The Christmas Cactus

Round & About

Home & Garden

Each year the garden centres are brightened up by beautiful houseplants and bulbs to cheer us up as gardening becomes less appealing! Cathie Welch takes a look at one of her favourites, the Christmas Cactus.

In fact this is not a cactus at all but instead an epiphytic succulent which in it’s true habitat grows on trees as do some orchids do. It’s not hardy in this country so is grown as a houseplant. There are two main types grown commercially Schlumbergera truncate and S. x buckleyi which is a species cross. Sometimes you see them named as Zygocactus which is an old name and the one I learnt as a child. If you look carefully you will notice that the leaves vary and they come in an array of beautiful colours now

Caring for your ‘Christmas Cactus’

The reason it is so called is due to the fact that it is stimulated into flower by shorter days and lower temperatures so often naturally in flower at this time of the year. Don’t be surprised it flowers again in the spring when the day lengths are the same again. Then they are sold as Easter cacti.

One of the most important things to know is that they form their buds in the autumn and these can drop off due to changes in temperature such as buying your plant and bringing it home. This can be very annoying but it will adapt to its new environment. After flowering allow it to rest and it can even go outside in the summer. Ideally pot up into cactus compost of a mixture of potting compost with horticultural grit/sand. They need light but not scorching sun as they can shrivel and burn. Remember in the wild they are amongst trees so dappled sunlight best.


If you are successful with your plant it will reward you by growing bigger and producing may flowers each year. If the plant becomes congested you can prune out old branches and propagate from the young shoots. Make sure you cut to include full leaves and allow to dry. Pot into free draining compost and place on a light windowsill or in a greenhouse. These should root in a few weeks and then you have Christmas gifts for all your friends and relatives!

CGS Courses

Christmas gift vouchers available for consultancies and workshops.

The course running from January through to Easter is pruning in your gardens and mine but we also do some plant identification on wet days.

Please do come and meet me to discuss courses, volunteering and anything else garden related!


[email protected]

Spooky half term fun at Squire’s

Round & About

Home & Garden

Create & Grow activities to keep your little monsters entertained this October

Squire’s Garden Centres is looking forward to welcoming young visitors for some half term with some spooky themed activities, running Monday 23rd-Friday, 27th October.

Children are invited to come along and paint a spooky tealight holder as well as enjoy a FREE ghost hunt (and fancy dress is welcome too!). Squire’s popular Create & Grow event for children is the perfect way to fill a morning over October half term with some fun creative craft activities which include painting a ceramic witch’s hat* tealight holder (priced £6.50). Once finished, it can be taken home – along with a complimentary battery-operated LED tealight – to brighten a bedroom or corner of the house during the dark, spooky evenings that lie ahead from half-term onwards. Advanced booking is required – which can be done online or in-store. The painting activity lasts approximately 20 minutes and should be booked in advance, with visitors invited to go to the information desk on arrival.

In addition, there is also a FREE Ghost Hunt with clues to find along the trail around the garden centre to complete a spooky word – with a ghost-themed sticker to receive on completion (no booking required).

A half-term visit to enjoy some ‘spooky’ fun at Squire’s can be extended with a visit to the popular Café Bars at all centres and a light bite from the ‘Little Gardener’s’ menu. There will be plenty to match the hunger of the spooky crafters, while adults may choose an autumn-themed treat and a welcome rest.

Sarah Squire, Chairman of Squire’s Garden Centres, said: “Once again we are delighted to be able offer families something fun to look forward to for October half-term and the autumn season. Children seem to love this week in our centres and we’re sure the tealight holder activity will capture young imaginations. I am sure there will be an amazing variety of decoration and I hope children will enjoy their creations at home during the darker evenings to come.”

Enjoy Halloween fun at a centre near you at Badshot Lea, Cobham, Frensham, Hersham, Long Ditton, Milford, Shepperton, West Horsely, Woking and Wokingham.

Windsor Designs Live a success!

Round & About

Home & Garden

After a successful first event, all eyes are now on the next Windsor Designs Live on Saturday 7th October. There’s still time to book your place.

Thinking of building a new home? Or extending, remodelling or refurbishing your home or garden?

Then Windsor Designs Live is for you! The goal of the event is to help take some of the stress out of the process of creating or transforming your home, to alleviate any worries or concerns you may have, and for you to be inspired.

You can book a meeting with up to eight consultants and suppliers completely free of charge, without any obligation. You’ll be able to ask questions, get free advice and become more knowledgeable.

Experts including an architect, interior designer and a landscape designer. There will be a furniture designer and manufacturer, a builder and decorator plus consultants in planning, energy and smart homes. Pre-booking is recommended by following this link.

The venue for Windsor Designs Live 2023 is The Education Centre at the architecturally inspiring Thames Hospice, overlooking Bray Lake. Complimentary refreshments are available throughout the day. The address is, Thames Hospice, Windsor Road, Maidenhead, SL6 2DN. For more information on how to find the venue please follow this link.

The Garden Show at Broadlands

Karen Neville

Home & Garden

The Garden Show is set to bloom again this weekend, September 29th to October 1st, with the chance to admire the trees in all their autumn glory

The Garden Show is set to bloom again this autumn and we are delighted to be back at Broadlands and admire the wondrous trees in the park as they start to acquire their autumn glory.

Although there will be fewer plants than in the spring and summer shows, it is the perfect time for planting trees, shrubs, bulbs, winter flowering plants, giving them a chance to develop good root structure, as well as an array of indoor plants to enhance the winter home.

It’s a great opportunity to source new talent, designers and artisans and browse over 160 stands showcasing the latest specialist plants, garden and home accessories, art, design, sculpture, fashion, toys and a multitude of lovely goodies with tempting foods and wines in the Country Food marquee. There is something at the show that will appeal to everyone! It’s a good opportunity to do some early Christmas shopping and support the smaller businesses with a unique range of wares not found on the high street.

Apart from the extensive selection of retail companies at the show there are many other attractions. Expert garden advice from Paul Slater, the new Gardening Doctor and also from the knowledge growers at the show, helping gardens thrive.

On Friday Dr Ian Bedford, entomologist, will be running the ‘Pest Clinic’ and can identify any bug samples, brought along and how to rid your garden of them in as friendly a way as possible and he will be ready to discuss ‘Britain’s Nature Recovery Plan’.

Also on Friday we are delighted that Tayshan Hayden-Smith will be running a Gardening Q&A session ‘Empowering young people into horticulture’ and on Saturday Paul Slater will be also holding Q&A session ‘Plant Selection’ helping gardens thrive. Then the show welcomes back Ben Cross from Crosslands Nursery, who on Sunday will be extolling the ‘British Cut Flower Industry’ … ‘British Flowers Rock’!

It’s not all about gardening: there are plenty of activities on site to keep all the family occupied including The Giant Tombola, a chance to win amazing prizes donated by The Garden Show exhibitors in support of the show’s chosen charity Jane Scarth House Cancer Support Charity. Fun times to be had for the children with entertainer Crazee Hazee, learning circus skills and watching his hilarious Punch and Judy shows! Plus, Carousel amusements with toddler fun fair rides and bouncy castles.

There will be ongoing artisan demonstrations and a chance to have a go at a blacksmithing workshop plus musical entertainment from The Jazz Trio, who will be wandering around delighting all with their evocative music of times past… all this and so much more to enjoy including Huxley Birds of Prey who will thrill spectators as they soar to the skies.

Tickets on the gate: adults £10, concs £8, child £4, family (2+2) £26.

Prebook online for 15% discount BUY TICKETS – The Garden Show at Broadlands.

Garden Invaders

Round & About

Home & Garden

There are many plants that can inadvertently take over our gardens, particularly weeds, but there are some beautiful plants on sale that you can wonder why you ever planted. These are my own experiences and everyone will have a different gripe, says R&A gardener Cathie Welch

Houttuynia cordata ‘Chamaeleon’ (pictured)

A beautiful plant often sold for ponds and waterside planting now rampaging in my edible border. It is edible but not very nice. It spreads underground by rhizomes and pops up everywhere gathering momentum after its winter sleep.


This is where it is essential to do your homework. There are bamboos and there are bamboos. Avoid at all costs the running away ones that can colonise gardens and invade those of your neighbours as well as lift up paths, destroy foundations and puncture pond liners. I tend to choose Phylostachys aurea and nigra which are clump forming with beautiful stems but they are quite high maintenance needing to be thinned and trimmed constantly. Occasionally an unwanted shoot pops up but it is important to cut it off. You are in charge of your plants and not vice versa.


Helianthus is the Genus which includes the annual sunflower. There are several perennial varieties that spread indefinitely if you don’t keep them in check. They also spread by underground tubers and as anyone who has grown Jerusalem artichokes on their allotment will know.


This is a very pretty fern-like spreading shrub colonising the whole of Thursley common and the surrounding gardens. It is readily on sale in garden centres but never plant it in your garden unless you have the room.

Anemone japonica

I mentioned these in my last article and have battled with them in many a small garden. There are tall invasive varieties but also delightful cultivars like ‘Frilly Knickers’ which I can’t grow at all. They need a regular cull so just choose carefully.


There are many other invasive garden plants like Hypericum calycinum which spreads like mad but is great for banks as is Vinca major or periwinkle. There are many Buddleias and Ivies that do not seed and are not invasive. All plants have their right place. Choose your plants and their location carefully and do a little research on your soil type as one person’s thug plant may not even thrive in your garden.

CGS Courses

Please ask for details as I am now meeting potential students for Spring Courses as well as bespoke workshops and volunteering. I can also come and teach you in your own garden and am happy to chat over a coffee at Ashdene.

Consultancy gift vouchers available too.

Website Cathie’s Gardening School: Surrey’s Garden School

Email [email protected]

Autumn unfolds at Ramster Garden

Karen Neville

Home & Garden

Whether you are looking for foresting bathing or a seasonal walk visit Ramster Garden. Rosie Glaister from Ramster Hall, shares her top five things not to miss that capture the dazzling beauty of autumn colour

With over 1,500 catalogued trees and shrubs in the garden, there is plenty to see as you wander down leaf covered woodland paths that meander past established shrubs, mature plants, and peaceful views.

Avenue of Acers

Our ancient avenue of acers must be the most photographed spot in the garden during autumn. The 120-year-old gnarly twisted trunks and branches create dramatic shapes covered with fiery red and orange leaves.


This is one of the best trees for autumn colour. It has large maple shapes leaves which transform from crimson colours red, to purple then gold. It is one of my favourite trees within the garden because of its amazing spectrum of colours.

Handkerchief or Dove Tree

During the spring you will see flower-like bracts that flutter gently in the breeze that resemble doves or handkerchiefs. During autumn, the leaves turn a stunning golden yellow to orange.


We have an excellent collection of flowering Dogwoods, but perhaps our best is Cornus ‘Normal Hadden’, fantastic for its stunning autumn colour and peculiar red fruits that appear to float on the ends of branches.

Nuts and berries!

There is something so magical seeing all the autumn berries dress the garden with natural decoration. The woodland floor is also a feast of colour and texture from fallen leaves and shiny conkers from our towering horse chestnut tree. Toadstools and fungi complete the enchanting woodland scene – if only we had fairies!

Visiting our garden

Ramster Garden is open 10am-5pm on Thursday, Friday, and weekends until 12th November. We have twenty-five acres of peaceful woodland garden for you to explore and a Tea House which serves homemade soup, quiches, sandwiches, and cakes. You can also enjoy a range of drinks including our own blend of coffee. Parking is free and we welcome dogs (on short leads). No need to pre-book, just come along and enjoy a wonderful walk.

Upcycling inspiration close to home

Liz Nicholls

Home & Garden

Liz Nicholls finds furniture upcycling inspiration & sources close to home here in Bucks

Long before it was trendy, I was forever bringing discarded bits & bobs home for upcycling projects. In fact my ex mother-in-law still calls me “The Womble”, such is my inability to wander past an unloved chair or mirror (in a skip or on a pavement) without dragging it home for TLC.

Back in the day as two cash-strapped single mums, my pal Kirsty & I used to pimp freecycle and car boot finds with skills we’d learned from the lovely ladies at Fair Lilly in Great Missenden, part of the Annie Sloan family.

Jay Blades MBE, formerly a local boy who earned a degree at Buckinghamshire New University, was another early inspiration. His dapper turns on daytime favourite Money For Nothing proved that a bit of attention and a bright lick of paint, (particularly one hot pink leg), could help G Plan and Ercol pieces sing.

From her Chesham workshop, Emma Adams makes bespoke furniture and homewares, from desks and bedside tables to candle holders, wine racks and plant stands. She is a magpie for salvaged and reclaimed timber. Her pared-back and unfussy designs celebrate the small details with velvet-smooth finishes, corners “just so”, with knots, whorls and grain front and centre. “When it comes to old-fashioned or unloved furniture, I love to look beyond the dark, grungy varnish and reimagine potential, while respecting original style,” says Emma. Each piece, restored using beautiful contemporary colours and patterns, has its own story. “Someone loved it once and someone will again. As a process it’s natural, sustainable and inspiring.”

We live in an area with a rich furniture heritage. Thanks to the Chilterns’ plentiful wood supply High Wycombe was a hive of the industry in the 1800s & 1900s. As you will find out from a visit to Chiltern Open Air Museum, from the earliest days of the trade most of the lathe-turned chair parts were made by itinerant turners or “bodgers” living in villages nearby.

So you’re more likely to stumble across an unwanted mid-century Ercol piece (as I did recently), or a Nathan or Stag beauty here and on the many neighbourhood apps, on Freegle, Freelywheely, or from charities such as Emmaus. Locals in the know love Sue Ryder in Slough, British Heart Foundation in Wycombe and St Joseph’s Furniture Market in Chalfont.

Once you have your prized piece, a trip down the Pinterest rabbithole will dazzle you with paint effects’ wow factor. Techniques such as decoupage or gold leaf go even further, as Olenka Shevshenko proves with her recent collab with Liberty Cabbage Wales. Check out Olenka’s new Alice range of wallpaper & fabric at

Mel Hutton, founder of Redeemed Decor Ltd, creates wonderfully kaleidoscopic geometric pieces which she sells on Etsy ( She says: “What started as upcycling on old, worn out mid-century pieces costing around £40 has now become much bigger. My latest commission is on a three-metre high end Danish sideboard that cost the client a whopping £4,800 at Rosebery’s auction house. Once finished, this will be sailing on the client’s private yacht from Poole to Miami!” Wowsers.

Back to Jay who, as well as being a dyslexia awareness champion & megastar, still upcycles. He and his team are saving the world through craft; check out the bouji beauties for sale at “Every piece we create is a statement full of character and charisma,” he says. “A dripping foot here. An eye-popping button there…”

Whether you choose to get creative yourself or buy from a master of their craft, the planet-friendly joy of upcycling is addictive.

We would love you to share your upcycling triumphs (and even disasters!) on our app. Five lucky winners can win a litre pouch of safe, sustainable paint in their choice of vibrant shade from YesColours.

Create and Grow with Squire’s

Round & About

Home & Garden

Have fun taking part in Create and Grow activities with your young ones at Squire’s Garden Centres this summer!

Looking for something fun to do with your children this summer? Squire’s Garden Centres has just the thing for you!

Running from Monday, 24th July to Friday, 25th August, Squire’s Garden Centres welcome you to participate in their fun Create and Grow activities. Whether you choose to ‘decorate a pair of pebble animals’ every Monday between 9.30am and 12.30pm, or simply have fun doing their worksheets, Squire’s Garden Centres have a variety of exciting things to do.

Chairman Sarah Squire says they are ‘delighted to welcome young visitors back’ and that their activities will take ‘just the right amount of time to keep little ones busy’. All centres, excluding Chertsey and Reigate, are participating in this wonderful event, so there is plenty of opportunity for you to take part.

If decorating a pebble takes your fancy, get along and book your place either in store or online. Your child can create a cool create for only £3, and with this comes a range of fun after, as they will now have a brand-new toy to play with.

With the painting itself taking around 20 minutes, Squire’s also offer a free, wildlife themed activity sheet every day. Once your child finishes crafting their pebble pet, they will be able to take part in a range of games and challenges. From the ‘Pond Word Search’ to the ‘Butterfly Maze’, your child will never find themselves short of fun things to do. Once completing the challenge, they will be rewarded with a sticker, and what child wants to miss out on that prizw?

If you begin to grow hungry after your hard work as an artist, feel free to grab a light bite to eat at the Centre’s Café Bar. The ‘Little Gardeners menu’ contains a range of delicious meals for your child to munch on.

Overall, it sounds like a great morning out with your kids and prevents the cries of boredom at home.

Want to find out more? Visit Squire’s Garden Centres.

The art of watering

Round & About

Home & Garden

I have decided that watering is a very specialised subject and I feel I could run a 10-week course on the subject!

The challenges for getting water to the roots of plants this year and last is off the scale. I remember saying how important it was to harvest the rainwater as it is so precious and would love to know how many of you did that?

Soil improvement

Anyone who knows me knows that I champion soil improvement and liken it to the gut biome! My go to compost to improve fertility and water retention is wool and bracken compost. I have covered my garden in it this year and those of many clients. We are reaping the benefits.

Harvesting the rain

We complain about it in the winter but in the last two summers have prayed it will fall out of the sky! I have been like a mad woman filling up water bottles by the thousand and installing water butts everywhere as well as leaving out trugs and trays to put in thirsty plants. I am now watering my plants with harvested rainwater as another hosepipe ban looms!

Watering the garden

New planting will need watering. If you have improved the soil or mulched this will be possible. If it’s just dusty dry soil it will just run off. Mulch now to absorb the water you put on. Spray to wet the mulch and then allow as much water into the soil as you can. If you are not sure just scrape the surface or dig down with a trowel to see if it’s wet. Use spiked bottles or tubes to get the water to the roots, do not just spray the plants.

Watering the lawn

Do not waste water doing this! A sign of a good gardener is a ‘dead’ lawn in the summer. It will revitalise as soon as the rain comes, it’s not dead it’s summer dormant.


Someone once said to me ‘It doesn’t rain in pots’ so make sure you still water. If it’s hot and sunny you will need to water more than when it is cool and cloudy. Do the plants need it? Are they wilting because they are dry, waterlogged or damaged by pests? Is the pot heavy or light? Is it normal multi purpose compost or wool compost? Is it a desert plant or a tropical rainforest plant?

If in doubt stick your finger into the soil!

CGS Courses

Please ask for details as I am now meeting potential students for Autumn and Spring Courses as well as bespoke workshops. I can also come and teach you in your own garden and am happy to chat over a coffee at Ashdene. Consultancy gift vouchers available too.

Website: Cathie’s Gardening School.
Email: [email protected]

Summer pruning tips

Round & About

Home & Garden

At last the weather is being kinder and we feel like getting out into our gardens. The CGS pruning courses are in full swing and many students are volunteering their gardens for a summer prune!

Rambling roses

Some roses flower once, spectacularly, in early summer. American Pillar, Rambling Rector, Wedding Day, Banksia and many others are a delight when scrambling through trees, over pergolas and even over arches and along ropes. Unlike other roses these are pruned after flowering to remove flowered branches and tie in new ones. They really are not for the faint hearted and many mistakes have been made. They are happiest rambling through a large tree or hedgerow where they can be left without pruning like our native dogrose.

Fruit trees

Trained apples and pears are summer pruned by reducing the long growths to a couple of buds encouraging fruit spurs. This helps keep them tidy and reduces growth as well as allowing light and air into developing fruit. Best done in August/September otherwise you may be doing it twice! Plums, Cherries, Almonds, Apricots and all stone fruit should always be pruned in summer and never in winter due to disease risk. It’s easy to remember just prune when picking!

Spring flowering shrubs

These include Weigela, Forsythia, Chaenomeles, Philadelphus, Deutzia, Syringa and Kolwitzia. I see many of these trimmed with hedgecutters and clients wonder why they have never flowered. This is because they flower on two year old wood so if trimmed every year you are cutting off next year’s flowers. I prune ornamental quince (Chaenomeles) constantly in Summer so you can see the flowers and developing edible fruit. It fruit on older wood and you can clearly see where it flowers if you look carefully. If any of these shrubs have become overgrown and need cutting right back you can start the pruning regime again after the second year.


This needs it’s own heading!

Anyone who owns one will know how mad it can grow in the summer. Cut off the long whippy shoots to a shorter one ready for the February prune. Don’t start too early after flowering or you will be repeating it several times! Leave until September if you can but sometimes it does need an untangle from tiles, drainpipes, sky dishes as well as preventing it actually growing into windows!


Hedges, topiary and large evergreen shrubs can be pruned all Summer to encourage new growth and regeneration. Laurel hedges should be done with secateurs to avoid leaf shredding. New hedges should be left until they reach the desired height before pruning the tops but do a formative prune to encourage side shoots.

CGS Courses

Please ask for details as I am running pruning courses throughout spring and autumn. Each plant has a different requirement and learning about pruning techniques is addictive! I can also come and teach you in your own garden.

Consultancy gift vouchers available too.

Website: Cathie’s Gardening School: Surrey’s Garden School

Email: [email protected]