Growbag Blog

Looking back and so looking forward!


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 wonderful photo of her Great Plant this Month) 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.

You’re on the team sheet for 2018 Geranium Rozanne!

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, defiantly not actually dying, but limping 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 – anything that you have grown from a tiny cutting is that much harder to bin, isn’t it, infanticide has a tricky moral dimension.

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 errror.

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, and whilst Elaine’s garden is all vivaciousness and colour, and Caroline’s is a triumph of grit against adversity, mine will just be weird….)

I sent poor Caroline on a mission to Glendoick near Dundee a few weeks ago to collect the last remaining rooted cuttings of this wonderful nursery’s Vireya Rhododendron

The weirder the better for me – Vireya Rhododendrons.

collection 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,

Echiums in waiting.

Maderian Echiums and tender rhododendrons.

Unfortunately this means that anything commonplace, even out in the garden, is going to get short shrift to make room for these other worldly incomers in my dystopian garden vision, and 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 batting collapse.


What with Elaine eliminating her struggling perennials like a pre-menstrual Cruella Deville 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 drawing  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’ prompt demise in East Lothian I thought a bit rich given its promising name; and the Mediterranean Cynara cardunculus which clearly thought its new home a complete joke and voted with its stem.

Conversely others showed balls of steel – Kniphofia ‘Tawny King’;

Kniphofia ‘Tawny King’

Diascea personata, plus two Geranium macrorrhizums ‘Galgenveld’ and ‘White Ness’. Their low centre of gravity coupled with British Grit were worthy of the dam-busters theme tune…..thank you Cranesbill Nurseries.

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 and Salvia ‘Blue Note’ (Binny Plants).
Top tip: Grow Zaluzianskya in your greenhouse or somewhere you can get a good whiff of its leaves! Gorgeous

which  both contributed lovely scent; foliage and flowers in that little haven, together with (and wait for E & L to flinch) a trailing nasturtium and some streptocarpus which I bought as plugs from Chelsea, drawing 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 in 2020!


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.

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.

5 replies on “Looking back and so looking forward!”

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.

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