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Spring Great Plants this Month

Clematis ‘Guernsey Cream’

A good place to start, for anyone who loves clematis, is to buy a copy of Christopher Lloyd’s highly respected book of the same name. It’s a massive source of information and a good read. However, my choice of clematis today was bred in the same year as my revised edition of 1989 was printed, […]

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Spring Great Plants this Month

Rhodiola rosea

Sedum rhodiola roseroot During the winter months the knobbly rootstock of this succulent plant looks like nothing on earth, and in January and February I find myself endlessly peering at it trying to spot the first sign of life. It’s a fascinating thing to keep an eye on as spring approaches and sometimes hard to […]

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Spring Great Plants this Month

Scilla sardensis AGM

PKA Chionodoxa sardensis Common names: Lesser glory-of-the-snow or squill (from Sart*) Any mention of these beautiful little bulbs immediately brings to mind a passage in Beverley Nichols’ book ‘Down the Garden Path’ (how very dated it reads now) in which he catalogues the planting of (and waiting for the appearance of) an ‘avalanche’ of chionodoxa […]

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’ AGM

coral-bark maple Just when you thought you’d heard the last of colourful winter stems – along comes the coral-bark maple. Please accept my apologies for raising the subject again*, but this one was begging for a mention and right now it’s probably at its peak. I’ve always loved and admired acers but sadly our heavy […]

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Nivalis’

Japanese quince ‘Nivalis’ By its very ubiquity, the poor old Japanese quince is often overlooked, but I have always rated  them highly and not least, of course, because any shrub flowering in February is to be welcomed. This deciduous and woody shrub is very accommodating and adaptable, it’s also extremely hardy and is tolerant of […]

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Crocus chrysanthus ‘Gipsy Girl’

At this time of the year, there’s nothing more cheering than a little pot of gold by the front door, and to be sure, when I chose these last autumn, I had little idea that they would be such a success. The weather has not been kind these past couple of weeks and certainly not for […]

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Aucuba japonica ‘Crotonifolia’ AGM

Japanese laurel ‘Crotonifolia’ A couple of days ago, I just happened to get a heads up that this weekend ‘the three’ would be tackling the subject of plants that we love to hate. And on that same dark, damp and spectacularly dull day, as I was taking my regular early morning stroll round the garden, I […]

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Verbena macdougalii ‘Lavender Spires’

mountain blue vervain ‘Lavender Spires’ Midwinter brings its own very particular delights and most especially when the darkened skeletons of many plants fall under the cloak of a hard frost. These are the plants that have already given us long-lasting and floriferous displays in late summer and into autumn, and now they give us a […]

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Euphorbia margalidiana AGM

Euphorbia margalidiana is a delightful perennial sub-shrub, very floriferous and with a long flowering period from May until November – even, as you see, into December! This noteworthy euphorbia, received rave reviews at the Euphorbia trials at Wisley and was awarded the AGM from the Royal Horticultural Society after their three years’ scrutiny in 2015. […]

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Great Plants this Month Autumn

Hedera helix ‘Arborescens Variegata’

Variegated tree ivy – Thanks to its invasive habit and seemingly insignificant flowers, it’s easy to dismiss climbing ivy as an irritant with little or no garden value, but nothing could be further from the truth.  I hardly dared tell my co-gardener that I’d chosen an ivy as the star of the show this week […]

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Great Plants this Month Autumn

Pyrus communis ‘Black Worcester’

pear ‘Black Worcester’ There could be a radio programme called ‘Inheritance Plants’ in which various people would remember the plants they grew up with and explain why they felt they wanted to continue the tradition in their own gardens. Well, thanks to my own dear parents, this lovely pear tree would no doubt be on […]

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Great Plants this Month Autumn

Vitis ‘Fragola’

Vitis strawberry grape One of the massive joys of the autumn is the gathering of fruits as they ripen, and the making of jams, jellies and preserves, and occasionally fruit juices and wine. We grow a few vines in our garden, some just for their decorative value – V. vinifera ‘Purpurea’, V . ‘ ‘Brant’, […]

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Great Plants this Month Autumn

Zauschneria californica

syn. Epilobium canum Californian fuchsia In a corner of our garden, we have a raised bed which is very sunny and very well drained. From about August onwards it is a riot of late summer and autumn colour composed of very drought tolerant, rather assertive plants which include limonium, crocosmia, perovskia, sedum and low grasses […]

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Great Plants this Month Autumn

Fuchsia hatschbachii AGM

The day length is shortening significantly as we near the end of September and in a bid to reduce that slight twinge of autumnal melancholy, I have for many years now tried to ensure that there are plenty of late season flowers to distract us for as long as possible. And so it was that […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Rose ‘Simple Peach’

For many years, I have been calling in at Growbag Laura’s garden almost every week, and am therefore ideally placed to watch and wonder at, and assess the growth, setbacks and progress of many new (and established) plants. It’s a great chance to notice what struggles, what merely jogs along, and then there are those […]

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Great Plants this Month Autumn

Clematis ‘Mrs Robert Brydon’

If I choose a clematis as my pick of the week, I can never resist taking a quick look at my clematis bible to see what Christopher Lloyd says about my choice. To my alarm, this time he was not so complimentary. He took issue with the colour, describing the flower as ‘mildly agreeable but of a too dirty […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Pelargonium acetosum

Plants in containers really come into their own as the summer progresses. Pelargoniums, salvias,  plectranthus, dahlias and all the others are getting well into their flowering stride and none does it better than my subject today – Pelargonium acetosum or sorrel-leaved pelargonium. This very floriferous species pelargonium has glaucous green, almost fleshy leaves, they are more like […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Kitaibelia vitifolia

This is another hollyhock relative! Some call it the Russian Hibiscus which could be confusing as it most definitely is not one, but they are both members of the Malvaceae family which includes many favourites of mine – abutilon, anisodontea, althaea, modiolastrum to name but a few. Kitaibelia vitifolia is a very sturdy, very hardy, tall […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Phlox paniculata ‘Norah Leigh’ AGM

I see that I’ve never chosen a phlox as my special plant before now; but as so often happens when I’m wandering about our garden in the early evening, this one called out to be included! Although not yet in full flower, the leaves, strongly margined with creamy white, make a fine statement. I’m not […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Cotinus ‘Grace’ – Smoke bush

I’m not sure whether we were distracted by the ravaged look of our Cotinus ‘Grace’ after such a harsh winter or whether it was another of those spring pruning procedures that was never carried out through lack of time, or maybe we just felt that after several years of hard pruning, the poor plant needed a […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ AGM

The garden is super lush right now having just received a well timed and most welcome half-inch of rain – quantities may have differed around the UK! In every corner of the garden there is a floral tableau so naturally my stand-out plant of the moment has to be spectacular! Ultimately it’s the intense colour […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Rosa ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ AGM

After that ferociously hard winter, I have nonetheless found silver linings in our garden, and probably we all have. Many evergreen shrubs were amongst the hardest hit, and for us these were the large euphorbias, a particularly massive  Teucrium fruticans and the hebes. However, the former are now showing green shoots which is cheering, but the […]

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Spring Great Plants this Month

Melica uniflora f. albida AGM – wood melic

‘Dainty’, ‘delightful’, ‘quietly attractive’, ‘trendy’, ‘slow spreading’, ‘neat clumps’, ‘likes damp shade’. All these descriptions are to be found when you google this gorgeous looking woodland grass, and doesn’t it sound just the job? As it’s often used in Chelsea show gardens, I bet a lot of people have rushed out to buy it. And, […]

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Spring Great Plants this Month

Myrrhis odorata

sweet cicely I’ve grown sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata) for as long as I can remember. I have no recollection of when or where I first bought it, it’s just always been a part of my gardening (and cooking) life. Not dissimilar to cow parsley, sweet cicely is also a British native but I’ve never seen […]

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Spring Great Plants this Month

Lunaria rediviva AGM

perennial honesty What colour is mauve? Now there’s an interesting question – it’s the colour of my chosen plant today. I’ve been reading a little about its origins and history and I’ve found some quite funny anecdotes including that apparently the artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler once called mauve “just pink trying to be purple”! I always […]

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Spring Great Plants this Month

Iris ‘Argentea’

Iris pallida ‘Argentea Variegata’ – Dalmatian iris ‘Argentea Variegata’ Even in springtime, when all around are the mounds of soft, fresh green foliage that makes this season so captivating, the accent of a good spiky plant cannot be underestimated; and especially one that is sufficiently hardy to have come through such a harsh winter unscathed and […]

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Spring Great Plants this Month

Oemleria cerasiformis

oso berry- Indian plum Unable (and a bit frustrated) as we are to grow such elegant spring flowering shrubs as corylopsis pauciflora and stachyurus praecox (because we are on heavy neutral clay and they like acid soil), I am delighted to say that my chosen plant today is happy and easy to grow in almost any soil. This hardy […]

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Spring Great Plants this Month

Clematis armandii

Armand clematis This is a beautiful clematis with a heavenly scent – vanilla by common consent or, as one of my gardening friends says, like the soap shelf at M&S! So why haven’t I chosen it before today? Because it’s usually flowering several metres up and sometimes I don’t even remember it’s there! Ours is growing […]

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Spring Great Plants this Month

Forsythia giraldiana

Giraldi’s forsythia Whilst our lawn and indeed the bare earth beneath shrubs and trees in the garden are becoming increasingly bedecked with snowdrops, crocuses, hellebores and other spring treasures, I am looking for something a little showy and springlike at head height and this forsythia seems to fill that need. We planted it along time […]

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Fröhnleiten’

barrenwort ‘Fröhnleiten’ If, like ours, your garden has been subject to yet more frosts this week, then you might have been enjoying such delights as my subject today. I do realise that I might be over enthusiastic about walking round the garden in winter but this is precisely why I love it. This barrenwort is […]

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Professor Richard Hansen’

I won’t deny that taking my early morning walk around the garden these days, is becoming more of a ‘stock taking’ exercise. Let’s face it, few of us have experienced a year like the last for decades, and I find myself re-evaluating the meaning of ‘hardy’. After record breaking temperatures last summer, a very mild […]

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Glycyrrhiza yunnanensis

Yunnan liquorice I love a coincidence and here we have one. Once again most of us are waking up to a very hard frost, or even snow, and I am impelled to go outside into the garden and observe all the amazing shapes and patterns that only reveal themselves under such conditions. And while I […]

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Cornus sanguinea ‘Anny’s Winter Orange’ AGM

Dogwood ‘Anny’s Winter Orange’ Getting on for a year ago, I was striding through the rain towards middle growbag Laura’s front door and not for the first time I stopped to admire ‘Anny’s Winter Orange’. Then as luck would have it, Laura rang me a couple of days later to say that she had spotted a couple […]

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Euphorbia milii AGM

Crown of thorns I have a confession to make, and I may lose friends saying so, but I am not a fan of poinsettias! To me they are the battery chickens of the horticultural world: propagated en masse, probably at great cost to the environment, and about as original a Christmas present as a chocolate […]

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Argyranthemum ‘Jamaica Primrose’ AGM

Marguerite ‘Jamaica Primrose’  The temperature dropped just below freezing in our barely heated greenhouse last night; this is hardly surprising as outside in the garden it was minus 6.8 degrees, and this, after the warmest November on record. But what a cheery welcome I received as I walked, with some fear and trepidation, through the greenhouse door this morning. Understandably all the other plants looked a little pinched but not this amazing marguerite. […]

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Great Plants this Month Autumn

Aponogeton distachyos or water hawthorn

It was the sweet scent on the air that first caught my attention when Growbag Laura and I wandered around Derry Watkins’ inspirational garden near Bath: the sort of scent that demands that you discover its source. I wasn’t really expecting it to come from an aquatic plant but was led in the direction of a small pond, almost covered by a carpet of […]