Garden Re-Leaf Day 2020

Round & About


Plans are blooming for the ninth annual Garden Re-Leaf Day, which takes place on Friday, 13th March.

This year, Chilton Garden Centre will be the central hub for fundraising activity, as it hosts the fifth Garden Re-Leaf Sponsored Walk and Cycle Challenge.

Members of the gardening sector and hopefully local residents will trek across the Chiltern Hills to raise money for the children’s hospice garden charity, Greenfingers Charity.

Gardeners young and old are invited to take part in fundraising events – either a gentle 10-mile stroll or complete a more challenging 20-mile route through the Chiltern hills. There will also be a Garden Re-Leaf Cycle Challenge for bike enthusiasts. With a 25km route through the Oxfordshire countryside entrants are invited to complete as many rotations around the course as they can throughout the day.

Garden Re-Leaf Day is to celebrate the start of the garden year with fundraising events to raise money for Greenfingers, a charity dedicated to improving the lives of children in hospices through the creation of magical gardens.

In total, 58 Greenfingers gardens have been built since the charity’s creation in 1998 with many being funded by monies from Garden Re-Leaf Day.

In 2017, a new Oxfordshire based garden was opened at Helen & Douglas House, enabling children who call this hospice ‘home’ to find a moment of calm away from the hustle and bustle of daily hospice life. The Kaleidoscope Garden, designed by Oxford garden designer Nicola Wakefield and built by local landscapers GreenArt Garden Design and landscaping, features a colourful and protected garden pavilion that is now being enjoyed by patients, their families, friends, carers and hard-working hospice staff.

Last year in 2019, the charity’s 20th anniversary, four sensory and therapeutic gardens were built in London, The Wirral, Sunderland and St Austell, offering children and families the perfect out door space in which to make memories.

More gardens are in the pipeline to be built this year and this is where Garden Re-Leaf Day comes into its own, raising muchneeded funds.

Linda Petronsdirector of fundraising & communications at Greenfingers said: “Each year, Garden Re-Leaf Day helps over 350 life-limited children to enjoy a quiet place of relaxation and contemplation away from the hustle and bustle of hospice life, something that is so incredibly important for them and their families. 

Being able to do offer this for seriously sick children and their families is only possible due to the fundraising activities that our supporters undertake.

Garden Re-Leaf Day offers a great opportunity to get involved – it’s just one day of the year where you can help make a difference. Whether you raise £10 or £10,000, every single penny counts. We hope that the people of Oxfordshire will get involved on March 13th!”

More info

To find out more about Garden Re-Leaf Day and the work that the Greenfingers charity undertakes visit

Gardening: August

Round & About


Many of you will be heading off on hols this month, but with a little bit of planning the garden can still be looking good when you get back.

For those staying at home there’s still plenty to enjoy and get on with in the garden this month. Enjoy these last few weeks of summer.

– Take cuttings of tender perennials such as pelargoniums and penstemons for flowering next year

– Keep watering, feeding and deadheading (I know I say this every month, but it’s so important)

– If we have drought conditions like last year, don’t be tempted to plant anything new until temperatures drop

– To keep rambling roses flowering and under control, thin out one in three of the oldest stems, tie in new shoots and shorten sideshoots by two thirds

– If you’re going away move pots into a shady spot and have a serious dead-heading session before you go. Ask a reliable neighbour to water whilst you’re away, particularly if it’s warm and dry

– An irrigation system on a timer is also  an effective way to keep plants watered in your absence

In the kitchen garden:

• Cordon tomatoes should be ‘stopped’ when they set four trusses outdoors, or six trusses if they’re in the greenhouse – remove the tip of the main stem two leaves above the uppermost truss so that the plant focuses its energy on fruit rather than foliage

• Plant out well rooted strawberry runners in new beds

• Cut out the old canes of summer-fruiting raspberries after fruiting, and tie in new ones

• Lift onions and shallots and dry them off before storing

• Pick herbs regularly to keep the plants productive

• Plant kale and leeks to harvest over the winter

Plants adding a splash of colour to the borders this month:

o Crocosmia ‘Paul’s Best Yellow’
o Echinops ritro ‘Veitch’s Blue’
o Gaura lindheimeri ‘Chiffon’
o Geum ‘Scarlet Tempest’
o Hydrangea aborescens ‘Annabelle’

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

If you're out and about this month with children in tow

these gardens offer something for the whole family:

• Kew Gardens, London – an exciting new children’s garden opened recently, pre-booking online essential

• RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, Surrey – fabulous gardens for the grown-ups, trail and fun activities based on the Very Hungry Caterpillar for the kids

• Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Romsey, Hants – a tree house, wooden assault course and pond dipping sessions throughout the summer, not forgetting the Centenary border which should be at it’s best around now

• Waterperry Gardens, Wheatley, Oxon – gorgeous borders and fun family trails

Gardening: June joys

Round & About


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

Gardening: Abundance of colour

Round & About


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

April flowers

Round & About


I absolutely love this time of year. The countryside is awash with daffodils, tulips are starting to flower and glorious summer days in the garden really are just around the corner.

Now is the perfect time to:

– Prune shrubs including buddlejas, hebes, mop head hydrangeas, hypericums and winter flowering honeysuckles. Always start by removing any branches which are dead, damaged, diseased or crossing other branches. Established shrubs can be hard pruned to control size

– Direct sow hardy annuals such as marigolds, nigella, poppies, ammi, cerinthe and nasturtiums for lots of summer colour. It’s also your last chance to sow sweet peas

– Beetroot, broad beans, brassicas, onions, parnsips, salad leaves and spinach can all be sown now. Sow little and often for harvesting throughout the year. If you can’t decide which cultivars to choose, opt for the ones with ‘AGM’ after the name.

– Plant second early potatoes by the middle of the month, and maincrops by the end

– Plant snowdrops ‘in the green’

– Protect plants from slugs and snails which are out in force now. There are several ways to control them: beer traps, mulching with grit, or simply by being vigilant and removing them. If you decide to use slug pellets go for the ones based onferrous phosphate rather than metaldehyde to protect wildlife. Apply sparingly

– Create a new lawn by seeding or turfing

– Green up existing lawns by scarifying, aerating, feeding and weeding

– Start mowing regularly

– Apply a general fertiliser such as Vitax Q4 to your borders to give both edible and ornamental plants a nutritional boost

– Protect fruit blossom from late frosts with horticultural fleece

Plants looking particularly good now include:

  • Brunnera macropylla (Siberian bugloss)
  • Chaenomeles × superba ‘Crimson and Gold’ (Japanese quince)
  • Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’ (wallflower)
  • Euphorbia amygdaloides (wood spurge)
  • Hyacinthoides non-scripta (bluebell)
  • Lamprocapnos spectabilis (bleeding heart)
  • Ribes sanguineum (flowering currant)

Why not visit some gardens for inspiration?

My top picks for April are

Rooksnest, Lambourn Woodlands, (April 10th)

The Old Rectory, Farnborough (April 14th)

Rookwood Farm House, Stockcross (April 28th)

Chenies Manor, Rickmansworth

Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury

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

Gardening: Veggie patch

Round & About


Another year beginning and I can’t think of a better task than to sit in front of a roaring fire scanning the new seed catalogues! I am often asked what veg can I grow NOW?

Make a Plan

Each season is a challenge and often very different from the year before but certain veg need a long growing season whereas others only take a few weeks to reach maturity. It’s important to grow what you like to eat and if you have never grown veg before go with the tried and tested cultivars from seed or buy some already started for you from your local garden centre.

Consider whether you wish to grow in the ground, raised beds or even pots, all are very effective with a little know how.

There is nothing more satisfying than picking and eating your very own produce.

Brassicas If you want your very own sprouts for the Christmas table it is important to start now. Seeds germinated in a heated propagator is ideal but a window sill will do. Brassicas need a long growing season. If you sow the seeds in the next few weeks you are well on your way to picking your own next Christmas! Try to prick out when large enough to handle and then pot up into individual pots before planting out in the Spring. The bigger and more robust your plants are the less they will succumb to pest and diseases. 

Salads There are many varieties of lettuce and radish available, some of which are totally hardy. They do need a little warm to start them off but if you are clever you can have them all the year round.

Onions There are sets for Autumn or Spring planting and seed for Spring sowings. Leeks can be started early and can give you a fabulous winter crop next year.

Roots Need a slightly sandier soil but Spring sowings of Parsnips can be left in the ground to be lifted after frosts, another one for the Christmas table!

Beans and peas This year I have grown pea shoots in the greenhouse which would work just as well on the kitchen windowsill in shallow seed trays or pretty pots. Broad beans are good to go in the ground shortly but you will have to be patient before starting the runners and French because they don’t like the cold!

Potatoes Consider growing these in large pots of multi-purpose compost, can be started early inside or Spring outside.

Sprouted seeds and micro greens So many available to grow on the windowsill all year round!


Cathie’s Gardening School Services now taking bookings for Spring

Email [email protected] for more info on Cathie’s Gardening School

The Winter Prune

Round & About


People say to me ‘It must be nice to have the winter off….’ Well it is actually one of the busiest times for horticulturists as it’s pruning season.

It is a challenge to identify the plants, know how they are pruned and then carry it out. Cathie has some advice for those brave enough to venture out!

Plant Identification

Wisteria is obvious, most people are aware that theyhave one clambering up the front of the house. Apple trees can be more tricky but generally the big ones are pruned in the Winter whereas the trained ones are Summer pruned to reduce vigour. Roses are almost impossible but for pruning it’s essential to know as you could inadvertently cut all the flowers off!

Where to start

Wisteria: Take all the long bits out and any dead. Untangle from wires, phone lines , drainpipes and take out of gutters. It’s essential to have a good support system to tie the branches too and remember that any long wispy bits are future branches so keep them to a minimum.

Apples: Remove any congested branches, reduce long extension growths and take out anything dead and remove old fruit. Try to learn the difference between a fruiting bud and a leaf bud. It’s also important to know whether your tree produces fruit at the end of a stem (tip bearer) or on short stems (spur bearer)

Roses: Remove any dead, weak, diseased and congested stems. If you do nothing else this will help. Try to ascertain whether your rose is a climber or a rambler, a bush or a shrub or an old fashioned type as they are all pruned differently.

The Prune

Wisteria: February, reduce the shoots to a short spur and keep it simple! Try to only keep a few main branches or you will be overwhelmed with growth. Nothing looks tidier than a professionally pruned Wisteria in the Winter followed by gorgeous blooms in late Spring. Wisteria are high maintenance and need pruning at lease twice a year.

Apples: Identify the fluffy fruit buds from the flat leaf ones and reduce the vegetative growth to encourage the flowers and fruit. Try to open up the centre of the tree to allow in light and air. Annual pruning ensures a healthier tree and good quality fruit.

Roses: Can be cut back harder that you think to encourage vigour. Climbing roses can be pruned so all side shoots that have flowered to a short spur. Rambling roses are pruned after flowering in the summer. If you know whether you rose is a bush or shrub variety they can be pruned accordingly. Cut just above a bud at a light angle to encourage healing. Pencil thickness is a good rule of thumb.

Cathie’s Gardening School Services now taking bookings for Spring

  1. Horticultural consultancy teaching you in your own garden.
  2. Cathie’s Garden Army of horticulturists to transform your garden following a consultancy
  3. Don’t leave it too late to book in your Winter pruning session!

Email [email protected] for more info on Cathie’s Gardening School

Michaelmas daisies

Round & About


Fill your garden with these beautiful Michaelmas Daisies flowers, says Cathie’s Garden Army, and have beautiful blooms in Autumn

Tall, short, pink, purple, white… I love Michaelmas Daisies and they provide much needed late summer colour throughout September and into October.

These beautiful daisies are fairly drought tolerant (once established) and need a well drained soil. They don’t need fertilising and, in fact, flower better in poor soils. Some cultivars clump up more than others and could do with being divided after flowering or in the spring every three or four years. It’s best to weed out the little lilac wild ones, which can come from the seed of cultivated varieties, as they can take over a border.

Name Changes!
Aster is (or was) the easy-to-learn scientific name for myself and my horticultural students; but, now it has been re-classified and we have to use the new name ‘Symphyotrichum’ These new names to get to grips with include: Symphyotrichum novi-belgii cultivars; Symphyotrichum novae-angliae cultivars; Symphyotrichum x frikartii ‘Monch’ – this is a species croSs, that has large lilac flowers and is my absolute favourite!

Why Michaelmas?
Michaelmas is a minor Christian festival celebrated on Saturday, 29th September when many Asters ( sorry, Symphyotrichum) are at their best. Often we call the late August bank holiday Michaelmas too.

Plots for Pollinators

Liz Nicholls


Alan Titchmarsh is calling on all gardeners to unite to create a refuge for struggling butterflies, moths and other pollinators this summer. Join us in your garden – and online.

The future of our butterflies, moths and other pollinating insects is under threat,” warns Mr Titchmarsh, vice-president of Butterfly Conservation.

The cold start to spring may affect how some butterflies fare this year, as they could have less time to feed and breed. But you can help by creating some ‘plots for pollinators’.
“So many flowers are great nectar sources,” adds the local star, “such as catmint, cosmos or calendula. You could attract butterflies such as my favourite, the Red Admiral,” adds Mr Titchmarsh. “[Your square metre] doesn’t have to be on the lawn – you could create a vertical garden on an unused wall or fence.”

The project encourages you to set aside one square metre to plant a nectar-rich flowerbed or a colourful container garden over the summer.

Pollinating insects fertilise many crops, as well as other plants, trees and wild flowers. Gardens can act as vital refuges for pollinators, which are increasingly under threat from habitat loss, agricultural intensification and climate change. Previously widespread species, such as the Small Tortoiseshell and Garden Tiger Moth, have seen numbers plummet in recent years.

Titchmarsh’s Top Tips

Measure one square metre of outdoor space as a plot of pollinators and fill it with open-flowered, nectar-rich plants. Choose a sunny, sheltered position and group pots on a patio, grow up a fence or wall, or pick a flowerbed patch.

Water your plot regularly – ideally from a water butt which is more eco-friendly. Water soil not the plant; larger leaves can act as an umbrella shielding roots! Remove your watering can’s rose to get nearer the plant base if necessary.

Put a layer of mulch on the surface of the soil around the plants to help prevent water evaporation and suppress weed growth.

Always choose peat-free compost and cut down on plastic. Use recyclable and recycled containers or be creative and turn tins and tubs into pots, drilling drainage holes in the bottom.

Dead-head after flowering for more blooms.

Inspire your neighbours to plant a plot to create a flowery super highway.

Avoid harmful pesticides by removing slugs and snails by hand instead. Night is the best time.

Hardy Hibiscus

Cherry Butler


Hibiscus syriacus

  1. Large deciduous shrub with beautiful blue, pink, red or white flowers from July to September.
  2. Same family as mallows, Lavatera and hollyhocks with similar flowers.
  3. ‘Oiseau Bleu’ is a beautiful blue and always in flower on my birthday in August!
  4. ‘Woodbridge’ is deep rose with a dark centre.
  5. ‘Red Heart’ is white with a red feathered centre.
  6. ‘William R Smith’ is pure white and ‘Diana’ has single white petals with crinkled edges.
  7. The Chiffon Series has semi-double flowers and has become popular in recent years.
  8. It needs full sun and well-drained neutral soil but is not really that fussy.
  9. It can be grown alone but also paired with spring flowering shrubs such as Weigela or Philadelphus as it flowers after these or perhaps an evergreen.
  10. One point to note is that it is the last shrub to leaf up in May or June and I’m often asked if it’s died!
Cathie’s Gardening School Services now booking for September.
  1. Horticultural consultancy teaching you in your own garden.
  2. Cathie’s Garden Army to transform your garden following a consultancy.
  3. Professional pruning following a consultancy.
  4. RHS courses. Please ask for details.
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