Author Archives: Rachel

Bees V RHS – it’s time for the bees to win

Bees V RHS – it’s time for the Bees to win.


The Royal Horticultural Society is an amazing institution. It’s role is to promote gardening and educate current and future generations about gardening and all things horticultural.


No one can argue that it does not fulfil this role admirably. However, the RHS has created a monster in the world of horticulture and it is time to put this monster back in it’s box.


The monster is the Award of Garden Merit, it pits the Bees against the world of horticulture – and it’s time for the bees to win!


What actually is horticulture?


Horticulture is defined as;

‘the cultivation of flowers, fruit, veg or ornamental plants & the science and art of cultivating such plants’


Herein lies the problem, that short phrase ‘ the science & art of cultivating such plants’.


Humans are naturally inquisitive, we love to create, invent, modify and innovate. Horticulture is partly defined as a science, consequently, horticulturalists would be in dereliction of their scientific duty to not look to innovate or modify or change.


Horticulture is also defined as an art form, which drives the passion and provides purpose for creating plants that look more beautiful.


This horticultural definition provides the justification for us to adapt and enhance the natural world. Science and Art further the knowledge and understanding of mankind, so therefore the application of science and art to plants must be equally beneficial.


This creates a monster however, but one borne of another uniquely human trait; one-upmanship!


The RHS Award of Garden Merit


We are a judgemental society, all facets of our behaviour are judged in some way, whether we are successful business people, influential columnists or elite athletes, society provides a benchmark of standards by which others can judge.


In the UK, this standard is provided by the RHS’ Award of Garden Merit and what an influential monster it has become!


For a plant to be awarded an AGM it must pass the following criteria;

– Excellent for ordinary use in appropriate conditions.
– Of good constitution.
– Essentially stable in form and colour.
– Reasonably resistant to pests and diseases.
– Available to buy in the UK.


The AGM allows plants to be judged – which means all those ‘scientists and artists’ in commercial horticulture have a target to aim at and be judged on.


image RHS

A target that, once achieved, provides them with a nice shiny gong of approval.


The AGM shouts out to gardeners across the country that this is a good plant. The plant buying public can then purchase plants with confidence – the RHS has deemed this a ‘good garden plant’, so it must be ‘good’ in the garden.


The question is though – good for what?


The criteria for awarding an AGM in a way isolates and sanitises the role of the plant. It defines the benefit of the plant solely in terms of it’s interaction with humans.


For a plant to pass the test, it must invariably look good and be easy to grow.  It must not look sickly or feeble and it must be convenient to source. No other plant purpose is deemed important.


The monster this creates is driven by commercialism, companies can extol their ‘success’ at breeding plants by the number of AGM medals they hold. The AGM medal provides a profit premium for growers and an incentive to strive to create more plants worthy of the AGM.


So why is this a problem?


The result, well of the 200 or so new AGM awards for plants (excl veg and fruit) in 2016, approximately 8% of these plants were deemed ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ by the RHS.


Which means, 92% of plants gaining an AGM medal were not deemed to be particularly helpful to pollinators!


This is like a Rubiks Cube puzzle for a Bee!

Incidentally, most of the new pollinator friendly plants were Dahlia’s. Although many had extremely complex petal formations that would make it difficult for any bee to even get in!


An analysis of the RHS plant database reveals only 10% have both an AGM and a ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ logo.


Now it is not the case that all plants not bearing the Perfect for Pollinators logo have zero benefit to insects, of course it doesn’t, but the trend is there for all to see.


If usefulness is not even on the AGM criteria, there is no incentive for plant breeders to create a useful plant!


What is the purpose of the AGM to the RHS?


In Rory Stuarts book ‘What are Gardens for’ gardens, to be fully understood must be viewed in the context of culture. The RHS has historically demonstrated how both the science and art of horticulture has created plants of great beauty. It has displayed the prowess of the horticulturalists scientific and artistic ability with lavish shows and promoted the art of competitive show-casing of plants, flowers and vegetables. Thousands have flocked to these shows to see who has been the most successful. We all want to know which plant has been deemed the ‘best in show’.


The culture created is all about spectacle and how well a plant performs – for us!


The AGM needs another overhaul, plants should not be judged so one dimensionally. The purpose of plants, in fact the only purpose of a plant is to reproduce itself. The RHS are wrong to exclude the usefulness of a plant to it’s environment from the AGM criteria. After all gardens are now an increasingly important part of the environment.


The horticultural culture of the RHS needs to evolve, just as nature does. We have created thousands of plants that look great, but contribute nothing other than aesthetics to a garden. In an age where we understand far more the negative impact humans have on our planet, it is an anathema to hand out ‘gongs’ of approval to plants that look good, but offer little else.


So, how about a new AGM criteria:


– Excellent for ordinary use in appropriate conditions.
– Of good constitution.
– Essentially stable in form and colour.
– Reasonably resistant to pests and diseases.
– Available to buy in the UK


– Perfect for Pollinators ?



Read more on Bee Friendly Gardening

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Does Your Garden Taste Good

The Trouble with Flower Shows…

The Trouble with Flower Shows…


What trouble, flowers shows are meant to inspire us, show us how to garden & display amazing plants in wonderful garden settings!

Shows are the pinnacle of horticultural achievement, where they lead we should follow….


Or should we?


Well before all horticulturalists rise up in horror, these shows are not being unceremoniously damned. The fact remains though,  flower shows are not the best way for the average gardener to gain inspiration or indeed purchase plants.


So, what are Flower Shows for?


Shows have one main purpose and that is to get us, the general public to buy stuff. They are a large colourful horticultural supermarket disguised as a horticultural competition sited in a floribundant marquee. We flock in our best dressed thousands, to see who wins gongs and awards. We partake in all the glory of the show gardens, infused by the scents of the ammassed displays of flowers and it’s lovely.


Take a more pragmatic viewpoint though and behind every scented bloom is a price tag offering a 3 for 2 deal or a special show discounted price.


Sanguisorbia Hakusanensis ‘Lilac Squirrel’ if you want to know!

Exhibitors have paid thousands (in some cases) to be at the show and it costs vast amounts of money to stage one , feature gardens are ridiculously expensive to create – so the show itself has to make a profit for everyone or there’s no point in running one.


Flower shows are primarily there for trade.

Flower show gardens and displays are simply the means by which horticulturalists entice the general public to the show – and once surrounded by beautiful plants, we quickly succumb to the temptation to purchase all manner of things horticultural.


Now, there is nothing wrong with this at all, but what happens is this. We walk around the displays and see a plant that looks lovely & buy it. Walk around a bit more and see another one that catches the eye….& buy that one too.


Pretty soon, you’ve spent a fair amount on an eclectic collection of plants. Once home the problem that normally arises is where to put them. So you tend to pop the plants in any old gap in the garden and hope for the best!


It’s an easy way to make an expensive mistake.


Who are Flower Shows really for then?



This is a much more loaded question but does it really matter, well yes it does. Esteemed bodies like the RHS lay on shows, they stipulate the criteria for ‘showing’ plants and minimum standards for show gardens and displays. All of which raise the standard of the displays and ensure you, the general public, get value for money.


The rub is this, it is a closed circle. Exhibitors adhere to the rules laid down, these standardise the displays, we flock to see these types of displays (but, they are the only ones on show) and because we do, this reinforces the belief that this is what ‘we ‘ want to see – the RHS deems the show a success and off we go round the circle again.


So, are flowers shows there to promote the standards of horticultural excellence deemed by the RHS and thereby infer to us mere garden mortals that this is what we should aspire to.


Are shows there to showcase the horticultural trades ability to master the ‘science of horticulture’ by displays of plant perfecction, the inference being that anything less than this standard is somehow not good enough?


Or are shows there to benefit the public at large by showing us how to create beautiful gardens at home.


Perhaps flower shows should primarily be for the insects that use them?

There is however, one group for whom shows are not primarily set up to impress. The sad fact is though, these are the main beneficiaries and users of our gardens.


To be fair to the RHS, this year the trend in was a much more relaxed Bee-friendly planting scheme. This is a welcome trend, but the floral marquees are still packed selling plants which bees cannot feed from.


What then, is the trouble with flower shows?


It’s all about mixed messages and the inherent belief amongst the industry; which is that everyone knows lots about plants; which clearly they don’t.


Plant Displays


The general public are presented with immaculate displays of perfect floral specimens. Identical, uniform and perfect in every way, a feat only achievable with knowledge, expertise, patience and resources. These displays are then ‘gonged’, awarded Best in Show, gold medals, certificates etc, which tell us garden mortals this is standard WE THE RHS think is good enough.


This is not a natural standard though, it is a standard of horticultural science over nature.


With equal prominence, the RHS and shows promote hybridised (useless for insects) show stopping plants with these gongs and awards but they also then champion garden ecology.

The two are mutually incompatible – which one should we copy?


Show Gardens


The Show Gardens themselves are now far more conceptual, the idea of the garden being utilitarian has all but disappeared. So how on earth can these gardens inspire?


Show gardens need to inspire but they are becoming so distant from the reality of modern gardens. It is becoming impossible to have any form of cross-fertilistion of ideas.


Take this for example. What possible inspiration can be used in an average suburban garden? Trees that wobble, hardly. Shallow pools sited underneath deciduous trees. More time will be spent fishing stuff out,  just to maintain their reflective qualities.


So, the trouble with flower shows is that they are run by horticulturalists. They are there to promote the industry to itself, to congatulate itself on it’s achievements, to set impossibly high standards of horticulture the average gardener simply cannot aspire to.


What’s needed is a flower show run to show the general public how to really improve the garden. Garden design for the masses, making gardening more fun and less technical, giving us the ability to ‘go home and do it ourselves.’


What flower shows need is to think like IKEA!

Read more articles from the Plotting Shed
Garden Design for Beginners
Get real garden inspiration from our Mini-Makeovers

Maximising space in a small garden

Maximising space in a small garden is all about minimising ‘dead space’

Garden sizes have been shrinking for decades – which is a crying shame. As land for development becomes ever more expensive, more houses are squeezed into the same sized area with the casualty being the garden.


Although your garden is getting smaller, the stuff we need to use in the garden is not. Humans still take up the same amount of space as we have always done.

It is ironic though, as humans are getting bigger, the space we have to actually live in is getting smaller.

The garden therefore needs to work much more efficiently if you are to fit in what you need and still have space to breathe.

How do you maximise space in a small garden then?


Well, it’s all about minimising dead space.


In a small garden the area is 3 dimensional, everytime you put something in the garden, it uses space, but it also creates an area around it, that can’t easily be used.


This is dead space and it will quickly take over a small garden, unless you think about it!




Simply popping something ‘there’ or dotting a few pots about the garden can quickly reduce your ability to move and enjoy the space you have.


Tips for maximising space and minimising dead space.




Choose square over round, it can be tucked away into a corner more easily than a round table.

Bistro tables may look chic, but they can’t hold more than a couple of cups of coffee and a sideplate. If you want to be able to eat out, have a bistro by all means but fit a drop down table for extra space.

We found these at

It’s a neat but  cost effective way of creating a table – without losing valuable space.

Also think about putting a mirror or some outdoor artwork on the underside of the table. Once the table is closed, there will still have something interesting to look at.



image ericmiller83 pinterest

All gardens have ugly areas, normally where the bins go.

If you create an attractive screen you can hide bins, rotary washing lines & all sorts of unsightly objects behind it. If the screen is a feature itself, the benefit is doubled. Not only is it a place to hide stuff behind, but it is attractive to look as well.

Screens are much better space savers than a small shed or those grey plastic shed units many garden centres sell.


Light levels are often low at ground level, so raising the plants up off the ground will help them grow better.

can’t draw, but you get the drift!

Avoid using climbers, they will most likely not grow how you want them too, all the growth will be at head height and just get in the way!

Another good way to display plants is on corner shelving units. Pots can be placed on shelves, so you can create a vertical display.

Use soft, light, willowy vertical plants in the garden – so they grow upwards but not outwards. Avoid thorny or prickly plants, no matter how fashionable they may be!


Pots can use up a lot of space, so think carefully about the shape. The best space saving shape is tall and thin. This also has the advantage of raising plants off the floor so they get more light and grow better.

It you are having larger pots, put them on wheels, having moveable outdoor ‘furniture’ makes life a lot easier!

The Design:

Before you start changing or creating the garden outside, you need to think about the following.

  • Where is the best place for sitting outside.
  • Are you going to be eating meals outside, in which case is a larger eating area required.
  • Looking out onto the garden through the window – how is the ‘view’?

    Who said pictures can only go inside?

  • Where is the most convenient place for the bins – ease of access etc.
  • Are you intending to dry laundry outside. Rotary lines can be put away after use (however they still need storage space) or a wall mounted retractable line, which takes up less space but there are less options for siting it than a rotary line.
  • How much space is really needed for storing garden equipment – is a shed really necessary?
  • Lastly, grass – if you have grass, you need a lawn mower (or a robot mower at least). You need to have somewhere to dispose of the mown grass. A small grass lawn will take a lot of ‘foot traffic’ so will wear out easliy. Decide then, must you have a lawn?


The answers provide you with a blueprint for how you will set out your garden.

The process goes something like this.


Once you know where to sit, decide on the furniture that will fit that space the best. Then you know how much space it will taken up and how much space is left.

Then sort out the essentials, where will the bins and any storage requirements go so you can get to then as easily as possible.

If these are in view too much, then you need to look at screening the area off. Be inventive, make the screen a really attractive feature of the garden.

Washing lines, can these be easily fitted in or is it  better to  use a clothes horse that can be used inside and outside?

Storage, do you need a place for bikes, pushchairs or BBQ’s for example. Work out the best way to store these, when not in use. Make sure the storage unit itself is attractive, it will be a large visible feature in the garden.  Mirrors, paint and screens can all be used to disguise anything ugly.

The space that left is for ‘decorating’. This is the point at which you tap into your creative/artisitc side and choose colours and styles. Whatever style chosen remember the space is in 3 dimensions.

Create little views by adding mirrors to reflect light for example. Use wall art, it’s better than staring at a blank wall. Keep to a theme and most importantly a colour theme. It will be more eyecatching.

Think of the plants you use as the room decoration, they are your scatter cushions, table lamps and ornaments. Finally in a small garden the one sense that should not be overlooked is scent. Make sure as many of the plants used are scented – it will make a world of difference.

 Still stuck at this point though?  Try reading…


Small Space Gardening

Garden Design for Beginners

Soft & Wafty Plants


Hanging baskets & why you should avoid them

Hanging Baskets & why you are better off without them.


We Brits have always had an obsession for hanging baskets. We spend millions on these displays every year. Beautiful displays sing out the conquest of one’s horticultural ability over the elements. More often than not though, the compost heap quickly fills with thrown away shrivelled and dried out displays. 

Should we really keep on faithfully spending millions of pounds or is it time for a rethink?

Now you’ve probably guessed, we’re not great fans of hanging baskets and there are several good reasons why we’re not.


Our mantra is to make gardening easier and hanging baskets most definitely do not.


Why? Well how many of you can identify with these issues…

  • The compost dries out so quickly you can’t keep up with the watering requirement.
  • You don’t see most of the flowers as the basket is above your head.
  • The flowers quickly fade and you can never get the same intensity as in the garden centre.
  • It’s a right royal pain to water properly, unless you put in on the floor first. Mostly the water just runs straight through.
  • After a few days of summer sun – it all seems a bit shrivelled.
  • The plants seem to get eaten by bugs really easily.
  • After a few weeks, you’re unsure whether it’s a feature or an eysore, half the plants seem to have died, apart from the ivy, which has grown over everything else.
  • Birds have pecked out the lining for nesting material, so the basket looks a bit tatty

Need we go on?

Hanging baskets are not good value for money.


As a society, we are supposed to be trying to reduce, reuse and recycle more – it is better for us and the world at large. The problem though is that hanging baskets are largely disposable. Garden centres actually would prefer you to throw the plants (and the basket) away.


Gardening is expensive, so why spend money to just throw it away – it does not make sense.


What then, should we be doing?

Well our advice would be to not buy any in the first place and use the money saved to invest in plants that will look good for years, but if you love your baskets – here’s some advice.


Firstly – Don’t hang them


Most of the problems associated with hanging baskets are created by hanging them up.

Where is the gardening rule book does it state that hanging baskets must be above head height!


Why hang so that you look up to the bottom of the basket too?


Instead how about placing the baskets on top of pots or in pot stands.


Place them on a log or pot and site them in the border. Placing the basket lower down allows you to water and feed more easily. You can even place the basket on the floor, just take off the hanging loops.


Plant your own – don’t buy readymade baskets.


Plants grow fastest and best if they are not competing for nutrients. Nurseries pack plants in to look good at the point of sale.


So by only adding 2-3 plants in a basket yourself, your plants will grow bigger and look better for longer. Because you are not hanging them up, you can also use some soil in the compost which retains moisture more than multipurpose.


Try not to use Bedding plants


There are lots of plants that will grow in a basket really well, that won’t need throwing away at the end of the year. The flowers on most bedding you buy have been intensively bred to look showy which in itself is not very ‘green’.

The plant produces more flowers than it would normally be able sustain & or larger flowers than would naturally develop – all for our aesthetic delight of course. The result, the plants may look spectactular, but only if you follow a strict pampering and preening regime to keep these demanding plants performing.

They are all High Maintenance Plant Divas, which is fine if you adore pampering and preening your plants but it is a pain in the proverbials if you haven’t time to!

It is far better to choose less demanding plants that thrive on a bit of neglect, there are loads to choose from – native wildflowers being one very obvious example.

Perhaps it is time for the fashions to change and we start to grow natural hanging baskets instead. Some of our woldflowers can be very beautiful and all grow without human intervention normally – which makes it sound perfect for a hanging basket!

Try out seed-balls as an alternative to bedding in your hanging baskets instead, the butterflies and bees will love you for it!

Remember, hanging baskets benefit garden centres more than you.


The mark-up on planted hanging baskets is huge, nurseries and garden centres make a lot of money from selling planted baskets.


However, more importantly, it is not in their financial interest for the baskets to survive. If they looked great all summer, we the consumer, would not need to buy any more. The garden centres would lose out financially.


So here’s what they do:


  • Baskets are crammed plants, too many for the size of basket.
  • The plants all compete for water and available food, the most needy die first. Which are always the biggest and showiest flowers.
  • A multipurpose compost is used as it’s lighter, but it also doesn’t retain water very well, so the basket dries out really quickly and the showiest flowers are the first to suffer.
  • They do add a granular plant food to the compost for you – however it can only release enough food if the granules are wet and because the baskets drain really quickly, they won’t get time to dissolve.


Now you may think we are simply being overtly cynical and a tad unfair and maybe so. However, ask yourself this – how many times have you had a stunning hanging basket display all summer.


People can and do have the most beautiful displays – most of these use automated watering systems though – or they have an utterly dedicated owner!


So there you have it, hanging baskets are great – if you like that sort of thing. But if you would like a lower maintenance garden – avoid using hanging baskets.


For lot’s more tips and advice:

Read more from the Plotting Shed.

Garden Design For Beginners

Get some garden inspitation – & not a hanging basket in sight!

Advice on Good Garden Plants


How to buy plants properly – 5 golden rules

How do you buy plants properly?


Well, the best way to explain how is with a sofa.


So you’ve just watched the Chelsea Flower Show all week and now you’re on a mission to do-up the garden. Gardening can be really expensive, buying plants certainly is – so how can you buy plants properly, so you don’t waste money and the garden will look amazing!


First, you need a sofa.


Your lovely sofa (i.e your garden border) needs a new look. So off to the shops you trot.


In the department store, you see some colourful scatter cushions that catch your eye, a lamp and a rug – so you buy them all and VOILA; a fabulous new look…

Or maybe not.

All of us understand how to decorate a room, albeit maybe we’re not so good as an interior designer, but most of us can ‘cook up a new look’ pretty well.


Almost like this one.


So why on earth, when faced with a trip to the garden centre do many folks, simply wander round and purchase on impulse.


Pick & Mix in the garden is not going to work.
You need a plan if you want to stop wasting money and learn how to buy plants properly.


Buy Plants Properly – The 5 Golden Rules

– especially if you don’t know much about gardening!


Rule 1 – Never ‘Pop into’ a Garden Centre for Some Plants.

All retailers want us to buy stuff, they have lots of stuff to sell and so make that stuff look really exciting and nice and attractive.

Funnily enough, all of us get duped into buying stuff we don’t want or need or know what to do with – all the time!


Garden Centres are expert at this too. The horticultural world has decided what we, the consumer, will want to buy. They then grow all these plants and present them to us for purchase.


Plants abound in every size shape and colour, it’s like being in a giant sweetie shop. And we fall for it every time,


“ooh that looks lovely, buy one”,

“have you seen this one, that’s really pretty too”, buy one.


We, the said consumer, then return home with this bag of brightly coloured sweeties and usually struggle to find a place our new purchases, so we tend to do what we’ve always done, simply pop them in any old gap we can find in the border.

The result – a sofa covered in lots of different scatter cushions.


So you need a plan.

Rule 2 – Discipline Yourself

In the instance of our lovely sofa above, we need to look for scatter cushions that will look good with brown. So your trip to the garden centre will focus your attention on the colours you are looking for. Perhaps in this case, cream colours with maybe a few orange coloured scatter cushions…


You may have noticed we’ve not even looked at what type of plant yet, just colours.


Rule 3 – Take a Photo of your Garden

You are going to be tempted by all the lovely plant displays and goodies on offer – so a cunning plan is to have a picture of the sofa (garden border) on your phone. It will help keep you focussed on what you are really need to get.


Rule 4 – What shape does the plant need to fill?


Right, this is the technical bit, and the best way to explain this is with a few diagrams…


All borders are 3D in shape, so you need to think about length, width and height.

You need to think how the plants will fill the whole area – and this helps you determine the right shape of plant to fit the space you need.

So in this example of our border space, you can see how different shapes of plants will work or not as the case maybe!


 Here, the plants seem a little too flat or a little too top heavy.


To fill the 3D space, you can create a more balanced border.

As you can see in the final image, the whole area is filled, none of the plant shapes is too dominant, it looks OK. And that’s all you need to think about, if it looks OK, it probably is.

We still haven’t even begin to speak about what types of plants yet, just, colour and shape.

However, the next rule is knowing how the plant will behave and it’s probably the most important.



Rule 5 – Read the Label, always.

Plant labels are a real nuisance these days, all you get are a few symbols and some infographics. The essential information is there though and you need to read it.


It’s important to know how big the plant will get, if it says 10ft in 5 years, then it needs a pretty big gap in the border – squeezing it in anywhere else will only cause you problems in a very short time.

You also need to know whether that pretty plant in the pot will spread like wildfire all over the garden or have ambitions to world (or at least your garden’s ) total domination!

Luckily, we do have a helpful page – ‘Plants to Avoid – if you don’t like gardening’!

OK – you’ve followed the rules, so what now?


Hopefully you will have come up with a little plan by now, but if not, here’s an example from my garden to show you what to do.


 Clearly, this border is over stuffed.

Now I don’t want plants too tall, because I won’t see out of the window, but I would like plants that are colourful (so there is something nice to look out of the window at).

Luckily, I have a white wall, so I can showcase bold colours against it, but only 2 contrasting colours as it’s a small bed.

I would like all the plants to be: non-floppy, not too tall, but I’d like the flowers high enough to see through the windows. I’d like some scent and bright colours, as this border is in full sun.

Now you can choose the plants. you have the basis of a plan .

The result….

It’s the same border – just with different plants.


If you have trawled all the way to the bottom of this post (thank you btw), hopefully you have a better idea of how to buy plants properly.

If however, you are still a bit stuck, we can help – all you need to do is call!

Does your Garden Taste Good?

Does your Garden Taste Good?

And why this matters.


Sitting in a garden in Summer watching bees buzz and butterflies flutter is one of life’s great pleasures. Not only is it a pleasure for us to watch (unless you are melissophobic or lepidopterophobic of course!), it is also hugely beneficial to all those insects too!


Bees have to work really hard to find a little nectar, so imagine their delight at flying into a garden that is jam packed with nectar rich flowers.


Sadly, all too often gardens are filled with the more spectacularly coloured modern flowers that are devoid of nectar.


Just imagine the bee, having flown into this incredible spectacle of colour, and finding there is nothing to eat. It’s a bit like walking into a supermarket and finding everything there is either an empty box or a plastic vegetable!


butterfly campaign


Time for a soapbox moment:


  • Gardens aren’t just for use to admire – they are vital sources of food

    and shelter for all our native wildlife.


  • Flowers did not evolve for humans to enjoy, but most modern flowers are only designed for humans to enjoy. 


  • Bee use UV light to find flowers – if they can’t see them they won’t find them.  (flowers in UV look amazing & utterly different)


  • Butterflies taste with their feet – so how good do modern plants taste to a butterfly? 


  • Many modern flower hybrids contain little or no nectar to feed insects – it has been bred out (in it’s place, brighter colours and more petals). 


What is the point of a flower that cannot do what a flower is supposed to do?


At PlantPlots, we firmly believe that gardens should look beautiful, but not at the expense of our native wildlife. Before you head off to the garden centre this spring, please pause for a moment. Ask yourself, is the flower useful and pretty or is it just a pretty face?


We are not advocating that everyone stops buying bedding plants nor indeed boycotts hybrids or highly developed flowers. Instead we are asking that you limit their numbers in your garden.


If 80% of the plants in your garden were nectar rich and easy for bees and butterflies to feed from, there would be plenty of food.  It would not matter what the remaining 20% consisted of!


PlantPlots is a new online garden design service with a twist. We provide lots of design recipes for great ‘tasting’ garden borders that are both beautiful AND beneficial. All are available to download.


Now obviously we have posted this article to encourage you to look through our designs (and hopefully buy one..or two!). But even if you are not interested in shopping, we hope you might consider butterflies and bees more when you go out plant buying this year.


After all – who are flowers really for?


butterfly taste 13

Right Plant….Wrong Place!

Are you a Right Plant…Wrong Place expert!


looking good

We’ve all done it….we’ve planted a lovely plant in what we thought was the perfect spot, and then it all started going wrong!


Delicate climbers turn into voracious triffids, the few bulbs you popped in the corner have re-appeared – everywhere, or that beautiful gorgeous flowered plant that you popped over there is now a mass of sickly looking twigs…is this sounding familiar?

The key to getting the plants to behave properly, is to plant them in the right place at the beginning – and that means the right place in terms of light and moisture but it also is important to have the right soil for the plant to thrive too.

At PlantPlots we believe that our gardening advice should be really useful and practical – especially if you aren’t the most expert in the garden, so to help we’ve created some simple soil guides.

We want to help you promote you from the realms of Right Plant Wrong Place Expert and propel you towards becoming a true gardening guru! ….

Well be a better gardener anyway…but at least you will have a better understanding of what to plant or not!

PlantPlots ‘rule of thumb’ guides to getting it right….from the start!

Good Soil 2 Clay soil Poor soil Sandy soil Acidic soil


Simply click the images to view and then download the guide – it’s all free advice.


There are however, some simple rules you can apply to help reduce the number of goof-ups, that will apply regardless of soil type:


10 tips to avoid ‘Right Plant – Wrong Place’ problems:

These rules apply for the average sized UK garden by the way (those lucky people with huge gardens don’t have to worry so much about how big plants can get or how fast!)


Don’t impulse buy at the Garden Centre.


Any plant label that says ‘Vigorous’ should be planted with care.


Any plant that grows beyond 12ft should also be planted with even more care.


‘Good for Naturalising’ is not good in a small garden!


Plant ‘Self Seed Experts’ downwind of the patio.


Bedding Plants may look great in the Garden Centre – but do you really have enough time and enthusiasm to maintain the required pampering regime to keep them looking that good?


Don’t just fill a gap in the border with anything you can find – it probably won’t work!


Don’t fight your garden’s natural environment – if you want an easier lower maintenance garden, then work with what you have. Your plants will perform better and tend to misbehave less.  


Check the ‘size in 5’ BEFORE you plant it! If it says 20 feet tall in 5 years, then that is what it will be.


If the plant’s not thriving where it is, don’t be afraid to move it to somewhere better.


If however, you really can’t (or don’t have the time) to plan the right plants for your garden…. you could cheat and try one of our designs. Think of them a bit like recipes for the garden, simply have a browse and download the ‘recipe’ you like the best!



You may as well plant plastic flowers instead – many modern plants have no food for foraging insects.

Bee Friendly Gardens

Bee Friendly Gardens are absolutely vital – read on to see if yours is up to the mark and what to do if it’s not!



“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”  Albert Einstein


That’s a scary statement – but it’s pretty much true.


So we really need to help maintain the bee populations globally.

Although we can’t quickly influence government policy on the use of pesticides or convince supporters of GM crops and super intensive farming methods to take a more environmentally sensitive view just yet, you can still do your bit to help.


The flowers and plants in your garden – how many of them can the bees feed from – easily?


dahlia cutout  Gaillardia_fanfare_centered       bee friendly_edited-1

Avoid highly overbred flowers, they are usually sterile and have little or no nectar.

Flowers that are created by plant breeders for human satisfaction rarely (if at all) help feed beneficial insects  in your garden. You might as well fill the garden with plastic flowers – they’re just as useless! 

I planted these this year – red pelargoniums, because they looked pretty…but that’s all they did – look pretty.

Not one insect landed there, fed from them or even noticed them!


So what do you need to do:


Don’t keep spraying stuff!  – sprays kill everything, it isn’t selective about what it kills. Does it really matter that much, if there are a few holes in petals or leaves? 


borage flower crop

Choose flowers that are more natural looking  – so nice open petals and more natural looking colour combinations.


Make sure something is in flower all year round – There are lots of flowers that provide food for insects in winter, click here for a list


Lastly but most importantly – don’t just regard the garden as an ‘outside room’, think of it also as ‘their home’. You will find you tend to be more tolerant of Nature and you will begin to enjoy the little world you have outside more.


Oh and if you don’t believe there is a crisis in the bee population, have a read, I know it is an American article, but much of it is true for here to.

At PlantPlots, we chose all the plants we use in our border designs carefully, we try to use plants that are not only lower maintenance and fairly disease resistant, but that are also good sources of nectar. So it’s a win win, you get beautiful border designs and the insects will love coming to visit to.

V3 real gardeners and spray  

We’ve more articles to read to; All on creating a more insect friendly and bio-diverse garden.

How ‘Green’ are Bedding Plants?

Who are flowers really for?

Which Flowers are best for bees,

Gardens are for Life, not just for Show

What about the Bugs?

What does your front garden say about you?

What does your front garden say about you – 

more importantly does it say what you want it to say?




We believe that everyone can have a lovely front garden even if you can’t afford to spend very much. We have always tried to show you how you can achieve a gorgeous garden with only a small amount of effort and having only spent what you can easily afford.

Here is a typical modern front garden, a little unloved maybe, but maybe that’s because the owner doesn’t know what to do with it – so it’s just left as grass.dull shady front

Not very homely though is it, and it can be so much nicer.

Incidentally, an attractive front garden not only makes you feel better when you come home, it can also add value to your house – so it is really worth making a little effort.

Tips to remember:


  • Don’t have prickly or spiky plants!
  • Don’t have fast growing climbers around entrances (unless you love pruning).
  • Consider permeable paving under the car to help prevent flash flooding.
  • If the space is small – ditch the lawn, it will rarely look fantastic.
  • Use tall pots for planting – they are less likely to trip over at night!
  • Tall pots also raise the plants to right under your nose – so use plenty of scented plants to cheer you up when you get home.
  • Use the colour of the house and front door to choose your colour theme.
  • If you plant shrubs, make sure they are interesting all year round.
  • Use bulbs to change the ‘mood’ over the seasons.
  • Be a bit different, make your ‘front’ a trend setter!
  • Use fairy lights or solar lights – they are a lot more welcoming than a security light!
  • Scent, scent and more scent….unless you are a hayfever sufferer.
  • Pottering in the front garden is a great way to start to chat to the neighbours.


This weekend, step out the front and look back to your door and just ask – what does this garden say about me?

Blue flowers

Gardening is not difficult, but if you don’t know much about plants it is difficult to know where to begin. That’s where we can help, we have loads of designs for front gardens (and back ones too) so why don’t you get a little inspiration and make a statement in your front garden.


Garden Problems – Misbehaving Gardens!

Garden Problems: Is your garden misbehaving itself and how can you sort it out?


misbehaving garden

Much as we’d all love one of these….


White show garden

Most of us usually end up with something more like this…


So what can you do to get your garden behaving itself?

We all have garden problems, even Monty Don and Alan Titchmarsh will have had many, but not getting on top of those garden problems will usually mean they start to get on top of you instead.

We all see these glossy images of the most beautiful and bountiful gardens and it’s hard not to feel somewhat disappointed when looking at your own back garden/jungle and wonder whether you can ever really get something that looks (and stays) looking good all year without the expert designers or full time gardeners on hand.

Well of course you can.

The key to a lovely garden that works for you, is how good you are a ‘refereeing’, what sort of team you have on the pitch to start with and how well you understand the rules!

Gardening is a process, there is no start or finish to a garden, it is a living breathing entity, so plants will die and others will try to take over, you need to make sure you know how to remain in charge!

Read our guides to ‘righting the wrongs’ in your garden.

flops  taking over  thriving  uninspiring

Or for a little extra helping hand …you can ‘cheat’ and buy one of our lovely ready made border designs instead – that way you know it will all work – hurrah!


happier gardens

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