Parker’s Book Club: ‘Eat What You Grow’ by Alys Fowler

This month in our book club, we’re thinking about sustainability. What could be better than growing your very own produce in your garden that you can bring to your plate? Discover this new release by Alys Folwer, who teaches you just how grow fresh, wholesome, chemical-free food with flavour, so you’ll never need to hit up the supermarket for your produce again.

In Eat What You Grow, Alys shows you how to create a beautiful, biodiverse garden that can feed yourself, your family, as well as local wildlife and pollinators.

From perennial vegetables that come back year after year, to easy-to-grow delights, she has selected plants that are perfect for harvesting in the garden. She also guides you through the process of feeding your soil and taking cuttings to increase your harvest. 

Do you have a book you’d like us to mention? Send in your suggestions on Instagram using the hashtag #parkersbookclub.

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What to See at RHS Garden Bridgewater

The Royal Horticultural Society
RHS Garden Bridgewater

The wait is almost over. The world’s leading garden charity, The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), will soon be opening their 154-acre garden in Salford, Greater Manchester. The RHS Garden Bridgewater is one of the biggest horticultural projects in Europe. Landscape architect, Tom Stuart-Smith created the overall plan for the garden, with the mission of blending history and horticulture.

The RHS is investing £35m in the creation of the garden. They forecast that the garden will generate around £13.2m per year to the local economy by 2030.

What is there to see at RHS Bridgewater?

Weston Walled Garden – RHS Garden Bridgewater

One of the biggest attractions will be the grand 11-acre Weston Walled Garden. One of the largest publicly-accessible working walled garden in the UK. This garden consists of an inner walled garden surrounded by a series of connecting gardens. 

Each section will feature designs by RHS Chelsea Flower Show gold medal winners, alongside several dedicated community spaces, intended to provide gardening inspiration and education. Additionally, there will be a Welcome Building, which will feature an events space, learning space, offices, café and shop.

The Kitchen Garden – RHS Garden Bridgewater

The nearby Kitchen Garden focuses on the local history of food growing. Designed by award-winning Harris Bugg Studio, this garden features a display of productive growing techniques and a selection of edibles.

An orchard garden has been added to boost biodiversity. The new orchard, designed by Curator Marcus Chilton-Jones, will replace a lost and extremely valuable habitat. The orchard incorporates a diverse array of fruit trees to support wildlife habitats and species

In addition, there are several community gardens. From the Community Wellbeing Garden, Community Grow area to the Peel Learning Garden. Another noteworthy area is the first dedicated RHS Trials ground outside the RHS’s Wisley, which will enable garden plants to be assessed for their performance in a northern climate.

When does it open?

RHS Garden Bridgewater will open its gates on Tuesday 18 May 2021 after the coronavirus pandemic delayed opening plans by almost a year.

Check out some of our other blogs:

How to get a post-lockdown garden

Next weekend starts the lifting of several restrictions that have been put place since the start of the year. With outdoor social mixing once again allowed, it is high time to show off that garden you’ve put so much work into! After months of grafting, weeding and watering. Spending as much time as you could outside, let’s make the garden the centre of attention!

Tidying up your garden

Time to rummage through the back of your garden shed and find the lawn mower, it’s finally time to shine! Whether it’s a simple back and forth or you’re an expert at mowing lawn stripes, this is undoubtedly the first step to tidying up your garden. Much like your grass, now is a great time to ensure your patio or decking are up to scratch and ready to display summer essentials such as barbecue’s, furniture, or maybe even more potted plants. The patio is your oyster.

Social space

With outdoor meetings now on everybody’s agenda seating is essential. It doesn’t have to be fancy seating or bespoke furniture. There are many ways to turn your garden into a social space. Just ensure you have a space large enough to seat the six people of your choice. Furniture doesn’t always have to be an option, a picnic blanket spread on the floor. Even camping chairs can get the job done. So long as you have a space that can accommodate your chosen group all you have to do is provide the entertainment.

Clear the clutter

You did the hard part of transforming your garden. Now you’re stuck with the remains. If there is still any clutter left over its high time to get rid of it. Clean out any garages, greenhouses or sheds while you still have the free time. The best way to get rid of garden waste is your local recycling centre or tip. A great suggestion is labelling boxes to ensure they go to the right waste bin. If you run out of time or simply can’t find a place suitable, store the waste somewhere it can’t be easily accessed or seen.

Enjoy yourself

Lockdown has been such an incredibly hard time for everyone. The gardening industry has seen a massive boost since the start of lockdown with more people picking up the hobby. We at J Parker’s have been so happy to provide quality bulbs to everyone – old and new customers. It doesn’t matter if you are a gardening expert or novice, you should be proud of the garden you’ve created. As Summer comes closer it is time to let your garden loose. Show off your new hanging baskets, bedding plants or potted tubers and enjoy yourself!

Need some more garden tips? Check out these blogs:

How to Make Your Garden Look Good on a Budget

Throughout 2020, many of us have turned to our gardens for a place of comfort and space for activity. We’ve even taken up new projects and new hobbies to keep ourselves busy through each lock down.

With a new focus on our gardens, many of us have been looking to revamp our outdoor spaces. But how do you do that when you’re on a bit of a budget? We’ve considered four of our favourite cheap garden ideas to help you create a beautiful space in the comfort of your own home.


Up-cycle Old Furniture

Have odd bits pieces of old furniture dotted around the house? Why not give them a spruce and pop them outside? Up-cycling has become increasingly popular over the last decade, and helps you to re-purpose those old bits of furniture that aren’t quite living up to their potential indoors.

Similar to the image above, why not use some old dining chairs as a potted plant holder? How about repainting/finishing your old dining tables and putting them outdoors for some al fresco dining? Instead of heading for the dump, these relics can be useful after all (and save you some dosh in the meantime!).

Mood Lighting

Our cheap garden ideas continue with this next tip: fill your outdoor space with lights! Sounds simple, but by adding just a few stringed lights here and there can hugely transform any area (regardless of size and shape).

From places such as B&Q and even Home Bargains, you can grab yourself some beautiful outdoor lights that don’t break the bank.

Patio Decor

Another great way of injecting colour to your outdoor space is by making use of your patio pots and containers. Fill them with your favourite seasonal flowers and arrange them around the garden for the optimum display!

You can find plenty of affordable potted plants on our website that’ll add lots of colour to your outdoor space.

Grow Your Own Veggies

If you have the space, growing your own vegetables is a great way to save money. Although it does entail patience and some effort, you’ll be rewarded in the long run.

Creating your own vegetable garden will not only save you money that you’d spend at the supermarket, but will also add some greenery to your outdoor space. The best of both worlds, you could say!

You don’t have to spend lots of money to transform your outside space. Try any one of our cheap garden ideas to achieve your dream garden.

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Preparing Your Garden for Winter

preparing your garden for winter

Preparing your garden for winter is probably the last thing you want to do as the air gets colder and the days get shorter. However, if you spend just a few hours a day getting everything prepared before the first frosts of the season, it could save your plants from facing an early demise.

Ready to get started? Read on to find out how.

Border Maintenance

prepping your garden borders

Cut back your perennials and dying plants closer to the ground as they start to die down. Tidy your borders by removing any weeds and debris so there’s less work come spring.

Give Shrubs and Trees Some Love

fruit trees

Prune unruly shrubs into your preferred shape and cut back any damaged branches from trees. This helps them to be in the best possible shape they can before winter hits.

Plant Protection

protecting plants for winter

If you have access to a green house, move potted plants in for the duration of winter. If you’re worried about deciduous trees and shrubs, their bare roots can be lifted and stored until spring to avoid the root dying through any frost.

Take a Well Deserved Break

taking a break with a cup of tea after preparing your garden for winter

And finally, once you’re done preparing your garden for winter, take a well deserved break! This year especially has taken its toll on all of us, and in the run up to winter it’ll be more important than ever to look after ourselves.

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Top Tips for a Pet Friendly Garden

Keeping your furry friends safe is always a first priority, and when it comes to your garden, you want to make sure that they will be safe and happy outdoors. When it comes to create a pet friendly garden, there are a few things to know before you get started.

From avoiding potentially harmful plants to discovering pet-friendly garden hacks, we’ve got everything you need to know to create the perfect pet-safe garden.

Research Harmful Plants and Flowers

Before putting anything in the ground, it’s best to research on the plants to avoid having in your garden. For example, if your family dog likes to dig up your flowerbeds, then it’s best to avoid plants and bulbs such as Hyacinths, Daffodils, Crocus, etc.

However, if you have a cat that likes to chew on your indoor flowers, try to avoid picking plants like Irises, Lilies, and Ferns. There are quite a few toxic plants and flowers to avoid, so do your research before starting your displays.

Safety is Key

Before letting your pet outside, it’s best to assess the overall safety of your garden. Is there a pool? A shed filled with dangerous tools? Reduce access to these areas with a fence.

It’s also a great idea to use organic or pet-safe mulch and fertilisers when gardening. If your pet ingested anything else, it could cause serious harm.

Protect Your Borders

If, like many cats, yours likes to do its business in flowerbeds… it’s time for that to change. To avoid this, you can designate an area of the garden for your cat to use. Establish this early on when the cat is young to ensure it doesn’t get stuck in a habit.

If your dog loves to dig up your newly planted bulbs, try raising your beds out of their reach. That way, they can’t get to your plants, and it’s less of a worry when you let them out.

Wildlife Protection

Cats are natural hunters. They love to jump and chase and catch, but unfortunately, this isn’t great for local wildlife. If you’re cat is an outdoor cat and you have bird feeders or bird baths in your garden, try putting them elsewhere.

This could be higher up on a tree or anywhere that your cat could easily reach.

Learn More Great Garden Hacks on Our Blog!

How to Plant Bare Root Roses

Beautiful and fragrant, roses are a staple of the British summer garden. From climbing to compact varieties, roses can be grown to fill pots, create hedging or climb walls and fences; the possibilities are endless!

Many of our roses are supplied in bare root form, and those unfamiliar with bare root Roses can be taken aback when first encountering them. To make your gardening jobs easier, we’ve created this essential guide to planting bare root roses, and what time of year to do so.

What is a bare root Rose?

Sourced from the best growers, our selection of Bare root Roses are supplied dormant without foliage or flowers and without soil or pot.

When do you plant bare root Roses?

Late autumn, late winter and early spring are the best times for planting bare root Roses. These times allow the Rose to establish in the ground before their growth resumes in the spring season. 

Tip: Avoid planting bare root Roses in the late winter when the ground is frozen.

How do you plant bare root Roses?

Learn how to grow beautiful summer Roses with our step by step planting guide:

  1. Position

    Roses love growing in full sun, but most will thrive and bloom happily with four hours or more of good sun daily.

  2. Soil preparation

    Make sure that the hole is wide enough for the roots to comfortably spread out and deep enough so that the graft point will be about an inch below soil level.

  3. Add compost

    Add some well-rotted manure/compost to the bottom of the hole and add fertiliser of your choice.

  4. Planting

    Place the bare root Rose into the hole and firm it in (make sure that graft is at soil level).

  5. Keep on top of watering

    Water well after planting, and then water at least once a week after growth commences.

  6. Prune

    Trim or remove any thin, weak stems that can effect the Rose’s growth.

Late Spring-Flowering Roses:

Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Garden

Starting a garden is one of the most rewarding things one can do and anyone do it. From creating a cut flower garden, growing your own sustainable veg patch or planting an amazing border display, getting your hands dirty in the garden has so many benefits, but it can be difficult to know where to start.

Here are our 7 easy steps to guide you through the process of starting your own garden!

1. Make a Plan

First things first, what do you want to grow? A vegetable garden? An herb garden? A flower garden? All of the above? All are great choices but have different maintenance requirements. I’d recommend for all beginners to start small until you know what you’re getting into.

2. Pick the Perfect Spot

Your garden location, soil type, amount of sun exposure and access to water will play a big part in what plants you’ll be able to grow. Most plants, vegetables and fruit thrive in sunny spots but if you garden is shaded for most of the day, there are still plenty of plants (Hostas, Heucheras, Grasses) that can thrive in the shade. Go outside and study your outdoor space, learn about your soil type, and then research which plants would be the best fit.

3. Start the Ground Work

Get rid of the top layer covering the area you plan to plant. If you want quick results (e.g., it’s already spring and you want veggies this summer), cut it out. With a spade, cut the ground into sections to make it easier to remove, then put it on your compost pile to decompose. Now, you have your planting area ready to go!

4. Choose Your Plants

Choose your shopping style. Some gardeners like studying plant catalogues to create their shopping list, others head to the garden centre to select their plants, or you can simply shop online. The key planting seasons are Spring and Autumn, so choose your plants according to their planting times. Summer-flowering bulbs/plants should be planted in the Spring (Dahlias, Begonias, Roses) and Spring-flowering bulbs/plants should be planted in the Autumn (Tulips, Daffodils, Crocus).

5. Hydration is Key

Close care and attention is essential for young plants. Once plants establish a strong root system in the ground (usually a few weeks after planting), they tend to be less needy. After that, how often you need to water depends on your soil, humidity, and rainfall; although once a week is a good place to start.

6. Mulch for Protection

Mulching is life-saving for gardeners. Mulching your plants helps them retain moisture and keep weeds at bay. Cover the soil with a couple of inches of mulch after planting and you won’t have to water as often. Also, by preventing sunlight from hitting the soil, you’ll prevent weeds from forming in your soil.

  • For annuals: Choose a mulch that decomposes in a few months.
  • For perennials: Use a longer-lasting mulch such as bark chips.

7. Care, Grow and Enjoy!

Now that all the planting is done, now is the time to care for your garden and watch it grow.

Don’t forget to keep up with common garden jobs such as:

  • Watering plants regularly. 
  • Pull out any weeds.
  • Prune dead blooms, or leggy growth on plants/shrubs.
  • Remove garden pests (e.g. Aphids) by picking them off the plant, hosing them off with water, or spraying on an insecticidal soap.
  • Support tall plants (e.g., tomatoes) with a trellis, stake or pergola.

Why Gardening is Great for Your Wellbeing

“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.”

Luther Burbank

According to the World Health Organisation, good health means more than just the absence of bad health symptoms. It means the presence of positive emotions, quality of life, sense of community and happiness. Research has shown many times that gardening is good for our mental and physical health. With GPs now even prescribing gardening to patients with depression and anxiety, here’s how our gardens are special spaces with many restorative qualities and benefits.

Gardening Connects Us with Nature

“Embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein

Nature has long been recognised for its relaxing qualities as a place for humans to find tranquillity and healing. Recreating nature around our home is a savvy way to develop that special bond with our environment. Surround yourself and your family with cheer everyday by planting an array of pollinator-friendly trees, bushes, and flowers to attract of bees, butterflies and everything in between to your garden.

Gardening Brings Responsibility

“Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

A person who can grow things is a person a little more in tune with the earth. Gardening is also a great way of caring for something; sometimes just the satisfaction of keeping a plant alive, and the responsibility that comes with it, is enough to give us a sense of purpose and pride. They are places where our efforts result in a real sense of achievement, boosting confidence and self-esteem.

Gardening is Great Exercise

“The key to happy living is that Mind should be at rest and body must be exercised and active.” – Hiyamedia

The health benefits of gardening are impressive. Gardening uses all the major muscle groups – the legs, shoulders, stomach, arms, neck, and back all get a workout. Gardening also increases flexibility and strengthens joints. Recent research indicates that 30 minutes daily of moderate exercise such as gardening lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels, helps prevent diabetes and heart disease, and prevents or slows osteoporosis. You may even live longer. It’s all good news for gardeners!

Gardening is Therapeutic

“I like gardening — it’s a place where I find myself when I need to lose myself.” – Alice Sebold

Even the simplest things can brighten our mood, as soil has been found to have similar effects on the brain as antidepressants to lift mood. A study by the University of Bristol and colleagues at University College London found that the ‘friendly’ bacteria normally found in soil, altered their behaviour in a similar way to that produced by an antidepressant. Simply planting up some potted Dahlias or a watering a hanging basket can have a huge impact on your stress levels, helping to stave off anxiety, slash depression risk, boost productivity and ease insomnia.

Happy gardening this spring planting season!

beautiful, flowers, and gif image

6 Ways to Create a Wildlife Garden

Who doesn’t enjoy seeing butterflies and bees in the garden? There has been a decline in the UK’S wildlife populations in recent decades, with studies stating a decrease of up to 60%, but there are ways to combat this issue in our very own gardens.

With these simple steps, it couldn’t be easier making your outdoor space attractive to pollinators, birds and mammals. Here are our easy tips for creating a wildlife haven in your garden.

1. Choose the Right Flowers

Flowers provide an excellent source of pollen and nectar for bees, butterflies, moths, and other insects.  Here’s just a small selection of our favourite nectar-rich summer blooms to attract an array of pollinators.

Centranthus ruber coccineus

A cluster-forming perennial. This easy to grow plant blooms with stunning tiny pink flowers that are adored by butterflies and bees. Great for borders.

Echinacea ‘Golden Skipper

A cheery sight for summer. These golden yellow flowers are a beacon of joy for pollinators. They also make perfect cut flowers for the home!

Lavender ‘Munstead’

A versatile, dwarf shrub. These fragrant Lavender bushes can be enjoyed en-masse as ground cover or as container centrepieces. A well-loved plant by pollinators.

Echinacea ‘Milkshake

Otherwise known as Coneflowers, Echinacea are fantastic perennials. This creamy white variety blooms with amazing pom pom-like double flowers. Irresistible to butterflies.

Rudbeckia ‘Goldstrum’

An award-winning summer favourite. These cheery daisy-like flowers are a must-have for any wildlife garden. Great for borders and pots.

2. Plant Bird-Friendly Shrubs

Some shrubs can provide a diversity of food and shelter that will certainly attract a range of birds, such as greenfinches. Plant these wildlife-friendly shrubs and watch as the number of feathered visitors in your garden will grow each year.

Pyracantha ‘Golden Charmer’

A mesmerising shrub. With nectar-rich flowers in the spring and golden berries in the autumn, ‘Golden Charmer’ is a haven for a myriad of wildlife.

Chokeberry

A versatile fruiting shrub. With clusters of fragrant Spring blooms followed by blackberry clusters in the Autumn, this shrub provides fantastic multi-seasonal interest.

Beautyberry

Otherwise known as Callicarpa, this eye-catching shrub provides endless interest with their lilac summer flowers followed by vibrant metallic-like berries in the autumn. A valuable food source for birds.

Partridge Berry

Also known as Checkerberry, this dwarf, evergreen shrub is perfect for borders or containers. Their bright pink-red berries are perfect for attracting birds to the garden.

3. Create a Space for Shelter

A pristine lawn may look pretty but they do nothing for nature. Add a pile of old rocks, bricks, and tiles in a quiet corner of your garden to provide a sanctuary for many species of insects and small mammals and encourage biodiversity.

4. Set up Bird Feeders

No matter what season we’re in, a bird seed feeder is such a quick and easy way to help your local feathered friends. If you’re feeling crafty, you can build your own from scratch. Try upcycling food tins or plastic bottles (a great activity for kids!), then pile on a variety of food (peanuts, seeds or fat balls) to give your gardens a boost of life.

5. Add a Water Feature

Liven up any dull space in the garden with a pond. A small, ornamental pond is easy to build yourself and is a great way to attract a variety of wildlife creatures to the garden. If you don’t have the space to build a pond, large pots or upturned bins work too!

6. Start Composting

Not only is composting a great way to lower your household waste, it is also an excellent source of food for wildlife! The community of minibeasts who live among the waste help the decaying process, and in turn, these beasts are a delicious food source for hedgehogs and other animals.

What can i compost?

  • Grass cuttings and dead leaves