Christmas Lights, Birmingham

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas when the trees and glasshouses of the Birmingham Botanical Gardens are playfully lit and all aglow. There’s something for everyone at this festive time of year as a sparkling path winds its way through the Gardens in a magical after dark experience. Timed entry every half hour, last entry 8.30pm.

Christmas at the Botanics

Experience Christmas at the Botanics along a one mile illuminated trail that winds its way through the world-famous Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh for a magical experience after dark, with flickering lights, giant glowing butterflies. It’s a complete night out under the stars with spiced cider, mulled wine or hot chocolate.

Timed entries are every 20 minutes, beginning at 4.40pm until 8pm (last entry)

RHS Early Spring Plant Fair

From 13–14 February 2018, the RHS kick-starts the gardening season with a mix of fresh spring colour and early-flowering plants. Workshops, experts on hand, plant sales, floral displays, garden designers.

12 February from 5pm-9pm; 13 February from 11am-8pm; 14 February from 11am-6pm

Women in Horticulture, RHS Harlow Carr

This fascinating exhibition highlights the careers of these talented women of horticulture, who over the last 100 years, have left an enduring legacy as educators, scientists, artists, writers and gardeners. The exhibition includes the current RHS Director General Sue Biggs.

Entry is free after paid entry to RHS Garden Harlow Carr

Christmas Glow at RHS Wisley

Smart Energy GB and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) have entered into a partnership that will light up the winter sky at RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey from Friday 1 December to 3 January 2018.

The garden’s annual ‘Christmas Glow’ event, now in its third year, is a captivating light installation of giant, botanically inspired blooms, which enhance the natural beauty of the garden and provide a magical view after dusk.

Entry after 3pm is £11.20 adults, £5.60 child

Kew Gardens Thai Orchid Festival

Thailand’s vibrant colours, culture, and magnificent plant life will be the centrepiece of Kew Gardens 2018 Orchids Festival in February. Inside the tropical paradise of the Princess of Wales Conservatory, visitors to Kew’s 23rd annual Orchids Festival will get a chance to shake off the winter blues and get creative through a host of exciting new events and activities designed to appeal to all ages.

Free entry to exhibition after Kew Gardens entry. ‘Orchids Lates’ at Kew Gardens will be held on 15th, 16th, 22nd and 23rd February / 1st and 2nd March; 6.00pm – 9.30pm (last entry 9pm)

Christmas at Kew

Follow our sparkling trail of over one million twinkling lights, illuminating heritage trees and buildings through the Gardens. Fairy-tale meets fantasy in a world of singing trees, larger-than-life flora, ribbons of light, giant baubles, and a flickering Fire Garden. The Palm House leaps into life with a dazzling show of laser beams, jets of light and kaleidoscopic projections.

Little ones can catch a glimpse of Santa and his elves at the North Pole village and enjoy a vintage fairground ride. Not so little ones can warm up with some mulled wine or hot chocolate and toast marshmallows around the fire.

RHS Hyde Hall Flower Show

Join us for this four-day floral extravaganza set in the stunning surroundings of Hyde Hall.
The show promises an all-encompassing day out with specialist nurseries, gardening sundries, expert advice and demonstrations, as well as the chance to explore the garden in full bloom.
And don’t forget that if you’re an RHS Member you gain FREE access to the show, along with one family guest.

NEW for 2017

Exhibits and advice from the British Cactus & Succulent Society and Southend Bonsai Club. Chat to members, pick up tips and see choice plants on display.
An expanded Artists’ Pavilion featuring more exhibitors, with outstanding botanical art, glass and photography to view and buy.
Innovative floral art displays on the theme ‘Celebrate Summer’.
Talks from Hyde Hall staff will include updates on our exciting Strategic Investment Programme.

Scything for beginners, RHS Rosemoor

Andi Rickard Andi has been a champion scythe for some years and enjoys teaching others the graceful art of scything. The skill has been making a comeback in recent years, partly helped by a scene in the television version of Poldark, and is a more environmentally friendly way to cut grass and wildflower meadows.

You will learn the history of scything, how to sharpen and use the scythe and try different designs, all in one of our wildflower meadows. Scythes and other tools will also be available to buy from Andi.

Rose Festival RHS Rosemoor

Join us in this month long celebration of the rose. Rosemoor’s Garden Kitchen will be celebrating roses throughout the month with a delectable series of rose-inspired and rose-infused treats, from rose meringues, rose and rhubarb cakes, to the restaurant’s much-lauded Turkish Delight Coffee.
A Rose Trail will take visitors on a historic, scented journey through the garden: from the Queen Mother’s Rose Garden, to the Long Borders and the Cottage Garden, discover stunning varieties and their fascinating stories.

FREE for RHS members plus 1 family guest

The Artist’s Garden, RHS Rosemoor

Over 80 of the South West’s most talented artists join together in this exciting and colourful exhibition of naturalistic pictures, prints and cards. With a focus on gardens and plants as well as landscapes, seascapes and wildlife pictures, this exhibition offers an eclectic range of art.

Free entry for RHS members, plus family guest

Lecture Hall, RHS Rosemoor, Devon

RHS Wisley Flower Show

Celebrate 25 years of the RHS Garden Wisley Flower Show this year. Featuring a variety of top quality nurseries and tradestands, there will be expert advice, plenty of shopping opportunities and beautiful floral displays from the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies, and much, much more.

Adults £14, RHS members (plus 1 guest) FREE

Autumn Plant Festival, RHS Harlow Carr

Make the most of the season at the Autumn Plant Festival with Plant Heritage. This two-day event welcomes a range of specialist nurseries to the garden and presents a wealth of advice and information for autumn and winter planting as well as a Tender Plant Show.

The experts on hand are: Helen Bainbridge, Martin Fish, Geoff Oke, Lynne Dibley, Don Billington and David Allison, Chairman of the National Vegetable Society and RHS judge.

Free with garden entry of £12.10/adult

Outdoor Sculpture, RHS Hyde Hall

A charming exhibition by Surrey-based artist Alison Catchlove who specialises in metal sculptures of birds, bugs, animals and flowers which will be dotted around the garden for visitors to admire in this beautiful autumnal setting

Open Garden Squares London

Feed your curiosity with over 200 private, institutional, commercial and communal gardens to explore in this magical two-day event. Gardens range from the historic and traditional to the new and experimental and can be discovered across 27 London boroughs. Gardens may be open either Saturday or Sunday, or both days, and opening times will vary so consult the Open Garden Squares website

Lloyd-Dawson and Stevens Open Garden, Herts

Visit one of Hertfordshire’s most stunning gardens this May when Kerrie Lloyd-Dawson and Pete Stevens open their private garden for the National Garden Scheme.

Although the garden is only 30m x 15m (100ft x 50ft), you will be amazed at the huge variety of plants accommodated by several soil types and microclimates. Includes a pond, bog garden, sun-loving perennial border and significant collections of rare woodland plants and hosta.

43 Mardley Hill, Welwyn, Hertfordshire, AL6 0TT, only a 1 hour drive from central London.

Open Monday 29 May (Bank Holiday), from 1-5pm. Admission is £4, children free. Homemade teas.

Chelsea Flower Show, London

Visiting the Chelsea Flower Show, the world’s most prestigious and talked about flower show, should be on every gardener’s bucket-list. Featuring renown garden designers from all around the world, Chelsea’s Best In Show award is the most coveted prize in landscape design. But Chelsea has much more than big show gardens – there’s the smaller Fresh Gardens with cutting-edge design, Artisan Gardens, magnificent floral marquee and garden products for sale.

UK Society of Botanical Artists Exhibition

Changing Seasons: an exhibition by the Society of Botanical Artists. For our new and regular visitors alike, we hope you will enjoy visiting us in the autumn of 2017 to delight in this seasonal change and maybe do some pre Christmas shopping before the City gets too crowded. As well as paintings on show, our shop will be full of cards, prints, books and new SBA products to tempt you.

Central Hall Westminster, SW1. Nearest Tube stations are St James or Westminster. 11am to 5pm daily

RHS Flower Show Cardiff, Wales

RHS Flower Show Cardiff is an early-spring show with the beauty of spring flowers set against majestic trees and contrasting hard landscaping within Bute Park. featuring show gardens, and the floral marquee, it’s a great family day out, with plenty of activities to keep kids and parents happy like the renowned Schools Wheelbarrow Competition as well as the Young School Gardener of the Year Competition.

RHS Early Spring Fair London

The RHS Early Spring Plant Fair in London features high quality plant exhibitors, expert advice, previews of garden designs for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Q&A sessions with designers, expert plant and design talks, tours of the Lindley Library, floral art. Workshops on posy making and creating a terrarium. Evening opening 6pm-9pm 13 February, and 10am-5pm on 14 and 15 February 2017.

RHS Early Spring Fair London

The RHS Early Spring Plant Fair in London features high quality plant exhibitors, expert advice, previews of garden designs for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Q&A sessions with designers, expert plant and design talks, tours of the Lindley Library, floral art. Workshops on posy making and creating a terrarium. Evening opening 6pm-9pm 13 February, and 10am-5pm on 14 and 15 February 2017.

RHS Flower Show Tatton Park

A show for all the family, RHS Flower Show Tatton Park brings you the best of high summer’s flowers, fabulous display gardens, loads of gardening products, plants and spectacular floral displays in the Floral Marquee.

If you want to see the latest in contemporary and conceptual garden design, you will be wowed with our new Evolution Gardens. Our popular Water Gardens return as does the perfect ideas hub for everyone with a small garden – the Back To Back garden category with its tiny 6m x 4m plots.

In 2017, for all those starting out in the industry, the prestigious RHS Young Designer of the Year Competition has been extended to now include a RHS Young Landscaper of the Year and a RHS Young Plantsperson of the Year.

Book Review: ‘Lessons from Great Gardeners’

Lessons from Great Gardeners‘ is an inviting book. First, in terms of content. Forty ‘gardening icons’ – gardeners, garden designers and/or garden owners – are profiled, many with emphasis on one garden to which each has devoted a significant part of his or her life. You absorb their practical skills in terms of knowledge and experience. You respond to their creative ideas and their passion for gardens. You learn from them. Continue reading “Book Review: ‘Lessons from Great Gardeners’”

Which gardens make your heart sing?

When I first took an interest in garden design, it was all about the look. Some combination of colours, textures and forms would jump out at me from a page and I would ooh and aah about how beautiful it was. Continue reading “Which gardens make your heart sing?”

Chelsea 2015 Fresh: World Vision Garden

One of the Chelsea Flower Show 2015 gardens in the Fresh category that I loved was the ‘World Vision Garden: Grow Hope’, inspired by the beauty of Cambodia. It won a silver-gilt medal for designer John Warland, a four-time RHS medallist and a supporter of World Vision. It evokes the rice fields of Cambodia where children often survive, but are malnourished, on just two bowls of rice a day. Continue reading “Chelsea 2015 Fresh: World Vision Garden”

The Brontës and their garden


There is not a knoll of heather, not a branch of fern, not a young bilberry leaf, not a fluttering lark or linnet, but reminds me of her” wrote Charlotte Brontë, of sister Emily after her death.

Haworth Parsonage, home of the Brontë family

Haworth Parsonage, home of the Brontë family

In 1820 a man called Patrick Brontë took on the position of curate in the village of Haworth in Yorkshire. He moved to the house (which had been built in 1779) with his wife Maria, and their children Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Patrick, Emily and the newly born Anne. Less than a year and a half after the move, Maria Brontë died, leaving her grieving husband to cope with six small children. Her sister Elizabeth Branwell had come up from Cornwall to help with the nursing of the invalid – she stayed on in Haworth for the rest of her life to assist in bringing up her nieces and nephew. In 1825 there was more tragedy for the family, when Maria and Elizabeth died within weeks of each other from TB.

The garden at Haworth Parsonage, home of the Brontës

The garden at Haworth Parsonage, home of the Brontës

Haworth Parsonage was to be the home of the remaining members of the family for the rest of their lives. There were times spent away from home – when the girls took on jobs as governesses, when Charlotte and Emily went to Brussels to further their own educations, and when Branwell found work as a tutor or a railway clerk, but it was the parsonage that was always ‘home’, a much loved spot on the edge of their beloved moors. The windows of the house look onto the graveyard and church, and just outside the garden walls is a path leading up onto Haworth Moor.

The garden at Haworth Parsonage, home of the Brontës

The garden at Haworth Parsonage, home of the Brontës

The garden at Haworth Parsonage, home of the Brontës

The garden at Haworth Parsonage, home of the Brontës

The novels that the Brontë sisters wrote are famed for their wonderful descriptions of the moors, the wild landscapes where they loved to walk. However, Yorkshire weather being what it is, it was not always possible to venture far afield, and then they had to make do with walks in the garden. When away from home and unhappily employed as governesses, the sisters often escaped to gardens for some relaxation. In Brussels Charlotte loved the gravel walks of the walled garden of the Pensionnat Heger and wrote of it in her novel Villette:

”The turf was verdant, the gravelled walks were white; sun-bright nasturtiums clustered beautiful about the roots of the doddered orchard giants. There was a large berceau, above which spread the shade of an acacia; there was a smaller, more sequestered bower, nestled in the vines which ran all along a high and grey wall, and gathered their tendrils in a knot of beauty, and hung their clusters in loving profusion about the favoured spot where jasmine and ivy met and married them.”

A small flower border under the windows at Haworth Parsonage, home of the Brontës

A small flower border under the windows at Haworth Parsonage, home of the Brontës

The Brontës were not rich and so needed to be practical about what grew in their garden at Haworth. Blackcurrant bushes provided fruit for pies and preserves. Under the windows was a small flower border with hardy plants such as lilacs and elder bushes growing there. A gravel walk went through the garden, which Mr Brontë refused to have paved as he was certain it would be more slippery in frosts. Emily was the sister most interested in the garden – she regarded the blackcurrant bushes as her property, and was grateful when Charlotte’s friend Ellen Nussey sent her seeds for crimson cornflowers and Sicilian peas.

The garden at Haworth Parsonage, home of the Brontës

The garden at Haworth Parsonage, home of the Brontës

The garden at Haworth Parsonage, home of the Brontës

The garden at Haworth Parsonage, home of the Brontës

The "square grassed plot" at Haworth Parsonage

A simple garden surrounds the “square grassed plot” at Haworth Parsonage, home of the Brontës

Charlotte loved painting flowers, but seems to have had little interest in trying to grow any. She also seems to have disapproved of “highly cultivated” gardens. So the Haworth parsonage had a simple garden, consisting mainly of the “square grassed plot” described by Elizabeth Gaskell in her biography of Charlotte. Their love of plants comes through more strongly in the novels that it did in the real life garden – primroses, rose-briar, lavender, lilac, mosses, ferns, bay trees, heather, box, hawthorn, honeysuckle, daisies, bluebells, thrift, snowdrops and roses are all plants mentioned in their works.

Today the garden at Haworth still needs to be ‘hardy’. Thousands of visitors pass through it each year. The front garden remains modest, with shrubs and plants that would have been familiar to the sisters.

Graveyard gate through which the Brontës passed

Graveyard gate through which the Brontës passed

On either side of the gate leading to the church are two pine trees, said to have been planted by Charlotte and her husband Arthur Bell Nicholls just after they returned from their honeymoon. A plaque records the fact that this is the gate passed through by Emily and Charlotte on their last sad journey, from home to burial in the Haworth church. In the back garden is a bronze statue of the famous sisters created by Jocelyn Horner.

In 2012 a garden inspired by the Brontës and their Yorkshire landscape was entered in the Chelsea Flower Show. It won a gold medal!

Sir Walter Scott and his Abbotsford garden

My heart clings to the place I have created.
In 1811 Sir Walter Scott purchased a small farm on the banks of the Tweed River in the Borders area of Scotland. It was a part of the country he knew well – he’d stayed there often as a child, had worked there as a lawyer, had collected the local ballads and tales of folk lore and published them. He had a home in Edinburgh, but he wanted a country property as well. Continue reading “Sir Walter Scott and his Abbotsford garden”

Garden oddities – floral clocks

One of the horticultural oddities of the last century is the floral clock. Most of us have encountered them from time to time during our travels, often sighted on gentle slopes in manicured public gardens at tourist destinations. Apart from a moment’s thought at the sophistication of the technology and the intricate plantings used by the designers, most of these outdoor landscapes are soon forgotten. Continue reading “Garden oddities – floral clocks”

Great Dixter: a manic masterpiece

I have long been fascinated by the work of the late British garden designer Christopher Lloyd. So it was with great anticipation that I recently visited his Great Dixter garden in Sussex to the south of London. And I must say I was not disappointed by the extravagant use of interesting plant material throughout the landscape there. As a plant lover rather than a lover of landscape design I am a sucker for the perennial beds that Lloyd filled to overflowing with exuberant mixtures of foliage colours and textures. Continue reading “Great Dixter: a manic masterpiece”

Wordsworth’s outdoor office at Rydal Mount

Wordsworth is of course familiar to all as one of the greatest of English poets, founder of the Romantic movement and Poet Laureate. What is less well known is that he was also a brilliant landscape gardener and his home Rydal Mount is testament to this genius. Continue reading “Wordsworth’s outdoor office at Rydal Mount”

Orchid fever

As a first time visitor to the Chelsea Flower Show in late May, I felt like a kid in a candy shop. So much to see in such a short time. The standard of horticulture, the level of presentation of plants and the sheer variety was even better than I had expected. With so much to marvel at, one thing stood out in my memory of that day and it was the exhibition and display of the Phalaenopsis, or moth orchids, set up as an overhanging ‘tree’. Continue reading “Orchid fever”