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Ellen Mary Gardening by Ellen Mary - 1M ago
Check out my seasonal tips in Feast Norfolk Magazine for Summer plus enjoy my fresh, fruity mocktail recipe (which you can easily just chuck in some Vodka for the cocktail version)!
Click HERE to read & flick to page 62.
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By now we all know about the benefits of getting out in the garden both to our metal and physical health. But it can be hard to make the time and find the space, so GardenDayUK is about just breathing and just enjoying a day out in the garden.
Gardens can become another list of to-do’s. We need to water, plant and maintain, but how often do we just sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labour? Garden day is the day of the year to forget the spade, give the mower a rest and kick back with friends, family, or just plants, to soak it up.
Anyone can take part in GardenDay, regardless of age or gardening experience, even if you’ve just got a pot on the windowsill.
When and where is it?
On the 12th May, wherever you are, sit back and enjoy your green space. Join the online community by sharing your pictures using the tag #GardenDayUK. If you want to invite family and friends to join you here’s our toolkit for the day.
How do I get involved?
There are loads of ways to enjoy your garden from meditating with your succulents to stretching out on the sun-lounger. Here are a few ideas…
Make a flower crown: You’ll need a rope for the base, flowers and scissors. Tie small bunches together into posies and attache to the rope (face the stems in the same direction, overlapping them as you go). Cut your rope to size to tie off with a bow around your head (it’s easier to tie someone else's!). If you’d like to watch a video here’s how to make a flower crown with Candide and Talula Rose.
Make a Recipe from the garden: You could try making Nasturtium Pesto, or pick some edible flowers to decorate your dinner. Pansies, roses and marigolds are edible amongst others, but make sure you know what you’re picking!
something anyone can do, and they make great additions to greetings cards a couple of weeks down the line! It’s also a great way to enjoy what’s in your garden now!
Have fun with the family: Here are our top twelve family GardenDay activities from making fairy gardens to swapping plants.
You can find more information about the day at https://www.gardenday.co.uk/. Whatever you get up to we hope you have a great day! And don’t forget to share your pictures using the tag #GardenDayUK.
The day is proudly created by Candide, the free app connecting gardeners around the country where you can find inspiration and knowledge, identify plants or explore local gardens to visit. Candide is a warm community of gardeners and plant lovers so come on in and join the party!
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Ellen Mary Gardening by Ellen Mary - 2M ago
My visit to Keukenhof started with an early, cold start to the day catching a bus over to the gardens. The queues were huge but moved really quickly and when I got to the garden my press pack and lunch vouchers (benefits hey) were waiting for me with the friendly staff at the information desk.
As I walked through the gates, there was a feast for the eyes immediately! There was no easing into this garden, there were no secret corners, or discoveries only some intrepid travellers find. Its ALL there, for everyone to see! Every pathway lined with Tulips, reflections in the water of Tulips, beds and borders of Tulips, containers with Tulips, shops with Tulips. Each variety planted on mass in rows, swathes, boxes, circles - you name it. Tulips are everywhere.
Of course thats what Keukenhof is famed for, but I still don't think you realise just how many Tulips we are talking about until you visit and see it for yourself. I mean, there are actually 7 million flowers there!! To break up the Tulips subtly in places there are trees and greener than green lawns, plus other spring bulbs such as Muscari, Narcissi, Camassia and in the buildings with restaurants and shops you can also find show exhibitions which included Alstromeria, Canna Lily, Hostas (probably the most perfect ones I have ever seen), Oriental Lilies and clearly a love for Kalanchoe, there were plenty to be seen with their pretty little colourful flowers.
Basically if you love Spring you should go. I took so many photos I don't even know what to do with them. I noted so many Tulip varieties I lost count and can't possibly decide which was my favourite and I am totally inspired to plant many many more at the allotment.
Someone asked me how Keukenhof manage to keep Tulips blooming for 8 weeks...well thats taking a layered approach so they plant in abundance early, mid and late season Tulips so there is always something in bloom when the garden is open. All of the earlier varieties had finished and been deadheaded when I was there but some of the mid season and all of the late season where stunningly colourful.
Around the Keukenhof and in the region of Lisse, the Tulip fields can also be discovered. You only need to instagram for photos to see how beautiful they are. When I arrived, most of the fields closer to the Keukenhof had been cut due to a few weeks of warm weather meaning the Tulips were all over by then...but I see that just as an excuse to go back!
So a few favourites - although very hard to choose are:
Tulipa 'Cummins', 'Rosy Diamond Pipi', 'Vancover', 'Holland Chic', 'Hocus Pocus', 'Menton', 'Black Hero', 'Vampire', 'Joop', 'Sonnet' - see I told you I couldn't choose!!
Flights with KLM were super easy and there are so many buses to the gardens and of course Uber, its easy peasy - you must go!
For more photographs see my Facebook and Instagram page - including photos of my top picks above.
Happy Spring!
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If you’re reading here, you’re undoubtedly familiar with or at least interested in the power of a plant-based lifestyle. Note that we didn’t just say diet. An abiding love of plants means supporting the environment, getting more time outside, positively affecting your overall wellness, and, yes, making yourself healthier in a physiological sense. This is not to say veganism cures all ills, or is even necessarily the right lifestyle for everyone. It is something well worth learning more about though, and we would venture to say that even a partially vegan lifestyle (for those willing to accept such a term) can be beneficial. What we’re discussing here however isn’t the necessity or benefits of veganism, but rather the idea that as it becomes more widespread and more commonly accepted, a number of deeply influential figures in English society are emerging as glowing examples of the positive impacts. Specifically, we’re talking about several prominent figures on the English football scene who are starring (or have starred) for major clubs, and who have let it be known that veganism has helped them manage their careers. Sergio Aguero Sergio Aguero actually got a lot of attention last summer for being one of a few players at the FIFA World Cup to have embraced a plant-based diet. Headlines touted Aguero, fellow Argentine star Lionel Messi, and Fabian Delph as “the plant-powered footballers to watch” at the World Cup. Asked about his decision to turn vegan, Aguero cited a 2015 injury, and the need to alter his lifestyle as part of the recovery process. By all accounts he’s stuck to a plant-based diet since then, and is now firmly established as one of the best players in European football. Aguero is currently leading Manchester City, which is on track to win the Premier League and possibly Champions League titles.Fabian Delph Fabian Delph was on the list just mentioned of plant-powered footballers at the World Cup. He’s a British player, and also plays for Manchester City, despite not being quite as high profile as Aguero. Delph, too, has referenced injury recovery as the primary reason for his switch to veganism, and actually appears to have gone even further than that. Delph also adopted Tai Chi practice as a means of exercising his mind, and appears to have been healthier - and perhaps better - since. Hector Bellerin Hector Bellerin is a Spanish player who currently stars for Arsenal in London. Arsenal is not quite on Manchester City’s level these days, but has nevertheless put itself in position for a coveted top-four league finish and berth in next season’s Champions League. That’s not a done deal, but the football betting markets for the English leagues are currently bullish for Arsenal, and Bellerin is one reason why. He’s been part of a slightly but meaningfully improved defence that the club badly needed. Regarding his lifestyle and fitness, Bellerin is on record directly crediting veganism with his having reached the peak of his abilities. Jermain Defoe Jermain Defoe is not at the level of the players above at this stage given that he’s 36 and playing in the Scottish Premiership. He has, however, been a key member of the English national team, and the fact that he’s still effective at all in a top-flight league is a testament to his conditioning. Defoe switched to a vegan diet sometime in 2016 or 2017, and has claimed to have a better grasp on his own health and conditioning since - undoubtedly allowing him to keep playing well at an advanced (for a footballer) age. Unfortunately it’s a common misconception that veganism or even just a vegetarian diet can make a person weak. For this reason, some assume that athletes don’t engage in such lifestyles. These players serve as powerful counterarguments, however, and further demonstrate that a plant-based routine can really work wonders for one’s health.
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Purple sprouting broccoli is an easy vegetable to grow, looks fantastic in the vegetable garden and is full of great nutrition. In recent years it’s seen more on the supermarket shelves and accompanies almost any dish. This tasty vegetable is a good source of vitamins A and C along with calcium, folic acid, iron, fibre and many other nutrients. To read the full article in FEAST Magazine, click HERE.
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Rosemary is one of those herbs no garden should be without. It’s an easy, drought tolerant herb with so many health benefits. As a great source of vitamin A, C, B6 and dietary fibre, its packed full of goodness that research has shown may prevent Alzheimers and slow the spread of certain cancers. Rosemary can be grown in pots, in the garden or on the allotment and there are varieties suitable for all, but my pick is ‘Majorca Pink’ because it reminds me of holidays and has beautiful pink flowers.
To read the full article in FEAST Norfolk magazine, click HERE
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I love plants, if you follow me on social media or anything else that I do, you will already know I am all about plants! If I am inside, all I want to do is go outside in the garden or down the allotment. Growing my own food is a massive part of my life and I simply want to eat as many home grown fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers as I can.
Over the past year I've been thinking about my impact on our beautifully diverse planet and I've deliberated over what I can do to help while tending to my little garden. I thought of so many things and suddenly it became obvious. Eat more plants.
We often talk about 'connecting' with nature. I don’t believe we have to ‘connect’ with nature, we ARE nature. We live on this planet with the birds, bees and of course the trees. We are no different to any other living being on this earth we inhabit. The one we are also destroying, even for all of its beauty, we carry on in our way because we have evolved to be the top of the food chain and the ‘intelligent’ species. I would argue the latter in this respect.
We share our planet with animals yet we breed them to eat - cows, pigs, chickens, sheep - to name a few. Many horrible things happen before the meat and other animal products hit your plate. We do this for food, to survive and remain the people of the planet. At the same time, we cuddle our dogs and stroke our cats and get cross, very cross, whenever anyone hurts an animal. Hmmm. Weird. Plants taste way nicer for a start.
On top of that, the science explaining climate change is astounding and the future of our planet is at dire risk. I fear for future generations, my niece and nephew, my god children. They are going to have a huge task on their hands if we don't make big changes now. If we want clean air and water, a fruitful planet without wiping out humans and other species - there are ways to vastly reduce the damage being done. We can reduce plastic, we can change lightbulbs to energy savers, we can recycle, recycle, recycle. But mostly we can stop eating meat and eat more plants.
Animal agriculture contributes a massive proportion of global greenhouse emissions (its an industry that is on track to be the highest, even more than fossil fuels). Overall the industry uses 70% of agricultural land and causes a mass of water pollution and deforestation leading to biodiversity loss. Shocking. Plant crops take far less space and resource to feed many more people.
So, animal welfare and climate change are on top of the fact that eating meat and diary contributes to illnesses. So even our health is suffering. We eat meat to survive (because thats what we’ve done forever) yet we have evolved to be the most ‘intelligent’ species on the planet and we eat meat which is harming animals, the planet and our health when we don't need to. Hmmm. Not so clever after all.
A recent report on global warming has made it quite clear we are in a bad situation but it CAN be changed - embrace a plant based diet. How else will we be able to feed the estimated 10 billion people living on this planet by 2050? The IPCC report can be read HERE .
Amazing news is the rise of horticulture is on the agenda and it is happening, the benefits are being research and published, plant based diets are on the rise and recently we have even been advised to cut down on meat and incorporate more plants on our plates for our health. Instagram is going wild for horticulture, allotments, houseplants and all things green - it’s so exciting!
So to me veganism and growing your own/gardening go hand in hand. As a gardener, I grow my own organic fruit and vegetables in abundance. Theres always too much, I don't even need meat or diary! I’ve learnt to store produce, cook well (I think my hubby will agree) and at the same time breathe that air, get physical activity and absorb all of the wellbeing benefits gardening provides. Thats not to say my back and knees don't ache sometimes but the benefits outweigh that by far. I have terrible digestion issues and cutting out meat and diary has helped this immensely and I look at what I am growing and what I can cook over the year seasonally whilst getting all of the nutrition I need with meals that are more tasty than I can tell you. I've met some fantastically inspirational people, learnt so much about nutrition (I am still learning) and have embarked on a refreshing new adventure for my health and pushing my plant growing capabilities to the max! Plants provide us with so much it’s just crazy, I can even get emotional about how amazing they are.
If more of us enjoyed plants, got our hands dirty, admired flowers, enjoyed growing vegetables…the benefits could be simply endless. Better mental health, less pressure on the NHS, a better understanding of life in general and I have SO much energy, clarity and fun!! Plants really do help us thrive!
I'm just a regular girl who loves animals, our planet, being healthy and gardening which are all rolled in to one bundle of veganism. So now I eat even more 'plants' which means I garden even more and this is in the words of my hubby 'a win-win for me and the planet'.
So, I urge you to try and reduce your meat intake and get outside to enjoy growing your own fresh fruit and vegetables as part of a plant based diet.
I’ve picked some useful articles and websites for you to read if you would like to find out more, just click on the links:
Happy Gardening!
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Ellen Mary Gardening by Ellen Mary - 8M ago
The festivities can take over any kind of healthy diet plus there is less growing in the kitchen garden but there is a very special something that can be grown on a windowsill or in the greenhouse at this time of year. Plus you’ll be harvesting within one to three weeks. Thank goodness for Micro Greens! Easy to grow and packed full of nutrition, in fact more than the fully matured vegetable. Micro greens are the seedlings of many well loved vegetables and herbs, simply grown to a few inches before harvesting. Perfect as garnishes, mixed in soups, salads and sandwiches to add a packed punch of nutrition to a dish.
Click HERE to read the full article.
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The garden during the winter is never at it’s liveliest. Most things die down by the end of the autumn, and the space can easily be left looking bland and bleak. When you’re a keen gardener, you don’t want to just enjoy your outside space during the warmer months, you want to be able to appreciate it all year round. Thankfully, there are ways you can liven up the garden in winter.
Plant winter blooming flowers
We tend to associate flowers with the warmer weather, but there are a surprising number of winter blooming flowers out there that can really bring life to the garden. From the Christmas rose to winter aconites and algerian irises, if you love your outdoor space to be full of blooms then consider planting these into pots, planters and flowerbeds. Once everything else dies off for the year, these varieties will burst into bloom. The weather might be dull and drab at this time of the year, but some pretty flowers can certainly improve the way things look!
Add evergreens
Evergreens are an obvious solution if you want to keep some greenery in your garden year round. It could be anything from hedges to large trees to smaller shrubs nestled within your planting scheme. During the summer, they break up the blooms, and once everything dies back for the year they provide some much needed colour, texture and life to the garden.
Bring in interest with sculptures and water features
Garden Sculptures and water features will remain looking nice all year round, and are especially a feature when the rest of the garden is a little more bare. Choose designs that work well with the theme of your garden, you could really make a statement out of them if you wanted. For example, if you already have a pond, adding a water feature and some lighting can look spectacular. This makes a nice feature to enjoy while you’re sat outside in the warmer months having a drink in the evening or a barbeque with friends. And it’s also great for over the cold months, when you’re admiring the yard from the window.
Keep the lawn looking nice
While lawns do take a bit of work to keep them at their best, all in all they’re pretty hardy. As long as you have soil that drains well, it’s shouldn’t flood and die over the winter. Looking out into the garden and seeing a nice green lawn, even if it’s cold and raining can be more pleasant than just plain concrete. Your lawn won’t be growing much at this time of year, choose a dry day and give it it’s final cut for the year. You’ll want to set your blades to a reasonable height, so that it looks tidy but isn’t too short. A good fertiliser will help strengthen its roots, and keep it going right through til spring.
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These last few weeks I have been privileged to travel overseas again and visit the stunning (albeit hot and humid) city of Singapore. I hadn't been before and wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I’d already heard about the Singapore Botanic Garden since its been suggested to be one of the best in the world and who hasn't seen those magnificent tree structures on the Singapore landscape at Gardens by the Bay? But all in all, I had little knowledge.
I am not blogging about travel and the city overall here, it’s all about the gardens, but I did love Singapore overall and I really do mean love it and the main reason is IT’S SO GREEN, so lets talk gardens…
Gardens by the Bay
A vast area of gardens in the city, easy to access plus if you wander through Marina Bay you’ll find a whole load of greenery, a lovely view across the bay and top class shops along the way. By day the garden is an unbelievably beautiful place that can take hours to see - especially if you struggle with the humidity. Firstly there are views from up high, mid way and ground level, then there are different style gardens such as Malay, Chinese and Indian. Dragonfly Lake with fountains is especially beautiful and you may even catch sight of a Kingfisher plus there are waterways and bridges with some shade around and benches. Educational areas include palm tree walks and the life cycle of trees, areas for children, the importance of leaves. But let me assure you, these are not like any you have seen before - they are expertly and meticulously thought through and perfectly well maintained to a standard I’ve not ever seen before.
Expect to see every houseplant you have ever owned plus all of the ones you really want - they are all planted in swathes across the landscape and they look spectacular. Lush and green due to the climate with large and colourful foliage to rival any landscape full of ‘flowers’. Think Crotons, Calathea, Marantha, Monstera, Peace Lily, Ferns, Tradescantia, Orchids then multiply them by as many varieties as you can think and bingo you’ve got the picture.
At the time of year I visited flowers in bloom included Frangipani, Bougainvillea, Hibiscus, Orchids (thats another blog because wowzers they are stunning), Heliconias, even the odd Rose. There are also Cacti like I’d never seen! Huge, tall and some supported by scaffolding to keep them safe. Blooming brilliant.
There are two Domes at Gardens by the Bay - the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest Dome. Both are essentially huge greenhouses, but they are used to cool plants rather than keep them warm. The Flower Dome is full of themed areas from around the world showing plants that can’t be grown so well in tropical environments. A lovely Mediterranean garden along with an Australian garden, Californian garden which to be honest was much like UK kitchen gardens and there was planting similar to the English cottage garden, although it wasn't named as such. Full of Geraniums, Hydrangeas, Cyclamen, Rudbeckia, Echinacea and Alstroemeria. Plus a whole lot more, its enormous!
The Cloud Forest Dome literally took my breath away. After looking in absolute awe for over an hour and I still wasn't finished, I actually felt slightly emotional! I know, maybe I am crazy but it stirred a whole load of thoughts. Just like being in a cloud forest, you can climb up to the top and look down at the jaw dropping planting below. The sheer number of plants is something else, again many of our very own house plants. Maidenhair Ferns for example were thriving - not like the ones I keep trying to grow at home! I was inside the dome during misting time, so whilst my hair was very frizzy, it was almost magical to watch the mist cover the plants giving them just what they need to grow. I was blown away by the range of Begonia’s - the incredible foliage and varieties. I have one at home a Begonia ‘Rex’ but I will definitely be on the hunt for some more. Those along with more Orchids, which again in the dome just like all over Singapore, are simply stunning.
At night time, each and every night twice, the tall plant covered super trees in the centre of the garden come alive with the sound of music. A magical, fun and entertaining light show which can be seen from just about every skyscraper around the city. Each month has a different theme and I caught the 70’s with pin ball machines, juke boxes and Saturday Night Fever, each tree is full of changing lights to the music. It was stunning and super good fun. As I was walking back, it started to rain and the fragrance around the meadow area of the garden was undeniably heady.
Whats more, apart from the Domes, the whole garden including the light show is free and open to the public.
If you do go to Gardens by the Bay and especially if you love plants, you could easily be there the whole day and night but a short walk around would at the least take half a day so be prepared for that. Take lots of water and use an umbrella if you need shade. There are some places to eat although not a huge choice and a gift shop. You could always take a break half way and pop into the Marina Bay shopping mall for some treats.
The whole package at Gardens by the Bay is inspiring in many ways, I have come home with so much buzzing through my mind that I would love to do - most probably unlikely in the UK climate but I’ll give anything a try!
For more photos click HERE
and HERE
plus a short video HERE

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