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What’s your go-to source for gardening advice?

Gardening book

Whether you’re a beginner or someone who’s owned and looked after a garden for years, there are always questions that crop up, so where do you go to for advice?

From identifying a pest that’s attacking one of your plants and what to do about it, to working out how and when to prune your plants and knowing how to get the best from your soil type, there’s always something you need to find out about when it comes to your garden.

In these instances, do you hot foot it to your local garden centre (which we found preferable to DIY stores when we secretly tested staff on gardening problems) or do you thumb through a gardening encyclopedia?

Maybe you ask a gardening-loving friend or relative, hope your issue crops up on a gardening TV show, or simply rely on trial and error.

Helping hand

Realising that even the most seasoned gardeners need easily accessible and reliable, comprehensive advice, Which? Gardening has created a new online helpdesk with the answers to over 100 common questions.

Most of these have been inspired by real-life issues our team of experts have been asked to solve over the years.

All you need to do is type in your problem in the search bar and you should be directed to an article where you’ll find the advice you need.

We’ll also be adding new articles every week, making it a fantastic resource of gardening knowledge.

So far, we’ve had questions ranging from which plants to grow in a small garden (we suggested low-maintenance shrubs such Euonymus fortunei) to whether a wisteria could be causing subsidence to the foundations of a house (we decided it was unlikely as the house wasn’t very old, so would have decent foundations).

Legal issues

Occasionally, you might need some legal advice, such as what to do about a dodgy bag or compost you’ve bought or overhanging trees from your neighbours’ garden or nuisance noises.

If that’s the case, you’ll also find jargon-free answers to common issues from Which? Legal.

If you’re still stumped and you’re a Which? Gardening member, you can also email our experts your questions and you’ll get an answer within two working days.

Where do you go to for gardening advice? What do you think of Which? Gardening’s new online helpdesk? What other topics would you like us to cover?


My father used to be my one-stop source of gardening advice and gave me plenty of practical help too. One of his tips is to look at other gardens nearby to see what grows well in the local soil and climate. My biggest mistake was to hold on to a large number of roses that were prone to disease and pests when the simple solution was to replace them.

We bought the Reader’s Digest Encyclopaedia of Garden Plants and Flowers many years ago and constantly refer to it for information. It’s a real gardener’s bible – plenty of used copies around. The most interesting way to then learn is to try things for yourself, and grow as much from seed as you can; it is very satisfying to see black specs of dust and dried up stuff turn into flowers, vegetables and fruit.

I have that one and also their Encyclopedia of Gardening and they are excellent reference books.

Membership of the Royal Horticultural Society brings a full monthly magazine and the right to ask them horticultural questions. You can also access their massive website. And support their works. You do get free access to the three gardens they own and have recipricol arrangements for other gardens . It is a charity. It costs £54 a year.

Please note that Life Membership is restricted to 100 years max.

If you want a more earthy approach dealing more with produce then Garden Organics is another charity with a large database. It provides a full magazine every six months. Membership is either £33 or £51 if you join the Heritage Seed Library.

There are commercial gardening magazines but I am not aware it they provide an on-line database or a guaranteed response to queries.

If there is no internet connection or you prefer browsing to solve problems then the RHS has had published a series of large books covering pretty much everything. The Garden Expert series by Hessayon is very much smaller but much loved.

If you go to any good second-hand bookshop you can normally buy gardening books very cheaply. The only things that change in gardening really is the chemicals you are allowed to use – and that has changed remarkably in the last twenty years.

Most people would be astonished to learn that they can currently buy a bottle of a well-advertised pesticide than can kill up to half-billion bees.

Which? Conversations might be a useful place for a discussion on gardening related matters. In France from 2019 many chemicals will be banned for private gardeners and local authorities are already banned from using them. The effects on the gardening staff by the constant use was a major concern.

Gardening Which? does do a nice magazine. However they do need to do something regarding the advice on expanding hoses where the warning against needs to be on both pages.

If they are covering hoses why not mention the recent unkinkable design made in the UK?

I would strongly support a Conversation to discuss the problem of gardening chemicals. The RHS provides a list of the more recent ones that have been banned: https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/Profile?pid=820 It is disappointing that the list does not include products that were withdrawn earlier in their sheds. Take calomel dust as an example. It was withdrawn about 15 years ago. One pack of this contains vastly more mercury than any compact fluorescent lamp.

Chemicals that are effective at controlling pests and plant disease are not specific and will also harm beneficial species including bees, the example given by Patrick T.

In theory, recycling centres should accept chemicals and dispose of them appropriately but I am not convinced that this is done properly.

“CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury (around 5 mg), which is approximately 100 times less than the amount of mercury in an oral thermometer and roughly the amount that would cover the tip of a pen.”

There is a move to restrict sales of domestic pesticides and weedkillers in their fully-diluted form only to prevent the dumb public from using them incorrectly. Anyone who has bought fully-diluted products will know the extortionate cost. Perhaps washing up liquid will only be sold this way – ready to fill the bowl and wash your pots – in 100 gallon containers? It is a pity that some have such a poor concept of our intelligence.

I suspect that the high prices of ready to use domestic pesticides and weedkillers is partly due to profit margins but if the increase in cost cuts down use there will be an environmental benefit. I don’t think it helps to refer to the ‘dumb public’ but there is little doubt that garden and household chemicals do present dangers. I was particularly glad to see paraquat banned because of the incidence of respiratory damage, but acute toxicity was only one of the problems.

Perhaps the best approach is to grow plants that flourish without use of pesticides. Back in the eighties I sprayed my roses in a not very successful attempt to control black spot and greenfly. A botanist pointed out that some roses are less susceptible and bought me three as a birthday present. That proved very successful and I gradually replaced the other roses over the next few years, starting with the ones that were worst affected. My father was impressed because he had struggled with the same problems for years. If the grass has a few broad leaved weeds, there is no need to treat the whole lawn, since a pinch of weedkiller or a quick squirt with ready-made weedkiller is all that is needed to keep it weed free. A daisy grubber will remove some weeds without using any chemicals. Fruit and vegetables are more of a challenge but simple crop rotation and selection of varieties that are more resistant to pests and disease will help.

“I don’t think it helps to refer to the ‘dumb public’ “. The vast majority are far from dumb, perfectly capable, and I don’t like to see regulations being framed as if we all were brainless. Life is full of possible dangers that we all, generally, cope with – from crossing the road, not sticking knives in toasters, to reading instructions om how to use products.

As for my lawn, it is a mixture of grass, moss, clover, weeds and it never sees any weedkiller – a weeding too;l easily lifts out dandelions and thistles in their early stages. But it looks decent when I mow it, and it is green.

Compost is one area Which? regularly examines. However it does not seem to look at – or at least mention – the composts that professional growers and nurseries use. They will have a better insight than anyone into what is good, I would have thought, since their businesses depend upon good growing media. Are the products available to all the public, and what are they?

If the public were brighter they would be looking at ways of gardening that minimise the use of pesticides and herbicides. I recall that we discussed and agreed on the threat to bees caused by certain commercial insecticides used by gardeners, but there are many others that present dangers to wildlife and humans.

Many hazardous chemicals have been removed from sale as household and gardening products during my lifetime and it seems likely that many of those on current sale will be banned in the future. In 2006 I disposed of an unopened tin of DDT. It was marked ‘Effective and safe’. 🙁

One of the problems with composts is that some batches can contain residues of gardening chemicals. That was mentioned in an earlier Conversation.

It is not a question of the “public” being “brighter”. Why put them down in a disparaging way? Information is what is required so they can make informed decisions.

The problem I raised was not with dangerous chemicals, but simply with materials that are sensible to use but require dilution. Most people can, I think, will read the instructions and prepare them accordingly.

Just playing Devil’s advocate for a moment, but the ‘public’ is not really a homogeneous mass. However, there are tolerably reliable estimates of their average intelligence and they don’t make encouraging reading.

Malcolm – It was you that referred to the ‘dumb public’. As Ian has pointed out people differ. Not everyone reads instructions, especially children who may find weedkiller in a pop bottle.

I assume that the those involved in making the rules for formulation of the diluted pesticides had access to information that we are not aware of. There are plenty of other examples of chemicals that are sold to the public in dilute form. One example is hydrogen peroxide, sold as a hair bleach.

Though I would love to debate the dangers of gardening chemicals, perhaps we should get back to the subject of where we get advice on gardening.

I think my point was clear when I concluded “It is a pity that some have such a poor concept of our intelligence.”

Hi @wavechange

I’ve discussed the possibility of doing a convo on the problem with gardening chemicals with the Gardening team and the general consensus is that all we could really do is repeat the official advice on safe use and disposal.

The RHS link you provided was very informative and I’ve asked the Gardening team if they can expand further.

Here’s what they said:

‘The number of chemical products we can use in our garden to fight pests and diseases seems to be reducing every year. This is because manufacturers are stopping producing products for commercial reasons.

‘Every chemical product sold to be used in in our gardens needs to be registered with the Chemicals Regulation Directorate who make sure it’s safe to use. Alternatively, if the chemical is found to be detrimental health or the environment it may be withdrawn.

‘Although ‘homemade’ products might be useful alternatives, as they haven’t gone through the safety assessments involved in the registration process, they cannot be recommended by Which? Gardening.

‘At the moment we don’t know what affect the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will have on the chemicals regulation process. But even if things become more relaxed in the UK, it is unlikely that large chemical manufacturers will make different products available in the UK due to the costs involved.

‘If you have any plant protection products (weedkillers, fungicides or insecticides) that have been withdrawn, they are still perfectly safe to use according to the instructions on the packet. Simply use them up in your garden and then check the label for instructions on how to dispose of the packaging which may be able to be recycled. If you want to dispose of unused products then contact your council for advice. Do not tip them down the sink or drain.

‘There is lots of information and advice at http://www.hse.gov.uk/pesticides/user-areas/garden-home.htm’

Of course, if anything changes in the future, we’ll definitely look into the possibility of the Gardening team doing a convo on it.

Hope that’s helpful.

Thanks, Mel

That seems a pragmatic response, Melanie, thanks. Personally I don’t use many chemicals in the garden; I tend to let nature take its course and adopt a live and let live policy. However we get occasional infestations of ants, particularly when they swarm and creep into the house, so we spray their abodes. I also occasionally get whitefly infestation in the greenhouse and try an insecticide but with very limited results generally. Finally, I have a large gravelled drive and paths leading off that grow weeds and grass; pulling them out simply damages the surface so I use glyphosate. Very expensive if you go to the garden centre so I buy a 4.5 litre trade pack on line for around £30; I read the instructions carefully, dilute it accordingly, and store it appropriately. I do not like to see responsible people (the vast majority I suspect) deprived of the ability to use materials that might require the application of common sense and the ability to read 🙂

Continuing contributions from the Which? Gardening team would be most welcome. I also hope this gardening Convo will continue, particularly so that readers can exchange hints, tips and advice. I enjoy gardening but am no expert; I like to try growing different things particularly from seed and would learn from others. I always have problems with melons, I’m trying auriculas for the first time – impressed with their flower heads – and mice eat my peas.

In the original Which? forum (1996 – 2010) Gardening experts would routinely drop in and answer questions. I think this new scheme could be very valuable.

Don’t forget that the gardening online helpdesk has experts at hand to answer your gardening queries.


That is interesting news Ian and makes me mourn that the current Members Forum is so clunky and underused. The original seems to have been much better thought out.

There is no doubt that Gardening Which? has done some excellent work in alerting people to the variable nature of composts. These deserves to be information easily available to all main magazine subscribers also.

The new weekly topic might be useful but it is not clear if this will be reserved solely for those who subscribe to Gardening Which? Perhaps this could be clarified.

What one believes in the possible danger of chemicals may be aided by this article which I received this p.m.


referencing and fortunately explaining this :

Even before Monsanto’s Roundup patents expired, there was considerable concern about the safety of glyphosate. It would be easy to go off-topic into agricultural use, but glyphosate is an active component of garden weedkillers. There are various alternatives to weedkillers for home use: https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=343

I am looking at my copy of The Woolworth Gardener (circa 1954). It is a small booklet which contains hundreds of gardening recommendations on most aspects of a home garden. There are lots of adverts for companies no longer heard of and products like “Plantoids” plant growth tablets [endorsed by the B.B.C. Gardener Mr. Fred Streeter] and the innovative new plastic garden hose. Needless to say, as a publication of its time, it refers to DDT and Calomel, and “Quassia” solution for spraying roses to deal with greenfly and aphis. “Science has made wonderful strides in the production of plant foods, fertilisers and insecticides, so that to-day there are effective and reliable means to meet almost every problem in the garden. With these at the disposal of the modern gardener, failures can be reduced to the minimum.” This was an age before gardens were covered in blockweave and decking and when the front garden commanded weekly obedience in order to keep up with the neighbours.

Another useful, and much more substantial, volume is “Adam the Gardener – Week by Week gardening in pictures produced by the Sunday Express for 3/- (15p), seemingly published in 1957 according to an advert for the Blue Book of Gardening issued by Carters Tested Seeds Ltd. The “Adam” book is a real mine of gardening information and features over 150 illustrations of the eponymous gardener carrying out a weekly schedule of tasks in the most orthodox and laborious manner possible. An “Adam” column and strips of pictures were featured in the Sunday Express every week to demonstrate best practice to all the happy homeowners who occupied the thousands of desirable new suburban homes that were springing up all over the country. The book contains many interesting advertisements including one headed “Make tea outdoors with our compact boiling set – needs no teapot”. It consists of a tea infuser, a brass methylated spirit stove, a spirit container, and a stand, and says that each fill will make 5 cups of tea with no grouts. It must have been ideal for the potting shed or taking to the allotment. All for 20/- (£1) – post & pkg . 2/- (10p). Apart from being technologically out-of-date this book is as good today for practical gardening advice and information as ever and better than lots of today’s more long-winded publications or fancy books with academic pretensions.

Both books feature the apogee of desirable garden presentation, the herbaceous border – now out of favour, but we have a modest example replete with the glorious delphiniums. foxgloves and hollyhocks.

Happy days, when gardening supplies came by mail order and Amazon was the name of a river in South America.

Woolworths was where I used to buy my seeds when little – Bees seeds at 2d a packet. I’m not sure I could have afforded them at today’s prices.

Old gardening books seemed to make hard work of it, particularly double digging. I am not keen on all the physical exertion involved and rely mainly on putting down a thick layer of compost or manure, letting the worms take it down, and usually a light forking will get a decent result for normal planting.

I like herbaceous plants, particularly delphiniums which are easy to grow from seed and come up year after year in increasing clumps with impressive spires .

I’m not keen on digging but that’s because I had heavy clay soil for many years and improvement was slow. I think the worms must have been tungsten carbide-tipped to get through it. Perhaps nerines are ideal for those not keen on digging because it’s a mistake to plant them much below the surface.

The soil in my present garden is light and well drained and I thought it would be easy to dig out the stump of a Leylandii. Never again, and a larger stump will remain as a feature.

I have found through bitter experience the easiest way to remove an established stump is to soak it well for a few days with buckets of water and after first removing all the root laterals the main stump will gradually ease out. It helps a bit to curse at it a few times, provided of course no-one else is within earshot, especially one of the neighbours 🙂

I wish I had tried that, Beryl. Sometimes there are easy answers. I managed to crack the weld on my small Gardena hoe (which a friend has since repaired and strengthened) and blunted my pruning saw cutting off lateral roots partly embedded in soil.

The last time I removed tree stumps (about 20 years ago) I used a Tirfor winch which makes the job so easy provided that the anchor point is more secure than the stump you are trying to remove. I could have borrowed a winch but the only anchor points were trees of similar girth to the one that I was trying to remove.

I would hesitate to attempt to move a large stump now Wavechange, but having struggled endlessly in the past without success, I finally surrendered to defeat and waited for the frustration to subside. When it did and my mind cleared it occurred to me that moving wet soil away from the laterals enabled me to locate them easily without it repeatedly falling back into the hole obscuring my view. Once the large laterals were severed with a small saw and the smaller ones with secateurs, the previously saturated soil provided a mulch that after a little persuasion with a garden fork the main stump gradually relinquished its hold in the ground.

The subsequent relief I felt was extremely satisfying! .

I should have let my tree surgeon deal with the stumps but having tackled larger ones when working for a charity I had assumed it would be easy. I had completely forgotten we had used winches.

My next job will be to tackle a couple of laurel trees, one too near the front of the house and the other blocking light to the kitchen and overhanging a neighbour’s garden. They are not concerned and I have cut down most of the overhanging branches. I won’t need the help of a tree surgeon because there is not a single trunk. I suspect that I might be back to digging out roots unless the trees can be cut down to shrub size. Laurel is unfamiliar to me and I can’t remember which species I have.

Your neighbours might actually like the laurel if they like the privacy it might give them.

Laurel is fast growing so you can cut it back quite hard and it will soon sprout new leaves and shoots. The birds like it for cover and nesting.

As Alfa says, laurels are good for shelter and screening, and blackbirds certainly like to make their nests in them. It is necessary to keep on top of fallen leaves, however, because they are thick and hard and take a long time to dry out, shrivel up and blow away or decompose completely. They can, therefore, harbour dampness so best kept away from the house. As a hedge laurels can, if pruned well, look very neat and dense.

You see, this is the sort of invaluable information that needs to be collated. I’ve learnt more about Laurels in general in the past five minutes of reading than I’d ever known. Thanks, folks 🙂

I will check with my neighbours before doing any major pruning, but I think it was the previous owner of my house that was concerned by privacy judging by what they had planted. I am concerned that the laurel at the front of the house could damage the foundations. The one at the back is further away and I hope it will be possible to reduce its size to let more light into the kitchen. I did prune it to some extent where it was growing into a ceanothus, but sadly that died despite efforts to save it. There is another large laurel in the corner of the garden and that’s not causing problems, so I will just do some pruning. I would like to make a start on the laurels by the end of the month because of the forthcoming bird nesting season. But not today, because everything is covered with snow. 🙂

Thanks for the advice.

Fallen laurel leaves harbour insects and worms giving a good food supply for ground feeding birds such as blackbirds and robins, so good to leave them if you can.

The laurels have not dropped many leaves so far but I have had to clear lots of other leaves from grass. I will put them under the trees in future.

Laurel leaves contain interesting substances:

I have crown-lifted what was a massed seven trunked laurel blob of 50ft circumference and it now provides a nice arbour. The leaves are a problem as pointed out by others in they are leathery however my decades old B&D leaf sucker/blower does work wonders.

I have had a 40 ft laurel hedge which had been allowed to reach 8ft high and over 3ft thick. Not my favourite hedge as it is rather boring to look at and not easily pruned.

On the other side of the plot I had around 70ft of mixed orange and red berried pyracantha which is very colourful but spiky when pruning. However it is intruder proof.

We had a laurel bush. Rather unattractive – no flowers of merit. I cut it down and burned it – oil in the leaves helps the conflagration. I don’t remember getting the roots out to be a problem. it was replaced with a philadelphus which grew quite quickly to replace the barrier and produces a covering of pleasant and nicely scented flowers.

If you keep laurel it is best to prune it to keep its size and shape, not use shears or a hedge trimmer as the cut leaves go brown and look pretty awful.

Thanks Malcolm. I have used a hedge trimmer for roses but followed it up with the secateurs. I used to have a lot of roses and now have none. I’m both disappointed and relieved if that makes sense.

This is a fascinating website, I live here on Lleyn, the NW peninsular of Wales, all my little nearby mountains are volcanoes, one went off recently (1985) with a 4.3 Richter earthquake, with all the soil being lava flow and full of minerals, being surrounded by the nearby sea, it hardly ever freezes, even today, snow threatens everywhere in the UK, it’s actually sunny in the garden.
But it’s so different that little garden advice ever works. I recently planted three apple trees after ten years of failure by simply asking a neighbour for three apples from their tree, which grows beautifully, they taste like Cox’s so I’m happy now but remember, trees you buy in Garden Centres are probably GM and have no intention of producing fertile fruit.

In my previous garden I had a variety of shrubs that produced berries – effectively natural bird feeders. These included berberis, cotoneaster, mahonia and pyracantha, all easy to keep under control.

Any suggestions for attractive shrubs with berries that the birds will enjoy, are easy to grow and are happy to be kept between one and two metres in height? I am testing out Which? Convo as a source of gardening advice. 🙂

You could try fruit trees or bushes depending on how much space you have. Birds like strawberries🍓 including the alpine variety, raspberries, gooseberries, blackcurrants (all small bushes) brambles, elder, if you have room for a wild patch, apples🍎🍏, pears 🍐, cherries 🍒, rowan if you have the space. If you are lucky, they might leave some fruit for you too. 🙂

Thanks Alfa. I love the emojis. I will give this some thought but sorting out the laurels must take priority. One of my reasons for moving home was to have a smaller garden and I don’t really have the space of any more trees.

God save us from emojis. They are very disruptive when speed reading as they break-up the letter patterns.

😭 Sorry Patrick, I got carried away

You keep on using the emojis, Alfa, and pay no attention to old grumpy boots. I like emojis. 🙂


Back on topic…….

Thats fine as I will bow to the massive majority here and desist from following this thread. I am sure if everyone gets into it we will see people realising that LIKE POSTING IN BLOCKS IT IS HARDER TO READ AND UNPLEASANT>>>>>>> NO ProMBLEM.

The possibilities with unlimited emoji’s I am savouring now as a major advance in advanced communications.

I did have a company start sending me emails with emoji’s in the title line. When you get around 50 emails a day they stood out beyond the worth to me and they have lost a subscriber.

They are just a novelty, Patrick. Some can be useful to confirm an intent after a written comment more briefly than words could achieve. Only my opinion 🙂


I like the pictures. They help me understand the stories.

🆒 👁 👂🏻 🐑 🐦

⏰ 4⃣ 🥗

As one who ‘speed reads’ most of the time they don’t seem to create any issues for me.

I really don’t care if I get thumbed down, although I would like to see the total number of ups and downs shown separately, but thumbing down a few innocent little pictures? What have they done wrong?

LOL! I don’t like the idea of the thumbs system, anyway; i really don’t see any point. But why anyone has repeatedly thumbed down your use of simple emojis is beyond me. I’ve rectified several.

Thank you 🙂

I feel a poem coming on…………..

Tho’ posting in here is good fun,
With facts, fables, stories and puns,
There’s just no denying
That thumbs can be trying;
Good intentions so eas’ly undone.

On posting quips and little bits of info, this place thrives.
There’s active minds and often kind folk helping. Is it wise,
To set a score board, oft misused, by some to vent their spleen,
When honest people simply try to say just what they mean?

When all too often thumbs are used, irrationality
Becomes the norm, allied to scorn and bullies often see
A way to denigrate the often careful, well-thought prose,
And reason, sense and thoughtfulness desert us all in droves.

So here’s a plea straight from the heart: eliminate the scores,
And leave debate to flourish, here, with safe and kindly mores.
Let people say just what they mean without the need for bile.
This place will prosper, thrive and grow and that should bring a smile.

You beat me to it Ian 🙂

You gave me the idea – and the inspiration.

*thumbs down* – only joking. Point received… now back on topic 😉

We have a large garden which is not particularly fertile (I’m hoping the 4 tons of manure recently spread might help!) I grow hundreds of plants each year to fill the borders and beds to provide colour and food. But the best value I think is to edge the patio outside the lounge and kitchen with large pots and planters; with bulbs, lilies, snapdragons, dahlias, lobelia, geraniums – almost anything – they provide colour from spring to autumn and dominate the view from the house. Nice to sit amongst them with a cup of tea in the nicer weather. They do need to be kept watered – although the bigger they are the less frequent that needs to be. You can set up an automatic watering system fairly inexpensively from an outside tap; use a battery-operated valve such as Hozelock make (there are others 🙂 ) and tubing and drips that you can buy on the net.

Since the experts are all in here, how do I go about getting a holly bush that produces red berries?

It seems only female holly bushes produce berries.

Think I would go to a garden centre and see if they have any more mature bushes that might have berries on them.

Otherwise it could be pot luck.

I think roses that produce flowers, then long-lasting red hips, are much nicer than holly.

They are nicer, you have the flowers in summer, then the hips in autumn. In a hedge, wild roses left to go wild amongst holly, can give the impression that the holly has berries.

We have a single red shrub rose – Scarlet Fire – that has scrambled up a pear tree. We have the white pear blossom followed by fruit in good years, but through the summer it is also a mass of red flowers followed by large red hips. Providing you don’t let them go berserk, many climbing roses seem to partner trees very well and provide a good display.

A picture can say a thousand words 🖼
Very handy to identify those herbs 🌿
A picture helps John understand the story 💡
His ancient books are revelatory 📜

Patrick’s a member of the RHS 👑
Whose gardens are a great success 🏆
Their books have photos by the score 📗📘📙
For the green fingered to explore 👽

Wavechange highlights our decreasing bees 🐝🐝🐝
Don’t use chemicals to cure that disease ☣
Pictures will diagnose just what to do 📖
Compost recycle or burn, that’s up to you 🌰♻🔥

Don’t be lazy and poison that weed ☠
Dig it up before it spews it’s seed 🎆
If you’re not sure what that little leaf is 🍀
Identify with a picture and do the biz 📋

Beryl excavated that stump such jubilee 🔨
Wishes she could do the same with that cherry tree 🍒
It stops her tv getting any kind of picture 📡📺
If only her neighbour took up arboriculture 🌳

Malcolm is keen on a herbaceous border 🌼🌷🌻🌹
A picture in summer of colourful disorder 🌈
Let’s hope his manure doesn’t taint his veggies 🥒🌽🥕🥔🍆🍅
Or he won’t be eating potato wedges 🍟

Ian is looking to buy some holly 🌵
A winter scene can be very jolly 🎄☃
With luck it might have a few red berries 📍📍📍
If not, drown your sorrows with a couple of sherries 🍷🍷

An emoticon lets you laugh or frown 😁☹
Now why has that leaf gone all brown 🍂
Fruit and veg can fill with delight 🍋🍑🍓🥕🌶🌽🍆
While bugs might give you quite a fright 🐛🐜🕷🐞

An emoji is a picture small and cute 🐹🐰🐿
Trees, leaves, flowers, bugs and fruit 🌴🌿💐🐜🍇
Blame them all on Patrick Steen 🆒
He’s the one who set the scene 🌉

Guilty as charged @alfa. This emoji-strewn poem is beautiful and is the perfect start for a permanent poetry conversation 😉 💡

Thank you Patrick. 🙂

It must be to wet to be out in the garden where Alfa lives. I like the emojis but a bit of weeding is needed to remove the surplus apostrophe.

I’m starting to learn about when to prune unfamiliar plants. In the past I would have turned to books but it is amazing how much information is available online. I now know that wisteria should be pruned twice a year.

Great stuff alpha 🙂 Highly entertaining on a cold damp and gloomy January Sunday.

The cherry tree, I can relate, is now host to a climbing ivy. Apparently ivy doesn’t actually kill a tree but it competes for nutrients water and sunlight, therefore weakening the tree, rendering it more prone to disease and branch dieback. It also contributes to added moisture around the trees bark, attracting bugs and accelerating rot. As ivy grows from the ground up, branch dieback is usually evident from the bottom of the tree first. The imbalance in branches along with the added weight of ivy at the top makes a tree more prone to falling during drastic weather patterns. I wish!

There’s hope for my Freesat satellite channel yet, although at this time of year, weather permitting, I can receive most channels due to the absence of the trees leaves but as Spring approaches my TV is switched back to DVB and with the absence of HD, an inferior picture quality ensues.

When that exquisite indoor cyclamen stops flowering, please don’t discard it! Keep it in its original pot and place it in a shady spot outside underneath a dense evergreen shrub on an old saucer to prevent it drying out completely during the summer months, until new growth starts to appear around September/October time. Then bring it back indoors and place it on a light but shady windowsill (it doesn’t like direct sunlight) and always water it from the bottom to prevent its corm from rotting. My cyclamen is currently on its fourth flowering season and has provided a wealth of beauty and colour over the Christmas period on my kitchen windowsill, visible from both inside and out.

Beryl, Ivy is a good nectar source but can overwhelm a tree. I snip through the main stems near the ground and let it die off.

Cyclamen are a real favourite and if you look after them the corm grows year after year to give ever more splendid displays as you say. There are some really attractive outdoor ones that will cheer up the spring. I’m told that growing them from seed is a challenge, but I keep doing it and I think patience is the main requirement – soak in water before planting in a seed tray, keep it just moist, transplant each miniature corm when it has 2 or 3 leaves, but be careful to continue looking after the seed tray as more will germinate – may take months. I’ve currently 6 indoor and (only) 4 outdoor growing on in the greenhouse. Modest success. Those already in the garden seed themselves fairly easily and spread.

We also love primulas that we’ve grown from seed in the past. In the garden these have crossed with wild primroses and cowslips, producing large patches in the lawn of mixed colours that are like a sprinkling of jewels in the spring. They seed like mad and by lifting seedlings they can be grown on in trays and put in other borders; just for the cost of a little compost.

Happy 🙂 you liked the verse.

Malcolm, somehow, I don’t think Beryl will be snipping any stems.

I’ve had some cyclamen in a pot sunk into the garden that originated in the garden I grew up in. They have had to be repotted a couple of times when the pots disintegrated, but as they seemed happy I’ve left them alone.

Alfa – that was a very enjoyable poem and must have taken quite some time to put together. Thank you.

Take no notice of Wavechange’s lecture on surplus apostrophes. You can never have too many of these wonderful plants that will take root anywhere and multiply vigorously. I have seen them in the most unlikely of places and they always provoke astonishment. Seldom is the gaze more easily diverted than at the sight of an apostrophe outside its conventional habitat. I heartily recommend a liberal cultivation of Apostrophe semperflorens superfluosis [no manure required].

LOL !!! You have such a wonderful way with words John.

It didn’t really take that long. I have Ian and his limericks to thank for planting the seeds of verse, especially the rhyming variety.

Every so often, something triggers a couple of lines that will start rattling around and if I don’t write them down, they just won’t go away. Sometimes that is the end of them, other times more lines sprout and multiply, and a poem bursts forth.

We ought to have a permanent poetry convo like Which? Poetry 2017 for all the wannabe poets here.
Coming up soon:
Jan 17 National Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day
Jan 18 Winnie the Pooh Day
Jan 24 Beer Can Appreciation Day
Feb 18 National Battery Day
Mar 6 National Frozen Foods Day
Apr 7 No Housework Day
May 6 No Diet Day
May 12 Limerick Day
Jul 27 Take Your Plants for a Walk Day

P.S. If anyone thinks a permanent poetry convo is a good idea, please mark it up in the ideas section.

@wavechange, completely off topic and thinking I need a lesson in English grammar, what is the offending apostrophe?

As far as I know the seed of the weed needs one.

That is the one: ‘Dig it up before it spews it’s seed’ Think of it’s as meaning ‘it is’ or ‘it has’. The possessive for does not have an apostrophe. You will find plenty of mistakes in my posts.

I have been thinking about your suggestion of a poetry Convo but I would prefer poetry to pop up in various discussions, especially where a little light relief is needed.

alfa, lovely poem but I think it should be “an” herbaceous border, shouldn’t it? It’s being pedantic but it passes the time before I go out into the garden and attack my roses. 🙂 Perhaps a speling and grammer Convo would be useful?

Well I’ll be blown. 🙊 I’ve been on the Oxford Dictionary site and
it seems:
the seed of the weed – weed’s seed
weed, the seed of it – its seed

You learned me summat wavechange !!! 🦉

Wot have I started…..

Not when you pronounce it ay malcolm🙂
I thought it sounded better than an.

And you’re correct, Alpha. Exactly the same as ‘Hotel’, because we now pronounce the ‘H’ you should use ”a’ before it. and not ‘an’. One ancient exception concerns words from French where the stress falls on the second syllable, but that’s no longer considered valid, now. Those Normans have a lot to answer for 🙂

Thanks Alfa. I am very trying. 🙁

TOO trying sometimes Wavechange? 🙂

When they were assembled on the beach at Calais it was described as the most confusing roll call in history.

I asked for that, Alfa. One of the ‘thumbs up’ is from me.

Maybe it’s time to do some gardening. I have discovered that I have ivy growing up both the crab apple trees. 🙁

To remove ivy easily, do it while it is growing and pull it away from the top downwards. Cutting it off at the bottom and letting it die will make it a real struggle to remove as it will have hardened and attached itself firmly to the tree or wall. While it is growing, the ivy will be flexible and only lightly held onto the surface so it should fall away easily. This will also mean less damage to the bark of the tree or surface of a wall or other structure like a shed or fence.

Thanks John. That makes sense. I will have a go when it is dry.

The apostrophe use is explained here https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/punctuation/apostrophe#it_s_or_its

“It” is a bit of an exception. If the wind was spewing the weed’s seed……… I think of this as “the weed, its seed”, so the apostrophe represents missing letters. I await the hail of grape shot. 🙂

That’s good advice John, my neighbours house wall is covered in dead ivy thats had its lower branches severed. It’s quite an eyesore. I must be the only person who is

Happy to see
Ivy growing up a tree.
It’s the difference you see
Between conservation and me
And a decent picture on my HDTV

Spot the spelling mistake on my last comment on .Which? Conversation.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense
But it’s much too late now for recompense.


There are various sayings I was taught in school such as ‘i before e except after c’ etc. and I always thought an apostrophe was used if it belonged to something.

I typed the poem in Outlook and surprisingly, it was not picked up with the grammar check. It is quite happy with both its and it’s.

I like ivy Beryl, it provides some welcome greenery in winter and gives the small birds somewhere to hide.

It does fall off eventually though. Some years ago the stems of a really thick stemmed ivy (that probably has another name) were cut around the base of a tree and it was an eyesore for a few years. All the dead branches have now fallen off and the tree does look healthier.

I don’t judge others spelling except wavechange who opened the garden gate 🙂.

That’s correct, Malcolm. The contraction ‘John’s hat’ has arisen over time from the more cumbersome ‘John, his hat’. The exception with ‘it’ has come about because ‘it’ has two very often used contractional derivatives: ‘it is’ and ‘belonging to it’. Simply through usage, I think, ‘it is’ has now been contracted to ‘it’s’ which flies in the face of instinct and rule-following for the English student. But that’s why English is considered one of the hardest language to master. It’s dynamic, so is changing all the time, and has more exceptions than just about any other language, mainly because we’ve been invaded so often by so many different groups.

“It is a traditional rule of English that an can be used before words that begin with an H sound if the first syllable of that word is not stressed. Indeed, some traditionalists would say it must be used before such words. Since the first syllable of historic is unstressed, it is acceptable to use an before it.”

OED – “An is the form of the indefinite article that is used before a spoken vowel sound: it doesn’t matter how the written word in question is actually spelled. So, we say ‘an honour’, ‘an hour’, or ‘an heir’, for example, because the initial letter ‘h’ in all three words is not actually pronounced. By contrast we say ‘a hair’ or ‘a horse’ because, in these cases, the ‘h’ is pronounced.”

Spoken sentences can flow better with an when the h word has more than one syllable and the stress is not on the first, but the discussion of H has prompted me to grow a hollyhock or two again from seed this year – they do well in my soil and keep coming up with quite spectacular flower eads, and get rid of an hypericum that has become a pest.

just saying ! 🙂

It’s all gone full circle recently. People now pronounce ‘aitch’ as if it starts with an ‘aitch’.

I know what the OED says, Malcolm, but you should read further. OED’s advice is generally make the sentence more easily understood and delivered – which means avoiding the awkward hiatus that ensues when saying the tortuous ‘an hotel’ (almost a glottal stop) and broadening the vowel itsefl, so it become ‘Ay hotel’. Oddly, ‘an otel’ is even easier…

Did anyone ever see
An apostrophe up a tree
I have searched in vain
In sunshine and rain
But so far it’s eluded me.

There are slugs and snails
And bugs with no tails
And creepy crawlies aplenty
But try as I might
From morning ’till night
The apostrophe is always absently

I’ve searched under bushes
Amongst flowers and bulrushes
So now have to beg your pardon
‘Cause it’s plain to see
The apostrophe
Is reluctant to grow in my garden

Brilliant Beryl. This topic has certainly given me some laughs 🙂 as well as an education.

Lovely, Beryl.

An apostrophe
Is like a superscript comma
The nearest I can see
Is this picture of a


English is a funny bird,
Often seeming quite absurd.
Now we’re talking Comma trees.
What next? I wonder – commentries?

If punctuation grew on trees,
Then legal teams would double fees.
They don’t like commas, quotes or colons,
Using words like rubber roll-ons.

I think it’s fairly safe to say
The rules are there and oft in play.
But almost all in disarray,
So what we mean’s not what we say.

Apostrophe, apost-a-tree,
Commas, stops. parentheses,
We learn them all, like birds and bees,
But – pen in hand we often freeze.

I’m impressed by all this creativity and I think it’s a very well made argument for a permanent poetry convo, which alfa has proposed as an idea in the ideas section (https://conversation.which.co.uk/your-ideas/). However, this convo has veered off-topic… so maybe it’s time to steer this back onto gardening issues? 🙂

Poetree is sort of gardening Laren.
Any thoughts on whether Which? could report on / review the compost professional growers use and whether it is any different to that we can buy as amateurs?

Well, it’s funny you should say that… @mtrain has been chatting to the experts in the gardening team and we should have some answers for you soon

Hi @malcolm-r.

I’ve spoken to our compost expert on the Gardening team, who says:

‘Yes, professionals do use different composts. Composts sold to home gardeners tend to be lower quality and are more variable than professional-grade products. Many growers also use their own tried-and-tested mixes of compost as well as feeds that are tailor-made for particular plants. ‘

Also, as home gardeners can’t buy these products in suitable amounts (most come in cubic meter bags and you usually have to buy several at once), we’ve never reviewed them.

Hope that helps.

@mtrain, thanks Melanie. A cubic metre seems a lot, but I somehow seem to buy at least 12 70 litre bags in a season – seeds, potting on, pots with tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, pots round the patio, hanging baskets……. It soon goes. But I take the point about professionals using specialised composts, whereas amateur gardeners need general purpose ones. I like to mix a peat based with a loam based John Innes mainly to get a denser texture.

And as Arthur Fallowfield [a.k.a. Kenneth Williams] used to say . . . “Well, I think the answer lies in the soil” – but you have to imagine the curl of the lip, the rolling of the tongue and the strangulated enunciation to get the full benefit of those words.

Round the Horne, ISTR? I think I used to listen on my radio as a kid.