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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,…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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Great Plants this Month Winter

‘The brittle violin of frost’

The timing couldn’t be better: the RHS have just announced that the Chelsea Flower Show 2021 is being postponed until September. Bring in the new! This is a big opportunity for change: for the RHS, for the nurserywomen and men, for the exhibitors and for us, the gardeners. The announcement also coincides with a few…

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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…