Creating a pond

Sitting in the midst of winter, thinking of summer?  Planning your pond is a bit like drawing up the plans for a new house or dreaming of the changes you would like to do to your current.  

Trees and shrubs are a valuable asset to any new pond site.  They can be used to screen undesirable views and help blend your development into the landscape.  Turn those mounds of collated earth that inevitably appear after digger work to your advantage.  Planting them up with trees and shrubs will turn them into a feature or create a setting backdrop to your new pond/development.  The trees should be native as they will look natural and attract the most wildlife.  Make sure there are plenty of:

Willow - there are several types available.  All are suited to wet ground, fast growing and great for wildlife and fish.  They attract insects which fall into the water and provide a food resource.

Alder - fast growing and suited to wetter areas.  They have pretty seeds hanging from the branches in autumn.

Rowan, Whitebeam, Crab Apple, Bird Cherry - these are all spring flowering trees with berries in autumn, creating seasonal interest and vital food for wildlife.

Birch - grows well in poorer ground and the silvery white bark adds interest.

Scots Pine - good for shelter and evergreen.

Oak, Ash, Wych Elm -  these trees will grow to large sizes so when planting, keep this in mind.

Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Guelder Rose, Hazel, Elder, Dog Rose - all of these are shrub trees and have flowers and fruit to attract birds, insects and mammal, as well as looking pretty.

Holly - evergreen shrub with berries for birds.

When planting the trees, make sure they are protected from vermin using protector tubes.  

You will undoubtedly will want to be planting up your pond to enhance the landscape and wildlife.  Emergent pond plants are valuable as they help prevent erosion to the banks of the pond and they provide natural food, snails and insects, for fish and birds such as wild duck and swallows.  There are three sections to the pond for planting: Marginal, Emergent and Sub-Merged.  

Marginal plants: Meadowsweet, Brooklime, Marsh-Marigold, Water Mint and Lesser Spearwort.

Emergent: Yellowflag, Branched Bur Reed, Reedmace, Bottle Sedge, Reed, Reed Canary Grass, Soft Rush and Amphibious Bistort.

Sub-Merged: Water Lilies, Potamogeton

Storm damage

Today is relatively peaceful compared to yesterday when we experienced just about every weather pattern imaginable: blue skies and sunny, gale force winds, rain, sleet, hail and snow.  We were safe and fine in the house with the electricity flickering but it was our large ancient trees that suffered, in particular the maples.  Of all the branches and boughs scattered across the fields, the majority came from the maple trees.  One had a large bough fall that was bigger than most trees!


Tree planting tips

These tree planting suggestions may seem obvious to seasoned hands but sometimes the simplest of tips can go a long way to making a difference.

- If you have a small garden, choose bird cherry, hazel, holly, hawthorn, rowan or crab apple.

- Smaller shrubs and hedgerows provide year round interest for us humans plus shelter and food for the birds and abundance of wildlife you will   attract!

- Keep the larger trees to more open spaces, e.g. beech, lime, Scots pine and oak.

- Remember to be aware of any underground pipes, overhead cables and buildings in the vicinity of your planting area. Probably not a good idea to plant the trees too close.

It is almost the end of November and we are heading into Christmas.  We are having Christmas at home this year and obviously want the house to feel cosy and decorated in a warm homely way.  I am thinking about a natural theme: garlands of willow, twigs of beech nuts and hazel.  Dotted through with dried poppy heads, lightly touched with a spray of silver and snow effect.  Entwined with fairy lights - sounds good?  Well we'll keep you posted!

Crab Apple Jelly



It's that time of year again when our little crab apple tree is weighed down with it's fruit.  Our favourite thing with roast pork is Crab Apple Jelly. We had a nice joint of saddleback ready to go into the oven on Sunday for lunch so whilst it was cooking we made Crab Apple Jelly!  Admittedly we had to fast track the setting of the jelly to have it with lunch but we simply poured a bit into a ramekin and popped it in the fridge. The rest of the jelly nicely filled a selection of jars.

Our tried and tested recipe is from an old Mrs Beeton's Household Management:

Ingredients:- 4 lb. of crab apples, 4 pints of water, 6 cloves, 1 inch of ginger, 1lb. of sugar to each pint of strained liquid.

Method:- Halve the crab apples. Place them in the water, add the cloves and ginger, simmer until tender, then drain well, but do not squeeze the apples.  Replace the drained liquid in the pan, add the sugar, boil until the syrup jellies quickly when tested on a cold plate, then pour into small jars or glasses.  Cover securely with parchment, and store in a cool, dry place.

Forest Walk

A gorgeous autumn day provided the perfect backdrop for a walk around the Hartwoodmyres forest plantation.

Some of the younger spruce trees that have been planted.


Looking down an internal line of the forest plantation.  The forest is so deep with these mature trees, very little light gets in and when you call out there is an impressive echo!


We spotted these bright jewels of a toadstool on the fringes of the forest.  There were quite a few of them nestled in the moss between the rows of trees.  I believe they are a type of Amanita fungi but will seek clarification on this.  The scene was reminiscent of a pixie cartoon.  (admin note: We have secured identification on these fungi! Thanks to First Nature: they are Russula emetica - The Sickener)




The Yarrow (Achillia millefolium) was still flowering.


Not sure what type of bumble bee this is but at least it was putting the Ragwort to good use! #HappyPolinators


Where they harvest the trees, it does look like a scar on the landscape but it is remarkable just how quickly new trees are planted and the speed of their growth.



The Heather (Calluna vulgaris) has finished it's purple display of flowers and now hosts dew covered cobwebs.


The timber harvest is stacked up ready to go.


We lost count of all the logs!


Knapweed was growing and flowering on the verge of the track.


Seasonal changes in species

Out and about around the garden today I have noticed quite a few seasonal changes with the plants and trees.

Spiky friends are appearing on the Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum).





The Elderflower (Sambucus nigra) berries have formed and are just beginning to change colour.  The red stems look great at this stage against the green berries but we look forward to seeing the glistening deep red-black berries in weeks to come.  Apologies for the rather grainy image - will make sure the next elder berry photo is taken on a still day!



The Crab Apples (Malus sylvestris) have fruit and are colouring up into a nice shade of red.




The Rowan berries (Sorbus aucuparia) are still glistening on the trees in their clusters.  Rowan berries vary in shades from orange to deep red.


Landscape photographer

Flicking through this weekend's Sunday Times Magazine, I was struck by the beautiful woodland scenes featured in the Spectrum section.  Shot by photographer Dav Thomas, one was a rowan tree in Bolehill, the other a wetland setting of willow and bulrush in Baslow.

With further investigation I have found he has published his work in what looks like an amazing book, With Trees.

Definitely one for the Christmas wish list.




Beech Nuts

Out and about today and spotted the beech nuts on the Fagus sylvatica. We don't believe they are edible - lots of reports online about tummy ache so we wouldn't recommend them but apparently they were used as a coffee substitute during the war...




Rowan Berries

Can you spot the Rowan Berries peeking out from the fringe of this young wood? We have a Rowan (Mountain Ash, Sorbus aucuparia) on the edge of our lawn and it adds interest all year round - berries, leaf colour, flowers. It's a pretty good tree for just about any sized garden.

The berries are perfect for making your own wine or jelly. If making jelly, try adding some crab apple to help it set.



Garden Lovers Events, Sep-Nov 2013

RHS Autumn Events,

24 Aug-29 September; Surrey Sculpture Society Trail, RHS Garden Wisley
More than 60 beautiful sculptures by some of the South East’s finest local artists will be displayed in a winding trail throughout the garden. All will be available to buy.

4-8 September; the Wisley Flower Show, RHS Garden Wisley
Experience the delights of Wisley in late summer whilst you browse, buy and get advice from 40 expert exhibitors including specialist nurseries, some of which are RHS Chelsea or Hampton Court Palace Flower Show medal winners.

6-8 September; West Country Craft Fair, RHS Garden Rosemoor
Come and support talented local craftspeople and artisans who take their inspiration from the landscapes and materials of the South West. Over 40 will be displaying a range of beautiful handmade items at Rosemoor’s craft fair.

6-22 September; the Artists’ Garden: Art Exhibition, RHS Garden Rosemoor
Over 80 of the South West’s most talented artists are involved in this exciting and colourful exhibition of naturalistic pictures, prints and cards. The range is eclectic in style and price. All work is for sale and the exhibition is stewarded by at least one participating artist each day.

11-22 September; Textila Exhibition, RHS Garden Harlow Carr
Well established contemporary textile group Textilla are exhibiting wearable items and wall art, created using a range of styles and techniques, for visitors to view and buy.

27-29 September; Real Ale and Cider Festival, RHS Garden Rosemoor
Rosemoor’s first Real Ale and Cider Festival features a range of interesting, unusual and quaffable real ales and ciders served direct from the barrel or available to take home. With food stalls and live music from local performers it promises to be a grand day out.

28-29 September; Chilli Pepper Weekend, RHS Hyde Hall
Explore the spicier side of vegetable growing at RHS Hyde Hall’s chilli festival. With colourful displays, stalls, advice and tastings it promises to be a real feast for the senses.

28-29 September; Malvern Autumn Show, the Showground, Malvern, Worcestershire WR13 6NW
The Malvern Autumn Show is a true celebration of gardening, the countryside, nostalgia and food. With plenty of activities to enjoy including cookery demonstrations, gardening talks, vegetable displays, vintage tractors, crafts and more, the show makes for a great family-friendly day out.

6 October; Apple Day, RHS Garden Rosemoor
Organised in conjunction with Orchards Live, Thornhayes Nursery and the RHS South West Area Fruit Group, Rosemoor’s annual celebration of all things apple includes cookery demonstrations, tastings, fruit displays, planting and cultivation tips and talks and a host of activities for children. There will also be stalls selling fruit, cider and apple juice.

8-9 October; RHS London Harvest Festival Show, Horticultural Halls, Greycoat Street & Vincent Square, London
Join in a celebration of the harvest and see, taste and buy produce from some of the best growers in the UK as they exhibit their bounty at the RHS London Harvest Festival Show. Tastings, live music, giant vegetable competitions and expert talks and advice round off the experience.

12-13 October; Taste of Autumn Festival, All RHS Gardens, RHS Wisley’s celebrations run from 16-20 Oct
Come and join as we celebrate the plenty of autumn across all RHS Gardens with food and drink stalls, tastings, talks, walks, expert advice and cookery demonstrations on how to cope with gluts of seasonal produce. RHS Grow Your Own is supported by Mr Fothergill’s.

16-23 October; Combined Harvest Art Exhibition, RHS Garden Harlow Carr
Artists Rachel McNaughton, Julie Cross and Vivienne Rawnsley exhibit a range of original paintings, prints and greeting cards for the public to both view and purchase.

22-23 October; RHS London Shades of Autumn Show
A show to give inspiration to those looking to extend the gardening season and learn about autumn planting from the experts. Featuring specialist nursery displays, tips, talks and advice plus a wide selection of plants to buy.

October Half Term,’Sense-ational Autumn’ All RHS Gardens
Get creative with hands-on art and craft activities aimed at children and based on exploring the senses of touch, smell, sight and hearing. Pumpkin carving workshops and Halloween themed activities will also be held on 26-27 October at RHS Garden Rosemoor and on 26 October at RHS Garden Hyde Hall.

9-24 November; Christmas Craft Exhibition, RHS Garden Harlow Carr
A wide range of items handmade by local craftspeople will be exhibited and available to buy, including beautiful jewellery, textiles, felt, woodwork and more.

23 November 2013-23 February 2014; Winter Sculpture Exhibition, RHS Garden Rosemoor
An eclectic mix of beautiful pieces by a range of sculptors spread throughout the Garden. Most of the pieces exhibited are for sale and free guided sculpture walks leave the Visitor Centre at 11.30am most Wednesday mornings.

23-24 November; Christmas Craft Fair, RHS Hyde Hall
Organised by the Guild of Essex Craftsmen, this weekend is an ideal opportunity to obtain special and unique handmade presents for family and friends at reasonable prices.

26 November-8 December; Christmas Art Exhibition, RHS Garden Harlow Carr
Back again by popular demand, the annual arts exhibition will be onsite featuring work from the very best artists from around the region.

27 November-1 December; Contemporary Craft and Design Fair, RHS Garden Wisley
Browse and buy from around 160 of the finest contemporary craftspeople in the country and find the perfect Christmas present in our heated marquee. Free for members, non-members £9, member’s guest £6, group bookings £8