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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.…

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’

It’s not all about snowdrops and winter aconites in February. I just couldn’t let the month go by without giving these little beauties a mention.  Classic yes, and I do wish I’d planted more of them last autumn; it takes four months from planting to flower, you can’t ask for more than that. And what good…

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Euphorbia stygiana – Azores spurge

This is an interesting euphorbia at any time of the year, but it really comes into its own in the winter, most especially during a cold snap when some of the lower stem leaves turn a brilliant pillar-box red. It’s not a massive blast of colour; it is one of those small delights that catch…

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Geranium palmatum AGM – Canary Island Geranium

This handsome evergreen perennial gives me pleasure pretty much all year round; I can be walking down the path on a grey winter’s day, and my eye will be caught by its fresh green foliage. It’s quite unlike any other: apart from its sister plant Geranium maderense which is even more arresting in appearance, but only…

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ – Winter flowering cherry

Unlike many of its springtime show-off cousins, this is an understated and elegant small tree, and one of the best for winter interest in the smaller garden. Deciduous and spreading, its leaves show good autumn colour, and they are followed by delicate, semi-double, white flowers tinged with pink, which can appear intermittently throughout late autumn and…

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Great Plants this Month Uncategorized Winter

Malus domestica ‘Sturmer Pippin’

If you spot an apple tree still bearing fruit at this time of the year, chances are it will be a Sturmer Pippin. This is a very late cropping variety that was highly regarded in the Victorian period because it keeps so well on (and off) the tree; it will remain hanging on into January…

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Salix alba var. vitellina ‘Britzensis’

Willows are a diverse lot, but if it’s shout-out-loud winter colour you’re after, then look no further than my subject today – it simply cannot be ignored in the December garden.  Known also as the scarlet willow or the coral bark willow, the young stems are nearer orange than red, and they create a fiery…

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Great Plants this Month Winter

Rosa × odorata ‘Bengal Crimson’ AGM

Despite falling temperatures, still this china rose is in flower. Okay so it’s not a blaze of colour as in the summer months, but I’m so impressed by its persistence. On any given day during this very damp grey autumn I have counted at least a dozen flowers, and many more buds, on our rose.…

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Great Plants this Month Autumn

Darmera peltata AGM – Umbrella plant

Now, I realise the photograph of my chosen plant this week may not be everyone’s idea of a horticultural gem, but with each year that passes I become more fascinated with the seasonal change that is autumn. There is an allure beyond the beauty of colour; gentle decay can also be a fascinating, eye catching…

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Growbag Blog Great Plants this Month Autumn

Serratula tinctoria var. seoanei

It is often said of plants: ‘should be more widely used’, or ‘not often seen in gardens’, and I am pretty sure I know why you could say that of my choice today. It is at its peak in October, and often into November, so it’s not going to make many sales in nurseries and even…

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Great Plants this Month Autumn

Calamagrostis brachytricha AGM – Korean feather reed grass

This year, despite having had our first frost a couple of weeks ago, October is brimming with subtle colour; in the early morning the plants are lightly shrouded in dew, often covered in cobwebs, and the grasses stand effortlessly among them all, unifying the picture. Although they have been on the gardening scene for a…

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Great Plants this Month Autumn

Erigeron karvinskianus AGM – Mexican fleabane

Everyone loves a daisy, but for me, this is the sweetest of them all. This has been such a wet week for most of us, and a few of the taller daisies in our garden (leucanthemum, rudbeckia, asters etc) are looking a little bedraggled, whereas the Mexican fleabane always looks cheerful! Apologies to those who…