Growbag Blog

What plants will you be growing next year?


So here we are, we’ve reached Christmas again, and despite our very best efforts, our gardens are STILL not perfect…(for perfect, look at Louise’s Great Plant this Month at the end of the blog) so I think we should all turn joyfully to studying our gardens with a clear eye as to what ‘worked’ last year, and what didn’t.

First and foremost, I MUST be more ruthless about plants that are not thriving. It’s appallingly easy for a soft-hearted gardener to end up with a patch full of Anates cataces, aka Lame Ducks. They defiantly don’t actually die, but limp on with a mocking smirk.

I must dig out a ‘Graham Thomas’ rose in my Eastbourne garden for instance – it has been reminiscing about past glories for far too long.  Ditto, a scraggy old Teucrium fruticans in France – though anything that you have grown from a tiny cutting is that much harder to bin, isn’t it. Infanticide has a tricky moral dimension.

Geranium ‘Rozanne’
You’re on the team sheet for next year – Geranium Rozanne!

And then there are the things I need more of (apart, obviously, from Whole Nut chocolate and a crisp dry white). I must divide Geranium ‘Rozanne’, for one, and spread it around.  I know it’s a cliché, but what a plant! In glowing flower for months and months, never a nuisance, beloved by insects.  Its only vice is that it looks EXACTLY like a buttercup root in the spring, so please be very careful not to yank it up in error.

Now what has worked for you this last year, dear sisters, and what in your gardens, is going to get a steely-eyed New Year scything?


My plan for next year is to grow more and more plants that no one has ever heard of. I would like my garden to be more ‘botanical collection’ and less ‘Butlins-on-sea’.

So no more bedding out, no repeated planting themes, no matching colour schemes. It’s going to be all obscure and understated oddities from now on (E and C would probably point out at this stage that a garden’s character reflects that of its owner. So whilst Elaine’s garden is all vivaciousness and colour, and Caroline’s is a triumph of grit against adversity, mine will just be – weird….)

Vireya rhododendron
I love a challenge – and these vireya rhododendrons are certainly that

I sent poor Caroline on a mission to Glendoick near Dundee a while back, to collect the last remaining rooted cuttings of this wonderful nursery’s vireya rhodendron collection. This was before they ceased production of this line of dwarf subtropical rarities, and tending these little gems in my glasshouse is giving me inestimable pleasure.

So all effort in the coming year will be devoted to my growing collection of South African proteas, Maderian echiums and tender rhododendrons.

Echium candicans
Why grow something ordinary when you can have an Echium candicans ? The bees agree..

Unfortunately this means that anything commonplace, even out in the garden, is going to get short shrift. They will have to go to make room for these other worldly incomers in my dystopian garden vision. If I was an innocent sweet hard-working Geranium ‘Rozanne’ I would be applying for a transfer to Elaine’s garden quicker than an England penalty miss.


What with Elaine eliminating her struggling perennials like a pre-menstrual Cruella de Vil, and Laura resolving to grow things purely on the basis that no one has ever heard of them, you do wonder how I ever turned out so pleasantly normal coming from the same gene pool.

Like, I suspect, most people reading this blog I just cherished everything that had the guts to give it a go in my garden this year – not everything did. Casualties from my windy, salty, Scottish corner (2017) included: Actea ‘Brunette’ which did not turn out like the one in our feature photo at the top, but went blonde and died; Echinops ‘Arctic Glow’ whose prompt demise in East Lothian I thought a bit rich given its promising name; and the Mediterranean Cynara cardunculus which set about its demise from the day I planted it.

My Kniphofia ‘tawny king’ – wonderfully chipper despite having no water…. or gin.

Conversely others showed balls of steel – Kniphofia ‘Tawny King’; Diascia personata, plus two Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Galgenveld’ and ‘White Ness’. Their low centre of gravity coupled with British Grit were very encouraging after so many failures…..thank you Cranesbill Nurseries.

Top tip: Grow Zaluzianskya in your greenhouse or somewhere you can get a good whiff of its leaves! Gorgeous

For obvious reasons, the greenhouse is the best place to be in my garden, and I’d like to give a special mention to Zaluzianskya ovata which contributed lovely scent, foliage and flowers in that little haven. I must also mention (and wait for E & L to flinch) some streptocarpus which I bought as plugs from Chelsea. This drew a reaction from Laura that she reserves for four-year-olds and me. I’m sorry girls, but they were  jolly cheery and I’ll be growing these again!

Lastly, may The3Growbags wish all of our lovely readers a very Merry Christmas and a fabulous New Year – may your gardens make you smile and all your slugs be little ones.

Here is Louise’s perfect Great Plant this Month

If you’d like a bit more gardening chit-chat from the 3growbags, just put your email address in here

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.

10 replies on “What plants will you be growing next year?”

Thank you for your advice, enthusiasm and honest confessions of failure throughout 2107; you have all made me laugh even as I have despaired of ever creating anything like a garden in my tiny new plot in Dorset.

Good luck and best wishes for another flourishing year in 2018!

Hi Sue, thank you so much for writing in and for your support! As you know, I (and Laura and Caroline) just love writing this blog, even though at times (like Christmas Week) it can be a bit of struggle to get it out! We hope you have a wonderful. Christmas, and good luck with the garden in Dorset (obviously that includes not taking any of Laura’s advice very seriously……..)

Another fascinating blog thank you for your making me laugh! .we have a small unusual garden, open for the NGS ….which is constantly changing ,always ditching favourite but unsuitable plants that struggle, only to regret it instantly and buy another one, in the hope this one will do better..refusing to be beaten by some plants Actea for one! never ever flowered in five years! growing something really unusual only to find it is now the most popular plant on the planet! what is looking good this year Libertia and variegated box balls… A Happy Christmas to you all, looking forward to more laughs in 2018……

Elaine here. Thank you for your comment, Angela – yes, I too found that Actaea was a lot trickier than lots of people said! Your garden sounds really interesting; I wonder what 2018 will bring us NGS-ers – its always such a nerve-wracking lottery with the weather in this country, isn’t it. Good luck, glad you are enjoying the blog.

Oooh don’t part with Graham Thomas. I had one on the North side next to my house and it grew taller than the drainpipes all the time with very few flowers. Even dead heading was a challenge. My gardener cut it low and then dug it up. It has been on the South side of the house for a couple of years and has produced the most beautiful blooms and kept to a sensible 4 foot shrub. Of course nostalgia plays its part…my brother-in-law is called Graham and my son is called Thomas.

Hi Linda, thank you for writing to us, Elaine here. You are probably right – the fact that my Graham Thomas is not flourishing is much more likely due to gardener-error, than its own fault! It’s in a sunny place, but the thin soil there is not ideal for rose-contentment. Roses romp away in the clay areas of my garden, so I think that’s where it needs to go. Wishing you a merry Christmas and a wonderful new gardening year!

Dear ladies of ‘Three grow bags’ I have enjoyed reading this weeks issue, but I was almost hypnotised by the burgundy leafed plant that was pictured at the front of your blog. I love the colour of its leaves. Please, can you tell me what it is. That plant would fit into my garden as if it was born there. Please keep up with the enjoyable items and advice, as it always encourages us. Thank you all for your experience and knowledge.

Hi Eddy, Elaine here. Our feature plant for this blog is Actaea ‘Brunette’ – one of the many plants that Caroline has managed to kill over the years, as she says in her piece! Hope you have better success! Merry Christmas and have a wonderful new gardening year, best wishes from all of us.

Hope you all had an energising Xmas ?!! and here’s too a fabulous new year ?.. would love to increase my stock of Verbena and have recently grown “ Bampton” … will add a few more…Libby X

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