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.
Create a Halloween party in your house or garden with ideas and suggestions from David Coton that will keep your children and neighbours thrilled and spooked on the 31st October.
Looking for some advice on how to decorate your garden for halloween? David Coton has some great ideas to help you create a horror themed garden to scare your neighbours and any trick & treaters who come to your door.
To grow the biggest, scariest pumpkin in time for Halloween isn't easy as they take some time to mature and prefer a warm climate. To have the best chance of success Martyn Loach recommends sowing seed indoors during April and then planting out in late May or June.
Used originally to frighten away evil spirits, now placed near the front door to deter trick or treaters, carved pumpkins have been part of Halloween for a very long time. Here Martyn Loach explains the process of creating the scariest pumpkin in your street.