Despite its earthy context, gardening is as prone to the whims of fashion as any other pursuit and my own generation has seen garish 1960’s bedding, dinner plate dahlias and giant gladioli followed by low maintenance conifers and heathers, garden makeovers, grow your own and now, backyard prairie planting. Next I sense a renewed interest in trees and shrubs and a move towards rewilding. We’ve robbed our wildlife of so much habitat, there is a strong urge to replace some of it in the one sixtieth of UK land total covered by gardens. By abandoning pesticides and leaving areas undisturbed, we could make a difference. Habits will need to change and there could be a ripping of rule books when wildlife comes first. For instance, we are meant to clip back our lavender immediately after it has bloomed but had I done this, we would have missed the spectacle of an entire charm of goldfinches crammed into one billowing lavender ‘Miss Katherine’ to raid its seedheads.
In my garden, pests on outdoor plants are left for nature to extinguish and from spring to summer, any infested indoor plants are stood out in semi-shade to shed intruders. Should you discover pests in autumn, SB Plant Invigorator is a helpful ‘environmentally friendly’ growth stimulant and contact pesticide. Take plants out on a mild day, spray and return. This weakens the scales or waxy coatings of mealybugs, so another spray the following day can penetrate and finish them off. Repeat a week later to nobble any hatchings.
Well-made hand tools and brushes make practical tasks enjoyable and at the Chelsea Flower Show last May, I was charmed by the range of goods displayed by the Oxford Brush Company. An Ostrich feather duster with a waxed beechwood handle at £44.95 would make pollinating early flowering Japanese plum and apricots a cinch, while the garden tool cleaning brush (£12.95) will keep tines and blades crisp. A rice straw broom (£12.95) makes sweeping artful and the natural vegetable brush at £4.95 will rid knobbly home-grown roots of soil. I succumbed to a beechwood scrubbing brush (£8.95) perfect for cleaning our greenhouse staging.