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again, many of the most ornamental trees are random mutations that do not breed true from seed.

Try growing a Norway maple from seed

Even trees that do set viable seed are not straightforward. Tree seeds have a defence mechanism built into them to stop them germinating as soon as they fall off the plant.

This ‘dormancy factor’ has to be ‘switched off’. Tree seeds have to be made to believe they have passed through the gut of a bird or survived a cold winter or other such triggers, before they will germinate.

Nursery folk are an awful lot cleverer than most people realise! If you want to grow a medium-sized tree from seed you are best off with something native or naturalised; for a medium height tree you might choose a rowan, a field maple or a Norway maple. The best way to get these trees is for them to be growing as a weed seedling in somebody’s garden. Your average sapling is about five years old. Information exists in books and online regarding how to break seed dormancy in various species. Do have a go – growing something from seed is a particularly satisfying experience. Mark Hinsley

Q. ‘After the winter I always feel a bit jaded, and this year is no exception as I had a bad bout of flu in January. Can you advise what plants I could grow that I could use in cooking and in making herbal teas, that would give me a bit more energy to get on with the garden and spring cleaning?’

Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) has stamina promoting benefits.

A. We all need a boost after the winter and there are many herbs and plants that can help. The easiest plants to grow would be the Mediterranean ones. If you have a sunny position and fairly well drained soil. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is very useful in cooking, particularly

in tomato based sauces. You can also make herb tea with rosemary, using a sprig to a mug of hot water. Rosemary is highly antibacterial, antiseptic and promotes circulation. Some consider it to benefit the memory, and act as an ‘adaptogen’; a medicinal herb which improves the body’s ability to cope with stressors from illness or fatigue. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), sage (Salvia officinalis) and hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) all have those antibacterial volatile oils which are beneficial in cold remedies. Small potted versions of these can be grown indoors if your garden is not suitable.

In a more shady garden, the woodland loving violets (Viola odorata) grow well. The leaves and flowers make a tasty tea or syrup which is a traditional cough remedy. The flowers can be crystallised and used as cake decorations.

If you fancy growing something which takes a bit more work to use, then liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) has immune supportive and stamina promoting benefits. The root, best lifted in autumn, is chopped and dried and used to make tea.

Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) is used in cooking to make sauces and creams and easily preserved by grating the fresh root and covering in cider vinegar and storing in a jar in the fridge. Mixed with a little syrup this makes one of the best cough remedies there is, and also promotes circulation. Be warned – this makes your eyes water when processing, more than the strongest onion!

Anyone with a medical condition should consult with a health professional before self-treating. Dawn Ireland

Q. ‘We all know of the restoration of the Lost Gardens of Heligan, and of gardens such as Hestercombe. A lot of big historic gardens have been restored in recent years. Are there many more gardens awaiting a transformation in the West Country?’

A. Garden restoration, like the subject of garden history generally, has become a huge topic of interest in the past few decades. There are still many gardens out there that could be restored if there were sufficient funds as well as enthusiasm. Important projects such as the most recent restoration of Hestercombe Gardens near Taunton needed not only the vision and dedication of local experts and the leadership of Philip White, now its chief executive, who saw the potential in the derelict 18th century garden in the combe behind the house, but grants from organisations and the National Lottery Heritage Fund (HLF).

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, perhaps the most famous garden restoration

Becoming a member of a county garden trust is a very good way into learning more about the restoration of gardens in any area, as a vital part of their work is to research, record and even to assist with the restoration historic gardens, or parts of them, if possible. They run programmes of talks and lectures (often open to all members of the public), various events, publish newsletters, organise trips to historic private gardens and have groups of members engaged in the research of historic parks and gardens. For more information on garden trusts in your area, go to the website of the national association of garden trusts (AGT) at There are individual websites of the various county garden trusts in our area with more information: which covers Bristol City, Bath and North East Somerset, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset, and for the other counties go to , ,, or Vivienne Lewis

Country Gardener 39

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