In a new series for Northern Soul, our Gardening Correspondent Claire Fleetneedle looks at the unique challenges faced by gardeners up North and shares tips, ideas and horticultural happenings across the region. 

It’s fair to say that I’m an enthusiastic amateur in the garden. I’ve had some wonderful successes over the years as well as umpteen complete disasters. The more I learn about gardening, the more I realise that most of my past growing achievements may have been happy accidents. But being a brilliant gardener isn’t really the point.

The calming, cathartic effects of having your fingers in the soil and the pleasure of growing are well documented and, to me, that’s what’s important. It’s the simple joy of growing and feeling that unique connection with nature which is both absorbing and enormously beneficial to your mental health and well-being. It’s not a competition about being the best, it’s about the experience, enjoyment and tranquillity that growing plants and creating beautiful green spaces can bring.

Gardening, like interior design, is a question of taste and in this new series I will be looking at every style of growing space, from formal gardens in stately homes to community orchards, cottage gardens, rewilded places and back yards. With a climate change disaster looming, I will also be looking at how to start a mini green revolution and what we can all do to lower carbon levels. I’ll be sharing ways to support our struggling native wildlife too. I want to encourage everyone to reconnect by getting more involved with their local green spaces and I aim to cultivate understanding and appreciation of the natural world around us.

Apple treeGardening in the North of England offers unique challenges which are rarely covered by the mainstream Southern-centric horticultural media. In Growing Up North I’m going to cover how different and, on occasion, how difficult it can be to grow in this part of the world. I’ll also be exploring how wonderful it is to live in such a lush environment and what opportunities these growing conditions can offer. I’ll be speaking to experts to find out how they deal with challenging growing situations as well as picking the brains of people who know how to make a Northern garden thrive. I will offer tips and ideas to help you get the full potential from your garden every month of the year, even if it’s just pots in a back yard, window boxes or an allotment.

SnowdropsAs Gardening Correspondent I hope to take you on some of my gardening adventures, sharing new ideas and the useful stuff I’ll be discovering along the way, as well as offering sneaky peeks at some of the superb green projects happening in the North today. In the meantime, I’d love to receive your gardening questions and find out what horticultural happenings you’d like to read about. Please contact me at with your queries.

Happy Planting.

By Claire Fleetneedle, Gardening Correspondent

Images by Claire Fleetneedle 

Tips for January


  • Winter aconite, crocus and snowdrops are all important early nectar providers for bees.
  • Remember to leave food and fresh water out for the birds.
  • If you’ve got the space, create little piles of wood in quiet corners of your garden to provide crucial shelter and nutrition for wildlife during the harsh winter months.