New ideas for the front and back gardens 2012

Garden Press Event held in the RHS Halls

Garden Press Event held in the RHS Halls

My favourite garden press event was held this month and try as I might I didn’t get to visit all the stands I wanted but the ones I did visit were very rewarding.

My intention was to source plants for the front garden to give it a completely new look this year. I found some great new plants. Beautiful Monet coloured trailing petunias for the hanging basket and scented begonias for the front of the bed from Gardening Direct, excitingly coloured sweet peas from Kings and some from Thompson & Morgan for the obelisks, or what they refer to as maypole plant supports, that I have been promised by Haxnicks.  Jo Swift suggested white shamrock from Homebase which I can’t find online but will update this page when they are.

Although the garden is only 26 ft x 12 ft I still felt the pressure of choosing plants in terms of height, spread and of course colour. So I was really pleased by Plantify – an inspiring, free online garden design tool available to everyone that I will be using it to redesign the front garden.

A rolling composter, one that can be kept at ground level and pushed backwards and forwards to aerate your compost is by far the fastest way of creating compost – ready in 6 weeks!  I’ll be trying out the Rollmix Composter and will write about how it works for us.

This year Crocus has some absolutely gorgeous plants on offer – magnolia Fairy Magnolia Blush looks absolutely wonderful, as does the white with blue back anemone – if only I had a bigger garden! And the hepatica look absolutely beautiful, hope I can fit some in. Some sweet peas in the Spencer collection look absolutely divine and promise a gorgeous scent.

I was given far more packets of seeds than I could ever use so if you would like a packet or two just send a stamped addressed envelope to me. There is a range of flower and vegetable seed, if you would like one or the other, or both, just write veg and/or flower on the back of the envelope. The seeds are from Thompson & Morgan, Homebase and Kings.

My grafted tomato plants grew so well last year only to be cut down in their prime by blight that I had moreorless given up on the idea of home grown tomatoes because once the blight virus is in the soil it is difficult to avoid further contamination. Then I came across the Quadgrow Planter. It has four pots that sit in a reservoir of water, taking away the possibility of erratic watering. I’m planning on siting it in a south facing part of the garden on a path. I’m hoping that particular cunning plan will mean blight won’t get a look in.

My Heath Robinson style protection for the brassicas worked really well last year, deterring the pigeons and cabbage white butterflies, even though the netting was not wide enough and I had to use additional netting. This year I’ll be trying out a crop cage from Greentree that should work much better. Easy to fix clips and netting ties sound very attractive. Greentree are also supplying a Grow Cloche to try with one of our metre square raised beds. Will be much better than the hoops and fleece we used last year that has gradually broken down since last autumn.

Absolutely fascinated by insects, I was taken with the insect hotel from Doff. One is on its way and I’m looking forward to observing what uses its 5 star bedrooms! Every year mason bees have used the bee houses I provided some five years ago and are fascinating to watch – see short video. I’m hoping for a wider range of insects this year with the Doff insect house that will give me more photographic opportunities.

The Franci seed stand was fascinating. All seeds are from Italian alpine regions and all are suitable for our climate. Paolo was so enthusiastic, he even gave me a recipe to use that promised to reduce the bitterness of kale. His website is hugely interesting and I’m looking forward to trying out some of his seeds. I have some of his soap for gardeners to try, one containing crushed apricot shell to help remove gardening grime.

My gardening shoes have given me really good service for the last 17 years and I decided to replace them with a pair of Backdoor shoes. I chose ones with the bluebell print but as you will see on their website there are many other flower designs to choose from.

A range of gardening gloves were on offer and I thought it was time to replace a pair of Skoma gloves I’ve used continuously for the past three years and have seen better days. I liked them because they were flexible, wicked away perspiration, and gave me sensitivity, lacking in some gloves where you can’t feel anything. They survived frequent washing in the washing machine, but recently they have hardened a little. I now have a pair from Ethel Gloves made from goat skin and bamboo, referred to as the little black dress of gardening! I have to admit they are rather stylish, I’m tempted to just use them for driving!  I’ve sent three pairs of Joe’s gloves for review to a couple of readers – all rather brightly coloured which means at least they won’t get lost in the compost bin.

As you can imagine I had rather a lot to carry home and was glad to reach my comfy chair by the fire, have a quick snooze and dream about the garden this year.

 Val Reynolds

About Val Reynolds

I publish In Balance Magazine and Contributions from other writers give breadth and insights to the magazine You can contact me at
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