Roehampton Garden Society

Nesting boxes – specialist designs

Can you help a bird by putting up a nesting box this spring? You may welcome a DIY project this winter and our allotmenteers excel at creating items from spare wood or pallets. Nest box design is now an art – with specialist box shapes available for more unusual birds as well as our robins tits, sparrows.

robin and wren
barn owl
great tit

But – what type of birds do you see that might appreciate a warm roost – and do you have a suitable place to attach a box? Urban cats can make life a misery for a misplaced nest. There’s useful information available from the British Trust for Ornithology here, with instructions, cutting plans and advice – make a box for robin, wren, blue tit, great tit, and even 3 types of owl! They have produced a printable pdf all about beginning with nest boxes here.

There’s also much good advice on nest boxes available from CJ Wildlife here: – well worth a read.

The scents of Winter

One of the joys of a sunny winter day is to catch a hint of perfume from our winter flowering shrubs.
One of the most beautiful has to be the viburnum. This lovely, tall, but easily controlled shrub flowers on bare branches and is a joy both for us and early bumblebees – an excellent early source of nectar for them. Find out more about growing viburnum.

One of the best for perfume is a humble evergreen shrub called sarcococca. In general a spreading shrub, some varieties will survive well in a pot near a pathway. Here’s more about growing them..
If you’re looking to enjoy the scents of winter, both of the varieties below thrive in Wandsworth gardens, and Kew is famous for its viburnum collection…

Viburnum Bodnantense Dawn
Breakfast for an early bumblebee
Sarcococca confusa

Winter pruning can be daunting

Pruning a fruit tree takes a steady nerve – and we all feel we may not be getting it right.
Apples pears and quince should be winter pruned – although most other fruit trees such as apricot and cherry are pruned in summer.
The RHS has a website page called Pruning made Easy, see here, aimed at the beginner.

There’s even a short video on rejuvenating an older tree (on Youtube here) and advice about checking the bark for disease too.

Your tree may also be helped by a winter oil wash and grease bands low on the trunk (both stocked in the Store). These help reduce disease and pests. Winter is the right time to catch up with pruning your apple and pear trees – so pick a sunny day, take courage and prune!

Exotic vegetables from seed

Crop planning and seed sowing time begins for 2024. Are you planning to grow any of these?

There’s much interest in the new, often easy to grow, exotic vegetables and salads. Some are useful to fill a gap between more traditional produce, some just for exotic variety! Here’s an article from Bite Sized Gardening which covers forty unusual vegetables to grow in an English garden !

The Real Seed Company is a small seed business in Wales. In addition to their heritage and heirloom seed varieties their website is a mine of information about how these exotics grow in our climate. Check out their unusual salad veg, their rare and unusual tubers section for Oca and Yacon, and Cucumbers, Achocha and similar things for unusual Cucmbers, Cucamelon and the Giant Bolivian Achocha!

Their seedling gallery can be useful when the plant labels go astray….

Gardening with Children

We know that family gardening is great fun for children, and the RHS Campaign for School Gardening is helping some to have gardening experience in school. Early reports find that school gardening is proving excellent support for their mental health. Granard School enjoy their visits to our allotments.

The Little Green Fingers website from the BBC contains some lovely short videos to show children how to tackle jobs in the garden. Watch them here.

if you’d like more ideas for child friendly garden projects try this selection from Gardener’s World magazine

A new book on children’s gardening is included in the RHS ten top gardening books of 2023..

The No-Dig Children’s Gardening Book by Charles Dowding is published by Welbeck.

See the complete 2023 top ten gardening book list from the RHS here

Fantastic Mr Fox?

Most of us are accustomed to seeing the odd fox in daylight hours – they are part of site wildlife, and seem amazingly unworried by humans.

Photo by Kate Pugh

This lovely photo, taken by Kate Pugh on site 2, shows how relaxed they can be! Certainly, most of us with a greenhouse have experienced the pleasure of a fox visitor enjoying the warmth and sunshine.

We do need to avoid crop damage and other problems that occur if too many foxes live on the sites. They are wild creatures that can give much pleasure. They do love digging under sheds, however!
There is excellent information and advice about living with foxes from the RSPCA – including how to find out if an earth (den) is occupied before you fill it in. Please do read it.

AGM and Prizegiving 2023

Held in St. Margaret’s church, the AGM was an enjoyable event with informal seating and delicious food and drink. Thanks are due to all those involved. Cups were presented by Fleur Anderson, our MP and RGS President. Awards included a ‘best plot’ cup for both sites and certificates of excellence for two new plot holders.

Read the full ‘Award of Cups AGM report‘ by Carol Martinez here.

Events at the Lindley Library

If you’re interested in a Central London source of horticultural information, talks and events, do add the RHS Lindley library to your list. They hold world-renowned collections of early printed books, the archives of the RHS, botanical art collections and modern books on the history of horticulture, botanical art and practical gardening, but after refurbishment they are now also open for practical sessions.

Here are two examples on Tuesday 12th December

Free Plant Advice Pop-up

Do you have a houseplant that has seen brighter days? Is a pest or disease ravaging your garden? Drop into the Lindley Library between 11am–3pm to receive free one-to-one gardening advice from the RHS Advisory team. Bring a photograph (no samples, please). RHS membership is not required – these sessions are open to all. See more

There will be a break in the advice session to allow you to enjoy Lindley Live: A Curious Herbal – From Love Apples to Treacle Mustard – a 15 minute talk about the unusual life of Elizabeth Blackwell, the woman behind this 18th century herbal.

Heating a Greenhouse

How do you heat a greenhouse with minimal energy usage? Now that we need to be energy efficient and sustainable – what options do we have to try and keep it frost free? Bubble wrap may be the future….

Read some practical advice from the RHS here:

This candle heater will produce a slight raise in temperature

Bubble Wrap Insulation – but light will be reduced..

Hydronic underfloor heating! Recommended to solar heat the circulating water if possible. You can also use old carpet to insulate the floor.

AGM and Awards 2023

We are delighted to invite all members to our

Social and AGM
Thursday 16th November, St. Margaret’s Church, Putney Park Lane.

7.00pm welcome drinks and snacks, 7.30pm business meeting 8.00pm prizegiving, Christmas Cake raffle and results of the RGS Logo Competition. 8.30pm refreshments


The RGS committee has been working on an updated constitution. Members will be asked to agree this at the AGM. Read about it here.
Annual reports from the committee are listed below. Please read them and bring your questions, comments and suggestions to the AGM.

Chair’s report

In my report I will review what has happened during this RGS year that is from November 2022 to now, sketch out plans for next year and touch on who makes all these things happen.. Helen Finch

Read the full report

Trading Secretary and Seeds reports

Trading: We have had another good year for the Store on Site 2 and the sheds on Site 3. People really appreciate having the facility to buy heavy items on Site 3… Gill Tamsett Read the full report

Seeds: Seed sales are up on last year, especially for peas, broad beans and runner beans. We stock over ten different varieties of tomato plus around two hundred other varieties of vegetables and flowers from Kings Seeds. We offer a 10% discount on all seed sales.

The Seeds area in the site 2 shop is fully stocked. We have many different varieties of broad beans to plant now and lots of seasonal vegetables to plant in January/ February. Annie Hardinge

Show Chair’s report

Writing this during storm Ciaran it is hard to remember that both the summer and autumn shows this year were held on two of the hottest days of the year.
The summer show was held again on Site 2 at the end of June. Although it was very hot there was a strong breeze which played havoc with the tablecloths…. Read the full report

Site 2 Secretary’s report

It has been a busy year on site 2. We said goodbye to Pip Melotte as a very long standing plot holder and contributor to RGS activities but she remains an RGS honorary life member and she does come to our shows. Also Pam Partridge who had a plot for a long time finally relinquished her plot…….. Helen Finch

Read the full report

Site 3 Secretaries’ reports

Inner Area (Plots 101-127)
Alison Linton was site secretary until March 2023. I took over thereafter and I am grateful to Alison for her very helpful handover. During the past 12 months turnover has been very low with only 4 plots being reallocated….. Richard Standen Read full report
Outer Area (Plots 50-100)
The weather this year has been very mixed with long dry periods followed by heavy rain. Crops on most plots were good though, especially tomatoes, and the blight held off until the end of the season. Some plot holders still have large grassed areas which is a pity when crops could be grown in lieu. Foxes continue to damage plots……Vivien Fowler Read full report

Waiting List report

There are currently 366 people on the Primary Waiting List. 85 people were added to the list in the last 12 months and the wait time is about 4 years. As usual approximately 10% (25) of our plots changed hands this year…. Jackie Savage Read the full report

Read Minutes of AGM 2022.
Reports from the 2022 AGM can be read here.

Peat free composts: Water with care..

One of the key adjustments you may need to make when changing from peat-based compost to peat-free is with watering. Peat-free composts, especially those containing composted bark, often hold water for longer, so may need watering less frequently. They also tend to look dry on the surface, making it easy to overwater. So use your fingers to check the moisture levels under the surface where possible, or lift the container to feel how heavy it is. Also water using a small watering can or even a mist sprayer, so it’s easier to control the amount you apply.

Going peat free may mean changing the way we plant and deal with seedlings this winter.

The RHS says:
“Before sowing seeds, make sure the compost is moist but not soggy. Saturated compost is colder, which can slow down germination and may cause seedlings and cuttings to rot.”
For more on checking compost moisture and how to water containers, see the RHS video guide to watering.

The John Macleod Lecture – RGS Members invited…

The RHS has invited our members to their John MacLeod Annual Lecture

“Plant Fitness, Sustainable Planting and the Conceptualisation of Understanding Horticultural Plants”

by Professor James Hitchmough

Are we on the brink of transformation or disaster? Join us for an evening of insight and glimpse a world where ecological understanding and innovative horticultural practices converge to create a sustainable future.

Prof. James Hitchmough will paint a compelling picture of how our evolving climate demands a deeper focus on plant fitness, despite a lack of tools and perspectives to address the challenge.

Discover a glimmer of hope as he unveils a framework linking fitness, niche, and geographic range, offering a pathway to a reimagined horticultural landscape that stands resilient in the face of biodiversity loss and climate change.

Date: 16th November 2023
Time/Venue – 14.30 – 15.45 hrs in The Garden Room RHS Wisley Hilltop The Home of Gardening Science.

Please reply to if you would like to attend. First two bookings from RGS members will be accepted.

James Hitchmough is Professor Emeritus in Horticultural Ecology in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Sheffield.
He retired from the University in September 2022, but continues to co-supervise his final tranche of 5 PhD students as they complete their studies. Two of these students are working on understanding and quantifying plant fitness for the changing climate.
James continues to develop new types of designed plantings (as he always has) in landscape architectural practice often in collaboration with Tom Stuart Smith but currently also with Piet Oudolf.
Most of his consultancy and design work is however in China and Australia where he works primarily with their native flora. The perspectives that come from his integration of academic research and practice shapes a world view, that makes him an in-demand conference speaker around the world.