National Trust’s first garden centre opens

The National Trust’s first garden centre at Morden Hall Park will officially open on Saturday 9 May.

The 5,000 square metre garden centre is the only outlet in the UK to be completely peat free, selling a range of plants and shrubs in line with the conservation charity’s principles.

The National Trust's new garden centre at Morden Hall Park in South London.  Credit Sophia Schorr-Kon

The National Trust’s new garden centre at Morden Hall Park in South London. Credit Sophia Schorr-Kon

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Taking weeding to the extreme!

Having a head for heights is a pre-requisite for the four strong team of gardeners at St Michael’s Mount, located just off the south Cornwall coast.

As part of the work to conserve the 12th Century castle, the granite stone walls need weeding three times each year to ensure the walls are constantly kept clear.

St Michael's Mount where gardeners go to 'extreme' lengths to keep the walls weed free. Credit Steven Haywood

St Michael’s Mount where gardeners go to ‘extreme’ lengths to keep the walls weed free. Credit Steven Haywood

The only way the gardeners can carry out their work is to abseil down the 50 metre high castle walls. Continue reading

National Trust garden gems to feature in new BBC 4 series

Three National Trust gardens are set to feature in a new BBC 4 series uncovering the rich social and horticultural history of four British heritage landscapes in April.

The Parterre at Biddulph Grange Garden. Credit Stephen Robson

The Parterre at Biddulph Grange Garden. Credit Stephen Robson

The four-part series, British Gardens in Time, explores the grand Georgian landscape at Stowe in Buckinghamshire (NT), Biddulph Grange, a superb example of a Victorian garden in Staffordshire (NT), the romantic turn-of-the-century Nymans in West Sussex (NT) and Christopher Lloyd’s dazzling 20th century garden, Great Dixter in East Sussex which is privately-run. Continue reading

Gardeners urged not to panic over the heat

Keep flowers in bloom during the heatwave with our gardener tips

Keep flowers in bloom during the heatwave with our gardener tips

Gardeners have only two rules to follow when dealing with long periods of heat, according to National Trust gardeners.

These are: water pots and herbaceous beds in the morning and evening only and don’t panic into watering grass.

With a 25 acre garden to look after, the 6-strong team at the National Trust’s ScotneyCastle has more than 84 years of experience between them and is well placed to offer gardening advice.

Paul Micklewright, Garden and Estate Manager at ScotneyCastle, said: “Like other National Trust places, at Scotney we never water grass, even in a heatwave.

“Grass is very good at dealing with a lack of water, even if it turns brown it will be able to bounce back when the rains return later in the year.

“For pots and herbaceous beds, it’s best to water first thing in the morning or last thing at night to avoid damaging plants.

“When the sun shines on water it can act like a magnifying glass, burning the leaves below, so it’s best to avoid the times that the sun as it its highest.”

For more tips on caring for your garden in the heat, visit

Weekly Witter: Plot to plate- Heelis’ glorious garden allotments.

This week sees the launch of My Cool Allotment– an inspirational gardening book by Lia Leendertz, that mentions the tranquil allotments set within the office courtyards at Heelis– headquarters of the National Trust. Gardener Phil Osman takes us through what the Heelis allotments are all about:

The vegetable gardens were initially installed at Heelis in spring 2009, at first there were 6 raised beds which since has increased in number to 10. Plants and seeds are supplied by volunteers from the Heelis gardening club which meets once a month to drink tea, chat about gardening and on occasion actually review what we do!

The produce grown, which includes salad leaves, herbs, rhubarb, and last year tomatoes is picked and delivered to the kitchens to be used by the catering team. Phill Osman and Anne Whiteside meet early each year to decide what to grow in the coming season, tea is drunk, biscuits eaten and plans drawn, and then it is off to the green house to sow seed.

The Heelis allotments- tranquil green space within a busy headquarters

The Heelis allotments- tranquil green space within a busy headquarters


The rain is relentless, such a disappointment after the promising early spring weather, salad crops are in, the shallots and onions will be ready to come out soon and runner beans planted. Just need some sun now!


Well at least the hosepipe ban isn’t having a great effect on us! We keep planting and it keeps raining, everything is so slow to come on, the only things that seem to enjoy the weather are the snails and slugs! Tomatoes are in, a first this year, but I do wonder how they will do.


A brief respite from the rain, just as well as we have Lia Leendertz visiting to ask some questions about the veg garden for a book she is writing. So all hands to the pumps to make sure it is looking its best, Have to say that considering the awful weather so far it does all look very promising.


Summer it seems has passed us by this year; at least we haven’t had to water regularly. The tomatoes have done far better than I expected but are now inevitably showing signs of blight so they’ll have to come out. The battle with slimy predators is relentless; I really don’t know where they all come from.


Salad crops are still going, which is a tribute to the never ending efforts of Anne et al even with the appalling weather this season they have managed to keep a steady supply of produce going into the kitchen. Donna is our first line of defence against slugs and snails and without her regular forays I think they would have had more of what we grow than the catering team!


Harvest the last of the seasonal salad for the kitchen and start to tidy up for winter, although like many others we don’t seem to have had a summer.


Onions and garlic planted have topped up some of the beds with compost. Sweeping up leaves which seem to go on forever! Should have a good supply of leaf mould compost for next year. All spruced up and tidy for the AGM, We are doing a display about the gardens in the atrium this year.


Dodging showers, final weeding, turning over, adding more compost and netting the kale, cabbages and chard in an attempt to keep the pigeons off.

Last gardening club meeting of the year, tea and cake and all hoping for a better season next year.


Meet Anne and Donna to chat about what we are going to grow this year, the tomatoes were a surprising success last year so we’ll repeat those again. Several of the beds need top soil added, one for a little later on when it’s a bit warmer! A request for some Chicken manure from my two hens Thelma & Louise to mulch the Rhubarb crowns.


It is so cold!!!!! Snow, rain, gale force winds, the new shoots on the Rhubarb crowns have taken a real battering even though they have been well mulched, the onions and garlic we planted last autumn don’t seem to be doing anything, We have started sowing early lettuce but it will be too cold to put them in the green house to bring them on at this rate.


It’s still cold!!!!!! Anne’s seedlings have become to leggy to use so they have been scrapped and fresh batches sewn, we have been able to let the catering team have some kale and purple sprouting broccoli, the rhubarb is attempting a comeback and the onions and garlic are just showing some signs of life.


It seems to be getting slightly warmer, at long last! It was almost pleasant barrowing in two tons of topsoil last week! Fresh seedlings have actually made it to the green house, have digitalis, borage and field poppies ready to plant and sow under the fruit trees. Hopefully the cold will have an adverse effect on our resident snail population this year; otherwise its back to our tried and tested control measures, Donna picking them off by hand!

Heritage gardens benefit from major new plant conservation centre

Rare plants from National Trust gardens across the country will be propagated at a new Plant Conservation Centre that will improve the way one of the most important plant collections in the UK is cared for.

Opened today by international plantsman Roy Lancaster, the new 2.5 acre facility at a secret East Devon location will bring together plant propagation facilities, plant collection management expertise and facilities for training National Trust staff on all aspects of caring for the important plants in the gardens they look after.

The opening of the new facilities comes at a time when the spread of new plant diseases in the UK, in particular Phytophthora ramorum which causes Sudden Oak Death, have required an acceleration of emergency propagation to ensure the survival of threatened specimens and the supply of disease-free replacements.

The £700,000 Centre’s immediate focus will be to build on existing plant conservation work at Knightshayes Court [1], also in Devon, to help staff and volunteers record and identify the special plants that require priority propagation at National Trust gardens throughout the country.

Mike Calnan, Head of Gardens at the National Trust, said: “The National Trust’s portfolio of plants is of immense importance and is one of the most significant collections in the UK.

“The aesthetic, historic and botanical value of the plants is what makes the gardens we look after so special and give pleasure to more than 12 million visitors each year.

“This is the most important plant conservation initiative from the National Trust for more than 60 years and will have a legacy for decades to come.”

The charity cares for over 20 major collections of trees and shrubs including thirty National Plant Collections and hundreds of plants that were first raised or collected in the wild around the globe and planted in National Trust gardens over past centuries.

Roy Lancaster said: “The new Plant Conservation Centre is a hugely important development for the National Trust, creating for the first time a single facility dedicated to the vital work of conserving the important plants in its properties.”

In addition to the Centre’s work for the National Trust, a new bespoke propagation service for major private plant collection owners will be offered for the first time.

Nursery Manager Chris Trimmer said: “This is an exciting new commercial development for the Plant Conservation Centre. By offering access to our expertise and first class facilities we can contribute to important plant conservation work beyond the National Trust.”

Propagation services are also available to Trust countryside properties wishing to save or bulk-up rare native species.

The National Trust gardeners who will be working at the Centre recently propagated and helped save over 300 old Cornish apple varieties now successfully established in the ‘Mother orchard’ at Cotehele in Cornwall. [2]

Charlie Port, who worked for the National Trust at Knightshayes Court and is now one of the volunteers that will be working at the new Centre, said: “Working in the propagation unit is extremely rewarding.

“I’ve been involved with propagating plants for the Trust for 25 years now and during that time we’ve had thousands of successes.

“I get huge satisfaction from the idea that some of the plants I have handled will be around for hundreds of years to come.”


 For more information please contact the National Trust press office on 0844 800 4955.

Notes to editors
It has taken 18 months to set up the new facilities which include a quarantine unit, propagation facilities, growing-on glass houses and tunnels, offices and student accommodation.  Two full-time members of staff and five volunteers are directly involved on site and further plant survey and plant collection interpretation volunteers are involved at numerous properties throughout the National Trust.  An important aspect of the new site is its enhanced biosecurity and greater capacity for propagating plants.

The Plant Conservation Centre (PCC) is also home to the Trust’s plant collections specialist who advises on all aspects of plant surveys and data management. The Trust’s plant database now contains details of 300,000 plants from 80 of the Trust’s 200 gardens recorded so far.   Through the PCC, the Trust will continue to work with other organisations, such as the Royal Horticultural Society and RBG Kew, on joint national conservation initiatives.

[1] The National Trust first set up a propagation unit in 1982 at Knightshayes Court, near Tiverton, where nearly 25,000 rare and significant plants were propagated and distributed to Trust gardens over 30 years.  The new facilities will be able to process up to 12,000 plants at any one time. The vacated land at Knightshayes will now be used by the garden team to expand the kitchen gardens.

[2] Much of the Tamar Valley fruit industry prospered on land owned by the Edgcumbe family at Cothele so it is particularly apt that some of this land has now been dedicated to establishing an orchard of old Cornish apples. The Mother Orchard, as this eight-acre meadow at Cotehele is known, has been planted with 300 trees representing 120 apple varieties, all propagated from Mary and James Edgcumbe’s collection by staff who will be working at the Trust’s Plant Conservation Centre. Local cherries have already been planted, and pears and plums will follow in a second phase. 95 per cent of orchards have disappeared nationwide since 1950 and along with them rich ecosystems, precious genetic material and tangible links to our past. Thankfully projects like the Mother Orchard, and similar efforts throughout Britain, are stemming this loss of cultural and horticultural heritage.

The National Trust looks after more than 250,000 hectares of countryside, 710 miles of coastline and hundreds of historic places across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. For more information and ideas for great value family days out go to: