To help support wildlife and address the declining bee population, the UK’s leading home improvement retailer B&Q today announced its flowering plant range, available from February 2018, will be grown free from all neonicotinoid pesticides. The move means the retailer is the first to commit to ensuring no neonicotinoid pesticides are used in the cultivation of flowering plants, particularly pollinators where they present the biggest risk of harm to bees. B&Q previously led the field by removing from sale, ahead of legislation, pesticide products containing the three neonics most associated with bee population decline: imidacloprid, thiacloprid and clothianidin.

“As part of our commitment to supporting Britain’s wildlife, in 2013 we reviewed the use of neonicotinoids in our garden chemical products,” explains Rachel Bradley, B&Q’s Sustainability Manager. “As a result of the findings, and ahead of EU restrictions, we withdrew all pest control products containing the three substances most linked to the decline in bee population.  We are now able to confirm that, to further support pollinators, we are encouraging everyone to do more for wildlife and to that end we will ensure that none of the flowering plants we sell will be grown using any pesticide containing any of the nine neonicotinoids.”

The announcement comes on the launch of a new report from B&Q, ‘The Nature of Gardens’, that examines how gardens can be good for nature and how that can be good for us. Though gardens in the UK are changing, every outdoor space, no matter its size, can deliver benefits for wildlife. The report also examined people’s attitudes towards supporting and engaging with wildlife and the environment, seen through the lens of gardens, with a focus on what prevented Brits from doing more.

The report, written in partnership with Bioregional, a charity and social enterprise which champions sustainable living, found that 67% of people were concerned about wildlife in Britain and 63% believed that there was a benefit to bringing wildlife closer to home. However, one in five people with small gardens admitted they did nothing for wildlife citing time, space, money and lack of knowledge as the biggest barriers.

Great Yellow, Credit Bumblebee Conservation Trust

To show how people can do more to support nature outside their own homes, B&Q created 10 Top Tips to Bring Wildlife Closer to Home – that are specifically tailored for the UK. Designed to be easy, requiring minimum cost, time and space, the tips include advice on taking part in wildlife surveys, creating a bird café, giving wildlife shelter and planting for pollinators, demonstrating that helping local wildlife is far easier, more accessible and rewarding than most realise.

The report also found that scientific evidence confirmed the wellbeing benefits of connecting with wildlife are extensive, from better educational attainment, a better sense of wellbeing and better long-term mental and physical health.

Rachel Bradley, Sustainability Manager at B&Q who spearheaded the report, commented “At B&Q, we’ve been helping people to support wildlife in their gardens for years, through advice and products ranging from pollinator-friendly flowers to pond liners. But until we commissioned this report we didn’t realise quite how important our gardens could be for nature. And while we’ve always known that people love connecting with nature in their gardens, we’ve found overwhelming evidence that garden wildlife and greenery is good for us too. We want to help everyone to do a bit to bring nature closer to home, and to enjoy it more too. That’s the aim of our top tips. It’s easy and affordable, makes a real difference and you don’t even need a garden – you can green up a balcony or a doorstep.”

Nick Schoon, Policy and Communications Manager at Bioregional who wrote the report in partnership with B&Q commented “Our gardens have amazing powers to do good for nature and good for us. There is a wealth of evidence for this out there and now we’ve brought it together to make a really strong case. By looking after wildlife and nature in our gardens, we’re helping to look after ourselves and our planet. The good news is that millions of us are already doing something, and millions more could easily join in.”

‘The Nature of Gardens’ is also supported by RPSB, Butterfly Conservation, Royal Horticultural Society and The Wildlife Trusts.

B&Q’s Top Ten Tips to Bring Nature Closer to Home:

  1. Look out for wildlife & share your discoveries : Becoming a citizen scientist by taking part in wildlife surveys is a great free way to become more aware of what’s already out there. The more you talk about what you are doing, what you have seen and encourage others to join,  in the more fun it becomes.
  2. Pop up a bird café: Offering food and water is the fastest easiest way to attract new visitors to your space.
  3. Plant for pollinators: Nothing says summer like the sound of bees buzzing and the sight of butterflies –fragrant flowers in a pot or a bed are an irresistible addition.
  4. Give wildlife some shelter: A log pile is great for butterflies, bug houses provide homes for mini beasts, a leaf pile for hedgehogs or install a bird or bat box – for best results make sure you are careful with positioning.
  5. Get nature savvy with your shopping: Use fewer garden chemicals.  Look out for pollinator attracting plants and insist on forest friendly wood and peat free composts to help nature near and far.
  6. Just add water: A pond can be any size, even a buried bowl can provide a home for various mini-bugs and insects like damsel flies. Constructing a pond using a preformed shape or flexible liner will give much greater variety. Create shallows so that plant life can flourish and allow wildlife to enter and leave. But don’t have a pond if you have small children around. A bird bath provides water for birds to bathe and drink.
  7. Max out the green: Nurture what trees and shrubs you have and bring more in wherever possible. Nature needs habitats at all levels so trees are fabulous but climbers are super space efficient.
  8. Help wildflowers flourish: Plant a mini meadow in a pot, wildflowers in your borders or just spare a patch of lawn to let the grass and flowers grow long.
  9. Open hedgehog gateways at the bottom of your fence: One of our most loved species, hedgehogs love to roam, but fencing can be a barrier. Creating a gateway either in or below your fence will make life easier for them.
  10. Make your cat safe and seen: The United Kingdom is home to 7.5 million cats. Cats can be a threat to wildlife but a bright collar and bell can reduce risk, as can keeping them indoors from an hour before dusk and an hour after dawn.

Import Substitution for Oak

The HTA launches a report today on import substitution of oak trees (Quercus species). Since 2013, the UK has imported 1.12 million oak trees, according to official Defra statistics. There is a great opportunity for the UK to increase production of this iconic tree, thereby boosting the economy and improving biosecurity.

The report identifies the reasons for the high import levels of oak, and suggests collaborative solutions for industry and government to address them. The main challenges are to improve supply chain efficiency, improve public procurement and market conditions, and encourage better sourcing of UK-grown trees.

The horticulture industry exhibit at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show (40 Sunbury Road – GPE169 in the Great Pavilion) celebrates the oak tree with a fabulous specimen supplied by Majestic Trees, and a beautiful fairy wood of seedling oak, hazel, birch and horse chestnut, grown by school children.

Kevin Hobbs, Raoul Curtis-Machin and Adam Wigglesworth with the Oak Report

Raoul Curtis-Machin, HTA Director of Horticulture, says:
‘There are no physical reasons why we shouldn’t be growing most of our own oak trees in the UK. We hope to discuss this important report with the new Government, once they are settled after the election. It would be great to work together to achieve manifesto promises of millions of trees during the life of the next parliament. The exact same promise was made in the last one, and this fell short.’

The report Import Substitution for Oak (Quercus Species) can be downloaded from



A survey by Squire’s Garden Centres has found that a massive 93% of people said that gardening helps keep them fit and healthy, and 20% of people surveyed said that it was their main form of exercise.

Sarah Squire, Deputy Chairman at Squire’s said, “Gardening is a great way to achieve a low impact workout, full of movement and stretching but without the strain on the joints of pounding the streets. Plus best of all it’s free!”

Warm up to gardening

81% of people questioned by Squire’s said that they never stretch or warm-up before gardening, so to make your gardening workout even better Squire’s advise a ten minute warm up and stretch to help avoid any aches and pains.

It’s not just plants that need water in the garden

Only 39% of people surveyed said that they drank water while gardening. Tea or coffee was the drink of choice for 38% of people, 9% drank nothing at all, and 2% of people surveyed enjoy an alcoholic beverage while gardening!

“Just as you would drink water in the gym you should also do so while gardening, as dehydration can lead to increased muscle stiffness after exercise.” said Sarah Squire. “So remember, it’s not just plants that need water in the garden – you do too!”

Gardening is good for your mind, body & soul

As well as being good for your body, gardening is good for your mind and soul too. 92% of people felt that gardening gave them space to think and clear their mind. 45% of people surveyed said that gardening made them feel happy, and 40% of people said it made them feel relaxed and calm. So make regular time for yourself in the garden. Spending time outdoors helps us to feel less stressed, improves our mood and enhances our concentration by allowing us to recover from mental fatigue.

Sarah Squire added: “The therapeutic effects of gardens and gardening are well known, and our survey results demonstrate this, with 92% of people saying that gardening gave them space to think and clear their mind. I defy anyone not to feel relaxed and let the cares of the day slide away in a garden.”

So don’t bother donning Lycra for a grueling exercise class, simply pop on your wellies, get outside, and be a happy gardener!


Common sense says you need to check that your barbecue is in good working order, on a flat site away from a hedge or shed and not a magnet for unsupervised children and pets. Never leave it unattended.

If using a charcoal barbecue, invest in an Outback Charcoal Starter to get it going, never have petrol anywhere near, and put only cold ashes in the bin.

With a gas barbecue, make sure the regulator tap is off before changing a cylinder, which should be done outdoors, and brush soapy water over pipe work and joints to check for bubbles from leaks.

Use a sharp knife to check juices are running clear and meat is done, while press fish flesh with a fork to check flakes come apart – indicating it’s ready.

Always allow a grilled steak or roasted joint to rest in foil on the top rack for about five minutes to keep it juicy and tender.

Unless you’ve invested in a piece of well-hung organic meat, which needs only a brushing of oil and some sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, then everything else will benefit from a marinade.

With the exception of shellfish, marinade overnight when possible, do not use salt, lemon or lime juice in a marinade for longer than two hours, and avoid pineapple juice.

To avoid a smoking barbecue avoid using extra virgin olive oil in the marinade – save it for the sauce and salad – and marinade in a strong plastic bag before emptying into a glass or stainless steel container.

Always use a separate container or plate for marinades and cooked dishes.

Hillier Supports National Sun Protection Campaign

The start of the growing season is here, with thousands heading off to their local garden centre. As well as tips on how to look after their plants, visitors to Hillier in Eastbourne will soon also be given advice on looking after their skin.

Hillier is joining over 150 major garden centres across the UK in promote Watch Your Back! a sun protection campaign backed by a team of celebrity gardeners, including Alan Titchmarsh, Charlie Dimmock, Joe Swift, Toby Buckland, Andy Sturgeon, Anne Swithinbank, David Domoney and David Stevens.

The campaign, now in its second year, was devised by the Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund and is also supported by the Garden Centre Association, The Professional Gardeners Guild and The National Allotment Society.

Although we are all vulnerable, Watch Your Back! targets men over 50 who spend a lot of time outdoors as they are 70% more likely to develop melanoma, typically on their backs and in areas that are hard to spot leading to a later diagnosis.

Melanoma rates in the UK have more than quadrupled over the last 30 years, however many of us, especially men, still don’t understand the need, or have the motivation to use sun protection regularly, check skin for signs of change or know what to look out for. This attitude may explain why more people in the UK die from melanoma than in Australia or New Zealand, both of which have the highest incidence in the world.

To help impact this, Hillier is promoting the following advice:
PROTECT: Wear SP30 sunscreen, sleeves, a hat and seek shade between 11am and 3pm
DETECT: Regularly check skin for changes and ensure you know what to look out for
PREVENT: Melanoma and other skin cancers, but enjoy your time outside

The campaign has the support of a number of high profile horticulturalists. “This campaign makes huge sense and reminds gardeners that their own health is every bit as important as that of their plants,” says Alan Titchmarsh MBE. “Too many of us are unaware of the true dangers of over-exposure to the sun, and how sunburn can lead to melanoma and other skin cancers,” comments Joe Swift.

Top tips from the experts
The charity has worked with Mr Siva Kumar and Mr Samuel Orkar from the MASCU (Melanoma & Skin Cancer Unit) at Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead to produce a set of sun protection tips, a guide to skin checking and information on how to keep skin healthy, designed especially for all gardeners.
Visit www.melanoma-fund.co.uk for further details.

Book a skin check at Hillier Garden Centre Eastbourne
Hillier Garden Centre Eastbourne will be hosting a Skin Check Clinic, overseen by Mr Siva Kumar and his team, on Saturday 20th May from 10am – 3pm. If you would like to book a spot, visit:

Dobbies Celebrates National Gardening Week

Dobbies is gearing up for a busy Easter weekend as people prepare to stock up on gardening essentials and take advantage of the better weather by spending their time outdoors, having fun with the family and getting the garden ready for the summer months.

This week (10 – 16 April) is also National Gardening Week – the perfect excuse to get your kids interested in gardening and excited about spending time outdoors.

A recent survey by Dobbies revealed that although 63 per cent of adults enjoyed playing in the garden as kids, only 13 per cent of UK families are currently spending time in the garden together. Dobbies is determined to change this over National Gardening Week by getting families to enjoy the outdoors, enlisting the help of its very own horticultural expert, Andrew Fraser, to provide some helpful hints and tips on how to get your garden summer-ready and encourage kids to get green-fingered this Easter.

Andrew said: “National Gardening Week falls over the Easter weekend this year, making it the perfect time for you to show your garden some love while spending time with the family.

“Whether you’re a gardening novice or a plant expert, we have a huge range of potted plants and accessories available that make looking after your garden simple.  Plus, with these top tips, hopefully the kids will be excited about creating and maintaining a garden to be proud of too”.

Andrew’s Top Tips for Family Garden Fun

  • Gardening might not be the Easter holiday activity of choice for many youngsters but there’s some simple ways you can make it fun – and maybe even a little competitive. Why not set kids a gardening challenge – give them a dedicated spot in the garden to plant flowers and plants. Who will keep them blooming all summer? Let them be creative in how they choose to decorate their space – encourage them to add some large painted pebbles, wind chimes or even a bird feeder.
  • Hanging baskets are a great way to add a splash of colour to small gardens, but why not try planting strawberry plants in them instead of your favourite flower. Kids will be eager to see their strawberries grow and excited to finally be able to eat them. Or, try creating your own speedy windowsill garden filled with herbs or salad leaves. Children will love to get involved, so make them part of the action – and be sure to encourage them to taste the delicious bounty when it’s ready to eat.
  • Easter is the perfect time to gather friends and family and, if the weather holds out, there’s nothing better than enjoying some time together in the garden. While the adults relax, the kids will love an at-home Easter Egg Hunt. Just hide some small eggs around the garden and have some chocolate on hand for the winner – guaranteed egg-cellent fun!
  • Finally, a mini gardening kit makes a great Easter gift. Include things like gloves, and overalls or a packet of seeds and brightly coloured watering-can. As well as some plant pots and paint so kids can decorate their own with bright spring colours or an Easter-themed design. Once your kids are kitted out with the best of gear, they’ll be excited to spend time outdoors, helping you in the garden.

Dobbies has everything you need to celebrate Easter and National Gardening Week including great offers in gardening and plants, as well a Spring clearance with up to 70% off in homeware and gifts. There’s also a selection of in-store activities including Easter Egg Hunts where your child will receive a chocolate treat. Visit: /spring/easter/ to find out what’s going on in the store nearest you as well as some more tips from Dobbies on creating a memorable Easter.

New Gardeners Set to Cause a Buzz on the Mr Fothergill’s Trial Ground

Seed specialist employs 20,000 new workers on flower and vegetable trial ground in readiness for its buzziest summer season yet!

A colony of honey bees is settling into a new home on the Mr Fothergill’s trial ground, ready to reap the pollen-rich rewards of over 2,250 flower and vegetable varieties being assessed for garden performance this summer.

Mr Fothergill’s technical manager Alison Mulvaney took on the colony three years ago, when it swarmed on a plum tree in her garden, and has tended to them in a purpose built hive ever since. Last year the colony rewarded her with her first batch of honey, producing more than 40lbs of golden nectar.

With UK bee populations in massive decline, Alison was keen to provide the colony with a safe environment, rich in pollen sources, on which it could thrive, while raising awareness of the importance of these perfect garden pollinators.

The trial ground location in Kentford, Suffolk, is the perfect des-res for the colony queen and her 20,000 plus workers. It is the bee equivalent of having a supermarket on your doorstep.

Foraging honey bees will travel up to 6 miles per day in the search for pollen. The Mr Fothergill’s colony will have everything it needs within meters of the hive. Alison says the queen is already busy laying eggs to increase the size of the colony ready for the summer season.

On site for the past week or so, workers bees have been busy orientating themselves to the new location and have settled in well. The colony has already made the most of spring blossom, with Mr Fothergill’s staff noticing worker bees bringing back lots of pollen of various colours. They really will be spoilt for choice when the trial ground starts to colour up as summer approaches.

Alison said: “Now that the bees have a new home, we will be setting up a staff bee group to help look after the hive. It is a fascinating and rewarding hobby, and we are not going to be short of volunteers. Staff are looking forward to learning more about them.” Alison continued by saying: “It isn’t just about helping to support a threatened species, our bees will have a practical role to play too. Having them on site will be really useful in helping us pollinate the hundreds of peas, beans, tomatoes, peppers and squash we grow each year.”

Home gardeners can help bees by growing a wide range of flowers, ideally that bloom at different times in the season. Look out for the RHS perfect for pollinators logo on the front of Mr Fothergill’s seed packets that indicates good varieties for bees.

Mr Fothergill’s is urging any gardeners faced with an unwanted beehive or swarm to contact the British Bee Keepers Association to arrange for a swarm collection, rather than a pest control service. Visit www.bbka.org.uk/swarm to find a swarm collector near you.

Consumers to feed to have a blooming patio this season

Easter is the perfect moment to plant pots and hanging baskets for vibrant blooms throughout the spring and summer.
To get the rewarding results they are hoping for, consumers need to remember to feed their plants.  A little regular feeding will encourage strong, healthy roots, lush greenery and vibrant blooms.
The team at SBM Life Science is encouraging retailers to help consumers get great results by highlighting the benefits of feeding. “The potting compost in the container has the nutrients plants need for the first few weeks but once it is exhausted, watering alone is not enough for colourful, long-lasting blooms.
“Within our Baby Bio® and Phostrogen® ranges we have a solution for every type of gardener, whether they are happy to feed regularly or would prefer to keep things nice and simple with a slow release fertiliser.”
New this season is Phostrogen® Slow Release Plant Food & Moisture Control.   A 2-in-1 product, it feeds and waters plants, helping them produce big, vibrant blooms.  Containing water storing crystals, it absorbs 400 times its own weight in water, reducing the need for watering by 75%.  Lasting up to six months, it releases the water and feed as the plants need, saving gardeners time and energy.
It’s incredibly easy to use; just mix Phostrogen® Slow Release Plant Food & Moisture Control in with the compost as you pot-up your containers and hanging baskets.
Baby Bio® Pour & Feed is ideal for indoor and conservatory plants, as well as outdoor plants in pots, containers and hanging baskets.  It encourages vibrant blooms and bigger, greener leaves and it is enriched with seaweed.
Quick and easy to use, just pour the mixture directly around the plants.
With added seaweed extract, Baby Bio® Outdoor Flowers & Shrubs is a unique boosted plant food, which helps plants produce up to 70% more flowers compared to being unfed.
It’s great value: the 750ml bottle of concentrate makes up to 75 litres.
Phostrogen® Patio Plant Food is ideal for planters, pots, tubs and hanging baskets.  With a great nutritional balance, it encourages vibrant colours and bountiful blooms all summer long.

Fallen Fruits celebrate five years of iPad ordering with PixSell

The sales team at garden giftware suppliers Fallen Fruits have been equipped with PixSell iPad ordering since 2012. Fast forward five years, and the app is a mainstay for the business at trade shows, and out on the road.

“PixSell cuts out several stages of our order processing. It is a real timesaver”

Before adopting PixSell, rep orders would be taken out in the field via pen and paper to then be phoned back to head office. They would then be manually inputted by the admin team as a picking note. “With PixSell, a picking note is now sent automatically to the warehouse,” General Manager Carole D’Arcy told us. “This cuts out several stages and really speeds up the process. At Fallen Fruits we have a bespoke sales order processing system which links to our Sage back office for accounts. PixSell ensures that the order is received straight away and we can quickly put together a customer invoice to then send out.”

“We are able to closely monitor all prospect and customer activity so our sales team are always aware of their schedule” 

At head office, having all the sales team information to hand on a mobile app means that Fallen Fruits are able to monitor their sales performance, and also manage their current and potential customers. “With PixSell’s rep activity reporting we can effectively see what all of our reps are up to,” Carole said. “We have a list of all our current and prospective customers and we can see how each order is progressing and look at when we next need to contact someone. This is something we utilise regularly.”

“At trade shows, we create daily reports which helps us stay on top of our stock levels and we review sales for the previous day. All of the sales team can see their individual orders and it creates a healthy competition between the reps, encouraging them to sell the most!”

“The iPad is a great selling tool and gives us a professional image of the company” 

Moving away from the more traditional way of taking orders via pen and paper, the sales team at Fallen Fruits are pleased with the impact PixSell has had. “For some of our reps, adopting PixSell was a learning curve and they are now confident, and really like the system,” Carole said. “Using the iPad gives a great image of the company and makes us appear very professional. We update our new ranges twice a year and this is shown on PixSell by using the presentation screen. This makes it very easy to showcase our products to a customer, and it looks very high-tech.”

“Aspin are always on hand to help”

A major positive for Fallen Fruits is the service and training they have received from Aspin throughout the implementation of PixSell. “The Aspin Support staff are second to none,” Carole said. “They are always on hand to help and their patience is incredible. In particular, we have found the training for PixSell essential to really ensure that our reps are on board with using the app successfully.”

Many thanks to Carole D’Arcy at Fallen Fruits for her feedback.

Get your pumpkin seeds ready for April 12th – National Pumpkin Sowing Day

Next Wednesday, April 12th, is National Pumpkin Sowing Day and horticultural mail order company, Thompson & Morgan is urging the British public to get involved. Whether you’re a gardener or not, it’s easy to pop a pumpkin seed into a pot of compost and watch it grow.

Thompson & Morgan launched a specific seed sowing day in response to the many pumpkin-related queries it receives in October when pumpkins are in shops in the lead up to Halloween.

“We sponsor the UK’s giant pumpkin growing competition each autumn and we always get so many enquiries at the weigh-in, asking how to grow pumpkins at home”, said Paul Hansord, T&M’s commercial director and himself a keen pumpkin grower.

“So we’ve decided to set a date and once people have sown their seeds, we’ll support them with growing tips and advice – whether they’re aiming to grow a giant record-breaking pumpkin or a good-sized one for carving at Halloween.”

Thompson & Morgan made the news in 2016 when the firm paid £1,250 for a single pumpkin seed. Its pedigree was proven when RHS Hyde Hall’s Matt Oliver won the award for the largest outdoor-grown pumpkin from this very seed and now the seeds from his appropriately-named, ‘Matt’s Monster’ can be purchased from T&M.

For those wishing to grow a more modest-sized pumpkin other pumpkin seeds are available from T&M, such as ‘Jack Of All Trades’, (TM00630 £2.49 for 10 seeds) for carving at Halloween or for those who simply have a penchant for pumpkin pie or a hearty pumpkin soup.

T&M will be supporting pumpkin growers after they have sown their seeds with information on how to grow giant pumpkins and on growing regular pumpkins for Halloween on its website, as well as with timely posts on social media.