Win A Copy Of The ‘RHS Companion to Wildlife Gardening’

The new, updated edition of the ‘RHS Companion to Wildlife Gardening’ is released on 1st Septemberand I have one copy up for grabs.  

RHS Companion Wildlife

Here’s a little about Chris Baines’ book from the publisher, Frances Lincoln:

Wildlife has become a mainstream issue for gardeners and the public since this best-selling book was first published as ‘How to Make a Wildlife Garden’ and launched at the 1985 Chelsea Flower Show.  Fully revised and updated by the author, this beautiful new edition is freshly illustrated and it highlights the changes in garden wildlife over the past 30 years.  It incorporates RHS research, updates best practice and addresses a multitude of controversial conservation issues. The book is packed full of practical advice – which plants to choose for bees, birds and butterflies, how to construct the ideal wildlife pond, where to position nesting boxes; how to enjoy wildlife in any size of outdoor space. Good gardening is at the heart of this book, but it is also a celebration of the rich variety of wild plants and animals that can bring a beautiful garden to life. Gardeners have come to play an increasingly important role in nature conservation. The gardens of any town or village combine to create a rich and diverse network of wildlife habitats. The lawns and hedges, flower borders, shrubberies, vegetable patches and fruit trees are all important, and the author shows how wildlife gardening can make a stylish and enjoyable contribution to the environment. New gardeners will be inspired by this authoritative book and it will also delight the very many owners of the best-selling original.

Chris Baines is the UK’s foremost wildlife gardening expert. He has had a multifaceted career as a landscape architect, advisor to industry and government, teacher, writer and broadcaster, but the common theme that runs through all his work is concern for wildlife. He is National Vice President of the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, winner of the RSPB conservation medal and a passionate campaigner for easy access to nature.

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity dedicated to advancing horticulture and promoting good gardening. Its RHS gardens are an inspiration to many and its charitable work provides expert advice and information, trains the next generation of gardeners, creates hands-on opportunities for children to grow plants, and conducts research into issues that affect gardeners.

Personally, I find attracting all sorts of wildlife into the garden a huge bonus; and very satisfying too.  Apart from slugs, that is.  And rabbits.  And lily beetles.  And sawfly.  And whitefly.  And deer.  And moles.  And … (We get the idea – Ed).  If enticing more creatures and wild-flowers into your garden is important to you too, this book will be a great addition to your gardening library.  For your chance to win a copy of the ‘The Companion to Wildlife Gardening’ simply:

say you want to enter in the “Any Thoughts?” box below


(if you don’t do so already) follow ‘The Anxious Gardener’ blog; and/or follow me on Twitter; and/or like The Anxious Gardener Facebook page.  The relevant follow buttons are in the sidebar.

You can also enter via Twitter or Facebook – check my twitter feed and Facebook page for details.

Please note that the prize can only be posted to a UK postal address.

The competition will close at midnight on Sunday 28th August 2016.

Priory Gardening Uniform

I’ll draw the winner from my very-smart-yet-practical-gardening-uniform hat and add the result to the bottom of this post.

Good luck!


To order the ‘RHS Companion to Wildlife Gardening’ at the discounted price of £20 including p&p* (RRP: £25), telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code QPG445.

*UK only – please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.





A Garden Tour: The Old Forge

I don’t feature The Old Forge very often but not because it isn’t worthy: it’s simply that The Priory is the main star of my blog and a jealous one too.   Nevertheless, in late July on my regular Tuesday visit, I took some snaps and thought I’d give you a short – if incomplete – tour of the second garden I tend.

Virginia Creeper (4)

Having entered through the white farm-gate, walked down the drive and past the wisteria covered house (none of which I photographed on this occasion – oops), we pass through an archway beneath outbuildings to arrive at the car-port and parking area.  An exciting start.  During the six years I’ve worked here, I’ve allowed a massive Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) to cover walls and buildings; and trained two long tresses to hide the pillars supporting the car-port roof.  (It seemed important to do that – I don’t know why).

Virginia Creeper (3)

From inside the car-port you can see just how extensive this plant is and how enormous its reach.

Virginia Creeper (2)

I shall clear growth off the roof before stems wriggle under gaps, swell fat and dislodge tiles.  It is a rampant creeper and I regularly cut away unwanted tendrils or the mat of growth that spreads out across the hardstanding (except when I don’t – as in the following photo).

Virginia Creeper (1)

September 2014

I like how the Virginian softens an otherwise sterile car-park and for a short while turns a marvellous, shocking red.

Gravel Garden (1)

Behind the car-port broods the oil tank on gravel.  I wrote about this gravel garden last year.

Gravel Garden (2)

June 2016

In mid June it was performing rather nicely (for a mainly self-sufficient collection of wholly free plants)

Gravel Garden (3)

June 2016

and I’d completely forgotten shaking foxglove seed-heads along the base of that wall a couple of summers ago.

Gravel Garden (5)

In July, with most of the valerian finished and the opium poppies over, crocosmia starts turning the hitherto white and pink scheme orange.

The Old Forge (11)

Back to the car-park now and across the main lawn towards the back of the house where a large, new border fronts a paved seating space outside the kitchen door.

The Old Forge (9)

I grimly fight rabbits all year-long and this border has been our bloodiest, most contested battlefield.  New plants are dug up, fresh growth snipped or chomped at leisure, holes dug often and deep.  I commonly see twenty rabbits on arrival and despite my frothing rage they barely bother running for cover.

The Old Forge (10)

Who won this protracted struggle?  The rabbits of course: they’ve destroyed or seriously diminished several plants in the bed.  But I snatched successes.  I protected some new additions with chicken wire: small Rugosa roses for example – though they aren’t visible in these shots.  I might remove the wire next year if the roses are big and prickly enough to – satisfyingly – scratch a rabbit’s nose.

Chelsea chopped sedum

Thankfully, Hazel and chums aren’t very interested in sedum and I’m pleased with the amount of bud after my brutal Chelsea chop in early June.

Alchemilla mollis (2)

And the Alchemilla mollis here is the frothiest I ever did see.

Alchemilla mollis (1)

The rabbits leave this alone too – perhaps it doesn’t taste as good as it looks.

Grape vine (2)

Onwards to the southern end of the house where, six years ago, sat a sad, four-foot high grapevine.  I’ve showered this vine with a lot of love over the years and it has generously repaid me.

Grape vine (3)

I’ve erected wires and tied in stems;

Grape vine (1)

and kept it to height that doesn’t make regular pruning too nerve-racking.  (I have no head for heights).  And it produces very sweet, if small, black grapes too.

Rose and honeysuckle arch

June 2016

Turning away from the house, I’ll open a gate and politely nudge you under a rose and honeysuckle arch – this photo from June – into the ‘rabbit-proof-garden’.  (I call it this as it is the only part of the grounds fully walled and fenced against the white-bottomed ones … but is it rabbit-proof?  No, not really.  Baby rabbits squeeze under the gate and adults sometimes hop effortlessly over walls – especially if I chase them).

The Old Forge (13)

Another long border here

The Old Forge (12)

with Japanese anemones in flower.

The Old Forge (14)

Behind those is a once beautiful white lilac … whose branches have now mysteriously died.  Shame.  I’ll cut away the dead wood this winter and hope that it recovers.  There are plenty of new shoots.

The Old Forge (7)

Further along the border, past a tall, conical bay tree (quite a big pruning job) and a mixed hedge ripe for cutting (quite a big hedge-cutting job)

The Old Forge (5)

is this amazing hebe.

The Old Forge (3)

It has a delicious scent and is covered in white flower, butterflies and bees.

The Old Forge (4)

I don’t know the variety.   It’s about seven feet high and twelve wide.  Anyone know what it is?   H. salicifolia perhaps?

Silybum marianum (2)

Still pondering, we finally arrive at the veg garden – only this year, I didn’t grow any.  If my rhubarb is a triumph my onions, beans and potatoes struggled with once a week watering; especially in high, very free-draining, sun-baked beds.  Short of running a pipe up here and installing a watering system, vegetable growing is hardly worthwhile.

Silybum marianum (3)

A plastic greenhouse sat here until recently but, battered and partly destroyed by winter storms, I dismantled it.  I weed the gravel (but maybe this will be another gravel garden?) and the owner has brought up a chair and table for quiet time – in the company of a fast burgeoning, self-sown milk thistle.

Silybum marianum (1)

It’s bigger than a dustbin lid and I haven’t the heart to remove it.

The Old Forge (6)

Nearby, is an old butler’s sink which lay empty for several years until I filled it with agapanthus.  It’s flowering at last and would look smarter still, if the gardener pulled off those dead leaves.


One of many rabbit holes on the lawn, re-seeded and netted against further digging.

So … there you have it: a quick view of The Old Forge garden and grounds (if not the acres of rough grass with mown paths nor the wooded area to the north).  I’m only here for 8 hours a week and most of that time I strim and I mow.  But I think it looks pretty good for a five acre garden on short hours.  I like working here – in the heart of the South Downs – enormously (despite the devastation by rabbits … and a badger).  I thought that after over five years it deserved a proper – if very, very belated – introduction.