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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…

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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…

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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…

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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!…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Peaks and troughs

When our old Belfast sink finally became too chipped and stained for kitchen use, out it went by the back door, and my ever-resourceful husband had it turned into a vintage garden trough in no time. No sink, trough or container specifically dedicated to growing alpines, sempervivums and other succulents is by any means low maintenance; this is probably because one has to use such a gritty, free-draining potting…

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Datisca cannabina – Cretan hemp*

If plants were twinned with characters from books, there is little doubt that Datisca cannabina would be paired up with Roald Dahl’s BFG. My Great Plant this Month is truly a gentle giant of a plant. This clump-forming, herbaceous perennial, to 2m or more in height, is almost as wide as it is high; however, this…

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Lepechinia hastata – pakaha

Plants grown in containers are really starting to come into their own in the heat of summer, and there is one in particular which I would hate to be without.  Belonging to the same family as salvias (lamiaceae), my subject today certainly does bear close resemblance to many of the sages and I am often…

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Gardening Tips Summer

Clematis ‘Venosa Violacea’ AGM

It all began on a very windy day in February when I noticed that our aged Chimonanthus praecox was being blown sideways under the weight of a winter flowering clematis and a honeysuckle. So, I did a bit of emergency topping there and then and made a note to finish off the job in the spring when the clematis had finished…

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Pontederia cordata AGM – pickerel weed

In our garden, our beautiful pool was designed and built by Rob, my husband, so fair enough, he now has jurisdiction over its planting (although I still do the weeding around it!). I therefore look and admire, and when something really catches my eye, I ask for its name and find out more. This pontederia is a very showy perennial plant from North America: a marginal aquatic that is hardy…

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Salvia verticillata ‘Hannay’s Blue’

There was a time when the only sage I grew in my garden was the culinary herb, Salvia officinalis; but today I ask myself, where would we be without the rest of them? It is a huge genus and they are very varied in colour and habit, many are hardy and very long flowering, others less hardy but all are huge favourites in…

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Rosa ‘Dortmund’ AGM

I make no apology for choosing another rose this week, we are in June after all, and this amazing climber is such a winner, I just couldn’t ignore it.  Many years ago, we first saw ‘Dortmund’ growing on a wall of ‘The Garden House’ in Devon and as I remember it was the only rose on sale in the nursery at the time. This, in itself, was…

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Spring Great Plants this Month

Rosa pimpinellifolia ‘Dunwich Rose’

A form of Scots rose that’s tolerate of wild weather – Rosa pimpinellifolia ‘Dunwich Rose’. A smashing hedge rose.

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Spring Great Plants this Month

Cercis siliquastrum – Judas tree

The Judas Tree – pretty and ideal for small gardens

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Spring Great Plants this Month

Asphodeline lutea

There are certain beautiful flowers which are severely let down by their foliage, but today’s choice is most definitely not one of those. In fact, I would go so far as to say I’d almost grow it for the silvery blue-green foliage alone. This is a clump forming hardy perennial and the narrow, grass like leaves are the perfect foil for the racemes of bright yellow flowers which are…

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Spring Great Plants this Month

Polystichum setiferum ‘Divisilobum Wollaston’

It’s a bit of a mouthful this name, and for some reason I find ferns’ names amongst the most difficult to remember, and certainly the ferns themselves extraordinarily difficult to identify. However, names are important and having discovered this beauty, (I looked long and hard to find a fern that would be happy in a rather testing location), I now have no difficulty in remembering it! It is…

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Spring Great Plants this Month

Peltaria alliacea – (shieldwort, garlic cress)

No question, it has to be an edible this week as we all try with varying degrees of success to grow our own fruit and veg. It’s odd, and rather unhelpful, that garlic cress is very difficult to source, and this I just don’t understand as it’s an easy plant to propagate, easy to grow, very decorative in and out of flower, and edible … what…

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Corydalis solida subsp. solida ‘Beth Evans’

I was going to write about a dependable, evergreen, scented shrub but decided at the last minute that we might all need a bit of cheer. This fumitory (as they’re commonly known) ‘Beth Evans’ cuts the mustard and is equally dependable and also tough: a couple of years ago it was covered with snow one…

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Leucojum aestivum ‘Gravetye Giant’ AGM

Loddon lily, summer snowflake It’s a bit of a misnomer this common name. Leucojum aestivumusually flowers in March or April, yet informally, it is called the summer snowflake. Furthermore, this year, which is far from normal climatically, it’s out in February. This clump forming, bulbous, hardy perennial is very easy going and tolerant of most situations.…