Salix fargesii

FEBRUARY: 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...

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King John’s Lodge – East Sussex

Every once in a while you come across a place with a timeless air about it – not flashy or cutting-edge, but with a calm, gracious look of antiquity and love about it that grabs your heart.  That’s King John’s Lodge in Etchingham. It’s plonk in the middle of East Sussex off the A21. The house is a Grade II listed Jacobean manor restored by the present owners and the garden opens regularly for the National Garden Scheme.  The garden with its rose walk, wild pond, meadow areas etc. is not full of ‘specimens’ – but has a lived-in, relaxed feel, with hundreds of cranesbills jostling...

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Willows: Infuriating fad or firm favourites?

‘Very pretty’, ‘beautiful’, ‘lovely’, all totally over-the-top hyperboles used by Laura and Elaine  in our video to describe a few dun-coloured stems in Laura’s garden. Really? Willows and dogwoods seem to be the ‘in’ thing for horticultural types to be excited about in winter. I don’t understand why they get so enthused by these featureless spikes just because they’re green or red. Graffiti is colourful but generally not popular. I can only imagine gardening contractors sold the idea of dogwoods to cash-strapped councils as a way to keep roundabouts looking tidy for six months of the year (nine in Scotland) and the fad has spread...

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Anisodontea ‘El Royo’

JANUARY: 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...

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