Archive for the ‘Nation of Gardeners’ Category

Nation of Gardeners on Tour: Gardener’s World Live

July 4th, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners | 0 Comments

Gardener's World Live

The latest member of our Nation of Gardeners to visit one of the gardening shows on offer in 2014, was our Hemel Hempstead based Max, who visited Gardener’s World Live at the NEC in June.

Max is our youngest gardener in the group,  and he is quite an exceptional young man.  At the age of 15 with exams and schooling, and all the other pulls on time of a 15 year old, Max makes time to indulge his passion for gardening that he hopes might take him into horticulture one day.  Max finds the time to run a garden at his home in Hemel Hempstead alongside his packed schedule, and he also runs a blog The Young Gardener along with an accompanying Twitter account to tell of his exploits.

So, it was in this busy schedule he found time to visit Gardener’s World Live and post us this report.

“BBC Gardeners World Live was held at the NEC in Birmingham. This provided plenty of space for nurseries to put on the most beautiful displays. There was everything there from cacti to carnivorous, and climbers to cucumbers; there was pretty much a stand to suit everyone’s tastes,” said Max.

Cacti at Gardener's World Live

Max’s enduring memory of the day is the range of cacti on display that were captivating to gardener’s both amateur and professional alike and this picture Max sent us shows just a small part of the stunning range of cacti on display this year.

Max commented, “The range of plants was quite incredible. For me the most amazing stands were the ones displaying the cacti because there were so many plants that even the most experienced gardeners at the show were amazed to discover.”

Show Gardens at Gardener's World LiveThe show gardens were another wonderful part of the fantastic display with the larger show gardens taking centre stage.

“These were all created using the same materials but looked completely different. All had a marvellous water feature, of which my favourite had a long piece of gutter directing water down into a pile of zinc buckets which gave the garden a sense of humour as well as an eye catching centre piece,” said Max.

Smaller gardens surrounded these main displays and were planted to different themes and they drew large crowds of admiring visitors for their ingenuity in planting and garden design.

In addition to Gardeners World Live there was also the BBC Good Food Show to which tickets to the gardening show allowed admittance.  The stands of the Good Food Show stall holders merged alongside the gardening stands offering free samples of tasty things to eat as our intrepid adventurer made his way around the venue.

monty donAnd of course, Gardener’s World Live would not be GWL without the stars of the show being there to impart nuggets of wisdom to the eager crowds who gathered to hear what they had to say.  Stars of the gardening world such as Carol Klein, Rachel de Thame, Monty Don and Diarmuid Gavin spoke alongside  celebrity chefs such as Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, James Martin and Antonio Carluccio.

Max wryly observed, “At the show there were two large stages where either a professional gardener or cook spoke to spell-bound audiences who hung onto their every word!”

It was a packed day out with plenty to discover around each corner uniting the world of growing with that of eating what has been grown!  And so to finish this missive, here are a selection of the stunning pictures Max took on the day.

Flower studies at Gardener's World Live

The latest diet craze – Mr Fothergill’s Nation of Gardeners inundated with ‘grow your own’ produce in national trial

June 30th, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners | 0 Comments

Philip sweet peas Gloucestershire

Forget the 5:2 diet, the latest craze to sweep the country is the Mr Fothergill’s Nation Gardeners scheme.

Eighteen amateur gardeners across the country have been inundated with fresh grow your own produce as the Mr Fothergill’s Nation of Gardeners see the fruits of their labour.

Since October 2013, these gardeners from across the country who make up Mr Fothergill’s Nation of Gardeners, have been trialling seeds, plants and bulbs that they receive from the company each month. They are then asked to plant their items on approximately the same date and report back their findings to help Mr Fothergill’s to find out what grows best where and when.

Throughout June, the gardeners have begun to see the fruits of their labour and have been inundated with fresh grow your own produce, harvesting a daily plentiful crop that is seemingly endless.

Lindsay broad beans in DevonThe broad beans the gardeners received in their first ever parcel in October have so far been the most successful. The first to be eaten appeared in Buckinghamshire on 7 May. Since then broad bean harvesting has been making its way across the country, reaching Suffolk and Ceredigion by mid May; moving to Renfrewshire, Pontypridd and Cheshire by early June; finally reaching Surrey on 16 June. The gardeners have been busy comparing recipes and cooking tips, and have been enjoying them in risottos and salads, or simply on their own! The crop has been so bountiful that many of the gardeners are having to freeze batches to keep on top their produce.

Mags strawberries in RenfrewshireStrawberries are now starting to make an appearance.  The gardeners have received three lots of strawberries; first in November and again in March to compare seasonal plantings, and in May they received Berry Quick strawberry plants which fruit in 30 days.

The November strawberries first appeared in mid May after 190 days in Buckinghamshire, Worcestershire and Suffolk, with Hertfordshire, Cheshire and Ceredigion also enjoying juicy strawberries by 13 June. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the spring strawberries appeared much quicker, with the fastest growing in Pontypridd and being eaten 92 days after planting. Some of the gardeners felt that the spring berries were not only tastier but also larger than the autumn ones. The 30 day Berry Quick strawberries showed some interesting regional variations too. On 14June, whilst the gardener in Bristol was tucking into her strawberry feast, the representative in Ceredigion only had small berries forming and had to wait a bit longer to be able to eat them!

Laura potatoes in CeredigionThe gardeners have also received Charlotte potatoes and were instructed to plant five tubers in the ground and five tubers in a grow bag which Mr Fothergill’s provided. They started chitting throughout January and were planted out in March. They then started showing their heads in April in Ceredigion, Pontypridd and Cheshire, and continued creeping up the grow bags throughout May. By mid June there was a flourish of potato growth and the gardeners were able to harvest them and weight their crop. Most gardeners reported around two pounds by this point but was far ahead with an entire kilogram.

Commercial director of Mr Fothergill’s Seeds, Tim Jeffries, commented: “Grow your own food is becoming more popular than ever. Not only is it really easy but it’s also a great way to save money – why pay in the supermarket when you can grow your own in your garden and know exactly where it has come from?

Joan tomato Cumbria“The results from our Nation of Gardeners are fantastic; we’ve certainly been keeping them busy now that their items are really starting to grow! It’s been great getting their feedback on size, yield and taste. It’s been particularly interesting to see how location affects those factors and over time, this will produce some fascinating results.”

The Nation of Gardeners have also received nine varieties of tomatoes in both seed and plant form, as well as peppers, runner beans and cucamelons. Whilst it is early days and the gardeners are so far unable to try them, the initial signs are very promising with good growth being reported across the country. Cucamelon fruits were even reported in Renfrewshire after just eight weeks – vastly ahead of everyone else.

For more about Mr Fothergill’s Nation of Gardeners visit their or follow #NationofGardeners on Twitter.

Nation of Gardeners on Tour: the going was good at Gardening Scotland 2014

June 12th, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners | 0 Comments

Our Nation of Gardeners continued their tour of the gardening shows in the 2014 season, this time with a visit to Gardening Scotland in Edinburgh at the start of June.

NSPCC show garden

Our gardener, Mags, who lives in Elderslie in Renfrewshire visited this show, her second year at an event she finds immensely enjoyable.  It’s a rare treat for gardening enthusiasts up in Scotland – who don’t have a thriving gardening show circuit  – and so it was an opportunity that she grabbed enthusiastically to attend again.

Mags says, “To be honest in Scotland we aren’t served very well where horticultural events are concerned, but fortunately this one is a cracker.  RHS Chelsea it is not, and laden with horticultural TV celebrities it is not (Beechgrove folks being the exception), but that doesn’t detract from what it has to offer: plants, flowers, fruit, veg, show gardens, pallet gardens, talks, cookery demonstrations, arts, crafts, nature/wildlife conservation, music, food – oh yes, and lots of lovely tasty, local produce.”

Shopping Trolley - an essential Gardening Scotland accessory

And so it was on the 1st of June that Mags set off for the show accompanied by her husband.  The weather had been good for the show prior to their arrival, and though it was mild and dry and firm underfoot, the sun was not out in full force for their visit.   Since this was a second visit for Mags and hubby, they were also forearmed with insider’s knowledge on how to tackle Gardening Scotland effectively!

“On our first visit in 2013 we learned a valuable lesson.” said Mags.  “As we wandered around the show ground last year, struggling with bags of plants and other goodies, we looked enviously at the many, obviously seasoned, show-goers who had brought with them folding trolleys.  These trolleys made it much easier to move around and transfer purchases to the car.  So, in advance of this year’s attendance I went online and purchased one.  Astonishingly, nobody sells these useful pieces of show apparel actually at the show.  There’s a business opportunity for someone there if ever I’ve seen one!”

Cucamelon growing support

The pair arrived at the show ground at 10am, giving them plenty of time to explore the site.  The first stop they made was to pick up their free goodie bag, that was given out to all advance purchase ticket holders.  Being a Mr Fothergill’s Nation of Gardeners member, Mags is now like an old friend; and so she was delighted to find some Mr Fothergill’s seeds in the goodie bag to add to her garden once back at home.

A read through of the programme and site map orientated them and off they set to take a look at the stands to see what was on offer.   Mags’ purse was soon produced for  a first purchase of the day – a spiral extending plant support – and a product that will be put to use for growing the trial Cucamelons that Mags is growing for the Nation of Gardeners.

Next up were a browse of the show gardens down ‘Show Garden Avenue’.

Space at Gardening Scotland“The gardens here are of modest proportions, maybe 5 metres square, but they certainly packed a punch.  I was struck by the garden called ‘Space’ (pictured to the left here), a concept garden by SRUC Edinburgh Campus looking at what could be grown in space in decades to come.  And also NSPCC Scotland’s ‘Garden of Childhood Adventure – a garden of imaginative play’ by SRUC Ayr Campus (pictured at the top of this post).  The idea of the garden is simple – to create a space that inspires memories and adventures.”

World War 1 references were featured in one of Mags’ favourite show gardens, an inspiring installation called ‘The Lost Gardeners of the Great War’ by Ivy Maud Design in association with West of Scotland Dry Stone Walling Association.

“The installation represented the corner of a walled garden, abandoned by a young gardener as he heads off to fight in WW1,” explained Mags.  “You see the door through which he left, his tools abandoned and the flower beds he left behind.  A scythe lies ominously beside the door but wild flowers and poppies which have invaded the garden bring new life and hope.”

Gardening Scotland WW1 show garden

Mags was also impressed by the imagination of entries to the Scottish Gardeners’ Forum ‘Pallet Garden and Planter Challenge’ which was a showcase for the work of schools, amateur gardening associations and horticultural societies through Scotland.

Children's gardens at Gardening Scotland

After a quick snack stop the duo moved on to explore the Floral Hall.  Once again, Mags’ purse got to work picking up plants for home in the form of trailing fuschias and rudbeckias and a few sweet treats to eat too.

Floral Marquee display

“As well as plants and flowers, the Floral Hall also houses purveyors of yummy food and drinks, who often were giving away samples to tempt you in.  So hubby and I merrily weaved our way round, tasting as we went and eventually adding locally made marshmallows to our now burgeoning trolley.

“The quality of the displays on the trade stands were at times mind boggling.  It obviously takes a huge amount of time, money and effort to produce the displays. I am a sucker for woodland and cottage gardens and the stand by Wyndford Farm Plants really stood out for me.  The ever popular fruit and veg exhibit was stunning as usual.   Good enough to eat!” Mags quipped.  

The Wyndford Farm stand is pictured here to the right showing beautiful cottage garden style planting, with each plant at its optimum best.  Mags continued her tour of the hall and settled on a favourite in there due to its simplicity of display.

“One of my favourites for its clean and uncluttered appearance that still showed off the flowers to the utmost was the chrysanths exhibit,” she said.

Floral Hall display

“All that stimulation of the senses is tiring, so we left the Floral Hall behind us and sat outside on the grass with an ice cream to recount what we had seen and to decide what to do next.”

Full shopping trolley

After their quick break and an unload of their fully loaded trolley of goods, Mags and spouse headed back through the trade stands intent on further spending. Mags stocked up on water plants for her newly dug garden pond and larger items, such as garden furniture were thoroughly eyed up, sat on, poked at and tested with a view to making a future purchase.

A rain shower had the pair dashing  for cover in the Craft Marquee where they browsed the arts and crafts stalls  before meandering to a coffee shop to wait for the rain to cease.   Mags still had plenty of energy for more browsing and shopping as they headed to the  Plant Village, however she had out-lasted the stamina of her husband, who she left in the ‘abandoned other halves’ creche whilst she scooted around to make her final purchases of the day.

“The afternoon was drawing to a close and it became a bit of a shopping frenzy as the plants were being discounted for the end of the show.  But the successful acquisition of several more purchases and I was done.”

Mags collected her husband and they left the show at 4pm with a full car boot and a firm resolve to return in 2015.

Mags concluded that it was, “An interesting, inspiring and fun day, with an abiding admiration for the plants-men and women, designers, artists, florists, cooks and others who achieve so much.  Roll on Gardening Scotland 2015!”

Nation of Gardeners on tour: RHS Chelsea, 50 years of Britain in Bloom

May 30th, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners, The flower garden | 0 Comments

After two of our gang of Nation of Gardeners visited RHS Cardiff in April, and RHS Malvern in May, next up was our gardener Jonathan, who is based in Pontypridd and who went along to RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014.

Jonathan’s a seasoned RHS Chelsea attendee and a veteran of this busy event in the garden shows’ calendar and so he set off with a determination to get the most out of his day there.


Our traveller’s journey started from his local train station in Pontypridd at 6.30am on a dull, wet day.  He arrived at Paddington Station, transferring to the London Underground and finishing the rest of his journey by foot through the leafy streets of Chelsea to the show ground by mid-morning.  Arrival at the show ground was plain sailing to gain admission and by the time he had arrived, the weather had brightened leaving Jonathan in a quandary of what to do first.

‘”My ticket in hand, I bought a Catalogue for £8 and in I went.  I didn’t get stopped for a bag search this year, so they must have liked the look of me!  The weather had brightened up and so I now needed to decide on a plan of attack, show gardens first or the Great Pavilion?”

The forecast for the day was not great, with showers and thunder forecast for the afternoon, and so Jonathan decided to make his way down Main Avenue, making stops at all the show gardens along the way.

“There were big crowds around the Royal Bank of Canada Waterscape Garden where Andy Sturgeon was filming.  At the end of Main Avenue next to the RHS stand was the Alan Titchmarsh garden ‘From the Moors to the Sea’.   Built by Alan for the RHS to commemorate 50 years of Britain in Bloom, this garden was not being judged along with the others, although it got a Gold from me,” said Jonathan.

Alan Titchmarsh RHS Chelsea garden

A great start made, Jonathan continued his roving, “I had already decided this year not to take a leaflet from every garden as I have done in the past as they just gather dust once back home.  However, I was stopped in my tracks by the Homebase garden who were giving free poppy seeds away with their leaflets, and so I collected this booty from them.

With this resolve, Jonathan proceeded on from Main Avenue and over to the Artisan Gardens in Ranelagh Gardens. There he passed the many stalls selling their wares.  This was a busy area with large crowds assembled around the bandstand and eating areas, sipping champagne and Pimms.  Leaving Ranelagh Gardens and making his way back over to the other side of the show ground, Jonathan found the Fresh Gardens around Royal Hospital Way and a large Food Court area down Western Avenue.

“There were some amazing smells with a huge range of food from fish and chips, a hog roast, posh burgers, hot dogs, pizza, baguettes, sandwiches, pastries and cakes with a few more champagne and Pimms tents thrown in for good measure. I didn’t stop for food though and instead ate sandwiches as I walked.”

Jonathan and David on the Mr Fothergill's StandJonathan had arranged to meet David Turner from Mr Fothergills at their stand in Eastern Avenue at around 2pm.  Eastern Avenue is a long straight avenue lined with over 110 trade stands, selling all sorts of gardening related products; from sculptors, garden clothing sellers, artists, magazines and publications, craft stalls, to organisations such as the RSPB and seed companies.

“Upon arriving at the Mr Fothergill’s stand, it was very busy,” said Jonathan.  “There were plenty of people buying seed at the special show prices of £1 per packet and £1.50 for the large packets like beans and peas.”

This year, Mr Fothergill’s Seed Cubes were finalists as Garden Product of the Year. Although they didn’t win, the public voted with their purses and as Jonathan observed, “I could see that the Seed Cubes were selling like hot cakes.  It was all hands to the decks to keep the racks stocked.”

Jonathan and David had a good chat at the Mr Fothergill’s stand – seen here in this photo of them in a sunny spell within the day – and Jonathan purchased one of the Seed Cubes before heading on his way again.

“It was noticeable that there was a lack of seed companies attending the show this year compared to previous years,” said Jonathan.  “Mr Fothergill’s was the biggest stand by a seed company at the show, Franchi Seeds had a stand that was very small, Jekka’s Herb Farm had a herb seeds-only stand and Suttons had just a table in the Great Pavilion.  So Mr Fothergill’s had the biggest selection by far.”

DSC_0357The sight that met Jonathan’s eyes when he finally made it to the Great Pavilion was stunning.  “What a spectacle.  So many stunning displays and plants grown to perfection,” he commented.  The smell of damp bark dowsed his senses and deeper into the tent he went taking in everything on display in there and seeking out old favourites too.

“Always one of my favourites is the W & S Lockyer  display of Ariculas and I actually found a variety on their stand called Jonathan.  I also love to see the roses.  The scent from the roses was stunning and I particularly liked a new rose launched this year by David Austin called Poet’s Wife – a stunning yellow rose with a lovely scent – and this was, for me, my plant of the show.”

A brief brush with fame,  Jonathan came across Carol Klein filming on the Trewidden Nursery Stand, and after pausing to watch for a while he was eventually approached by the director.  But fame, fortune and a new television career were not to be for Jonathan as the director just wanted to ask him to move across slightly as his white shirt was interfering with their filming!

Thunderstorms soon had the Great Pavilion filling up with people rushing to shelter from the rains.  The crowds ebbed away as the storms passed leaving Jonathan discovering the Marks and Spencer stand Nature’s Hidden Heroes with a stunning display of sunflowers.  Along with their leaflets, were a Butterfly identification chart and a free packet of seeds to attract butterflies and bees to the garden, samples of which were duly pocketed.

Time soon ran out for our journeying gardener though and so Jonathan made a final wander back to the show gardens past Monty Don filming in the BBC studio to seek out the F A Bartlett Tree Co, where he came away with an oak and a wild pear sapling to add to his growing bag of freebies collected through the day.

With sore feet, bulging bags and a camera full of amazing pictures Jonathan left Chelsea Flower Show 2014 to make the long journey back to Pontypridd.

Jonathan summed up the show, “What a fantastic but tiring day.  Chelsea never fails to impress all the show Gardens are amazing. I didn’t agree with the judge’s best in show choice, I would have given this to the Telegraph Garden or Alan Titchmarsh garden if it were to have been judged.  I can’t wait until the 2015 show now!”

RHS Chelsea montage

Nation of Gardeners on tour: RHS Malvern, an inspiring show full of plenty to do in all weathers

May 25th, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners, The flower garden | 0 Comments

Malvern Show garden 2014
Being a Nation of Gardeners member for Mr Fothergill’s is hard work!  We set our group of gardeners from around the UK to a range of growing tasks each month. Once a month they receive a mystery parcel and are asked to rise to a plant trials challenge with the content.   Though being keen gardeners, as each of them are, they still find some time for some leisure.

Once again one of our intrepid group of gardeners went on tour in May.  Our Ceredigion based gardener previously sent us this review of RHS Cardiff in April.  This time our gardener from Worcestershire set off to find out what the Malvern Spring Show had to offer in 2014.

Our gardener Chantell arrived at RHS Malvern at 10am, nice and early for a great day out.  The weather forecast during Malvern week was not good,  with the area seeing a soaking on quite a few days of the show. However, when Chantell and her companion arrived, it was cold and windy, but mercifully dry and so into the melee they went fully prepared for a long day of serious garden watching.

“We set off with picnic and purse in hand! Straight through the gate, paid for a ticket and off we went.”

Floral marquee at Malvern Show

First stop was the floral marquee, new for this year’s show and the sight that greeted them was impressive. Chantell commented on this first impression which was a sensory delight, “We were greeted by wonderful scents and colour. There were plants ranging from gigantic blooming delphiniums to tiny garden orchids.  Within the first few stands, the temptation was too great and mum had purchased a streptocarpus, just like Monty!”

Malvern Show gardenNext they stepped outside to explore the show gardens and the range of stalls and marquees with celebrities offering gardening advice throughout the day. “We ventured to the show gardens, which were beautifully created, the wildflower patch and the garden with pink gravel in were my favourites,” says Chantell.

It wasn’t long before their purses got to work, spending money on healthy plants at the wide range of stalls set up around the site.

“Very soon we had our hands on iris, gladiolus, arum lilies, candelabra primula, white peony, gunnera and rockery plants to name but a few,” she says, and an experience that she described as ‘heaven’!

There was also the opportunity at the end of the day to buy the show plants from the displays and so it was a gardener’s dream day out.

Though there were many wonderful things to see that day, Chantell took away from the show a deep impression of the ferneries and woodland displays she saw there, which inspired her to establish her own fernery in her garden once she’d got home.

Finally, with an empty purse and picnic basket, and bags and parcels full of plants for her garden at home, Chantell and companion left Malvern with smiles on their faces.   Overall, the show got a thumbs up from this Nation of Gardeners member!

“There were many plants stalls and trade stands to keep you occupied, lots of eateries and coffee stops and equally many picnic areas too.  There are marquees with all sorts of question times with celebrities such as Carol Klein and Christine Walkden and advice a-plenty.  A great day had.  I thoroughly enjoyed it!”

Malvern show shots