Children’s Hospice Week

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Show you care during Children’s Hospice Week

There are 49,000 children in the UK living with a life-limiting or life-threatening condition and that number is growing.

Today (Monday 17th) marks the start of Children’s Hospice Week which is dedicated to raising awareness and funds for children’s hospice and palliative care services across the UK.

The theme of this year’s campaign is Moments That Matter focussing on services and ways in which families create special memories and moments in their lives.

Moments That Matter can be anything from the first family swim to a more poignant time when a hospice has helped.

There are 54 children’s hospices in the UK all providing vital care and support to families at the toughest times, providing help to meet the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of children, young people and their families.

There are various ways you can help support their work and raise money – hold a sweepstake using the Flutter Buy Sweepstake sheet or hold a fundraiser. Why not try a ‘give it up’ challenge, use the fundraising recipe card for ideas and once you’ve decided what to do, spread the word using the empty belly poster.

Hospices across our areas – Helen & Douglas House, Oxford; Alexander Devine, Maidenhead; Christopher’s, Guildford; Naomi House & Jacksplace, Winchester and Julia’s House, Devizes – are doing vital work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

  Show your support by going to Together for short lives

Independent Bookshop Week

Karen Neville

All Areas

It’s Independent Bookshop Week – read all about it! 

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!”

To use a classic quote from a classic author (and one of my favourites)

To use a classic quote from a classic author (and one of my favourites) “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!”

Jane Austen’s line from Pride and Prejudice will have been encountered by millions of readers all around the world since she wrote it more than 200 years ago and never is it truer than today as Independent Bookshop Week starts today (15th).

Events, celebrations, reading groups, storytelling, author signings and literary lunches are all part of the week encouraging you to support your local store.

There are so many independent bookshops across our area there really is no excuse not to visit one, many are getting fully involved in Independent Bookshop Week with a variety of events.

One of these joining in is Mostly Books in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. It is hosting a variety of events from 15th to 22nd June starting with a party and author takeover. Kim Sherwood will be talking about Testament on 18th; debut author Joanna Glen will be sharing her experiences on 19th, best-selling author Ben Aaronovitch will be signing copies of the Rivers of London series on 20th and Katherine Rundell will talk to Lucy Manghan about why we should be reading more children’s books. For details of all these events visit Mostly Books

Check out your local indie and see what they’ve got going on and fall in love with reading and books.

  To find out more visit Indie Bookshop Week

Talking Point: George Clarke

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Home truths: Liz Nicholls asks architect, dad and TV star George Clarke, 47 about life & loves ahead of hosting Blenheim Flower Show this month

Q. What one piece of advice would you give to anyone looking to improve their home?
“Make it very personal and beautiful. I see so many homes that just look like any other and most are simply attempts to copy an interior design magazine. There is such a large number of bland global styles out there that sometimes I can hardly tell which country the house is actually situated. Of course, they are beautifully designed, but that’s it: they are a designed objects often devoid of personal charm or character. I get bored of that. Your home is like an extended member of your family, unique and personal and its design should reflect that. Make it about you and the people around you… not about what’s popular.”

Q. I know you love shopping – what’s your weakness?
“I love cameras. I’ve taken photographs since I bought my first camera at 14 years old (a second-hand SLR Chinon from a shop in Sunderland which is still there). I now have a bit of a camera collection. My favourite camera is my Leica CL. It’s a compact camera and it goes everywhere with me. I know there are great camera phones out there these days but taking a photograph with a beautiful camera that has an amazing lens on it feels completely different. I don’t keep a written diary, but I take photographs as a visual diary and they say a picture says a thousand words.”

Q. Do you know Oxfordshire?
“I love Oxfordshire. It’s a fantastic escape from London. And Oxford itself is the most wonderful city. My favourite place to visit is the Augustus Pitt Rivers museum. What an incredible collector he was. Oh… and a small part of me wishes I’d gone to Oxford University. I didn’t apply because I didn’t think I’d get in.”

Q. Please tell us your favourite aspects of your home in Notting Hill – it sounds amazing! And what are your fave hang-outs/ pubs/ walks in SW London?
“I love my home. It actually a 1960s modernist house that I’ve fully refurbished. It’s not a big house, but it has everything I need. My garden studio has to be my favourite part of it. It’s my escape. I’m never happier than when I’m in that space… whether working, reading, sketching or watching the tv. It contains most of my books on architecture and design as well as many architectural models of beautiful buildings from around the world. My studio goes some way to proving that even the simplest and smallest of structures can be truly life changing. I love living in west London because it has such a creative buzz. There are some truly amazing people living there. I’m within a short walk of Portobello Road market and Golbourne Road. Porto, the infamous Portuguese cafe, is my favourite place for a coffee and breakfast. My favourite pub is The Cow. Ive being going there since I moved to London in 1996. It always reminds me of the pub in Cheers because everyone knows everyone and no matter who you are, or what you do, everyone treats everyone exactly the same. “You want to go where everybody knows your name”. The Cow is an institution.

Q. Do you consider yourself healthy? Is there anything you eat / don’t eat?
“I’m pretty healthy, but I don’t exercise anywhere near the amount I’d like to. There is always an excuse for not keeping fit, but my schedule doesn’t lend itself to a regular routine. Very early starts and late finishes when filming and travelling so much isn’t great. Everyday I’m on a plane or a long train journey. I think I’m the only person I know who gets fitter, healthier and slimmer when on holiday. I exercise every day and eat a lot of salad and fish when on holiday. I never eat sweets, cake or milk chocolate because I basically don’t like them, which people find very weird. I’m lucky as I don’t have a sweet tooth at all.”

Q. What advice would you give to any budding musicians?
“I’m always jealous of anyone who has put in the hard work and education to learn how to play an instrument beautifully. I gave too much time to architecture, design and sport to learn an instrument properly. But beautiful music has the power to move you more than architecture does. Architecture has brought me to tears a number of times, but not as much as music has. I’m not qualified to give any musician any advice other than carry on what you’re doing and enjoy every moment making beautiful sounds. Everyone should listen to Delilah Montagu. She’s a 20-year-old singer songwriter from London. She’s at the very beginning of an exciting adventure in music. A super talent.”

Q. What’s on your horizon?
“I want to go to Alaska. It’s at the very top of my bucket list.”

Q. What’s your favourite book, artist and film and piece of music?
“Master & Margarita by Mikhaial Bulgakov. Turner’s my favourite artist. I’m a sucker for any James Bond film; Spectre is up there. I never thought Daniel Craig would ever be my favourite Bond but he’s there now. He’s brilliant.”

Q …And piece of music?
“Here Comes the Sun by George Harrison. Simplicity and beauty personified.”

Q. Who would be your dream party guests, living or dead, real or fictional?
“George Best, Will Alsop (architect), David Attenborough, Elvis, Pink, Charlize Theron, James Bond (Daniel Craig) and my wife Katie. It would be a great night!”

Q. What’s the best lesson parenthood has taught you?
“Firstly, that parenthood is the greatest thing on earth… nothing else matters once you have kids… secondly that love is completely unconditional.”

Q. What are your three favourite buildings in Britain, do you think, and why?
“That’s a tough first question! I have too many favourites. I think my first would be Durham cathedral. I went there for the first rime when I was 8 years old and I couldn’t believe that something so beautiful and so big could be built over 1000 years ago. I’m not a religious person (my only religion is that everyone on the planet should be kind to each other) but I love beautiful, peaceful spaces and Durham was building I would spend hours in, enjoying the peace and tranquillity and doing a few sketches along the way. Durham was the building that made me fall in love with architecture.

Second would be Sir John Shane’s house in Lincoln’s-in-Fields…one of the most incredible homes in the world. When Soane joined the 3 existing houses together and refurbished them in the 19th century they must have been a magical wonder like no other. My third should be my own home…as your own home is the most important piece of architecture in your life. But I can’t have a top three and not choose an Edwin Lutyens house. I’d go for Goddards in Surrey. It is owned by the Landmark Trust and I’m a very proud patron. I was lucky enough to stay at Goddards in 2002 and it blew me away. The beauty and craftsmanship of the arts and crafts movement, leading into the Edwardian age, is one of my favourite periods of architecture. Lutyens is my favourite British architect and Gertrude Jekyll my favourite garden designer. Their collaboration at Lindisfarne in Northumberland would be my next favourite……see that’s five favourites…not three! I told you it’s too tough a first question”

Q. What would you wish for if you had a magic wand to change the world?
I’d reverse climate change so that everything we did made a positive contribution to the environment rather than a detrimental one. I genuinely worry everyday about the impact we are having on Mother Nature. If we don’t get our act together soon we are really going to screw things up…if we haven’t already. Everyone knows what is going on, but it’s going to require a massive change in the way the way we live on this planet for us to sort it out. That’s a depressing end to a nice interview. Sorry!”

  Read more of our Star Q&A’s

Who cares for the carers? 

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Carers Week puts the focus on 6.5million in the UK helping family and friends

There are 6.5million carers in the UK, many of whom don’t realise that’s just what they are – Carers Week aims to help them get connected.

The week from today (10th) until 16th June is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.

They will be looking after a family member or friend who has a disability, mental or physical illness or who needs extra help as they grow older.

It also helps people who don’t think of themselves as having caring responsibilities to identify as carers and access much-needed support.

The campaign is brought to life by thousands of individuals and organisations who come together to organise activities and events throughout the UK, drawing attention to just how important caring is.

Caring can be a hugely rewarding experience but carers often find it challenging to take care of their own wellbeing whilst caring. Its impact on all aspects of life from relationships and health to finances and work should not be underestimated. Caring without the right information and support can be tough.

With this in mind Reading Borough Council is holding a series of free events across the town to help ensure these people get all the support they need and to recognise the vital role they play.

The theme of this year’s week is Getting carers connected in their communities and highlights of the week’s events will include a drop-in market place at Broad Street Mall (12th June) offering unpaid carers support, advice and information.

The week will begin with presentations on power of attorney, mental health and end of life care with one-to-one sessions available at New Directions, Northumberland Avenue and a talk by Rowberry Morris Solicitors for parents or carers of a child or adult with learning disabilities at Reading Mencap, Alexandra Road (both 10th June).

Wellbeing sessions and health MOTs are available at Whitley Wood Community Centre on 14th June while the main event is on 12th June hosted by the Reading and West Berkshire Carers Hub at Broad Street Mall.

To book a place on any of these events in Reading or for help to arrange alternative care, call the hub on 0118 324 7333 or email [email protected] 

  For more on Carers Week and the help that is out there, please visit Carers Week

Solent Hotel & Spa

Liz Nicholls

All Areas

Solent Hotel & Spa in Fareham, Hampshire, has the perfect spa break and dining packages to help you hit the “reset” button and offers a great base to explore the south coast

Do you believe in fairytales? My daughter is always asking me this – it’s her current obsession. For me, sleep is the miraculous saviour and life-restorer, better than any charming prince.

So I know something magical has occurred when I wake up in my serene bedroom having missed breakfast (this never happens – I‘m as greedy as I am frazzled) unsure how I’ll leave the comfiest bed I’ve ever had the joy of lying on…

Rewind to the previous afternoon, I’d arrived tightly wound, even for me. After the usual juggling act, I was in the nick of time for my taster treatment in the calming sanctuary of the spa, adjoining the wooden-beamed hotel. Winner of a World Luxury Spa Award last year, the team are expert in treatments devised by the gorgeous Bordeaux-born skincare brand Caudalie which combines science with the ancient secrets of wine (yes, wine). I felt instantly calmer when I met Imogen who then proceeded to take me to a different level by delivering a Des Vignes back massage. I can never usually get the pressure I crave to ease my knotty shoulders, but this treatment seemed to knead away my tension, leaving me feeling light as air in body and soul.

As much as I love Oxford, it’s landlocked and nothing appeals to my soul as much as a seaside break. The hotel and spa feel like a breath of fresh air, decked out in calming azure tones. After enjoying the steam room and sauna, alongside the pool, I was delighted to find my haven for the evening was more of a welcoming luxury penthouse than a room, with double of everything (even two tellies!), a beautifully stocked fridge and a welcome gift of local fudge and chocolates.

Nothing appeals more on the coast – especially after an indulgent afternoon – than fresh seafood and the restaurant does not disappoint on this score. The AA rosette-winning Terrace is cosy and chic and we went up to the chef’s table to admire the fish on offer – you can have this cooked to order or go a la carte if you’d rather leave the decision-making in the capable hands of the chefs. Unable to choose just two, my friend and I loved our trio of dishes, including king prawn linguine and sumptuous scallops on a samphire bed. The cocktail and pudding menu also make this the perfect destination for any special event.

Solent Hotel & Spa (PO15 7AJ) is the perfect base from which to explore the Isle of Wight and other Hampshire delights. If you too want to feel like a princess, check out the great deals such as the Escape Spa break which offers amazing value.

this treatment seemed to knead away my tension

To find out more and to book your visit, go to Solent Hotel

Gardening: June joys

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June is one of the nicest months of the year. The days are long and the garden is now in full swing. Frosts are a thing of the past, and we can just take time and enjoy. And it’s really important to do just that.

Yes, there’s lots to do out there, but take some time out just to enjoy.
It’s the perfect time to:

– Cut back the foliage from spring bulbs

– Lift and store tulip bulbs for planting out in the autumn

– Dead head all flowering plants regularly. Removing spent flowers stimulates plants to produce new flowers rather than simply setting seed

– Feed sweet peas with a high potash feed, either an off the shelf product or make your own with comfrey leaves

– Sow biennials such as wallflowers for next year

– Prune spring flowering shrubs (including Deutzia, Weigela and Philadelphus), removing spent flowers as well as some of the old stems to ground level to reduce congestion

– Keep an eye out for aphids and spray with a soap-based insecticide if necessary

– Water hanging baskets and other containers daily, preferably with collected rainwater. A weekly feed and regular dead-heading will keep containers blooming right through until autumn

– Hoe regularly to keep on top of the annual weeds

In the kitchen garden
• Harvest early potatoes as soon as they start to flower

• Enjoy the delight of freshly picked home-grown salad

• Pinch out side shoots of cordon tomatoes and support with a cane, tieing in regularly

• Direct sow brassicas and leeks for harvesting over the winter

• Continue successional sowings of carrots, radishes, salad leaves, lettuce, French beans and herbs

Plants looking fabulous now include:

o Clematis Princess Kate
o Convolvulus cneorum
o Cornus kousa var. chinensis
o Lavatera x clementii ‘Barnsley’
o Lophomyrus x ralphii ‘Magic Dragon’
o Rosa Royal Jubilee

Enjoy some other gardens looking their best right now

My recommendations for June are:

Hidcote Manor Garden, Chipping Campden, Glos (National Trust)

Mottisfont, near Romsey, Hants (National Trust)

Stockcross House, near Newbury (National Garden Scheme, 2nd June)

Chieveley Manor, Chieveley, Berks, (National Garden Scheme, 9th June)

Rooksnest, Lambourn Woodlands (National Garden Scheme, 12th June)

  Call Hannah Fraser, Bloom Gardens on 07768 041929 or visit Bloom Gardens website

10 top hotels in Devon

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From luxury boutique hotels for romantic mini breaks to family friendly beachside escapes, hotels in Devon are blessed with beautiful landscapes and plenty of local suppliers, making their food and wine superb. As the days get warmer and weekends away get even more appealing, here the Good Hotel Guide shares 10 of their top hotels in Devon with us…

Burgh Island Hotel

Bigbury on Sea

A hotel that’s really unlike any other, Burgh Island is a 1920s gem on a private island off the coast of Bigbury on Sea. Connected to the mainland by a strip of sand where the tide comes in from both sides, you are escorted to their hotel on their unique sea tractor. It is little wonder that Agatha Christie was inspired to write famous stories including Poirot whilst staying at the hotel. Guests are invited to an evening of white tie dining in 1920s style amongst the authentic Art Deco glamour. Definitely one for special occasions.

The Old Rectory Hotel


A rural haven, this Georgian country house sits amongst the peace and tranquility of Exmoor. With views of the sea it has all the hallmarks of a dreamy Devon escape including a quintessentially British menu of local produce, hewn into delectable dishes by Michael Caine acolyte Thomas Frost.

Hotel Endsleigh


Built for Georgiana, Duchess of Bedford, Hotel Endsleigh was once a fishing lodge. It stands in a ‘magical’ landscape of grottoes and follies created by Humphry Repton, on the banks of the Tamar, while inside interior designer Olga Polizzi contrasts rustic simplicity with antiques, hand-painted wallpaper and modern artwork.

Lewtrenchard Manor


A luxury country house hotel, Lewtrenchard Manor is a family run hideaway in a secluded valley on Dartmoor. In a setting that’s virtually untouched by any kind of development, the hotel offers the perfect combination of luxury accommodation and countryside tranquility. Beautifully decorated with oil paintings, stucco ceilings and antique-filled rooms, it is a place to visit for romantic weekends strolling on the moors and to snuggle down with a good book.

Cary Arms and Spa


Down a winding road that takes you right to the beach, Cary Arms and Spa is perched in an idyllic position right by the water. A luxurious escape offering superb food and accommodation characterised by coastal elegance, it is a classic English inn that has really surpassed itself. Charming beach huts are uniquely characterful, the spa adds an extra level of relaxation and you’re literally a stone’s throw from a swim in the sea.

The Pig at Combe


Known for its food, The Pig at Combe is a honey coloured Elizabethan country house amongst the rolling Devon hills. Its exceptional, curated rustic style is a trademark of The Pig brand, as is its three walled kitchen gardens and its dedication to using local produce. In particular, that means Devonshire cheese and locally reared meat from butchers around the market town of Honiton. Warm, welcoming, romantic, stylish and excellent for foodies.



Eccentric and quirky are definitely words to describe Fingals. Somewhere between and hotel and a B&B, proprietors willingly describe it as a unique experience. It is a little like going into a time warp – somewhere between the home of an eccentric aristocrat and a 1930s rural escape. In this 17th century property each room is different – antiques and artefacts are peppered throughout so it’s a bit of an adventure at every turn, all harping back to a bygone era combining a homely welcome and a sense of humour. It is a real favourite with families whose children must feel like they’ve walked into an Enid Blyton novel when they’re here. Run around on the lawns and play croquet, hide and seek, boules and let mum and dad watch whilst drinking tea from china cups, as relaxed as if they were at home.

Visit Fingals

Southernhay House Hotel


An exquisitely decorated boutique hotel on a quiet street in Exeter, Southernhay House Hotel fuses the best of personality, history and contemporary style and service. Deliciously styled with rich colours, antiques and furnishings that complement the Georgian architecture, the staff are friendly – nothing is too much trouble, the food is exceptional and the environment is one you could happily sit and have coffee in all day long. Make sure you leave lavish amounts of time for dinner and breakfast because they are really worth enjoying. And in the morning be sure to spend lots of time luxuriating in super comfortable beds with a cup fo tea. They even leave a little bag of local fudge in the bedroom for you to welcome you. Everything is a delight.

Thurlestone Hotel


Surrounded by a golf course and five minutes from the sea, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to beaches at the Thurlestone Hotel. You can go for easily accessible beaches or secluded ones for the more adventurous amongst you. That said, if you decide to stay at the hotel you can explore the subtropical gardens, games library, badminton courts, and a pint in the 16th century pub next door. The spa had a renovation recently which has turned it into a really exceptional space to unwind. A family friendly hotel but also offering a sense of old world elegance, it will definitely make for a really special family holiday to remember.

Bayards Cove Inn


A historic pub with rooms, Bayards Cove Inn is located at the end of the main street in Dartmouth, just tucked away enough that there aren’t any cars going past, but right in the midst of things so that you are three seconds from the water’s edge. If you were to visit in the height of summer during the regatta weeks, you really would be in the centre of all the buzz. You are greeted outside by a chocolate-box perfect entrance – Tudor architecture with its slightly crooked doors designed in an era where nobody ever exceeded 6ft tall. You walk straight into the pub when you arrive, and check in is at the bar. It is so well placed for anyone wanting to explore Dartmouth, but equally if you simply want to spend a night away and feel indulgent without breaking the bank, it’s ideal.

Big lunch: The perfect ingredients

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Add a handful of community spirit, a sprinkling of food and a big dose of fun to create The Big Lunch on 1st and 2nd June

ll together now, “Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours…” – that’s got you humming away I’ll bet, but it’s very much the key idea behind The Big Lunch.

The scheme launched in 2009 by the Eden Project to bring people together celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and hopes to get even more involved in the simple act of fun and friendship through having lunch with your neighbours.

From that first event which began as one day for people to meet, greet, share, swap, sing, play and laugh, it grew to more than 9.3million people taking part in over 90,000 events all round the country in 2017.

More than just bringing communities together, The Big Lunch, this year on 1st and 2nd June, wants to improve the happiness and wellbeing of people by encouraging them to make positive changes where they live, working with each other and nature, towards a better future.

Whether that be with a few sandwiches in your front garden, a traditional street party or a big community bash, holding a Big Lunch is simple – the main ingredient is you and your neighbours.

The Eden Project has some top tips for planning your Big Lunch:

Choose a venue

Remember if you are planning a street party you’ll need to ask permission from your local council to have the road closed

Pick a date

Most lunches will be held the first weekend in June but you can choose one to suit you

Consider your invites

Think about who you want to ask

Plan the food

Keep it simple, don’t make too much work for yourself, perhaps make it a shared picnic, get everyone to bring a dish and contribute

Make some decorations

This can all be part of the fun of coming together, make bunting out of scraps of material, plastic bags and other bits and pieces

Play music

A simple idea is to get some background music going with a few radios on the same station or if you’re lucky enough to have a musician in your street make the most of it

Get local support

Don’t be afraid to ask local business for help with chairs or even prizes for a raffle and let your local media know too

Fundraise at your Big Lunch

Getting everyone together can be the ideal opportunity to help a cause close to your heart or a local asset such as a children’s play area

And after the event don’t forget to share your story…

There’s an opportunity to come together before that with The Big Lunch Community Walk from 17th to 31st May when a group of people will be visiting community projects in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England.

There may already be a lunch in your street or area but if not then “carpe diem” and start organising one today!

To find out how you can get involved in The Big Lunch, please visit Eden Project Communities

Dementia Action Week

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Don’t be afraid to talk in Dementia Action Week

Research by the Alzheimer’s Society shows that many people are worried about saying the ‘wrong thing’ to someone with dementia or including them in a conversation.

In this, Dementia Action Week, (20th to 26th May) the society is running its #AskUsAnything campaign to break down the awkwardness and anxiety many people feel.

Someone in the UK develops dementia every three minutes and research shows that despite many of us knowing someone affected by the condition, two-thirds of those living with the condition say they feel isolated and lonely.

In Dementia Action Week, Alzheimer’s Society is encouraging people to start a conversation with someone living with dementia they know, whether that be to speak to a relative or visit a neighbour.

Alzheimer’s Society has produced a booklet with advice on how to start a conversation with someone living with dementia, explaining what they may experience and how you can help make talking to them easier.

Tips include:

Give the person with dementia your full attention and try to speak to them face-to-face, be patient and give them time to answer

Keep to questions with a yes or no answer or give a short list of options with your question

Speak clearly in a friendly and chatty way and make sure you are relaxed

Try to laugh about any mistakes or misunderstandings

Try to talk to the person about something they have an interest in or that makes them laugh

There are many ways you can help and starting a conversation is just the beginning.

You may choose to become a dementia friend and join 2.5million others who are helping in just that way by supporting people in your community with dementia; there are lots of opportunities to volunteer for Alzheimer’s Society; help with fundraising such as holding your own cupcake day on 13th June or sign up to one of the campaigns.

There are events taking place all over the country during Dementia Action Week.

 To find out about these and how you can get involved visit Alzheimer’s Society

Gardening: Abundance of colour

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Spring is coming to its glorious end, and summer is nearly upon us.

Long sunny days (fingers crossed) and an abundance of colour and produce are just around the corner. Now is the perfect time to:

– Deadhead spring bulbs but resist the temptation to cut back the foliage. The bulbs need the nutrients from the leaves to put on a good show next year

– Divide hostas as they come back into growth

– Tie in sweetpeas, and climbing and rambling roses

– Prune spring flowering shrubs such as Hibiscus and Laurel

– Top dress permanent containers with fresh compost

– Apply weedkiller to lawns and feed with a high nitrogen fertiliser to promote healthy growth

– Lower the blades on your mower to their regular summer-cut height

– Delay mowing newly-sown lawns until they are 3” high, (and raise the mower blades)

– Keep on top of weeds to stop them taking valuable moisture and nutrients from the soil

– Put up netting to protect soft fruit from the birds

– Protect strawberries with straw – placing it around the plants prevents weed growth and protects the berries from wet soil

– Plant up hanging baskets and patio containers with summer bedding such as pelargoniums, fuschias, petunias etc, but keep an eye on the weather forecast and bring them in or protect with fleece if frost is forecast

– Continue successional sowings of annual herbs, beetroots, carrots and radishes

– Direct sow or plant out French beans, courgettes and pumpkins when you’re sure we’ve seen the last of the frosts

Plants looking fabulous now include:

o Allium ‘Purple Sensation’
o Aquilegias
o Ceanothus (Californian lilac)
o Choisya ternata (Mexican orange blossom)
o Early peonies
o Iris sibirica
o Syringa vulgaris (lilac)

Why not visit some gardens for inspiration?

My top picks for May are:

Rookwood Farm House, Stockcross, Newbury (National Garden Scheme, 5th May)

Sandleford Place, Newbury (National Garden Scheme, 12th May)

The Old Mill, Ramsbury, Wiltshire (National Garden Scheme, 19th May)

West Green House, Hartley Wintney, Hants (Wed-Sun, plus Bank Hols)

Chenies Manor House, Bucks (Wed-Thur, plus Tulip Festival on 6th May)

  Call Hannah Fraser, Bloom Gardens on 07768 041929 or visit Bloom Gardens website