Author Archives: Gaby Heagerty


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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We’re holding a Primrose Festival this year. Come and see our lovely Primroses In the February half-term (11th-28th February 2023) and vote for your favourite for a chance to win our Primrose Festival Prize draw*.

We’ve over 30 different varieties of Primula (that’s the Botanical name for Primroses and Polyanthus) for your garden this Spring.

Primula are fantastic little plants that have found niche’s throughout the temperate Northern Hemisphere and almost half of the known species are from the Himalaya’s, so they’re tough enough for a Devon Winter!

What is in a name? – Prima Rosa

From the Latin meaning the first rose (ok – technically it’s not a rose, but you can’t blame a girl for trying!). Primula are among the first flowers of Spring so what’s not to like about that!

Devonshire’s ‘National’ Flower – Primula Vulgaris, commonly known as the native primrose is a hardy perennial that paints a carpet of cream and green across our meadows, banks and hedgerows every springtime.

And the reason why Primrose thrive in Devon? Our mild maritime climate! Such is the love that we have for this plant that in a 2002 poll conducted by Plant-Life we voted it The Flower of Devon.

The Victorians certainly fell for the Primrose, in the 19th Century ‘language of flowers’ to send a bouquet of Primrose meant, ‘I can’t live without you’.

A Primula for every spot

As well as our native primrose and the ornamental hybrids we have in our Primrose Festival, here are some more Primula to look out for this year.


Primula veris – The humble Cowslip, part of our Wild-Flower Range and great for meadow’s or your garden’s re-wilding patch. We stock our Wild-flower range from Spring to Autumn.


Primula beesiana, the Chinese candelabra Primula – these are great for boggy spots and we stock them as part of our range of plants for ponds (in fish friendly growing media) which we stock in Spring and Summer.


Primula viallii – fancy something a bit different? – this dramatic little ‘Red-Hot’ Primula is best for woodland edge gardens where it flowers in summer. As with all our other Primula, this one prefers a nice moist soil. Part of our Perennial plant range which we get fresh from the growers during Spring and Summer.

*No purchase necessary. Simply come into the Garden Centre, vote for your favourite leaving your contact details. The winner will be selected at random at the end of February.



Did you know? Pollination goes on all year long! Flowering plants have evolved to produce scent to attract any pollinators that may be in the neighbourhood (bumble-bees, butterflies, moths, and bats).

Winter flowering plants are in bloom when honey-bees are not active so must rely on other pollinators, such as bumble-bees, and other flying insects, to move pollen from one flower to another, fertilising the plant. As there are fewer pollinators active in the colder months, scents need to be strong to signal further – which happily is what we humans find so attractive.

On a clear sunny winter’s day these plants come into their own. Best for a path-side, patio pot or under a mature tree, but which to choose?

There are a surprisingly wide variety of ornamental plants that flower at this time of year and many of them pump out stunning scents. We grow a fantastic range of these winter fragrance plants, from Daphne and Hamamelis to Sarcococca and Viburnum.

You’ll find a full list of our Winter Fragrance Collection at the bottom of this blog.

On a sunny day our Plant Area smells fabulous, come on down and have a good nose around our collection.

Sarcoccoca species

Commonly known as Christmas or Sweet Box, this lovely evergreen shrub produces a sweet honey-like scent. Its pretty creamy-white flowers appear from December through to March.

Sarcococca is an easy-grow low maintenance plant, it Thrives in dappled and deep shade, on fertile, moist, well-drained soil. Tolerates a wide range of soils including chalk, clay, loam and sand. And tolerates both Acid and alkaline soils.

Daphne odora

Daphne odora is a sought after flowering shrub for the woodland garden, mainly for the fragrance of its small flowers that bloom in winter. It produces a sweet and clean scent, a bit like jasmine and a little like orange blossom.

Daphne odora thrives on moist, well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter. Prefers mildly acidic soil in a dappled shady spot.

Hamamelis x intermedia Varieties

Common-garden name: Witch-Hazel. Hamamelis is a slow-grow deciduous shrub which flower on bare winter stems. Flowers come in rich shades of yellow, orange and red, and produce a citrus scent from December to March.

Hamamelis thrive in sunny or dappled shady spots. On moist, free-draining, neutral to acid soils.

Do you have a spot for a Winter Fragrance Plant?

Come and see (and smell) our collection for yourself.

To check what we’ve got in stock, give the Plant Team a call on 01392 876 281, we’re happy to reserve a plant if we know you’re popping in.

We’re open from 9 till 5 Monday to Saturday and 10 till 4 on Sunday.

St Bridget’s Winter Fragrance Collection

Daphne odora
Daphne orodra Aureomarginata
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’
Lonicera fragrantissima
Sarcococca confusa
Sarcococca hookeriana Humilis
Sarcococca ruscifolia
Sarcococca ‘Winter Gem’
Mahonia x media ‘Charity’
Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’
Viburnum x bondantense ‘Dawn’
Viburnum fragrantissima

This list was made by the Plant Team on Monday 30th January.

Availability is limited as we grow plants in small batches.

When a plant is sold out it can be a while before more plants are grown big enough for your garden.


happy houseplants


We get a lot of questions about looking after houseplants at this time of year. Many people feel the need to fill the gap left by taking their Christmas tree down with other indoor greenery. Houseplants are a brilliant way of adding a calming presence to any room – plus they have lots of health benefits too – perfect for creating a good start to the new year.

If you have a houseplant it should have come with a care label. If it did make sure you have a read to see what amount of light and temperature the plant likes. If you don’t have a label then please feel free to ask one of our team for some advice when you next visit in store.

The main killer of houseplants during the winter is over watering. We often get concerned when the soil looks dry and because we are heating our houses. Whilst you can kill plants from lack of water, during the winter a plant’s watering needs will reduce. To check if a plant needs water put your finger down the side of the pot. If it feels dry about an inch below the surface and if the pot feels light then a water is necessary. If the pot is heavy though, leave it a day or two before checking again. It’s easier to bring a plant back from lack of water than overwatering! Nearly all foliage plants need high humidity levels around their leaves, to achieve this you can use a hand held mister and mist daily or stand your pot in a saucer filled with damp pebbles/chippings. As long as your pot isn’t sat in water your plant will love the moist air that will come as the water evaporates upwards.

If you have a flowering houseplant, remove any flowers that are faded and going over. Whilst a plant is flowering a weekly to fortnightly feed with a flowering houseplant fertiliser is also a good idea.

If you fancy treating yourself to a new plant, looking good in our houseplant section at the moment are:

Chamaedorea elegans



Spathiphyllum Cupido
Dieffenbachia Compacta
Alocasia Pink Passion


national tree week


We are nearly at the end of the Tree Council’s National Tree Week 2022 – the UK’s largest annual tree celebration. This year we want to help de-mystify all the horticultural terms frequently used to describe trees when you go to a garden centre to buy a tree.


An ornamental tree is one that is grown for its looks rather than what it produces. Examples include:

  • Amelanchier – this tree has pretty blossom in spring, berries in summer (popular with birds) and fiery foliage in autumn.
  • Arbutus Unedo – Grown for its fruit (non-edible) that look like Strawberries
  • Betula utilis jacquemontii – Grown for its white stem colour
  • Acer palmatum – grown for their breathtaking autumn leaf colours.

The opposite of an ornamental tree is a fruit tree – grown predominantly for its edible crops for example apples, pears, plums but equally can give visual appeal (the blossom in spring, for example).


A native tree is one that lives, grows and reproduces naturally in a particular region. For the UK these are alders, Alder buckthorn, ash, beech, birch, blackthorn, crab apples, wild cherries, dogwood, elder. elms, hawthorns, hazel, hornbeam, limes, pines, rowan, whitebeams and most famously, oak trees. One benefit of planting native trees is that you will be benefiting wildlife. It’s obvious once it’s pointed out, but native British wildlife and native British trees have evolved to live together. Native trees provide homes, shelter and sustenance for native species of birds, small mammals, insects and other wildlife.

national tree week

Whilst non native trees grow perfectly happily in the UK they wouldn’t have done so naturally without humans introducing it to the area. In the Victorian period plant hunting was most prolific and companies like our very own Robert Veitch & Son were key to introducing many new species. Non-native varieties can be beneficial in terms of their height as some of our native trees can grow very big.

Root stock

The trees you buy from a garden centre will have been grown by a technique called grafting. This technique gives a saleable, strong and visually appealing tree within a year. Whilst a nursery can grow trees from seed it would take many years to reach a size that people would want to plant and additionally many trees don’t always grow true to form from seed.
Grafting is effectively the act of joining two plants together. The upper part of the graft becomes the top of the plant and the lower portion becomes the root system and lower part of the trunk, A rootstock is the name given to the bottom plant and it is chosen for its vigour and resilience.

Most trees will be grafted onto their own species for example there are numerous types of birch with different qualities of their bark and stem colour. When grafting a variety of birch they will use Betula pendula (common birch) as the rootstock.

national tree week

Fruit trees use rootstocks bred especially for the purpose and they are grown to control the overall ultimate height of the tree, They don’t have particularly interesting names, indeed the rootstocks used for apples sound more like motorways that plants – (M27, M106, M25)! As our gardens tend to be getting smaller, demand for more dwarfing fruit trees has increased. A dwarfing fruit tree will reach about 8ft in ultimate height and so will enable fruit to be picked without the need of a ladder. This is very useful but be aware that by restricting the growth you will naturally have a smaller crop than a tree that grows to 20ft!

Quick Recap

When you go to choose a tree decide:

  • Do you want a fruit tree or ornamental tree? If ornamental, do you want a native tree or non-native tree?
  • Think about what you want from a tree i.e. spring blossom, autumn colour or year round interest?
  • How tall do you want the tree to be when fully grown?

Once you have thought more about your needs you are ready to go and choose some with your eyes. Look for what you like and then ask one of our team to advise on suitability of your choices for the position you have in mind. Our team will be pleased to help you make a selection.

For further information on National Tree Week, visit the Tree Council’s website at: