• Wednesday, April 08th, 2020

At a time when we are all spending more time indoors, it makes sense to bring in some new plants and make our environment cosier, or ‘hygge’ as they say in Scandinavia.

So here are the top 5 house plants that I find the easiest to grow if you are prone to neglecting them.

1. Peace Lily
It’s the plant that tells you that you forgot to water it by dropping its leaves.  And the peace lily quickly recovers once you water it.  I’ve had one for 20 years and it’s still going strong and it produces white flowers regularly.

2. Mother-in-law’s tongue
It does not produce any flower but it’s a very structural plant which goes well in a modern intérieur.  The mother-in-law’s tongue releases oxygen at night (unlike any other plant which usually absorbs it at night and therefore are unsuitable for your bedroom).

3. Red-edged Dracaena also called Dragon tree
This is probably my favourite plant, which as seen on the picture in my living room, grows a bit like a tree and can get quite tall.  My dragon tree is variegated with red lines and it’s had a tough time but it recovers well.  This is not a flowering plant.
NASA conducted a study a few years back which shows that this plant is particularly good at purifying the air in your house (filtering toxins in the air).  Whilst there may be some debate about the real impact that a few little plants can have on improving your air quality, from the point of view of cosiness/aesthetics I find them to be an essential accessory in your house.

4.  Money plant
They are the green plants that you sometimes see at the entrance of your local Chinese takeaway, forgotten and bent against a wall.
It doesn’t’ matter if you don’t water your money plants, although ever plant deserves a bit of TLC occasionally!

5.  Spider plant
This one requires a bit more care, i.e. regular watering in order to thrive and in return you benefit from a profusion of arching leaves which make it a great hanging plant.

6.  What about the Orchid?
Well, I don’t think that orchids are easy to grow, but if your friend has given you a Phalaenopsis then it’s best to locate it in your bathroom as they prefer humid places and indirect light.

Finally, cacti and succulent plants are also a good choice since they usually require little watering.

• Saturday, March 28th, 2020

We’ve had another sharp frost last night, so much so that the tulips in the garden have wilted. But they’ll recover quickly as it warms up.
On the BBC news this week, a local producer of vegetables in Ely was calling for extra labour to harvest the lettuces that they have just planted. It seems they may be short of staff in a month’s time when the lettuces will be ready for harvest, particularly as no EU labourer will be coming over due to COVID-19.
Coincidentally I had decided to grow a lot more lettuces than I need this year, so that I can share with others since some people are complaining about inability to find enough fruit and vegetables at present.
So I’ve created some little polytunnels with recycled plastic sheets which some builders had kindly agreed to give me last year instead of disposing of them in the skip.
I hope that the extra protection will help them grow quicker. I also plan to sow some rocket.
There is not a lot that I can plant at present which can resist the frost. So I shall plough on with clearing my plot off weeds, so that I am ready when the time comes.

• Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

Hi everyone. Here I am, writing from my allotment plot and it’s the first day of the COVID-19 lockdown in the UK. Although M. Gove confirmed this morning on the BBC1 news channel that allotment gardening was still allowed. This is because plots are a good distance from each other (in our case it’s 5 meters wide and if you check out the video on the right hand side of this text you will notice that the site is empty).

I have decided to resume with the blogging again as of today. Some of us, who aren’t able to attend to their plot or their garden will hopefully be interested to find out what’s going on in the allotment. As I am looking out from my summerhouse the bees are buzzing, they are going about their business as usual. I can report that we’ve had a frost last night, which means that leftover potatoes that started sprouted again got burnt. Luckily, I had decided to cover my lettuces with a plastic cover in order to force them. I have uncovered them so that they can make the most of the sun, like me.  Please check out the video to experience how peaceful the allotment was this morning.

Please check out the video to experience how peaceful the allotment was this morning.

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• Tuesday, June 11th, 2019
Elements of Sheffield garden

It was on a rainy day that I visited the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show but that didn’t dampen my spirit. I was indeed looking forward to seeing the show gardens which despite being quite small (6x4m) all had interesting features that made them look bigger.

I was particularly impressed by the ‘Elements of Sheffield’ garden as the sunken seating area combined with a soft water feature and rich planting made it feel quite cosy.  I enjoyed the compact planting of flowers such as purple Lysimachia atropurpurea combined with bright Achilleas and Digitalis, as well as the use of airy plants such as bronze stemmed Anthriscus.

Also contributing to the cosy feeling of the garden is the use of moss in the soft cascade from the constructed back wall.

A key theme for this year was mindfulness, highlighting the benefits of gardening and the great green outdoors on mental health.

One particular flower that stood out for me this year was Geum, since it was used in a lot of displays in all shades of apricot colours and I found that it complemented other plants in shades of copper really well. In fact I spotted such Geum in the wild as the trip to Chatsworth offered the opportunity of a walk in the Peak district. And it thrived in the Lathkill Dale alongside the Jacob’s Ladder, in full bloom at this time of year.

Eutierra garden

Another show garden which appealed to me was called Eutierra (gold medallist too), which although minimalist felt quite peaceful thanks to the dominance of green walls, hostas and ferns.

Finally in the beekeeper’s stand I couldn’t resist to get some seeds for the allotment, including Teasel and Ammi, to help attract bumblebees and lacewings in the garden.

• Sunday, February 03rd, 2019

Last night saw record low temperatures in Cambridgeshire. In fact it was 0 degrees Celsius at 9 am in the garden, so I had to wait until the sun had thawed the ground before popping to the plot.

It was a splendid afternoon in the sun. Lots of people had come to the allotment and were busy shovelling manure or buying potato seeds from the allotment society.

I set about weeding the strawberry patch which is on a slight slope. My next task will be to spread a bit of sulphate of potash around the plants in order to feed them to get a good crop. If I have time I also intend to mulch the area in order to prevent the weeds from reappearing too quickly.

Before leaving the allotment I harvested a few parsnips and as I did I uncovered more than I could see in the first place. With the cold weather that we have had lately the parsnips have become really sweet and delicious, the perfect accompaniment for tonight’s roast dinner.

• Sunday, January 27th, 2019

Today as the wind was particularly fierce and cold on the allotment I decided instead to attend the Seedy Sunday event in Trumpington, Cambridge. It’s a fun informal seed swapping event with a few stalls  for community projects.

I picked up some elephant garlic seed, which I was quite excited about since the clove is huge and I have never grown them before. They are supposed to be delicious roasted. I decided to plant the seed straight away in a pot since it seems that they need a long growing season.

I also got some tomatillo seeds and left some salad and various tomato seeds in exchange. Finally I picked up some Fiesta corn which had been saved from a crop grown at Murray Edwards College. Apparently it is part of a seed redistribution project called Cornucopia. The corn should be very colourful hence choosing these seeds.

It feels good to pick up some seeds in preparation for spring. And I look forward to checking the packets and planning when I can start sowing seeds in February and March.

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• Sunday, January 13th, 2019

It’s been a fairly nice Sunday morning and, since as it was warm enough, I have been able to go to the allotment to do a bit of digging. There were quite a few people doing the same, taking advantage of the dry weather to clear their plot a little bit more.


As I was digging I noticed a lot of earth worms, which I try not to hurt as I disturb their ground. Unfortunately, there is a lot of couch grass on the plot which is very invasive so most of my effort consists in removing that weed. I also took the time to take a look at the garlic, which has grown well in autumn and which should be over-wintering nicely during the cold weather.

A little bit at a time is the best advice I can give when it comes to keeping the plot in good stead without hurting your back. And regular digging and weeding goes a long way to keep it tidy.

• Friday, January 04th, 2019

Last week I noticed that some of my roses were still blossoming, more precisely the yellow Golden Celebration rose was in bloom. I’ve always enjoyed English roses and in particular the David Austin’s roses.

The varieties that I have enjoyed growing include Shropshire Lad, Teasing Georgia and Jude the Obscure. I used to have a beautiful crimson William Shakespeare rose in a previous garden but it doesn’t seem to be available in their catalogue anymore. It looks to me like recently they have re-focussed their selection on yellow and pink coloured-varieties as opposed to crimson.

I have heard that David Austin Senior has passed away recently, his lifetime dedicated to the perfection of roses with the most successful introduction of new varieties of spectacular Old English roses in my view. The legacy will live on and I look forward to enjoying newly planted roses in my garden such as Claire Austin and Etoile de Hollande (both climbers) this year. Something to rejoice for the summertime…

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• Tuesday, January 01st, 2019

Today has been a fairly mild day for this time of year. In fact I have noticed a bumble bee flying in the garden and it also seems that some bulbs such as daffodils are already starting to emerge from the ground.

Red Cabbage

This morning I went to the plot and I saw that I was not the only one busy plotting there as it was a pleasant day. I set about trimming the edge of the path with my spade and weeding as I go along. This is a task that will keep me busy for a while this winter.

I harvested some red cabbage from the plot, which I slow cooked with red onion, balsamic vinegar and cranberry sauce (useful left-over from Christmas dinner). At this time of year it’s good to be able to harvest some vegetables since they are in rather short supply and cabbage is indeed a great winter crop.

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• Wednesday, December 26th, 2018

It’s been a while since I have written anything in my garden blog. I have been so busy this year with my allotment plot that there hasn’t been free time for much else. But it’s been an amazing gardening year and if you had told me how much time I would be spending on the plot I might have been sceptical about my ability to carry on as an allotmenteer.

New allotment plot

Tackling a 10 pole allotment plot from scratch is quite a challenge particularly if the plot is totally empty. No rhubarb, shrub, shed or compost bin occupying the empty 5 x 40m narrow space. So I shall endeavour to make an account of my first year on the plot so that it may inspire others to give it a go too. A satisfying first year it has been with great successes and some disappointment.

We’ve experienced  such hot weather this year here in Cambridgeshire and the rest of the country that the months of July and August proved tricky in terms of watering the vegetables and just keeping things alive. But 2018 has been a good year for growing tomatoes, peppers and sweetcorn in particular. Chatting with my fellow plot holders encouraged me to grow a lot of different tomato plants.In fact I was given small plants from varieties such as Money maker, Roma, and Aisle Craig from friends.I grew these alongside my own plants from varieties of Gardener’s delight, Sungold, and Zebra green tomatoes which got started on my windowsill in March.

But we most enjoyed a variety of tiny cherry tomatoes called Coyote. I obtained the seeds at a seed swap event taking place in Cambridge early in the year and I believe this was an open-pollinated variety seed collected by a fellow amateur gardener. A total of 30 plants carefully staked, watered and fed rewarded us with a bounty of delicious tomatoes, many of which I cooked into a coulis and stored in the freezer. Such a bountiful gardening year it’s been, and on this cloudy Christmas day as I open my presents and find 3 pairs of gardening gloves I look forward to another fruitful year on the plot.

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