Blackhall-Miles advises sticking to hybrids and named cultivars of rare plants, which are much more likely to be bred in a nursery rather than taken from the wild.

On the high street

The likes of Wilko, Lidl, Homebase and Tesco can offer value for money when it comes to plants, but their ranges tend to be limited to the “usual suspects” – a few dozen common garden plants.

Pound stores are starting to move in on the lucrative gardening market too: Poundland recently launched a range of gardening products fronted by TV gardener Charlie Dimmock. Again, the range in such stores is limited, but this can be an extremely cheap way to fill a garden or allotment with new plants. You will usually find a few unnamed varieties of climbing roses, common shrubs such as spirea and mock orange, some spring and summer bulbs, raspberry canes, blueberry bushes and grapevines. But beware: only buy newly arrived stock as plants tend to be ignored by staff and will die quickly.

Car boots and swaps

I’ve got some of my best plants from kindly fellow growers who have offered me a cutting of a plant I’ve admired. Some gardeners set up stalls at their garden gates or at car boot sales. These are always worth a look, but are a gamble – plants may be wrongly labelled or contain pests or diseases which could spread to your other plants, and you have no recourse should things go wrong. And bear in mind that gardeners often have “spare” plants of a particular type because it is taking over their garden: I ended up with an ever-growing border full of a variegated grass known as gardener’s garters picked up from a plant swap stall.

Also seek out a local seed swap. These events are usually well-organised and are a chance to pick up new varieties for nothing – as well as helping you part with seeds you don’t need.

How to buy plants

• Lift the plant from its pot: you should be able to see healthy roots, not so tightly packed that no soil is visible. Don’t buy plants with a mass of roots emerging from the holes in the bottom of the pot.

• Avoid plants with damage or any browning or yellowing; those that are wilting or have uneven growth; or those with a mat of moss and weeds growing on the surface of the soil.

• Buy flowers in bud, not full bloom – they will give a longer-lasting display.

• Learn the difference between hardy perennials, half-hardy annuals and so on. Take along a reference book, ask staff for help, or sign up for an app such as Garden Compass or use the RHS plant finder.

• Check labels carefully. “Vigorous” can mean rampantly invasive, while plants that love full sun won’t be happy in a gloomy side return. Plants marked RHS AGM have received the RHS Award of Garden Merit and should be reliable and resistant to pests and diseases.

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Are your houseplants bad for the environment?

Patch, which says it is London’s biggest online plant retailer, is one example. It gives its plants nicknames like “Chaz” and “Big Ken” to endear them to prospective “plant parents”.

Chief executive Freddie Blackett says that part of the appeal is that plants make people feel “calmer, happier and more at ease”.

Patch’s plants are grown in the Netherlands and shipped to the UK as and when they are ordered, which avoids excess plants being shipped.

But ordering online could rack up “plant miles”, says Fay Kenworthy, co-founder of PlantSwap, a Sheffield-based community initiative that encourages people to trade plants locally.

Image copyright Sheffield Plant Swap Image caption Fay Kenworthy (right) with co-founder Sarah Rousseau (left)

“As many plants are brought in from overseas, their transportation represents a significant ecological footprint,” she says, noting that while most come from Holland, orchids can be shipped from Indonesia and “light-loving” plants from Kenya and Zimbabwe.

“You may have decided to reduce your international travel to protect the environment but your plants are still shipping across the world.”

Shipping from abroad isn’t too much of a concern for botanist and BBC presenter James Wong, the proud owner of 500 houseplants.

“You’re going to be on a much smaller scale compared to outdoors, so, by definition, it’s going to have a lower carbon footprint,” he says.

He argues that home delivery has less of an environmental impact than multiple trips to the garden centre in a car, and that many UK buyers live closer to Amsterdam than British-based suppliers.

He adds that growing certain plants in hotter climates and shipping them to the UK can eliminate the need for heated greenhouses closer to home.

However, Wong agrees that exchanging unwanted plants, cuttings, and seedlings at plant swaps is a sustainable option for houseplant buyers.

Another benefit, according to Ms Kenworthy, is that it avoids the excess packaging that comes with new plants – including plastic pots.

Plastic pots

Image copyright ROB EVANS, KIDS AGAINST PLASTIC Image caption Amy Meek (right) and her sister, Ella, run the Kids Against Plastic charity

Pots can be a “nightmare” to recycle, says anti-plastic campaigner Amy Meek, 16.

Only about 10% of local authorities in the UK accept them, according to analysts at the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

Sometimes they are not collected because they are considered contaminated. But many are also made from black plastic, which often cannot be detected by sorting machines at recycling centres, and so end up in landfill or incinerated.

Many local authorities reject even non-black plastic pots, which has led to the development of more easily-recyclable taupe pots and even biodegradable pots.

The Horticultural Trades Association and RHS Gardens offer plant pot recycling or “take back” schemes, and B&Q says it is trialling a recycling scheme.

Miss Meek, who runs environmental charity Kids Against Plastic with her younger sister, Ella, wants buyers to think about plants’ packaging.

She encourages people to ask: “Will I be able to I use it again, or is there somewhere else I could look to buy these plants from that are using more sustainable packaging or one that could be used for longer?”

For peat’s sake

Image copyright Trevor Dines Image caption Dr Trevor Dines says people should be wary of peat in compost

But being a sustainable houseplant buyer is not just about keeping tabs on how a plant is delivered – it is also about what it is grown in.

The main problem for botanist Dr Trevor Dines is the use of peat in composts.

The earthy substance, found in waterlogged areas in the UK, is made of decomposed plant matter and can take thousands of years to form.

“Commercial extraction can remove over 500 years-worth of growth in a single year,” says Dr Dines, of British conservation charity Plantlife.

He encourages people to check with retailers about the use of peat, or to stick to plants that don’t need it, like orchids or cacti.

But hang on, don’t houseplants clean the air?

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Installing a ‘green wall’ could give you the best chance or reducing CO2 levels at home

Because plants take in CO2 and emit oxygen, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that they offset any environmental damage by cleaning the air.

PhD research carried out by Curtis Gubb, an environmental consultant, found that plants can remove “significant amounts” of CO2 in a room – but how much depends on the type of plant, how many there are, how light the room is and how much water is in the soil.

“The amount the plant is watered affects its ability to function and remove CO2, in the same way as with people – if you’re dehydrated or have drunk too much water you will not function as well,” he says.

Dracaena “Golden Coast” plants and peace lillies performed best in his research, but he says you’d still need to buy a lot of them – even installing a vertical garden or “green wall” – and have extra lighting in order for them to reduce CO2 levels.

Image caption BBC presenter James Wong is the proud owner of 500 houseplants

So, are houseplants bad for the environment?

Wong says that everything we do has a carbon footprint and that, in the scheme of things, people shouldn’t “freak out” about their environmental impact.

However, he advises that if buyers want to be as sustainable as possible, they should talk to their suppliers about the use of peat, avoid buying houseplants that are “designed to die” like Poinsettias and sprayed cacti, and propagate plants from cuttings and seeds to offset any environmental concerns.

“Not that those things are a huge issue,” he says. “But every little bit helps.”

The ‘ghost town’ of Harlow where an entire shopping area is ‘dying’

“Sales in the first month of opening exceeded our expectations,” a spokesperson for Tessuti said. “Customers have commented we are a great addition to Harlow and the Water Gardens and we are already looking to expand our brand portfolio to meet their requests whilst continuing to deliver great customer service.”

The old Odeon cinema in Harlow

One couple, Kevin and Lynda, told Essex Live that bigger and better name shops were needed to regenerate the town centre.

“We need a Debenhams and we need Marks and Spencer back,” said Kevin, who is born and bred in Harlow with his partner Lynda. “M&S used to bring a lot of people into the town from the villages and other areas. Our nearest M&S is now in Cheshunt.”

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“It’s the big stores than generate the jobs as well which would be good for the town.

Lynda added: “There’s too many jewellers, shoe shops and charity shops. It’s disappointing when a shop shuts and it just stays closed forever.

Both Kevin and Lynda agreed that they missed the old Harlow market.

“It used to be fabulous,” Lynda said. “Everyone used to come to the market and all the shops around it were open down that end of town. But now even the post office has gone.”

An empty unit in Broad Walk

Another long term resident, Kim, did not hold back when saying how she thought Harlow had changed over the last 20 years.

“It’s disgusting now,” she said. “It used to be such a nice place. I used to come into town all the time with my children but I hardly ever come now.

“The frontage above Savers and Card Factory is still the same as it was when Woolworths was here. It’s just not the same as it used to be. It needs so much money spent on it.”

Des and Tracey, who have lived in Harlow for 25 years, believe the town has deteriorated in that time and that part of that is down to people not having a much disposable income as they used to.

“It’s a sign of the times that people haven’t got much money anymore,” Tracey said. “If people haven’t got the money to spend then then shops are going to stay empty. The retailers that we need to attract more people into the town won’t come here because the customers are not here.”

Another empty unit in Broad Walk

Tracey did say that the problem was not unique to Harlow, but it depended partly on if you’re in a high or low income area.

“It definitely isn’t just a problem in Harlow but we were in Chelmsford yesterday and there were nowhere near as many empty shops and it was really busy compared to here,” she said.

Des agreed. “It’s taken quite a long time and a big vision to change Chelmsford though. It wasn’t always the way it is now.

“Harlow needs a vision and the people need to be asked what they want. What experience do people want here that they are not getting that is forcing them to go elsewhere or shop online? There needs to be a public consultation.

“There’s definitely too many empty units,” Des added. “I think the council need to look at alternative uses in the empty shops, other than retail. Like leisure and cafes, communal art spaces and a nice food market. Things that will benefit the town.

“There was a Makers Market here before Christmas and that was really good. It was something a bit different.”

Inside the Phoenix Resource Centre

Several people mentioned how wonderful the Christmas Makers Market was, and the organisation behind that is the Phoenix Resource Centre.

It’s an environmental charity which recycles and distributes surplus stocks, end of line goods and returns from businesses to help out local people.

The Harlow centre is run by Annette Dyer who oversees lots of local projects including art exhibitions using recycled goods, helping out residents, local schools and community projects with cheaper goods or free supplies.

In The Making in the Harvey Centre

The Phoenix Centre is currently using two empty units on the first floor of The Harvey Centre, one for their main shop and one for the In The Making project which is for students on the supported studies department at Harlow College. Here the students, who have conditions like autism and Down’s Syndrome, sell quality hand-made products they make from recycled goods, as well as running all aspects of the shop including stock taking, till work, planning and managing cash flow.

“Not only is this a wonderful project but it’s a great use of an empty unit in the centre,” said Annette. “So many people have come in to say what a fabulous idea this is. We just want to do as much as we can for the community and help bring the town centre together.”

Louise Cooper, who runs In the Making, said: “I think people here want nice knick knack shops, and things they can afford.

“The Makers Market was brilliant, we just asked lots of different people to exhibit and sell their work. I think we could definitely do it more often.”

Man shopping online

One resident Charlotte, who has lived in Harlow for decades, said she missed the old Co-op in town, as well as the old cinema in Broad Walk which is now shut down.

“M&S used to bring in so much trade to the town,” she said. “Harlow has changed so much now, it’s not an attractive place to live. We even had Monsoon and Accessorize for a while but they went.”

Charlotte added that if she wants a big shopping trip she now goes to either Epping High Street or Chelmsford, as there isn’t enough choice in Harlow.

“Chelmsford is brilliant,” she said. “There’s a really good market and indoor market.”.

Along with 80 percent of the population, Charlotte also does a lot of her shopping online now. “I do shop on the internet a lot,” she admitted. I rarely come into town here.”

As for what can be done to give Harlow town centre a boost, Charlotte said: “ It would almost take too much money to renovate it now. It’s going to be hard to change it now, I think it’s just going to get worse.”

Table tennis tables are now installed in market square

Councillor Mark Ingall, leader of Harlow Council, said: “The regeneration of the town centre remains a priority for the council. The town centre’s regeneration has been the subject of much debate. We want to see a transformation of the town centre as place not just for the benefit of our existing residents but looking towards the 2030s when the town’s population will have grown significantly.

“We are creating an Area Action Plan for the town centre which will guide its future development. We held public consultation on the plan last summer and there will be further consultation over the coming months.

“Undoubtedly the town centre plays an important role as both a retail and leisure destination for Harlow and the surrounding areas but more increasingly as a place to live. With so many developments in the pipeline for Harlow including the Enterprise Zone, Public Health England’s National Science Hub and the Harlow & Gilston Garden Town, the town is seeing and benefiting from major investment and growth. This plan is key to ensuring that Harlow town centre is ready to meet these future opportunities and once again become a vibrant place in the heart of the community.

Long-term project

“The regeneration of the town centre is not a short-term project, it is a long-term project. Much of the town centre, its buildings and shops are not owned by the council and there are different companies and organisations with an interest. The town centre is made up of a number of different areas and although some are in need of attention, there are also two thriving shopping centres in the Harvey Centre and The Water Gardens.

“Where we can, the council is making small improvements. At the end of last year we undertook some works to the Market Square area of the town centre to make it a more inviting area to visit. We held a very successful first ever local makers’ market in November, which was on the same day as the town centre’s Christmas lights were switched on and we plan to hold further makers’ market days and other events in the square. There are already plans for the redevelopment of the northern end of Broad Walk with new homes and shop units.”

Tessuti in The Water Gardens

Sisters Lesley and Janette, who have lived in or near Harlow for 13 years, agreed that the loss of M&S was the biggest blow to the town.

“That was our draw to come into town,” Lesley said. “You could come in, do your shopping and get some food. I mainly came in today because I had to go to the bank. There are too many barbers and estate agents, they don’t need to be in the town centre.

“We definitely need a department store, I think people would come in for that.”

If the sisters fancy a big shopping trip they now go to either went to Lakeside or Westfield, she added.

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Janette said it was a shame that Harlow town centre had gone down hill.

“Our relatives moved here 40 years ago and it was better then. I would love to be able to shop here more.

“The high street definitely suffers from the fact that so many people shop online now.”

However, despite the threat of online shopping affected all high streets, including Harlow, not everyone is a fan.

“Personally I do not shop online,” Lesley said. “I still like to be able to see it, feel it and try it on. You just end up with lots of things to take back and then you miss the deadline and you’re stuck with something you don’t want.

“I prefer to do actual shopping.”

Shopping deals and news

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Welcome to StyleX Party

Welcome to Stylex Party Limited, we strive to deliver the best customer service along with the highest quality and unique option of fancy dress costumes and accessories, making you stand out from the crowd!

We have not only chosen you the top branded products from huge companies such as Smiffys, Rubies Masquerade and Bristol. But also give you a selection of Stylex handpicked products, which is chosen for big events such as World Book Day, Halloween, Christmas, Easter, Carnival’s, Festivals and many more! Giving you high quality Fancy dress products for a lower cost!

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Hen party coming up? No need to worry Stylex caters for every event, giving you Sipping Willy straws, Hen Night sashes, Novelty Hen games, Pink TUTU’s, Luxury Feather boas and much more!

30+ Garden-Themed Gifts That Are Perfect for Plant Lovers

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, My Modern Met may earn an affiliate commission. Please read our disclosure for more info.

As Christmas nears, picking the perfect presents may have you feeling stumped. If you have a plant lover in your life, however, you can nip your holiday shopping in the bud with these garden gift ideas.

Featuring creative, plant-themed products, this selection of gifts is sure to please any nature enthusiast. Quirky pots, one-of-a-kind vases, and unique terrariums are perfect for imaginative gardeners, while fun accessories, beautiful decor, and helpful home goods offer a hassle-free approach to horticulture.

Green thumb or not, one thing is clear: this year, that special someone will be dreaming of a green Christmas!

These garden gift ideas are perfect for the creative plant lover in your life.

Greenhouse Terrarium

DoodleBirdie | $286

House Plants Art Print

EverlongPrintCo | $24.28+

Sea Urchin Planters

AURAMORE | $18.25

Flower Press


Botanic Rubber Stamp

ManuManuFact | $7.95

Self-Watering Ceramic Creatures

Mcgreen | $22.99

Bentwood Planter

Art of Plants | $105

Minimalist Hanging Vase

kirraleeandco | $42.53

Pokemon Planter

Artsysaurs | $39

Classic Caravan Planter

JulieRichardCeramist | $29.09

Elephant Watering Can

Union | $7.28

UFO Hanging Planter

I want to be-leaf | $23.99

Botanical Illustration Stamp Set

dadastickers | $2.13

Leaf-Shaped Jewelry Dishes

ScoopOfLoves | $19.95+

Next: More plant-themed presents for all people (whether you have a green thumb or not).

Holiday Gift Guide 2019: The Best Mail Order Foods Make Delicious Gifts

Even fitness junkies eat. If you have an athlete, skier or active person on your gift list, consider … the healthy, natural energy bars from Kate’s Real Food.

Kate’s Real Food

Kate’s Real Food Bars: Have an athlete, skier, hiker or outdoors lover on your list? In a world full of highly processed “sports bars,” why not give a gift they will use that is more fitting for the healthy active lifestyle? In the late 1990’s, looking to fuel her backcountry adventures, Kate Schade, a ski bum living in Jackson Hole, Wyoming wanted an energy bar she could jam in her pocket for skiing that was wholesome, functional and great tasting. When she could not find one, she made her own, and the legendary “Tram Bar,” named for the ski resort’s iconic tram, was born. This was when I first discovered Kate’s, back when the Tram Bar was just a locally beloved Jackson specialty. Now it has grown into a national business, and today, Kate’s Real Food makes six delicious, hand-rolled flavors of energy bars with honest ingredients and no artificial sweeteners. From the original Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Tram Bar, to the Dark Chocolate Cherry Almond Handle Bar, each is certified organic, gluten free, non-GMO, and Kosher. A variety pack of a dozen, with two each of all six flavors, is $30 or you can buy whatever flavor(s) you like by the dozen for the same price.

BBQ beef ribs are much rarer than the pork version, but worth seeking out for their wonderful … meatiness.

Nick Simonite/Salt Lick

BBQ Beef Ribs from the Salt Lick: 98% of the time you see “BBQ ribs” on a menu, they are pork, whether it’s full-sized spareribs, St. Louis cut or baby backs. But I’ve always been a fan of much bigger and meatier smoked beef ribs, and this combines everything that is great with America’s beloved red meat with everything that is great about BBQ ribs into a messy, sensory experience for the beef fan. BBQ beef ribs (not short ribs) are harder to come by, and more often than not found in Texas, the epicenter of beef barbecue – brisket is the Lone Star State’s signature dish after all. One place I’ve been to that is famous for beef ribs and also ships is the wildly popular Salt Lick in Driftwood, an Austin suburb, perennially ranked among the nation’s most famous BBQ joints. Celebrity chef Bobby Flay picked these over-sized bones for the show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” but the Salt Lick has a vast menu you can mail order, combining these with sausage, brisket and other meats.

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