Casual Gardener: Browse your way to a better garden
Gardening websites that'll keep your green fingers busy on winter nights...
Few if any gardening organisations can match the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) for resources and expertise – and it's all freely available at the click of mouse. Easily navigated and written in plain, easy-to-understand English, this extensive and authoritative website offers a range of features for novices and seasoned gardeners alike. A mix of topical, well-informed features, recommended gardens to visit, and a monthly 'to do' list mean there's always fresh, updated content alongside an encyclopaedic database covering every plant you've ever heard of. The tone is rather dry and most of the events are based in England but otherwise it's a fantastic resource.
Brought to us for the past 20 years or more by Gerry Daly, formerly of RTÉ and the mainstay of The Irish Garden magazine, Garden.ie is a great site for browsing but also one where members can interact with like-minded people across the island, sharing horticultural tips and experiences. As well as carrying the obligatory monthly guide to managing your garden, you can access a wealth of horticultural know-how, a guide to the country's best plant suppliers, and regular competitions. The comprehensive 'Gardens Open' feature enables you to plan garden visits across 32 counties for 52 weeks of the year.
The late David Austin, who died in 2018 aged 92, was a legend among plant breeders and especially loved by rose enthusiasts. He was known for twinning the best characteristics of traditional roses with features that make their modern counterparts more desirable, such as repeat-flowering and a broad range of colours. This is the website of the David Austin commercial arm, a world leading breeding operation, selling hundreds of bare-root rose varieties over the winter months. It also shares advice on what roses are best for particular situations and locations, alongside tips on planting and maintenance.
If this column were ever guilty of product placement it would be in relation to Klaus Laitenberger, who happened to feature in the very first Casual Gardener column almost 20 years ago while working at the Organic Centre in Rossinver. Since then the German-born, Co Leitrim-based gardener has become the go-to man for everything you want to know about growing vegetables organically in Ireland. His greenvegetableseeds.com website is not only a great source for mail order seeds and his self-penned books but also includes tutorial videos, blogs and a Q&A from this most insightful and engaging of vegetable gardeners.
Founded in 1981 by a group that includes many of the island's green-fingered greats, the Irish Garden Plant Society's aim was to nurture and preserve plants with an Irish connection, while also celebrating the country's gardens and garden history. Members include amateur gardeners, professional horticulturists, botanists, garden designers and others. The website errs on the specialist side but has lots of news, articles and information about the society's work and events. Provides a sound grounding in the many great plants and people Ireland has given the world of gardening.
A website run not by the BBC but by the Immediate Media, the publisher of the monthly Gardeners' World magazine. Like Garden.ie the best features here are for subscribers who gain access to a variety of tutorials, dealing with everything from houseplant care to building your own bat box. Magazine content and other special offers are also available to subscribers. However, two free features I'd recommend on gardenersworld.com are the forum and a plant database that allows you to input variables (eg yellow; annual; full sun) and receive a list of plant options.