Gardening through the Seasons with Margaret Finch

Visit Farley Hill Place Garden's Website

Margaret Finch, with her husband Tony, own Farley Hill Place Gardens. Historically part of a Georgian Manor House with a one and half acre walled garden that takes you back to when they grew food for ‘the big house’. Margaret is a renowned and respected gardener and the walled garden appears on Gardeners World, in Waitrose Adverts and she works with people such as Monty Don and Alan Titchmarsh. The gardens are open for visitors during more normal times and workshops are held there.

Farley Hill Place Gardens
Farley Hill Place Gardens
Farley Hill Place Gardens

This Week’s Blog

Good wishes and Grasses

As this is the first Gardening Blog of 2021 we wish you all A Very Happy and Healthy 
New Year, with lots of happy gardening planned for this New Year ahead.
While it’s so cold there’s nothing better than sorting out last year’s seeds and looking 
and planning this year’s seed orders.

Looking out at the Garden there’s still plenty of interest with so many different textures -the greatness of Grasses give a huge Winter impact.
Although non evergreen varieties now gold and brown and you could think dead but still giving lots of pleasure waving about in the Winter wind bringing the Borders to life and make stunning features when frosted.
My favourite being the Miscanthus sinensis a brilliant stand -alone grass with silvery
foliage and fantastic red plumes of flowers that look so dramatic in the evening sun.
Great to use in amongst Garden flowers in a vase. It likes well drained soil and to be cut to the ground in early spring, but is still good for hibernating insects in the Winter .
Grasses make brilliant swathes in Borders with Verbena Bonariensis and Hakonechlo
Macro with its interesting wavy leaves and evergreen Festuca Glauca make brilliant grasses for growing in containers.

Enjoy your Gardening and planning for this year ahead and take care.

Margaret Finch


Now that Christmas has arrived even most of us very keen Gardeners thoughts have
been focused in side our homes.
If you have been able to visit a Garden centre you may have been tempted in to buying 
one of the most popular of Christmas pot plants.
The very festive Poinsettia traditionally red it says Christmas without even saying so 
and the most popular but they are also available in cream, pink and pinky marbled 
They always cause a slight dilemma how do we best care for this festive temptation ?
My tip- select a strong looking plant with healthy green leaves and a good amount of unbruised red bracts which we think of as their flowers.
Protect from the cold as soon as you even leave the Garden centre.
They don’t like changes of temperatures or draughts this helps to stop leaf drop.
Water lightly with tepid water and enjoy there’s nothing more festive than a beautiful 
Poinsettia .
All of us Gardeners deserve a few days off over Christmas and I hope you all receive 
some wonderful Garden type gifts from Father Christmas. As you can see his reindeer are all ready for the big night ahead.

Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas, 
Margaret Finch

This Week’s Questions and Answers

1.For Ground Elder
I know how this is such a problem and total nuisance. The Romans used it as a Salad
crop I certainly don’t fancy eating it.

The best thing to do is continually dig it up. Yes burn it, Don’t put on compost heap.

Try to pick up very tiny little bit of white root .One little bit will grow again.

Although it’s really kind when friends give you Plants from their own Borders
Investigate the roots and take out any  unwanted weed-this is some times where
we inherit these things from.

Don’t give up you will slowly weaken the Ground Elder and eradicate 
Enjoy your Gardening.


  1. Winter Greenhouse 

    In the winter give your Greenhouse a good clean inside and wash the Glass in and out.
    Handy plants will still grow if there’s plenty of light through the Glass.

    In a Cold Greenhouse with no heat.

    Only over Winter Handy Plants that will be tolerant to Frost.

    Water less keep plants on the dry side

    There’s still plenty of jobs to achieve 

    It’s still O.K. to sow a few more Salad leaves cover when sown to help germination 

    The best time to sow Onion seed. Traditional on Boxing Day’ when us Gardening Folk
    want to escape the House in a good way.

    Sow Summer cutting Cabbage in January such as Savoy preludium.

    It’s not too late to sow some Aquadulce Claudia Broad  Beans for picking in May and June.

    There’s nowhere nicer when it’s raining than being in your Greenhouse.


This Week’s Blog

Most of our efforts, spare time and thoughts are now being spent on preparing for Christmas gives us Gardening folk a chance to continue old traditions.
We love continuing in the same footsteps as our predecessors and bringing the outside in to decorate the home is a real treat. Always think big as if you live in a Stately Home
or National Trust Property whereelse would be good enough for your prize foliage.

At this time of year we could not be without the festive charming classics of the Holly and Ivy.
The Hollies for bearing berries need a male and female species growing close or nearby . Strangely Golden Queen is a male and surprisingly Silver King is a female both 
make a spectacular feature. Although Hollies grow well in the shade the variegated 
varieties above need a sunny spot.
Ivy is the biggest winter food source for Insects, Bees and Birds, but may be regarded as a damaging weed if allowed to get out of hand regular pruning is essential but make brilliant climbers. Hedra helix Gold heart with its yellow centre and green outline
are very up lifting.
All of a sudden things are looking a lot like Christmas but we need the Mistletoe to complete our Pagan practices since Medieval times.

Just looking around the Garden it’s amazing what else you can find to enhance your flower displays some shiny bright Rose hips last well and a host of seed heads waiting to be sprayed gold or silver. The silvered disc of honesty and hydrangea heads start to complete a worthwhile display . I like to add Rosemary and Bay to give an aromatic aroma.
There’s nothing more rewarding and achievable than making your own Christmas 
Arrangements and Door Wreath to welcome your Family and Friends during the festive season .
I hope you all thoroughly enjoy bringing some of your Garden in inside to make a 
Joyous Christmas and very good wishes for a happy time.

Wishing you a Happy Christmas and enjoy your Garden.
Margaret Finch 

Last Week’s Blog

Our Gardens this year have been even more of an important space, to not only to do gardening jobs but to use this as a work out rather than the gym, to relax in, to meet friends and play. My own Garden has been a true blessing and now winter approaches. It’s not going on hold! The joy of our Seasons are very welcoming and a great challenge .The importance of  colour is paramount as our days have low light levels.

This may be a common shrub but gives a punch and much pleasure to any Garden.

Euonymus emerald and gold is a vibrant statement which can be grown up walls with a little support or as a stand alone shrub even good in a container. It  makes brilliant cut  foliage in flower arrangements for the house having a long lasting life in water.The showy yellow and green foliage can have a tinge of red when frosted adding a Christmasy ambience. In the Spring very small white flowers can appear on older Shrubs with small red/pinky berries in the Winter.

Senecio renamed Brachyglottis has distinctive silvery foliage reflecting light a charming shrub. Easy to grow and suitable for any well drained soil even chalk. Coping so well in full sun due to its thick oval almost Downey Silver foliage . Responding to hard pruning which keeps the stems young and very useful for flower arrangements lasts a long time,

I do cut off the yellow flowers when they appear in the summer to maintain the silver foliage over all appearance.

Not only are bright and cheerful shrubs uplifting our spirits in the winter garden to capture a waft of Sarcococca is extremely heavenly. The dark glossy leaves conceal tiny white flowers at the back of their stems a great contrast planted near the vibrant Euonymus and in a position where you visit regularly also another good foliage to use with flowers and decorating the home for Christmas and a great idea to add to your wish list, if you don’t have any Sarcococca they don’t disappoint.

More great garden material to use for home decorating in the next Newsletter.

In the meantime continue to enjoy your Gardens.

Margaret Finch


This Week’s Questions & Answers

  1. Winter Lawn care cut and feed

We have had so much rain that our own lawn is looking greener than all year and still
growing, so we will still be mowing, but not as short and not every week as normally.

So, still cut but don’t feed with a fertiliser -but you can give a feed of Potassium for length and resists to disease and infection.

Sweep up fallen leaves and any debris so leaves don’t sit wet and soggy and makes the grass yellow and die.

Spike over with a fork to make holes to allow to breath and help drainage. 

Don’t walk on the Lawn when it’s frosted as this leaves black marks!

I like to shape the Lawn around Patio areas with a edging halfmoon iron and edge
borders to smattered lines for the Winter.

Hope this is useful.

  1. Over wintering Sweet Peas

    Congratulations if your Sweet Peas Have germinated.

    Tip to help germination, once sown water well and cover with Newspaper and leave
    until shoots appear.

    Pick out the main Sweet Pea stem when there are at least 2pairs of leaves or more this makes
    the plant produce side shoots which you keep to produce more flowers next year or 1 strong stem.

    When side shoots have grown they can over winter in a cold frame.

    Sweet peas will cope with 25 degrees before needing protection

    Don’t over water keep on the drier side

    Could stay in a cold Greenhouse if well ventilated 

    No need to feed

    Plant out late March onwards 

    I can already smell your sweet success 
  2. Is it too late to plant bulbs

    You must have read my mind -never too late

    Our latest Gardening Blog is about planting Tulips

    November being the best time to plant see more in the Guest Blog below.

    Not too late for Narcissus or Daffodils, but I would plant these before the 
    Tulips. Still time to plant Crocus ,Iris and Hyacinth outside

    Give a little sprinkle of bone meal if you have any

    Plant deep to help bulbs for repeat flowering next year

    If there’s still bargains late still plant into January they will flower but later

    Still plenty of time to plant Wallflower, Polyanthus and Pansies look great with bulbs

    Nothing better than the arrival of Spring and enjoying all your hard work planting 

Now November is here it’s the best time to plant an array of amazing Tulips. There is a
Tulip for everyone, with 15 divisions,150 species, 3,000 varieties a huge colour palette 
to choose from single striking colours incredible harmonies and contrasts.
So many interesting triumphant shapes from small and dainty tall and fluted double and frilly and fluffy Parrot Tulips with sumptuous colour combinations.

Although treated as Annuals, they need to be planted deeper, at least 8” inches, in well-drained soil with
a little grit to rest on and a sprinkle of bone meal. There’s no real benefit for digging up drying or discarding as some gardeners do at the end of flowering. I dead head in early summer and they will flower again.
There are the species perennial range with fascinating colours and mostly dwarf .
They need time to establish so plant in an area that is sunny and can be undisturbed. 
Mostly single headed but some with multi headed stems 

Now is a good time to plant your Tulips as they like to root in cold ground and less viral
and fungal diseases. Bulbs can be planted in borders or pots a lovely thing to do and it’s fun to assemble lasagne layered containers with early and late flowering varieties
adding Narcissus and crocus bulbs.
Wallflowers ,Pansies and Polyanthus make very good companion plants to Tulips flowering at the same time and lower so the Tulips are still on parade they always look as if they are standing to attention.
What is there not to like about Tulips giving us joy in our Gardens from March to May 
with so many different varieties.

A few interesting facts about Tulips

Originally from Central Asia making their way to Turkey in the 1560’s name from Turban
making their way to the Netherlands with the spice trail.

They are part of the Lily Family and flowers have perfect symmetrical petals.

Symbol of The Parkinson Disease Foundation 

Long lasting cut flower – the next popular flower to the Rose on Valentine’s Day and grow
another inch taller in water.

Tulip Mania spread through the Netherlands in the late 16 century with bulbs selling for
as much as a Amsterdam Canal House

Flowers meaning perfect and true love.

What is there not to love about Tulips, so we should ‘ tip toe through the Tulips ‘

Enjoy your Gardening 

Margaret Finch 


This Week’s Blog

This is the time of year when a prominent site displayed on our doorstep is the Pumpkin shining bright orange with a scary or beaming smiley faces, but Pumpkins are not just for Halloween.They are well worth growing for a great soup vegetable and for fun although 90% water. To achieve the British record of 1000kg you need to be extremely dedicated and of course the right variety. My efforts of growing one to 120 kg now seems small but I was delighted at the time and an average weight being from 1kg upwards still makes me feel proud .It’s a fantastic hobby and well worth growing.

There’s lots of different varieties with great names a lovely small Pumpkin ‘Becky’ is a manageable size or Ghost rider, Howden Big Boy and Hundredweight much larger makes them exciting to grow. The Squash has a great flavour to mix with the Pumpkin as a soup. It has similar growth patterns, some growing on ground vines or a bush like Courgettes.


My favourites being the Uchiki Kuri which is sweet and nutty and Sweet Dumpling with it’s distinct cream and green striped skin. I like growing the ornate Turks Turban for decoration although edible. Squashes Store well and will keep for months being sweet and high in fibre unlike the Pumpkin.

My tip for cooking both is to cut in large slices or in halves for the smaller ones.

Place skin down on a foil covered baking tray with a drizzle of oil ,Nut oil the best a little 

Pepper and salt, roast for half an hour until soft and enjoy as a roasted vegetable or use in soup or risotto .

A vegetable well worth growing and definitely not just for Halloween.

Enjoy your Gardening and stay safe.


Questions and Answers with Margaret Finch

If you have any gardening questions you would like answered, please e mail us at

  1. When is the best time to prune roses?

Rose Pruning – in the South of England March is a good Pruning time, in Scotland- April.Cut to the ground any Dead, Diseased and Damaged parts and  
cut out any crowded and crossing stems.

If H.Ts. Cut down to three to four buds above ground 
Leaving shorty study stems of about 6 inches.

Take out the above 3 D’s and 2C’s. Any old stems as flowering will be on last year’s growth. Fan out and tie in these new stems and reap the benefits of your hard work.

2. We seem to be having a problem with white fly on our hellebores?

Sorry to hear the problem I’ve not ever seen the white fly on Hellebores but understand 
the problem.
I would cut to the ground affected leaves as soon they need cutting down anyway.
Give a good mulch to help energies plant and keep moisture in the ground. You could use an insecticide if there are still white fly and do this after flowering again next year. 
Good luck would hate not to see them growing.

3. What is the best way to manage fruit trees?

Always a good idea to water in very hot weather and when planting any tree s, a plastic pipe planted with top just at soil level so the tree can be watered and reaches roots. Look in Garden Centres for winter insecticides to protect against any pests left from this year and sticky bands for Spring on the trunks to protect  against codling moth.

Young Apple trees can be tip pruned in the Summer to reduce leaf cover and promote fruit growth.

We prune old very old trees from January to February back to two buds. Don’t forget the 3D’s  remove Dead Damaged and Diseased Wood and 2C’s Prune out crossing and crowded branches.

Only prune Plums after flowering 
Only prune cherries  and pears lightly.

And I hope you have plenty of Fruit 


This Week’s Blog: Saving Seeds

As a Gardener there’s lots of Plants ,Bulbs and Seeds that I would like to spend my pennies on, but it’s money saving and very achieving to save some of my own seeds.
One of the best and reliable seeds to save and store are from the Bean family whether they are a recent variety or an old family favourite which makes saving your own so important to continue growing heritage varieties.
I let some of my Beans mature and completely dry on the vines before picking and finish ripening in the Greenhouse then shell the Beans, dry thoroughly until very hard and place in air tight jars or brown paper bags and label. One thing I have to get better at -as by next year’s sowing time however good your memory is lots of other things have happened and yes I can hear myself saying ‘ so there’s the label’
Immediate labelling is needed!!.
One of my fondest memories is planting Runner Bean seed with my Grandfather not only being introduced to Vegetable growing but now realise that as you get older the ground is most definitely farther away so there was obviously a cunning plan here with young help, but I still remember the lessons and the all-important trench that the Beans were planted on. So it’s time to think about digging your trench and filling it this Winter with grass cuttings, vegetable waste and other moisture retentive material.
 One very useful Bean that I’ve grown this year is the Barlotta Lingua Di Fuoco dual purpose Bean that can be used as a fresh green pod no need to string or  as a dried Bean has beautiful red striped pods when ripe and coloured seeds. Other successful seeds can be saved from Tomatoes, Peppers and Peas.

Enjoy your Garden and all the latest seed catalogues for next year’s planning, I’m now spending what I’ve successfully saved.

Margaret Finch

Last Weeks Blog:- British Seasons

The magic of our  British Seasons never fails to impress us as Gardeners with awesome colours and the little treasures that return as old friends every year.
I’ve just spotted the emerging stems of Nerine Lillies with their spear like stems that flower leaf less and have the most dainty spherical heads of waxy petaled Flowers. They can be pink, red and white and make long lasting cut Flowers. They enjoy a sunny location and well worth watering when in leaf to help flowering.  

Also making a great show at the moment are the Michaelmas daisy or Asters enjoying the late Autumn sun, attracting plenty of Bees and Butterflies to their open daisy like blooms giving a good splash of colour.

Shrubs are also showing a vibrant glow of Autumn colour, the Forsythia has taken on a brilliant burgundy hue before shedding its leaves for Winter .This is one of the most impressive times of year for Trees showing off their splendid colours and an interesting small Tree is the Sorbus a Mountain Ash, good for a small Garden with brilliant coloured foliage and berries Joseph Rock having yellow berries.
My favourite Autumn Tree the Liquidambar is showing off it’s best red, purple and gold leaves almost Maple shape.The intensity of colour is awesome and well worth admiring.
Our for ever changing Seasons keep our Gardens alive with such fantastic interest making our Gardening pure pleasure only to be enjoyed.

Happy Gardening!

Margaret Finch

Don’t Forget – you can ask Margaret any gardening questions

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