Categories
Great Plants this Month

Modiolastrum lateritium

false mallow syn. Malvastrum lateritium In 1987, when I attended a course in garden design at the Chelsea Physic Garden, James Compton was the head gardener, and in the same year he published a book called ‘Success with Unusual Plants’. I love this book: it’s full of interesting and unfamiliar plants, amongst which is Modiolastrum…

Categories
Great Plants this Month

Rosa ‘Comte de Chambord’

Also known as rose ‘Madame Boll’ I’m sure we’d all agree that the month of June is synonymous with roses. So many to choose from, but in our garden at least, seriously few places left to grow new ones; so a few years ago we did our research and even went to the Royal National Rose Society Gardens, near St Alban’s, to help us make our choice. (Sadly, the gardens went into administration in 2017…

Categories
Great Plants this Month

Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ PBR

I have to confess that I was never a big fan of geums until I came across ‘Totally Tangerine’ growing in a friend’s garden. That year I visited her a few times during the spring and summer and each time I went I was more and more impressed by it: it was always in flower, upright, taller than most (80-90 cms), healthy, and just glowed! This beautiful orange cultivar is sterile, which means…

Categories
Great Plants this Month

Xanthoceras sorbifolium AGM

Shinyleaf yellowhorn, Chinese flowering chestnut What wouldn’t I do for The3Growbags? Last week we had scaffolding against the house and normally I wouldn’t be seen anywhere near a ladder above six feet, let alone stand on six-metre-high scaffolding, but one morning I glanced up and there was the captivating sight of Xanthoceras sorbifolium in full flower. And it was spectacular! I realised that here was an opportunity that rarely occurs. So I crawled out of our…

Categories
Great Plants this Month

Malus transitoria AGM

Cut-leaf crabapple Sometimes, quite unexpectedly you come across a plant that is so stunning, it becomes etched into your memory, and this exceptional tree is just one of those. I first saw it at RHS Wisley; it was autumn, and we were wandering through the model gardens (possibly they no longer feature there now?), when I turned a corner and saw this perfect picture of glowing autumn colour in the late afternoon sunshine. Its golden yellow leaves…

Categories
Great Plants this Month

Fritillaria meleagris A.G.M.

snake’s head fritillary Our snake’s head fritillaries have been in flower for weeks and it’s been a bumper year. In early spring as the narrow grass-like leaves emerge in long grass, they can be hard to spot, but these bulbous perennials are tough and reliable,despite their fragile looking appearance. Opinions vary as to whether it’s a British native or not, but there are sites…

Categories
Spring Great Plants this Month

Viburnum carlesii ‘Diana’ AGM

Arrowwood ‘Diana’ I can forgive a plant almost anything if it has a good scent, and this gorgeous shrub reminds me that we are in full spring mode, it’s no longer late winter even if the weather is trying to tell us otherwise at the moment! The waxy flowers of Viburnam carlesii ‘Diana’ are rosy red in bud, opening to pink, and then fading to white as they age; they are exceptionally fragrant, and therefore worth planting…

Categories
Spring Great Plants this Month

Primula vulgaris subsp. sibthorpii AGM

Sibthorp primrose This little beauty can be ignored no longer. It started coming into flower in early February, and every time I pass it, I think to myself what an absolute joy it is; not shouty but quite unmissable. Despite its diminutive size – a scant ten centimetres high – it has proven robust, tolerant, and long lived, and over the summer months it disappears from…

Categories
Great Plants this Month Winter

Crocus wheel of colour

Three decades ago, when our so-called lawn was little more than a rectangle of rough grass and before we planted our walnut tree, in between doing battle with bindweed, changing nappies and keeping rabbits at bay, I would sometimes try to introduce some sort of coherence into my plans for spring bulbs. But I rarely got beyond grabbing a few random crocus at the local…

Categories
Great Plants this Month

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’

Gold-edged winter daphne This year our lovely daphne is coming into flower at least two weeks later than usual which is hardly surprising given the number of frosts we’ve had so far this winter. ‘Aureomarginata’ is a neat evergreen shrub with shiny, gold-edged leaves, and is probably best grown in dappled shade.  It will reach 1-1.5 metres but let no one tell you that this Daphne is slow growing, for when I referred to my trusty garden diary, I saw that I…

Categories
Great Plants this Month

Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna

Sweet box Also known as Christmas box, these are not shrubs to consign to any old corner of your garden just because they will tolerate deep shade. On the contrary, they are a great choice to plant against the north side of your home, or next to a path, or by the front or back door (whichever…

Categories
Great Plants this Month

Rosa Scarlet Fire

Rose ‘Scharlachglut’ When we first moved into our house, over 30 years ago, there was very little in the way of garden. There were very few trees, except those in the boundaries, and the rest was rough grass with a few ageing and neglected shrubs. However, one shrub rose caught our attention that first summer, its glowing, single red…

Categories
Great Plants this Month Winter

Primula vulgaris AGM

primrose Never underestimate the power of the primrose to lift the spirits! A couple of days ago, having forced myself out into the grey and drizzle, I rounded the corner of a path in our garden and there it was, a self-sown specimen I need hardly say, perfectly placed to give hope and cheer just in time…

Categories
Great Plants this Month Winter

December flowers

My thanks to those of you who have read my column over the past year, it’s been so much fun to write, and I have learnt quite a lot of new details about some of the plants myself! Thank you also if you’ve bought my little book, I do hope that you are enjoying dipping into it from time to time.…

Categories
Great Plants this Month Winter

Viburnum opulus ‘Xanthocarpum’ AGM

Yellow-fruited guelder rose – I’ve been admiring this guelder rose for weeks. It all starts when the shrub is still in leaf; then, as the season progresses, the gorgeous, amber coloured, translucent berries stand out more and more on their winter bare stems. And I’m not the only one who appreciates it; the little robin in my photo is unusually shy but she sits very happily among the berries, does she feel safer being so…

Categories
Great Plants this Month Winter

Geranium ‘Dusky Crûg’

‘ There are less than two weeks to go before winter officially begins, but what an extraordinarily mild autumn it has been. Many borderline hardy plants are still flowering their socks off in containers and I am reluctant to dismantle them because they still look so happy, despite a few frosts at the beginning of the month. However, I need to free up the pots for my tulip bulbs so I must harden my…

Categories
Great Plants this Month Winter

Symphyotrichum pilosum var. pringlei ‘Monte Cassino’

Aster ‘Monte Cassino’ No photograph can do this plant justice because it’s so difficult to capture the airy essence of ‘Monte Cassino’. It has a very open habit, with well-spaced stems that hold generous sprays of tiny, delicate, pure white flowers. The foliage is neat and does not interfere with the overall effect. Not only is this exceptionally beautiful aster a breath of fresh air at…

Categories
Great Plants this Month Autumn

Mespilus germanica

common medlar I cannot resist the compulsion to make jams and jellies when various fruits present themselves throughout the year, and without a shadow of a doubt, if I had to choose just one of them, then the medlar it would have to be. This is the jelly that my family and friends love above all others; rich and full of flavour, it goes with just about everything. (Nigel Slater’s recipe is a good one…

Categories
Great Plants this Month Autumn

Fuchsia ‘Whiteknights Pearl’ AGM

Last week it felt as if we had been plunged straight into winter, but today is more like a normal October day with the promise of some warm and sunny days ahead, and as I venture out, I am reassured that the garden still has plenty to offer. Since mid-summer, when ‘Whiteknights Pearl’ started into flower, I have been increasingly taken with this beautiful, award-winning fuchsia, and it really comes into its own in the autumn – partly through lack…

Categories
Great Plants this Month Autumn

Helianthus ‘Carine’

Sunflower ‘Carine’ There are some gardeners who try to avoid yellow, and I will admit that there are many less than subtle shades; but it’s almost foolhardy to try and manage without any in September, so when it comes to Helianthus, take a bit of time, and choose carefully  from the many different cultivars that exist. Helianthus ‘Carine’ is very like H ‘Lemon Queen’, but more refined; it is slightly shorter, has the palest yellow flowers, and noticeably dark…

Categories
Great Plants this Month Autumn

Stipa gigantea AGM

Golden Oats Sourcing and buying Stipa gigantea is not a problem, for this magnificent grass is a tried and tested old favourite but do please take a bit of time to position it. This is not the occasion to walk round the garden, pot in hand, desperately looking for a gap. To enjoy it at its best, bear in mind that it needs sun…

Categories
Great Plants this Month Summer

Phytolacca americana

American pokeweed Is this a ‘Marmite’ plant? I mention it, because as a child I remember my parents having heated discussions about its contribution to the garden scene. My mother was not a fan, and after my father died, I did notice that the American pokeweed mysteriously disappeared one day: but it came back in the form of a self-sown ghost, to…

Categories
Great Plants this Month Summer

Limonium gmelinii subsp. hungaricum

Hungarian sea-lavender I am on the north Cornish coast this week, and walking along the cliff tops this morning, my eye was caught by a tiny rock sea-lavender growing in the most inhospitable location imaginable: facing the wild Atlantic Ocean with all its accompanying salt winds and spray, it was growing in a crevice in the slate. Then I thought of our own sea lavenders at home. Unlike Monty…

Categories
Great Plants this Month Summer

Verbascum roripifolium

Earlier this week, dodging the unrelenting rain showers, an intrepid group of plant and garden enthusiasts from the Sussex Hardy Plant Society came to visit: first to Laura’s garden and then ours in the afternoon. I had already been impressed by this beautiful mullein, so taking a cue from the exclamations of delight from our visitors, decided to make it my plant of the moment, the people’s choice! I raised…

Categories
Great Plants this Month Summer

Papaver somniferum

opium poppy The profusion of flowers and abundance of lush foliage in our midsummer garden has never been greater than this year. It could be something to do with its maturity, but I’m sure that weeks of rain have been the main factor. So, as I wandered round, marvelling at the floral bounty, and wondering which plant I might choose to write…

Categories
Great Plants this Month Summer

Kniphofia ‘Sunningdale Yellow’ AGM

Red-hot poker ‘Sunningdale Yellow’ It seems to me that June has never been as floriferous and exuberant as this one just past, and although we could probably all have done with a little more sun, the recent rainfall has just added to the lushness of it all. Gentle constant rain, not plant flattening torrents!  And in amongst the wild…

Categories
Great Plants this Month Summer

Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’ AGM

I have often thought that if I was only allowed a single rose on my desert island, this is the one that I would choose above all others: its ethereal beauty simply cannot be matched. This slender China rose blends seamlessly with perennials in a mixed border, it is perfectly hardy but probably gives of its best in a sheltered…

Categories
Great Plants this Month Summer

Clematis ‘Vyvyan Pennell’

Clematis ‘Vyvyan Pennell’ was raised by Walter Pennell of Pennell and Sons nursery in the mid-fifties and was named after his wife. Pennells was founded in 1780 and is still in the ownership of the same family – quite a record!  So, Walter Pennell not only raised one of my favourite clematis, (which incidentally is probably the best known of all the…

Categories
Spring Great Plants this Month

Hebe hulkeana

New Zealand lilac: I’m sure I’m not the only gardener who tries to stick to the rule of three: a plant that you so desperately want to grow in your own garden but that after three unsuccessful attempts, you have to admit defeat. Well, this hebe is one of those plants that I really had to have, and thankfully on my third go, it worked!…

Categories
Spring Great Plants this Month

Prunus cerasus ‘Morello’ AGM

Morello cherry When I was a child, my parents grew a Morello cherry tree up against the north wall of our house, and even then, all those years ago, I remember thinking how amazing it was to see the beautiful snowy white blossoms looking so happy in their shady corner, to be followed by so…

Categories
Spring Great Plants this Month

Skimmia x confusa ‘Kew Green’ AGM

There’s no getting away from it, skimmias are worthy but a little dull are they not? However, for the past few weeks it is their fragrance that puts them centre stage. It hits me the minute I step out of our back door, and for this reason alone I must grow it. So, they need careful positioning: suited to shade or part shade,…

Categories
Spring Great Plants this Month

Pachyphragma macrophyllum

‘Large-leaved pachyphragma’ is hardly a name that trips off the tongue, is it? And the Latin is not easy to remember either.I’ve grown it for years but do not often see it in other gardens, though once gardeners discover it, they love it. This hardy, semi-evergreen perennial with its rounded scalloped leaves is such a valuable addition to the spring garden. Happiest in shade or dappled shade, it forms an effective carpet (H: 30 cms) under trees and shrubs where its…

Categories
Spring Great Plants this Month

Tulipa turkestanica AGM

I have always grown tulips in pots. At least, I always start them off in pots – it’s easy to keep an eye on them and to judge how well they do and to see how much I like them. But every year, after they have flowered, there is the same old question of what to…

Categories
Spring Great Plants this Month

Anemone blanda AGM

winter windflower or Grecian windflower Just as the snowdrops and crocus are starting to go over, Anemone blanda is there to take their place in the spring parade. Many of the best plant associations happen by chance and I certainly didn’t conjure up this one; but when the sun comes out after a spring shower, the brilliant blue of the winter windflower against the cinnamon orange…

Categories
Great Plants this Month Winter

Polystichum setiferum ‘Pulcherrimum Bevis’ AGM

Soft shield fern ‘Pulcherrimum Bevis’ Just over a year ago I chose another soft shield fern to write about, and mentioned my difficulty remembering the names of ferns; well, it seems that I am not alone in this as I recently came across an interesting article by one of my favourite garden writers, Val Bourne, who tells of ferns, oestrogen and saucepan lids all in…

Categories
Great Plants this Month Winter

Ribes laurifolium – laurel-leaved currant

Before this recent bout of snow and frost, the garden seemed almost to be in early spring mode and bursting into life with crocus, aconites, iris and of course, snowdrops. Now we have returned to winter and it’s just what the garden needed. However, my choice this week had already made its mark, quietly but…