Author: Tina



Primroses are spring heroes!

primrosesWe often think of daffodils heralding spring yet it is really the primrose that shows her pretty face first. From early February to late spring you will find primroses brightening up woodlands, banks and gardens, while polyanthus in their wide range of colours from white to crimson also bring a kaleidoscope of colour to our spring days.

Both primroses and polyanthus belong to the Primula family of which the primrose is a native to Great Britain. The name Primula derives from the Latin primus, which means ‘first’ and obviously alludes to Primulas being the first flowers of spring. Many believe there is no difference between the primrose and the polyanthus, when in fact the polyanthus is a marriage between the primrose and the cowslip.


If you did not manage to plant primroses or polyanthus during the autumn, you can buy them now in full bloom to bring instant colour to your beds and borders or to make cheerful pots and planters. These superb plants will withstand the most brutal of spring weather and are happy in either sun or shade with well-drained soil, their only requirement.

Brighten your Gardenprimroses

While our traditional primrose is that lovely delicate yellow, today you can find them in a whole range of colours. Blue is not the first colour you might think of and the first ‘blue’ (it was not a true blue, it was more a violet blue) primrose was raised by G.F. Wilson in his Wisley garden at the end of the 19th century and now there is a wonderful selection of blues including the vibrant Zebra Blue.

You can eat Primroses!

If you want to experiment with colours that are slightly different, grow your own from seed. From July, you can sow in an open tray outside in compost. Keep out of the rain but keep moist and plant out in October. Do you know you can eat primroses? Apparently the leaves taste a little like lettuce, so it is little wonder slugs and snails love them! Want to give your garden a little lift of colour this spring? Choose the primrose and polyanthus, they will certainly brighten your garden while we wait patiently for the warmer weather.


Roses are not just for Valentines Day

Roses are not just for Valentines Day

Roses are not just for Valentines Day ! Valentine’s Day is not the only reason February is a good month to talk about roses. The most loved, the most cherished, the most talked about and probably the most feared flower of the

roses are not just for valentines day

garden, roses mean something to anyone who has a garden.

Origin of the rose

The origin of the rose goes back thousands of years with the debate still raging. Most of the roses we see in our gardens today are Hybrid Teas, which originated from crossing the very popular Hybrid Perpetual in Victorian times. Briefly, the Hybrid Perpetual came into being with the first union between a rose in Europe and the during the early 1800’s. Up until then roses struggled to survive on our cold English soils.

The colours and varieties now available are simply amazing and how can you  the fragrant white petals of the ‘Seagull’ (a great scrambler!)not tempt you? Or the deep blood red blooms of the Hybrid Tea ‘Fragrant Cloud’? Contrary to popular belief roses are not difficult to grow although they do not like being disturbed. So choose your spot wise

roses are not just for Valentines Day

ly and preferably where they will get some sun.

How to Plant

Now is the ideal time for planting if the conditions are right. Your soil needs to be well drained and loamy if possible, as roses will struggle in heavy clay like soils. Prepare well by digging it over and working in a good manure along with a fine dressing of super phosphate. Finally, if the conditions are unsuitable to plant right now, keep your roses in a cool dark place in their original containers and ensure you keep the soil slightly moist until our winter days become a little kinder. So remember – roses are not just for Valentine’s day!

If you would like some help and advice please call into our Garden Design & Landscape Centre in Titchfield where our horticultural experts will be able to help you choose a special rose.



snowdropsWe often speak about the flowers that herald the arrival of spring and yet what about snowdrops? This is the flower that is known to herald the end of winter. Although, this is the month we often see snow….. So really the name ‘snowdrops’ is very apt! Right now they are beginning to bloom in our borders and along the roadsides. What a welcome sight they are during these long dark and dull days!

Fair Maids of February

Yes, lovely snowdrops. They are more commonly called, most appropriately, the ‘Fair Maids of February’ or the ‘Flower of Hope’. With their grey green sword like leaves and drooping bell shaped snow white flowers they create a pretty display in our gardens.

In the cold and wet weather of February snowdrops push their way through the frozen earth to create swathes of white carpet in woodlands, meadows and gardens. Its Latin name ‘Galanthus nivalis’ means ‘milk flower’ and ‘nivalis’ meaning ‘of the snow’. If you want snowdrops in your garden next spring plant this coming April or early May.

Although this lovely plant naturalises very easily once established, it can be tricky in its early days. It requires a moist environment to truly thrive often preferring damp woods and shady gardens. so avoid planting where the soil might dry out over the summer. Need advice? Call our Garden Centre in Titchfield where one of our staff will help you.


Be Ready for Spring

Be Ready for Spring

be ready for springBe ready for spring! It may still be cold outside so this is the perfect time to start planning your garden. We call this armchair gardening! Even if you are not sure what you want, from the comfort of your chair you can browse through catalogues and magazines for ideas. If you think this is too early – think again.

Special Talents

If you do not have a budget for a complete overhaul you can choose to have a garden plan drawn up professionally. A Garden Designer will be able to help you make the most of your garden. They really do have special talents together with experience and a know-how that the rest of us would love to have but don’t!

Garden Design Centre

If you are thinking of having your garden redesigned this year, why don’t you call into our Garden Design and Landscape Centre in Titchfield  – just off Junction 9 of the M27. So easy peasy to get to. We have 16 Show Gardens  to give you ideas and inspiration. Each garden has features that you can incorporate into any style of garden – whether you have a town, country or traditional garden.

Award Winning Designers

We try not to blow his trumpet too much but our resident Head Garden Designer Mike Hodges has won more awards than we care to mention. You will love his ideas! Anyway something to think about as the days become longer and lighter. And you will be pleased when you are ready for spring !

Wildlife Garden

Wildlife Garden

wildlife garden

Would you like a wildlife garden? Do you know there are approximately 15 million gardens in the UK? This means if we all made a few simple changes to our outdoor spaces we can create a wildlife garden and we would have a wonderful opportunity to make a big difference to our local biodiversity. 
Take a look around your garden and see how you might adapt what you already have to make it more wildlife friendly. You could provide a few simple basics such as water and food, or create some form of shelter and a safe breeding spot and before you know it, your garden will be buzzing with wildlife. One of the best features for supporting wildlife is a well-maintained pond, which is a haven for birds, insects, small animals and plants. However, if you don’t have the space for installing a pond, even a small water feature will help.


Dragonflies & Hedgehogs

   Many of use believe it is a complicated process and perhaps would not fit in with our ideas of what we want our gardens to look like, however, you can adopt as many or as few ideas that suit you.  By just adding a couple of extra features you can still do your bit to encourage the appearance of not only bees, birds, butterflies, ladybirds and dragonflies, but also small mammals such as hedgehogs.

Plants & Shrubs

    Have you thought of buying a bird table or asking advice at your local garden centre about the type of nectar rich plants and shrubs that attract birds and bees? Find out about shrubs that bear berries during the winter months and choose perennials such as sedum and yarrow that carry seed heads after flowering as these can provide a vital food source for birds and insects.  Fed up with slugs and snails eating your tender young plants? Make your garden hedgehog friendly and you never need worry again as hedgehogs can eat up to 200grams of insects in one night!

Grow Hedges for hedgehogs

   Hedgehogs as their names suggests, live mostly in hedges and in the last decade, their numbers have dropped by an all time low of 25%. There are a number of reasons for this including the fact we tend to put up fences rather than grow hedges in our gardens.  You can provide shelter by creating your own natural woodpile if you don’t keep logs for an open fire or even pile up your autumn leaves in a quiet corner of the garden, under which the hedgehogs will happily burrow.  There you have it, nothing really complicated is there? So why not make it one of your New Year resolutions to do your bit to encourage extra wildlife into your garden?


Christmas Trees

Christmas Trees

Did you know nearly 90% of British households put up a Christmas tree? Also, real Christmas trees are as popular as they have ever been. Despite widespread belief, the facts actually point to artificial trees being less environmentally friendly than real trees! However, that’s a discussion for another day!

Nordmann Firs are a good choice as they have low drop needles and are seemingly the staple Christmas tree that most of us choose. Not quite so well known, but equally as attractive as the Nordmann and again with low drop needles is the Fraser. Grown in Scotland, they are deemed to be the best value for quality and height. Also, they have an attractive citrus like fragrance. Furthermore the branches are slightly upturned giving the tree a very special shape.

Themed Christmas Trees

So what about artificial Christmas trees? It is certainly easy to understand their appeal, particularly today when artificial trees look so real! No mess and some even come with the lights already fitted. The branches and needles look so realistic that it would be  difficult to tell the difference. Also they appeal because their shape is uniform without looking too rigid. Finally, the range of colours from green to gold to silver to red cater for individual colour themed decorations.

Surrounded by legend

Do you know the Christmas tree is surrounded by legend? Apparently, it all began in Devon during the 7th century when the Devon born monk, St Boniface, went to Germany to teach the word of God. He used the triangle shape of a fir tree to describe the Holy Trinity, although it was not until the 15th century that a decorated Christmas tree came out of Germany.

First known Christmas tree in England

In the early days, trees were decorated with apples, nuts, dates and paper flowers together with wax candles. In 1882 an associate of Thomas Edison invented the first tiny electric lights, which then became the fairy lights that now adorn Christmas trees.  The first known Christmas tree to go up in England was at the Queen’s Lodge in Windsor. This  was put up by the German born, Queen Charlotte in 1800.Happy Christmas!



Topiary has long had a chequered past and has often been held in contempt by the ‘landscaping school’. So it is interesting to witness its revival and listen to garden designers suddenly championing its cause.  Box and yew are still amongst the most popular choices for clipping into shapes and for providing evergreen interest all year round. Today, we also hear that beech and hornbeam is now popular for more unusual and colourful displays, particularly during the autumn months.

Treat it as Fun

It  does require patience to grow and shape your own particularly if you chose box as it is very slow growing.  However, perhaps you are looking for something to give instant structure and form? Plenty of local nurseries and garden centres stock interesting and varied mature topiary in all shapes and sizes. Begin by leaving your chosen topiary in its pot and experimenting with clipping its form for a couple of years. Soon you will gain confidence. The trick is not to take it too seriously and treat it as a little bit of fun.

Stansted House

For inspiration, you can visit Stansted House near Rowlands Castle. Here the walled garden features some very fine pieces of formal topiary. Here you can witness how topiary helps to soften and shape an area of hard landscaping. As the original ancient art of topiary often depicted hunting scenes, you may also like to know that Stansted House begun life as a hunting lodge 800 years ago.  As mentioned earlier, everything changes – yet stays the same.


Red & Gold

Red & Gold

Want the red and gold colours of autumn in your garden?  There are a few trees and plants that really come up to the mark. One is Liquidambar or more commonly called the American sweet gum tree. However, do be careful because it does grow very large and tall so not for small gardens.

Perfect time to Plant Trees

Now is the perfect time to plant trees. The soil is still warm from the summer months and with the recent rain just the right texture to dig in your new plants. Remember to also dig in plenty of manure or plant humus. If you need any help with choosing your trees and how to plant please do contact our horticultural specialists at Hambrooks of Titchfield.

Japanese Acer

It tends to be one of the last trees to change colour and still retains its leaves long after other trees are sporting bare branches so is good for late colour in the garden. If you do have a small garden you can plant a Japanese acer for the red and colours of autumn. Make sure you enjoy the colours while they last as the acer tends to drop its leaves very quickly! One day its displaying a wonder autumn colour and the next the leaves are all gone!

Food for local blackbirds

Virginia creeper turns a stunning deep red, although in opposition to Liquidamber it not only drops  its leaves early but also very quickly.  The common grapevine is great for covering fences and growing over arches or pergolas even if you have no intention of making your own wine! The leaves are lime green all summer and late autumn go through this process from a light to deep red with the veins in the leaves becoming prominent. Additionally, if you leave the ripened grapes they provide food for the local blackbirds. You do do need to plant in full sun.

Hedge Planting Time

Hedge Planting Time

It’s hedge planting time. Now is the best time to plant a new hedge providing the soil is neither water logged nor frozen.  Do check planting guidelines, and remember it will take a good two years for your  hedge to become well established. Top dress after planting and mulch if possible. During the first year snip off the tops to encourage growth widthways. This will help to reduce the risk of growing a hedge that is sparse around the base. Water well in any prolonged dry spells, and finally, always check the best season to prune.

Hedges are far more attractive than fence panels and are currently enjoying a revival. This is thanks to renewed interest in providing an environment that is conducive to providing food and shelter to wildlife. Even if your home is surrounded by fences, you can plant a hedge in front of it.  If you want to do your bit to help the wildlife, use native hedges such as hawthorn or Cotoneaster and Pyracantha. Bothh produce an abundance of berries.

Colourful in addition to being functional

To create a decorative or functional hedge, there are many alternatives to the old favourites of privet, yew and box.  Lonicera nitida, a cousin of the honeysuckle makes an excellent hedge. Pittosporum  is very fast growing and does particular well in coastal areas. Photinia, the red robin, will create a boundary in a rich combination of red and green foliage. While the colourful ‘Silver Queen’, makes a compact low and slow growing hedge.  Again, it is another shrub that grows well in coastal gardens.


The ever popular Cherry Laurel is now available as a mature plant to give you instant hedging to provide privacy and protect against noise and pollution. New Zealand Laurel is a new kid on the block and again proving to be very popular as a mature hedging plant.  it has very distinctive apple green leaves so is a little different from the usual laurels. So, make your local wildlife happy and get planting today as soon the perfect hedge planting time will be over. If you are looking to purchase hedging click here.


Autumn Bedding

Autumn Bedding

autumn beddingIn the past decade, autumn bedding plants have come into their own.   While there is not the same large selection available as with summer bedding, you can still create a great decorative seasonal display. You can choose from the ever popular autumn flowering pansies, violas and cyclamen.

Centre Stage

While pansies are the most popular autumn bedding, it is its smaller cousin, the viola that takes centre stage. They really do come in all colours of the rainbow. Ranging from deep velvet purples, mauves and dreamy blues, to more translucent lilacs, pink, sorbet yellows, to soft creams and whites. You can use them to create winter window boxes and patio pots or for brightening borders close to the house.  And what sturdy fellows they are! You might believe  a snowfall would crush them. Yet as soon as the snow melts, they miraculously lift their dainty faces and spring back to life.

Autumn & Winter Hanging Baskets

Cyclamen in pretty pinks and white is very hardy and cold tolerant, although they do tend to fade quickly in very wet conditions. To avoid this scenario, plant them where they are well protected in porches or close to the house under the eaves. Or perhaps you fancy one of their colourful winter flowering hanging basket to cheer up your front door during the dark winter days?

No Maintenance

Providing you plant them in well conditioned soil, autumn bedding will generally look after itself so you really do not have to do very much once you have planted them out. You need only give some very light watering if conditions are very dry, but you will probably find that the days are damp enough to provide enough moisture.