Stone trough

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 mix that it becomes a magnet for self-seeders – and seldom the ones you’d welcome. Life is just too short to sterilise this quantity of compost, so I tend to use plants that are robust enough to see off the interlopers. Making this miniature alpine landscape is all a matter of trial and error, but...

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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 spread is from wingtip to wingtip, not the width at the base which is a scant 45 cms across. The fresh green, pinnate foliage, like an ash tree (or a hash tree to some!) is borne on green stems that arch over in time,...

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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 asked, ‘which salvia is that?’ when friends see it in flower. The tall spikes of purple-magenta, tubular flowers are borne in summer and autumn, and are held aloft on stout square stems which are a beguiling dark burgundy-grey in colour; the combination with its...

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Clematis Violacea Venosa

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 flowering. To cut a long story short, I then took a long hard look at the rest of the border and decided that our out-sized Itea ilicifolia and a far-too-tall Rosa glauca needed a long- overdue hard prune as well.  As often happens, one thing leads to another and before I knew...

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