Session notes

Session 9 - Willow Christmas decorations - 3 November

Here are a few basic notes about the workshop and some reminders of what we covered.

The basics

  • A willow rod has a tip (the thin end) and a butt (the thick end).
  • The simplest willow weaving technique is called randing. We used this for the Christmas tree. Using a single wiilow rod, you weave over one, under one (or in front of one, behind one).

Read the notes in full 

How to make a willow christmas tree .


Session 8 - Composting - 15 September

Due to people choosing to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable, there are now many different ways to compost. The Compost Workshop focused mainly on the basics of hot and cold composting and leaf mould but also provided a brief overview of other ways of composting with links to learn more.

Helen Greenwood.

Read the notes in full here.


Session 7 - Seed Saving - 1 September

Tutor  Maria Scholten   Scottish co-ordinator, Seed Sovereignty Programme

There’s a lot of interest these days in saving seed from vegetables, herbs and flowers – with good reason! But getting seed that pollinates well and is true to type isn’t as straightforward as all that. 

Using saved seed opens up a huge range of heritage varieties that aren’t in the standard seed catalogues – often varieties that have been maintained because they suit small-scale growers and local conditions. And by collecting seed from plants that thrive here, you can end up with higher yields, longer seasons, better flavour. It has to be said though, there are some pitfalls and surprises – for instance broad beans will pollinate other varieties growing nearby, so if your neighbour is growing a different variety from yours, you’ll end up with a cross between the two. French beans, on the other hand, don’t readily cross-pollinate, so you can safely save seed from different varieties growing next to each other.

Maria's latest newsletter for the Seed Sovereignty programme is on the Food & Growing / Seed saving / Seed Sovereignty page.


Session 4 - Growing Flowers - 2 June


Before we start, a few words of caution

Whilst there are many edible flowers that are wonderful to eat, please be careful what you eat! 

Not all flowers are equal……… Only eat what you grow as plants bought from garden centres or flowers from florists or supermarkets will probably have been sprayed/treated with pesticides/fungicides. Also be aware that whilst one flower in a plant group can be great to eat, (eg red runner bean flowers are fine, whereas white aren’t, and edible pea flowers are fine but not sweet pea flowers) its brother or sister may be poisonous!
Likewise, be careful if you are foraging for flowers, roadside flowers will have absorbed all sorts of nasties from vehicle emissions, and for obvious reasons, paths frequented by our doggy friends are not a good place to forage!

One last thing, if you have allergies to pollen please be cautious, as eating flowers may prompt an allergic reaction. In other words check before you eat!
On a more positive note, edible flowers are not only decorative, but can be added to sweet or savoury dishes as well as flavouring oils, butters and cordials.

Full note with list of edible flowers.



A seed is a fertilised ovule (egg) containing the plant embryo. Given the appropriate conditions, this seed will develop into a new plant. All flowering plants should produce seeds, however, some of the varieties that have been selectively bred, especially double flowered varieties, are infertile and therefore won’t produce seeds.

These are swollen stems or roots that act as food storage organs. They are used for the plant to survive the winter and provide energy and nutrients for regrowth in the next growing season. They have buds (sometimes known as ‘eyes’) that will sprout and grow into a new plant.
There are two types of tubers:
Stem tubers where part of the stem becomes enlarged, Examples of stem tubers are Potatoes, Begonias
Root tubers where part of the root (can be the end, middle or entire length) becomes enlarged. Examples of root tubers are Dahlias, sweet potatoes

These are underground storage organs, present in plants such as Crocus, Gladioli, Cyclamen, Crocosmia. They are swollen stem bases (not unlike stem tubers) covered with scale leaves. New shoots (stolons) emerge from between the scale leaves at axillary buds and form new corms at their tips. The scale leaves are remnants of leaves produced in previous years and provide a protective covering.

A bulb is a resting stage of a plant (eg Lily, Onion, Tulip, Hyacinth), that is formed underground. It consists of a short stem base, bearing one or more vegetative growing points enclosed in overlapping fleshy leaf bases or scales. These scales contain food reserves to enable the plant to survive overwinter. The growing points or unexpanded flower shoots develop upward growth whereas the roots emerge from under the stem base.

These are continuously growing underground stems that also put out lateral shoots and adventitious roots, thereby spreading quickly. Examples are invasive weeds like ground elder and couch grass, as well as some varieties of bamboo and certain herbaceous perennials like Euphorbia griffithii Fireglow.



Plants especially good for Honeybees, Bumblebees, and other Pollinators.

Bees and pollinators need nectar and pollen from flowers. Nectar is converted to honey for food for the bees and pollen is the protein used to feed the larvae. Not all flowers produce both and some produce none (mainly double flowers and blousy overly bred annuals), so the list below is intended to help you include some of the best plants for bees in your garden.

Try to plant more older varieties of plants that have not been too highly bred, and also pick a selection of plants that will give flower throughout the season, from early spring to late summer/autumn

Bumblebees have longer tongues than Honeybees and are able to access nectar/pollen from flowers that the honeybee cannot. Where I have put ‘bumble’ next to a listed plant that indicates it isn’t suitable for honeybees.

Also be aware that bees see flowers very differently from us and are more guided by ultra violet light, so those flowers with petals that in UV light guide the bees to the important parts will be more attractive to bees.

Full list of bee-friendly plants


Session 3 - Crop Protection - 5 May

Lesley has provided some general notes on pest control (below), and a magazine article mainly about building cloche tunnels.  She warns that the pages in the .pdf file are slightly out of order, so read pages 2, 3,  4, then 1. 


 SLUGS – beer traps, environmentally friendly pellets, sheep’s wool, crushed egg shell or pine needles around plants.
Lay a rhubarb leaf (or piece of dark plastic or carpet, anything which creates dark and damp)) on the ground and despatch any slugs found snoozing under it. Check under any pots on the ground!
Use a bottle cloche to protect vulnerable seedlings – push well into the soil to help protect from underground attack.

 WASPS – if your apples are attacked by wasps, hang bottles containing a small amount of beer or jam in them from your tree branches.

CARROT ROOT FLY, BUTTERFLIES/CATERPILLARS – it’s worth planting out brassicas and carrots under cover of fleece or enviromesh (this is much more durable) to prevent decimation by caterpillars and root fly. Put fabric over hoops (push stick up end of tubing to push into ground) or canes (put yoghurt pot or similar on top of cane) and weight down with stones leaving no paces for pests to enter.

This will also protect crops, especially brassicas, from strong winds.

As well as above, see attached article about making crop covers.
Also make a simple cloche with corrugated plastic and D-shaped wire.

Remember to always hold the seedlings by a leaf, never by the stem.

PAPER POTS – these are probably best for sowing individual seeds. Ensure that the paper pot is wet when planting out and it can be worthwhile to loosen the paper on the base unless there are roots already showing through.

LABELS – cut from plastic pots and milk cartons

OTHER PLANTING CONTAINERS – toilet roll tubes (excellent for peas and beans), plastic milk bottles of any size cut off top and make drainage holes in the base, deep plastic trays but again remember drainage. Anything else you can find!

Use a bottle with a drinking nozzle to give seedlings a gentle trickle.
If the water flow from your watering can is too strong place a stick/cane into the spout and adjust its length to give a weaker, more controllable, flow.
To get water direct to the roots, dig a plant pot or bottle into the ground and water into it. This can also keep the ground surface dry and deter slugs.

 Use your unlimited imagination to RECYCLE. Share any ideas – ‘Grow North handy hints’!

Session 2 - Creating a Wildflower Meadow - 14 April

Fran Tilbrook, who participated, writes :  

‘We’d all been asked to bring a spade, rake and trowel, which should have prepared us for what was more of a work party than a workshop! Hard work but rewarding nonetheless. 
Our tutor for the session, Jay Jay (Gladwin – of Black Isle Garden Design) marked out the large area for the wildflower meadow in Lina’s garden. This was on existing grass and included a tree which had had a large quantity of soil banked up against the trunk for many years. Jay Jay said this would need removing for the sake of the tree’s health. 

Read the full report

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