug-in hybrid and plans to put the concept on sale next year. There are no prices yet and that could be key, as a massive sticker price will banjax the prospects of this V60 estate for all except a few wealthy eco types and government departments buying environmental credibility with your taxes.

The new car uses Volvo’s tried and tested D5, 2.4-litre, five-cylinder turbodiesel as a base, which seems to fly in the face of the company’s recent announcement that in future its cars will only use 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engines, but the engineers are unrepentant, saying that there was little fuel economy advantage in using a four-pot engine and that this car should offer high performance as well as low emissions.

How to supersize your pumpkin

imageFancy a place on the podium? Take note of these prize-winning tips on how to supersize your pumpkin.

In the run-up to a competition, professional athletes pay attention to the “one-percenters” – their diet, rest and time spent in the sun – small things, but together they make a big difference to performance. And so it is when growing a prize pumpkin.

If you sow the seed of a variety bred to be big, such as ‘Atlantic Giant’, in the rich soil next to the compost heap, chances are you’ll have a 3st gourd by autumn. But watch those “one-percenters” and you can achieve a 20st prize-winner the size of Cinderella’s carriage.

Modern chic gardens to visit

imageOn September 25 the Society of Garden Designers is hosting a one-day open garden event across the country. ..

September may be the end of summer, but all is not over for the dedicated garden visitor. In fact, September 25 could be one of the highlights of the year for the legions of us who enjoy a chance to make a detailed critique of other people’s gardens.

The Society of Garden Designers (SGD) is showcasing the work of some of its members with a one-day open garden event up and down the country. All the gardens featured, most of them private, were chosen to be at their seasonal best and have been established relatively recently, so this is an excellent opportunity to see design of a more contemporary style than is generally found at stately public venues. See box, right, for the full list of 10 gardens.

Queen Elizabeth Hall: Sixty years of growing vegetables

imageThe Queen Elizabeth Hall rooftop garden proves you can grow your own vegetables anywhere .

Pick a fine September afternoon, wend your way along the Thames riverbank, past the entertainers, the beach huts and funfair, and climb the winding stairway to the roof garden on top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall. There, up above the concrete geometry, you’ll find a sheltered suntrap with stunning views, and somewhere lush, green and growing. Take off your shoes and walk on the lawn, watch the insects dipping into the 100-variety-strong wild-flower meadow, admire the container-grown allotments and sip an English Garden cocktail (made with elderflower, gin and lemonade).

Modern chic gardens to visit

imageOn September 25 the Society of Garden Designers is hosting a one-day open garden event across the country.

September may be the end of summer, but all is not over for the dedicated garden visitor. In fact, September 25 could be one of the highlights of the year for the legions of us who enjoy a chance to make a detailed critique of other people’s gardens.

The Society of Garden Designers (SGD) is showcasing the work of some of its members with a one-day open garden event up and down the country. All the gardens featured, most of them private, were chosen to be at their seasonal best and have been established relatively recently, so this is an excellent opportunity to see design of a more contemporary style than is generally found at stately public venues. See box, right, for the full list of 10 gardens.

Cleve West: Working on the allotment can be creative

imageHe won Best in Show for the Telegraph at Chelsea this year, but as Cleve West explains in his new book, ‘Our Plot’, working on his ramshackle allotment can be just as creative

You don’t need to be a designer to express yourself on an allotment. The very ramshackle nature of recycling, improvising and modifying means the plot is a natural canvas and inspiration for creativity. Decay in all its forms is more acceptable on an allotment than in a garden. Rotting wood, rusting metal, moss, lichen and fungi are not just the natural ingredients, they are the stars of the show.

There are no restrictions on materials at an allotment. Plastic, glass, toys, household objects and all sorts of rubbish have their own peculiar charm with the power to become a vignette of the life and character of the plot-holder. It’s this that makes them so appealing.

Jobs for the garden this week: Treat weeds

imageWatch the compost heap and treat perennial weeds in the garden this week.

Watch the heap

Take care not to compost the old flower stems of any plants that are nuisance seeders — not just weeds. Steer clear of fennel, verbascums, feverfew and alchemilla.

Sort out biennials

Leafy first-year plants may have appeared in inappropriate places. Weed out or pot up for later redeployment.

Gardens to visit: Ightham Mote, Kent

imageIghtham Mote in Kent is one of the country’s most romantic moated manor houses.

Lose yourself in this romantic moated manor house, described by historian David Starkey as “one of the most beautiful and interesting of English country houses”. Built nearly 700 years ago, this house has been owned by knights, courtiers to Henry VIII and high-society Victorians.

Highlights include the picturesque courtyard, Great Hall, crypt, Tudor painted ceiling, Grade I listed dog kennel and the private apartments of Charles Henry Robinson, who gave Ightham Mote to the National Trust in 1985.

Chelsea Flower Show 2011: What to buy

For Stephen Lacey deciding on what to buy after the Chelsea Flower Show is where the fun starts

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After doses of Chelsea Flower Show razzmatazz – show gardens, floristry extravaganzas and celebrity spotting – I love diving into the Great Pavilion to immerse myself in plants.

“A bloodstained flag hoisted to its pole on a windless day” was how the Edwardian plant-hunter Reginald Farrer described the red Himalayan poppy, Meconopsis punicea.

And, displayed in all its perfection by Kevock Garden Plants, from Lasswade, near Edinburgh, here it was, luring me to part with a dollop of cash and defying me not to kill it. Since I do now manage to keep blue poppies plump and perennial, I think I shall have a go at meeting this one’s more fastidious demands for constant moisture and perfect drainage.

How to achieve an exciting burst of new spring colour

imageWe show you how to achieve an exciting burst of new spring colour with perennial flowering tulips.

When you’ve been gardening happily in one plot for years, you get impatient for new colours and plants to excite you. There’s often not enough space to shoehorn in an exciting new shrub or tree, however. The answer is to plant bulbs: titivate your palette trying zany new combinations and feel smug when they come up trumps.

The older I get, the more I like to indulge myself. A few hours and pounds spent with bulb catalogues now gives fantastic rewards at times that are potentially low points on the colour Richter scale. Even the novice gardener can create original displays that will make the most experienced pro drool with admiration.

Plants which look good together

imageVal Bourne picks plants which are good together, like this hazy study in mauve works well with dewy mornings and low autumnal light .Combinations that peak in late September and October, when John Keats’s season of “mists and mellow fruitfulness” is providing dewy mornings and gauzy light, are an excellent idea.

This trio of plants catches the gentle, slightly decadent mood perfectly. The aster and the sedum make a strong contrast in form, the aster by providing a graceful haze of lavender-blue flowers, the sedum with its stocky, dark silhouette. The effect is blurred and softened by the penstemon that threads around and between them.

The vegetable garden in a bag

Bunny Guinness learns that a tarmac space can be turned into a successful vegetable garden.

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The site of a well-tended vegetable garden burgeoning with assorted greens, purples and yellows always sends me weak at the knees. When I first clapped eyes on GreEn 16, a community garden in Newham, east London, I was more impressed than usual.

This garden is 13m by 35m and, despite being sited on tarmac, it is highly successful. It gets around the problem by using large one-ton builders’ bags. The 120 bags have been filled with compost and vegetables are crammed in tightly. By having tall plants (sunflowers, sweetcorn, beans) in the palette, the whole space comes across as productive and green and the builders’ bags are surprisingly unobtrusive.

Chelsea Flower Show: The Telegraph’s hat-trick

Cleve West scooped Best in Show at the Chelsea Flower Show with his tranquil sunken garden – an unprecedented third consecutive win for the Telegraph.

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Stephen Lacey talks to the team behind this winning streak It was a beaming Cleve West that I found at the Chelsea Flower Show at 7.45am on Tuesday, just after the announcement that the Telegraph garden had won the coveted Best in Show at the award. He had just phoned his partner Christine and his father who, he said, “was all choked up”.

He had also shed a tear himself, he admitted, thinking how proud his mother, who died last year, would have been, too. For although she had seen him win two Chelsea gold medals for his previous gardens, this was the first time he had scooped the big one.

For the Telegraph, and the team at Crocus who build our gardens, Cleve’s win is triply exciting, for it has produced a tremendous hat-trick: three Best in Show awards for the Telegraph over three consecutive years. In 2009, Ulf Nordfjell took the top prize with a stylish fusion of English cottage gardening and Scandinavian minimalism. Last year, Andy Sturgeon won with a beautiful contemporary gravel garden.

And now Cleve has triumphed with his atmospheric sunken garden, which plays traditional dry stone walls and modern sculptural columns against a painterly wash of flowers, herbs and parsnips from his allotment.

Gardening Against the Odds entries

A ravishing display of potted flowers in a Notting Hill street, a community oasis in Haringey and a ”therapeutic” organic market garden for disadvantaged people are among the entries coming in for this year’s Sunday Telegraph Life Gardening Against the Odds awards.

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Prescila Bisa’s colourful display near Portobello Market delights neighbours and tourists alike. Despite undergoing an operation for breast cancer and radiotherapy, Prescila helps three other neighbours with their gardens. “I would like to encourage people to keep planting in every space we can. We can have a greener London and a beautiful neighbourhood,” she says.

On the other side of the capital in Haringey, a derelict site next to the railway line was a magnet for vandalism, rubbish dumping and prostitution. Now the Gardens Community Garden at Doncaster Gardens features tree ferns, perennials, shrubs, mosaic and willow sculptures. It is nominated for an award by Andrew Newman, who says the garden provides a safe and secure area for local activities such Easter Egg Hunts, Carols by Candlelight, christenings and even funerals.

And in Sandwell, a borough of the Black Country, the Salop Drive Market Garden has been nominated for providing gardening therapy for the lonely, bereaved, those with learning disabilities or suffering long-term illness.

Summer cocktails: celebrate the fruits of your labour

There’s nothing better than these deliciously decadent drinks that combine fruit and berries grown in your garden with fine liquor.

What kind of a day can’t be improved with a cocktail? That combination of sweetness, with something sharp to cut it, plenty
of ice and a good slug of strong alcohol just opens the happiness valve a little wider.

Many of the best cocktails use fruit that is perfect for picking right now. Although standing over a jam pan may be the ideal occupation for a wet weekend or a chilly evening, when the sun’s out, I want a long, cool drink to enjoy in the garden.

You can have an August holiday but the garden doesnt need to

Francine Raymond on the delights of eating outside, and how to fit furniture into your garden.

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When designing my previous garden 30-odd years ago, I can’t remember dedicating such a large portion to the sole purpose of sitting and eating. Now nearly a third of my new plot has been set aside for just that. Perhaps in the meantime we have become a nation of alfresco diners, maybe the weather really is warmer, or possibly I just spend a lot more time sitting down.

If people ask for help planning their gardens, I usually say: start from the house and look outwards, not just to design the view in the distance, but to work out the bit you use most frequently.

A couple of weeks ago, as a birthday present, my sons came and constructed a huge deck for me. Solidly built of scaffolding boards, the result is chunky and ready to take tables and chairs, benches, pots and planters.

An African gardening exchange

Ed Cumming reports on the charity Send a Cow, which helps African farmers get the most out of their land.

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The famine in the Horn of Africa is a terrible reminder that in some parts of the world the weather and its effect on crops is a matter of life or death.

The charity Send a Cow provides animals, plants and expertise to help African farmers get the most out of their land. In addition, it has acquired a great deal of insight into growing in dry, arid countries and can show British gardeners how to save money and resources too.

Founded in 1988, the charity was started by a group of dairy farmers who were angry that European regulations meant that they were slaughtering healthy dairy cows. Realising how big a difference even a single animal could make to a poor village, they began sending cows from their own herds to Uganda. The charity has gradually expanded and now works in Ethiopia, Cameroon, Lesotho, Rwanda, Zambia and Kenya too.

Cows are important because, as well as providing nutrients and fats in their milk, their manure is a core component of compost. The benefits of compost are at the heart of what the charity teaches, particularly where farmers find commercial fertilisers too expensive. Where there isn’t room for cows, donkeys, goats and even rabbits can help, too.

Helen Yemm: the garden inspector

In the first of a regular series, Helen Yemm visits readers’ gardens to help restore order to their plots and solve tricky horticultural problems.
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On the face of it, Andrew Stanley makes an ideal first Garden Inspector victim. Among droves of couples who applied (“couples”, that is, where the female side clearly pens a niftier note and wears the more creative gardening trousers), Andrew seems a rare find: a solo gardening man.

This should be a challenge, I thought, anticipating a garden full of the classic man things – straight lines, primary colours, lollipop-pruned shrubs and a too-short-for-comfort lawn. But Andrew, it turns out, harbours a dark secret (well, more than one, actually, but more of that later), by which I mean he has a wife, Mary – conspicuous, on the day I visit, by her absence at work.

And although it is she who does most of the flowery stuff and a lot of the pruning, it is Andrew, retired and keen as mustard on his allotment, complete with a greenhouse and productive compost bins, who takes on the heavy, hard work and was thus in charge of me for the morning.

The perfect setting for outdoor opera

The gardens at West Green House, Hampshire will offer the perfect setting for outdoor opera, says Francine Raymond.

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Marylyn Abbott is an extraordinary person. When the view from her garden at Kinnerton Green in Australia (featured by Monty Don in his series Extraordinary Gardens of the World) was threatened, she upped sticks and moved to England.

She had visions of a cool garden encircling an old English house. What she found at West Green House was an 18th-century baroque gem in dire straits, bombed by the IRA, whose lease she bought from the National Trust. It was surrounded by 10 acres of old parterres protected by brambles and fields of daffodils, bluebells and cow parsley.

Flower arranging lessons from Chatsworth House

Sarah Raven meets the flower arrangers who keep Chatsworth House brimming with colour

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Chatsworth House in Derbyshire has just under 300 rooms. At least 10 and often up to 25 of these are decorated with flowers all year. On a weekly basis, the two flower arrangers, Lucy Wharton and Mick Brown, make up to 40 arrangements between them.

Chatsworth buys in very little, with almost all flowers picked from the perennial cut flower beds right at the top of the kitchen garden, where they have space for magnificent 30-feet runs of just one plant.

Alan Titchmarsh beats Monty Don in TV garden war

Trees can be used to decorate your wedding or party and make a great impact One of my most lasting and memorable images of the Royal wedding was definitely those trees.

imageThe two 25ft hornbeams (Carpinus betulus) in the transept and the six field maple (Acer campestre) in the nave dressed up with their lush, fresh, lime-green spring growth were unexpected, natural and beautifully understated.

Their symbolism did not register with me until later, when pointed out by the florist, Jamie Marlar, director of Shane Connolly whose brief included English, natural, seasonal and ethical. Field maple symbolises humility and reserve, while hornbeam represents resilience.

Bryan’s Ground: an Edwardian idyll

The planting at Bryan’s Ground in Herefordshire, home to the garden quarterly Hortus, reflects its two creators’ passion for the Arts & Crafts period.
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There is little sign of the 21st century at Bryan’s Ground, where names such as loggia and skating pool are still in usage, and visitors arriving by car are directed to ‘Parking for Motors’. No, the era conjured up in David Wheeler and Simon Dorrell’s Herefordshire garden is Edwardian, the period of Lutyens and Jekyll, sleepy vernacular architecture, abundant topiary and colour-schemed washes of flowers. ‘The Arts & Crafts period. We love it,’ Dorrell says.

The Edwardian era also pervades the civilised gardening quarterly Hortus that the couple publish here together, which eschews glossy paper and colour photographs.

Chelsea Flower Show: The Garden of Eden must have looked a lot like this

Britain holds its breath. London SW3 today witnesses the annual miracle. ”And the parched ground shall become a pool,’’ prophesied Isaiah, ”and the thirsty land springs.’’

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He wasn’t talking about the Chelsea Flower Show, but might have been. Yea, even the drought-stricken lawns of the Royal Hospital will bring forth gardens. The habitation of dragons, as the Prophet might have continued, shall become a field of tents, and it shall blossom abundantly, and there shall be petunias, and strawberries, and Pimm’s. Chelsea takes place every year, and every year I can hardly believe that it has happened. It is a spectacle, a folly, a garden show which seems to contravene every principle of Nature. I love it.

Let’s shoot the breeze

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Tell us what you’re up to in the garden this weekend It’s Good Friday, the weather forecast is great, what better time to get cracking in the garden and on the allotment?

But first, why not tell us what you’re going to be up to? Shooting the Breeze is our new Friday slot where you share your gardening plans for the weekend, ask for help with your horticultural problems and dilemmas, and offer up your top tips for the garden.

How a garden can come back to life

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A few chickens will be coming home to roost this Easter say Stephen Lacey I love this late spring wave of bulbs and blossom, but on Sunday’s Easter egg hunt there will be a lot of spectres at the feast. The garden plunged to 12F (-11C) during the winter – not as bad as other parts of the country, but the low temperatures were early, vicious and long-lived enough to cause the worst damage I have had in 30 years. Of course, seduced like everyone else by our long succession of mild winters into growing an increasingly large range of plants of borderline hardiness, I did have many more chickens for the roost.

Fashion in the garden

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Take off your coat, take off your boot,
Take off your woolly hat, your boiler suit.

It’s hard to cut a dash on the veg patch, writes Jane Perrone It’s hard to cut a dash on the veg patch, writes Jane Perrone These lyrics from the song ‘Bag Lady’ by comedian Rich Hall sum up how I dress for working in the garden. While other women seem to look effortlessly chic while tending their plots (I am thinking of Michelle Obama, Carol Klein, Rachel de Thame, to name a few), I start the day by stumbling out the back door in ill-fitting cords and a shapeless sweater, and end it looking as if I have been dragged through a hedge backwards: not so much shabby chic as just plain shabby.*

10 of the best spring gardens to visit

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Tony Russell celebrates the seasonal planting highlights at a handful of Britain’s finest gardens

Armadale, Isle of Skye

This 40-acre garden, set around the romantic ruins of Armadale Castle, has a spectacular setting on the Sleat Peninsula of the Isle of Skye. The warm, generally frost-free climate of the west coast of Scotland allows this sheltered garden, dating back to the 17th century, to grow a diverse range of tender trees, shrubs and bulbs from all over the temperate world. South American shrubs, such as the Chilean fire bush (Embothrium coccineum) and

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