Growbag Blog

Why our gardens will be SO much better in 2017!


Several hard frosts in a row have put paid to any meaningful outdoor gardening activities so it is time instead to lay down some ground rules for 2017.

This year I will not buy any new plant that has already given up on me a maximum of three times – in this bracket I can already put Clematis armandii  (four attempts so far) and  Romneya coulteri, the tree poppy (possibly five attempts….) both gorgeous creatures that seem to run rampant in other people’s gardens but fail to get out of the starting blocks in mine.
I will put a thick mulch on all my herbaceous beds after their annual makeover in May – a high leverage task that saves oodles of back breaking weeding later in the year when I could be doing other more important gardening tasks (like watering in my sixth tree poppy).
I will attempt to sharpen my secateurs so I don’t continually have buy new ones, in the hope that watching my ineptitude with a whetstone will induce husband Tim to take this activity over from me (this same strategy has worked well with repairing bicycle tyre punctures so I am hopeful here).
And I will grow some giant echiums from seed and have already ordered Echium fastuosum and Echium pininana, really just to annoy Elaine as she can’t stand them – as she vigorously pointed out to me during our visit to the Edinburgh botanics.


Yes, yes, quite so, but I think, dear sister, that you will recall that I did qualify my vigorous declaration by adding that it is because they are such ‘me, me, me’ plants – a big stand of echiums is admittedly imposing (though never very attractive to my way of thinking) but a few in a border look about as awkward and out-of-place as Theresa May at an EU Summit Meeting.
Clematis armandii? Perhaps it is too cold in mid-Sussex for it, because here on the coast, it has got a trunk four inches across and is constantly threatening to overwhelm the neighbours’ shrubs – I would happily dig it up and give it to you, Laura, but I fear its roots are underpinning the house.
Now to my resolutions: I must give up attempting to grow night-scented stock (Matthiola bicornis) – I just love the idea of fragrant little flowers wafting scent into the evening air, and all goes well with the seed until I come to plant out the rather spindly plantlets, and then……nothing.  I might get a couple of pathetic flowers by about mid-August, and all that fiddling about was clearly wasted for yet another year

iris unguicularis
Iris unguicularis

I have a big confession – I have a great problem with anything that disappears underground completely in the winter – incarvilleas and the like, and almost any bulbs.  I might even have marked their position with a little stick but come early spring, I have forgotten what that silly little stick is for, see a gap covered in baby weeds and jab a fork through the lot, rare lily bulbs and all.  This year, THIS year, I will buy some of those long stick-like plant labels, and be more careful.

Honesty abounds but not much modesty as Elaine's sylvan maiden displays her mossy décolletage
Honesty abounds but not much modesty as Elaine’s sylvan maiden displays her mossy décolletage

As Laura says, it’s time to hunker down as far as outdoor gardening goes, but don’t forget to have a look around on some of these cold winter days.  I have just been out to top up the bird-feeders, and like Louise who features a really beautiful clematis still flowering in January in her Great Plants this Month feature, there are still some little gems out there. The heavenly blue flowers on the Iris unguicularis, glowing shiny leaves on the Epimedium versicolor – (what an underrated plant this is for dry shade), fat cream buds on the Helleborus argutifolius, and the silver pennies of the clumps of honesty around my little statue – my sylvan maiden appears to have a quantity of moss growing on her breasts – always a hazard at this time of year, don’t you think, girls?



Yes Sylvia clearly didn’t get the same exfoliation kit from Santa as I did. Unlike hers my cleavage is now moss-free and as ready for new challenges as it could be without implants. Apparently my NY resolutions should include: stop complaining about the wind; stop trying to grow herbaceous plants in this wind; embrace the wind by planting more grasses  – although that awful black stuff designers love (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrascens’) is an ask too far for me. And in any case we now have a plan to convert the windiest area of the garden to a sort of wetland oasis, and Nick Benge from Watergems has suggested a brilliant plan for doing this.

Paoenia 'bartzella'
Paeonia ‘Bartzella’

I also need to  stop cramming the beds so full – give plants room to make an impact (beginning with the intersectional Paeonia ‘Bartzella’ I bought from Binny Plants when the girls were up in November – so looking forward to this superstar), and get to grips with plant biology and Latin nomenclature. In short, I need to listen more attentively to my sisters. 2016 was quite a year for us. I got married, Elaine became a grandmother – twice for good measure, and Laura’s son George got all three of us making movies together. We’ve got our tickets for Chelsea 2017 now and there should be another Resolution for us around drinking Prosecco there this year, but it’s a challenge to know what parameters can realistically be set on this.

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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.

3 replies on “Why our gardens will be SO much better in 2017!”

What fantastic fun: exactly what we all think, but aren’t competent enough to voice … I just love it. Thanks to Jerome Goutier who sent me the link and thanks to Elaine who visited me in Martinvast, invited me to le HOT (!) already a couple of years ago .. and we since just carried on in our separate corners. But so thrilled to find this blog. Like having a brilliant new book, I’m savouring the idea of reading some more of it as a little treat when I next grab half an hour from mud shifting …hacking, tearing, pulling, snipping, hefting, dragging, in other words, trying to garden.

Brilliant girls!

Hi Caroline, great to hear from you again! Really glad you like the blog – my sisters and I really love doing it. Please do pass the link on to anyone you know who might be interested! We must meet up again. The Le Hot garden has grown up quite a lot since you saw it last. Love Elaine xxx

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