Chris & Mike Davies' Garden Project for ‘Love Your Garden’ TV programme

Written by Chris & Mike Davies. Posted in News



Garden Project for ‘Love Your Garden’ TV programme

In early April 2019 I received a request via HPS HQ, from a TV company for DIY garden projects to be filmed for inclusion in Alan Titchmarsh’s ‘Love Your Garden’ programme.  Despite circulating it to all Group members, only one member showed any interest, and this was dependant on obtaining physical help with the project – not part of the deal – so I offered a few projects of my own!  We settled on my prospective ‘Oriental Garden’, which I agreed could be completed in ten weeks, weather permitting.

I wrote a detailed schedule which covered the creation of a pond with an island and building a ‘Small Wall of China’, which incorporated a short tower, an arbour and bridges across to the island. 

We struggled to locate an available digger and driver but tracked down someone willing to dig out the pond over two days towards the end of April.  This area had been separated from the rest of the garden by the planting of a yew hedge around four years earlier, which had now reached 5’ in height and almost as thick. This was then pruned back and shaped, leaving one section uncut to train over the planned entrance.

We then reinforced the pond base with hardcore using lumps of concrete and bricks, overlaid with a steel grid over which we lay a concrete base. The pond was designed to have a depth of 60cms, to accommodate hibernating creatures we expected to move in!

Our first visit was from a director named Louise, who talked to me about the project whilst filming sections of the garden as a project starting point.  At this point they had yet to decide which garden projects to choose, but Mike and I agreed that we would get on with ours regardless, then at least it would be done whether they chose to film it or not.

Mike made all the concrete, barrowed and dumped it to site whilst I tamped and levelled it to my satisfaction, since I was going to have to build the pond sides on it.  It had accidental dog footprints in it, of course!

It was now the end of May when Louise returned, this time with TV presenter Francis Tophill and an assistant.  The previous evening, I hastily bricked up the side of the adjacent ditch to avoid the potential for accidents.  They stayed most of the day.  Francis helped build the start of the pond wall, and we discussed planting.  She recommended a Japanese conifer I had never heard of, Thujopsis dolabrata, but was able to obtain.  We finished by discussing the construction of the ‘Dragon’s Head’, for the end of my ‘Small Wall of China’.  Then it rained!

We completed the pond sides on schedule, but this then needed to dry slowly for 21 days.  The rain helped test the integrity of the base, showing this was watertight.  During those 21 days we dug the foundations and built the wall, which included casting three chutes for the waterfall using a wooden mould Mike had made, and dark-stained concrete to match the wall.  Additionally, we had a hardwood bench made, so we could sit on the island.  Mike put together, stained and finished an arbour for our view across the pond.

The waterproofing system required four coats - one extra because I wanted it black which would make it appear deeper and create a ‘mirrored’ effect!  Each coat was meant to go on as soon as the last coat was tacky, and within 4hrs.  Our estimate of the time required was more than the existing daylight hours, even in July, so we bought LED head-torches.  I started at 4.15am with Mike following around 7am … and so we continued, with a long extension cable for the kettle, and bacon rolls, cheese etc, to fortify us throughout the day.  Amazingly we managed to finish ahead of schedule by 8.15 pm, enabling us to sit under the trees with a glass of wine before bedtime.

We had planned to use a solar-powered pump to run the waterfall, but after much discussion the recommended model turned out to be unreliable, so we resorted to using a long, extension lead … which would be replaced by a permanent underground solution later in the summer.  The pump  should have had its panels sited on a ‘tower’, ie a set of 4 legs, with an oriental style roof at an appropriate slope, but since this was no longer an urgent requirement, I put together a metalwork circular ‘moon gate’, over which the yew was trained, which became the entrance.

We edged the pond with a line of dark paving bricks that matched the wall and levelled the surrounding soil to blend in with the garden.  This was now mid-July, which you may recall was hot and dry, and I had to get planting done, fit for filming.  On the island was a large Viburnum rhytidophyllum with a Betula pendula ‘Purpurea’ which overlooked an existing Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’, cleaned of its lower shoots, in the main garden area.  Adjacent to the start of the wall was a weeping pink-flowered cherry.  To complement the oriental theme, I added varieties of Acer palmatum from Len Speller’s collection, evergreen azaleas, ferns (evergreen where possible), irises, hostas (including Hosta ‘Alan Titchmarsh’), oriental lilies, arisaema and a variegated Cornus kousa.   There were also some bamboos, the larger ones with their roots imprisoned.

We filled the pond with tap water after the necessary 72 hrs drying time.  Already several frogs had arrived, including tiny new ones migrating from an existing pond.  A transplanted pink waterlily managed to open a flower for the final filming.  I had also found three forms of Nandina domestica, (Chinese sacred bamboo) and a narrow-leaved Tracheostemon jasminoides called ‘Waterwheel’.  We continued to plant in subsequent months as I wasn’t aiming to fill the garden full of plants just for the benefit of the programme.  I expect to add more when gaps show in the spring.

The final filming took place on July 17th, with a cameraman and different director, Gina.  They were adept at avoiding filming the weeds which had gained momentum while we focused on the Oriental Garden.

It is already a secluded corner, with the sound of the waterfall, mostly green planting, with white and pale pink flowers, to maintain the atmosphere, and I aim to discipline the planting to reflect this in the future.

Feedback from the producer, since the programme aired, was described by viewers as “incredibly inspiring” - all 5 minutes of it!!!!  I’d like to think it was the garden design, but I guess it was because I’m an old lady who does bricklaying!



Oriental Garden project Mike's version

Early in 2019 Chris received a letter from a TV company asking for members of the HPS interested in carrying out a garden project over 3 months for filming of a new series.   After our own checks on the company credentials to confirm this was no hoax, Chris duly circulated other members and also responded about our own project to refurbish the northern corner of our garden for an oriental-style feature.  There was obviously no finance to be provided and I was cynical about being involved with TV people who would have their own agenda which could waste our time.  The correspondence seemed to reinforce this view as our carefully explained plans met with almost complete lack of understanding about gardening and required frequent further explanatory e-mails from Chris wasting her time which was needed on other urgent gardening work.  Eventually we reached a point where we decided to go ahead anyway as we had by then planned enough to believe that we could achieve the deadline for our own sake and it would get the project done irrespective of  any decision from the TV company.

Firstly, we decided that we needed to have a digger to help with excavation for the pond and stream as manual labour would take far too much time and effort.  We hired one of appropriate size which was delivered just before Easter weekend, so we knew at least that job could be started when the driver was here.  Meanwhile during the Easter weekend, we completed the job of laying the paving slabs, over the new terrace at the back of the house, which we had started during all the discussion with the TV people.

The digger driver worked well under Chris' direction and the job was done within about two and half days although another driver had to take over due to illness.  We also hired their dumper truck for me to drive so that I could more quickly remove the excess soil out of the way to save time.

Soon after we had confirmation from the TV company that they wanted to go ahead, a cameraman arrived within a few days to film parts of the garden and Chris pruning.  About three days later the same lady returned with a camera assistant and another lady presenter whom we recognized from other gardening programs, so this gave more confidence of their interest.  We had by then completed the pond and stream foundations.  We had found free hardcore advertised on Gumtree and several car trips to another village fifteen miles away supplemented our own.  All of this was then laid out and covered with steel-reinforcing mesh.  We had also made up a plank walkway to get into the pond area.

All materials had to be barrowed 60 meters from our gateway, so work was continuous through daylight hours to keep to the schedule.  Our concrete mixer was positioned close to the site and we made the concrete and mortar from sand and cement offloaded by the gate.  We had considered whether ready mix was feasible.  Not only was it very expensive in comparison no one could get a lorry close enough.

By the time the TV people arrived we had completed construction of some wall foundations.  We were encouraged by the TV people to take our own iPad videos (in landscape mode) of progress, which was met with some reluctance by Chris as she was displeased with the sound of her voice on the recording, although this was her own perception.  We wanted our own record of as we know how easy it is to forget how the work went at the time.

Building of the pond and stream walls continued as fast as possible as we knew that the summer coach trip with Chris’ HPS mates was fast approaching.  The walls were duly completed and while Chris was away, I backfilled all the walls with concrete and stared to level off the site, so it now began to look in some order.  Two coats of concrete render then had to be applied over all the pond floor and walls which needed several days drying time before waterproof coating.  Meanwhile we constructed our own waterfall chutes to fix in the small Wall of China.  We made the slabs to fix the base of the tower to support the solar panels over the waterfall.  Unfortunately, the solar panels had to be returned to the supplier as they could not provide enough power.  Chris then completed the top of all the pond walls with paving bricks.

Another worrying technical issue concerned the highly recommended waterproof expanding filler adhesive and pond paint used successfully on our existing pond 20 years ago which was now out of production.  After having to reject another coating which would not have worked underwater, we had opted for adding waterproofing agent to all the concrete, and mortar.   We obtained the required clear and black versions of waterproof paint to make the three coats required after several trips to the dealer in Bury St Edmunds. According to the instructions, we applied paint working in continuous relays with Chris starting at 4.15am aided by headtorches and myself finally finishing at 8.15pm.  Picnic and drinks were arranged on site to reduce trips back to the house.

With only a few days until final filming we pressed on with barrowing soil for landscaping, the dragons head construction, arbour and island bench.  Many barrow-loads of tree chippings were brought from our stockpile in the opposite corner of the garden and spread over the new area, with new planting continued as fast as possible.  The moongate was erected and blended with the yew hedge.

At the last minute with only a day or so before filming Chris decided that there was a safety issue posed by the neighbouring drainage ditch, so she built up the ditch wall enough to avoid the camera people falling in.  As it turned out this was no worry and the two TV people who came spent time filming what they wanted and were even happy with our own iPad videos and I was happy we had achieved a new bit of garden for us.


National Garden Scheme Events in Norfolk

Written by Claire Reinhold. Posted in News

I am writing to let you know about two horticultural events which are taking place in Norfolk in February that you and your members may be interested in. Firstly, we are organising a fundraising talk.  Peter Skeggs-Gooch from Thorncroft Clematis will be giving us the benefit of his expertise on how to use Clematis in your garden all year round.  The talk is taking place at 10.30 on Monday 24th February at Garvestone Village Hall (near Dereham). Tickets are £12.08 each, include coffee and cake, and can be bought from

Secondly, Raveningham Hall, near-ish Bungay, is going to be opening for a Snowdrop Walk on Tuesday 18th February. Sir Nicholas Bacon, who is President of the RHS, will be leading a tour around his private park and a short talk, coffee and cake are included in the price of £20 pp. This is a ticket only event and can be prebooked at:

All profits from these events will go to the National Garden Scheme's beneficiaries which include Hospice UK, Carer's Trust & Parkinsons UK as well as other smaller, local community groups. 
As well as the beautiful snowdrops at Raveningham Hall, we also have three other private gardens opening for their Snowdrop Walks in Feburary:
Horstead House nr Coltishall Sat 15th Feb 11-4
Bagthorpe Hall nr Docking / King's Lynn Sun 23rd Feb 11-4
Chestnut Farm nr Sheringham Park Sun 23 Feb 11-4 & also Thurs 27th Feb 11-4. 

Our yellow booklet is being officially launched on Saturday 8th February but we will start distributing it across the county over the next few days so please do keep an eye out for it at garden centres, plant nurseries, local libraries and tourist information offices. We hope you enjoy your garden visiting in 2020 and thank you so much for your wonderful, continued support! 
With best wishes
Claire Reinhold 
National Garden Scheme, Norfolk

Snowdrops bloom at Gable House, Redisham, Suffolk

Written by Peter Lyle. Posted in News

GABLE HOUSE, Halesworth Road, Redisham, Suffolk NR34 8NE.
John & Brenda Foster. 01502 575298. 
Sun 16 Feb (11-4 ) entry £4.50, children free, groups by appointment 
(share to St Peter'Church, Redisham).
please note parking is limited in the village
refreshments available.
1-acre plantsman’s garden of all-year interest. For the winter opening a vast collection of snowdrops, cyclamen, hellebores etc. plus greenhouses containing rare bulbs and tender plants

PR Events

Written by Linda Hall. Posted in News

PR events
We have been very active this year attending plant fairs and promoting Norfolk & Suffolk Group HPS.
Saturday 27th April:  NNHS talk by Adrian Bloom on The Bressingham Gardens at the John Innes Conference Centre.  Jan Oakley and Susan Oglesby represented us where we had a publicity stand.  This was well received by visitors especially as we were giving away free seeds from the HPS Seed Distribution Scheme.  It was also the first time our new display board was used.
South Suffolk Show on 29th and 30th May – due to unforeseen circumstances we did not attend this event.
Saturday 8th June: East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden Plant Fair.  Chris Davies, Jan Oakley, Susan Oglesby, Barbra Back and myself attended.  Now I know we are hardy planters but this was pushing it to the limit!  The weather was atrocious – extremely wet and windy which necessitated four of us each hanging on to a leg of the gazebo to prevent it being blown away whilst one person served customers.  Despite being soaked and cold we still kept up the banter and smiling and managed to raise £234 for group funds.

Sunday 7th July: Hatten Farm Nurseries 40th Anniversary Celebration.  Liz Bloom, Graham Boutell and myself attended on this sunny day to sell plants.  Unfortunately this was not a financial success as there weren’t many ‘plants people’ and we only raised £34.

Sunday 14th July: NGS Open Day at Jan Oakley’s garden.  Chris Davies and myself attended on this beautiful warm day.  Many visitors were pleased to receive free seeds, donated by National as leftovers from the Seed Distribution.  A few people seemed very keen to join our group and took away application forms to complete so fingers crossed that we might gain some new members.  We also raised £159 from the plant sales.

Sunday 28th July: Aestival 2019 Summer Fair held at Raveningham Gardens.  Chris Davies, Jan Oakley, Susan Oglesby, Pamela Clark and myself attended at this well arranged event organised by CPRE Norfolk (Campaign to Protect Rural England).  We were placed at an excellent location and there were very few ‘plants’ stalls – we made a profit of £178.  Copies of our 2019 Programme and free seeds were handed out to members of the public. 



Written by Peter Lyle. Posted in News


  • NEW INITIATIVE in 2019 “Gardening for Everyone”.   NNHS reach out to a wider audience with a new, more inclusive mission.
  • NEW PRESIDENT, horticulturist Adrian Bloom, is working with General Secretary Lesley Webdale and the NNHS committee to take the new mission forward
  • TALK & MISSION INTRODUCTION, 27th April 2019, 6.30pm, John Innes Conference Centre, Norwich:A Special Event held by the Norfolk and Norwich Horticultural Society (NNHS) with a presentation by the new President of the Society, Adrian Bloom followed by a Forum to discuss the present and future of gardening and horticulture.
  • HOW TO BOOK: places at the talk cost £10 per person, including welcome drinks and an opportunity to engage with local gardening organisations before the talk. Booking form available at or




1829 - the year NNHS was formed, one of the earliest horticultural societies in Britain. Since then the society has organised yearly shows and garden visits and helped with the education of the general public in gardening.

2019 - NNHS still very active, a registered charity with HRH The Prince of Wales as patron, 46 affiliated societies in Norfolk and 260 members.  Concern about gradual decline of membership in societies all over the UK and few younger people becoming involved.

On his appointment as President Adrian said: “NNHS have a long history and proud place in horticulture. With primarily volunteer help the intention of the “Gardening for Everyone” mission is obvious, but it will take time to achieve. However with support and close cooperation with other horticulturists, keen gardeners and organisations we hope NNHS can act as a catalyst to encourage more people into gardening at all levels.”


1946 - Adrian Bloom’s father Alan established what became a famous nursery and gardens at Bressingham. Alan created the six acre Dell Garden devoted to hardy perennials, first opening to the public in 1962, the year Adrian and his brother Robert joined the family business.

1967 - Adrian began planting his own garden, which he and his wife Rosemary called Foggy Bottom.

2017 - Celebration of the 50 year old Foggy Bottom garden…and still growing.

2019 - The Bressingham Gardens now extends to 17 acres and is highly acclaimed by horticulturists and visitors, who are also able to enjoy the results of Alan Bloom's other passion… the Steam Museum. The gardens were featured on BBC Gardeners World in 2017 and 2019


A LANDMARK EVENT. … not to be missed!  27 April 2019, 6.30pm at the John Innes Conference Centre, Norwich:

A Special Event held by the Norfolk and Norwich Horticultural Society (NNHS) with a presentation by Adrian Bloom, President of the Society, followed by a Forum with a panel of wide ranging experience to discuss the present and future of gardening and horticulture.


Adrian Bloom is presenting in a talk some of his own experiences in creating Foggy Bottom, his own 50 year old 6 acre garden, now renowned for year round colour, and featured in books and on many television programmes over the years. Since the garden began in 1967, Adrian has been ‘on trend’ with innovative plantings of conifers and heathers, ornamental grasses and perennials, plant combinations and rivers, as well as the always in vogue ...container grown plants.

The Smaller garden: since 1975, Adrian has always championed the average gardener with a smaller garden, and his talk will include some that he has designed in the UK, the USA and Canada - and “Given Away”. Many of these are shown in his books and on TV.

It’s all about the plants....

...and how you put them together. Adrian’s talk will also highlight some of the most reliable plants and will give recommendations, as well as plants for containers. 


A grandiose subject of course, the future is ongoing ...How can we inspire? 

The benefits of gardening could be briefly described as offering activity for mind and body, include edibles and ornamentals and plants in nature and the wild, as part of the living world of insects, birds and animals, the environment.  A potential for lifelong interest, creativity and therapy for all... 

So why are there fewer gardeners by far than there used to be?  Perhaps many reasons- space (or lack of), time, no childhood connection, too many distractions and competition for the consumer’s attention.  Changes in communication - TV, Smart Phones, Social Media etc. 

So what, if anything, can be done about it?  We can’t halt societal changes but gardeners and horticulturists can have a voice.  Building needs to be done from the top and the bottom, young and old (....and particularly middle aged.)   

Let the debate begin!


Adrian Bloom will chair and we will hear from a group of enthusiastic and representative people, including:

  1. 2018 RHS School Gardening Champion, Matt Willer
  2. No Fear Gardening representative.
  3. NNHS chairman
  4. Local gardening club representative
  5. Local Horticulturalists Simon White (Peter Beales Roses) and Barry Gayton (Desert World Garden)
  6. HAVE YOUR SAY – Comments from the audience. 

Overall theme... Gardening for everyone ...a beginning ...creating a platform and structure for moving forward. 

Aim: eventual database of Horticultural Organisations and Garden Clubs, and resources for learning and sharing.  


6.30pm – doors open for registration, welcome drinks and an opportunity to engage with local societies and organisations

7.30 pm Adrian Bloom talk “The Foggy Bottom Story”

8.30 pm break

8.45 pm—9.45pm Forum


Tickets £10 per person in advance. Booking form on NNHS website: or book through Eventbrite:


NNHS has a full programme of events for 2019, details of which are on their website and Facebook page. These include evening visits, coach trips and a garden holiday. The highlight of the year will be the President’s Evening at The Bressingham Gardens on Wednesday 17 July during which we will celebrate our achievements over the last 190 years and look forward to continuing our mission of “Gardening for All”.