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Where My Love of Gardening Began

Growing vegetables

I love gardening.  I really love gardening.  I like nothing better than planting up a tiny seed and the magic of seeing it grow into a beautiful plant or vegetable.  I find being out in the garden or in the fresh air, takes you into a totally different place.  You forget about all of the things that are going on in your daily life.  You are so immersed in what you are doing, that all of your cares and worries slip away.

Gardening is good for the body, health and your wellbeing.  It is a good exercise.  It means that you are outside in nature and all of the health benefits of that.  It is something that you can quite happily do alone, or you can share your interest with friends and family.   It is also a good way of making new friends.  People who garden have always historically shared seeds, plants, and the products that they have grown.

My Inspiration

My love of gardening began when I was a child.  My parents bought a plot of land when I was a toddler and built an architect-designed house and then it was their joy to design the garden and to plant it all up.  They both loved gardening and would spend many hours out there tending to it and growing stuff.  My grandparents also loved gardening.  My grandmother was a wonderful cook and seeing her make delicious meals out of the produce from the garden was always a delight.  My grandfather was a Miner and like many Miners, their working life was so hard, that having an escape like gardening was somewhere that they could get away from the challenging, difficult life that they lived every day.  My grandmother had infinite patience. Whether it was gardening or cooking, she always took the time to involve us and to teach us how to do things. 

You can never have too many flowers…

My kind of garden is a Cottage Garden full of flowers and vegetables with fruit trees.  I grow as many plants to attract bees and butterflies as possible and don’t use chemicals or sprays.  I like curves and paths that lead you to something unexpected, rather than having straight lines and uniform planting.  I grow mostly perennials or hardy annuals.  I grow very few summer bedding plants, as for me, they are a very expensive way of having a pretty garden and take an awful lot of maintenance.  Oh and ponds, I always have to have at least one pond and currently have three.

How long does it take to create a garden?

I have moved many times and have always inherited a garden that has either been neglected, or that has become overgrown and unloved.  I love the challenge of bringing houses and gardens back to life full of birds, bees and butterflies.  I have also proved the old wives’ tale that it takes 10 years for a garden to establish.  I have lived in my present home for 10 months and it is a riot of colour and my vegetable plots are keeping me fed and providing enough for me to fill my freezers and to preserve for many months to come.

I hope that you have enjoyed hearing a little bit of why I became involved in gardening and why I am so passionate about it.  Please follow my blogs to find out more about me and to learn hints and tips about how you can become a gardener and maybe even feed yourself and your family.

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Ali Matthews – The Love Gardening Shop Owner

Love gardening shop vegetable box

My name is Ali Matthews and I am passionate about gardening and growing things. 

I decided in 2021 during the Covid Lockdown to set up a website and Ecommerce Store which is all about my love of gardening.  I design lots of different products that you can buy that either have lovely pictures of flowers, or that have slogans about gardening and gardeners.

I also blog about many different aspects of gardening and I hope that you can learn from my helpful hints and tips.  Some people tell you that it takes a lifetime to build a garden, but I am the person who can prove that this is just a myth.  I have moved many times and each time brought an overgrown or deserted garden back to live full of flowers, vegetables, bees and butterflies.  I also try to always have a pond of some kind, as this is the best way to encourage all kinds of wildlife, from the bees and birds that drink from it, to frogs, toads, damselflies and dragonflies.

My gardens usually consist of cottage garden plants which all spill over into each other and vegetable plots that grow a large selection of different things for me to eat and to share with friends.

I hope that you will enjoy my products which range from T-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, leggings, bags, mugs, tea towels, blankets, pillows to children’s clothes.  If you are looking for something specific and can’t find it, e.g. you would love a T-shirt with a picture of a foxglove on, email me on and I will do my best to accommodate your request.

Looking forward to sharing my love of gardening and over 40 years of knowledge with you. 

With warmest wishes.


Ali Matthews

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High Glanau Manor – NGS Garden Visit

High Glanau Manor, Lydart, Monmouth Gardens open to the public

A hidden gem with the most stunning views.

My first visit out after lockdown to a NGS Gardens Scheme open garden was to High Glanau Manor, in Lydart just outside Monmouth.  The house and gardens are less than 10 minutes’ drive out of Monmouth and are a peaceful, calm oasis.   The house is privately owned by Helena and Hilary Gerrish who have lovingly resorted the garden to its former glory and is understandably not open to the public.

The History

 It is a beautiful Arts and Crafts house which was built by Henry Avray Tipping in 1922-23.  Tipping was an architectural writer, the Editor of Country Life Magazine and a garden designer.  The house is set in 12 acres of native woodland, with formal gardens, a productive kitchen garden and 100 year old wonderful greenhouse, with all of the heating, water and piping still in place and I assume operational, such as you would see at the renowned Heligan Gardens in Cornwall.

Rhodenderons at High Glanau Manor

The views towards the Vale of Usk and the Brecon Beacons are stunning and you can only imagine sitting on the terrace watching the sun rise or set in such a blissful place with a cup of tea or glass of wine.  The landscape must change dramatically throughout the year when the trees change colour during the autumn and then burst back into life in the spring.

On Arrival – The Bluebells

When you park in the field which is the car park, you then walk towards the house and gardens via a long drive which is full of native British bluebells and primroses.  Unfortunately due to the cold weather that we are currently experiencing, the bluebells had not quite opened up, but they must be spectacular once they have opened their blooms in a week or so.

There are a range of terraces and pools as well as a 100ft herbaceous border which has not quite come out into bloom, but will be fabulous once it has.  There are numerous tree peonies which were out in bloom and were a stunning yellow, reminding me of huge buttercups.

Garden pool at High Glaneau Manor

The garden has become a labour of love for Helena Gerrish and she has done a wonderful job of restoring this house and garden back to their former glory.

I will be returning on Sunday 6 June for the Rare Plant Fair and look forward to seeing the garden in warmer weather and to see two of my favourites the peonies and agapanthus bursting into life.

View towards the glasshouse

Here is a link to the High Glaneau Manor website

Here is a link to the Rare Plant Fair on 6 June 2021

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Gardening tips to avoid fungus

Many of us would like to be able to invest a large amount of money for landscaping and gardening to improve our home.  In fact, with gardening being one of the most popular pastimes nowadays, many of us do spent quite a lot of money on our gardens.

However, if we failed to prune the plants and trees that needed it at the correct time, then your highly invested landscape will not look as it is supposed to.  So now is the time to learn gardening tips for better maintenance of your garden and lawn.

The following gardening tips to help you improve your garden: –

Gardening tips for pruning

As we discussed in the introduction, pruning plays an important role in garden maintenance. If you commit any mistake whilst pruning, don’t become disillusioned because it looks like a bad haircut, it is going to grow again and will be fine.

 Avoid watering in the evening

During summer, you may experience high humidity and very little rain, which may result in lot of problems in your garden.  However, only watering the surface of very dry plants can in fact cause them more damage than good.  If you are going to water, it is better if you only water every couple of days, but give them enough water to really benefit them.  Watering is always best done early in the morning wherever possible.  If you do have to water in the evening, try not to do it when it has been quite wet and warm as this will only encourage slugs and snails, who will in turn eat your plants.      

Get rid of Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is the common fungus that mostly affects your ornamental plants. This will create white film on the leaves of the plants in your garden.  Even other ornamental plants such as Sand Cherry and Dogwoods are also now getting affected with this fungus.  Efficient gardening is necessary to curtail the growth of this fungus.  The easiest way to prevent this by spraying general fungicide onto the affected areas.   If you don’t like using fungicide, the only remedy is to cut off any infected parts and make sure that you burn them or completely remove them from your garden by taking to the household green waste centre.

Prevention of Pythium Blight

If you’re in the north and have perennial Rye grass, then this can suffer with a serious fungal problem.   A fungus called Pythium Blight infects grass, if your lawn wet in the night because this fungus loves to grow in high humid condition mostly, in the night. Unfortunately there is not a lot that you can do to control the weather, so try to not water in the evenings.

Pythium blight can easily be seen in the early morning. You can easily identify the fungus on the top of the lawn as white cotton candy. You can easily notice this fungus mainly along driveways and walks, where the soil is moist. Pythium blight can easily be controlled by watering in the day at the earliest possible time.

Fire Blight

Fire Blight, another fungus prefers to grow well during summer rather than any other season. This fungus prefers to attack Pyracantha, Cotoneasters, Crabapple trees, and Apple trees. The presence of Fire Blight can easily be visualized once the any one of the branches of the plant turns red and dies. This Fire Blight can be prevented a little by pruning the affected branch and removing it from the main plant as far as possible.

It is also important that the cut branches should be burnt since Fire Blight is contagious and also wash or dip the projected shears by using alcohol in order to prevent the spread of the deadly fungus to other parts of the branch.

Shotgun fungus

A little gem like fungus, which prefers to grow in mulch and tends to swell, has been termed as “Shotgun Fungus”. This fungus can fly up to 8 feet in the air and will spatter your house with tiny brown specks and once they stick to your house or windows, they stick like glue. Most of us suspect the spiders and aliens for this tiny brown speck. You can’t prevent this fungus, but can do something by keeping the mulch loose so air can circulate inside to keep this fungus out.  Although mulch is great, don’t allow them to get packed, try to remove it at least once in a year and also rake it flat as if it will look like you’ve just mulched.

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Mulching Your Garden For Free

Autumn is well and truly here and the leaves are falling off the trees, so now is the time to think about mulching your garden.

Why mulch? 

Mulching your garden helps the soil to retain moisture in summer, rain to penetrate the soil in winter, prevents weeds from growing and protect the roots of plants in winter from frosts.

Have you used some form of mulch on your garden in the past?   If so, you may not know that there are many other options for organic mulching that you can explore. These days, many gardeners are discovering new sources of free mulch which is an untapped resource. These include clippings from a lawn, or woody prunings from other plants in your garden. You will be surprised by how beneficial all these things can be, and how often the opportunity arises to use them.

Many gardeners have taken to spreading out their excess grass clippings across the rest of their lawns.  You may think this will look untidy, with big piles of grass just sitting in your garden as if you were too lazy to rake them up.  However, if you spread them out enough then you won’t even be able to tell that there is an excess amount.  Leaving the extra grass on the garden acts as a sort of mulch by preventing evaporation and weed growth.  With this extra water, you won’t have to water nearly as much to keep your grass green.  When you start doing this, you will find that you are able to adjust the frequency of your sprinkler system or watering regime and you will therefore save on using water.

If your garden is in more need of mulching than your lawn, you can rake up all the grass and use it on your garden borders.  By making a small layer around the vicinity of the plants you’ll apply all the same benefits from leaving it in your lawn.  My lawn is rather green on its own, but as I have clay soil, I often have trouble with my plants staying green and healthy.  So, rather than leave the grass clipping in my compost heap, I distribute them all around my plants.  It is just a matter of choosing what your highest mulching priority is.

Sometimes, our pruning activities will lead us to have an amazing amount of branches and twigs.  If this is the case, you should consider renting a wood chipper to put all of those branches to use.  After one day of intense pruning, you would be surprised at just how many branches you end up with.  Rather than throw these away, you can turn them into a huge amount of mulch for your plants.  However, if your pruning has not left you with a large amount, you should bundle it all up and save it to add onto the next batch, or get together with a neighbour to share the cost of renting the chipper.  This is because the chipping machines can be slightly expensive to rent and you want it to be absolutely cost effective.

Over time, all organic mulches need to be replenished. This is because they will naturally decompose in the conditions of your garden.  Usually you can tell for yourself just by looking at it, but sometimes it can look perfectly allright but still have problems.  If you start to notice any poor plant growth whatsoever, you should replace your mulch.  Always keep in mind that during the process of decomposition, your mulch will use up the valuable nitrogen in the soil. Without this, the plants will be missing a key nutrient.  There are several types of fertilizers available on the market that are specifically designed to deal with this problem.

The use of mulches in the garden and on the lawn is something everyone should try. Not only can it save lots of time by reducing the amount of rubbish that you have to transport out, but it increases the healthiness and integrity of your plants by putting that so called rubbish to good use.  So if you think you would be able to save a good amount of branches and twigs for chipping, or if you think that you are ready to stop raking up all your grass clippings, then why not try recycling them and using them as mulch.

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Indoor Gardening

As autumn has well and truly arrived, it is time to think about how you can still enjoy gardening, when you can’t always get outside.

Years ago, indoor gardening did not have many options compared to the amount of plants and flowers that you can now buy.  If you visit your local garden centre, or even your local shop or supermarket, there is a fabulous range of different plants that you can grow on your windowsill or in the smallest of places.

Growing plants indoors has a range of benefits, apart from the obvious one that they make your home look more attractive and can brighten up even the dullest corner.  Plants also have a really good influence on your home environment.  Plants don’t only remove carbon dioxide from the air; they also remove many poisonous toxins and pollutants as well.  Looking after plants and watching them bloom or grow also has a good effect on your wellbeing.  Therefore, indoor gardening will result in beautiful decoration in your house as well as cleaner air. 

When picking out plants for indoor gardening, make sure the plants are adaptable and will be able to thrive in the conditions and setting in your house.  Consider how much time you will be able to spend caring for the plants, how much light your house offers, and also how much money you want to spend on your indoor garden.  If you are on a low budget, start with seeds or cuttings.  If you have a little more money to dish out you can buy a plant that is already grown.  Another thing to consider is if you want a plant that can be displayed all year or just for a season.  

Herb gardens are a good thing for indoor gardening; they are both attractive and edible.  They will grow pretty quick and you won’t have to wait a long time to see results.  Some popular herbs, especially for cooking, are chives, dill, sage, thyme, and oregano.

When indoor gardening, consider the amount of experience you have before choosing a plant.  There are some plants that are stronger and harder to kill and therefore better for a novice gardener.  Examples are Fatsia, Cyperus, Scandens, Popular Succulents, Coleus, and Bromeliads.

Some things, such as the basic rules of maintaining plants, are different in indoor gardening than in a regular outdoor setting.  Since plants won’t get the sunlight they do outdoors, lighting is essential.  You need to know exactly how much light your plants need and pick plants that only need medium to low light, such as ferns or Philodendrons, unless you plan to supply artificial lighting.  If you buy a plant already grown, wherever you get it probably has better lighting than your house so you will need to “condition” your plant and gradually reduce the light it receives.  Once you get the plant inside, make sure and rotate the plant to encourage upright growth.

Just because you are indoor gardening, don’t think the plants don’t have to have water; they still do.  How often you water, once again, depends on what type of plant you have.  Make sure the water can drain out of the bottom of the pot and try to use water that is about the same as the temperature of the room.  Also pay attention to temperature in your house in order to ensure healthy plants.  A 10-15 degree range won’t hurt any plants, but rapid changes could cause damage.

Indoor gardening is not all that difficult; in fact, it is pretty much the same as outdoor.  There are even some advantages to indoor gardening.  For example, you won’t have to worry as much about bugs and insects bothering your plants.  You also won’t have to worry about wind or frost wreaking havoc on your garden.

So give it a go and maybe you will be successful in making your home look more attractive and growing some new flowers or plants.

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Gardening – Starting Gardening

Many people have started gardening and growing vegetables this year due to the Coronavirus Pandemic and Lockdown.  It has helped for many reasons, feeding yourself and your family, getting out in the fresh air and the mental health and wellbeing benefits that are associated with gardening.  It is also a great community where you can share hints and tips with people of all ages and types.

You don’t have to have a big garden to grow plants or vegetables you can grow things in a container on your balcony or windowsill.

The thing to remember while gardening is to start small.  A small plant bed, about 25 or 30 feet square is perfect, is just enough room for about 30 plants.  This will give you a chance to try out your green thumb and if you find that you enjoy your garden you can always expand and increase your plantings.

The next thing you will want to do is choose a site.  To reap the benefits of growing things, ideally gardening should be done in an area that gets at least six hours of sunlight a day.  Try and stay away from large trees that will take your plants water and nutrients and at least three feet from any hedges or buildings.

In hot climates it is a good idea to choose a place that will have shade from a part of the intense afternoon sun.  It is possible to have a healthy garden with less hours of sunlight, but the type of plants must be adaptable. 

While soil can always be improved, a site with good soil is a plus.  Avoid areas that have rocky soil, steep slopes, or areas where water stands.  Or if you have these conditions, you should prepare the soil and chose plants that will thrive in them, rather than being disappointed when your plants don’t grow.

Now comes the fun part: start digging.  Gardening is not a clean hobby; you’re going to have to get some dirt under your nails.  First remove the rocks, debris, and any grass and weeds then dig the spot up about one foot deep.  Level up the dirt and add compost or minerals if needed.  If your soil is too acidic, add lime; if it is too sandy, add manure or compost.  Plants will thrive in neutral to acidic soil with a little added fertilizer.

One of the most helpful things to add to a garden is mulch or compost.  Just a few inches of organic mulch will improve fertility and help the soil hold moisture.  Wood chips, grass clippings, leaves, manure and pine needles are all things that can be used as mulch. 

If you buy seeds then plant them according to the directions.  If you are planting seeds the package will usually tell you exactly when you can plant them to achieve maximum growth.   You don’t have to have a greenhouse to be able to grow things from seeds. 

If picking plants, choose ones with green, healthy looking leaves and stems and healthy roots.  When planting, put the smaller plants towards the front of the bed and larger ones in the back.  The key to a successful beginning in gardening is planting at the right time of year.  Make sure that you wait until the frosts are over before planting anything. 

Once you have started and have gotten into gardening, making sure your plants receive enough water is essential to their growth.  Hand watering works well if you only have a few plants.  Other options include sprinklers or sprinkler hoses.  Watering is more effective during the cooler parts of the day.  The type of plant will depend on how much water is needed, but most require about an inch per week.  During the hottest periods plants will be need watering about three times per week or some may need watering every day.

There are loads of books, internet groups and forums where you can learn about gardening, so don’t be afraid to have a go and you may just get addicted like I am.

Happy gardening.

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Autumn or Fall Gardening

Many gardeners do not even consider gardening in autumn or the fall, because of the winter frosts that might make an early appearance.  On the contrary, gardening in autumn will result in excellent vegetables and will extend crops long after spring planted plants are finished.  Vegetables produced from autumn gardening are sometimes sweeter and milder than those grow in the summer and offer a brand new taste to the same old veggies.

What you choose to grow during you autumn gardening will depend on your available space and what you like to eat, just like spring plants.  Even the crops that enjoy the heat, such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes, okra, and peppers, will produce until frosts hit, which can be pretty late in the year in southern areas.  However, there are some plants that will stop growing towards the end of summer like snap-beans, summer squash and cucumbers.  If these vegetables are planted around the middle of the summer they can be harvested until the first frosts as well.  Hardy, tough vegetables will grow until the temperature is as low as 20 degrees, but those that aren’t as strong will only be able to grow through light frosts.  Remember that if you have root and tuber plants and the tops are killed by frost the edible part can be saved if a large amount of mulch is used.

When autumn gardening, make sure and pick the vegetables with the shortest growing season so they can be full grown and harvested before the frost arrives.  Most seed packages will be labelled “early season”, or you can find the seeds boasting the fewest days to maturity.  You may want to go after your seeds for autumn gardening in spring or early summer; they are usually not kept in stock towards the end of summer.  If they are stored in a cool and dry location they will keep until you are ready to plant.

In order to know exactly when the best time to start autumn gardening, you must know about when the first hard frost will hit your area.  One of the best ways to tell this is by researching on the internet, or by gardening books or magazines.  They will give you exact dates and are rarely wrong.  You will also need to know exactly how long it is going to take your plants to mature.

To get your soil ready for autumn gardening you must first remove any leftover spring/summer crops and weeds.  Crops leftover from the last season can end up spreading bacteria and disease if left in the garden.  Spread a couple of inches of compost or mulch over the garden area to increase the nutrients, however, if spring plants were fertilized heavily it may not need much, if any.  Till the top layer of soil, wet it down, and let it set for about 12-24 hours.  Once this has been done, you are ready to start planting.

Many gardeners will run from autumn gardening so they don’t have to deal with frosts, but if tough, sturdy vegetables are planted they can withstand a few frosts and give you some wonderful tasting produce.  Autumn gardening gives you the chance to enjoy your vegetable garden for at least a little bit more time and may even give you fresh food on your table for Christmas.

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About Love Gardening Shop

My name is Ali Matthews and thank you for visiting my Love Gardening Shop.

I have always been totally passionate about gardening since being a small child.  Both of my grandparents loved gardening and my fondest memories of being at their house, was helping my grandfather pick his vegetables and loganberries and then enjoying watching my grandmother turn them into wonderful tasty meals.

Both of my parents also loved gardening and were brave enough to buy a plot of land and build their own house.  The soil was dreadful clay, so it was a backbreaking job turning this into a beautiful garden.  After a couple of years, they then bought the wood next door, so we were lucky enough to grow up with not only a grass tennis court, but also a productive orchard and wonderful old deciduous trees in our garden. 

Maybe this was where I inherited my bravery in not only buying and renovating houses, but of turning a wild wasteland into a ‘Beatrix Potter; style garden of my own.  I have moved many times and always seemed to inherit gardens which were unloved and needed love and attention.

I have just completed a complete house renovation and also have totally restored and completely redesigned an acre of garden which now has fruit trees, vegetable plots, fruit and a cottage garden full of colour and scents as well as bees and butterflies.  I have grown a majority of my plants and vegetables from seed and love to watch something grow from a tiny little thing, into something that gives me so much pleasure as well as feeding the wildlife and myself. 

It gives me great pleasure to now have a business which is about something so near to my heart as gardening and I hope that through my website and my Love Dogs Shop Facebook page you will share stories and pictures of your gardens and what they mean to you.