Helmsley Walled Garden

Photo credit: Colin Dilcock

Laburnum arch at Helmsley. Photo by Colin Dilcock

I’m from North Yorkshire, I now live in the South East and I haven’t been back to Yorkshire for years, but when I do I’ll make sure I visit Helmsley Walled Garden. I’ve been researching gardens to visit recently and this one really stands out. I’d love to go in May and see the amazing laburnum arch (pictured).

The five acre walled garden is situated next to Helmsley Castle, right at the foot of the Yorkshire Moors. The walled garden is 250 years old, and has been restored in more recent years, from total dereliction back to its former glory. It’s amazing how the garden has been tamed and trimmed into this pristine and tranquil place, just since the 1980’s. You can read about the history of Helmsley Walled Garden and see how it looked before it was restored. Now, there are gorgeous borders, a clematis garden, ornamental glasshouses and an orchard (plus a tea room and gift shop!).

Social and therapeutic horticulture

There are many therapeutic qualities to being outdoors in beautifully planted spaces, and also practical horticulture and the taking part in creating a garden and growing plants.

Helmsley Walled Garden is not just an amazing space to visit, but they are a charity that uses the money raised from their admissions to fund their social care programme, which provides horticultural therapy to vulnerable adults. The more visitors they get, the more they can help people.

What a great cause and a lovely project.


Helmsley Walled Garden is open to the public between April and October, admission price £7.50.

Find out more about Helmsley Walled Garden on their website.


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

Visit my offers page for more great deals on plants for your garden!


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Shrubs with dark foliage


Give shrubs a permanent position in the garden and they’ll provide a long season of low-maintenance and reliable colour for many years. If you want to create a leafy and floriferous oasis, but don’t have lots of time to be watering, staking and deadheading, then shrubs are the perfect choice for you.

How to grow shrubs

  • Check the label when choosing a shrub to find out if it’s fully hardy. Hardy varieties are the easiest to grow – all you really need to do is plant them straight outside, water and leave them to it. Hardy shrubs provide fuss-free colour repeatedly each year.
  • Plant during autumn or spring, this will give the roots time to anchor before they’re more heavily relied upon during the growing season. Dig a hole that’s wider and deeper than the rootball and mix in a bit of organic mulch and/or granular fertiliser to the bottom to give it a good boost into the season. You can also mix in some grit if drainage is poor.
  • Position your shrub so that its best side is facing into the garden, ensure it’s straight, then backfill with soil. Firm it down and then give it a really good water. It’ll need regular watering during its first growing season, but probably won’t need watering at all in the years that follow.
  • Different shrubs have different pruning instructions, but the general rule with is to prune them back by about one third just after they have finished flowering.


Dark-leaved shrubs are great for adding contrast to mixed borders and shrubberies. They can also create a dramatic backdrop for bright-flowered plants.

Here are some of my favourite dark-leaved shrubs:

Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’


Easy to grow in any sheltered spot in acid soil. Don’t worry if you don’t have acid soil, they will grow happily in large containers with ericaceous compost. You can buy acers in all kinds of lovely shades ranging from bright lime green, to coral and very deep red. ‘Bloodgood’ is a well-known and popular variety. Its outstanding garden performance has won it an RHS Award of Garden Merit. It’s a slow grower (great for small gardens), but it can eventually reach a height of 4m – you can prune it to keep it smaller if necessary. Acers look great in modern or contemporary planting schemes, but can also sit very nicely with cottage-garden flowers.

Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ £29.99 from Crocus


Sambucus nigra ‘Black Tower’


Sambucus (also known as Elder), is very reliable and will thrive in almost any location. Dark-leaved varieties, such as ‘Black Tower’ (pictured) provide a very long season of interest with their gorgeous, black foliage. During late spring and early summer you can enjoy additional interest from the beautiful pink and white edible flowers, which are formed in large, flat clusters. Later in the year, the flowers develop into glossy black berries that wild birds love to eat. It’s a great variety for wildlife gardens, but also looks great in ornamental borders or shrubberies.

Special offer at Hayloft – 3 for £12


Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’


This is also known as the ‘Smoke Bush’, producing delicate sprays of tiny flowers on wispy stems that give the effect of little clouds of smoke. The soft dark mauve foliage is evergreen so it provides year-round colour. It can grow up to 3m relatively quickly, so it’s great if you want a fast screen. On the other hand, it’s easy to keep it compact and responds well to annual prune after flowering. Cotinus stems look gorgeous in cut-flower bouquets, too.

Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ £9.99 for J. Parkers


Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Tom Thumb’


This is a lovely compact shrub, ideal for growing in mixed borders or small gardens. The glossy, rich purple foliage looks good all year round, especially when the young foliage appears in a contrasting shade of lime green.

Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Tom Thumb’ £13.50 from Burncoose


Save on dark-leaved elders! Three sambucus for £12


If you like dark foliage plants, or want to add contrast to shrubberies, this collection is a great choice. These stunning dark-leaved elders provide plenty of interest from spring right through to late autumn, you’ll get three for just £12 with this offer.

Save on sambucus now






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New gardening offer page


Save on crocosmias

I love a bargain, and I know lots of other gardeners who do too. So I’ve teamed up with some top suppliers and got some great offers together so we can all fill our gardens with the plants we love, and save a little bit of money in the process.

Take a look at my new gardening offers page – I’ve already got some great deals to kick off the spring season but there will be more added regularly.

Here’s to great deals for gardeners! 🙌

Go to gardening offers –>

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How to grow nerines

Late-flowering nerines are easy to grow and highly rewarding. Each bulb produces multiple long, slender stems topped with large rounded clusters of exquisite lily-like flowers, injecting much-needed fresh colour into the garden just as other flowers are starting to fade.


Spring is the best time to plant nerines. Most are fully hardy, so once you’ve planted them you don’t have to worry about moving them to a frost-free place for winter unless the temperatures are likely to dip below -10C. Otherwise, you can just look forward to a fuss-free and vibrant display in autumn, year after year.

Another great benefit to growing nerines is that they make wonderful cut flowers, with good fragrance and a long vase life. They have very long flowering stalks which enable them to be used in tall displays, but they look equally lovely in rustic cottage-garden bouquets with other late flowerers, like dahlias, rudbeckia, eryngium and echinacea.

Read more on nerines, including how to grow them and some of the best varieties to grow, on my guest pots on Farmer Gracy’s blog


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Make a dinosaur swamp garden

I’ve been looking through Emma Hardy’s book, Teeny Tiny Gardening and now I feel inspired to make everything in it! I had to share one of my favourites, a cool dinosaur swamp garden…


Dinosaur swamp garden

You will need:

  • Enamel dish
  • Drainage crocks
  • Gravel
  • Potting mix
  • Thick black plastic (a piece of compost bag is ideal)
  • Pebbles and stones
  • Indoor or outdoor plants and ferns. This container includes Blechnum spicantCrassula muscosaCrassula ovataHaworthia attenuataLampranthusSagina subulataSoleirolia soleirolii (mind-your-own-business).


How to do it:

  • If using outdoor/hardy plants, make drainage holes in the dish first of all.
  • Place broken crocks and gravel in the bottom of the enamel dish and add a layer of potting mix.
  • Position your plants around the dish, filling the gaps with more potting mix and firming down.
  • Form a dip in an area of the potting mix for your swamp. Cut a piece of black plastic and submerge it into the dip. Arrange pebbles and stones around it to anchor it down.
  • Fill any gaps with moss or mind-your-own-business and lightly water it.
  • Add a little water to your swamp and arrange your dinosaurs into position.




This book is full of brilliant ideas!

Teeny Tiny Gardening by Emma Hardy (CICO Books (£12.99)





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Growing daphnes


Daphnes bring plenty of interest to the garden during late winter and spring, with clusters of highly fragrant flowers in white, pink or mauve. They look great in mixed borders and shrubberies, and you can also get dwarf forms that are suitable for growing in containers. Not only do they bring colour and structure to the garden and provide early-season nectar for bees, but the flowering branches can be used for cutting too.

Flowering shrubs, such as daphnes, are a great low-maintenance alternative to flowering perennials or bulbs, providing year-round structure and height. Producing a repeat show of flowers every year, they’re easy to grow, non fussy and usually last for many years.

How to grow daphnes


Choose a sheltered site in full sun or partial shade with any free-draining soil. Dig a hole which is larger enough to fit the rootball, plus a little extra room. Dig in a an organic mulch to the bottom of the hole to give the plant a really good start. Position the plant in the pot and backfill with soil, firming down afterwards. Water generously after planting.


Daphnes require very little maintenance. Most evergreen varieties have a compact growing habit – they don’t tend to become unruly, therefore don’t need to be pruned. Larger, deciduous varieties, such as Daphne mezereum (pictured) can be pruned after flowering if necessary, but should be kept to a mimimum.


Two fragrant daphnes for £12


Enjoy the gorgeous scent of these beautiful and low maintenance daphnes from spring onwards every year. These particularly compact varieties are ideal for growing in containers or small gardens, attracting bees and filling the air with fantastic fragrance. With this offer, you can buy the collection of two (white and pink) for just £12. Only available while stocks last, order early to a avoid disappointment!

Save on daphnes now

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Top 10 bulbs to plant this spring


Summer-flowering bulbs provide some of the biggest, best and most exotic-looking blooms, and spring is the best time to plant them. Not only do they look fabulous growing in borders or containers, but many make wonderful cut flowers too, so you can also enjoy freshly-picked blooms in your home.

You’ll often find these beauties ready-grown and in full bloom at the garden centre during summer, but this is the most expensive way to buy them. With a small amount of early planning you can easily grow them yourself, setting your garden up to be a colourful oasis at a fraction of the price.

So, if you’re itching to get out in the garden or even just to start planning your glorious summer of colour, you’ll be pleased to know that now is a great time to start.

Read on to find out the top 10 summer-flowering bulbs to plant now, plus growing tips…

Continue reading my guest blog post on Farmer Gracy –>

Save 15% on dahlias at Farmer Gracy


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

Posted in Gardening | Leave a comment