Author Archives: Tammy Falloon

Get the best from your plants with the right fertiliser

Time to feed…trees & shrubs

March is the best time to feed trees, shrubs and hedges with a balanced fertiliser (such as growmore or blood, fish and bone). This is because your trees and shrubs will be emerging from their winter dormant period.

What are fertilisers

Fertilisers are a concentrated source of plant nutrients in chemical or organic form. Some also contain trace elements, which plants only need in tiny amounts.

Most fertilisers are based on the three major plant nutrients:
Nitrogen (N): For green leafy growth
Phosphorus (P): For healthy root and shoot growth
Potassium (K): For flowering, fruiting and general hardiness

If you look on any packet of fertiliser they should quote their N:P:K ratio. For example, a ratio of 7:7:7 indicates a balanced fertiliser (Vitax Growmore), but a ratio of 5:5:10 would indicate a high potassium fertiliser (in this case Vitax Rose Food).

What type of fertiliser should I use?

Fertilisers will either be organic (derived from plant or animal) or inorganic (man-made).

Organic fertilisers: contain plant nutrients in organic form. They tend to be slower acting, as large organic molecules have to be broken down by soil organisms before the nutrients within them are released for plant use. However, organic fertilisers are a “traditional” choice and whilst they have been used for hundreds of years they still remain popular due to their results.  Dried blood, fish blood & bone, seaweed extract, bone meal and poultry manure pellets are all example of this type of fertiliser.

Inorganic fertilisers: are synthetic, artificial forms of plant nutrients. They are usually more concentrated and faster acting than organic fertilisers. Examples include modern brands such as Miracle-Gro, Phostrogen, Tomorite as well as Growmore, Sulphate of Ammonia, Sulphate of Potash and Superphosphate

Within each category (organic or inorganic) there are further options…

Slow release fertilisers: These degrade slowly, usually under the influence of soil micro-organisms to release their nutrients. These are best used when the soil is warm as that will speed up the leaching of the nutrients into the soil. An example is bone meal.

Compound fertilisers: These contain a mixture of different nutrients, and may be balanced (containing similar proportions of all the major plant nutrients) or may supply more of some nutrients than others, as per the requirements of different crops. They may be organic or inorganic, or contain both. Most fertilisers labelled ‘all purpose’ will be a compound fertiliser.

Straight fertilisers: These contain only one or mainly one nutrient. They are usually used to provide different nutrients at different times of the year, or to correct particular nutrient deficiency. You can find these altogether in our specialist fertiliser area.

Controlled release fertilisers: These are almost always granules of inorganic fertilisers coated with a porous material such as sulphur or synthetic resin. Water enters the granule and the fertilisers leach out into the surrounding soil. The warmer the soil, the faster the leaching; this corresponds to plant growth which is faster in warm weather. By varying the thickness of the coating granules can be designed to feed plants for different periods of time. These are useful in baskets and containers where the access to soil nutrients is limited to that basket volume of compost.

How do I apply the fertiliser?

Always read the label of any fertiliser before you use it and wear gardening gloves if you intend to handle it. Follow the directions on the packet but assuming you go for grow more or blood, fish and bone we recommend you sprinkle the fertiliser over the root area before hoeing it into the top layer of the soil surface. This will particularly benefit young, weak, damaged or heavily pruned plants.

For help selecting the right fertiliser for your plants just ask one of our team when you next visit us.

March Focus on Pots & Containers – Entrances

Pots and Containers – ideas to bring your “space” to life

It isn’t a myth; gardens are getting smaller and for many of us, they’re so small it’s hard to know what to do, where to start, what to use and indeed how to create our own little sanctuary.

Sometimes it’s best to think about it practically…how much space do you have, how do you want to use it and how much time can you lend it. Some of us have only a small patio or balcony, some of us have nothing more than a few steps and some of us may be looking to turn a little corner into a little haven. Pots and containers can allow us to make it happen with relative ease.

Maybe you want perfume rather than colour, maybe you want a theme of gentle colours that are kind on the eye, maybe you want some bold, stunning, contemporary plants that offer structure. Perhaps your interest is only structural, framing an entrance or softening a gate or perhaps you are looking to make a display that’s main attribute is to attract bees and butterflies. There are so many options.

Our garden centre (on the Sidmouth Road at Clyst St Mary, postcode EX5 1AE) offers a vast collection of pots and containers of different styles and materials or you may want to simply make your own…convert an old bucket or trough into a planter, up-cycle something wonderful from some old wood; the possibilities are endless and can be a lot of fun.

Make an entrance

The key thing to consider is the architecture of your home for this will be the back drop to your planting. Is it stone or brick or tile or render? Is it grand? Is it classical or is it rustic? What colour is it? What size is it? Think through all of these questions so as to help you make the right decisions. Your aim should be to select your pots based on proportions and style. Sometimes the most attractive are the most simple, the most stunning are the most bold and the most beautiful are the those that have a boutique and bespoke style.

For many, the geometry of the entrance determines the decor you place in front of it. Cubes or urns containing topiary of bay or buxus are always strong favourites, something formal is the preferred choice for many. Conversely there are lots of properties where ‘geometry’ simply doesn’t sway it! For these you may prefer a more loose or casual array of assorted pots with a variety of aromatic and tumbling plants to spill a welcoming hello eg lavenders in terracotta with hostas and daisies and diascia, geraniums and grasses, herbs with scabiosa and sedum.

Give it a go

Very importantly you just need to have the confidence to give it a go, to show your inner creative self and make it extraordinarily yours! If you want aromatic go for it, if you want edible go for it, if you want gentle and calm go for it or if you want big and bold statement with a zillion colours or simply every shade of green, GO FOR IT.

You’ll need some compost, you’ll need a watering can and you’ll need a few minutes each week to give you a welcome home every day. Go on, GO FOR IT.


Gardening this February – time to think about about the ‘To Do List’

Time to think about the ‘To Do List’

Preparation, preparation, preparation… they key to success.

We are beginning to see genuine glimpse of Spring, while inevitably feeling the occasional chill and remnants of winter – there are still some frosts on high ground and hat and scarf winds along the coast.

Bulbs are pushing through, snowdrops are abundant and hints of colour are teasing their way into view. Additionally we are welcoming the longer, lighter evenings and the skies are bringing us more sunshine.

February is the perfect time to begin the process of preparing many parts of your garden, not least your greenhouse. 

Here are some February Tips: 

  • February is the time to prepare your greenhouse for spring by improving the ventilation, shading and heating. Think about installing an automatic vent opener. These are simple to fit and work on a simple piston. Inside the piston there is oil. When temperatures rise the oil expands and pushes the piston lever up, thus opening your roof vent. Netting and bubble wrap can easily be clipped to the metal down posts of your greenhouse using clips that we sell in the garden centre.
  • February is tidy up the greenhouse time. Get rid of any broken pots, old compost or debris that could hide unwanted visitors. Give it a good sweep out and consider using a greenhouse disinfectant to ensure you have a disease free home for your new plants.
  • February is round 2 of sowing winter salad in the greenhouse, conservatory or on a sunny windowsill, winter lettuce is a good choice.
  • February is the time to move any potted strawberry plants under cover to encourage early fruiting.
  • February is the time to check (again) your overwintering plants for aphids, mealy bugs and other pests, and take action where necessary.
  • February is the time to re-visit any potted peaches you may have brought into the greenhouse to avoid leaf curl disease.
  • February is perfect to sow seeds of colourful hardy annuals, such as Cornflowers, California Poppies, Larkspur, Love in the Mist and Borage. Use modular trays for early flowering.
  • February is the time to repot any Phalenopsis (Moth Orchids) if they look like they’re about to burst out of their pot and have finished flowering. We sell clear orchid pots in our garden centre which are vital to orchid success as they like their roots to see the light!

Here’s to your busy weekend of gardening… enjoy

National Nest Box Week

Valentine’s Day marks the start of the British Trust for Ornithology’s (BTO) National Nest Box Week. Garden birds are pairing off and beginning to look for nesting sites so it really is the perfect time to add a nest box to your garden.

Our gardens, parks and woodlands are becoming neater and tidier and this deprives birds of natural holes to find a home. To make matters worse, there are fewer handy nooks and crannies in modern buildings. The populations of many bird species are declining as a result of this housing shortage. The good news is that you can do your bit to help and your own garden is the best place to start.

We have a lovely selection of nest boxes in our garden centre with different sized entrance holes to attract different garden birds. The secret for success with any box is positioning.

Make sure that you site your box out of the prevailing wind and strong sunlight. It should be about 1 to 3m above the ground, ideally on a tree trunk, but a wall or shed is fine too. Look for somewhere that is hard for cats or squirrels to reach and be sure to position it away from bird tables and feeders, as they are busy areas.

For more information on National Nest Box Week click here (link takes you to an external website – we do not manage this website or accuracy thereof).


Seed potatoes

Seed potatoes

Ever fancied eating your own home grown spuds and not sure how to do it? Wondered why you should are supposed to buy seed potatoes rather than plant your supermarket ones? Well let us shed some light for you…

Why shouldn’t you plant supermarket potatoes?

Your average potato from the supermarket will grow into a potato plant when planted. But it is far better to buy seed potatoes from a garden centre as they will be certified disease free. Seed potatoes were grown to be replanted. These tubers are supplied to you with the intention to grow more from them. They have been certified as disease free and the growers are inspected and their potatoes have a ‘plant licence’. This means that they reduce the risk of crop disease and soil damage. Whilst supermarket potatoes are perfectly fine for us when cooked, when planted they can introduce long-lasting disease to your soil (think Irish potato famine).

Another benefit of seed potatoes is that they are meant to produce high yields and quality plants.

What variety should I choose?

If you are new to growing potatoes, look on our handy labels for varieties that are easy to grow. A small 1kg taster bag is a good place to start and will give you a decent crop. You may want to choose two or three different varieties to extend your cropping period.

Finally, make sure you buy varieties that suit your cooking! Some varieties chip and roast well while others are better for boiling and mashing.

Remember our staff are always pleased to help you and will gladly advise on your selection.

I’ve heard that some potatoes are earlier than others

Potatoes are classified into three groups…

First Early Varieties – These potato varieties will give you the first harvest of new potatoes of the summer. Think small salad potatoes.

Second Early Varieties – Second earlies will be ready to harvest just after the first earlies, approximately 2 weeks down the line.

Maincrop Varieties – Maincrop potatoes are the ones you leave to mature, so you can lift them at the end of the season and store them for use during winter. Think crispy roasties with your Christmas meal.

Think about where are you going to grow the potatoes. Maincrop potatoes tend to take up a fair amount of space so if you have an allotment or large plot these are perfect. If, however, you are short of space and would rather grow potatoes in a container or potato grow bag then look out for first or second earlies. Equally if you want to harvest your crop in summer when they tend to be expensive in the shops, buy first earlies.

Seed potatoes won’t store until next year so only buy what you intend to plant this year.


Before you plant your potatoes we recommend you chit them (please note spelling – we are not being rude)! February is the best time to start chitting potatoes, which basically is encouraging them to sprout before planting. This makes them grow quicker and leads to a bumper harvest.

If you have only a few potato tubers, line them up in egg cartons. If you’re doing lots of chitting, put them  in open boxes with something like bubble wrap or newspaper in between to keep them upright. Place your box in a naturally light place slightly warm like a porch or unheated greenhouse.

Keep an eye on your potatoes, you need to wait for strong, short green shoots to appear (usually in 4-6 weeks) that are about 2-3 cms long from the eyes of each tuber. If you want to maximize the size of your potatoes when they crop, rub off all but three or four at the top end of the tuber before planting out. If you leave all the shoots intact you’ll end up with lots of smaller potatoes.

Now simply follow the instructions on your packet and plant your potatoes. Good luck.

Creating a bulb lasagne this November

In order to attain an abundance of flowering plants next sprint, have a go at making  bulb lasagne this November.

This easy and effective technique utilises the different planting depths required by bulbs enabling you to grow a punch of colour in one small space.

This technique is fabulously easy and can be achieved in plant pots as well as in the garden, giving you greater scope to spread some colour throughout your outdoor space.

Here are some handy tips to help you create your own bulb lasagne…

Begin by layering the bottom of your pot with pottery shards (crocks) or pebbles to keep the drainage holes in the bottom of your plant pot from becoming clogged with compost. This allows any water to pass through easily without water-logging your planters. Choose a bulb fibre or multi-purpose compost and scatter a layer of this compost on top of the crocks.

Always plant the largest flowering bulbs first at the deepest layer, moving upwards in size to the smallest on the top. Typically, a bulb lasagne will have daffodils at the bottom, tulips in the middle and crocus at the top.

There’s no need to worry about the bulbs that are planted deep at the lowest level, they will grow and surface naturally moving around anything in their way.

When making your bulb lasagne, the bulbs will need to be planted a little further apart than you would if you were planting a single layer, approx 1.5 inches apart is about right and if you’re planting in pots, try to arrange your bulbs so that they don’t touch each other or the sides of the pot.

Follow the planting depth instructions on your packets of bulbs and add a 2 inch layer of compost after each bulb layer.

When making your bulb lasagne get creative and bold, you can make two or even three layers of bulbs if you wish and with a large choice of flowering plants to choose from you can have fun concocting your own ingredients. Here are some suggestions: Tulips, daffodils, lilies, hyacinths, snowdrops, crocus, scillas, anemones, iris etc, all of which we have in store.

Remember if you are planting in pots, drainage is key to prevent your bulbs from rotting and make sure you position your pots before filling them as they will become heavy and difficult to move once filled and watered.

Once you have planted your bulbs, water right away and regularly for the first few weeks whilst the roots are forming and make sure that the compost doesn’t dry out.

If you’re planting spring bulbs you may well need to protect and insulate your pots from severe cold conditions. The simplest way to do this is to wrap your pots in bubble wrap or plant fleece to protect them from frost and snow.

Whatever you decide to grow, we hope you have fun creating your bulb lasagne and enjoy the onset of colour from next spring.


Happy gardening everyone!


Heavenly Hydrangeas

We’re having a late spring/early summer show of heavenly hydrangeas at our Clyst St Mary Garden Centre.


At St Bridget’s we grow six different species of hydrangea! The most showy of these are Mop-heads (Hydrangea macrophylla).


Hydrangea plants are versatile shrubs for any garden, they can put up with soils many other plants can’t tolerate so they’re a great go-to shrub for that problem patch.


Hydrangea flowers change colour depending on the acidity of your soil.


Acid soils turns the blooms blue whilst alkaline makes them pink!


Pink Hydrangea Plants

When planted in alkaline soils hydrangeas will turn pink in colour.

Hydrangea colourant and simple soil testing kits are available in store though we always suggest checking before making a special journey. Simply email us via
White Hydrangea

Stunning white hydrangeas create a bright impact and work well when underplanted with silver foliage plants like helichrysum.

Primula Apple Blossom

Primrose Festival 2020 Results

During February Half Term we held our third Primrose Festival. Despite the rather grim weather, the week celebrated the glorious colour from the primula family of plants. We had over 12 different varieties of primrose and polyanthus on display and asked visitors to vote for their favourite variety.

The results

Every variety received at least one vote but this year gave the clearest win we’ve had! APPLE BLOSSOM is our primrose of the year 2020.

Primula Apple Blossom

The stunning Primrose Apple Blossom – voted by our customers as their favourite variety 2020

In second place we had no less than FIVE varieties sharing the podium spot

Red Stella, Champagne Stella, Romance and Harlequin Purple.

In third place was Wanda.

One of our Primrose Festival 2020 displays

The 2020 Primrose Festival varieties.


Congratulations to Ms Leverton and Mr Cann who were our prize draw winners. They each receive a planted container worth £20.

We look forward to many more varieties on show next year. Thank you to everyone who voted.



Boy choosing his family Christmas tree

Christmas Trees 2019

How to choose a Real Christmas Tree

There is nothing like the aroma of real Christmas trees to give that magical Christmas feeling we love.

Preparation – measure up

Before choosing your real Christmas tree, measure the space in your home (remembering that the tree stand could add height).

Visit our Exeter garden centres

Once you know your height (and diameter of space available) visit one of our Exeter garden centres between the 26th November and 24th December to buy your tree.

We will have four types to choose from:

  1. Nordman Fir. This is the UK’s number 1 selling tree. It has a bushy shape, strong branches for big baubles and is great for retaining it’s needles.
  2. The Fraser Fir – Quickly approaching the number 1 spot this fir is also great for retaining its needles but it has a slightly narrower shape and a beautiful fragrance.
  3. The Norway Spruce – the traditional tree as sent to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1844. It’s probably what you grew up with!
  4. The Blue Spruce (only available pot grown)  – like the Norway spruce but with a gorgeous silver-blue colour to its needles. Very elegant.

Once you have picked your tree our staff will net it for you (for free) and then help you to your car. If you find you can’t get it home then ask one of our team about delivery charges to your address.

Order your Christmas tree from home

Know what you want but can’t get to us? Don’t worry you can order your tree over the phone. Rest assured our fussy elves will always choose the best shape available as we want know this is important. We generally need at least two working days notice to cut a special order tree and we will advise you of available delivery dates and costs when you call. To order your Christmas Tree please call 01392 876281.

Getting your tree home

Once home, leave your tree upright outdoors for as long as possible. If you have a cut tree it pays to saw another 2cm/inch off the bottom to make a fresh cut, which will aid the uptake of water and keep your tree fresh for longer.

Ensure the stem is in water at all times. It is easiest to get your tree indoors and in the stand whilst still wrapped in its net. Get the tree straight and firmly in place before cutting the netting away. If you find it won’t fit in the space you want it to, take a pair of secateurs and cut off the necessary branches where they join the stem. These offcuts are great for making wreaths and other natural decorations around the house. Ensure your tree is not near a direct heat source (i.e. a fire or radiator). Water your tree daily.

All you have to do now is decorate and we’ve got a lovely selection of lights and decorations awaiting your visit.

Christmas Tree 2019 Prices

PREMIUM CUT CHRISTMAS TREES 2019 Height in feet Price

The UK’s number 1 selling Christmas Tree. Bushy shape, soft needles with high needle retention.  Premium Deluxe grade trees are well tended during growth and are pruned to give optimum shape.

120-150cm     (Yellow Label)  4-5ft £25.00
150-175cm    (Blue Label) 5-6ft £35.00
175-200cm    (Pink Label)  6-7ft £45.00
200-225cm      (Purple Label) 7ft £60.00
225-250cm (Green Label) 7-8ft £75.00
250-300cm     (Orange/White Label) 8-10ft £85.00
300-360cm 10-12ft £100.00

St Bridget’s homegrown in Exeter – left to grow naturally in the field, as a result they are not so uniformly shaped as the premium deluxe grade ones)

210-240cm 7-8ft £50.00
240-270cm   8-9ft £80.00
270-300cm SPECIAL ORDER 9-10ft £115.00
300-365cm SPECIAL ORDER 10-12ft £155.00
360-420cm SPECIAL ORDER 12-14ft £170.00
420-480cm SPECIAL ORDER 14-16ft £195.00
460-600cm – collection only  SPECIAL ORDER 15-20ft £230.00
610-914cm – collection only SPECIAL ORDER 20-30ft £320.00
SPECIAL ORDER = only available by advance order. These will not be in our centres

The traditional Christmas Tree as sent to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1844! Premium deluxe grade trees are well tended during growth and are pruned to give optimum shape.

150-175cm    (Red Label) 5-6ft £20.00
175-200cm    (Blue Label)  6-7ft £25.00
200-225cm      (White Label) 7ft £30.00

As above but grown in our fields in Exeter. Standard grade trees are left to nature and so will not be as uniformly shaped as premium ones. 

90-120cm 3-4ft £15.00
120-150cm  4-5ft £18.00
210-240cm SPECIAL ORDER 7-8ft £30.00
240-270cm  SPECIAL ORDER 8-9ft £35.00
270-300cm SPECIAL ORDER 9-10ft £45.00
300-365cm SPECIAL ORDER 10-12ft £55.00
360-420cm SPECIAL ORDER 12-14ft £65.00
SPECIAL ORDER = only available by advance order. These will not be in our centres

Rapidly chasing the popularity of the Norman fir, the Fraser Fir has a slightly narrower base and a beautiful fragrance. Great needle retention. 

120-150cm     (White Label)  4-5ft £25.00
150-175cm    (Red Label) 5-6ft £35.00
175-200cm    (Blue Label)  6-7ft £45.00

Our living trees have been pot grown in the UK – this means that they can be transplanted into your garden after Christmas. Be careful not to buy inferior potted trees as they are less likely to survive the move. 

height in feet Sell price 
BLUE SPRUCE 80-100cm (Red Label) 2-3ft £35.00
BLUE SPRUCE 100-120cm (Pink label) 3-4ft £45.00
NORDMAN FIR 100-120cm (Pink Label) 3-4ft £45.00
NORWAY SPRUCE 120-150cm (Yellow Label) 4-5ft £36.00



Cyclamen are perfect for autumn colour in the garden

Hardy Cyclamen

Our home grown cyclamen are always our best selling plant in autumn and winter but what makes these tiny plants so popular?

What are Hardy Cyclamen?

Cyclamen are a tuberous plant and as such are perfect for naturalising under trees or banks in a shady border. What this means is over time (years) the plant will duplicate underground, producing more tubers and consequently they will cover a larger area with flowers and leaves. They flower for a very long period when really there isn’t many other flowers about. Best of all is that these plants are really hardy meaning that they can survive frosts. 

How to get the best from your cyclamen…

To get the best from your cyclamen, plant them soon after you get home. Simply remove the plant from its pot and plant in a fertile well drained multi purpose compost with added John Innes. You always plant to the same depth as the soil was in the pot. We love planting cyclamen in planted containers for the autumn and winter and then when the plant dies back in spring, transfer the plants to your borders and under trees. They then give you a nice surprise next autumn when they reappear in their new position. 

Cyclamen are available in white, red, shades of pink and purple. 

Available from both our Exeter garden centres while stocks last. Please call 01392 876281 to check stock levels before making a special journey.