Perfect Flower Combinations for Wildlife

Bee on verbena

Looking to attract wildlife to the garden but not sure how? With some pollinators in decline in recent years (moths and butterflies), it’s more important than ever to transform our gardens into a pollinator-friendly haven. To help you liven up your garden, take a look at some of our favourite wildlife flower combinations for planting inspiration.

A romantic border

Summer flower border

Are you a fan of pink and purple flowers? Then this romantic colour combination is the perfect choice for you. White Asters, purple Pansies and pink creeping Phlox are a match made in heaven for bees and butterflies. Plant and watch your garden become alive with pollinators in the summertime.

Hot, fiery flower beds

Rudbeckia and Coreopsis summer flowers

Bring the summer heat to your beds and borders with this sunny combination. Rudbeckia are bee-friendly superstars in the flower world, so try pairing flaming red Rudbeckias along with cheery yellow Coreopsis for the ultimate pollinator-friendly flower bed.

A serene white border

White lavender

If you’re a fan of a more subtle look, keep it clean with white flowers. The pure, brightening effect of white flowers is a great way to make smaller spaces look and feel bigger. For the ultimate white wildlife combination, plant white lavender as the focal point of a flower bed or border, and underplant with fragrant white nemesia.

More wildlife flower combinations:

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British garden birds could disappear by 2100, here’s how we can help

Who doesn’t love listening to the sounds of birds in the morning? British garden birds are a wonderful sight in any garden, but recent studies suggest that less and less birds are being spotted around Britain. While the reasons behind their disappearance are still being studied, discover some of the environmental reasons behind their decline and how British gardens can help.

The Data

According to data found by The RSPB, sighting of common birds have declined rapidly since since 1979. RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch data shows that common species such as house sparrows are down 53% and starling sightings are down 80%. The reasons behind these declines are still under study, however there are some obvious factors. A lack of green spaces around the UK, and the continual effects climate change are to name a few. With our climate getting warmer, this could be bad news for bird species that depend on stable access to food in certain seasons.

Several bird species depend on the abundance of larvae while their young are small. Great tits have evolved to breed at the same time that insect larvae is at its most abundant. This is to ensure the breed has a ready food source for their chicks. The larvae feeds on leaves but as earlier springs causes trees to leaf out earlier; this will cause larvae that feed on the plants to hatch out earlier. If larvae supply peaks earlier in the spring than normal due to higher temperatures, this could lead to a lack of food for the hatchlings.

Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology used population models of several bird species to calculate the consequences of different climate scenarios. While great tits can evolve to keep up with prey, a faster change in temperature could see the birds left behind. The ‘breaking point’ is estimated to be when larvae and leaves are produced 24 days earlier than they are at the moment. The University researchers found that the worst case scenario could lead to whole populations of great tits disappearing by the year 2100, simply because they aren’t able to procure enough food for their young.

How we can help garden birds

“The good news is that the populations will be able to survive scenarios with lower or medium warming trends,” says Emily Simmonds, an associate professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. So to help our british garden birds, we need to control the environmental changes caused by climate change.

No task is too small when it comes to helping combat climate change. That being the case, people can make a huge contribution by cutting energy use as much as possible. Simply buying energy-efficient appliances, turning off lights when not needed, using the eco settings on washing machines can make an impact.

Wondering how you can help in the garden? Dr Kate Plummer, of the British Trust for Ornithology says buying a bird feeder “provides water and places for animals to shelter and breed”. Around half of UK householders are now thought to feed birds in their gardens, helping to keep our local species well-fed and safe. More ways to help in the garden is to create a safe haven for British garden birds by growing native plants. As well as using fewer pesticides, and adding a bird bath.

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Spring Photo Competition 2021

Our annual Spring Photography Competition is back for 2021 with another chance to win up to £100 worth of J Parker’s vouchers. So this spring, get out in the garden and take some stunning floral snapshots.

How to enter:

For a chance to win, simply send us your J. Parker’s spring-flowering photos. The competition will only run until 28th March 2021, however there’s plenty of time to snap those pretty spring-flowering bulbs!

FACEBOOK – Like our Facebook page and share your image to our page with the caption ‘Spring Competition entry’.

TWITTER – Follow us at @JParkersBulbs and tag us in your photos with the hashtag #springcompetition

INSTAGRAM – Follow us at @jparkersbulbs and tag us in your photos with the hashtag #springcompetition

EMAIL – Email us at [email protected] (Entries must be under 5mb – please include your name and postcode)

What you can win:

This year, we have 10 amazing prizes up for grabs:

1st Place – 1 winner of x Win £100 voucher for J Parkers
2nd Place – 1 winners of x Win £75 voucher for J Parkers
3rd Place – 1 winners of x Win £50 voucher for J Parkers
Runners up – 7 winners of x Win £25 voucher for J Parkers

Competition closes 28th March 2021.

Want some spring competition tips?

Here are a few photo theme recommendations from us to help you bag one of our prizes:

  • Pollinator-themed photos
  • Glorious flower close ups
  • Flower combinations

Good luck and happy snapping!

Terms and conditions:

  • All entries which meet the criteria outlined below will be considered for the prize of up to £100 worth of J. Parker’s vouchers, plus an additional 2nd place (£75 prize), 3rd place (£50 prize) and 7 prizes of £25.
  • All entries using photographs must be original images, taken/produced by the entrant.
  • Entrants agree that their names may or may not be published with their entry.
  • Ten winners will receive vouchers to spend on any products currently offered by J. Parker’s. This cannot be exchanged for cash and there is no substitution for this prize.
  • All varieties of spring bulb will be considered, but only those purchased from J. Parker’s will qualify for the competition prizes.
  • Send your entries by email to [email protected] (email under 5mb) or you can share it with us on our social media pages.
  • All entries will be considered, and you can enter as many times as you wish. Competition closes 28th March 2021. Winners will be notified by email before the 1st April 2021.

Check out our 2020 Spring Competition winners

Delicious Potato Gratin Recipe

Potato gratin is a perfectly creamy and delectable way to spruce up your average potato. It’s also much easier than you think and is bound to become a new favourite in your household.

Servings: Family of 4-6 people

Time: 20 minutes prep and 45 minutes cooking


You will need:

  • Large saucepan
  • Ladle
  • Ovenproof dish

Ingredients:

  • 500ml double cream
  • 500ml milk
  • 8 large potatoes
  • 100g grated cheese
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat

    Pre-heat the oven to 190c/fan 170c/gas mark 5

  2. Peel potatoes

    Peel and thinly slice potatoes with a mandolin or sharp knife. Set aside once finished.

  3. Add other ingredients

    Combine 500ml of double cream and 500ml of milk into a large saucepan. Season with salt and pepper and heat on low until the mixture reaches a low simmer.

  4. Layer potatoes

    In an ovenproof dish, spread a layer of potatoes. Ladle over a portion of your cream mixture and sprinkle with a handful of cheese.

  5. Repeat

    Repeat for the second and third layer until you run out of mixture.

  6. Bake

    Scatter your remaining cheese on top and bake for 45 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and potatoes are nice and browned.


Tips

  • What can you add to this recipe?

Growing your own potatoes was the hard part, if you want to add a little flair to your food try infusing your cream and milk mixture with cloves of garlic and fresh herbs. Just add them to the mixture and discard once they’ve reached a simmer. This will bring a completely new flavour to your dish and show the versatility of homegrown herbs.

  • How long can you store this dish?

Portion and store potato gratin leftovers in a sealed container which can be frozen for up to 2 weeks. Alternatively, you can also store them in the dish they were baked in but ensure to cover tightly with aluminium foil. Heat through thoroughly in the oven before eating.

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Homemade herb infused oils

Looking to add something a little special to your dishes? Dip, drizzle or fry these delicious homemade infused-oils and take your meals to the next level. Discover how to make your own garlic & rosemary, basil and chilli infused oils in the comfort of your own home.


Servings: 6

Time: 40 mins – 1 hour


You will need:

  • Jars for storing oil (glass or plastic)

For garlic & rosemary-infused oil:

  • 250ml extra virgin olive oil
  • rosemary sprigs
  • 3/4 fresh garlic cloves

For basil-infused oil:

  • 250ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 leaves fresh basil

For chilli-infused oil:

  • 250ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 whole dried red chillies
  • 1tsp dried chilli flakes

Instructions:

  1. Clean your herbs

    If you’re picking herbs from the garden, shake the leaves to remove any insets. If you prefer to wash the herbs, allow them to fully dry before starting the process.

  2. Prep your jars

    Thoroughly sterilise your jars before adding in your tasty oils.

  3. Heat up the ingredients

    Place all ingredients for your oil into a medium saucepan and heat gently over a low heat for 20-25 minutes. Warm until hot (but not boiling!).

  4. Cooling time

    Pour the oil into a measuring jug, then leave to cool. Once cool, pour into your jars/containers.

  5. Processing time

    Leave in a cool dry place for one week before use.


Tips

  • How long do infused-oils last for?

These oils have a long shelf life and will usually keep for up to 2-3 months in an air tight container.

  • When do you use infused-oils?

You can use them instead of adding spices or herbs, or adding flavour to vegetables or meats. Also, they are perfect for creating the bases of salad dressings and sauces.

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2021 Community Garden Competition Winners

It’s that time of year again! We want to thank all of the entrants for joining in and helping make this year’s Community Garden Competition a success. We’ve received so many heart-warming and inspirational entries this year. We deeply appreciate everyone who has shared their local community’s story with us.

So why wait any longer? Keep reading to discover who are our community garden winners!

Snowshill Drive Community Garden

Snowshill Drive Community Garden

In 2019, Andy P. decided that a unused green space just 500m from his front door had potential.

Between donations and personal spends, in 2020 the area has been filled with wildlife-friendly shrubs and flowers. Local businesses donated a lawn mover, a recycled plastic park bench, and a local letting agent donated towards the creation of a rose garden.

Elderly folk who are unable to tend a garden, and people who suffer mental illness have become regular visitors to the garden. Now, the space is a tranquil, relaxing space for the community. Families also use the garden for picnics in the warmer months, and local workers use the space as a lunchtime retreat.

Andy wants to use the prize to help with his next project; creating a shrub border alongside the footpath.

Tadcaster Garden, North Yorkshire

Tadcaster Garden, North Yorkshire

Since 2016, Tadcrafters CIC in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire has supported a range of charities and causes. From promoting craft skills, enabling people to learn new skills and developing social networks in and around the town. 

In 2020, a neglected garden (originally a 17th Century Quaker burial ground) was taken on by the local community. This formed a new gardening group, bringing together existing and aspiring gardeners of all ages to restore the garden. The aims of the project is to create a welcoming, wildlife-friendly space for everyone to enjoy. As well as providing a place to meet, sit, chat, garden and appreciate the surroundings. 

Whilst the project has the support of both the town and district councils, they have no funding resources in place. Therefore, a donation of plants and bulbs would be a very welcome boost to the plans to create a beautiful community garden. 

Gretton Court Sensory Garden, Melton Mowbray

Opening Day – Gretton Court Sensory Garden, Melton Mowbray

Gretton Court is an extra care facility in Melton Mowbray, Leicester. Provided by Leicestershire County and Melton Borough Councils, the facility allows elderly and disabled residents to live independently in a safe environment with the extra support they need.

In 2017 and after 5 years of fundraising, The Friends of Gretton Court (a volunteer group) opened a sensory garden for the use of Gretton Court residents, their families and the wider local community. The garden provides a safe environment to meet and enjoy the outside in a varied garden. Designed to be friendly for the sight impaired and wheelchair users, the sounds, smells and beautiful sights in the garden have helped to stimulate memories and wellbeing, Past residents are also displayed as memory leaves on the feature stainless steel Memory Tree. During the pandemic, the garden has allowed people to meet outside safely.

The volunteer group hope that winning one of our prizes will help continue and extend the objective of the garden by displaying plants and shrubs on as wide a season as possible.

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How to Plant Begonias

Originating from subtropical and tropical climates, begonias are the perfect plant for a long-lasting display of showy, exotic flowers. With spring planting season coming up, discover the best times for planting begonias, as well as our top tips on how to plant them in beds, baskets and pots.

When to plant tubers

A tuber is an enlarged storage organ that grows beneath the soil surface. They are super easy to plant and easy to care for. Start growing begonia tubers in early spring, between March and April.

When to plant begonia plants

Plant begonia plug plants outdoors in late spring after the soil has warmed up and all danger of frost has passed.

How to plant begonias in beds and borders

For tubers:

  • Plant tubers 5-7.5cm (2-3in) deep in fertile well-drained soil and in a sunny, sheltered position.
  • Space tubers 2cm (¾in) apart and 2.5cm (1in) deep.
  • As a general rule, plant out in the garden once danger of frost has passed.

For plugs:

  • Plug plants require potting and growing on for a month or so if you want filler plants for beds and containers.
  • Pot on into larger pots as soon as possible.
  • Place them in a well lit, ventilated and reasonably warm such as a greenhouse or windowsill to grow on.
  • Once the plants have rooted into the compost, and the risk of frost has passed, your plugs are ready for planting out in the garden.
  • Simply dig a whole wide enough to hold the plug plant, place the plant inside the hole and cover the edges with soil.
  • Finally, gently firm the plug into the hole and water.

How to plant begonias in baskets & pots

For tubers:

  • Fill the pot or basket with a moist sandy potting compost about 2 inches (5cm) from the top.
  • Place the tuber rounded side down and gently push into the compost, fill the pot to the rim with compost and water in.
  • Try planting three 5/6cm tubers into an average hanging basket or 5 tubers in a 30cm container.

For plugs:

  • Pot plugs on into larger pots as soon as possible.
  • Place them in a well lit, ventilated and reasonably warm such as a greenhouse or windowsill to grow on.
  • When they have grown sufficiently, they will need to be transplanted into pots and slowly hardened off before planting into hanging baskets and pots outside.
  • A rough guide is one plant per inch of hanging basket diameter. This would mean you would need 12 plants to a 12” or 30 cm hanging basket.
  • A 12” pot or patio container will look well filled with 8 rather than 12 plants.

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How to Plant Strawberries

Fresh, delicious and rewarding, strawberries are such a versatile fruit and so easy to grow, making them ideal for beginners, as well as well-versed gardeners. With planting season on the horizon, discover when and how to plant strawberries and grow a bountiful harvest in summer.

When to Plant Strawberries

The optimal time to plant loose-rooted strawberries is between March and April for summer harvests. Whereas potted strawberries can be planted as soon as they arrive in the springtime.

The planting process

Learn how to prepare, plant and grow strawberries with these tips.

  • Plant in a full sun position to produce the largest yields.
  • Strawberry plants like space. Measure out planting holes 35cm (14in) apart. Space rows 75cm (30in) apart. Dig out a hole large enough to accommodate the roots to allow runners to take hold and roots to establish.
  • Spread out the roots of each strawberry plant. In the bottom of the hole, create a mound or hill of soil that is flush with the surrounding soil level. Place the strawberry plant on top of the hill inside the hole, so that the crown is at soil level and spread the roots out down the sides.
  • Finally, fill in the hole. Press to firm the soil around the roots and then water thoroughly.

Top tips

  • If you’ve planted cold-stored runners in late spring to early summer, leave the flowers on. Consequently, these will produce strawberries in 60 days, reverting to their natural cropping period the following year.
  • Mulch the strawberry bed with shredded leaves, pine needles, compost, or straw. This will keep the soil temperature down, mitigates any weed problem, and keeps the fruit cleaner by keeping the strawberries off of the dirt. 

Our Favourite Varieties for Summer Harvests

Strawberry Cambridge Favourite (Mid Season)
Strawberry Honeoye (Early Season)
Super Size Strawberry Elsanta

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Stunning Community Gardens in the UK

According to the Royal Horticultural Society, 2020 saw over 3.5 million taking up gardening for the first time. With this new burst of love for gardening, community gardening is on the rise. They can be used to grow fresh fruit and vegetables, provide a place for wildlife, and safe public spaces in urban areas. With hundreds of community gardens popping up around the UK, discover some of our favourite community gardens renowned for their beauty.

Mount Pleasant Community Garden, Cornwall

Mount Pleasant Community Garden, Cornwall

Near Porthtowan in Cornwall, the Mount Pleasant Community Garden has been developed as a flexible, imaginative community resource. The ethos of the space focuses on providing a productive, sustainable and beautiful community space for all to enjoy.

Mount Pleasant Community Garden, Cornwall

Since autumn 2010, the Mount Pleasant Community Garden has provided an organic growing space for their local community. Now, along with their large onsite growing space, is a rain water harvesting system, and a composting space and polytunnel. Their fantastic community project focuses on increasing the knowledge and access to healthy fresh fruit and vegetables.

Culpeper Community Garden, Islington

Culpeper Community Garden, Islington

A green oasis in the heart of busy Islington. Culpeper Community Garden is one of the most valued green public spaces in the city. Serving as a park and an environmental community project, their organic garden bursts with a rich variety of plants.

Culpeper Community Garden, Islington

The organic garden comprises a lawn, ponds, rose pergolas, ornamental beds, vegetable plots, seating and a wildlife area. It also contains 50 plots including 2 raised beds for disabled gardeners. These small gardens are for community groups, children, and for people living nearby who do not have gardens.

Martineau Gardens, Birmingham

Martineau Gardens, Birmingham

Martineau Gardens form a therapeutic environment of over two acres of organically maintained land, two miles from the City Centre. The Gardens include a substantial wildlife area, formal gardens, a vegetable plot, an orchard and herb beds.

Martineau Gardens, Birmingham

As an oasis for wildlife, a haven of tranquillity, and a destination for an outdoor escape, there are two and a half beautiful acres at this stunning garden worth exploring. The community garden focuses on social inclusivity by promoting volunteers to mix with other people, to join in purposeful activities, and improve their physical fitness and emotional wellbeing.

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Symbolic Flowers in Chinese Culture

In celebration of Chinese New Year coming up on February 12th, it’s time to take a closer look at some of the most popular flowers in Chinese culture and the traditions associated with them. Flowers are actually very popular Chinese New Year decorations, so here are some lucky plants to bring you luck and prosperity this new year!

Plum Blossoms

Plum blossoms are depicted everywhere from pottery to wall scrolls in Chinese culture, because of their scenic properties and symbolic meanings. Considered sacred in China and symbolise romance, prosperity and growth, they’re also popular with young people looking for love.

Peonies

Feminine beauty, innocence, affection and charm – peonies are particularly auspicious for Chinese New Year. Peonies symbolise richness and peace in Chinese mythology, because of how the blooms grow in clusters. For a very long time, peonies were exclusively flowers of Chinese emperors. They used to decorate their balconies and royal gardens.

Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums, or the so-called “golden flower”, is one of the most beautiful plants that comes from China. This symbolic flower signifies intellectual accomplishments, cleansing qualities, and longevity of life. White chrysanthemums represent nobility and elegance. They are also thought to attract good luck to the home and represent a life of ease. 

Lilies

Chinese people love Lilies because they think that this flower represents good fortune and happiness, which is why this is a popular flower for weddings. Since lily flowers die, re-flower, and die again, they are considered to be special in Chinese culture.

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