Events, Gardening, Louis, Primrose.co.uk

Regent's Park cherry blossom

Both Britons and the Japanese alike have a strong obsession with admiring a springtime blossom. As Juliet Roberts from Gardens Illustrated put it: “Blossom is a sure sign that spring has arrived. It has an innocent, simple beauty and its short lifespan is viewed by many cultures as a potent reminder of our own mortality.” This could be the reason that springtime blossoms intrigue us so deeply. Either that or just because it looks pretty.

There is no better (or prettier) blossom than that of the Japanese cherry blossom – a gorgeous spring display of the genus Prunus, varying in height, spread, habits, colours, prettiness, and so on. They are a symbol of destiny and karma in Japan, and the Japanese even have their own word for cherry blossom viewing: Hanami.

Luckily for us Britons, Japan and the UK share the same sort of climate which is just perfect for flowering cherry blossoms. It is not perfect, however, for the year-round avid short-wearers. That makes the UK an ideal place for growing these visually intoxicating trees. There are even a few places dotted around the country that offer an authentic Hanami experience.

Where to view

Royal Botanical Gardens – Kew, London


The ‘Cherry Walk’ is a gorgeous path leading through the Royal Botanical Gardens   lined with mature cherry trees like the intense-pink flowered Prunus Kanzan, or the pure-white flowered Prunus Tai-haku.

The Alnwick Garden – Alnwick, Northumberland


Boasting the largest collection of Prunus Tai-haku in the world, Alnwick Garden often encourages visitors to enjoy a picnic under its extensive collection of Japanese blossoming cherries.

Brogdale Farm – Faversham, Kent


Also home to the National Fruit Collection, Brogdale Farm offer Hanami picnics throughout April each year. It provides visitors with the opportunity to ‘enjoy a Japanese experience’ by viewing both an exhibition and a guided tour of the blossoming orchards.

Dining/nightlife

Sake no Hana – Mayfair, London


From March 20th to June 10th, Sake no Hana celebrates the cherry blossom season with a special ‘Sakura menu’ and an alluring installation of white blossoms which aim to ‘give guests a feeling of tranquility as if sitting beneath blossom trees’.

Roka – Fitzrovia, London


From April 26th to June 7th, the basement bar Roka is ‘transformed’ for six weeks with a cherry blossom installation, so you can enjoy contemporary Japanese food in an authentic Hanami setting.

Above are some of the best places to experience Hanami, so if you don’t want to dish out over five hundred quid on a plane ticket to Japan, there’s no excuse not to view a Japanese spring blossom.

Why not start planting a spring blossom in your garden? At Primrose we offer a huge range of ornamental cherry trees. Ranging from Cheal’s Weeping Cherry – a slender and pendulous plant, perfect for smaller gardens, or Prunus Kanzan, a large and elegant looking tree which is ideal as a statement piece if you have more space to play with.

Allotment, Composting, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Infographics, Jorge, Planting

Crop rotation is essential for any gardener who wishes to grow their own food as it greatly increases one’s vegetable yields. All it involves is rotating what you grow between plots as to maintain nutrient levels. The most common way to do this is by rotating four families of crops that complement each other. By waiting four years before growing vegetables from the same family in a particular plot, one can partly restore the soil’s nitrogen content, and avoid the buildup of disease/pests. The most simple way to do this is to use four equal-sized raised beds and rotate clockwise.

Crop rotation has long been practiced and even features in the Old Testament. After the advent of farming, farmers came to realise that growing the same crops year-on-year would exhaust the soil, so it became common to leave fields to fallow once every two years. By the Middle Ages a three-field system was developed, whereby legumes such as beans, lentils and peas were introduced and grown after nitrogen-hungry cereals.

The introduction was of great importance as the legumes can both thrive in nitrogen-depleted soil and restore the quantity of nitrogen for future use by cereals. Legumes are unique in that they form symbiotic relationships with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, exchanging carbohydrates for nitrogen. The bacteria acts to improve the soil as once it dies the nitrogen eventually becomes mineralised, available for use by bacteria, fungi and plants.

Charles “Turnip” Townshend introduced four field rotation to England.

From the 18th and 19th century, more advanced forms of crop rotation substantially increased agricultural output, partly enabling the growth of cities and the Industrial Revolution. Originating from Holland, came four-field rotation that was introduced to England in the 18th century by Charles Townshend. Townshend divided his fields into four different types with a different type of crop grown in each. The system allowed farmers to keep all the fields in use, and utilised clover, another legume, to improve the soil’s nitrogen content. Also grown was turnips that along with clover was used as a source of fodder. More nutritious than grass, the fodder produced healthier livestock, and richer manure that could be plowed back into the soil. By growing animal feed every year, livestock no longer needed to be slaughtered over winter, increasing their quantity and quality.

The benefits of crop rotation has been confirmed with multiple modern scientific studies. One recent study from the John Innes Centre found that growing peas and oats in soil that previously grew wheat significantly increased the diversity of microbes, which help plants acquire nutrients, regulate growth, and protect from pests and disease. Another from 2012 found that “grain yields, mass of harvested products, and profit in more diverse systems were similar to, or greater than, those in the conventional system, despite reductions of agrichemical inputs”. And finally, a study from 2009 found that organic sources of nitrogen (i.e. legumes) remained in the soil for longer than inorganic sources, reducing the pollution of water sources from run-off.

So, what plants should I grow in my beds? Presuming you are to practice four-bed rotation we recommend that of the six main vegetable families: potato (Solanaceae), pea (Fabaceae or legumes), cabbage (Brassicaceae), carrot (Umbelliferae), beet (Chenopodiaceae) and onions (Liliaceae), you grow them all separately with the exception of onions, carrots and beet that can be all grown together. By rotating between different families, you can avoid build up of disease/pests that tend to attack specific plant families, and grow a variety of different crops. In general, it is best that peas (Fabaceae or legumes) follow the nitrogen depleting potatoes (Solanaceae). This will help you maintain healthy soil. Simply plan out what you wish to grow.

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.

Decoration, Garden Design, Garden Furniture, Gardening, Geoff Stonebanks, How To, Planters, Plants

My multi-award winning garden, Driftwood, is located by the sea in Sussex, on the coast between Brighton and Eastbourne. Over the years it has seen 14500 visitors and raised £76000 for charity. Last year it featured on BBC Gardener’s World and was a finalist in Gardeners’ World Magazine, Garden of the Year Competition too. Every year it is a challenge to create a variety of garden rooms that looks a little different, so the many returning visitors see something new and fresh. In order to create a flexible and fairly easy to change garden, I’ve always used terracotta containers of all sizes. I’ve probably got a collection of over 150 now. I’ve never been keen on plastic ones, they just don’t look at home in the garden, whatever the colour. OK I hear you say, the advantage is that they are not as heavy as the real thing, but there really has never been any competition for me, despite the weight! Now roll on the years, I’m 64 this month and I’ve been forced to reconsider how I create a different look in the garden this year. I’ve been using a trolley in recently to move containers around , but even that has started to get more difficult, especially in a garden on a slope with several steps to negotiate.

driftwood garden

So, this year I decided I needed to try and ease the burden, by investigating some lightweight pots that still looked like terracotta. The obvious place to check on line was Primrose, as they seem to stock everything anyone could need for the garden, and I have purchased quite a few things from them over the years. 

Two areas of the garden that rely very heavily on the use of containers, are these central steps in the garden and the patio area at the back of the house, which resembles a wall of plants on either side, like corridor of plants!

On investigation, I found what looked like the perfect solution! The fibre clay containers seemed to fit the bill perfectly for the steps, as I needed to find ones that were the right size to sit perfectly on the brick steps. They look absolutely at home, even before they have been filled with annuals for the summer season. These containers are all 30 cm tall and will work well, creating the waterfall effect I need to achieve. Look at last years results to see what I aim to create.

Fibrecotta Troughs

On the other hand, at the back of the house, one of the features I had within the wall of flowers was an old Victorian wooden cart which sat under a large potted camellia. On moving it to tidy up last month, it disintegrated and I’m left with the 2 axles and a side panel. I therefore needed to fill a large space, so two fibre clay containers, the tall one 64 cm tall and the lower one 37 cm tall. They look amazing in the space already . Granted, these are so big they will probably never be moved but all the others are perfect for ease of movement each year as needed. I also needed 3 troughs to sit on tiered shelving as part of this area of the garden. The 3 from Primrose fitted perfectly, which will also make life a lot easier. Just imagine how they will look when we open the garden gate to our first visitors on the 11th June. The garden is open 14 times for public days this year but also by arrangement from 1st June until 3rd September. If you live around Sussex, or are planning holidaying in the area this year, why not come and visit the garden yourselves. Full details can be found at www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk 

Look out for the next blog this Summer, so you can see what the containers look like when our visitors view them in the Summer.

Geoff StonebanksGeoff Stonebanks lives in Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex and spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden, Driftwood, he has raised over £76,000 for various charities in 7 years, £40,000 of that for Macmillan. The garden, which first opened to the public in 2009 has featured on BBC2 Gardeners’ World, Good Morning Britain and in many national and local media publications. In his spare time, Geoff is also the National Garden Scheme’s Social Media & Publicity Chair as well as an Assistant County Organiser & Publicity Officer in East & Mid Sussex.

Gardening, George, Grow Your Own, How To, Infographics, Planters

Are you a fan of growing your own ingredients? Potatoes are one of the most satisfying vegetables to harvest at home – simple enough for beginners and packed with great flavour. Space is no longer an issue as we show you how to plant potatoes in containers so you can start growing spuds wherever you live.

To help you get started we also offer lots of planters for all your home-growing needs.

How to plant potatoes in containers infographic

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Infographic illustrated by our wonderful designer Becky.

Make sure you check out the previous infographic in the series: How to Choose the Right Planter for Your Garden. Stay tuned for Part 6 of The Complete Guide to Container Gardening: How to Plant Strawberries in Containers.

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.

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