The Garden Gate Blog – Issue 1

Fife’s Flowering Welly Boots Debated on Radio 4

Flowering welly boots were first on the agenda for a recent episode of Radio 4’s Gardener’s Question Time broadcast from St Monan’s on the East Neuk of Fife. (Picture it on the map by imagining a long swim due North across the Firth from North Berwick).

The panel touched on the town’s tradition of using Wellington Boots as planters – a pastime started by a local resident to brighten up the slipway by the harbour. The area now sees a perennial influx each summer of some 200 wellies and flowers.

According to the Radio 4 panel, some possible options for filling their boots would be Sedums or Sempervivums. Herbs (Rosemary and Thyme), Ferns, Strawberry plants, Nasturtiums – as well as a suggestion of making holes in the sides to allow things to grow outwards as well as upwards.

Time to Feather the Nest

Now is the time to set up those nest boxes in the garden ready for the birds to start looking for a great place to settle down for the spring. There is lots of advice online about what options are best and much like the property market it comes down to location, location, location – as well of course as ‘curb appeal’ as the Americans like to say.

‘Where’ is more important than ‘when’ as security is everything for parents starting a young family and wanting shelter from the elements and worse still, their predators. Cameras do come in useful – but not for this reason. Setting up next boxes can be a great educational experience for children with discreet webcams placed inside the boxes providing daily updates on life within the nest. More information? You can’t go wrong with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds web site:


What do Bees Like Best?

At a time when the bee population is constantly fending off the threats served up to them by pesticide use and changes in the environment, a new piece of research produced by the Botanic Garden of Wales might help us put something positive back in the garden for our pollen-seeking friends.

A new study reveals what plants bees like best – and surprisingly they are not interested in a buffet but prefer to order from the a la carte. Out of 437 different genera of plants in flower in April and May in the garden the honey bees only used 47 – or 11% – of these.

Out of a smorgasbord of more than 8,000 types of plants on offer in the garden, research showed that the bees relied on hedgerow and woodland species such as willow, hawthorn, oak and dandelion for most of their diet – hence recent pleas on social media not to get the spray gun out at the first sign of a dandelion on the lawn.

Bees supplement their staple diet with a small number of garden plants. For more background on this research visit

In the meantime here are the Bee’s Top Ten – note it is the Spring version and the bees’ Top Ten Chart could look different come summer:

The top 10 spring flowers foraged by honey bees for nectar and pollen:

1. Willow (Salix species)
2. Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
3. Cotoneaster (e.g Cotoneaster horizontalis)
4. Apple and cherry trees (Malus and Prunus species)
5. Gorse (Ulex europaeus)
6. Sycamore and other Acer species
7. Hellebores (Helleborus species)
8. Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale)
9. Holly (Ilex species)
10. Oak (Quercus species)

Competition Time for Scotland’s Best Gardener

There is a new nationwide competition opening up to find Scotland’s best gardener. Garden Scotland – the country’s national outdoor living show and garden festival – is looking for anyone with a passion for creativity in the garden, amateur or professional to take part. If you feel someone is hiding their light under a bushel – pun intended – you can also nominate friends, colleagues or relatives.

The winner will be announced at Gardening Scotland taking place at the Royal Highland Showground 2nd – 4th June.

The deadline is May 1 and a written submission of 250 words is all it takes initially to enter the fray. Find out more at: