Happy Saint George’s Day!

Happy Saint George’s Day!

Words by Alice Wilkinson

To mark St George’s day today, VisitEngland has opened England’s Hall of Fame 2014; an open air photography exhibition on London’s Southbank celebrating the many places, products and people that “make England fascinating and diverse”. Each of the 18 pictures depicting these quintessential English items has been selected by a panel of experts from hundreds of suggestions made by members of the public. The exhibition displays the gold, silver and bronze award winners for each of these six categories: History and Heritage, The Great, The Good and The Notorious, Food and Drink, Inventions and Discoveries, Sports and Leisure, and Culture and Entertainment. From The Beatles to The Bakewell Pudding, the Hall of Fame showcases the fundamental elements of English culture in 2014. Here are a couple of our favourites…


It won gold in the Food and Drink category, but do you know the origin of the sandwich? This essential part of an English afterrnoon tea is named after its inventor, John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich at Woburn Abbey in Buckinghamshire.


Awarded gold status in The Great, The Good and The Notorious is Octavia Hill who co-founded the National Trust in 1885. First established to raise awareness of the threats that railway developments were posing to the Lake District, the National Trust now has 3.4 million members. Visit Octavia’s birthplace museum in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.

Highclere Castle, Hamshire ©Highclere Castle

Awarded silver in the Culture and Entertainment category is Hampshire’s Highclere Castle, a national favourite as the real-life location of ITV’s Downtown Abbey. The castle opens to visitors for around 60 days a year, and promises a lovely day out in the country with beautiful gardens, a tearoom, gift shop and even an Egyptian Exhibition displayed in the cellar of the property.

The Hall of Fame runs from today until 30 April at Observation Point, Southbank, London. Find out more at visitengland.com.


A flourishing festival!

A flourishing festival!



After the sensational success of last June’s wonderful event hosted by designer Tom Stuart-Smith at his beautiful Barn Garden at Serge Hill, this year’s Festival of Garden Literature promises to be every bit as much of a treat with its winning combination of fascinating talks, lively discussions and  array of fine refreshments – a veritable feast for the senses.


A stylish, entertaining celebration of all things literary and horticultural, the festival will take place over the weekend of 21-22 June in the stunning, private walled gardens of 17th-century Petworth House and Park in West Sussex, at the invitation of Lord and Lady Egremont.

The talented team at the Garden Museum has put together an enticing and entertaining programme with an exciting, all-star line-up of speakers, including Victoria Glendinning on what gardens give a biographer, Anna Pavord on gardens in books, and Giles Waterfield on the plot in France which inspired his novel The Long Afternoon. Other confirmed speakers include George Plumptre, David Ingram, Andrew Lawson, Andrew Wilton, John Brookes, Janet Boulton and Chris Mullin.


Inspired by the special setting at Petworth, a new theme running throughout this year’s event will be that of the artist and the garden, with talks on Turner’s gardens, Ruskin’s Eden, and contemporary artists’ gardens, and the festival will be introduced by Caroline Egremont, telling the story of making a garden at Petworth – and the history of a garden which goes back to a bill for a pear tree in 1348.

To find out more about A Friend, a Book and a Garden: A Festival of Garden Literature and to order tickets, visit the Garden Museum’s website for what will be a most magical and memorable weekend in West Sussex!


If you are not already familiar with the small but perfectly formed Garden Museum, located in the ancient church of St Mary’s beside Lambeth Palace, then why not visit this Sunday 27 April when it is holding its Spring Plants & Gardens Fair from 10.30am-5pm? This is its biggest horticultural event of the year, featuring a great selection of specialist nurseries and plant exhibitors, all offering a tempting array of plants to take home to your garden. And after some serious plant-purchasing, you can revive yourself with delicious fare from the deservedly popular café.

Run your own cafe or tearoom

Run your own cafe or tearoom


Got a passion for baking or love taking afternoon tea? In our May issue (out now), we met Judith West, owner of Folly Tearoom, a vibrant social hub in the Norfolk market town of Holt, who changed career to set up her dream business. For those of you who’ve dreamed of running a similar enterprise, we’ve invited Judith to join us tomorrow, Tuesday, 22 April, at 1pm, here in the CL forums, to share her experiences and expertise in a live web chat, and answer any start-up questions you may have. Got something you’d like to ask? Post it now or log on, on Tuesday 22 April and find out how to turn your talent into a tearoom turnover!

Ps. Registering with the CL forums is easy, simply enter your details here, to create a secure profile.

Get a taste of the country: Wild Frost Cafe & Flower Shop

Get a taste of the country: Wild Frost Cafe & Flower Shop

Wild Frost

Words by Alice Wilkinson

Saturday mornings are the busiest time of the week for the small market town of Ramsey in the heart of the Cambridgeshire fens. The area’s farmers arrive early to set up a vegetable market and, as the town fills up with local shoppers, baskets and bags in-hand, Wild Frost Cafe & Flower Shop is soon bustling with friends keen to catch up over tea and cake.

As you walk in, the scent of fresh blooms draws your eyes to the far corner from which the owner, Louise Sanderson, runs her floristry service. Next is the aroma of both savoury and sweet treats to choose from – most of the ingredients for which are supplied by Cambridgeshire-based producers, as are, where possible, the flowers. From sandwiches filled with roast beef and horseradish, and artisan cheeses from a nearby specialist deli to creations from Tom’s Cakes, an independent bakery and patisserie in nearby Somersham, which uses free-range eggs, British sugar and locally milled flour. The counter is filled with its temptations, from chocolate and Guinness loaf, and red velvet cupcakes to scones to enjoy with jam and clotted cream – all served on mismatched vintage china.


A hub for the community, Wild Frost Cafe runs themed days such as ‘Toddler Tuesdays’, when younger members of the community can enjoy miniature treats and their parents are offered discounts on refreshments. Similarly, ‘Abbey Hour’, named after the local secondary school, Ramsey Abbey, offers students discounted hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows on their way home.

Wild Frost Cafe & Flower Shop, 18 Great Whyte, Ramsey PE26 1HF; 01487 813339 (Louise also runs Wild Frost Florist, 97 High Street, Somersham PE28 3EE; 01487 741700)

Top tips on keeping orchids

Top tips on keeping orchids

orchids 4

House plants are sometimes tricky. Indoors they often look good for a while when you first get them before succumbing to unsuitable conditions and living on in a state of dishevelment for a long period before we pluck up the courage to chuck them out. Centrally heated houses that are dry and low in humidity rarely suit them and they end up looking sad and stalky or denuded of foliage.


The one that I have consistently had success with is the moth orchid or Phealonopsis. it is possible to keep these elegant orchids going for years. They will flower several times a year and the blooms can last for many weeks, even months. This is the one to go for if houseplants and orchids have defeated you before. It is pretty easy to grow provided you follow a few basic rules.

Find the right spot – out of draughts, away from radiators and in good ambient light, not direct sunlight. Water once a week by filling a sink with a few centimetres of water at room temperature and place the pots in for 10 mins. Drain away the excess water. Feed once a month when the orchid is in growth by watering with a special orchid fertiliser, available from garden centres, and improve humidity by spraying the leaves with a mister regularly.


Phealonopsis need repotting every few years with special orchid compost – a very free-draining, spongy medium. Finally, allow the aerial roots they produce to receive plenty of light and emerge from the compost. Ideally they do best in an opaque plastic or glass pot as the roots can receive light but they will still succeed if you allow plenty of light to reach the surface and upper roots. The flowers last longer if kept well away from a fruit bowl, ripe fruit give off gases which cause the flowers to age prematurely.

For more information on caring for orchids go to the Orchids Info website.

Flying the nest

Flying the nest


Our five teenage chicks have now graduated to a grown-up henhouse outside in the garden. The Lone Ranger remains in our dining room but has been promoted to the fledglings’ evacuated brooder. I’m a little concerned that she’ll have some unsociable traits, having lived by herself for around a fortnight now. She’s surprisingly tame, however, even though we don’t handle her (or the others for that matter) as much as we should in order to make them friendly. The other evening, I tentatively placed my hand into the small cage and kept it still for a couple of minutes to get her used to me before gently stroking her super-soft feathers. She stayed perfectly still… To read the rest of this blog, click here

Plant pot recycling

Plant pot recycling


At this time of year many of us are making trips to garden centres and nurseries to invest in new plants to improve our plots and perfect our borders. As a keen gardener – I know how easy it is to accrue a mountain of seed trays, pots and plastic containers of a wide variety of shapes and sizes and in an alarmingly short space of time! Even if you re-use them for potting up and sewing, it is hard not to become swamped after just a few years.

Whilst household recycling has become increasingly easy in the last decade, most local authority collections will generally only accept higher grade plastics – plant pots, made of low grade plastics aren’t included, so they still generally end up  amongst our rubbish and ultimately going to landfill sites.

Due to the success of a recycling initiative ‘Pot To Product’ in recent years, a network of garden centres across the UK will happily take all your unwanted pots, so that they can be re-worked into a variety of robust garden accessories like these below.

AShortWalk Eco Bird Feeder












Go to pot to product website to find out out more details. The site has a map to pinpoint your nearest participating garden centre.

Ready, steady, grow!

Ready, steady, grow!

wide of patch3.jpg

As a nation, we’ve been busy cooking, crafting and converting thanks to inspirational TV series such as The Great British Bake Off, The Sewing Bee and The Great Interior Design Challenge. This evening sees the launch of the next traditional skill to be celebrated: the art of growing your own.


In The Big Allotment Challenge, hosted by Fern Britton, nine pairs of amateur gardeners will be putting their green fingers to the test in a number of challenges, which include growing unblemished fruit and vegetables, cultivating displays of beautiful blooms and, finally, using their produce to make preserves, condiments and floral arrangements. Each task will then be judged by a panel of experts – the RHS-judge Jim Buttress, floral designer Jonathan Moseley, and cookery writer Thane Prince – and, over the course of six hour-long episodes, the 18 hopefuls will be narrowed down and a winning two named cream of the crop.


Taking place in the pretty walled garden surroundings of Mapledurham House in Oxfordshire, The Big Allotment Challenge is not only a programme for keen gardeners, interested in picking up practical tips and ideas from the professionals, but is also aimed at novices who just want to have a go. So, whether you’ve got a window box, a garden border or an allotment, tune into BBC2 tonight at 8pm and find out how you can create your own green oasis at home.