As GardenSIte's plant specialist I always keenly anticipate the HTA National Plant Show. This is my chance to visit nurseries, find out what's trending in the horticultural world and source new stock, all from under one roof.
Interest in growing herbs has increased sharply over the last few years as we have turned back to nature to exploit the culinary, medicinal and aromatic properties of these plants. David Hall gives you a few tips on what herbs to choose and how to grow them.
Botanically herbs are divided into annual, perennial and shrubby varieties, and can be grown in the garden in appropriate beds.
Annuals can go among bedding plants, or sown in rows among vegetables in the kitchen garden. Perennials are at home in the herbaceous border, whilst the shrub herbs can be planted in mixed borders.
Some of the sprawling kinds can be introduced into cracks and crevices around the patio or any paved area. Alternatively a separate herb garden can be established even on a plot of land just one metre square. Here culinary herbs can be planted in the same bed as the aromatic or fragrant herbs. For convenience it is useful to site a herb garden near the house, for when fresh herbs are preferred, even in winter, it is helpful to have them near at hand. A bed near the house is often more protected than one in the open.
If you have only recently started to grow herbs it can be even easier to start off by using containers on the kitchen windowsill. They really are that adaptable!
Grown in pots outside they can be attractive specimens in their own right, and since many of the best herbs for pots are also evergreen, these captive gardens can be of interest, and use, all year round.
Always choose healthy plants to start with and plant seed in good compost, remembering that containers are prone to drying out very quickly, particularly in the sun. Keep them moist as many herbs, when dehydrated, will never recover.
Herbs in pots will also be dependent on you for liquid feeding once they have exhausted the fertiliser content from the compost.
Any list of herbs can be exhaustive, but I've selected a few, all commonly available, that are well worth growing.
Tarragon: (perennial) The aromatic leaves can be used fresh or dry to flavour omlettes, meat and fish.
Rue: (perennial) Used to reduce eye strain.
Rosemary: (shrub) Strongly aromatic, for use with all meat and poultry dishes.
Balm: (perennial) Used fresh for salads and with iced drinks.
Chamomile: (perennial) Can be used as a tea, for facial care, and in pot pourri.
Marjoram: (perennial) Cook with meats and also used for hay fever.
Feverfew: (perennial) Can be used as a tea to help migraine sufferers.
Caraway: (biennial) Use in cakes and buns and as a spice.
Lavender: (shrub) The dried flowers can be used in sweetly scented sachets for fragrance.
With Christmas rapidly approaching, our New Oscott Garden Centre has just taken delivery of that most seasonal of plants – the Poinsettia. These are David Hall's tips on to how to keep these beautiful plants at their colourful best.
Our garden centre has been part of the local community for over 60 years, so when one of our partners, David Coton, received a request to donate a Christmas tree to a nearby hospice, he had no hesitation in helping them out.
Many people believe that Christmas would not have the same festive feel without the scent of a 'real' Christmas tree. They're naturally fresh, giving off a lovely aroma, and here Martyn Loach gives advice on which ones to buy..
There's a huge selection of Premier Christmas Lights, and it's no wonder why they are market leaders judging by the variety and innovation that's on offer. This is Andy Taylor's guide to their range of top quality lights and decorations.