Rainy day gardening.

Interesting reads for garden addicts.

I discovered Caroline Beck, from Verde Flower Company, on Instagram . Caroline runs a flower growing business in a Victorian Walled Garden at Burnhopeside Hall near Durham. She has a blog and writes about the trials and joys of gardening within those walls in the north of England. I thought you would find it interesting and she has kindly given permission for us to reproduce her latest newsletter here.

I can highly recommend her website and blog for further viewing! www.verdeflowerco.org.



This has been one of the most gruelling winters I can remember, a perfect storm of hard weather and hard lockdown.  This weeks’ announcement that by midsummer we might be approaching something that looks like the lives we remember, suddenly makes the prospect of guiding a business based on people, on celebration and on joy through another season feel less of an uphill struggle.  And because we’ve started sowing seeds this week, June 21st is hardly any distance at all. 

The tentative good news, the sudden onset of some more temperate weather and the feeling of things starting to move again after month of stasis, has been an inoculation against the darkness of winter.


The past couple of newsletters have been written whilst the snow has been falling thickly on the walled garden.  During the week of sub-zero temperatures it felt like we were being doubly punished.  We’re used to working in the cold, but when the temperature never gets above zero, it’s hard to keep your spirits up. 

Then on February 15th the thaw came.  In the morning the snow was blanketing the garden, by dusk it had melted away leaving the snowdrops standing proud above the wet winter leaves.  Becky and I downed tools one afternoon to go snowdrop hunting and spent a happy hour traipsing through the woods comparing petal length, doubles and singles, and lime-green splashes on the pure-white petals.  Then back to the potting bench, where Becky laid them out to photograph.  After the frenzied uncertainty of last year, we’re determined not to let any moment of this precious spring pass by un-noticed.

One day we worked in shirt sleeves, and watched buzzards displaying overhead, mewing like kittens.  We’ve put bird feeders around the wooded periphery and now the bare stems of hawthorn are thrumming with small birds.  There’s a family group of roe deer in the woods, and several times we’ve seen them melting away into the trees at dusk as we walk back up the track.  Our resident hare has started to visit, as big as a dog.  The earth is waking up again.



Inevitably we have lost a few plants, but given the temperatures not as much as we feared.  The narcissi, scilla and tulips in the glasshouse are growing almost before our eyes, and this week the blossom on the peaches and nectarines have begun to burst.  When we moved the business here in late 2019, the glasshouse fruit trees were dried out, under-nourished and sick.  We carefully pruned and fed them, fingers crossed behind our backs, but without much real hope.  To see them now studded with delicate scented blossom has made our spirits soar.


Now the work begins in earnest.  We start sowing thousands of flowers, herbs & grasses this week - as soon as we get roughly ten hours of daylight, it’s time to start - and then the dahlias will need coaxing into life again, the vegetable and herb beds will need planting up, the bees will wake up, the autumn sown sweet peas need training up their canes in the glasshouse, and, and and…. 

But instead of feeling overwhelmed as I did last year, now I feel hopeful and full of energy.  The walled garden is an extraordinary place, and we’re lucky to have a landlady who appreciates what we’re doing.  Last year cemented the feeling that Verde is not just a business, but a wildlife friendly, truly sustainable flower farm where people can come and see what is possible in their own garden, or yarden or roadside verge.  If lockdown has revealed anything positive, it’s the subtle appreciation of what’s on your doorstep.  Beauty is not in the future tense, but now, in the everyday.

Forensic Botany  -  Do you know what it is?

An introduction by Anne Webb who will be giving us a talk on the subject in February 2022


In normal circumstances [remember those?], you would have been looking forward to a talk about Forensic Botany...at least I HOPE you would have been! This relatively recent addition to the forensic science toolbox has got me excited. Very excited.

Forensic Botany is the knowledge of plants helping the police to solve crimes. The Botany bit is an umbrella term, as you probably already know, for a wide discipline of plant science. This talk concentrates on a couple; how growth of certain plants can help in saying how long a body has been somewhere and how pollen, seeds and fungal spores can tell the story of a crime scene, what has happened and where.

Let me give you an inkling of what can be deduced simply by knowing your plants.....

"She won't be buried under the ground at all. She's in a hollow, off the path and will be covered over with birch twig litter...".

I suspect that if Mystic Meg had walked in to a police station and told the duty Sergeant, that he might have asked her to take a seat, and made her a cup of tea whilst he called a cab .... but this was not Mystic Meg's vague psychic prediction but what Professor Patricia Wiltshire was able to tell police, by analysing the soil from a suspect's belongings! That is why I'm so excited by this topic.

If the subject of Forensic Botany didn't seem to be your thing before, I hope you are now looking forward to the talk. See you all in February 2022.

The Therapeutics of Gardening in Winter


Early February can be depressing but so many gardeners give themselves a lift by self-prescribing fresh air and, of course, gardening.

There is no doubt that I am not alone in believing that gardening makes me happy. And being happy is very good for your health. The NHS includes gardening activities in the new policy of social prescribing.

The evidence is mounting massively. Kansas University found that women (but not men!) in an emotional state felt better just by looking at red geraniums. These studies were done using EEGs on the brain.

Other research shows that gardening boosts oxytocin (love hormone) levels – low levels are associated with depression.


Additionally, research from Hokkaido University shows that, when you are in woodland, the phytochemicals trees produce reduce stress, blood pressure and increase your well-being.So give yourself and the garden a good early kick-start now, wrap up and get outside.

(credit: Bunny Guinness, The Daily Telegraph)

So it will be red geraniums in the village again this summer!                   Sue

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