Welcome to 2014!

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Have you made any New Year resolutions yet? Here’s some gardening ones you might like to ponder as you sit cosily indoors with a cuppa…

1. Get fresh! Put your wellies and a warm coat on and get out into your garden. Then stop. Fill your lungs with fresh air. Have a wander around; really notice what is happening - you may be surprised at the number of colours, shapes and even scents of winter plants. If you haven't got a garden, try a winter walk in your local park. Or visit RHS Harlow Carr near Harrogate, where you’ll find a wonderful winter heather display, and specially-planted winter borders, to enjoy. You’ll come back feeling fresher and more positive.

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Keeping your feet dry - ideas for indoor gardening this Autumn

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I went blackberry picking on Sunday and they were the juiciest and largest fruit that I've seen for several years. This confirmed what I'd been hearing in the media-that this year is going to be a bumper one for fruit, nuts and seeds. That's not only good news for everyone who enjoys eating British fruit, it's good news for our garden wildlife too, as birds, hedgehogs and squirrelswill all be filling up happily on this lovely produce before the winter comes.

But after this glut there will be a rapid decline in the amount and variety of food available for our garden birds and animals.

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A Tour Around the Rome Botanical Gardens

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Everyone knows that Rome is a city with lots to offer. Everywhere you look there’s wonderful architecture and art, ancient ruins, splashing fountains, romantic vistas. But when you’re tired of sightseeing, a great place to relax and recharge the batteries is the Botanical Gardens. Not only is it a renowned research establishment, it’s a lovely way to spend a hot afternoon.

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Rip it up and start again?

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I love garden makeover shows. There, I’ve said it! I marvel at the way difficulties are overcome - cranes lift garden rooms in over the neighbour’s lawn, truck-loads of plants miraculously re-assemble into the perfect garden, and even butterflies and hedgehogs appear to order! And most of all, of course, I love the reactions of the family or community, stunned by what has been achieved in a week, open-mouthed at the difference that’s been made to their space.

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Great Plants for a Shady Spring Border

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Many gardeners and garden designers find it difficult to make successful borders in the shadier parts of the garden. While it’s true that a lot of the showier plants you can buy at the garden centre are sun-loving, actually there are hundreds of great flowering plants which are suitable for – and even prefer – a shady spot. Today I want to tell you about some of my favourites for a spring border. All of them will grow happily in ground which is partly shaded, and are easy to look after.

My first choice is the lungwort. Not an attractive name but a very attractive small plant, flowering in beautiful blues, white or pink. Its name comes from the mediaeval period, when it thought that the spotted leaves looked like lungs! The leaves were turned into pastes or lozenges used to treat lung ailments such as a chesty cough. There are lots of these Pulmonarias to choose from and all are easy to grow.

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A perennial holiday problem!

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Let’s make it easy for ourselves – dealing with holiday watering.

So you plan a holiday, look forward to it for months and in the meantime you happily grow plants from seed or use plug plants and pot them on into tubs and pots to enjoy. So far so good! Then you have the dilemma of how to keep them looking good while you’re away. What to do with your potted plants whilst your on holiday. Typically you ask a friendly neighbour or friend to come and do some watering. However, there are two problems there; you worry it’s is too much to ask - and they worry about killing your precious plants and then over-water them! The end result is a cooling-off of friendships which both parties regret - but the damage has been done!

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The Landscape Gardens of Madrid

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I spent the weekend in Madrid and whilst enjoying this lively, cosmopolitan city I visited the Royal Botanical Garden (Real Jardin Botanico), it was founded in 1755 by King Ferdinand VI. The tulips were in full bloom and looked beautiful - of course I'm biased, they are my favourite flower - and many people were taking photos of these vibrant blocks of colour. I imagine they were planted in much the same way as the bulb fields in The Netherlands, a sight on my to do list, but on a much smaller scale. There were beds of daffodils that would have been equally as dramatic a few weeks earlier.

If I can I will visit the botanical garden sporadically to see the diferent plants at their best. The next flowers to bloom are the peonies, these wonderful blousy flowers are a welcome addition to any garden, they appreciate growing through an easily available frame as the heavy flower heads can cause the stems to droop. 

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