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Great Plants this Month Summer

Salvia ‘So Cool Pale Blue’ PBR*

Everyone loves a blue salvia and I certainly fell for ‘So Cool Pale Blue’. It is one of a series of ‘So Cool’ salvias recently bred in Australia and launched in the UK in 2018. The breeders wanted to produce woody varieties with cool colours on reliable and compact plants. These salvias are also very […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Valeriana officinalis

all-heal or cat’s valerian You may already feel confused by its name but this elegant perennial has little to do with the red (or pink or white) valerian that is so commonly seen growing on walls, verges and banks all over the UK – that one is not Valeriana but Centranthus! Having said as much they are […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Umbilicus oppositifolius AGM

(formerly Chiastophyllum oppositifolium AGM) lamb’s tail Not for the first time am I made a little grumpy by plant name changes. It took a while to get the old one into my head and once embedded there, I used to relish the occasions when friends would spot it in the garden and ask what it was called! […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Buddleja alternifolia AGM

alternate-leaved butterfly bush – Almost exactly five years ago, we took part in our village’s open gardens scheme and I remember well how many visitors stopped to admire our butterfly bush – it really stole the show!  I also remember wishing that I had taken many more cuttings as so many people wanted to buy […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Rosa Mme. Grégoire Staechelin AGM

Rosa ‘Spanish Beauty’ – Over the years I have tried to wow our house guests by training the roses around the windows which is a very rewarding way of bringing the garden into the house. It has taken a few years but we’ve finally made it! Mme. Grégoire Steachelin is one of the earliest roses to […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Rose ‘Simple Peach’

For many years, I have been calling in at Growbag Laura’s garden almost every week, and am therefore ideally placed to watch and wonder at, and assess the growth, setbacks and progress of many new (and established) plants. It’s a great chance to notice what struggles, what merely jogs along, and then there are those […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Pelargonium acetosum

Plants in containers really come into their own as the summer progresses. Pelargoniums, salvias,  plectranthus, dahlias and all the others are getting well into their flowering stride and none does it better than my subject today – Pelargonium acetosum or sorrel-leaved pelargonium. This very floriferous species pelargonium has glaucous green, almost fleshy leaves, they are more like […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Kitaibelia vitifolia

This is another hollyhock relative! Some call it the Russian Hibiscus which could be confusing as it most definitely is not one, but they are both members of the Malvaceae family which includes many favourites of mine – abutilon, anisodontea, althaea, modiolastrum to name but a few. Kitaibelia vitifolia is a very sturdy, very hardy, tall […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Phlox paniculata ‘Norah Leigh’ AGM

I see that I’ve never chosen a phlox as my special plant before now; but as so often happens when I’m wandering about our garden in the early evening, this one called out to be included! Although not yet in full flower, the leaves, strongly margined with creamy white, make a fine statement. I’m not […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Cotinus ‘Grace’ – Smoke bush

I’m not sure whether we were distracted by the ravaged look of our Cotinus ‘Grace’ after such a harsh winter or whether it was another of those spring pruning procedures that was never carried out through lack of time, or maybe we just felt that after several years of hard pruning, the poor plant needed a […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ AGM

The garden is super lush right now having just received a well timed and most welcome half-inch of rain – quantities may have differed around the UK! In every corner of the garden there is a floral tableau so naturally my stand-out plant of the moment has to be spectacular! Ultimately it’s the intense colour […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Rosa ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ AGM

After that ferociously hard winter, I have nonetheless found silver linings in our garden, and probably we all have. Many evergreen shrubs were amongst the hardest hit, and for us these were the large euphorbias, a particularly massive  Teucrium fruticans and the hebes. However, the former are now showing green shoots which is cheering, but the […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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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Summer Great Plants this Month

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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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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Summer Great Plants this Month

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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Great Plants this Month 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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Summer Great Plants this Month

Rosa ‘Dortmund’ AGM

I make no apology for choosing a 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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Great Plants this Month Summer

Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora ‘Coleton Fishacre’

Late summer in our garden – and predominant in the beds are shades of purple, lavender, blue and pink; the hot colours of the autumn garden have yet to get into their stride. So, my subject today is the perfect antidote to fit into this misty mix. Neither yellow, nor rust, nor ochre, it is […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Lythrum salicaria ‘Zigeunerblut’ – Purple loosestrife ‘Gypsy blood’

Given the heavy rain showers that we’ve had recently, and the very strong winds, I’m confident that when it is all over, there will be one plant that comes through it all unscathed. It may just be a form of our common native purple loosestrife, but it is one that can withstand any weather and […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Digitalis ferruginea AGM – ‘Rusty foxglove’

This foxglove is a jewel! I know I’m on to a winner when each time I pass a plant I find myself stopping and staring at the wonder of it, and my selection this week is no exception. It is also an absolute magnet for every passing bee which just adds to the interest. The […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Clematis viticella ‘Étoile Violette’ AGM

I made a happy accidental choice when I planted ‘Étoile Violette’ at the foot of our Amelanchier lamarckii: at the time, I hadn’t realised that for many reasons it was the perfect clematis for growing in a large shrub or small tree. Now, our snowy mespilus never looks dull, but there are certain shrubs that, however […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Rosa ‘Souvenir du Docteur Jamain’ Climbing

There are so many beautiful roses out right now, so how on earth do I choose just one? No rose is perfect, and my favourite today shares certain less attractive traits with many others. Let’s face it, few roses look their best after a downpour and this one is no exception, it really sulks after […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Geranium sylvaticum ‘Album’ AGM. White, wood cranesbill

There are well over 400 species in the genus geranium, and so when it comes to choosing one for that precious spot in your garden, it pays to do a little research, and above all, be selective. It is oh so easy to be seduced by the one that happens to be in flower as […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Hylotelephium ‘Red Cauli’ A.G.M.

Previously Sedum ‘Red Cauli’ (just to confuse us further, not all sedums are re-named Hylotelephium, just some of them!), my star plant this week is the amazing stone crop ‘Red Cauli’. Seen above with Diascia personata: it’s one of those plants that just sings at this time of the year.  Interestingly neither of these two thrives […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Carex testacea – New Zealand hair sedge

Like a constant friend who goes way back, so does my plant this week. I’ve had it for as long as I can remember, always there in a pot outside the front door, giving me pleasure each time I pass, and it’s also a terrific foil to other plants. Evergreen and seemingly never having an […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Eryngium planum

This is the perfect summer for Eryngium planum, and the difference between last year’s performance and this, is marked. Last year we had much more rain and not a lot of sun and my sea hollies produced too much lush growth, the stems flopped, and the effect was unremarkable. By contrast, this summer, the open, upright habit […]

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Great Plants this Month Summer

Itea ilicifolia AGM

There’s no doubt that many herbaceous perennials suffer during hot dry spell, and although I try to keep watering anything that I have planted this year, those longer established plants just have to survive on their own reserves. However, in the shrub category, there are one or two which seem positively to thrive, to glow […]