Abbotswood wish list

If money were no object, what would the Abbotswood team have on their green-fingered letter to Santa this year? 

1. A fair-weather friend. “There’s nothing worse than planning a topiary pruning day and the weather turns arctic,” says our Abbotswood Garden Design managing director Rob Chew. “I’d love one of those digital weather stations (, with settings for temperature, rainfall and the all important wind speed and direction – crucial if you’re clipping the top of a tall yew hedge!”

2. Seed money. “Chiltern Seeds ( have a fabulous collection of unusual seeds – and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Christmas than by growing your own festive fir tree,” says Rob. “Chiltern have some stunning examples, available as seeds, from the rare Colorado or White Fir ‘Swift’s Silver’ to Nordmann and Nobles.”

3. Beespoke clothes. “I’ve been lucky enough to only be stung once in my 21 years keeping bees in Cambridge – but I’d still like one of those specialist ‘Honey Rustler’ jackets (!” says Abbotswood’s resident beekeeper and ‘Host a Hive’ manager Adam Matthews. “With the fold flat hood you can wear them in the van while driving, and they have loads of pockets for all those bits and pieces I need for my hive round.” 

4. A cut above the average. “Winter removal of crossing laterals and congested spurs on apple trees can be a back breaking job at the best of times but if you have poor quality tools you might as well be cutting paper with blunt scissors,” says Abbotswood MD Rob. “Tatty cuts after pruning can lead to diseases too, so I crave a sharp and strong pair of Okatsune Secateurs ( – and for my topiary jobs, some hard-wearing, double handed Niwaki topiary shears.” 

5. Fine print. “There’s nothing more annoying than sowing a row of seeds, or planting spring bulbs, and forgetting where you put them,” says our head designer Simon Lees. “A professional garden labeler (, which prints out sticky labels for plant markers, would be perfect – particularly as I wouldn’t need to remember to bring a pen either!” 

6. A grassroots gift. “Turning unkempt pasture into a manicured greens needs a lot of care, so we remove lawn thatch and get oxygen to the roots by aerating the turf,” says Abbotswood’s lawnman Steve Kane. “A traditional forged Sneeboer lawn aerator ( does the job very nicely on compacted lawns, and is one of the few on the market that doesn’t clog up with extracted soil plugs.” 

7. Heat wave. “Propagating your own seeds is one of life’s great joys but in our unpredictable climate, getting just the right conditions can be tricky. If you’ve ever tried to grow picky long-season vegetables from seed indoors, and ended up with poor germination or straggly, diseased seedlings, you’ll know what I mean,” says Rob. “Part of the problem is the fluctuation in temperatures, so I would love a heated electric propagator like the award-winning Vitopod (, because it has a thermostat, extendable sections to make room for more plants, and large vents so there’s no damping off.”

8. Tulip service. “Tulips are one of my favourite spring bulbs, and you can get some fabulous bargains in the shops now as garden centres sell them off cheaply,” says Rob. “It’s not too late to get them in for a show stopping display next year, and there’s some lovely old and rare varieties about – try ‘Red Sun’ with its pillar-box coloured flowers or ‘Columbine’ with its pink and violet feathering. If money were no object, I would have loved to get my hands on the famous ‘Semper Augusta’ tulip of the 17th century. During the Dutch ‘Tulip Mania’ it fetched around 10,000 guilders, thanks to its rarity and beauty, with the average wage just 300 guilders a year!”

9. Garden paradise. “This Christmas could I ask for a gardening year with no late frosts, early spring greenfly, or wet summer snails and slugs – and can my borders be free from bind weed and ground elder?” says Adam. “Hmmm, I think the perfect garden may be missing from my stocking!”

10. Priceless advice. “For me, the money can’t buy present on my wish list is a nice pot of chutney or a basket of fruit from another gardener – or better still, recommendations for what to sow and grow next year. You can’t buy that in the shops!” says Simon.