How to grow trees in a small garden | James Wong

Think you don’t have the space for a tree in your garden? The simple solution is to use pots

As we head towards midwinter all seems quiet in the garden, but now is the perfect time for the most exciting of horticultural new beginnings: planting a tree. Worry you don’t have the space? Gardening on concrete? Concerned about the foundations of your house? There is a simple solution to all of these common problems: grow a small tree in a pot. This is often overlooked so, in an effort to change that, here’s a round up of the best species for pot culture, which will work well in even the tiniest of city gardens.

The most commonly suggested candidate for this treatment is an olive – and with good reason. They are evergreen, have character from a young age and, hailing from the often thin soils of the Med, don’t mind the root restriction and the faster rate of drying out that inevitably happens in containers. The ability of small trees in pots to be sited up against the walls of houses without affecting foundations means these exotic trees can benefit from the warm microclimate the brickwork creates as it absorbs heat in the day to then emit it overnight.

Hailing from the often thin soils of the Med, olive trees don’t mind the root restriction

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Stuck for gift ideas for the gardener in your life?

Seeds, string and secateurs… A few present suggestions for the green-fingered people you know

All I want for Christmas is a steaming pile of manure, though I’m always happy to be given seed. Brown Envelope Seeds in West Cork does a Christmas card packed with seed. I like their ‘Peas on Earth’, and their gift boxes, too. I have ordered a Baby’s First Dinner Box for a friend who brings her newborn to the allotment. I’d love to find a Tomato Rainbow Box under our tree. I am also taken with Piccolo seeds, packaged like posh chocolate bars, a fine gift for any kitchen gardener. Or a sweet pea selection from Roger Parsons. I have a hankering for his Spencer or Old-Fashioned mixes.

Earlier this year, we lost our Implementations copper trowel, though I’m still hoping to discover it buried with the beetroot. A straight replacement of a shiny Castor trowel would make me happy on Christmas morning. I am almost addicted to their dibber and my short-handled Phoenix hoe.

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How to ease a cold with herbs

Our gardening export on how common culinary herbs can make brilliant medicines

There’s nothing like a long-distance flight to test your immune system – my neighbour spluttered while the row behind hacked and the other side sniffled. Once home, and with the day the right way up, I lost no time in gathering some herbs to keep those germs at bay. The common cold is a beast, I believe, that cannot be tamed – you just have to ride it out – but a choice handful of our common culinary herbs are brilliant medicine. And they are far kinder to you, the environment and your purse than many over-the-counter cold medicines.

Rosemary and sage are classic herbs for colds and sore throats. Both are known for their antimicrobial and antiviral properties. Rosemary is said to stimulate the circulatory system and thus is thought to encourage blood flow to the brain to relieve headaches. I find a steam inhalation of a handful of bruised stems and leaves works wonderfully for blocked sinuses.

Related: How to grow narcissus paperwhite | Alys Fowler

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