Mad about the blooms

Liz Nicholls

Home & Garden

Summer is on the horizon bringing with it warmer days, hopefully plenty of sun and the glorious sight and scent of roses blossoming & spreading their joy

Which country is one of the world’s largest suppliers of roses with 54% of its land filled with the fragrant flower? Give yourself a pat on the back if you guessed Ecuador where the natural light provides the perfect year-round climate for them to thrive.

How about the most expensive rose in the world? The David Austin Juliet Rose, named after Shakespeare’s tragic heroine, was developed over the course of 15 years at a cost of a whopping £2.3million. The delicate apricot coloured large headed blooms were first displayed at Chelsea Flower Show in 2006.

More rose facts: the oldest living one is 1,000 years old and can be found on the wall of the Cathedral of Hildesheim in Germany, all varieties of rose are edible and the earliest rose fossils have been discovered in Colorado dating back 35 million years.

The most popular flower is rich in symbolism and history featuring in literature, music, heritage, as our national flower, in skincare and as the emblem for many sports team. Classic and instantly recognisable, they are ideal for almost every style of garden, flowering abundantly from early summer in pastel shades of pink, peach, cream or snowy-white; vibrant yellow and gold; orange, crimson and red. As any gardener will tell you, there are a few rose rules to ensure ‘everything comes up roses’.

Round & About gardening guru Cathie Welch says: “It’s all in the pruning! Before you prune, know your rose type and sharpen your secateurs. Cut correctly in the right place, dead heading throughout summer. Winter pruning should be cut to ideally pencil thickness to encourage more flowers. Cut out dead, weak and congested growth and don’t forget the suckers which come from the wild rootstock.”

Ramblers are in full bloom at this time of year and to ensure an attractive abundance, she adds: “After flowering has finished prune out some of the flowered shoots and tie in the annoying long ones that you have wanted to cut off because these will produce next year’s flowers.”

If you prefer to admire the beauty of roses and take in the rich fragrance from someone else’s handiwork there are plenty of gorgeous English gardens full of stately blooms.

The Rose Garden at Cliveden, SL1 8NS, is a heavenly place to visit, tucked away in a grove of mature trees. The contrast of the natural setting with the formality of the rose garden and its riot of colour and fragrance makes it feel like a magical secret garden. Wander under climbing rose arches with every colour from palest lemon to vibrant oranges to velvety dark crimson. With more than 900 in the summer-long display you’re sure to find a favourite.

Visit Waddesdon Manor, HP18 0JH, this month for the sweet scent of the rose garden from the colourful blooms filling the stately setting. The beds in the aviary and parterre have been decorated with colour influenced by Victorian-inspired planting.

Mad about the blooms

Karen Neville

Home & Garden

Summer is on the horizon bringing with it warmer days, hopefully plenty of sun and the glorious sight and scent of roses blossoming and spreading their joy

Our most popular flower is rich in symbolism and history featuring in literature, music, heritage, as our national flower, in skin care products and as the emblem for many sports teams.

Classic and instantly recognisable, they are ideal for almost every style of garden, flowering abundantly from early summer in pastel shades of pink, peach, cream or snowy-white; vibrant yellow and gold; orange, crimson and red.

And as any gardener will tell you, there are a few essential rose rules to ensure ‘everything comes up roses’.

Round & About gardening expert Cathie Welch will tell you “It’s all in the pruning!” and advises “before you prune, know your rose type and sharpen your secateurs to avoid damage.”

She adds: “Make sure you cut correctly in the right place. Dead heading throughout the summer and winter pruning should all be cut to ideally pencil thickness growth to encourage more flowers. Cut out dead and weak growths as well as congested growth and don’t forget the suckers which come from the wild rootstock.”

Ramblers are in full bloom at this time of year and to ensure an attractive abundance in future, she says: “After flowering has finished prune out some of the flowered shoots and tie in the annoying long ones that you have wanted to cut off because these will produce next year’s flowers.”

And remember to dead head throughout the summer.

If you prefer to admire the beauty of roses and take in the rich fragrance from someone else’s handiwork there are plenty of gorgeous English gardens full of stately blooms.

There are more than a thousand Old English rose bushes to take in at Loseley Park, Guildford which can be seen at their best at this of year. Nearby at RHS Wisley, the Bowes-Lyon Rose Garden boasts a contemporary design combining roses with evergreen shrubs, herbaceous plants, bulbs and clipped yews. Look out for some spectacular blooms into autumn.

Visit The Six Quarters at Gilbert White’s House in Selborne and be greeted by summer beds containing different species of old rose planted in among lavender, geraniums, dianthus, foxglove and columbine.

You’d expect the National Trust to offer up some of the best gardens to wander through and these don’t disappoint. There’s A Celebration of Roses at Polesden Lacey, June 8th to July 14th, where the walled gardens hold more than 35 varieties and over 100 rambling roses form tunnels of petals over the pergola leading to the central wishing well. Bright yellow blooms mix with more subtle pale pinks. The celebration offers the opportunity to learn more about the blooms, the garden’s history and the work that goes into maintaining it. View metal rose installations made by charity the Camelia Botnar Foundation which provides residential training and work experience to young people. The roses in the installation are for sale and can be collected after the celebration has finished.

The Rose Garden at Nymans in Sussex boasts more than 600 bushes – their heady scent carries a long way, notably on a warm summer’s day, mingling with the lavendar.

The more than 100 varieties blooming at Hinton Ampner near Alresford are sure to feature in the Festival of Flowers from June 8th to 30th which celebrates the art of flower arranging as part of Hinton in Bloom: Summer where you can wind your way through the walled garden to the parterre, look for the rose motifs and breathe in their scent throughout the month.

The walled gardens at Mottisfont near Romsey are home to a collection of pre-1900 shrub roses. This year, Mottisfont is marking 50 years since the collection was brought to the grounds to be enjoyed by all and how they are preparing for climate challenges of the future. The gardens are open until 8pm through to June 29th affording longer for you to appreciate them and on 7th, 14th and 21st you can enjoy live jazz, wine tastings and wine for sale from award-winning Hampshire vineyard Black Chalk.

Take in the scent of the contemporary Rose Garden with its viewing platform overlooking the roses as well as the garden beyond at Savill Garden and immerse yourself in the old fashioned scented French musk roses inter-planted with a wide range of shrubs and perennials.

The start of July brings the glorious Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival, 2nd to 7th, where you can’t fail to be inspired by the beautiful show gardens and ‘get started’ gardens created by new designers with innovative ideas, beautiful plants and detailed landscaping.

The Garden Show at Stansted Park

Round & About

Home & Garden

Discover plants, garden and home accessories, art, design, sculpture, fashion, gifts and tempting foods and wine and more

The Garden Show is back to celebrate the 30th and the last at Stansted Park from June 7th to 9th.

Thirty years ago the first garden show at Stansted Park in Hampshire was created as a forum for the smaller family fun businesses and to showcase the work of talented artisans particularly those who couldn’t afford the larger, more commercial shows.

It’s a great opportunity to explore what’s on the doorstep; source new talent, designers and artisans. Browse affordable and handpicked companies showcasing the latest specialist plants, garden and home accessories, art, design, sculpture, fashion, gifts and then treat your taste buds to tempting foods and wines.

Pick up top tips from horticultural experts to solve those frustrating problems – as ever the specialist plantspeople will bring their knowledge and brilliant advice plus we have daily expert advice from The Gardening Doctor, Paul Slater, who will also be giving a Talk on Friday on ‘Plant Selection’. Also on Friday the show is joined by Dr Ian Bedford, entomologist, with The Pest Clinic to help solve any bug issues in as friendly a way as possible. On Saturday there is a Q&A Session on ‘Empowering Communities into Horticulture’ with Tayshan Hayden-Smith. Ben Cross from Crosslands Flower Nursery will also be back on the Sunday to extol, in his usual energetic way, on the ‘British Cut Flower Industry’… ‘British Flowers Rock’!

The Show’s chosen charity is CancerWise – – aspiring to be an enabling, compassionate community for people with cancer and those who care for them. Based in Chichester, offering support and information to anyone who is concerned about cancer. Through counselling, complementary therapies or emotional care, providing support to the mind, body, spirit and emotional health of people through and beyond cancer. They will be holding ‘A Giant Tombola’, prizes donated by the Garden Show Exhibitors, along with some fete fun games.

In memory of one of the original founders of the show, Lizzie Dymock, Tawny Nursery will be selling beautiful poppies in aid on CancerWise.

It’s not all about gardening with ongoing demonstrations including willow weaving, forging along with traditional chairs, broom, trug and fence making plus The Studio Shop artisans demonstrating and sharing their expertise on jewellery design, painting, photography, embroidery, felt making, woodwork along with so much more. Plus the opportunity to join in one of the Blacksmith Workshops and create a leaf to hang on The Tree of Life in aid of CancerWise.

There is plenty to engage your children & indeed the whole family: watch children play in the beautiful parklands, ride on the toddler fun fair with Carousel Amusements, watch Huxley Birds of Prey soar through the skies, learn circus skills with Crazee Hazee and enjoy the daily Punch & Judy shows as well as ‘have-a-go-archery’ with The Queens Archers.

Next year the show moves to Broadlands from June 6th to 8th.

Ticket prices on the gate: Adult £14. Senior £12. Child £5 (Age 5-16yrs. Under 5yrs free). Family £35 (inc 2A & 4C). Prebook and save 15%.

More details and booking at The Garden Shows

National Gardening Week

Round & About

Home & Garden

Haskins Garden Centre’s in-house plant expert, Alasdair Urquhart, gives his top tips for beginner gardeners

Alasdair Urquhart’s advice perfectly captures the essence of starting a green-fingered journey. Gardening indeed offers numerous benefits beyond just beautifying outdoor spaces. It’s about connecting with nature, engaging physically, and experiencing the joy of nurturing living things.

His emphasis on starting with simple yet impactful projects is excellent advice for new gardeners. These projects serve as learning opportunities while also yielding satisfying results. Alasdair’s encouragement to embrace experimentation speaks to the heart of gardening as a continuous learning process. Even when things don’t go as planned, there’s always something to be gained and improved upon for the next season.

1. Create a Colourful Summer Pot: Choose vibrant flowers like Bacopa, Marigolds, Lobelia, and more in complementary colour schemes. Pre-made packs simplify the process, just fill your pot with compost, add the plants, and enjoy. Regular liquid feedings will support healthy growth.

2. Grow a Tomato and some Lettuce: Start with cherry tomatoes like Sweet Million or Sungold for delicious salad additions, Pair them with loose-leaf lettuces such as Lollo Rossa or Red Salad Bowl for continuous fresh leaves. This project introduces mixed cropping and yields tasty results for summer barbecues.

3. Create a space for local wildlife: Enhance biodiversity by sowing wildflower seed mixes designed for birds, bees, and butterflies. Prepare the soil, sow the seeds evenly, and water gently. Allow some flowers to go to seed for self-sowing next year. Integrate bee and butterfly-friendly herbs like Rosemary and Thyme for additional wildlife support.

These projects cater to a range of interests and skill levels, making them perfect for National Gardening Week celebrations. And for more guidance and tips, Haskins Garden Centre is a valuable resource for both new and experienced gardeners alike.

For more information on Haskins Garden Centres and the huge variety of plants and gardening advice available, please visit Haskins Garden Centres. Alternatively, you can follow @HaskinsGarden on Twitter and @HaskinsGardenCentres on Facebook to share any garden-related queries and keep up to date with all the latest news.

Springing into life

Round & About

Home & Garden

Artist & tutor Helen Grimbleby takes much of her inspiration from nature for her artwork from her studio in West Berkshire

Like buses, you wait for ages and then Easter and May bring bank holidays a plenty!

Whilst many bank holidays are centuries old workers’ holidays, May Day Bank Holiday was a late comer in the 1970s. Even so, May celebrations have a long history and are entwined with changes we can witness in nature.

Our distant ancestors lived necessarily in close rhythm with the seasons. The month of May for the Romans brought a festival for Flora, the goddess of flowers, fertility and spring. For the Celts this was the time for summer pastures to open. For Pagans, celebrations were about fertility and new life.

Birds carry this heritage too and sing of new life. The musical dawn chorus peaks around now.

In spring, birds’ hormones change to enlarge the parts of their brains responsible for song. Bird song functions as a declaration of territory and to attract a mate. When the air is cooler in the morning, birdsong carries much further allowing males to broadcast to more females.

Only around 50% of our birds are resident here all year with spring and autumn migration bringing variety which changes according to the time of year. When some birds leave our shores, others return.

Spring migrators have been in decline but if we’re lucky we may still hear the sound of a tuneful cuckoo or the false cuckoo, the unassuming looking blackcap who visited my bird feeder recently.

Swallows and swifts fly elegantly, weaving intricate patterns in the air as they search for insects on the wing. Despite a long migration from Africa, their streamlined bodies are perfectly shaped to execute their aerial manoeuvres which continue until they leave us again in the autumn.

At the this of avian courtship and union, nature braids fine veils for spring brides and white blankets for newborns, dressing her hedgerows in Queen Anne’s Lace, hawthorn blossom and oxeye daisies.

Helen Grimbleby is a West Berks/North Hants based artist who is inspired by the natural world’s changing seasons. After exploring outside, she enjoys writing, illustrating and painting larger landscapes at her home studio (@helengrimblebyart).

Wildlife garden & nature photography competition

Round & About

Home & Garden

We’ve teamed up with Adam Henson to invite you to send us pictures of the wildlife in your garden – or local park – and win seeds to help improve biodiversity

One of the UK’s best-known farmers and TV presenter Adam Henson has launched a range of British Wildflower Seeds, the first product line to launch from his new online store, Wildscape.

Developed in collaboration with leading experts in ecology and sustainable agriculture, Wildscape promise to create beautiful spaces, bringing joy to all those who experience them and creating essential habitats to foster biodiversity.

“I believe everyone should consider growing wildflowers,” says Adam, “not only are they beautiful native British blooms, but they also support local biodiversity. No matter if it’s a small pot in an urban setting or large garden, wildflowers create a mini ecosystem right outside your window, attracting a variety of birds, insects, and other delightful creatures.”

Someone who is doing their bit for nature and enjoying it is Chris Waymouth who has shared some pictures of some creatures in his Buckinghamshire garden.

“I was brought up in a small village in Northamptonshire and my father was a lover of wildlife and the outdoors,” Chris tells us. “I used to roam the fields beside the River Nene, absorbing all that the countryside had to offer.

“I used to roam the fields beside the River Nene, absorbing all that the countryside had to offer.”

“As a youngster I wasn’t allowed to touch my father’s prized Rolleiflex camera. I had to make do with a Kodak Brownie, until I was given a simple Agfa for my 21st birthday and this really kickstarted my lifelong interest in photography.

“When I met my wife she had some pro-quality Canon kit and this took me to another level. Digital cameras arrived on the scene and this was another step forward. Finally, three or four years ago, I became pretty serious about my hobby and invested in a mirrorless camera with extremely high resolution and I’ve expanded my range of lenses to seven. These include macro for close-ups of insects and flowers etc, and very long telephoto lenses for bird and wildlife shots.

“My garden in Jordans backs on to beech woods. It is not a showpiece; I prefer a more natural look including a wild area at the back. It is through here that my four-legged visitors arrive: muntjac, roe deer, fox, badger, hedgehog, not to mention the two or three rabbits who are usually trimming my lawn when I pull back the curtains in the morning. Plus, of course, the squirrels. I enjoy stretching my longest lenses to maximum reach to get full-face shots of all of these.

“Then there are the birds. Lots of them! I have half a dozen feeders in the front garden and a couple at the back and clearly the word is out among our feathered friends that this place is good for a meal or two. The list of regulars include all the usual garden birds: robin, blackbird, song thrush, chaffinch, bullfinch, blue tit, great tit, long-tailed tit, dunnock, wren, jay, green and great spotted woodpeckers and just recently a brambling, not to mention the ever-present woodpigeon, collar dove, magpie, jackdaw, crow, green parakeet and the red kite circling majestically overhead.

“Although I do not have a huge array of flowers, there are plenty to attract bees and a variety of bugs and this is where the macro lens comes into its own, capturing the subject at 1.4x life size. With the high resolution of the camera (a Canon EOS R5) I can then “crop” (zoom into) the photo once it is on my computer and end up with some highly detailed, sharp images.

“I have something like 35,000 photos on my computer – here are just a few for you to enjoy.”

To enter, upload your pictures to Instagram or Facebook and tag @roundandaboutmag with the hashtag #RAphotocompetition to be involved and we’ll choose a winner to receive the seeds. The competition ends June 1st.

Minster Mill

Round & About

Home & Garden

Indulge in unforgettable moments at Minster Mill

Minster Mill is just located 15 miles from the dreaming spires of Oxford & 11 miles from Blenheim palace. The charming Cotswold stone building and barns are flanked by 65 acres of idyllic grounds, set in the picture-perfect Oxfordshire village of minster lovell.

Beautiful gardens, you can find wildflower meadows, woodland and in the summer months enjoy fishing, walking croquet and tennis. As the winter comes you can enjoy the hearty food and cosy interiors enjoyed by the roasting fire.

You have so many locations near-by:
• Witney Lakes Golf Course – 6 min drive
• Crocodiles of the World – 8 min drive
• Cogges Manor Farm – 9 min drive
• Cotswold Wildlife Park – 10 min drive
• Blenheim Palace – 22 min drive

Drinking and Dining with impressive, vaulted ceilings and original oak beams, the three AA rosette Mill Restaurant & Bar provides a wonderfully atmospheric backdrop for exceptional seasonal food and drink.

The garden spa – wash away your worries in this tranquil heaven, set in the heart of our landscape’s grounds. Including a plunge pool, Rock sauna, Aroma steam room, ice fountain and tropical rain forest showers. Highly recommend the Unique RASUL mud therapy. A traditional, ancient, Middle Eastern ritual where mineral-rich mud, heat and steam will leave your skin beautifully soft. This indulgent treatment will awaken your senses. Mineral muds are presented to smooth onto the body and face, steam infused with relaxing aromas is then gently introduced to the room to help soothe tense muscles and open the pores, allowing the enriched muds to condition your entire body. After approximately 20 minutes enjoy the induction of a warm mist as it descends within your rasul to gently soften and help wash away the remaining mud, leaving your skin feeling conditioned and your mind clear.

Overnight stays at Minster Mill start from £170 per room, two sharing including breakfast. There are also packages regularly offered, including delicious meals, spa experiences or treats, so do keep an eye on the website for the latest offers. Minster Mill / 01993 774 441

Many exciting events coming up: Latest Events Diary – Minster Mill

Gardeners’ World is free therapy

Round & About

Home & Garden

If you can’t afford a therapist…actually, even if you can, watch Gardeners’ World. It’ll do you the world of good says Robbie James

Last month I deployed myself on a giant rant about competitive busyness, and I promised to follow it up with something more joyful this month. I’m a man of my word (sometimes), so for April, I’m revelling in the tranquillity that is Gardeners’ World.

I had a sad day recently. I was anxious, worrying about everything, and generally feeling overwhelmed by the world. Thankfully that same day marked the beginning of the 55th series of the gardening programme. For the first time since (insert a long time ago), I found myself waiting for a TV show that wasn’t a sport to begin. I wasn’t watching something on-demand. Let that sink in… waiting for a programme to air on actual television. Remarkable.

Eight o’clock eventually rolled around, and when I tell you it was worth the wait… the theme tune was enough for me to feel ten times lighter. (I’m a complete nerd when it comes to theme tunes, and in case you are too; the theme is an arrangement of ‘Morning Light’, composed by Will Gregory and recorded by the BBC Concert Orchestra, obviously).

When I looked at the credits there were a team of five on Sound. I’d like to use this column to formally and openly advocate a pay rise for all of them. The hour is soundtracked by birds, secateurs slicing through shrubs and spades sinking into the depths of a vegetable bed. You notice the sounds, but there’s no sense of clumsiness or overegging.

There is of course one crucial sound I’m missing off the above list. The calm, reassuring tones of Monty Don. The only way I can describe that man (and Monty, if you’re reading this, please know I mean this in the best possible way), is a walking, talking log fire. The best broadcasters are the ones that you feel a personal connection with despite never having met them. If I had a problem or wanted to sink a few Earl Greys, Monty Don would be on my top five phone numbers I’d go searching for.

Another aid to the programme’s peace is in canine form, and it’s quite frankly a miracle I’ve got this far into the column without mentioning them. Previously Nigel and Nellie, and now Ned. A Golden Retriever of the golden (not white) variety. A very good boy following in the footsteps of Don, lying in the sun, avoiding descending forks while in pursuit of a tennis ball, was only ever going to bring a slice of joy to proceedings. A non-essential but also deeply essential ingredient.

The bridging of the gap between relatable and fantasy is fascinatingly done. Longmeadow garden in Hertfordshire doesn’t dazzle you like many things on TV are designed to do. You look at it and can see yourself having a garden just like it. That is, until you realise it’ huge, split into four separate gardens, has taken years to create. (Don bought the house in 1991), and probably only attainable for those with a very successful television career.

What I enjoy about Monty Don and more generally Gardeners’ World, is that you can consume it for whatever purpose you wish. If you’re a keen gardener, his deep rooted (I couldn’t help myself) knowledge is beautifully paired with personal preference. If, like me, you’ve had a bad day and want a metaphorical hug, they can do that too. Or if you’re OFCOM looking for a show to carry the BBC’s mission to ‘inform, educate and entertain’, Gardeners’ World is in sweet spot territory.

There’s a reason that so many of us benefit mentally from running, walking, or cycling. We’re in our natural habitat. We were created to eat, and reproduce, and that was kind of it (words of a philosopher). Scrolling your ‘For You Page’ on TikTok, driving your Skoda Fabia, and researching savings accounts, are not really what Mr or Mrs Inventor of Humans had in mind. (Admittedly, I doubt televisions came up in the initial boardroom meetings either).

In essence, Gardeners’ World allows us to feel like we’re outside when we’re in. It allows us to feel in touch with nature all from the comfort of our nylon sofa. One hour of Gardeners’ World is one deep breath for your brain, and I think you should try it.

Spring Whites

Round & About

Home & Garden

Feel fresh this year with a crop of palate pleasers – Giles Luckett reviews some seasonally appropriate wines

Spring is in the air.  Well, spring rain is in the air at least, and the new season calls for a fresh crop of wines.   For this month’s column, I’ve looked for classics that will pair with the new season’s produce alongside a couple of head turners that you may not have encountered before.  Anyway, enough preamble, let the recommendations flow…

I’ll start with a wine that’s always been synonymous with spring, Muscadet.  One of the breakthrough wines of the ‘60s and ‘70s, Muscadet played a big part in turning the UK into a nation of wine lovers.  At its best, it’s as fresh as a spring morning, with citrusy fruit offset by a yeasty tone and a taste of the sea that makes it the perfect partner to fish and seafood – it’s glorious with new season oysters.  The Adnams Muscadet (Adnams £9.99) is as a delicious example of this classic wine, providing the complexity that many a more expensive Chablis can only dream of.  Dry, crisp, and loaded with green apple, melon, and greengage fruit, the creamy-saline finish makes for a surprisingly satisfying glassful.

Next up the first of two Rieslings.  Riesling is invariably an excellent wine, but many people are put off as they think it will be sweet.  Riesling is capable of astonishing sweet wines such as the fabled Trockenbeerenauslese from Egon Mueller (a snip at around £10,000+ a bottle), but most New World producers focus on producing crisp, dry wines that are as food-focused as my Springer Spaniel.   A great example is the Villa Maria Private Bin Riesling (Waitrose £10.99).  White gold, the piercing bouquet comprises of apple blossom, citrus, and white peaches with a suggestion of honey and lime.  On the palate, it’s just as complex, with green and white fruits vying with minerals and a rapier-like grapefruit acidity.   This is just the thing for new- season asparagus or a herby spring chicken.

Staying with Riesling, we have something that shows this grape’s incredible range.  The Empire Estate Dry Riesling Reserve (Good Wine Good People £34.50) hails from New York’s Finger Lakes region.  This is an arresting iteration of Riesling that nods at France’s great Alsace Rieslings in its dryness and piercing intensity, but it is very much a Finger Lakes wine in its sophisticated, slightly idiosyncratic style.  Pale green-gold with an evolved nose of candied lemons, grapefruit, apple blossom, and a green herb bitterness, it seems to change with each inhalation.   In the mouth, almond-tinted grapefruit leads the fresh, tangy attack.  This is followed by ripe pears, peach stones, a white peel bitterness, and a very fresh, lemony acidity that’s mellowed by honey and minerals.  This is a wine to buy by the case and see how it evolves over the coming decade.

Viognier is an interesting, not to say mercurial grape.  In California, it can produce buttery behemoths, while in South Africa it tends towards leaner, cleaner wines.  In its home of France’s Rhône Valley, it can produce wines that combine freshness with depth, power with finesse as showcased by the Chapoutier Combe Pilate Viognier (London End Wines £15).  Opening up with a surprisingly subtle nose of apricots, oranges, and bergamot against a background of citrus, it was love at first sip.  Supercharged with fruit and very fresh, it quickly develops in the mouth revealing juicy apricots, peaches, and vanilla spice that contrasts beautifully with the firm mineral and lemon finish.  This would be lovely with baked white fish, pan-fried poultry, or salmon.

A good Chardonnay is always a treat and is the ideal foil to spring staples such as roast pork, goats’ cheese and rocket salad, or roasted guinea fowl.  I recently tasted one from Austria, the Allacher Chardonnay Reserve (Good Wine Good People £24).  I’m a big fan of Austrian wines, though my experience has been largely confined to their stylish Rieslings and brilliant Gruner Veltliners.  This was an unusual and delicious take on this noble variety.  Deep gold, the nose brims with honey-coated tropical fruits with a soft, perfumed edge.  Big and bold, the generous palate has a creamy texture and is suffused with baked apples, apricots, honeydew melon, vanilla, and spices before the fresh, zingy finish adds a refreshing balance.

Sauvignon Blanc is another great spring wine.  Its freshness and easy drinking nature means it lends itself well to garden sipping or as a partner to new season treats like steamed Jersey Royals, creamed broad beans, or roasted celeriac.  Sauvignon grows well all over the world except for Tasmania, apparently, where a leading winemaker told me it was a ‘weed that needs grubbing up’.  I touched a nerve there, it seems.  South African wineries are better disposed to it and when you taste wines like the Journey’s End ‘Eagle Owl’ (Majestic £9.99) it’s easy to see why.  Rhubarb and gooseberries are the signatures of this weighty, rounded Sauvignon.  The nose is bright, zesty, and suitably intense, but – as with the body – it’s not green peppers and citrus that dominate, there’s more to it than that.  Over a bedrock of acidity is overlain a tart-sweet tone of stewed rhubarb with a sherbet edge and some riper flavours from the gooseberries, giving a wine that’s refreshing and seriously good fun.

I’ll finish on a patriotic note with an English wine, the Denbies Chardonnay 2022 (Denbies £24.50).  When I started in wine, England’s vineyards were just about getting marginal grapes like Müller-Thurgau – which usually tastes as good as it sounds – to produce something.  Roll forward thirty years and leading English wineries like Denbies are being spoken of by the likes of Oz Clarke as being capable of giving Burgundy a run for its money.  On the evidence of this, I think he has a point.  The nose is creamy, nutty, fruity, and harmonious with the rich red apple and peach fruit freshened by lemon and lime.  On the palate, it has a lovely peachy texture that displays nectarine, red apple, and lychees with a honey and lemon coating.  Thoroughly impressive it shows that English wine, not just English sparkling wine, is capable of being a world-beater.

Well, that’s it from me for now.  Next time I’ll be joining in the World Malbec Day celebrations and running down (bigging up) my top ten Malbecs.



How does your garden grow?

Round & About

Home & Garden

Spring, even the sound of the word lifts your spirits. Little shoots of colour start to emerge and with it hope for the warmer months ahead, so get digging and clearing and start getting your garden in shape

Getting your garden ready for spring should be a pleasure rather than a chore, so it’s time to dig deep and get some spade work in and you’ll reap the rewards later.

Even for professionals such as our expert Cathie Welch, kick starting your garden for spring is no easy task: “Gardening is a real challenge these days and every season will be different.” So where to start? Cathie advises ‘mulch, mulch, mulch’. “The most important thing any gardener can do is to improve the soil. A thick mulch of home-made garden compost, well-rotted manure or suitable compost that is peat free.

“It’s a huge subject but anything that is not wood chip or multi-purpose potting compost should be ok but check to avoid expensive mistakes. A thick mulch will keep in the moisture, suppress germinating weeds, feed the plants, prevent soil compaction from walking on it as well as looking fabulous.”

Having done the ground work, you need to turn your attention to your plants health, which means pruning and training. This time of year is especially important for roses to ensure a fragrant colourful abundance in the summer months to come – make sure you know whether you have climbers, ramblers, bush, shrub and prune accordingly, says Cathie.

And it’s not just roses that need some TLC, “Wisteria is another tricky one that needs its spur prune by mid March as do apples and pears,” Cathie continues, “many other plants can be cut hard back like Spireaea, Hypericum, Buddleia and all the Dogwood Cornus to name but a few. Avoid pruning Acers until they are in full leaf and never prune plums and other stone fruits until the summer. Evergreens should ideally wait and be especially vigilant of nesting birds. When you prune consider making piles or a dead hedge if you have space rather than burning or binning.”

For many of us our lawns are the crowning glory. This month is the ideal time to sow a new lawn or repair worn patches. As the month progresses, it may even be time to cut the lawn again. Some lawn basics – set the mower blades high to avoid scalping. Rake (scarify) the lawn to get rid of debris, dead grass and moss. Aerate badly drained areas of the lawn with a hollow tined fork. Try to avoid walking on waterlogged lawns and working in sodden borders to avoid soil compaction.

Cathie warns against neglecting your lawn. “If you want a green striped lawn then that is hard work scarifying, aerating, top dressing and seeding at this time of year. Think about whether you can let areas grow a little longer or create a meadow (not easy) but you are creating diverse habitats.”

And finally, to planting. Cathie says: “Take time to enjoy the bulbs, emerging shoots and the warming sun.” Find out more advice and about her services at

For over 30 years, the team of skilled professionals at Kingston Landscape Group has been providing exceptional service and excellence in landscaping and garden maintenance to a diverse range of clients. Whatever the size of the garden, they prioritise high standards and attention to detail to ensure your garden looks beautiful throughout the year. Visit and call 0208 893 8992 to discuss your ideas.

After the essentials are done you can get creative and start planting from trees and shrubs to perennials, roses and climbers. The garden centres are full of them just waiting to bloom to life as the seasons progress.

The spring flowering bulbs carefully planted in autumn will be raising their heads and once the tulips and daffs start to go over, it’ll be time to deadhead. Compost the blooms but leave the foliage to die down naturally in order to feed the bulb for next year’s flowering.

The experts at Squires Garden Centres with branches across Surrey have advice on hardy annuals too which can be sown from seed in late March, either where they are to flower or in trays and pots to be transplanted later.

Plants bring a garden to life. Whether it’s planting ideas for a new area or refreshing existing beds and borders, Camelia Ann Gardens can create you a stunning plan, blending colours, shapes and textures that will give you interest throughout the seasons. They can also source the plants and help to plant them. Contact 07977 569297 or find out more at

It’s not all about flowers and an array of colour at this time of year, in the vegetable patch onion sets and shallots can be planted now. “Put seed potatoes in a cool, light position to chit (sprout) for planting later. Early varieties can be planted towards the end of the month,” say Squires. “Broccoli, cabbage, kale, parsnips, peas, radishes and spinach can be sown outside towards the end of March and covered with cloches, or a little later in the season you can buy young plants to grow on. Many varieties of tomatoes and chillies can be sown now in the greenhouse, on a windowsill or in a conservatory.”