London College of Garden Design to sponsor new design series for leading podcast

Supporting podcasts are an integral part of our marketing strategy now.

The London College of Garden Design has announced their sponsorship of a new series interviewing some of the world's leading designers on ‘Roots And All’, the podcast that last week won 'Podcast of the Year' at the Garden Media Guild Awards.

The first episode features Thomas Rainer, Principal Designer at Phyto Studio in Virginia and co-author of the book ‘Planting In A Post-Wild World’. LCGD are also supporting a workshop day in Central London with Thomas on Saturday 18th January 2020.

Sarah Wilson host of ‘Roots And All’ said “I attended the London College of Garden Design myself and I’m always banging on about what a brilliant place it is to study if you’re looking to get in to garden design”.

Director Andrew Fisher Tomlin said “Supporting podcasts are an integral part of our marketing strategy now. Our previous sponsorship of Peter Donegan’s ‘Sod Show’ and now Sarah’s ‘Roots And All’, are a reflection of a growing interest in and improvement in the very high quality of broadcasts that are beyond the very traditional form of radio shows.”

About the London College of Garden Design
The College is one of Europe’s leading specialist design colleges and offers professional level courses including the one-year Garden Design Diploma and a unique Planting Design Diploma delivered over 5 months. Both courses are taught from the College’s home in the world-famous Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.

The Thomas Rainer workshop day is being ran by Gillian Goodson with the support of LCGD and London Stone. For more details visit

The hidden cost of your 2019 choccie-filled advent calendar

Here's why your Christmas countdown is a single-use plastic nightmare

In the next few days, millions of children – and quite a few adults – will open the first window on their advent calendars without a second thought of the mountain of waste to which they're contributing.

One of Britain's top waste and recycling companies estimates that there are 16.5 million advent calendars containing single-use plastics out there this year, which will be impossible to recycle and will end up either burned or dumped in landfill.

And, according to UK based, well-meaning attempts to recycle them mean that genuinely recycled waste will be contaminated, making the situation worse.

"Once again, we're going to be the Grinches who stole Christmas", says's Mark Hall, "We're the guys who are taking this one little bit of Yuletide joy and make you feel bad about it."

It's just cardboard and chocolate. What's the problem?

It's not just cardboard and chocolate, and there is a problem, says

And with 16 and a half million advent calendars out there – more than enough laid end-to-end to stretch from London to the North Pole – that's an awful lot of used calendars going into the bin once the Festive Season ends. explains: Long gone are the days when kids would open the window on their card-backed advent calendar to see the picture hidden behind.

"We’re a society based on instant gratification – we want MORE," company spokesperson Mark Hall explains, "That means advent calendars with even better gifts inside. Lovely."

Now the vast majority have a chocolate or some other gift behind the door, and that's where things have got complicated.

"They've added plastic and silver foil to the mix," says Hall, "and because they're glued together that's made it expensive to recycle."

It is – he says – a single-use plastic nightmare where it's difficult to separate the two, meaning it's more economically viable to either burn them or dump them straight into landfill.

"And frankly, neither of those is an acceptable outcome. What a waste."

What makes it worse is that well-meaning attempts to recycle the innards of these calendars by putting the plastic/foil mix into the household recycling bin means that entire lorry loads of "recycled" waste in the New Year will be rejected as contaminated loads.

"That time of year is always a nightmare for refuse collectors," Hall explains, "Shiny Christmas wrapping paper is another reason to reject loads intended for recycling, and the added plastics just make it worse."

TIP: Rip your old advent calendar apart. Recycle the card packaging, just bin the rest.

Surely there's an alternative?

Of course there are alternatives to these mass produced disposable efforts.

"Just Google 'refillable advent calendar' and you come up with dozens of affordable examples," says's Mark Hall.

"You fill them up with your own treats – and get this – you don't throw it in the bin when Christmas is over. Used again and again it becomes a family heirloom – all part of your own Christmas traditions.

And what makes these reusable calendars so unique is that you get so much more that a tiny lump of chocolate for breakfast.

"What you put in them is up to your own imagination. How about throwing in the odd lump of coal the night before as a warning when your little one is heading for Santa's Naughty List?" is at pains to say that we're not out to suck all the joy out of Christmas. (And we get no joy from the thought of a coal-based breakfast tantrum)

In fact, the exact opposite is true – we want people to dump the damaging convenience items that surround the Festive Season, use a bit of imagination and make it a proper family occasion.

"And if we can do that while protecting the environment, we're quite happy to take all the Scroogey-Grinchy criticism on the chin and make this world a better place," says Hall.

"Humbug, anyone?" is a leading expert in recycling and waste disposal for businesses of all kinds.
The UK's fastest-growing commercial waste company, we manage waste and recycling collections for companies in and around major towns at the best possible prices.

Our company is committed to reducing wasteful landfill, and works to help companies increase their recycling targets. campaigns for tighter laws to discourage littering, wasteful behaviour, and to encourage greater recycling. We're the waste company that hates waste.


Correct spelling of company name:

Ivy in the woods

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A great many of – often rather uneducated – people believe that ivy, climbing up trees harms the trees and strangles them but this is not the case. Unfortunately some people, alas, will not be told and, illegally, if they are not the owners of the woods, will cut the ivy and remove it.

A good amount of ivy in the woods is good. As well as being a great habitat for wildlife, it's a food source for pollinators woken by, such as this year, 2019, unseasonably warm weather. It is also a most important food source for some solitary bees before they turn in for the winter.

Ivy creeping up a tree does not harm the tree with one exception and that is when it gets too much into the canopy and suppresses light reaching the leaves of the tree itself. In general the rule should be; leave well alone. While it may appear that ivy would strangle a tree this is actually not the case, unlike other climbers and creepers.

Other creepers, on the other hand, such as honeysuckle, etc., are stranglers and they do harm indeed the trees, literally strangling them. Having said that, though, some interesting patterns are often created on saplings making for fantastic and very sought after walking sticks, for instance.

When it comes to ivy, however, trying to convince members of the public that ivy is not harmful to trees is often like talking to the proverbial wall; they just do not want to believe it, even if one presents them with the scientific evidence.

© 2019

Needs are problems looking for solutions, not products

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Needs are problems looking for solutions, not products, and we also have, quite seriously, to learn to differentiate between needs and wants. Often our wants masquerade as needs when they are not needs at all. To say I need a new smartphone or simply new cellphone, while the old one is still performing well and is doing all you will ever need it for is not a need but a desire and want to have a new one just because there are new ones around.

The marketing industry, also known as advertising, has trained us well to buy products that will supposedly solve all of life's problems. But with a little creativity and resourcefulness, you may find more sustainable and less expensive solutions to your predicaments than shoddy consumer goods designed to break quickly and languish in landfill for an eternity.

Nothing is sometimes an excellent choice

But what if a major appliance has broken? Maybe it is an opportunity to change habits. For example:

Your microwave dies
You really crave popcorn. You open a box of microwave popcorn, pull out a bag, tear off the plastic, throw that in the trash, place the bag in the microwave, press a few buttons and – nothing. You try again but cannot revive your appliance.

If your microwave breaks, you have no moral obligation buy a new one. You could instead:
1. Repair the microwave.
2. Look for a secondhand microwave.
3. Stop using a microwave.

Your dryer dies
In the USA it is most uncommon for laundry to ever be hung outside, at least in suburbia, and in some areas it is actually against the local ordinances (by-laws) to do so, even in your backyard. The vast majority of people, therefore, and also for “convenience”, use electric dryers, even in sunny and hot California.

However, if and when your dryer dies (as it eventually will if it is still working), become a rebel and hang your clothes to dry. This is also better for the clothes.
1. Saves money.
2. Makes clothes last longer.
3. Liberates you from owning one more large appliance in need of space and infrastructure to accommodate it and money to maintain it.

In the winter, and in bad weather, you can hang the clothes up around your home in the basement, in the garage, on a rack in the laundry room or wherever. If your clothes take too long to dry hanging up, buy enough extra clothes, ideally secondhand, so you and your kids don't have to go naked, although indoors and on the property that would be an option to be considered.

But what if your car dies?
When your car finally dies the question of whether to replace it depends on whether you could, if you consider it properly and without prejudice, actually live without a car.

Unless you live in a rural locality, in most places, at least in the UK and other European countries, and in those probably still better than in Britain, as their public transit is better and a cycling infrastructure actually exists in most places, walking, cycling and bus, tram, and train, can very well replace the car and it is also in general cheaper to travel about in that way that using the car, considering the costs for fuel and especially parking charges and, in places such as London, the so-called “congestion charge”.

There was a time – I do say was – when you could get about the country rather cheaply using the train, and even travel abroad by train (and ferry) cheaper than flying. Today the roles are reversed and it is cheaper to fly from the UK to Spain or Germany than it is to go from London to the North of England or Scotland by train.

Patience pays off
Often, if you think you need something and wait, you can find what you want inexpensively or secondhand (or you might just forget about it and save some money).

Change our mindset
I am one of those people, though I guess in many places they are a rarity, who looks for solutions first rather than going to buy a product, or a new product. That is not to say that I do not buy (new) things, I mean aside from the essentials such as groceries, but often those are only the tools with which to solve the problems and create the solutions, and sometimes those are, whenever possible, secondhand. Consumables, such as screws and nails, will have to be purchased if salvaged ones are not to hand, though I have masses of salvaged ones as well.

I have not really bought any clothes, bar socks and underwear, for years, but bought those that in Britain are called Charity Shops secondhand though often even brand-new, and that has, in the past, included shoes and boots.

Cooker and washing machine, I have to say, if they break down it is either repair or getting a new one, and often, I hate to admit it, it is cheaper to buy new than to repair with a call-out running to £50 + before we even look at parts and labor costs.

In many places if you do not have a microwave, a dryer, or a TV, etc., in your home you are seen more or less as a deviant. More so still if you do not buy into the consumer society and buy secondhand, including clothes. So, let's be deviants.

© 2019

Become a wildlife guardian this autumn

  • As birds struggle to survive the autumn chill your garden can become a haven
  • RSPB suggests five easy ways to help, including making wildlife friendly food and leaving out kitchen scraps
  • These simple guidelines can improve your garden birds’ chances of survival throughout the colder months
Fiery colours sweeping through parks and woodlands, complete with leaves crunching underfoot, mean autumn is here. But the colder nights and bitter winds mean garden birds will struggle for food and shelter - and the RSPB is appealing to people to help our garden birds survive the winter.

Nature looks beautiful in autumn as summer leaves fade to a sunset palette of gold, red and orange. But as we start digging out our cosy scarves and gloves the countryside is being stripped of the food sources birds rely upon. At the same time, birds need more energy to stay warm and have less daylight time to find food.

Wildlife charity RSPB wants people to become stewards of their gardens this autumn and help protect their feathered guests. The RSPB says the key things birds will need this winter are food, water and shelter.

RSPB Wildlife Advisor, Charlotte Ambrose said: “Up until now birds have been able to feed on insects and seeds, but the cold weather means they move into our gardens to find refuge. You can make a real difference and improve their chances of survival, as well as being rewarded by great views of wildlife in your garden or outside space.”

Take it easy- kitchen scraps like mild grated cheese, bruised fruit (not mouldy), cooked rice, unsalted bits of hard fat, roast potatoes and dry porridge go down a treat with garden birds. You can provide an excellent full-fat winter food by making your own bird cakes or fat balls. The RSPB also suggests calorie-rich foods like mixed seed, sunflower seed, nyjer seed and good quality peanuts.

No thank you! There are some foods you should avoid as they can be dangerous for birds. Cooking fat from the roast mixes with meat juices during cooking to make a runny, greasy mixture. This sticks to feathers and stop them from being waterproof. Other foods to avoid are dried coconut, cooked porridge oats, milk, and mouldy or salted food.

Keep it fresh: Another essential is fresh water for drinking and bathing. Finding sources of water can be hard with freezing temperatures, but a simple trick will help keep a patch of water ice-free. Float a small ball, such as a ping-pong ball, on the surface of the water and even a light breeze will stop it from freezing over.

Plan your planting: Providing shelter from the harsh weather is extremely important. Plant dense hedges such as privet or hawthorn, or let ivy or holly to grow and you’ll be providing a great place to roost in and shelter from the elements.

Warm and cozy: Nestboxes are not just used over the summer egg-laying season – many birds will use them on a cold winter’s night. These boxes are frequently communal with many residents packing in together for extra warmth. The record number of birds found in one box is 63 wrens!

Ensuring your garden is filled with food now will improve your chances of having a successful Big Garden Birdwatch. The RSPB’s annual event runs from Saturday 25 to Monday 27 January 2020. To take part, all you need to do is spend one hour at any time over that weekend noting the number of feathered visitors to your garden or local green space. You can sign up for this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch from December 12

To buy high-quality bird food, feeders and other treats from the RSPB visit and save nature while you shop.

Origin: RSPB Press Office

London College of Garden Design to sponsor planting design competition

The London College of Garden Design has announced their sponsorship of a Planting Design Competition at the Belvoir Castle Flower and Garden Show 2020. This is the second year that the College has sponsored the Countryside Borders Competition which aims to help budding new garden designers and experts to show what they can achieve with plants.

The competition is open to anyone involved in garden design and landscaping and Tina Worboys, winner of the 2019 competition said “It was a real honour to create my Countryside Border. Andy and the team were so encouraging, and the public response to my ‘Rewilding Hedgerow’ concept was so positive that it made my first taste of a flower show very special.”

Director Andrew Fisher Tomlin said “At LCGD we are committed to improving the role of innovative planting design within our profession and our unique Planting Design Diploma is now regularly fully enrolled.” He added “This competition is just another way in which we can encourage new designers to exhibit and it’s working as we are aware that some of the 2019 entrants have submitted schemes for the RHS Young Designer of the Year competition for RHS Tatton Flower Show in 2020.”

The Belvoir Castle Flower and Garden Show takes place on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th July 2020 and is located in the Capability Brown parkland of the beautiful Belvoir Castle. More details of the competition can be obtained by downloading a brief from the LCGD website news pages.

About the London College of Garden Design

The College is one of Europe’s leading specialist design colleges and offers professional level courses including the one-year Garden Design Diploma and a unique Planting Design Diploma delivered over 5 months. Both courses are taught from the College’s home in the world-famous Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.

In 2020 the London College of Garden Design Melbourne will open its doors in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne Australia.

The possibilities of pallets and pallet wood

...also packing crates and similar

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

There was a time when shipping pallets (not so much as to packing crates and such) were – supposedly – to be returned (not that that always happened) and then, not so long ago, like so many other things, pallets became “disposables” in that they were no longer being taken back (especially not for deposit return) by the companies.

This means that today, unless someone takes pity on them they end up at best being burned (for energy and heat) but mostly in landfill.

The wood, while often so-called softwood (pine, spruce, etc.) in Europe, though in the USA much more in the way of hardwoods including oak, maple and others, is a valuable resource for the recycler working with wood. And do not be fooled by the word “softwood” as the heat treatment that the wood has to be, in Europe generally, subjected to can turn the “pine” wood into a rather hard material. If something can be made from wooden boards it can be made from pallet boards.

I know of people who have furnished (almost) their entire home with things made from pallets, made by themselves, and of several enterprises making lovely furniture from pallets wood and other “waste” wood used, often combined.

Rustic furniture, including and especially small items, such as small wall shelves and other such, made from pallet wood can be very decorative indeed and today, with shabby chic being very much in vogue, are also something that people want to buy. So it is not just something that one can make to furnish a home cheaply but also something that can generate an income. At the same time the wood is kept out of the waste stream and is neither burned nor buried in a hole in the ground and thus the carbon stored in this wood will remained locked up in there for a while longer.

There are quite a number of companies that sell similar (small) items of home furnishings, made in places such as India, and others, from “reclaimed” wood, sold at a relatively high price, which can easily be made in an hour or two from pallet wood even by the not overly skilled person. With a little more time and effort invested in the work those items are also, as said previously, saleable and any entrepreneur-minded person could start a little business doing it. Ideas aplenty, if own ones are lacking, are to be found online at Pinterest and other places.

The greatest challenge to using pallet wood is the breaking-up of them into usable parts especially as the so-called Euro-Pallets nowadays no longer have the batten runners but wooden, often press-wood, blocks. But even those blocks, the ones from solid wood and not so much those from pressed wood (sawdust), can be made into something, though the batten runners were much more useful. However, those blocks make the breaking-up of pallets somewhat more of a challenge than the old traditional battens, but it can be done, though at times not as easily as with the older style.

For the batten-style, still in use in the USA and elsewhere outside the EU, tools have been designed that make the breaking-up of pallets quite easy. With the blocks those tools are, generally, not going to work, and hence it is back to the old tool, the crowbar (prybar) and hammer, and it means that there might be breakages. Also, some Euro-Pallets have riveted over nails at some areas which means that sometimes only short boards can be reclaimed. That, however, should not stop us from reclaiming the wood for use and reuse.

For projects in the garden pallets more often than not do not (even) have to be broken up and can make great fences, for instance, internal and external, and there are many ways to use them for this. You do not even need many posts if done the right way.

When it comes to making other things out of pallet wood, such as items of (small) furniture, etc., then boards are needed to be reclaimed and then we have to accept that some are shorter than others, that some may get damaged (some already may be due to the load the pallet carried or the handling it received), and so on. That should not deter us to do it, however. To waste this material just would not do, in my opinion. Pallet wood is a valuable resource in many ways.

While the old style pallet, with the battens, in a way, was better for the recycler, the Euro-Pallet found all over Europe now still can be used and even the blocks, unless they are press-wood, are usable. Pencil/pen holders are just one example. It just takes a different approach to disassembling them, that is all, and, alas, there are no nice battens to reuse. But so be it. The wood of those pallets is still a valuable resource far too good to be wasted and the possibilities for the wood of all kinds of pallets (and wooden packing cases and crates) are almost legion.

© 2019

England is too lazy to hit recycling targets – Time to get tough

PRESS RELEASE – Republished as received
The UK's waste management agency says it's time to start fining companies that don't recycle their waste

Britain could quite easily hit its 50% waste recycling target overnight if only people, companies and organisations up and down the country could be bothered.

At the moment, we only recycle 45% of our waste – a figure that's stayed roughly the same for the last three years – and that's a national disgrace when we consider (current) European partners currently aiming for 100% recycling targets and hitting them, says a national waste management company.

According to, it would only take a relatively small effort and a one-off cash injection to provide the facilities to convert the UK from one of the losers in the European recycling waste to one of the leaders. We could stop 70 million tons of waste going to landfill in just one year with new legislation, the waste agency estimates.

"The message from central government been one of 'Why bother?'," says spokesperson Mark Hall. "They came to office saying they'd be the 'greenest government ever' and they've done virtually nothing on that front. We already have the ability to hit more ambitious targets, just not the will." says it's time for England to come into line with the rest of the UK and enact strict waste and recycling laws for companies organisations and schools. Scotland compels businesses to recycle as much as is practicable, and Wales is to follow up with a similar law. It's only in England, home to 80% of the UK's waste output, that nothing is being done.

"It's time to wield a big stick on waste," says Hall, "But also to be as helpful as possible to assist organisations into complying with any new law." recommends:
  • Big fines for companies that do not recycle waste, up to £100,000 for repeat offenders
  • Tax credits to help companies and organisations offset the purchase price of new bins required to sort the waste at site
  • Local help points to assist companies in formulating an effective waste policy
  • A 12-month amnesty at the start of the law to get as many companies up to speed as possible
  • Allowances for smaller companies to run joint recycling schemes with neighbouring businesses
The waste management company estimates that up to two million new bins and skips would be required to make English companies compliant with any new law. says a one-off cash injection would be required, which could be offset against tax and reduced waste costs for most companies.
  • A new recycling law would mean one-off extra costs of around £2,500 for the average business
  • This cost would be offset year-after-year with reduced landfill tax payments
  • Arrangements should be made to allow the initial cost to be written off in corporate end-of-year tax returns.
The benefits for the United Kingdom would be clear almost immediately, says
  • A national jump from 45% recycling to 70% would take around 70 million tons of waste out of landfill every year, taking pressure off our nearly-full landfill sites
  • This would mean extra business for companies that recycle goods back into raw materials, generating jobs
  • It would also mean lower factory gate prices for many companies as they are purchasing cheaper recycled raw materials rather than having to buy 'new'
"All we need is the political will for this to happen," says Mark Hall, "But it appears that those in power are scared of the cost of setting the wheels in motion." says that England could quite easily join the rest of the UK and parts of western Europe in taking a giant step toward waste and recycling targets overnight if the country just put its mind to it.

"We've set a ten year target to reach 70% recycling from homes and businesses," says Business Waste's Mark Hall. "Ten years! What a joke! We could do that tomorrow if we could be bothered." is a leading expert in recycling and waste disposal for businesses of all kinds. We manage waste and recycling collections for companies in and around major towns at the best possible prices.

The company is committed to reducing wasteful landfill, and works to help companies increase their recycling targets. campaigns for tighter laws to discourage littering, wasteful behaviour, and to encourage greater recycling. We're the waste company that hates waste.