The Joy of Geraniums

Perennial geraniums are a fabulous plant. I mentioned ‘perennial’ because the misnomer that pelagoniums are geraniums continues, led by garden centres and nurseries around the country. In fact, both of these plants are perennial. Pelagoniums, though not frost hardy, will quite happily develop into a…

Read more

A 'Blooming' Good Reason for Growing Houseleeks

Succulents have, by and large, passed me by for most of my green-fingered life. It was only when I began planning my wedding and looking at more masculine table settings and bouquets, that I began to realise just how wonderful Sempervivum (houseleeks) are. Until then I knew them only for nostalgic r…

Read more

Making a Case for Violas

There’s no love lost between Pansies and I. I’m not really a big fan of gaudy flowers, and I’m afraid I normally put pansies in this category. Add the fact there’s a vast amount of deadheading to do throughout the season, not to mention these plants tend to be short-lived and get very straggly, and …

Read more

Plant Pick - Growing Hollyhocks

I’m the first to admit I’m not a fan of short-lived plants. I like to plop a plant in and leave it, allowing its perennial nature to keep it growing year after year. All this annual and biennial sowing nonsense; no, I can’t be doing with that. Aside from a few plants, however. And one of these is th…

Read more

Plant Pick - Growing Dahlias

‘Tis very much the season for dahlias. I’m a huge fan of these blooms, though I admit, I have a slight love/hate relationship. There are a vast array of varieties in the dahlia collection, from sinewy, single-petalled bloomers to small, clump forming plants with huge, gaudy flowers. It’s the latter …

Read more
© Geoff Wakeling

Plant Pick - Growing Tulips

If you hadn’t heard, it’s September already. That means it’s time to plant bulbs for a spring show in 2015. And, if you’re stocking up, then it’s definitely time to be thinking about tulips.

I often think that tulips are one of the more overlooked bulbs. We all fill our gardens with daffs, crocus…

Read more

Plant Pick - Growing Osteospermum (Cape Daisy)

I always feel as if some plants are vastly overlooked for tropical looking species and varieties that are new on the scene. Osteospermum (African Daisy), for example, seems to have a new colour shade coming out every years. However, I still have an extremely strong affection for Osteospermum jucundu…

Read more

Plant Pick - Growing Sedum (Herbsfreude)

Okay, hear me out; Yes, Sedum Herbstfreude is an extremely common plant that may seem rather dull to you. BUT, I feel this plant is often overlooked. It has a huge number of positives; it’s wildlife friendly, it’s easy to grow, it has fantastic cover during late summer/early autumn AND it provides s…

Read more

Plant Pick - Growing Skimmia

Okay, I know it’s still summer, but winter will be here before you know it. I’m honestly hoping for a cold snap this year – the wet, grey winter of 2013 was horrendous; I don’t think we had even one frost in London. That’s BAD for plants – they need dormancy. And it’s BAD for gardeners – we need a r…

Read more

Plant Pick - Growing Thrift (Armeria)

I think I must’ve first come across Thrift (Armeria) when I was a lad holidaying in Scotland. Our family didn’t head abroad, but jumped in the car and journeyed to the stunning landscapes of the Lake District, Scotland and Northumberland. I distinctly remember great swathes of thrift clinging to the…

Read more
Pink Thrift in a natural setting - Flickr - © AnnaKika

Book Review – Medicinal Plants

One of the things I want to do this year is have a little play for marigolds (Calendula) and experiment with the flower’s medinical use. Not only are calendula fantastic for the garden – especially a vegetable plot where the bring in lots of insects to eat those ‘orrible critters – but, yes, they have healing properties too. These include antiviral and inflammatory properties! So, when I was sent The Gardener’s Companion to Medicinal Plants, naturally, I was curious.


The Gardener's Companion to Medicinal Plants

The Gardener’s Companion to Medicinal Plants – A Beautiful Book


Now, let’s just say at the start that this book is GORGEOUS. I love a gardening tome laden with photography, but there’s something alluring and beautiful about botanical illustrations. And there are plenty in this book…i.e on every page. Plus, there are a few lovely photos too!


Dandelion Flowers

The companion includes some lovely and inspiring photos

Botanical illustration - Buddleja

Beautiful botanical illustrations are paired with interesting history and science


The companion itself is an A-Z of medicinal plants, many of which might be considered a weed. Each has a small description followed by the parts used and its known historic use. Then, to bring things up to date a little, there’s also a ‘Medicinal Discoveries‘ which unveils some of the modern findings behind these plants. For instance, Buddleja, that lovely butterfly bush but also a common weed growing along railway lines and disused buildings, was traditionally used to treat eye problems. And now, modern science has found clinical data to support this, with the extract of buddleja flowers having the potential to treat dry eye and glaucoma! Pretty impressive. Meanwhile, you might want to plant a couple of oak trees as the bark has some antibacterial properties.

Along with all the history and science, there are some great recipes here too. There’s instructions to make Calendula lip balm, for example. Or maybe leaves those nettles so you can make soup. Alternatively, try some rosemary infused oil.


The Gardner’s Companion to Medicinal Plants is really lovely, and backed up by some rather influential writers; herbalist Jason Irving, KEW medicinal plant researcher Professor Monique S. J. Simmonds, and Chartered Chemist Dr Melanie-Jayne Howes. It’s a great read, has some very useful recipes if you want to dabble with some homegrown medicine from your own backyard and makes a beautiful gift.

You can find it at Amazon, both on the US and UK sites.

Monday Magic – Iris Reticulata, Peppers and Osteospermums

Welcome to a HOT Monday Magic. Well, hot for February. In fact, right now it’s 15°C! There’s a lot to be inspired in the garden today, from beautiful iris reticulata flowers (variety Katherine Hodgkin), hellebores and crocus, to the emergence of the first pepper seedlings of 2017. Now, I’ve had GREAT difficulty with these in the past and have never managed to get more than a tiny fruit in 2016. I put the seeds in early this year to extend the growing season with the hopes I’ll get a larger harvest. So – California Wonder – if you’re listening, grow well, strong, big and give me LOTS of yummy goodness.

Meanwhile, the osteospermum cuttings I took last autumn have not only rooted, but are beginning to flower. Let’s be frank; getting these flowers to root is little harder than pushing a snipped piece of stem into some compost. BUT, it’s a welcome sight in February to see the arrival of flower buds. There are in a conservatory however, so the plants in the garden are far from flowering.

In the alpine garden, the iris reticulata bulbs have also exploded into beautiful colour. These fabulous plants come in a variety of colours, often of deep blue and almost purplish hue. However, I really love the soft, delicate pattern of Katherine Hodgkin as something a little different. It’s the first time I’ve ever grown these bulbs and they were SO simple. Placed in the alpine troughs with plenty of grit to stop the bulbs from rotting, they should repeat flower for several years before they lose their vigour and need replacing.

Iris reticulata (Katherine Hodgkin)

Just yesterday, the iris reticulata blooms were still in hiding.

Finally, I found quite a surprise in the shed today. I’ve been dealing with a mouse infestation for many months, and I heard some squeaking. Thinking, perhaps, it might be a new nest of these little persistent rodents, I scoured the shed…only to discover the noise came from a zebrafinch nest. And there, despite it only being February, were some teeny tiny chicks.

Spring is on the way for sure!

MONDAY MAGIC – Orchids, Eggs and Seedlings

Happy Monday!

Every week I try to find something a little inspiring from Mother Nature to help kick start the week and begin with a little positivity. Luckily, the sun is shining today and there’s quite a lot going on here at Brimwood Farm. The orchids are flowering, seedlings are growing and the next generation of my chicken experiment are being laid – time to get the incubator back on!

It’s always so amazing when a bit of blue sky brings about a total change in mood. A trip down the garden becomes a wonder instead of a curse. Even the hens seem to have smiles on their beaks!

Three Ways to Get Cheap Plants | Fill Your Border for Bargain

Can you believe it’s just starting snowing? And there was I thinking that spring might soon be on the way. It seems that garden centres and plant supplies think so too, for catalogues keep arriving, trying to entice me to buy. Also, many of the bargain homeware stores that sell plants seasonally are beginning to stock garden stuff, so it’s worth keeping your eyes open!

Three Seeds to Sow in February!

Well, despite having the lurgie, I managed to crawl from my bed this morning, drag the bag of compost to the back door and sort out my three seeds to sow in February! The seedlings from last month continue to prosper. Okay, white lie; the aubergines and achillea continue to prosper, the lettuces all died. Oops. They got too wet and became mouldy as a result so I’ve had to sow some more.

However, today is about new seeds and sow I’ve put in 2017’s first tomatoes, sweet peas and peppers. Will it be third time luck for the peppers? I hope so because I’d LOVE to grow my own of these after all the disasters in the past.

So, without further ado, here is the video!

Monday Magic – Finding Peace with Backyard Chickens

Well, those wintry frosts have receded, giving way to milder wet weather. There’s no getting around it; when  warmer climes arrive, us gardeners just have to put up with a few months of damp, wet gardening. However, with blue skies above and green shoots beginning to appear all over the place, there is time for a little optimism.

This Monday Magic was found in the chicken shed. Hens have a great way of lifting your day with their funny voices and quirky antics. Sadly, there has been one victim of the DEFRA lockdown; Ivy Winters. He was the first chick I ever hatched out in the incubator, but he’s become increasingly aggressive, despite daily handling to try and pacify him. He was hard on the girls, and brutal with my legs and hands; I have the scratches as evidence. Then, locked in a smaller space he just became too much and I’m afraid I had to cull him. Though it’s sad, the coop has instantly become a happier place. The three remaining roosters are much calmer – as am I!

Next week it’ll be February. I’m excited, for it means a new round of seed sowing can begin. But, for now, I’ll keep enjoying the lovely little hens and their chortling.

Welcome to The Guide to Gay Gardening!

Meet Geoff Wakeling