Alice Spenser-Higgs

About Alice Spenser-Higgs

I have been a garden writer for the past 12 years. It started with an epiphany in the riotously colourful Archbishop’s garden in Braga (Portugal). I thought: I can write and I can garden so why don’t I put the two together! Before that I was a features and arts writer, with a 10 year sojourn in politics (garden dirt is cleaner!). I contribute to garden magazines and newspapers, as well as writing for Ludwig’s Roses, BallStraathof/Kirchhoffs seeds, Healthy Living Herbs and Garden World. This blog is for recording my own garden experiments and sharing that experience in a way that is, hopefully, practical and helpful for other gardeners.

Giverny, a ‘bucket list’ garden of flowers

The list of 1001 Gardens to See Before You Die includes the Giverny garden of Claude Monet and it is truly one for the bucket list. For gardeners who love a profusion of flowers, visiting artist Claude Monet’s garden outside Paris is like stepping straight into one of his own paintings.

Although when I went the famous water lilies were not in evidence, the abundance of autumn flowers made up for it. The first impression was of dazzling yellow rudbeckia reaching for the sky Continue reading

The language of flowers

What do the flowers in your garden say about you, or to put it another way, what message are you sending out through the choice of flowers in the garden? For centuries people have attributed a meaning to flowers and out of that has arisen the language of flowers, or floriography as it is sometimes called. Continue reading

Herbs for a merry, stress-free party

When we arrive at that season of over-spending and over indulging, it just so happens that there are herbs that help to naturally mitigate the excess, like bay, fennel, sage, borage and rosemary. From a hangover cure to help with indigestion, adding these herbs to your cooking or making some infusions will give you a better festive season! Continue reading

Hang ’em high herb garden

In winter it’s nice to have herbs at the front door so that it’s not necessary to venture out into the cold. In the past I’ve grown the basic herbs (thyme, parsley, oregano, chives) in a hanging basket but recently saw a herb Verti Garden that was just beautiful. What a feature to have at the front door! It was mounted outside the offices of BallStraathof (Kirchhoffs Seeds) and I asked Kathy Varney, how she did it. Continue reading

Thank you mum for my green fingers

With mothers being celebrated this month, I wonder how many gardeners can credit their mothers for igniting that magnificent obsession called gardening. The answer, I would bet, is many. Mine gave me a small corner of the garden to tend as well as providing a rambling, endless (to my child’s eyes) farm garden in which to dream and scheme. Continue reading

Cats, cabbages and conflict

Here are six practical tips for keeping cats out of freshly worked beds, and in favour with you! Being equally passionate about gardening and animals can be a recipe for conflict. Picture this: A constructive morning spent in the garden, digging lovely, crumbly home-made compost into the soil, planting seedlings or sowing seed. Despite the aching back I look at the patch and already see it filled with flowers. Continue reading

Why seeds fail and tips for success

I could also call this ‘Confessions of a ‘slapgat’* or seed hoarder’, or ‘Now I know why seed companies gnash their teeth!’ It’s a magical moment when seeds germinate, but when they don’t, it’s easy to get discouraged. After enthusiastically sowing all the seed for my fledgling balcony garden, the results were mixed – 100 percent germination of the broccoli and rocket; about 80% of the spinach baby leaves, and dismal for the baby carrots, baby cabbage and beetroot. Continue reading

Growing veggies on a balcony

Living and gardening in small spaces has always fascinated me. I love the challenge of using space creatively. I remember poring over ‘The Apartment Book’ years ago to see how they turned tiny spaces into really beautiful, functional and warm living areas. So when I was looking for a new project, I thought about turning our tiny balcony – barely 1m wide and 2,5m long – into a food garden to see how productive such a small space could be. Sort of like the garden equivalent of a bachelor flat. Actually more like gardening out of a closet! Continue reading