How to grow Hornbeam

It’s was a frosty morning here in Lancashire, North West England. Despite the cold I was tempted outside to have a look at the garden and of course to take some pictures of frosted plants. As expected there were lots of frosted seedheads and the duck pond was completely frozen over. At the edge of the pond a some of the plants were lit up by the early morning sunshine.

One of the first things we did when we moved here was to plant a long Hornbeam hedge at the bottom of our garden. We chose Hornbeam for several reasons:

  1. It’s a beautiful tree. Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) has deeply ridged lime green leaves which unfurl in late April, turn mid-green in summer, yellow in autumn and then remain a lovely coppery colour throughout winter.
  2. Hornbeam copes well with our heavy clay soil. It doesn’t grow well where the ground is permanently waterlogged but it does amazingly well with wet ground. It’s very hardy thriving in cold and exposed windy situations.
  3. Garden birds such as thrushes, blackbirds, wrens and finches often choose Hornbeam hedges for nest sites. They’re a good supply of food too. Moth caterpillars feed on Hornbeam leaves and the birds feed on them.

Since then I’ve discovered that it’s also brilliant for cutting for it’s fresh new foliage in spring and is particularly amazing on a sunny winter day when the leaves are backlit by sunlight.

Hornbeam is a deciduous tree which can also be grown as a hedge. 

Like a Beech hedge, Hornbeam often holds onto the leaves throughout winter. Hornbeam leaves are usually darker brown and deeply ridged with serrated edges. When the sun shines through them on a winters day like today they are even more beautiful.

If you want to grow your own hedge, then Hornbeam is available now as bare root plants from all good nurseries or garden centres. Usually they are available throughout the dormant season from mid-autumn until late winter. (October until the end of February.) These bare root young plants are known as whips and are usually sold in bundles of 25 for around £1 each. You can’t plant them when the ground is frozen or waterlogged but any other time throughout autumn and winter is fine.

How to plant a bare root hedge.

All you need to do is make a slit in the ground with your spade and push the roots into the earth. Firm the turf back in place with your feet and plant the next one about 60cm/two feet away. There is no need for a double row despite all the advice to the contrary. Young Hornbeam plants establish quickly and will produce a good hedge in just a few years. As the trees grow they will naturally shade out any grass and unwanted plants (weeds) growing close by without you having to resort to any nasty chemicals.

Most traditional gardening books will advise you to prepare the ground for your new hedge by killing the weeds, digging a strip 60cm/two feet wide and adding plenty of organic matter before planting a double row of young trees. That’s a lot of hard work and completely unnecessary I think, especially if you are planting a long hedge.

How to Prune Hornbeam Hedges

Let your hedge grow to the required height, somewhere around five or six feet /1.5m – 1.8m is perfect for most gardens. Trim the hedge once each year in mid to late summer. (July or August.) You might want to bundle up and save some of the twiggy prunings because they are perfect for use in your borders to support any floppy flowering plants next year.

What’s it like in your garden today? Did you have frost or snow?  Gillian

Duck inspired plan for 2019

It was a frosty start this morning in our Lancashire garden with wildlife tumbling in from the fields for their breakfast as usual. I nipped out in my dressing gown and wellies to take a few photos of these wild ducks. They pop in every morning for a light snack of corn followed by the all you can eat buffet in the borders consisting mainly of fat black slugs and juicy pale snails.

Do ducks have a plan for 2019? I wondered as I took the pictures. I doubt that!  These ducks just seem to be enjoying their lives to the full. So this year I’ve decided to take a leaf out of their book.

I’ve decided to have more fun every day this year. If it’s not enjoyable then I’m just not doing it! I’ll be flexing my delegation muscles so I can spend more time doing what I love. We’ll see how that goes as the year unfolds.

You can learn a lot from wild creatures and the natural world I find. So I’ve decided it’s time to really look at what’s going on around me, to observe nature and all the beautiful details through the seasons.

Like the ducks I’ll be rooting through the borders too, but I’ll be having a good clear out and sowing seeds. You may be relieved to know that for my mid-morning snack I’ll be having cake instead of slugs though.

I’m joining Tina at mygardenersays for Wildlife Wednesday (first Wednesday of the month)

What inspired your plans for 2019?

3 Reasons to Grow Sweet Peas in Autumn

Let’s get straight to the point… Autumn sown Sweet Peas produce

  1. Stronger plants with a good root system
  2. Healthier plants with better disease resistance
  3. Masses of scented flowers for cutting

There’s no reason to wait until spring as long as you have a small covered area to protect them from the worst of the winter weather.

How to Grow Sweet Peas in Autumn.

I’ve grown a lot of Sweet Peas and this works best for me:

  1. Sow two seeds per cell/root trainer and keep them in a cold frame, polytunnel or unheated greenhouse. Mice love Sweet Pea Seeds so it’s best to keep them protected from the hungry little critters until they have all germinated.
  2. Grow on in the cell/root trainer until your seedlings are well established then pot them on. I recommend potting two well established seedlings into a tall 1L pot because they have long roots.
  3. Sweet Peas are quite hardy so they easily survive throughout winter without any special attention. They will grow roots first and then when the days lengthen and the temperature rises a little you’ll notice that the stems and leaves are growing quickly. Pinch out the tips to encourage production of site shoots and allow them to grow on.
  4. In March plant each pair outside together at the base of a tall hazel or bamboo cane and tie them in carefully. Take care to keep the rootball intact so as not to disturb the roots and check the plants growth. Please note that Sweet Peas grow up to 1.8m – 2.10 metres /  6 – 7 feet tall so it’s important to make sure that your supporting canes are long enough!

Sweet Peas for Autumn Sowing

There are some lovely varieties for you in the Sweet Pea Shop this month. I’ve selected some of the best Sweet Peas based on scent, vigour, reliability and flower production. Many of them have the RHS Award of Garden Merit and they are suitable for exhibiting and winning gold medals at flower shows too. If you have a particular colour scheme in mind these named varieties are available in single colours so it’s easy for you to choose Sweet Peas to match your theme.

Sweet Peas are also available in Collections. Each collection has blooms that perfectly complement each other. All you need to do is sow and grow to be sure of a super-duper display in your garden and you’ll have plenty of flowers for cutting. Nothing beats that feeling of having a beautiful garden with flowers to pick whenever you like.

If you are planning to grow your own flowers for a special event next year such as a wedding or an anniversary party, then in my view Sweet Peas are essential. You’ll save a lot of money by growing your own and have masses of beautiful scented flowers to choose from. Why not enlist the help of a couple of friends and grow a collection each?

Are you growing Sweet Peas this Autumn? Which are your favourite varieties?



The reason I’ve written this post now is because I’ve been asked to remind readers which seeds to sow at the appropriate time. Naturally I’d prefer to write about things you actually want to read… so I have a few of questions and I would really appreciate your views.

  1.  Would you like more of this type of post with gentle prompts to inspire and encourage you to have a go?
  2.  What else would you like to know about growing, sowing and gardening?
  3.  Would you like to start a creative business using your garden or allotment to grow plants and flowers?
  4.  Are you interested in improving your garden photography for your blog and social media?
  5.  Is there anything else you’d love to read about?

Thank you so much for reading, liking and especially for commenting. I appreciate your thoughts!

If you have questions or ideas you can comment in the usual way below or if you would prefer to send me a private message you are most welcome to use my Contact form.

How to Grow Rudbeckia Cherry Brandy

Rudbeckia hirta Cherry Brandy is a fabulously glamorous plant. With huge crimson red blooms with a hint of golden brandy colouring and a long flowering period these plants are a great addition to the late summer garden. They are brilliant for cut flowers, to attract bees and butterflies or simply enjoy them in your beds and borders.

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Bluebells and Red Campion

At last the Bluebells are blooming in our garden. They were already here when we bought our house and spread themselves around as they like. Our house sits on land which is a mix of old farmland and woodland so I’m guessing these plants have grown here a while. The Bluebells are a mix of our native dark blue Bluebells and Spanish Bluebells which have paler blue flowers and pink blooms too. If you’d like to see the difference click the Bluebell on the left. 

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Best Plants for Butterflies

Did you know that Butterflies need our help?

76% of British native and visiting Butterflies have declined since 1976

Changes to the British landscape have affected the habitat and food supply that our butterflies need. Destruction of habitat is thought to be the prime cause with changes in agriculture and horticulture coming a close second. These are the main reasons that Britain is not as Butterfly friendly as it was 40 years ago:

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New Flower Seed Collections

New Flower Seed Collections.

There are three exciting new listings for Lucky Dip packages filled with Country Garden Seeds.
Each surprise package may include seeds from any of the following categories:

  • Hardy Annuals
  • Half Hardy Annuals
  • Sweet Peas and Climbers

Please note that every Lucky Dip surprise package is totally unique and no two will contain the same seeds…

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Happiness is a Garden

I love a good gardening book. Over the years I’ve read quite a lot, especially when I earned my living as a Garden Designer. When I needed to know all sorts of technical details learning from others who generously shared their knowledge in a book was brilliant for me. Gardening is one of the most popular hobbies and each year there are lots of new books to choose from. Many of them are very practical giving instructions about HOW TO tackle a particular task. I find it fascinating to read how others approach their garden. I’m also very interested in WHY gardens mean so much to some people.

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Wallflower Giant Pink


Giant Pink Wallflowers are still available in the Pink and White Biennial Flowers Collection. I have a few boxes left and they will sell out fast so to be completely fair it’s first come first served. Sow them this month then your young plants will carry on growing whilst the soil is still warm this autumn. All the seeds in this collection are Hardy Biennials so they will not only survive but thrive outside throughout the winter months then burst into life again in spring. You’ll have a good selection of early pink and white blooms which are lovely in the garden with tulips, perfect for pollinators and excellent for cut flowers of course. There are 6 packets of seed in this collection for £9.95.

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