Author Archives: Gaby Heagerty

dealing with box tree caterpillar

Dealing With Box Tree Caterpillar

Box Moth Caterpillar is a relatively new pest to the South West of England. We thought you ought to know that a fair few customers have found Caterpillar on their Box bushes this month! Because of this, we thought we’d share hints and tips from our Plant Team on how to deal with this common problem.

Cydalima Perspectalis, known as Box Moth Caterpillar is a moth larvae that feeds on Buxus (Box) plants. In summertime, they can be seen with webbing on plants and can strip leaves causing die back. The Plant Team at St Bridget are happy to offer advice for the loving care of all the garden plants we grow.

What Can You Do?

If you spot an infestation, wearing gloves, pick off all the caterpillars that you can spot. You can also use various pesticides that you can buy, including organic options. Or if you’d prefer, there are natural enemies such as nematodes and  parasitic wasps.

Time to Think Alt-Box?

There are alternatives to Box plants that you might want to consider growing including Euonymus or Pittosporum. Why not come into the Garden Centre and have a chat with our Plant Team about suitable replacements.

Can We Help You?

If you can’t see any caterpillars, but your Box plant isn’t looking too good you might be suffering from Box Blight. Please take a close up photograph or two and email it to us at and we’ll be able to advise you.

For more information on Box Moth Caterpillar we strongly recommend the Royal Horticultural Society. Take a look at their helpful advice here:,uk




how to lay turf

How to Lay Turf

Turf is pre-grown grass seed that’s been cut from the ground with a slice of top soil. It’s like a grassy carpet that can be laid to create a new lawn from scratch or to fix patchy areas in an existing lawn. You can lay turf throughout the year, as long as the soil isn’t waterlogged or frozen or the sun too hot. However we recommend spring and early autumn as the best times.

Preparing the Ground

Remove vegetation, roots, plants and stones ready to prepare the soil. Vegetation may need to be treated with a suitable weedkiller to avoid it growing up through the new turf, if you use a herbicide, we recommend waiting at least 10 days before laying your new turf.

The ground needs to be made ready to lay the turf on top. There needs to be a sufficient quantity and quality of top soil to nourish the grass roots and to level to the desired slope, flatness or other contour. We advise 5-15cm (2-6 inches) of topsoil is needed for grass to thrive. However, this does depend on factors such as the drainage and aspect of the land.

To prepare the soil, rotivate then roll and rake over the surface. Rotivating will ensure the ground isn’t too compacted, which is bad for drainage. Grass needs well-draining soil otherwise moss is likely to take over. Rolling the loose soil will speed along the process of settling it to its natural level. Use your feet to firm down the soil if you don’t have a roller. Then finally, raking it will make it easier for the growing roots to take hold into loose soil.

Laying the Turf

Start laying from a position where you won’t need to stand on the prepared soil. Then continue by placing a plank on the first rolls to spread your weight evenly.

Lay the turf rolls in a brick bond pattern and push them together as close as possible. This helps to avoid the joins being noticeable. In warmer weather some shrinkage is normal after laying so these steps help to make the newly laid lawn look as good as possible. Where this happens, the effect will disappear as the grass grows, you can sprinkle some fine soil or sand into any gaps to help.

At the end of a row of turf where a piece is cut to fit, it is best to avoid finishing with a very small piece. If necessary, cut the previous piece and use a longer strip to finish. Again, this reduces the problems of shrinkage.

Curved and slanted lines require the turf to be cut to fit. You could use an old kitchen knife to do this. DON’T do anything else to your lawn until it can no longer be lifted at the edges. Once you can no longer lift up the corner of a turf it has grown in and it’s ok to give its first haircut. The general rule is only ever cut off one third off the length. So if it’s growing very fast you will need to be patient and take a few mows to get it down to the length you want it. Leave 7 days between each cut. By doing this you’ll avoid the grass looking yellow.

Turf from St Bridget

We get our turf rolls in freshly cut on a Friday from fellow Exeter business HCT. Because we want turf to be laid fresh, we don’t overstock it and typically our turf is all sold over the weekend. To avoid disappointment, we strongly advise pre-ordering your turf from us to ensure it is reserved for you. Sadly we are unable to deliver turf.

Each roll of turf covers 1 square metre and weighs 15-18kg per roll on average.

To reserve your turf please call the garden centre on 01392 876281.



Watch out for late frosts and cold winds

We’ve had several customers show us photos of plants in their garden that have had the leaves suddenly shrivel up or brown. The cause in these examples were actually wind damage or what we call ‘scorch’ caused by the cold winds we have had lately and the occasional frost.

Potential Plant Damage

Cold winds remove moisture from evergreen foliage more quickly than it can be replenished by the roots; this can cause leaf browning particularly at the tips and margins. Ground frost occurs when the temperature of the ground falls below freezing point (0ºC/32ºF) and air frost occurs when the temperature of the air falls below freezing point. The cells within a plant can be damaged by frost with the worst damage occurring in plants that have had repeated freezing and thawing events.

How to Avoid Plant Damage

While new plants establish themselves they are particularly vulnerable. It is best to hold back planting until the risk of frosts has passed completely (end of May), storing your plants in a well lit conservatory or greenhouse or cold frame while you wait (don’t forget to water them).

If you have already planted them though you can cover your plants with horticultural fleece (which we sell by the running metre). This lightweight fabric prevents damage from wind and cold temperatures. You can also wrap bubble wrap around your pots to help keep roots warm.
Applying a layer of bark around the roots of your plants is known as mulching. Mulching is a great thing to do in your garden borders as the bark acts as a blanket to the soil (keeping it warmer) and it also helps to suppress weed growth (as it blocks out the light to the soil). In addition, a mulch helps retain moisture in the soil.



The weather is getting milder, the sun is coming out and the days are getting longer. Spring has finally sprung! There are lots of reasons to visit us over the Easter holidays.

Easter Holiday Family Fun!

We’re inviting children to take part in our fun Easter Hunt in the Easter holidays. Pick up a clue sheet and find all the Easter characters hidden around our garden centre. Once you have completed your sheet, you can claim a small egg-citing treat!

Trail open on Friday 7th, Saturday 8th and Monday 10th April, 9am-5pm.

The Best of the Season Plants

You’ll be greeted by a multitude of spring plants for your garden. We have new plants arriving daily – all fresh from our nursery and garden-ready.

We are showcasing the very best of each season in our undercover plant market. This Easter we have an enormous selection of gorgeous plants for your garden including herbs, edibles, alpines, wildflowers, spring bulbs, spring flowers, perennial flowers, ferns, ornamental grasses, ornamental shrubs, climbing plants, fruit bushes, fruit trees, ornamental trees, evergreen and hedging shrubs, conifers and roses.

Eat, Drink and Shop!

Don’t forget that our café is the perfect place for breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea. This Easter, you will find delicious home cooked food, tasty treats and friendly service. Seasonal specials are served every day!

Plus our garden centre has a large gift department selling gifts for all the family, items for the home as well as books, greeting cards and gift wrap.

We very much hope that you and your family will pay us a visit this Easter.

Our garden centre and shop are open Monday to Saturday 9am to 5.00pm and on Sunday from 10am to 4pm. Our café is open daily from 9am to 4.30pm and 10am to 3.30pm on Sundays.

Good Friday – Open from 9am to 5pm
Easter Sunday – CLOSED
Easter Monday – Open from 9am to 5pm



March is the perfect time to start preparing your kitchen garden for an abundant harvest later in the year!

Start Sowing Your Vegetable Seeds

Starting off growth indoors or in the greenhouse is the perfect way to maximise the growing life of vegetables but you need to ensure temperatures are at least 10C before transferring young plants outside.

Alternatively, hardy vegetables are more resistant to frosts. By sowing their seeds indoors now, you help start them off to a strong growing life, but you won’t need to worry about ensuring warm temperatures when you need to move them outdoors.

Cover areas of soil with black plastic or landscape fabric to help it warm up before you sow any seeds outdoors. Avoid sowing crops too early as there is still the risk of hard frosts!

Plant asparagus crowns (in well manured trenches) and softneck garlic varieties. We have these available to buy in the garden centre.

Plan Your Herb Garden

You can’t beat using herbs that have been freshly picked from the garden. You don’t have to have a separate herb garden, since most herbs are very attractive with ornamental flowers and foliage, and beautiful scents – making them great additions for mixed beds and borders. Even if you don’t have a big garden you can grow most herbs in pots on the patio where they’ll be handy to pick.

Many herbs can easily be grown from seed or you can buy young plants to grow on.

This month is the time to start sowing seeds for herbs inside so they are ready to move outdoors when the weather becomes milder and the threat of frost has subsided.

Both our garden centres stock herbs all year round and the varieties we stock will vary with the seasons so pop in to see what is flavour of this month.



It’s the Spring Equinox the first buds are breaking open on St Bridget’s collection of Magnolia. Pop in to our Plant-Area this March to see these show-stopper shrubs.

Best for Scent

At St Bridget we grow a good selection of Magnolia, from small and medium shrubs to larger shrubs and small trees. Our Magnolia produce fabulous flowers ranging in colour from white through pink to deep magenta and even yellow. With varieties like M. ‘Heaven Scent’ giving you fantastic fragrance too!

‘Heaven Scent’ 

Most of the collection are deciduous, with flowers arriving before the leaves in Springtime. Our Evergreen Magnolia is (appropriately for our location) M. grandiflora ‘Exmouth’ which is great for growing against a sheltered sunny wall where it will reward you with fantastic flowers in Summer-time. This one is our best for alkaline soils. 

Best for All Year Interest & Alkaline Soils

 Grandiflora ‘Exmouth’ 

Most Magnolia prefer neutral or acidic soil. Not sure about your soil? Pop into our Gardening Shop and pick up a simple soil testing kit. Getting you results take as long as making a cup of tea, and then you’re all set to choose the best plants for your garden.

Lucky enough to have acid soil? You’ve hit the plant-jackpot – we have many fabulous ornamental plants that thrive in acid soils – Speak to our Plant-Team about Plants for Acid soils, and we’ll show you some of our favourites.

Pick you a soil testing kit from St Bridget’s Gardening Shop.

Best for a pot, Best for small gardens.

Don’t be put off if you’ve got the ‘wrong kind of soil’ as we grow Magnolia that look great in pots. Choose an Ericaceous potting compost and fertiliser to bring out the best of Pot-grown Magnolia. 


Right Plant – Right Place

Magnolias do need a sheltered spot, away from strong winds. Avoid frost pockets, as frost can damage the flowers in spring. A spot that gets plenty of sun will ensure a good display of flowers.
Bear in mind the mature height and spread of plants you buy (we use the RHS as a grow-guide) as you do want to give it plenty of room to grow, and some varieties do get big.

TLC for your Magnolia

Pot Grow Plants will need a Spring Feed and we recommend an ericaceous fertiliser for Magnolia. Keeping the soil moist and chock-full of nutrients is the job of an organic mulch. Composted green waste, farmyard manure or other soil improvers are great at this, if you want a decorative mulch we recommend composted bark chip.
Magnolia shouldn’t need pruning, but if you do, wait until they’ve flowered and aim to remove broken, diseased, or crossing branches. Established Magnolia don’t respond well to hard pruning and may not flower in the following year – so go easy on the loppers and remember what we’ve said about growing room!

And as always, do make sure your newly planted Magnolia does not dry out in summer. Water the roots well during dry spells.

St Bridget’s Magnolia Collection

At time of writing (20th March 2023) here is what we have available at our Clyst St Mary Garden Centre.

  • Magnolia ‘Daphne’ (Yellow flower)
  • Magnolia ‘Black Tulip’ 
  • Magnolia grandiflora ‘Exmouth’
  • Magnolia ‘Heaven Scent’
  • Magnolia lilliiflora Nigra
  • Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’
  • Magnolia soulangeana Lennei
  • Magnolia stellata
  • Magnolia stellata ‘Water Lilly’
  • Magnolia ‘Susan’

At time of writing our prices start from £21 for a young plant in a 3 Litre Pot. 

St Bridget grow in small batches so when they’ve sold out, it can be a while before more have ‘grown-up’ big enough for your garden. 

If you want to check stock we recommend a call to the plant-team before you visit or send your plant-shopping-list to us at 

Let us find you that Perfect Plant!




There’s so much we gardeners can do for wildlife. Large or small, lawn or courtyard, our gardens provide a patchwork of green spaces for wildlife. While your space might not provide the complete habitat some species need to breed, it may provide the food they need to find that new mate or place to build a nest. So making a conscious effort to provide wildlife with shelter, food and water in your garden is a great idea.

Help Birds Build Their Nests

Put nesting material out for birds. Placing it in an empty fat ball feeder is perfect but leaving it on a bird table or on a wall is equally suitable. Wool or hair groomed from pets or humans is perfect for birds to heave into their nests. Don’t forget to put up nest boxes in your garden too, to make the perfect home for your garden birds. We have a lovely selection of nest boxes in our garden centre with different sized entrance holes to attract different garden birds.

Keep your bird feeders full too, as the breeding season puts a great strain on the garden birds. All that singing takes a lot of energy, so make sure the food you offer is high calorie and good quality.

Welcome Back Hungry Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs will begin to emerge from hibernation – they’ll be hungry and thirsty. Don’t feed bread or milk as it is bad for them. A shallow dish of water and some specialist hedgehog food (like our Brambles range available in store) or dog food will be welcomed.

Ensure Access to Your Pond

Make sure your garden pond has a ramp to help wildlife get in and out of the pond. A gentle ramp of stones is best as the use of a stick could pierce your pond liner.

If you’re looking for inspiration on how to make your garden more wildlife friendly, visit our garden centre and speak to one of our knowledgeable team.


we love camellia


St Bridget propagate and grow 30 varieties of Camellia and our 2023 collection is now on show at our Garden Centre.

Camellia have glossy green leaves all year with big buds opening to a beautiful show of flowers from late winter into early spring. The stunning flowers can be single or double and range from white, through pink to red.

Part of our Range of Plants for Acid Soil, but worry not, if your soil is not acidic (pH of 5.5-6.5), Camellia are perfect for growing in pots with Ericaceous potting compost. Camellia thrive in a dappled shady spot out of drying winds.

Not sure about your soil? Grab a simple soil testing kit from our Gardening Shop.
St Bridget’s Camellia can be planted any time of the year, although the cooler months of Autumn or Spring are best. If planting in Summer, remember these three rules; water, water and water some more!

St Bridget’s Simple Guide to Growing Plants in Pots

Camellia look fab in pots, follow these simple steps for finding the right pot for your plant;
Woody plants will need ‘root-room’, a simple rule of thumb is to buy the biggest pot you can afford, one that is at least twice as wide and twice as deep as the ‘nursery-pot’ (that’s the one it’s growing in at the Garden Centre) should be fine for a few years.

Use the best potting compost for your plant (Ericaceous for Camellia and other plants for Acid Soil) and mix in some slow-release fertiliser to give it a good start. Top the pot with mulch to keep moisture in and weeds out. St Bridget offer a wide range of both organic compost (composted bark chip is great for Camellia – it’s what we use) and decorative stone mulches.

As the plant grows, it will need feeding (spring-time usually) every year, compost replacing at least every two years (and this is a good time to check the roots, if the plant looks ‘pot-bound’ it’s time to buy a bigger pot!

And don’t forget the watering. Camellia prefer rainwater (which is slightly acidic) but tap water will be fine if you don’t have a water-butt yet (we sell those too!).

TLC for your Camellia

Dead-head Camellia flowers as they begin to turn brown if you find this unsightly but pruning doesn’t promote new flowers.

To encourage next years flowers, water the plant in the Summer months, with rainwater if you can get it.

Camellia don’t need much feed if they’re growing in moist, fertile, acid soils. Pot grown plants appreciate a feed in Springtime but avoid feeding in Summer.

Camellia grow at a stately pace, so you don’t need to be a pruning master – keep an eye out for wayward growth after the first few seasons and prune to a pleasing shape after flowering.

Watch out for frosts (and snow) as these can nip the buds and ruin your spring show.

A blanket of horticultural fleece on frost nighty does the trick. Or if your Camellia is in a pot – pop it in an unheated greenhouse or outbuilding until the temperature warms up.

Camellia japonica

we love camellia

Originating in China, Japan and Korea in forested regions Camellia japonica has been cultivated for thousands of years and appears in art and ceramics. Introduced into Western civilisation by traders from the 16th Century onwards.

C. japonica thrive best in shady spots, and will flower from late winter into early spring. St Bridget grows a fantastic range, with single and double flowers in White, Cream, Pink and Red.

Camellia x williamsii

we love camelia

A Hybrid of C. japonica and C. saluenensis first successfully bred by John Charles Williams at Caerhays Castle in Cornwall.

Williams Camellia tend to be even more floriferous than Japanese Camellia with a wide range of flower forms and colours.

Camellia sinensis

We don’t grow the China-Tea Bush, after all, it’s not the flowers that are prized but the leaves.

We can offer you a warming pot of Tea in our 1925 Kitchen Café if you’ve been perusing our Camellia Collection this Spring. And maybe a slice of cake?

Come and visit our Garden Centre at Clyst St Mary this March where we’re celebrating our Camellia collection with a tempting little offer. Buy two of our 3 Litre potted Camellia (£20 each) for just £30 the pair!


national nestbox week


Valentine’s Day marks the start of National Nest Box Week. Garden birds are pairing off and beginning to look for nesting sites so it really is the perfect time to add a nest box to your garden.

Our gardens, parks and woodlands are becoming neater and tidier and this deprives birds of natural holes to find a home. To make matters worse, there are fewer handy nooks and crannies in modern buildings. The populations of many bird species are declining as a result of this housing shortage. The good news is that you can do your bit to help and your own garden is the best place to start.

Give a bird a home!

We have a lovely selection of nest boxes in our garden centre with different sized entrance holes to attract different garden birds.

The secret for success with any box is positioning.

Make sure that you site your box out of the prevailing wind and strong sunlight. It should be about 1 to 3m above the ground, ideally on a tree trunk, but a wall or shed is fine too. Look for somewhere that is hard for cats or squirrels to reach and be sure to position it away from bird tables and feeders, as they are busy areas.

For more information on National Nest Box Week and how to choose a great nestbox, where to put it, and how to look after it, click here .


sow sees


Whilst February is still too cold to sow many seeds directly into the soil outside, there are still plenty of seeds you can start to grow inside. The most ideal conditions would be in a propagator or greenhouse but a warm bright window sell works just as well.

When you buy a packet of seed always look on the back of the packet as they always tell you when to sow and how to sow. It’s no good choosing something that needs to be sown at great distances between each seed if all you have is room for a single tray! Take a look too at what space the plant needs when it gets bigger and what height it grows to so again you can ensure it suits your needs.

There are LOTS of plants you can choose from so come prepared with a short list of your favourites so you can start to narrow down the selection.

Our top picks for sowing in February are the following…

FLOWERS – we suggest: Cosmos, Lavender, Sweet Peas and Busy Lizzies.

sow seeds
Pink Cosmos [1]

VEGETABLES – Starting off growth indoors is the perfect way to maximise the growing life of vegetables but you need to ensure temperatures are at least 10C before transferring young plants outside.

Choose from: Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Peppers, Chillies and Lettuce.

sow seeds
Tomatoes on the vine [2]

Alternatively, hardy vegetables are more resistant to frosts by sowing their seeds indoors now you help start them off to a strong growing life but you won’t need to worry about warm temperatures when you need to move them outdoors, just offer them a bit of protection in the first week or so (i.e. cover with horticultural fleece). We call this gradual introduction to the great outdoors as ‘hardening off’.

Hardier vegetables that you can sow now include onions, peas, leeks and spinach.

sow seeds
Onions planted in soil [3]

For all your seed sowing needs you will need

  • – Seed trays, module trays or pots with drainage holes
  • – Seed sowing compost
  • – A riddle (gardener’s sieve) to help sieve your compost and get rid of big bits and lumps.
  • – Seeds
  • – A dibber (to help make suitably sized holes in your compost) or you could use a pencil instead.
  • – A propagator with lid or cling film to place over the top of your pots to help build up heat and humidity in the soil.

We stock all of the above and would be pleased to help you make your seed selection. We also have a number of great gardening books that you may find useful.


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