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Great Plants this Month Winter

Salvia officinalis – common sage

From Roman times onward, our garden sage has, as its Latin name suggests, been valued in connection with innumerable medicinal and, since Tudor times, culinary uses.  Steering clear of the former, I can certainly vouch for its use in the kitchen, as without shadow of a doubt it is my go-to herb in the winter months; not only that, its evergreen good looks are reliably handsome all year round. Over the years, I’ve also grown the forms ‘Icterina’, ‘Purpurascens’ and ‘Tricolor’, also a broad-leaved one,…

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ AGM

eulalia ‘Morning Light’ The plumes are palish pink – very pretty if you’re lucky enough to get them! That doesn’t sound like much of an endorsement does it? So, it seems odd to be recommending a grass that in most years fails to produce a single flower, and even after this year’s hot summer spell, we had none; but I hardly noticed their absence, for that’s not why we grow it. This statuesque, clump-forming grass grows to 1.2 –…

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Ligustrum japonicum ‘Rotundifolium’

“Not a privet!” I hear you cry. But this one is quite distinct: an unusual, curious even, evergreen shrub which once seen is never forgotten. What it does have in common with other privets is the slightly sickly scent that exudes from the white flowers in summer – brilliantly described in the opening paragraph of ‘Spies’ by Michael…

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Pelargonium sidoides ‘Sloe Gin Fizz’

Along with P. sidoides, which has deep wine-red, almost black flowers, this festively named pelargonium cultivar is one of the latest into flower and together they take first prize for carrying on longest at the end of the season.  Sloe Gin Fizz is definitely the winner this year, it has been flowering strongly through October, November and now – well into December! Hardly surprising as this has been the mildest of…

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Rosa ‘Flower Carpet Coral’ AGM

Make no mistake, this group called the Flower Carpet roses are not trying to compete with the ethereal beauty of the old roses. They were bred over many years by Noack Rosen in Germany, and the main objective within this breeding programme was good disease resistance. They are also exceptionally long flowering, drought tolerant and easy in terms of maintenance. ‘Coral’ was introduced in…

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Mahonia eurybracteata subs. ganpinensis ‘Soft Caress’

Oregon grape ‘Soft Caress’ The plant is a winner, literally, for it won the RHS Plant of the Year award in 2013 at Chelsea, and deservedly so.  Initially I was so put off by the name I almost didn’t buy it – it sounds like something off the side of a soap powder packet – but…

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Great Plants this Month Autumn

Chrysanthemum pacifica (or Ajania pacifica)

Silver and gold chrysanthemum It’s an irony that just when your summer pots are looking their very best – in other words now – along comes the first frost and that’s the end of their fine display; either that or you really need the pots to plant your spring bulbs. However, my plant today turns…

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Great Plants this Month Autumn

Miscanthus sinensis ‘China’ AGM – eulalia ‘China’

There are so many beautiful grasses to choose from and we can’t grow them all; but we can visit gardens and specialist nurseries all over the UK, talk to the growers, look long and hard at what’s on offer and then decide which is the best for us There are around 150 named cultivars of Miscanthus sinensis so it…

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Great Plants this Month Autumn

Rudbeckia triloba AGM – brown-eyed Susan

‘Nothing flimsy about them’ – so wrote Christopher Lloyd about rudbeckias. Of course, he hit the nail right on the head, and it reminded me that it is this very dense quality that I often find a little overpowering in the genus. So, a couple of years ago I was delighted to be introduced to R triloba with its open habit and well-spaced wiry stems; in this respect it’s rather…

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Great Plants this Month Autumn

Indigofera amblyantha – pink-flowered indigo

When it comes to late summer and autumn flowering shrubs, there are not so very many to choose from, and the pink-flowered indigo is less often seen than it deserves; but this delicate shrub has great charm and I really look forward to its quiet but effective contribution to our garden at this time of the year. I. amblyantha is native to south central China and is noted for its long flowering…