Check out writings from our CEO, John Mason.

John had his first work published in the 1960's and is still very active writing books, magazine articles, newsletters and blogs (including this one).
He has over had over 50 printed books and more than 80 ebooks published; has been editor for four different magazines; and today owns and operates a business that runs distance education colleges and publishing businesses in both Australia and the UK.

This blog presents extracts from work he has written both alone; and in collaboration with his staff; both old and new; and musings about what is happening in his world today.

APL Awards 16 March Special Guest Talk by Chris Collins

A Year at Westminster Abbey, the Queen’s Church


Photos which he showed during his talk are on the web at


Career history

he was invited to Buckingham Palace to receive a Medal for Contribution to Horticulture (check details)


Chris introduced himself and talked about the time when he was Head Gardener at Westminster Abbey where he was appointed and worked 2001 - 2005.

The Gardens are 900 yrs old and have had an interesting and varied history commencing in Medieval times when they were run by Benedictine Monks. 


His initial assessment of the state of the Gardens in 2001 concluded that the soil was very poor and powdery, and that few plants of interest were growing in them.  As they were a blank canvas he commenced by working on the lawns.  This included lightly scarifying each week to encourage the grass to tiller up and become thicker as well as reseeding where needed.  A new grass cutting regime was introduced - cutting in circular patterns to improve appearance and to ensure strong growth removing some of the ridges in the lawn.   The grass was mowed to 2.5cms in length minimum to create a thick sward. 


At the same time he commenced growing thousands of plants for use in bedding and other longer lasting planting schemes.  These plants were started off as seeds and included lots of heritage varieties.  Hot boxes and cold frames were created too.  Exotics were added to some of the planting schemes too to add colour and interest. 


With the soil structure being so poor Chris started a mass composting project.  He says that the secret to creating compost quickly is turning it frequently and watering it copiously.  The Gardens contained many London Plane trees which were very dry so their leaves were shredded to speed up the composting process.  Additionally 12000 worms were brought in to work!!


During the Spring any necessary construction work was done in the traditional manner using lime, not building sand and cement


Then the vast number of young bedding and perennial plants which Chris had started to grow in early Spring for Summer colour were planted. 


Where he found particularly poor soil (eg where areas contained large amounts of stone and clinker had been deposited over many years) he set wild flowers to grow.  This area has now become very valuable in terms of biodiversity of plants and insects.


Not content with instigating all the changes above, Chris also installed a knot garden in the grounds.  He used a variety of shrub named Lonicera nitida instead of the popular Buxus sempervirens as it is resistant to Box Blight - Lonicera nitida does have its draw backs though as it grows extremely fast and requires a lot of cutting!   Different coloured varieties of sage were used as infill for the knot garden.


A herb garden was also planted up with Strawberries, Hyssop, Yarrow, Helichrysum to name but a few. 


His planting style for the borders included planting in drifts, for example using Alliums to grow up amongst Aquilegia in the Spring - with the Aquilegia covering the Alliums’s leaves.


Chris’ top tip for getting enormous hanging baskets by the way, is to spray the plants in the early morning with dilute seaweed foliar feed foliage.   The timing of the foliar feed is particularly important as it is when the stomata of the leaves are open and receptive to the feed. 


Diana Cole


ACS Distance Education

If you would like to learn more about gardening, why not have a look at our


Short courses

Longer horticulture courses


Year of the Dog! Learning Commands

By ACS Bookshop UK on February 28, 2018 in Pets | comments
2018 is the Chinese Year of the Dog. Considered as one of human's best friends, in 2017 the dog became the most popular household pet. Here we look at the teaching of basic manners to dogs - to promote an easier and happier life for the dog and owner, and bring greater companionship.

People often say they want to write a novel, but how many actually sit down and do it?

Read about some simple steps you can take towards becoming a writer.


Do Children like to read about Fantasy?

Recent research from Lilliard at the University of Virginia suggests that children are less interested in fantasy and more interested in doing real practical tasks.  Children may love to pretend they are Harry Potter or R2D2 or Elsa, but Lilliard’s research suggests that children prefer reality. They would like to cut up vegetables, feed a real baby and so on, rather than pretend to do so. 


Rare Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse

Don’t Miss Out Photographing This Rare Event!!


This January the 31st, a rare event will happen in our skies, so why not use this opportunity to get the camera out and photograph this phenomena.

What is it?

On the 31st of January 2018 three events will occur to our moon.  These events on their own are interesting but are fairly common, however the collision of the three events in the same night is very rare. 

So, what will happen on the 31st of January 2018?  The moon will pass through the earth’s shadow causing a complete lunar eclipse!!  This is no ordinary lunar eclipse as it is also a blue moon, and this is the first of two blue moons to occur in 2018!!  It is not only a blue moon eclipse, but this will be the third super moon, creating the ‘Super Blue Blood Moon’.