Carlos’ Garden


Great blog, it is very inspiring when you are able to impart knowledge to young people who have an inbuilt passion towards growing food. Give them the tools to create a plan of action and they will follow it, satisfied with the rewards that nature will bring to them. Thank you

Originally posted on garden 98110:

Note. In February, Carlos and his Parents asked if I would help Carlos plant a Spring Vegetable Garden. In late Spring, we planted peas and built a pyramid of bamboo. You can follow the links back by clicking [here]. Next year, Carlos is in the fifth grade.

CG1_0906In three days, school is out. A tribute to the fortitude of parents and teachers. In Carlos’ Garden, there is no small anticipation. Moments slip into the future. Carlos has learned to make a list. And follow it. It is not as easy as it seems. Try it.

Helping others work peacefully is a good goal, too. Peaceful paths prevent conflict. In our apartments, there is a lot of yelling out of windows. This leads to conflict. We are learning new ways to communicate without window yelling.

IMG_0375Above. Carlos’ vegetable garden looks fantastic. No weeds. Wonderful carrots.

CG3_0906Carlos finished watering on his…

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What shall i do with my Hedera helix (Ivy) ?




Hi everyone.


I put this blog together very quickly as I am looking for some advice/solution to a client problem I have at present. Not a client problem so much as an issue that needs resolving in his garden.



When my client moved into the house they planted Ivy (Hedera helix) to grow up the outside of the building. For the last 5 years I have been maintaining it to a certain depth by cutting it 3 times a year April, july and September. It always looks good and we keep it under control, a certain distance from the fascia to prevent damage.  


Also we are next to stables so on discovery of a ‘rodent’ issue in his loft due to them climbing the Ivy and gnawing through the fascia, it made perfect sense to increase the gap between the two. Since then… problem solved! 

Now due to the depth of the Ivy from the wall, he has suggested that I cut it right back to within 3 inches so as to start again. There are huge gaps of empty space between the wall and the outer layer of Ivy in places and there is always the possibility the wind could pull it away from the wall.



My worries with this are concerning timing… when would be the best time to do this… I am guessing from mid-March to mid-April ??? How long will it take to grow back… will it return to normality after such a severe shock (could feed if necessary to promote new growth straight afterwards).

If you have experience of this sort of issue I would be most grateful for any advice that may condemn or confirm my approach.

Many thanks,

Paul (The Lone Gardener)


Orpheus at Boughton House (Pictures)

Orpheus at Boughton House in November 2013


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Long time missing !

Time for an update


So the start of a new year is fast disappearing and we are quickly approaching Spring. What has been happening with The Lone Gardener and, have there been any changes at The Manor?

Well some good news first – I am pleased to say that I have finally employed an apprentice, Rhys, who at the age of 17 has started his career life on the path of horticulture. On a previous blog, I mentioned how difficult it is to find skilled horticulturists mainly due I feel to the attitudes of people who consider gardening to be unskilled work. Rhys continues to show interest learning plant names (Latin) along the way and we have also had our second visit from the NVQ assessor based at Oaklands college.

If you own a garden design or maintenance company and looking to expand your business, you will appreciate the difficulty in employing skilled staff which is why I decided to take on an apprentice with a view to them becoming an integral part of my business plans. You will get to meet Rhys in the future as when he starts planting the veg garden I will be encouraging him to blog on here with me. I am sure he will be sharing advice and pictures on what to plant and how to get the best results from a small patch in your own garden and the benefits of growing your own veg.


We have been making some changes at The Manor including moving our poly-tunnel to a more noticeable area in the garden. For a long time we have struggled to grow wild flowers regularly in a 100 square metre area put aside specifically for this. It was in 2011 we had our best results, creating a blank canvas having removed the top 2.5cm of clay soil and replacing with poor quality soil and sand in the hope that we would improve the drainage thus improve soil texture and encourage a continuation year on year of the wild flower meadow.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWildflower Garden – Before and after      AUG2011 (6)

At the end of the season, the wild flower garden was maintained as it should have been, cutting back in late September once the seed heads had dried out then leaving to re-seed over winter and in late March, early April we added another 2.5kg of seed and also some poppy seed. The summer of 2012 saw a disappointing abundance of weeds creeping through and colour limited to white and yellow, with a few cornflowers poking through randomly and surprisingly no poppies. We did try to remove weeds but because of the size of the area it meant leaving a noticeable trail when we walked through it and after maintaining central areas it never seemed to sit right afterwards. So we have now covered the whole area with a weed membrane, positioned the poly tunnel in the middle and will be planting the surrounds with various perennial bushes, some trees (on the west side) and scented bushes such as Philadelphus virginal, Lonicera fragrantissima, and Syringa. As for the project ‘inside’ the poly-tunnel we have electric, heat, and light (new LED lighting) and no excuse for failure so are hoping to grow vegetables, salad leaves, herbs, strawberries continually from early Spring and are also hoping to force some flowers through early so as to extend the season when supplying flowers to the house.

At the moment we are only growing a small amount of plants from modules, 200 Aubrietia, 200 Wallflowers, 200 Primula, approx. 50 Auricula cuttings and geranium cuttings and 50 honeysuckle so the poly tunnel is looking very empty indeed.



We have also been rebuilding some steps where the timber had rotted away in the Dell and also moving bamboo that has grown where we don’t particularly want it to a place we do, not to mention planting a 2m tall Indian bean tree and 2 small Ginkgo biloba. We have also been working our way along the 75m long pergola tying in Laburnum, cutting back clematis of different description, shortening Wisteria and pruning rambling roses.

June2013 (105)

Soon it will be time to prune the apple and pear trees in the orchard and I have just ordered 15 new bare-root roses which I will add a separate blog on in the near future… there is so always so much to do.

I have lots more to tell you, my experiences with a local networking group, my final 5 months of college (roll on June 2014) and some other interesting things going on but I will save that for next time…

Hope all you budding hortics out there are as optimistic about 2014 as I am !

Feel free to leave any comments or advice and if you live in Hertfordshire and require a qualified, skilled, experienced gardener please feel invited to give me a call on 07827 973959

The Lone Gardeners Affairs of the Heart

Become a scientist!

If you have ended up here looking for a job as a trainee gardener than ‘Welcome’, please read a little about who I am and what I am looking for. Thank you! If you are here just to read my blog than thank you for your time and feel free to comment. Kindest regards, Paul, The Lone Gardener.

History of Business

The Lone Gardener was started in 2009 where most of the work was caring for small local gardens and a few commercial sites (doctor surgeries) that needed regular maintenance. The work was sufficient to earn me a ‘survival’ income but as an unskilled gardener (£7.50 an hour) it would always be difficult to accumulate enough income to cover for the period between September to March when inevitably business would be very slow.

As of February 2009, I was fortunate to obtain work as a subcontractor helping to maintain a 2 acre specialist garden which left me in awe. Outstanding specimen trees, sweeping borders 30 metres long, waterfall, bog garden, cut flower garden, metres of finely trimmed hedging of various heights and varieties and a pond that has had several pounds of investment to house the koi carp. It would be a surprise to know that this particular garden has had approximately 1 million pound invested into it since 1997, when originally the paddock was purchased from a neighbour with the sole aim of creating a private Eden.  I say “I was in awe” quite simply because I had never seen anything on such a large scale in a private domestic garden and I certainly would never have been able to maintain this garden without some sort of plant knowledge or education. Time was spent researching and looking through books at plants familiarising myself with various types of weed and how to identify them, timings for pruning plants, how to treat disease (the orchard has always been a struggle mistakes by previous gardeners, most trees are cankerous due to bad pruning) how to maintain lawns etc. so much to learn!

Sadly, 3 months into the contract the client decided to terminate attachment to my business acquaintance (due to his reluctance to do anything that didn’t require a hedge-trimmer, a mower or a strimmer!) requesting me personally to take on the contract full-time. Amazing! What a privilege to be trusted with such an investment, SCARY TIMES. Personally I didn’t feel I was ready so adopted an alternative plan which became a short lived nightmare!


In discussion with the client he suggested I should go to college, which I did in September 2009 and by June 2010 I had passed my RHS Level 2 Certificate in Horticulture given me much confidence and understanding in regards to plant physiology, environmental issues, control of pest and disease, propagation of plants, nutrients, plant science and much more. For those that have studied at RHS level you will understand why this was so important.

During this time (Aug 2009-Aug 2010) I had been able to bring in a contractor with experience to take full control of the contract writing me in as a subcontractor at ‘x’ amount of hours, hoping that he would offer me inspiration and act as a mentor however it didn’t work out as planned. He was hardly ever there personally expecting me to do most of the work yet happy to take the large chunk of money and then supply young teenagers that were in fact doing more harm than good and then when he approached the client suggesting he wished to remove me from any future contract in Aug 2010 I decided to put forward my own proposal and have never looked back. I was deeply upset by his lack of professionalism and unmoral conduct as at the time his business was struggling and not only was I able to help him through a quiet winter period I saw it as a chance for him to engage with this project making it a portfolio piece to promote his company and skills but he simply saw it as a cash cow and left me looking unprofessional. Throughout all this I constantly had the backing of the client and the trust that we have developed over the last 4 years is as a result of great communication. I must mention that from 1997-2009 there had been 9 head gardeners in control at The Manor at various times, all dismissed for whatever reason. May I also remind you that in 2009 I had only just decided to become a gardener, unskilled, and now 4 years on I am qualified and charge a bit more than £7.50 an hour! I am not telling you this to promote my ego it is merely to show to you what can be achieved if you wish to change career or embark on a career path that will surely be successful if you have the right attitude.


Method to Success

The main consideration here is that my client had invested up to a million pound over a 12 year period and wasn’t getting the high standards he was searching. This needed to change. It was imperative that this garden was maintained to the same standards you would expect at Hampton Court or Blenheim Palace and it simply wasn’t happening even with huge investment. Sometimes as a gardener you have to work unusual hours it is not a simple 9-5 job, yet predecessors had viewed it as a simple maintenance contract. It was through due diligence and hard work not necessarily knowledge that I was able to secure the contract in my unskilled capacity and it allowed me the chance to study, further my education and use this first hand in my every day working life. In seeing how useful the previous course had been I didn’t hesitate on starting a degree in Horticulture and Garden design at Moulton College in September 2011.

In return ‘The Manor’ has become a labour of love but in a positive way and although the money was important the satisfaction of creating a picture worthy of that sort of investment became an obsession and 4 years on we are certainly closer to where we need to be.

The Present

“The Manor” has and will always be important to The Lone Gardener as it is the primary source of income however it also opens up so many opportunities for my business. As a sole trader it is only possible to do ‘x’ amount of hours per week but given that this garden has such a broad spectrum of opportunity  it is the perfect training ground to learn the skills necessary to deal with ALL issues in the world of horticulture. I have had to structure my time by organising maintenance plans, weed management, pest and disease control especially in the orchard, how to manage certain plants to promote their strengths and prolong their qualities, schedule of events for plant and lawn maintenance and also a prime objective is how I can reduce the amount of maintenance in some areas by using weed membranes or alternative planting schemes. Changing areas that are overgrown like our woodland walk into springtime bliss with bluebells, snowdrops and anemones and improving plant selection in borders and the cut flower garden.


 As a business I now have the skills necessary to expand with confidence with the understanding that credibility and reputation is significantly important to be successful and for this it is imperative that you study and become certified in whatever profession you choose to partake.

Now the time has come for me to look to the future so if I am to make progress I need to expand my business with the aim of acquiring at least 3 regular contracts of this nature as a solid foundation. For this I need additional recruits and if they step up like I did, than its just possible that they could have a great career in horticulture ahead of them and the prospect of becoming a part of The Lone Gardener which I can assure you will bring its own rewards.  If you are 16-17 years old now and looking to the future, realistically with qualifications in 3 years you could be earning £25,000 a year in an industry that is desperate for skilled workers. If you feel that you have what it takes you should contact me at but you must live near Markyate in Hertfordshire and be willing to work as hard as me !


The Future

I am extremely interested in Sustainable Development and recently attended a presentation on Living Walls and Green Roof’s. This is an area that I would like to research more as the whole concept of living walls is a fascination to me. Imagine looking at the fascia of a building 50 metres tall covered in plants in the middle of a city, then try to imagine what a whole street may look like. Is this the future utopia that we should be aiming towards as a civilisation? We continue to build and develop the land with disregard for nature yet if we integrate nature into our cities then this in turn could reduce pollution and improve the quality of life for so many. In the western world living walls are a new concept however they are slowly being brought to our attention with projects such as the one at Borough Market in London and Victoria Station. As a business this is very interesting to me both financially and morally but I would need to be secure in the knowledge that this doesn’t contravene time spent maintaining ‘The Manor’.


I am in the final year of my degree (June 2014) and hope to have more time when it is completed but already I have planned where I want to go next and should you be fortunate to come and work with me than this too could be part of your future. Expansion into an untouched market that with incentives from the government possibly in the future, will become huge with many companies addressing their corporate responsibility duties towards their carbon footprint by installing living walls and green roofs and by recycling water.

I hope that this has been informative to you if you are considering a career change and I would be happy to offer advice on courses or training providers however realistically what I am really looking for is someone who is 16/17 years old and wants to work hard, study and earn lots of money. Is that you ?

Thanks for your time, TLG

Would you like a job ?

Cactus Dahlia

Usually I write about my gardening activities however I have an issue affecting the direction I should take with my business.

For 3 months now, after trying many different avenues of exploration and studying local demographics I have still not managed to employ someone.

I would like to draw your attention to this article by the RHS explaining the ample opportunities that lie within an industry that’s worth over 9 billion pound a year and the fact that there just simply isn’t enough skilled/qualified gardeners to fill all vacant positions. It doesn’t help when the prime minister states that people on benefits should do something more constructive with their time, some unskilled labour, like gardening for example. How can an industry worth, I remind you “9 billion pound” a year be respected when our very own PM denounces the skills necessary to become a skilled gardener (horticulturist). Should it really be down to celebrities like Monty Don and Alan Titchmarsh explaining the issues to government in much the same way Jamie Oliver had to highlight the issues of school dinners being un-acceptable. Except in my opinion this is more serious… because if we do not wake up to the fact that our resources are forever being depleted and the global population is increasing, and that the land needs much work globally to make it fertile in order for us to succeed in feeding the world decades from now and unless we start teaching horticultural science at a lower age group, helping them develop into skilled horticulturists, farmers, plant hunters, scientists,  than where is the food going to come from. We see the ash die-back this year a serious disease affecting the ash family with little we can do about it. Without people with the necessary skills to analyse the disease how can we prevent the spread and although you may be saying, oh its only ash trees, what if it had been apple trees or pear trees or potato plants… disease has  a way of manipulating its way into crops that we aren’t even aware of…

What if all the food shops closed tomorrow which yes I am sure is not going to happen but how long would it be before you would starve if you only had the food you grew to live on ??

Anyway, my point is originally I was looking for someone experienced to manage a 2 acre garden for me offering £15k per annum for 12 months a year (not pro rata) but this turned out to be beyond difficult. I spoke to various local college lecturers at all the Horticulture colleges in a 60 mile radius, Shuttleworth, Moulton College, Oaklands, Writtle, Capel Manor and although posting jobs on virtual notice boards and my email being sent to students I had only 2 replys both of which were unsuitable (no transport)

I have since adapted my approach deciding to opt for a 16/17 yr old apprentice as it appears the government are offering small incentives for businesses to make this worthwhile. However if they are over 18 when they begin a course I would have to pay for their education rather than the government ?

I have posted adverts locally in my village shops, post office, submitted enquiries to Oaklands College for any people they could consider suitable, advertised the position at Hertfordshire Youth Connexions website, put the application on to the national apprenticeship website notice board. My next step is to contact schools directly through a business acquaintance from my network group in the hope of finding someone.

The fact is… if you are willing to spend 3 years educating yourself, whatever age… you could be earning £30k PA before you know it !! In an industry that is recruiting !!!

If you ask me… it’s a no brainer.

If you are interested in the position then email me… SOON !



Love your garden and it will love you back !

It has been a few months since our last chat and I wish to confide that life for me during that time has been extremely fantastic. I have finally completed my 2nd year FdSc in Hort & Garden Design (1 left to go) and have busied myself through February to April sprucing up the Manor for the 3rd spring running. So if you have seen my previous blog you will know how much work was put in through the Winter months having the added back-up of a Polytunnel which has been extremely successful. I bought approx. 1200 plug plants wholesale and have managed to keep at least 70% alive !!! I am now being rewarded with the capacity to plant areas on mass for example 150 Lathyrus, 150 Dianthus, 150 Passiflora, 150 Delphinium… the list goes on. Antirrhinum, Monarda didyma, Anchusa, Verbena, Sweet Williams… HOW MUCH FUN NOW !!!! So much planting to do lol :)

Anyway here are some pics to get the wheelbarrow rolling…

1500 tulips planted in November

1500 tulips planted in November

More tulips

This was so worthwhile… my client was amazed to see it all the way from his bedroom window. Planting on mass gives great effect from a long distance


We also planted 2000 daffodils this year on mass along a bank and a portion of flat ground behind it.

Fagus sylvatica 'Atropurpurea'

Fagus sylvatica ‘Atropurpurea’

I can assure you that even though it looks slanted it is merely the angle at which i took the shot :)

The waterfall is always a delight in spring so here are a few pics…


WATERFALL2A lot of time and effort was put in to the long sweeping border that is the Walled garden so named as it has a curved wall around the back. The major issue here is the 50ft conifers that drain the soil of resources however with careful plant selection the fullness we have been hoping for is finally coming together thanks to the mass planting of perennial Geraniums and Heuchera not to mention the previously planted (last year) Laurels and Photinia which help fill it out around the base of the trees. The laurels, Prunus laurocerasus have also had a flush of scented (cherry blossom) flowers which so many people miss due to early pruning with the dreaded hedge-mauler! The Mahonia are slowly returning to normal after being moved from the secret garden, we’ve added two Salix babylonica ‘Chrysocoma’ in a gap between 2 of the conifers, choosing this variety specifically as we have trouble with Willow anthracnose at the other end of the garden. (They allegedly have a better resistance to the disease. Anyway here are some pics of the Walled garden.

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Amelanchier May2013 (38)

From a distance the impact is amazing. Here is what the border looked like this time 2 years ago…

AUG2011 (4) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA SEP2011 (3)As a gardener I would highly recommend Heuchera at the moment !

Finally something I really don’t want you to miss ! Every year I painstakingly spend hours tying down Laburnum along the roof of a 70m long pergola. There are approximately 15 plants either side spread along the length which offer us a display of yellow chandeliers drooping through the ceiling of the pergola for about 2 weeks ! Is it worth it… what do you think… The wisteria’s and clematis also add to the effect as do some of the finest scented roses, yet I have to be honest the Laburnum is the focal point of this huge creation and although it only lasts 2 weeks it truly is stunning !

June2013 (90) June2013 (107) JUNE2013 PERGOLATo give you an idea of how long it is here’s a long distance shot from last autumn… Thats about 2/3rd of it !!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo before I leave you, although I haven’t cut the box hedge yet here is our parterre freshly planted with geraniums about 3 weeks ago… Hope you enjoyed the pictures, I will try to be back soon with some shots of the cut flower garden, the sweet peas, passion-flower, the peonies are amazing right now as well… Oh dear… wish I had more time… Bye for now

Thanks for your time,

The Lone Gardener