Lead the Good Life Blog

At the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show with Adam Woolcott

It’s an amazing week here at the Hampton Court Palace flower show- incredible gardens, horticultural wonders and stands selling everything from bronze frogs to wooden houses on legs!  The highlight for myself and partner John, however, was winning the Silver-Gilt medal for our garden inspired by the NSPCC.


Recent dark and disturbing headlines have made this Summer a busy one for the NSPCC, but I feel that our garden represents the hope and consistency of the work this great organization provides.

Our garden celebrates the 130 year birthday of the NSPCC, demonstrating that through tumultuous change, war and turmoil, the organization stands strong as a bulwark against child abuse.

The garden moves from the Victorian era to the 1920s, then from the ’70s through to the modern day. The plants and paving change in line with the eras; as do the toys. All the toys featured in the garden were chosen by children whose lives have been positively impacted by the NSPCC.

One of the most touching aspects of the space were the 130 jam jars dotted around the garden containing messages of hope for the future written by children.


It’s easy to become saddened and depressed in this modern world, but our NSPCC garden shows that while those that provide incredible hope and fortitude are around, the compassionate, righteous and truly humane side of humanity will continue to shine through.

To find out more about the NSPCC and to offer your support, visit their website-


Till next time,


Our Favourite Blooms, Gardens & Oddities at BBC Gardeners’ World 2014

20 of our Favourite Blooms, Gardens and Oddities

This being our first time at BBC Gardeners’ World, we found surprises around every corner. From award winning gardens honouring the heroes of WWI to ceramic zombie ornaments, here is our collection of the bizarre and beautiful from this years’ show.

Show Gardens

‘Paint the Town…with Living Colour’

‘Paint the Town…with Living Colour’

Designed by David Blakemore, this space featured as part of the event’s Beautiful Borders exhibit, which attempted to demonstrate how beautiful gardens can be achieved even in the smallest of spaces. All designs followed the ‘Birmingham’ theme, with this entry exploring the vibrancy of the city through colour.

‘Calm & Chaos’

‘Calm & Chaos’
Amidst the hustle and bustle of purchase laden shoppers, this border garden provided brief respite. The sleeper columns are representative of the Birmingham city skyline, with the surrounding foliage and blooms in place to remind us that where there is chaos, there is calm. By Faye Ellard and Nathan Proud.

‘Twenty-One Senses’

‘Twenty-One Senses’
Designers Yvonne Mathews and Andrew Richards sought out to portray the diverse range of senses we all use in every day life and it is safe to say that they delivered. This sensory garden is tied together by the central corolla, the five points of which represent the five main senses.

‘In Flanders Fields’

‘In Flanders Fields’
Memorial WWI gardens were a widespread trend throughout the show, with this primarily textile artwork, by the craft group Creative Moments, drawing in crowds with its vibrant poppy spread. The space utilised upcycled textile materials and promoted the therapeutic benefits of knitting and felt making.


‘Camera Obscura: Images of an Artist’s Retreat’

‘Camera Obscura: Images of an Artist’s Retreat’
Designed by Aidan Tagg

A quaint little garden full of whimsy- the modern geodome teamed alongside the artist’s easel made for a very creative space full of flair. A truly unique offering.


Designed by Tony Smith, this space  is inspired by everyone’s favourite legume, the versatile Cocoa bean. Furniture carved out of giant cocoa pods accompanied a bubbling chocolate fountain in what is truly a novel idea.

‘The World Vision Garden- Grow Hope’

‘The World Vision Garden- Grow Hope’
Designed by John Warland and sponsored by the charity World Vision, this space commemorates the 30 year anniversay since the Ethiopian Famine. The saplings represent the 10 million trees planted by the charity in Ethiopia to help recovery against the effects of deforestation.

‘Colour in Contrast’

‘Colour in Contrast’
Designed by Charlie Bloom, this beautiful space did not fail to deliver in the contrasting colour department. Featuring bright citrus hues alongside vibrant blue plants, this garden really stood out from the rest.

‘The Tailored Garden’

Left side of ‘The Tailored Garden’

‘The Tailored Garden’
Designed by Margaret Dobbs and Jane Feehan, this border garden celebrates those that worked in Birmingham’s tailoring industry. The garden utilizes each bit of space that is given with an abundant array of foliage and flowers.

‘The Blues’

The Blues’ Designed by Juliet Douglas and Soo Spector
With football fever in the air, a garden celebrating Birmingham City Football Club came as no surprise! The woven sphere served as an eye-catching centre piece in a space dominated with blue and white blooms, Birmingham City FC’s team colours.

Birmingham City Council Display for the RHS Floral Marquee

By far our favourite spectacle was the huge display put together by Birmingham City Council.

The impressive garden followed the commemorative WWI garden trend and strove to capture the trepidation of warfare. The outside portion of the display featured depictions of wartime transport adorned with foliage, including a steam engine and a pair of Sopwith Camel style fighter planes.

Perhaps the most engaging feature of the display was the central walkway cutting through the mid-section of the piece. Visitors walked through a sobering representation of a WWI era trench tunnel.

364   368


The Best of the Rest

Some of the most vivid displays could be seen in the RHS Floral Marquee. From tropical plants to bounteous collections of the most beautiful blooms, here is a small collection of our favourite offerings.

The wonderful display above demonstrates what could be achieved with a healthy dose of Incredibloom!

Disclaimer- LTGL does not suggest that your blooms will be this bountiful just through use of Incredibloom, although it wouldn’t hurt!


Lilium ‘Orange Tycoon’

Trumpet plants were another prominent trend throughout the show, with exhibitors pulling out all the stops with exotic offerings.


Nepenthes Alata ‘Tropical Pitcher Plant’

Sarracenia Oreophila ‘The Green Trumpet’

We leave you with an image of our favourite exhibitor- the one that kept us hydrated with plenty of Champagne and Pimms!


15 top tips to get the most out of your garden

Generation of women gardeners

Is your garden in need of some TLC? Are you in a gardening and growing rut? Don’t worry help is here! These top tricks and handy hints from three-time Chelsea award winner Adam Woolcott, will get you set for summer and beyond.

Adam’s top tips for making the most of your garden:

1. Be prepared to put the time in. Gardens aren’t made by sitting in the shade. Do bits little and often

2. Keep on top of weeds and hoe them off as they come up.

3. Look out for pests and pick them off when you see them or treat if necessary.

4. Keep on top of watering especially pots near to the house as they don’t get as much water as you think, even when it rains. Keep shrubs watered especially camellias and rhododendrons to ensure they flower well next year.

5. Use bedding plants for instant colour and feed every week with tomato feed. Plant in groups of the same colour for bigger impact.

6. Dead head regularly to encourage longer flowering.

7. Start a compost heap; it’s great for your beds and borders. It might take a year or two to rot down but it is worth it. It will provide a mulch to keep down the weeds, it will keep in the moisture and it will feed your plants.

8. Take cuttings, collect seed, swap with friends and neighbours. Plants for free.

9. If you want to buy new plants and are not sure what to choose have look around your neighbours’ gardens to see what grows well in your area. Plant in groups of threes or fives as they look better on the eye.

10. Try something new and experiment with different plants. If a plant isn’t happy then just move it in the autumn. Don’t panic it’s actually quite hard to kill plants unless you don’t water them or water them too much.

11. Feed your borders. Shrubs and trees need feeding just as much as hanging baskets. A few handfuls of granular fertiliser sprinkled on your flower beds can really make a difference.

12. Feed and weed your Lawn regularly and keep it cut every week. Invest in some edging sheers. It’s amazing how just keeping the edges of the lawn trimmed can sharpen up your whole garden.

13. Encourage wildlife by adding water features, bird feeders, insect hotels (piles of old logs which make fabulous habitats for beneficial bugs) and by growing plants that butterflies and bees love such as Buddleias and Sedums.

15. Plant up a hanging basket if you haven’t planted yours up yet try one of our ‘Easy Fill’ hanging baskets for the best basket you’ve ever had. Make the neighbours jealous!

16. Take time to sit and enjoy your garden, after all that’s why we do it!

Do you have any gardening questions for Adam? Tweet us and include the hashtag #AskAdam.

Welcome to the Gardening Oscars: The RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Adam Woolcoot - In my Chelsea garden 2012

This week sees the start of the world’s most prestigious gardening show! The horticultural community is awash with excitement as The Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show opens its doors once more.

Set in just eleven acres of land, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is one of the most important events in the gardening calendar and heralds the start of the social season; the place to see and be seen.

This year the sun was out and so were the celebs, everyone from Rob Brydon to Jeremy Paxman and Stephen Fry to Her Majesty the Queen, all enjoying what Chelsea has to offer, fabulous plants and lots of them.

RHS winner Adam Woolcott in his Chelsea tree house  with design partner Jonathan Smith

RHS winner Adam Woolcott in his Chelsea tree house with design partner Jonathan Smith

This year’s Show didn’t disappoint and if anything seemed more spectacular than last year and as usual the plants were the star. On display were favourites such as foxgloves, alliums and peonies together with new introductions in the great pavilion.

Having a garden at Chelsea is the ultimate accolade for any gardener and over the years myself and my partner have been fortunate enough to have created five gardens at the Show.

This year we are having a break from Chelsea, instead we are creating a garden for the NSPCC at the world’s biggest show, The RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, in July. Whatever show you compete in the feelings are always the same. You become very focused and passionate as your garden takes over your life.

Your social life completely disappears and every night you dream about your garden and your plants. For months beforehand you are busy planning and nurturing your plants and when you start building the garden nothing else is important, even eating and going to the loo becomes a chore.

The pressures of early starts and late finishes fade away when the medals are awarded and you can relax and see the joy in the faces of the visitors as they wander past your garden. A gruelling twelve hours a day, standing by your garden, is worth it to hear people’s comments and see their faces and of course winning a gold medal is the icing on the cake.

The worst feeling of all comes on the last day of the Show when the time has come to dismantle the garden. This is quite an emotional experience as you have lived with the design for the past year or so.

For me, Chelsea will always be a pleasure and a passion, whether you go as a visitor or as an exhibitor, it is always special. When you have had a garden there once it becomes addictive and you want to be there again and again. Fingers crossed for next year.

Did You Know? Last year at Chelsea 2,000 bottles of champagne were drunk, 46,500 glasses of Pimms and 65,000 cups of tea.

The Big Allotment Challenge: get set grow!

We have been loving The Big Allotment Challenge on BBC2! Have you too? We caught up with the ‘Glam Gardeners’ Sally Greene and Michelle Stacey to talk about the show and all things allotment related.  

Why did you start your own allotments and how long have you had them?

We started about 5 years ago, because our parents got them for themselves and they enjoyed it so much we had to join in.

Jam making in The Big Allotment Challenge So, why did you both decide to apply for The Big Allotment Challenge?

Just for the love of allotments. Michelle had been a part of Allotment Wars previously with her sister, and when the chance came to be a part of another Allotmenteering adventure she couldn’t say no! Sally was available and keen to take part, and the rest is history.

How do you feel about being referred to as the ‘glam gardeners’?

We quite like it! To be honest, we don’t mind the name at all. People assume that if you’re glam you’re a bit dumbed down as a person. We want to show that we can be glam, and grow all at the same time!

Describe your gardening style in three words?

We would say stylish, glamorous and productive.

Like The Great British Bake Off, do you think The Big Allotment Challenge will inspire people to start growing and cooking their own produce?

YES! I think it will. We’ve had personal messages on Facebook, Twitter, and even just people stopping me on the street to say thank you for doing the show and that we’ve inspired them!

We’ve seen loads of pictures of vegetable patches people have started, chutneys they’ve made and tried for the first time. It’s really sweet!

Which challenge did you most enjoy and which one did you loath?

We enjoyed all of the challenges, because we like to be pushed. Although, week two was really difficult because Michelle felt so poorly.

We would say the growing challenges were our strongest point. We weren’t so hot on the Eat challenges, sometimes we feel like we don’t even know where our own kitchen is let alone working cooking under pressure on the show!

What’s your one gardening/ allotment tip that you swear by?

Work hard, don’t panic, and if you sow something and it dies, you can always sow it again. There are no better pearls of wisdom better than that!

What was it like working with each other on the show?

We love each other to pieces, and we’re a strong team. We are both sister in laws and very good friends, and we had a blast

What’s your favourite fruit, vegetable and plant to grow?

Fruit: Strawberries

Vegetable: Cuca melon

Plant: Wisteria (it’s our favourite flower)

Tell us why we should start an allotment?

Having an allotment means you get good organic produce at less than half the price that you would get it at the shops! Plus, gardening is good for your health, good fitness/good exercise, and it is good for your mental state because it’s social and relaxing. Once you step onto the allotment you leave the land of work, stress and pressure behind. It’s like having a little escape.


Cut Flowers

Aside from houseplants, there are many flowers that can be grown in our own garden and then brought inside as a cut flower, however these are are often overlooked by many gardeners. Plants need not be restricted to beds, borders or containers, they can be cut and brought indoors for wonderful floral displays. Here is a list of my favourite flowers to use in bouquets.

My Top 5 Cut Flowers Continue reading

Is It Time To Put Bedding Plants To Bed? – Lead the Good Life Gardening Blog

297 529-02Bedding plants were first introduced in the 1820s where their 464825237 intricate, vibrant and exotic style broke up the large landscaped gardens of ‘Capability’ Brown and Humphry Repton. The plant hunters of the time were discovering all manner of colourful new blooms from far flung places, the likes of which no one had ever seen before. The great stately house owners fell in love with these “novelty” plants and soon became the fashion of country estates. However, as these exotic plants needed warmth to grow, bedding was not grown by the public because it was far too expensive to produce. In 1845, when the glass tax was abolished and the majority of the population could afford greenhouses in their back garden, bedding plants were made accessible to the general public; the bedding craze of the Victorian era had begun. Continue reading

Bare Root Plants – Lead The Good Life Gardening Blog

Bare root plant

When it comes to planting a new garden it’s important to consider the time of year. Just because the weather is cold, doesn’t mean that you can’t plant. During the warm months container planting is the best option, however now is the time to plant bare root shrubs and trees.

About Bare Root Shrubs and Trees

Bare root shrubs and trees have been grown in a field and then lifted when they are at the required age for sale. They are sold without a pot, literally having bare roots and have many advantages over potted or container grown trees. For example bare root trees can have a much larger root system, sometimes up to 200% more. The cost is less with bare root trees because of less labour and materials involved in their production and planting them is much easier because the tree is often younger, weighs less and is easier to move.

Bare root shrubs and trees are sold throughout the cooler times of the year, namely from late Autumn to early Spring, because of the nature of how the trees are delivered their roots would not be able to cope with the heat of Summer months. Therefore their roots must not be exposed to the air because they will quickly start to dry out, so keep them covered until you’re ready to plant them. Continue reading

Gerberas – Lead the Good Life Gardening Blog


Gerbera Sweet Collection

Gerberas are one of the most vivid and vibrant flowers that we grow in our gardens and they look beautiful as potted house plants too. Their big smiling, daisy faces bring life to wherever they’re planted and their range of colours is almost infinite. Planting Gerberas in your garden not only brightens you borders but they also brighten your mood; whenever I see Gerberas I can’t help but feel warm and smile. Continue reading