Pruning v chopping!

Round & About


I thought I would take a light hearted look at the subject of pruning or as many people call it ‘chopping’ ‘hacking’ or ‘trimming’.


As a horticultural tutor and consultant the one thing I see in gardens that makes my heart sink is badly pruned trees and shrubs.

I feel it is my duty as a professional to teach people the correct way to prune in order to get the best from their garden. It takes years for a plant to grow and five minutes to destroy it……


Anyone can do this, especially with a machine and at any time of year.

Fine for weeds, unwanted plants and dead ones.

You don’t need to be trained or qualified if you don’t want to be.

Can kill or seriously damage established plants, preventing growth, flowering and fruiting.

Looks horrible.


The skill of pruning takes a lifetime of knowledge and practise. Plants need to be pruned correctly at the right time of year.

Every garden plant not only has a proper name but also a lifecycle and very specific pruning requirements.

You need a good level of training, qualifications and experience to undertake it successfully.

A good knowledge of pruning can ensure your plants thrive for a long time, flower, produce fruit and be beautiful sight. A well pruned Wisteria can look amazing in winter as well as in flower.

Want to learn?

Cathie’s Gardening School Services

A personalised and unique professional service tailored to your gardening requirements.

1. Horticultural consultancy teaching you in your own garden. This includes identifying your plants and how to prune them correctly at the right time of year to help you work out a maintenance programme.

2. Cathie’s Garden Army team of horticulturists can transform your garden, often in a day, following a consultancy. You may prefer us to do the hard work for you and pruning according to season.

3. Maintenance by team members once the garden is maintainable depending on our availability.

[email protected]

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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

Dreamscape designs

Round & About


Spring is almost here and now is the perfect time to focus on creating your dream outside space…

Each of us have our own personal idea of a fantasy garden. With the RHS Malvern and Chelsea flower shows on the horizon and croci poking their little heads out of the soil, there is hope in the air.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is encouraging us all to get busy, with tips on how to grow a colourful container and transform suburban and smaller spaces for the nation’s health and the environment. Whether you’re planning a cottage garden or formal city space, signature plants can help you achieve your dream look. Pulling off a convincing Mediterranean garden is a popular aspiration for many UK gardeners – start with a few choice plants and you won’t go far wrong.

A recent poll of Home & Gardens readers uncovered garden-lovers’ ultimate dream garden components (your own private folly, anyone?!). Dreaming big is always encouraged but you can also make a huge impact to your outside space, however small, front and back, by taking some small, practical-minded steps now.

A visit to a friendly local garden centre will be sure to leave you thriving with great ideas, especially for Mother’s Day. Horticultural experts will be happy to discuss your own personal oasis, using what you have as a starting point.

Decorative paving can make a huge difference to your outdoor space, creating the ideal vista from which to admire your trees and planting and perhaps set up a barbecue and dining area in time for the summer sunshine. Perhaps your patio is looking a little tired, weary or discoloured? Whether it be natural stone or concrete, you can transform it with the right treatment but it’s vital to seek expert treatment. Be careful of cleaning products that may contain an acid-based cleaner as these can affect natural stone, especially if it’s limestone. So ask your local supplier who can advise which product is best for your type of paving to make sure it’s looking its best without causing damage.

Also think about refreshing your garden furniture. Alison Chatten, trend expert and head of design at leading British soft seating brand Icon adds: “With evenings growing longer and temperatures starting to rise, spring brings a sense of renewal and revitalisation. The palm house trend continues to be a strong theme, as well as bright clashing Latin American-inspired designs – it’s all about bringing energy to your living spaces.

“Drawing on colours and themes already in the home, and using these outside, will create the impression of more space by harmoniously bringing the two areas together. Brightly painted pieces such as vases complemented with vibrant flowers, clashing colours and patterns are great for bringing life to your outdoor space.”

Wishing you all a fantastic spring!

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

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.
[email protected] Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

The June Gap

Cherry Butler


Have you got a bald patch in your garden border? Waiting for your buds to reach, full floral potential? Here are ten plants to fill the gaps.
  1. Astrantia always flower profusely in June. They come in many shades of cream, pink and burgundy.
  2. Hardy Geraniums are an all time favourite: there are ones suitable for shade ( G. macrorrhizum ) and those that flower all Summer long ( G. ‘Rozanne’).
  3. Violas come into their own during May and June from the meadow and woodland sweet violets to the plethora of cultivars and colours in nurseries.
  4. Aquilegias (Granny’s Bonnets) are stunning garden perennials that seed freely and grow in most soils.
  5. Iris sibirica come in beautiful shades of blue at this time of year. Often found beside ponds.
  6. Many Silene can be seen in full bloom now and are also known as campions.
  7. Alliums are a delightful onion relative giving architectural structure in the flower garden. ‘Purple Sensation’ and ‘Schubertii’ to name but two.
  8. Nigella are hardy annuals that seed freely and can be grown among perennials or in an annual border.
  9. Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle) has beautiful acid green flowers and is happy in sun or shade.
  10. Peonies are the pinnacle of cottage perennials and a delight to the senses!
Cathie’s Gardening School Services is a horticultural consultancy that can visit your garden for bespoke advice, or help to transform your garden. Professional pruning is also offered. Cathie’s Gardening School Services is now booking for September. If you are interested to learn more, RHS courses are on offer. For more details, email cathiesgardenin[email protected] Follow on Facebook and Twitter