Wednesday 22 December 2010

No longer dreaming...

...of a white Christmas - it looks like a reality. Having moaned for the last few weeks that we hadn't had any snow, today it's bucketing down in Peterborough, so a 'whitey' on December 25 is a good possibility. As long as it hangs around for the next few days.
I'm not the only one that's pleased. Garden plants that have been suffering over the last few weeks because of the bitterly cold weather (down to -9.5C) are looking a little more perky - the snow will give them some insulation - and the temperature has reached a balmy 0.5C.

The winter conditions are costing me a fortune in bird food though, and I'm waiting for a delivery from the RSPB of high-octane suet treats, which the birds love. Hope it comes soon, otherwise it'll be like a scene from Hitchcock's The Birds next time I venture outside, as my feathered friends have come to rely on me for their winter repasts.
Recent additions to feeding time include a pair of mistle thrushes, who have become very brave over the last few weeks and now eat with the others from the table, which is just outside the back door.
The frenzy of bird activity at Hodge's Bird Bistro has encouraged another new visitor - a sparrowhawk, who has taken to devouring his dinner on a tree stump at the bottom of the garden.

Hope all your garden plants survive the winter, but I'm here for help and advice if there's anything worrying you.

Have a cool Yule and a happy New Year.

Monday 20 December 2010

OMG - say goodbye to peat-based compost

In March I blogged that peat-based composts were on their way out and by 2020 us gardeners would have to be 100% peat free. I kinda had my fingers crossed when the new government were installed in May that they would think this was a rubbish idea and would drop it like a steaming hot peat bog.

It looks like keeping your fingers crossed just isn't enough these days – Defra has published a consultation outlining proposals to phase out the use of peat by 2030. Another 10 years grace? No sadly not, the 2030 date is for nurseries. So, here is the proposed timescale:
  • Phase out peat use in local authorities and the wider public sector by 2015.
  • Phase out peat in the amateur gardening market by 2020.
  • Phase out peat use by growers and producers by 2030.
There is one glimmer of light. The proposals recommend conducting a comprehensive review of progress in 2015. Maybe then they'll realise it's a bad idea. Or maybe I'll be dead by 2020 and won't have to worry about it!

Bah, humbug - merry peat-free Christmas.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Google Adwords want to thank me

I've just received a personal thank you from Google Adwords for advertising with them.
If you want to see it, go to
Makes me feel all warm inside.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Unemployed TV & magazine gardeners

I'm glad I got made redundant last year, as I've had 12 months to get my feet under the table freelancing. If it had been this year there would have been a bit of extra competition. Toby Buckland and Alys Fowler have just been dumped from Gardeners' World TV and Monty is back as main presenter. I understand it'll be filmed in his garden, so having wasted two years of my TV licence money building the TV garden in Birmingham, it'll now be dismantled and I'll be donating my money to Monty to develop his back yard. Hmmm, what a waste.

If you want a good laugh, visit  The GW RIP video is hysterical - well I thought so.

Also, my good friend Ian Hodgson has been made redundant, sorry his position as Editor-in-Chief has been made redundant, from the RHS The Garden magazine.

And then I hear that Bauer, who own the lovely Garden News, which I write for every fortnight, is looking to buy BBC magazines - which includes Gardeners' World Magazine.

It's all go in the heady world of garden journalism and it's not even Christmas yet.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Winter woes

Looks like the British nursery trade will be getting some more money from me next year.
The weather this winter means that some of the plants in my garden are going to struggle to make it through. It's not only that it's cold - flaming cold - but it's the extent and duration of the cold snap.
Currently it is -5.5C, the coldest it has gone down to in the last two weeks is -9.5C, but apart from Sunday, the temperature hasn't lifted above freezing during that time.
Extensive, long cold periods mean that plant roots freeze and, as a result, can't absorb water so it's like they're in 'drought' conditions. Also, as water freezes, it expands, so plant cells literally explode as the mercury drops.
It's even worse for plants in containers as the roots don't have the surrounding insulating soil to keep them warmer.
At the beginning of this year, after the 2009/2010 winter I got inundated with e-mails from people worried about plants coming through the winter. Surprisingly in some respects, the one plant that got most enquiries was cordyline - even those that had been growing in gardens for many years. I'm expecting another e-mail avalanche after this cold snap.
The one good thing is that it hasn't been windy, which puts even more stress on frozen plants, literally sucking moisture from the leaves that isn't replaced as the roots can't absorb anything from the soil. Oh great, I've just heard on the radio that the next few days are going to be windy. Pass me my credit card!
At least I haven't had to drive anywhere recently and so haven't been stranded in my car for 10 hours trying to battle against frozen roads/snow. Every snow cloud has a silvery lining.
The picture shows a shivering Pittosporum tobira.

Saturday 4 December 2010

Lunch munch bunch

Boozing at the Brewery
On Wednesday the great and the mighty of the gardening world assembled at the Brewery, London, for the annual Garden Media Guild Awards Lunch.
Despite the rubbish weather, which did prevent several people from actually getting there - sorry Beanie - everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, especially the 'warming' pink fizz that welcomed us as we arrived.
The food was fabulous as was the table wine - which was more than just table wine - it was very, very quaffable. We all then shot off down the pub to celebrate and commiserate in equal proportions.
If you want to see who won what, then visit The Garden Media Guild website.
For some, just as exciting was the fact that Martyn Cox hijacked the day to announce his alternative OMG! Gardening Awards. Again, there were very few surprises and the gardening police are looking into whether these major awards are now fixed and whether Martyn is going to retire on his 'bungs'!