Dahlias for cut flowers

Dahlias are one of the best garden plants for growing for use as cut flowers. Not only to they have an outstanding vase life, but they provide a season-long supply of spectacular blooms from mid summer right through to the first frosts. You can cut your dahlias regularly to enjoy in the home – the more you pick, the more they keep coming!


Of course, they look great in the garden as well, producing endless blooms on strong bushy plants that provide structure and interest at a height. These versatile plants look fitting in virtually any kind of planting scheme, from mixed country-style borders, to tropical or contemporary schemes. If you don’t have borders, choose dwarf varieties and they’ll grow happily in pots.

Dahlia flowers not only look good, but they provide a good source of nectar for bees and butterflies too. There’s a huge choice of different types to choose from with flowers in various forms and a spectrum of colours. While all dahlias are good for cutting, some types are particularly so, with long stems and extra large blooms that will dazzle in any indoor posy.

Tips on how to cut and arrange dahlias

  • Cut the blooms regularly to display indoors while they’re looking their best. The more you cut, the more will grow. Those that are left on the plant should be deadheaded as soon as they’re over to help keep fresh blooms coming.
  • The best time to cut dahlias is in the morning while they’re still cool.
  • Snip the stems horizontally across base of the stalk, just above where it meets the main stem and leaf nodes. You can then snip the flower stalk down to the right length when arranging.
  • Put the ends of the freshly-cut flowers into a container with very hot water for up to an hour before arranging, this treatment will help them to last even longer in the vase. Transfer them straight away to a prepared vase of cool water afterwards.
  • Remove any foliage from the stems before arranging to avoid them decaying in the water.
  • Change the water in the vase every couple of days to help keep the flowers fresh for longer.
  • Ensure all the stems are the same length before arranging. You can create a cottage-style bouquet by bunching them together with other summer flowers, or go for a more contemporary look and keep it simple with single-stem or single variety arrangements.

Read the rest of my guest post, the best dahlias for cut flowers, on Farmer Gracy’s blog –> 


Posted in Gardening | Leave a comment

Garden accessories for under £5

I love a bargain and I’ve noticed a fair few recently (including my best buy so far this year – a ‘Conference’ pear tree for £4.99 at Poundstretcher!) so I’ve compiled a list of some of my best finds for under £5.

It may go without saying – if you’re buying gardening tools, spending less than a fiver on them might mean that they’re not the best ever quality and probably won’t last a lifetime, but if you’re not tackling anything particularly heavy duty, they could do the job just fine.

Here are a few of my favourite spring bargains, some are handy for the garden, others are pretty accessories that’ll perk up the patio…

Wilko potato growbags – £2.50 for two

Buy two potato growbags for £2.50 from wilko.com

George Home Llama mini cushion – £5

Buy a Llama mini cushion for £5 at asda.com

Briers birds and branches magenta seed and weed gloves – £4.49

Buy Briers seed and weed gloves for £4.49 at briersltd.co.uk

Wilko expanding trellis 180cm x 60cm – £3.50

Buy expanding trellis for £3.50 from wilko.com

Zinc hanging tealight holder – £1.95

Buy zinc hanging tealight holders for £1.95 from dotcomgiftshop.com

B&M Rolson Dutch hoe – £2.99

Buy a Rolson Dutch hoe for £2.99 at bmstores.co.uk

Flying Tiger zinc pots – £4

Available in store at Flying Tiger for £4

George Home cactus tealight holder – £3

Buy a cactus tealight holder for £3 from adsa.com

Wilko soft handle secateurs – £3

Buy soft handled secateurs for £3 from wilko.com

Obar copper plant labels – £4 (for £10)

Buy copper plant labels for £4 from rowenandwren.co.uk

Botanical napkins – £1.99 H&M-£1.99-(3).jpg
Buy botanical paper napkins for £1.99 from H&M

Indoor water hyacinth ‘Fridfull’ pots 12cm – £3fridfull-plant-pot-water-hyacinth__0443534_pe594342_s4.jpg
Buy Fridfull pots for £3 at IKEA


Posted in Gardening | Leave a comment

Five of the best trailing begonias

If you want impressively big basket displays, trailing begonias are the way forward. Whether you prefer the big blowsy blooms of double-flowered varieties, or the elegant single-ones, they provide masses of colourful flowers that cascade wonderfully from any container, be it a basket, patio pot or window box.


How to grow begonias

Spring is the best time to buy begonias – you’ll have the biggest selection to choose from and you’ll get much better value for money than if you wait until the summer and buy ready-grown ones. They’re supplied as tubers during spring, ready for you to grow on from home. They’re very easy to grow from tubers, so it’s well worth planning ahead and ordering early.

Begonias are tender, so they need to be started off in a frost-free place, a conservatory or greenhouse is ideal.

Trailing Begonia Tubers

When you order begonia tubers online, they’ll be sent out at just the right time to pot them up (around March or April). Here are some simple steps for starting them off:

  • Fill a seed tray to about 8cm with compost.
  • Make shallow indents in the compost (approx. 3cm deep) and position your tubers in the indents, concave side up. Allow a 2cm spacing between the tubers.
  • Give the tubers a thorough but gentle watering, and leave them in a bright, frost-free place to grow.
  • Once leaves have emerged, move the tubers and plant them into pots, window boxes or hanging baskets, but keep them in their frost-free position until risk of frost has passed.
  • You can ‘harden off’ the begonias throughout late April and May by leaving them outside during the day and moving them indoors or covering them with horticultural fleece at night, or you can just keep them indoors until late May.
  • Containers can dry out quickly on hot days, so it’s important to water them every morning or evening in the middle of summer
  • To enjoy the biggest, most colourful displays, feed them on a weekly basis with a high-potassium fertiliser, such as tomato fertiliser.
  • Begonias often flower right up until the first frosts. To save your begonias for next year, remove them from their container before the frost catches them, shake off the soil and store them in a dry, well-ventilated and frost-free place. You can then repeat the process again the following year.

Discover five of my favourite trailing begonias on my guest post on Farmer Gracy’s blog -> 

Posted in Gardening | Leave a comment

Plants for small gardens and pots

Whether you’re looking to spruce up your patio for summer, turn a balcony or courtyard into a lush little oasis, or even just plant up a window box, there’s potential to create a beautiful, colourful display whether your outside space is big or small. Spring is the best time to plant summer-flowering bulbs and compact perennials in pots, giving them time to settle so that they establish into strong, healthy plants in summer.

Dahlia 'Bishop of Dover'

Container planting in small spaces

If you have paved courtyard garden or live in a flat with a balcony, container gardening is the easiest way to create a green space of your own. Even if your garden tiny and the growing conditions are tricky, by no means does it have to be bland. You have to pick and choose the right plants to suit the conditions, but there are so many varieties that will thrive in containers and can bring light to a dull space.

Small gardens and courtyards look really quaint when they’re cleverly planted with varieties that mature and provide colour year after year. Often, there’s no open ground to plant in so a good collection of pots, hanging baskets and raised beds is what you need.


Pots positioned on the ground produce low-level colour, which is great, but you’ll get an even better effect by positioning pots at different heights, which will provide colour at eye-level or higher. Plant ladders and plant stands are perfect for this, you can swap pots around and display your best-looking containers as they come into their own.

Different plants provide interest at different times of the year. With a bit of planning, you can fill pots with varieties that will provide successional colour all year round. If you don’t have room for a lot of pots, group plants together in one pot to create a mixed display. It’s best to stick to summer plants in summer pots and winter plants in winter pots so you always have a fresh display. That way you can move the move the pots that looks good to the front of the display and tuck the ones that are over away into the background until the following year.

Read the rest of my guest post, including planting tips and advice, on Farmer Gracy’s blog –>


Posted in Gardening | Leave a comment

How to make hanging kokedama

Hanging Kokedama by Coraleigh Parker, photo © Larnie Nicolson

Kokedama is the Japanese art of creating potless plants using a unique soil mixture, moss and string. Styling your home with indoor plants is one of the best new trends around, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve always loved house plants, I feel so much more relaxed indoors when I’ve got a healthy balance of living greenery around me.

Making kokedama is really easy and inexpensive to do (or even free if you’ve got a good supply of moss in your garden!). Otherwise, it’s pretty cheap to buy the moss from an online florist supplier.

I’ve really got into kokedama since I got my hands on Coraleigh Parker’s new book Hanging Kokedama, so I’m sharing an extract from it below – here’s one of my favourites –

How to make fern kokedama

Hanging Kokedama by Coraleigh Parker, photo © Larnie Nicolson

Photo © Larnie Nicolson


Ferns are typically found on forest floors, so their soil mixture should include plenty of organic matter and coarse fibre. They love growing under trees or in rotting wood, so try to imagine and replicate this kind of environment for them. A portion of coconut is a good rotting wood substitute. It takes longer to break down than ordinary wood chips but still provides the same humid atmosphere for the fern roots. They just love exploring stuff with their little creeping roots, so having a good texture inside the ball helps them to feel like they have found a great home. The other guy who loves a good tree carcass is moss. Moss and ferns are actually best buds. If you can harvest some live moss from a nearby forest or damp backyard (with landowner’s permission), use it to wrap up Mr Fern and they will live happily ever after.

Photo copyright: Larnie Nicolson

Step 1. Ferns like it moist. Mix all the ingredients for the soil recipe together then make a mud pie.

Image copyright: Larnie Nicolson

Step 2: Add enough water so that the mixture can be formed easily into a ball and hold its shape.

Image copyright: Larnie Nicolson

Step 3: Make a ball of mud and chunks around the root ball of the fern. Keep in mind that the size of the ball will define the ultimate size of the fern. The bigger the ball, the bigger the fern.

Image copyright: Larnie Nicolson

Step 4: Place the mud ball on moss. If using wild moss put it green side down on the table and put the ball on what would have been the underside of the moss. Use nylon to wrap, or another synthetic fibre.

Image copyright: Larnie Nicolson

This kokedama has been made with live green moss and tied with fishing line.



This brand new book is packed full of great kokedama projects and ideas, I really recommend it!

Hanging Kokedama: Creating Potless Plants at Home by Coraleigh Parker is published 15th March by Jacqui Small (£20).

Pre-order a copy of Hanging Kokedama online 

Quart Publishing


Save 20% on ferns at Crocus


Snap up great value ferns at Crocus and create a lush woodland effect indoors or out. Choose from a great range available with a 20% discount!

Save 20% on ferns now

Posted in Gardening, Offers | Leave a comment

Eight great planting combinations

Spring is a great time to plan your planting schemes for the summer. Getting plants or summer bulbs planted in spring gives them time to settle before waking up in their new location, so they’ll establish quicker and create a good display in their first year.


Liatris ‘Spicata’ and Crocosmia ‘Emily McKenzie’ in a barrel

When choosing plants for your garden, you can’t go far wrong as long as you go for varieties that suit the growing conditions. As long as they’re thriving, they’ll look great. When it comes to combining different varieties, make sure they are all happy with the same conditions. For example, grow shade-loving varieties together in shady spaces, and sun-loving varieties in sunny spots. If you have particularly extreme conditions, such as a sun-soaked dry border, an exposed garden or damp, shady or boggy garden, always choose plants that will tolerate those conditions.

Another thing to consider when deciding on a planting combination is growing heights and habits. Tall plants with flower spikes provide contrasting structure in the border when planted next to more bushy plants. Low-growing plants can make the perfect low-level interest, covering the stems of tall plants behind and creating a gradient of flowers. If you’re planting in containers, you should choose compact varieties, ideally with good drought tolerance (unless you are happy to water them every day in summer).

Also, get the timings right. All plants have a season of interest, so good to choose varieties that will provide this at the same time, or successively with an overlap if you want an extended season of interest.

Colours can be a bit of an afterthought. Flowers always seem to complement each other and it’s always worth giving every colour a chance, even those that you might not like on their own. For example, I often hear people say that they don’t like yellow or orange flowers. Agreeably, some can be a bit brash to look at close up, but they’re so important for balancing any colour scheme, and for bringing out the blues, purples and pinks.

Here are some great summer garden plant combinations with all of the above considered:



These three thrive in a sunny location and flower continuously throughout summer, providing a long-lasting display in warm shades. Best suited to growing in the border, with low-growing astilbe at the front and the dahlia and daylily behind. The dahlia and astilbe both make great cut flowers, so you can cut them and enjoy them in a vase too.

Featured plant combination:

  • Dahlia ‘Bishop of York’
  • Daylily ‘Pandora’s Box’
  • Astilbe ‘Cotton Candy’

Read about the other seven combinations on Farmer Gracy’s blog–>

Summer bulbs offers from Farmer Gracy


Plants agapanthus bulbs this spring for an effortlessly impressive display in sunny borders or containers this summer! Use offer code GONJ15AGAP to save 15% on all agapanthus at Farmer Gracy, until 31 March 2018.

Save on agapanthus now

Save 15% on dahlias


Save 15% across the entire range of premium dahlias at Farmer Gracy until 31 March 2018. Plant them this spring for impressive flower displays throughout summer! Please enter offer code GONJ15DAHL at checkout to claim your discount.

Buy dahlias now

Save 20% on crocosmia


Plant crocosmias this spring and for vibrant colour throughout summer and autumn. Crocosmias are fully hardy and easy to grow, providing masses of colour with very little effort – it’s hard to go wrong with this reliable plant! You’ll save 20% on the brilliant range of premium crocosmia bulbs at Farmer Gracy until 31 March, 2018. Simply enter offer code GONJ20CROC at checkout to claim your discount.

Save 20% on crocosmias now

Posted in Gardening, Offers | Leave a comment

How to grow agapanthus

Blue AgapanthusThere’s no simpler way to create a showy and impressive display than with easy-to-grow agapanthus. Effortlessly flowering with statuesque and bold clusters of lily-like blooms on tall, sturdy upright stems, these beautiful plants provide important colour and structure throughout summer, with minimal fuss.

Flowering in the height of summer, agapanthus (or African lily) do best in a sunny position and will inject a much-needed fresh pop of cool colour into the garden from August onwards. They come in shades of blue, white, pink or mauve and look fitting in both traditional and modern planting schemes. Not only are they fabulous in the garden, but they’re great for use as cut flowers too. The dramatic blooms have long, upright stems which make them particularly useful for tall, contemporary or simple glass vases.

Blue Agapanthus in vase

With its exotic looks, agapanthus makes a big impact, whether you have a large patio, deep borders or just a balcony. They like having their roots restricted and have good drought tolerance, which together makes them ideal for container growing. They also sit very well in small gardens with narrow beds or along pathways. Another bonus is that they’re beneficial to pollinators too, attracting bees and butterflies to the garden with their nectar-rich flowers.

Read more about agapanthus in my guest post on Farmer Gracy’s blog –>

Save 15% on agapanthus


Plants agapanthus bulbs this spring for an effortlessly impressive display in sunny borders or containers this summer! Use offer code GONJ15AGAP to save 15% on all agapanthus at Farmer Gracy, until 31 March 2018.

Save on agapanthus now

Posted in Gardening, Offers | Leave a comment