As the number of confirmed cases in the UK rises, Sophie Gallagher speaks to experts about how to avoid unnecessary panic and anxiety
On 9 September health secretary Matt Hancock said that there had been a “sharp rise” in the number of people “who don’t have a good reason” coming forward for a test
Gardens are at the top of the wishlist for many home buyers in the current property boom, and so it follows that many movers will find themselves with a larger plot or, perhaps, some outdoor space for the first time. Non-movers, meanwhile, have realised this year how important it is to improve any outdoor space they have. But if you’ve never gardened before, or have a blank canvas in front of you, how do you begin? Six years ago, when I moved back to the Suffolk coast after two decades living in London flats, I was in a similar position. Suddenly I had a large garden and adjoining field – a three-acre space that was a tantalising opportunity for a total novice with grandiose plans and almost zero horticultural knowledge. The learning curve was steep, the calls and texts to my friend Derren, a hugely experienced gardener, were relentless and there were innumerable errors along the way. Very early on I sketched out a plan – it has evolved as I have changed as a gardener, but it gave me a solid idea of how my garden could look. I started off small, with two large beds on either side of a newly installed terrace and planted roses, clematis, hardy geraniums, iris, nepeta and lupins, cottagey plants that were anchored with box balls and hebes. Then, each year, I’d add another section of the garden – a long double border with lots of structural plants, a gravel garden in a sun-baked, exposed south-facing spot and, most recently and still bedding in, an avenue of ornamental pear trees edged with a copper beach hedge and underplanted with a succession of blue and apricot flowers. I went on a lot of study days and garden visits – by far the quickest and most effective way to get ideas and understand what works. I learnt how to propagate – growing from seed and cuttings and dividing plants is the cheapest way to add to bulk up your borders – and I nurtured self-seeders that would do that work for me too. What have I learnt doing all of this? Get your soil right and you will reap the rewards. Digging in lots of organic matter at the outset will make the world of difference to your garden’s overall health and vitality. Use peat-free compost, well-rotted manure or mushroom compost – if your soil is poor and dry it will help it retain moisture and make it more nutrient-rich; if you garden on clay it will help with drainage.
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On a recent visit to my sister’s house in Somerset, my brother-in-law asked if I could suggest some plants for their front garden. He had just dug up the parched, patchy lawn and was in the throes of creating a dry, gravel garden. I dread being asked this question. I might write about plants, but it doesn’t follow that I have a designer’s flair for planting combinations. Nevertheless, in our post-lockdown world, where an opportunity to spontaneously ‘“pop out” still feels like a thrilling novelty, I jumped at the chance to accompany him to a new local nursery in search of inspiration. Located in Horsington on the edge of the Blackmore Vale, Blooming Wild is conveniently a mile or so from my sister’s village, and, for those who don’t live in the vicinity, it’s a mere 10 minutes from the A303 – in other words, a quick detour if you’re travelling to or from Devon or Cornwall. I must admit, I wasn’t expecting much; after all it’s nearing the end of the season and I’m well aware of the difficulties nurseries and garden centres have faced as a result of Covid-19. However, it didn’t take long to realise my brother-in-law has a complete gem on his doorstep. Rather than the usual assortment of seasonal blooms you might find in a small independent set-up, the plants looked carefully curated. So much so, as my eye wandered over the nursery bays filled with perennials and grasses, it gave the impression of a beautiful planting scheme with drifts of veronicastrum, echinacea and persicaria weaving among calamagrostis, deschampsia and pennisetum. This seemed a bold move (the selection of plants might not be everyone’s cup of tea), but to my mind it is extremely helpful from a customer’s point of view because it’s then easy to get a sense of how the plants will work together in our own gardens. With some relief, I told my brother-in-law to pick out seven or eight different plants he liked, (we could fine-tune the choice later), while I headed off to find the owners, Lauren and Will Holley.
'It's a challenge with some bumps but together we can do it!', author and parenting blogger Emma Conway tells Sarah Young
We're back with another episode of Move At Home as our fitness maestro Hannah Lewin runs you through a quick full-body dumbbell workout!
We've all felt a bit peckish before bedtime, but you don't have to spend ages cooking something to get you through the night, as we show you 6 tasty midnight snack hacks that you can whip up in no time at all!
You don't need any equipment to keep fit at home, as today we're running you through some easy bodyweight exercises you can do in the comfort of your own home!