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Gardens: winter lights | Dan Pearson

Mellow yellow: mimosa tree blossom – a cheerful sight in winter. Photograph: Alamy There is a young Acacia dealbata not far from us in Waterloo that I go out of my way to visit. In the summer it sits back and you pass it without thinking, but in midwinter it dons its floral plumage to ruffle the tree into an out-of-season spectacle. Mimosa reminds me of winter trips to a.. Read More

The Big Allotment Challenge review – as exciting as watching tomatoes dry

It’s not about the taste … The Big Allotment Challenge. Photograph: Harry Cordon/BBC/Silver River It’s been a brilliant week for television, starting with Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney’s hilarious Catastrophe on Monday, then majestic Wolf Hall, and the saucy new Russell T Davies dramas about varying degrees of firmness. And then the brilliance totally runs out. I struggled to find anything interesting on Friday, and ended up with The Great.. Read More

Alys Fowler: the garden that looks and tastes good

‘Nearly everything Stephen Barstow grows is edible.’ Photograph: Simon Wheeler I like to search for things. I’ll take any excuse to go on a hunt for something in fields, waysides, woodlands, junk stores, attics or the internet. This is how I came across Stephen Barstow a few years ago while writing a book about foraging. I was, metaphorically speaking, foraging on the internet for a new source of food and I found an.. Read More

World’s oldest gardening manual to go on display

The manual was written in Latin between 1304 and 1309 by Petrus de Crescentiis. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA The world’s oldest gardening manual which was once owned by Henry VIII is to go on display, offering bizarre horticultural tips dating back more than 700 years. Well-thumbed and annotated, it imparts green-fingered gems such as planting squashes in human ashes for quicker fruiting, using goat manure to grow tastier lettuce and the.. Read More

How to make the most of the Big Garden Birdwatch

If you live in a seaside town you’re likely to spot a herring gull, although they are actually in decline. Photograph: Ben Andrew/RSPB Obviously there are no birds anywhere to be seen. Ben and Gemma, the lovely people from the RSPB, sit beside me and we all gaze hopefully out of my living room window, waiting. “This always happens,” says Gemma. “Every single time.” Ben Andrew is one of the.. Read More

Correa: the Australian fuchsia | Robbie Blackhall-Miles

’s dusty pink bells seem vivid in weak winter sunlight. Photograph: Alamy In January I go to work in the dark and come home in the dark. Most people spend the darkest days of winter dreaming of the bright garden colours of summer. For me, however, it’s the time of year when my garden comes into flower. Many of the plants I grow come from Australia and South Africa’s winter.. Read More

Gardens: early risers | Dan Pearson

Colour pop: the purple blooms of Iris reticulata Pauline. Photograph: John Glover/Alamy When I planted my bulbs in September, I held a few back for pots that I moved into the cold frame. The frame offers little more than shelter, but its microclimate is enough to encourage activity during the winter. I keep it chocked open so that air is free to move around it, and only close the lid.. Read More

Alys Fowler: hop to it

In Almaty, Kazakhstan, hops grow everywhere: up telephone poles, along fences, swinging between trees. Their cones are fat and thick, and their sweet, soporific smell makes hot afternoons heady. The hop, Humulus lupulus, is a cold-hardy perennial bine (note, it’s not a vine, because it twines clockwise around its support, rather than sending out tendrils or suckers) famous for imparting the necessary bitter notes in beer. Each spring, soft, new, green.. Read More

Weatherwatch: Parson’s evergreens falter under nature’s yo-yo

The Hampshire curate Gilbert White, who died in 1793, became renowned as a skilled, observant, naturalist. Photograph: Popperfoto The great frost in January 1768 was brief but remarkably injurious to evergreens, and a kindly country parson made observations that might be “not unacceptable to persons that delight in planting and ornamenting”, as he so delicately put it. The parson, the writer Gilbert White, continues in his book The Natural History.. Read More

Nature by design

The meadows of the Pontic mountains in Turkey are rich with wildflowers. Photograph: Bob Gibbons Christmas is past, and our televisions screens are now under attack from the annual carpet bombing by tour operators. For many viewers, these adverts will stir thoughts of sunnier times and warmer climes in the summer months ahead, but they have made me dust off last year’s holiday snaps – from a trip to the.. Read More