Growbag Blog

Getting your 2023 garden on schedule

Happy New Year, everyone!  Let’s hope it’s going to be a fabulous one – at least for our gardening exploits!  This week we’ve been thinking about how we can improve our gardens by choosing plants that flower at just the right time for us. For old hands like me and Laura this will involve some minor tweaks and little projects but Caroline has something much more sweeping in mind. 


My garden is bursting with plants already! But there are certainly improvements I want to make to the timings of things. I’m lucky enough to have a towering Clematis montana, planted 25 years ago.  

It has clambered up a tall holly tree just outside our garden wall, and now the holly’s green glossy leaves are garlanded in curtains of starry white flowers for the month of May – gorgeous! BUT I don’t usually open my garden for the NGS until early June, by which time the C. montana is mostly over.  Then I read that Clematis montana ‘Wilsonii’ flowers a month later than the usual kind.  Guess what my daughter gave me for Christmas…! 

Clematis montana ‘Wilsonii’
I’m hoping for a show like this, a month later than the usual variety of C. montana

I’m planting it near the foot of the other one, but a bit nearer the door to our back garden, because apparently the flowers are also scented. Can’t wait to see what it does.

The height of summer was a challenging one in 2022 for gardeners, and if we get another drought like that I want to be better-prepared. Inspired by the prairie at Wakehurst last autumn, I found out what plants they’d used there, sourced the seeds at the fabulous Chilterns Seed Company.

I sowed coneflowers, rough blazing stars (sounds like the 3Growbags on a night out), rudbeckias and coreopsis in October.  I’m overwintering the seedlings in a cold, glassed-in porch, and will plant them all out in spring into a sunny area of poorish soil. I’m HOPING they’ll make me a small and pretty midsummer meadow full of colour and happy insects.

Rudbeckia triloba
Rudbeckias for my mini-prairie experiment

One of the plant species that unexpectedly coped pretty well with the drought for me were the daylilies – and I do love my daylilies!  I’m always in the market for more of these long-flowering, exuberant beauties. A long time ago I had a pale one called ‘Gentle Shepherd’ and it was a gentle and lovely thing, with its creamy blooms displaying pale green throats.  But somehow I lost it – these things happen.  Now I yearn to have it again.  My birthday’s coming up soon, dear sisters – just saying.

Hemerocallis ‘Gentle Shepherd’. I’d love to have it back in my garden.

Well if timing is everything then I definitely need to fill a gap in my garden around the time that everyone else is swooning over their breathtakingly lovely wisteria blooms. I’ve been suffering from wisteria-envy for too long so I have finally ordered one.

Having pored over all the choices I have gone for Wisteria brachybotrys f. albiflora ’Kapiteyn Fuji’ . It’s one of the so called silky wisterias with downy leaves, bronze when young, and scented white flowers with yellow centres in short racemes. This cultivar seems to be grafted onto a relatively dwarf rootstock so hopefully wont be too rampageous thus avoiding a lecture from Elaine on the need for extensive double pruning ???

Wisteria brachybotrys f. albiflora ‘Kapetyn Fuji’
Wisteria brachybotrys ‘Kapetyn Fuji’ (from Suttons) will hopefully flower at the right time to alleviate my wisteria-envy

And whilst Elaine is overachieving again by growing a whole prairie from seed in her back porch, I have a much more modest project. I love trilliums, corydalis and erythroniums but their flowering time in early March usually requires wrapping up in coats, boots and hats to go and visit them.

So I’m growing some on in pots to plant out this spring to create a little cameo to go outside the french windows on the north side of our house so they can be appreciated from indoors, which will be particularly satisfying when E comes to visit (to pick up her birthday present day lily…) as she has no hope of growing these acid adapted moisture lovers in her dry chalky garden in Eastbourne.

Trillium chloropetalum
Trillium chloropetalum- one of the many great things about trilliums is that Elaine can’t grow them

And my final project later this month will be Step1of the tried and tested Growbag sweet pea schedule (which can be observed in the video at the bottom of the blog). This will be a matter in which some blind optimism will be required as the class of 2022 got nobbled in their prime by devastating heat and drought, but hey, God loves a trier ….

Sweet peas
It was only a brief moment of glory for my home-grown sweet peas in ‘22, but still worth the effort.

picture of Caroline

My sisters’ clematis and wisteria issues seem a very minor timing problem to me. My own include forgetting about Spring and Autumn altogether. I’ve been so taken up with planting trees and shrubs for shelter and annuals for mid-summer colour, I’ve almost nothing that flowers in spring and autumn.

So I did the equivalent of phoning Harrods and having Christmas sent round. I logged on to J Parkers and bulk-bought collections of dormant aquiliegias, lupins, kniphofias and heleniums. It’s not my sisters’ preferred approach to careful research/selection of garden stock, but which one of us hasn’t feverishly ordered seasonal collections when individual plants and flowering times get too confusing?

Kniphofia or red hot pokers…..four different varieties of them now safely incubating in my cold frame thanks to Parkers late season sell-off. Should give my late summer garden a boost?

More thought will go into my real planting project this year – grasses. It’s nippy here in the Scottish Highlands (I’m afraid your steeply rising average national temperatures would be even higher without us dragging you down). We’ve barely had a night without frost or snow for ages – but how lovely do ornamental grasses and other tall perennials look decorated with a rime of ice crystals? 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to look out onto something approximating to this – Louise’s wonderful winter garden view captured by her in this beautiful photo

Next winter I want this to be the view from my kitchen sink and this time I WILL be doing some research.  Louise’s wonderful grass choices in her Great Plants this Month column, is my starting point!

Louise’s chosen Plant of the Month this week is one that really sings out against a grassy backdrop, click on the box below to find out what it is.

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By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

6 replies on “Getting your 2023 garden on schedule”

Thank you, Paddy! Let’s hope for lots and lots of rays of sunshine in 2023 – Happy New Year! All the best, Elaine

Thank you, Irene! I can’t tell you how much we appreciate the continued support of our long-standing readers. Let’s hope for a happy and very floriferous 2023! All the best, Elaine

Ah thanks Neil! Glad you enjoyed our ramblings. We love writing our blog so it’s really gratifying to hear that people enjoy reading it too. Best wishes Laura

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