Autumn foraging – wild food for free

It may be October, but it's not too late to do a bit of autumn foraging. Although the weather in July and August was disappointing for us holidaymakers, it was just right for many of our fruits and berries. Plenty of late blackberries, and other vitamin-packed goodies, have now had time to ripen in the glorious September sunshine. They’re there for the picking along our lanes - and in other places like the edges of golf courses and parks too.

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Getting started with pruning

One of the common reasons for plants not flowering is that they were cut back at the wrong time of year, and therefore emerging flower buds were cut off. At North Leeds Garden Design we find that people often come to us with questions about this and other queries about pruning: which plants need pruning, how do I know what time of year is best - and why do we do it at all.

So in this blog I want to dispel the mystique about pruning. Most of it is actually pretty straightforward and not something to be scared of!

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Help take the pulse of nature

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I’ve just joined Sir David Attenborough and Joanna Lumley in taking part in the Big Butterfly Count, run by the charity Butterfly Conservation. It only took me 15 minutes and it’s great to know I’ve played as a citizen scientist in the UK annual count to check on the health of our biodiversity.

The Count has now been going for 10 years; so far the statistics tells us that there’s been an overall decline in the number of butterflies in the UK. Climate warming has already affected the distribution of some species; for example the Peacock butterfly is now regularly found in the north of England.

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An Italian garden

I’ve just returned from a wonderful holiday travelling around southern Italy. Whilst I was there I fitted in a trip to the island of Ischia and the stunning garden La Mortella up in the hills.

It was owned by the British composer Sir William Walton and his Argentinean wife, Susana, both of whom have now died but it has passed into a foundation who care for and maintain it. Susana started to develop it in 1956 with the help of the English landscape designer Russell Page and subsequently following her own inspiration. Lady Walton opened the gardens to the public in 1991 following the death of Sir William.

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St Nicholas house and gardens - Yorkshire’s Hidcote

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Approaching Richmond on the river Swale, with views across to the ruins of 13th century Easby Abbey, nestles historic St Nicholas house, reputedly the oldest house in Richmond. But it was the 20th century history of the gardens which had drawn myself and fellow Society of Garden Designers members to visit it.

St Nicholas is a ‘garden of rooms’ in the Hidcote style and similarly inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement; I was lucky enough to be included in a private tour of the garden earlier this month.

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Top tips for great-looking summer flowers

For many of us northern UK gardeners this summer has been disappointing, at least weather-wise. But you may have noticed that it doesn't seem to have affected your flowering plants too much. This is because they respond to day length coupled with night-time temperatures, rather than whether we have hot sunny temperatures during the day. So the cool, damp weather has simply meant they have grown bigger, taller and lusher than usual.

In this blog I'm going to talk about a few of the common problems people have in their gardens in summer, especially a cool, damp one - and how to ensure your plants are healthy and flowering well so that you can still enjoy them whatever the weather for as long as summer lasts!

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How to Spruce Up Your Garden - Part 3

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In our final part on the series of designing and implementing a large garden in north Leeds we focus on the front and side gardens.

There is a front pedestrian gate and path mainly used by visitors and the postman! The path was made of crazy paving and was uneven and tired-looking. We realigned it to make a smoother line and laid it with gravel with stone edges in keeping with the stone used elsewhere in the garden, this makes it far more welcoming and gives the house more kerb-appeal.

It splits halfway to gain access to the path around the house, creating an odd-shaped triangular bed. Previously this was filled with two enormous conifers which sucked the light out of the dining room and blocked the view of this unloved space.

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