Iris unguicularis – the Algerian iris

This beautiful, winter flowering iris used to be called Iris stylosa; sweet sounding and easy to remember. Easy to grow too, just plant it at the base of a dry sunny wall with no added compost, and it will thrive. It seems to love poor stony soil which is no surprise when you look at its natural habitat. For most of the year you wouldn’t give it a second glance … a scruffy collection of strap shaped, dull green leaves which often as not are brown at the tips; and horror of horrors, it is a five star hotel...

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Salix fargesii

During periods of hard frost it is not difficult to find stunning subjects to admire as you wander around the garden; every stem, seedhead and leaf is enhanced by the sparkling white dust of  air hoar. The challenging days are when it’s grey and dismal and the light levels are at their lowest. But even then I know that there will always be something to brighten things up, and at this time of the year I look to Salix fargesii, which we have planted at the edge of our pond. There are about 400 species of deciduous willow, their...

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Anisodontea ‘El Royo’

The first anisodontea that I grew was A. capensis, which is less hardy, less showy, smaller in all respects, but very charming nonetheless. Then I came across A.‘El Royo’, another member of the mallow family, which has much larger, clearer pink flowers, also with dark centres, and it flowers best, most unexpectedly, in autumn and winter. It is a hardy evergreen subshrub reaching about 1.5 m, and mine has so far withstood a string of quite hard frosts, and it just keeps on going. It has an airy habit and will perform best in a sunny well drained spot,...

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Clematis cirrhosa

From about the middle of December, the garden takes second place in the order of things; but as soon as the festivities are over I rush outside, keen to see what’s in flower, and to catch up with all our treasures. Planted not far from our back door and therefore always on view to be enjoyed, is the evergreen winter flowering Clematis cirrhosa. It is amazing to see the delicate speckled flowers thriving under such tough conditions and all the more valuable at this time of year. I did have to refer to my gardening diary to make sure...

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