Royal gardens: Gardening tips from the Queen’s florist

Britain is now in its seventh week of lockdown. With people confined to their homes, they are spending more time on jobs and hobbies they can undertake from within their homes such as cooking, DIY and gardening. But what gardening tips has the Queen’s gardener shared for all those working on their green thumb?

Garden centres became some of the first businesses allowed to reopen this week.

The Government shut them down completely in March, but now Britons are able to visit garden centres once again.

Boyd Douglas-Davies, President of the Horticultural Trades Association, told the BBC the move is likely to be hugely popular across Britain.

He said: “We’re a nation of gardeners and garden centres have been the heart of that for 30-plus years.

“We’re part of the cultural landscape.”

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Several events have been cancelled this year as coronavirus social distancing rules continue to disrupt events.

However, lucky for flower fans the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show will still take place this year.

The show was one of the first summer events to be cancelled because of the lockdown, and the Royal Horticultural Society has been working ever since to get its top gardeners involved in a virtual replacement.

The BBC will air daily evening shows and the RHS website will give viewers the chance to see personal flowerbeds of their award-winning gardeners.

New research suggests those who have access to a garden and actively use it have better mental health than those without a garden.

A study by a team of researchers from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom and the Royal Horticultural Society found private garden spaces improve your health.

Lead author Dr Siân de Bell, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “A growing body of evidence points to the health and well-being benefits of access to green or coastal spaces.

“Our study is one of the largest to date to look at the benefits of gardens and gardening specifically.

“Our findings suggest that whilst being able to access an outdoor space, such as a garden or yard, is important, using that space is what really leads to benefits for health and well-being.”

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But what plants does the Royal Family’s florist Shane Connolly advise you to buy first in these unprecedented times?

Melon seeds

Speaking to the Telegraph, Mr Connolly said melon seeds were advisable to buy now.

Melons are a sweet and tasty summer treat and grow best during August and September.

Melons are closely related to cucumbers and require similar conditions to grow and thrive.

The Royal Family’s florist said: “I’m excited to get my hands on melon seed, perhaps Sweet Granite or Sugar Cube (F1) – or even a few melon plants like watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) or cantaloupe (Cucumis melo var. Cantalupensis).

“Any type available will do me, because I’m desperate to grow melons in my greenhouse, despite how tricky it is.”

Water lilies

Water lilies need calm, still water to grow successfully ideal away from disturbances such as waterfalls, fountains or pumps.

They are best planted between late spring and late summer in an open position with full sun exposure.

Mr Connolly said: “I’m looking out for Nymphaea virginalis and Nymphaea Snowflake for the pond.

“I love the virginalis as it has a strong scent and is free-flowering, making it a beautiful addition to my garden with minimal effort. The Snowflake, on the other hand, is irresistibly pretty.

“I hope both aren’t too rampant as we still want to see the water and had a bad experience with some pink ones, which would have easily filled a two-acre lake!”

Organic fertiliser

Organic fertiliser is made from animal matter, animal excreta (manure), human excreta, and vegetable matter (e.g. compost and crop residues).

Mr Connolly said he plans to buy organic fertilizer as a priority.

He said: “I’ll make a beeline for some organic seaweed feed made from cold-pressed kelp, as it’s packed full of nutrients and can be a real powerhouse for the whole garden.

“If I can’t get hold of some, I’ll pick up some peat-free, wool-based seed compost from Dalefoot, as I’m running on empty.”

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