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Walled Gardens

If you enjoy visiting National Trust stately homes, the chances are you’ll have had a walk around a walled garden, writes Vanessa Drew, Landscape Designer at Tobermore.

Historically this would have been constructed to create a microclimate in which to grow fruit, vegetables and flowers for use in the big house. Most keen gardeners would give anything to have a walled garden like this but it may remain out of reach. However, some people may not have noticed that they already have a walled garden. It may not be Sissinghurst, but a smaller version can still be used to create the same effect.

Many back gardens are bordered by a garage wall. The sun will heat up this wall during the day and the heat will radiate out at night. Against a wall, features such as espalier fruit trees, climbing plants, raspberries, peas and beans, etc. can be grown. The base of a wall is often in a rain shadow and the soil may contain builders rubble and hardcore from construction. In this case, the plants will require extra nutrition and moisture, so a wheelbarrow full of organic matter such as well rotted manure or garden compost can be added.

A lean-to greenhouse could also be used as a summer house to sit in even in winter. A wooden arbour can be positioned against a wall and is planted with climbers. This will act as a focal point in the garden as well as somewhere to sit and admire the scenery. An arbour is quite rustic so this could be combined with a pathway created with a traditional style paving product.

If digging down is too difficult, you could create a raised bed with walling products. Combined with coping stone along the top, this will also act as seating area. If you are building a raised bed against a wall you will need to tank the front of the existing wall to stop moisture from the soil seeping through. If that sounds like too much hard work, simply attaching wall planters will transform the space. These can be used to grow strawberries, herbs and salad leaves or summer bedding such as trailing lobelia and nasturtiums.

Green ‘living’ walls are very popular in European cities, but they require extensive irrigation and artificial fertiliser if they are to survive. Green wall systems are available to purchase but they are quite expensive although very impressive if successful. Plants such as sedum and saxifrage which have very shallow roots are perfect for this idea.

On close inspection you may notice that walling is a haven for wildlife. If you grow evergreen wall shrubs such as pyracantha, cotoneaster, ivy and honeysuckle, you will create nesting sites for small garden birds which are in decline. In addition to this you may notice the tiny nesting holes of solitary bees and mason bees – don’t panic – they are both stingless and totally harmless. Bumble bees like to hibernate in crevices in walls. They are becoming endangered due to people tidying their gardens too much and using pesticides, so they need all the help they can get. Pollinating insects are essential for a lot of crops and fruit trees so please try to encourage them in to your garden.

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Why climate change is good news for wasps

Several new species of wasp have arrived in Britain with our warming weather, and their larger relative the hornet, once confined to the extreme south, has spread across England.

But how is our common wasp fairing? Most queen wasps still do not survive the winter. However, it is not cold that will have killed them, but spiders or other predators.

Soon warmer days will bring the remainder out of hibernation. They will first look for nectar to give them strength to start building their nests. The timing of their emergence is hazardous because if they wake too early they might die of starvation through lack of spring flowers.

The Guardian: Why climate change is good news for wasps

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The plight of the hedgehog in Britain appears to be worsening, with a new survey revealing a further decline in garden sightings.

The spiky creature was once a common sight, with the population estimated at 30 million in the 1950s. But that has plummeted to fewer than one million today, with a third of this loss thought to have taken place in the past decade.

The latest survey, conducted with over 2,600 people by BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, found that 51% of people did not see a hedgehog at all in 2016, up from 48% in 2015. Just 12% saw a hedgehog regularly.

The Guardian: Hedgehogs now a rare garden sight as British populations continue to decline

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The National Trust has opened its doors to Channel 5 for a new series starting on Tuesday 7 February at 9pm, which will celebrate the stunning estates, historic houses and miles of breathtaking countryside and coastline in the conservation charity’s care.

Across six, 60 minute episodes, host Alan Titchmarsh will find out about the Trust’s conservation work and discover the stories hidden behind its buildings and gardens in the new series, Secrets of the National Trust with Alan Titchmarsh.

Alan will be joined by a team of National Trust specialists who will showcase new discoveries, inspiring conservation work and fascinating archives.

During each episode Alan will be anchored at a new location where he will take an in-depth look at the history of the property and key conservation projects. Alongside this, a host of other experts and enthusiasts, including Anneka Rice, Jon Culshaw and Joan Bakewell, will take viewers on a tour around the country with one-off films shot at an array of Trust properties.

The six anchor locations are:

Episode 1: Knole, Kent
Episode 2: Hill Top, Cumbria
Episode 3: Attingham Park, Shropshire
Episode 4: Quarry Bank, Cheshire
Episode 5: Lyme, Cheshire
Episode 6: Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire

The series will uncover hidden rooms, archaeological discoveries, surprising wildlife and, through the use of filming techniques such as drone cameras, viewers will gain a rare perspective of these fascinating buildings.

Through the people that the presenters meet and the places that they visit, each episode will provide a rich and diverse tapestry of entertaining, warm and informative journeys and stories.

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A project aims to investigate the social case for gardens and what impact they have on health and well-being.

There is growing evidence for the environmental and health benefits of gardens and gardening.

Access to green spaces has been linked to reduced depression, anxiety and stress, as well as physical benefits.

Researchers at the University of Sheffield want to compile evidence on the therapeutic effects of gardens from the public.

BBC: Researchers seek evidence on gardens and well-being

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Case against Sheffield tree protesters is dropped

Two pensioners who were arrested after a standoff with police over the controversial chopping down of trees in Sheffield have said they feel “relief, grief and anger” after prosecutors dropped the case against them.

Jenny Hockey, a 70-year-old retired university professor, and Freda Brayshaw, a 72-year-old retired teacher, were held for eight hours in police cells following a dawn raid on their quiet residential street in November.

There were cheers outside Sheffield magistrates court and shouts of “Power to the people!” when prosecutors announced they would drop public order charges against the pair on Thursday morning.

The Guardian: Case against Sheffield tree protesters is dropped

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Spices tend to have an image of coming from hot exotic lands, but Mark Williams of Galloway Wild Foods in Scotland forages wild native plants for spices and actually makes curry from them.

One of the strongest curry tastes is spignel, a plant related to carrots. It’s pleasantly scented with clusters of tiny white flower heads and dark green feathery leaves, and the seeds taste of curry.

For a real kick, the spear-like leaves of water pepper give a burning chilli heat, although it’s deceptive at first before the burning sensation comes out.

The Guardian: Britain's native plants put the taste of spices in easy reach

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The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has kick-started his programme to make London one of the greenest cities in the world by delivering £750,000 to plant more than 40,000 new trees across the capital.

Over the next two months a range of organisations – including Trees for Cities and Groundwork London – and thousands of volunteers will plant trees in every London borough.

New trees planted this winter will include apple trees in a new orchard in Redbridge, black poplars and oaks in Victoria Park in Tower Hamlets, while busy main roads in Hillingdon will have trees planted on streets to help combat traffic emissions and boost air quality.

The Deputy Mayor for Environment, Shirley Rodrigues, recently held a Tree Summit with key organisations to discuss ways to work closely to increase the tree canopy in London and plant thousands of trees over the next four years.

The Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “I want London to be one of the world’s greenest cities which is why I’ve prioritised this funding to kick-start the delivery of thousands of new trees and to protect and enhance our much-loved green spaces.

“Trees improve our environment and help clean up our toxic air, so despite inheriting no budget from my predecessor, I have worked fast to start a new planting programme and deliver the first batch of more than 40,000 saplings this winter.

“This is the first step in my plans for a major tree-planting programme across London in partnership with businesses and boroughs. I remain fully committed to ensuring that hundreds of thousands of new trees are planted over the next four years.”

Projects across London bid for grants last December and successful schemes were awarded funding this week. Many of the trees are allocated to brighten residential streets, boost air quality on busy main roads and maintain London’s many local parks, often as a result of residents’ requests.

Other areas receiving new trees include seven residential estates in Hammersmith & Fulham, a community orchard in Southwark, streets in Brent, Croydon, Havering and Lewisham, parks in Tottenham, and woodlands in Ealing and Barking and Dagenham.

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A place in the country: meet the new woodlanders

In the stillness of autumn, the only sound on the old Saxon road is the gentle tapping of beech nuts falling on a carpet of terracotta-coloured leaves.

“You must meet Robert Cunningham – he’s tremendous,” says Kathy Harris, pausing to touch the huge trunk of a venerable beech tree. Harris knows all the ancient trees in this 25-acre wood as individuals.

There is also a decaying ash called Cecelia and a beech with two trunks: one has thrown out a limb to fuse with the other, like twins holding hands. There are badgers, rare bats, otters and water rails. A bonfire crackles with burning holly and, as dusk falls, a tawny owl hoots.

The Guardian: A place in the country: meet the new woodlanders

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Project aims to grow a 'city of trees'

A project aims to plant three million trees - one for every man, woman and child - in Greater Manchester over the next 25 years.

Those behind City of Trees hopes the effort will not only green the region but improve our understanding of the benefits trees provide to society.

These include reducing stress, improve air quality and the amount of time shoppers spend in retail areas.

The project is also testing how trees can reduce flooding in built-up areas.

BBC: Project aims to grow a 'city of trees'

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2016 was the hottest year on record, setting a new high for the third year in a row, with scientists firmly putting the blame on human activities that drive climate change.

The final data for 2016 was released on Wednesday by the three key agencies – the UK Met Office and Nasa and Noaa in the US – and showed 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have been this century.

Direct temperature measurements stretch back to 1880, but scientific research indicates the world was last this warm about 115,000 years ago and that the planet has not experienced such high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for 4m years.

The Guardian: 2016 hottest year ever recorded – and scientists say human activity to blame

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Jersey monitors threat from toxic sea lettuce fumes

Authorities in the Channel Islands are looking at ways to protect residents and visitors from toxic beach gases after the death of a jogger in France that has been linked to the fumes from rotting seaweed.

The government of Jersey said on Monday it was considering the installation of devices to check gas levels from deposits of sea lettuce.

Warning signs could also be erected on affected coastlines to tell people of the potential danger posed by rotting green algae.

The Guardian: Jersey monitors threat from toxic sea lettuce fumes

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In the very last breaths of the very last day of 2016, I noticed a seedling of Protea montana had pushed off its fluffy little seed coat and revealed itself to the world.

My glee at seeing this new life made me grin from ear to ear and do what has become known in our house as “the germination dance”.

P. montana is a threatened species from the very highest peaks of the Western Cape of South Africa.

The fluffy seed coat it was so eager to lose allows it to be blown - after a fire has released it from the prison of a dead flower head - to a site where the same fluff allows it to corkscrew into the shallow soil and wait for winter rain.

The Guardian: Seeds: little time capsules that could secure our future

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Ditching power tools made me a happier gardener

Putting weekend papers into the recycling bin, an advert caught my eye. Among a tumble of sections of The Guardian and another, rival, publication, was a motoring section.

Its back page was given over to an ad for gardening gadgets; strimmers, leaf-blowers and mowers, all beefed-up and top-of-the-range, presumably selected to catch the eye of the Top Gear set.

How different my last few months would have been if I’d had that “firepower” to hand. Our garden isn’t big, but we have lots of hedge.

Actually, nearly all the boundary of our long, skinny property is hedge. That means one of the big jobs of the gardening year is hedge-taming.

The Guardian: Ditching power tools made me a happier gardener

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The controversial London scheme is in serious jeopardy after it emerged the charity developing it is no longer a going concern and that costs could ‘substantially’ increase from £185 million

The long-delayed accounts of the Garden Bridge Trust, published by Companies House and covering the period up to the end of March last year, also blame the EU referendum result as being partly responsible for delays to the scheme and say any further delays may lead to its termination.

The accounts also confirm that no new private funding has been secured for the Thomas Heatherwick-designed bridge since spring 2015 and that the funding gap has increased to £56 million due to an increase in the budget from £175 million to £185 million last summer.

AJ: Garden Bridge project on brink of collapse, accounts reveal

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The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is calling on school gardeners from across the country to enter the search to find the next generation of star horticulturists, as it launches its annual competition, the RHS School Gardeners of the Year 2017. The competition is supported by leading greenhouse manufacturer Gabriel Ash.

Celebrating gardening in schools by uncovering inspirational gardeners across three categories, the competition shines a light on green-fingered pupils, passionate school gardening teams and the often unheralded teachers and parent volunteers who encourage them. Nominations can be submitted from Wednesday 11 January to Friday 28 April, 5pm.

Shortlisted gardeners will be given video cameras by the RHS to produce a short video highlighting their love of gardening, which will be assessed by an expert panel of judges including horticulturist and television presenter Frances Tophill.

RHS: Royal Horticultural Society’s school gardening competition is now open for entries

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Employers’ worst excuses for paying under the minimum wage have been revealed by ministers on the eve of a £1.7m advertising drive to encourage workers to check they are being paid the legal rate.

Underpaying bosses told officials that they thought the minimum wage didn’t apply to foreign workers; that they didn’t pay shop workers when there were no customers to serve; and in one case “she doesn’t deserve the national minimum wage because she only makes the teas and sweeps the floors”, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The Guardian: 'She only makes tea': worst excuses for not paying UK minimum wage revealed

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