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Gardens Blog

My favourite plant… May

New Bulbs for 2011

How do you choose a favourite from the myriad treasures currently vying for your attention? Given the warm April and very cold May, many of my usual May stars are still under wraps so any plant which is prepared to get up, dress up and show up, ignoring the chill, deserves a special mention and this year, I have to award my Favourite Plant status to the wonderful Camassia or Quamash.


Sun Salutation

Bumblebee on Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)

It often seems to me that spring is very much about ‘firsts’ – first tulip, bumble bee, wood anemone, blossom on the old plum tree by the gate, first – not good, this one – scarlet lily beetle. Perhaps, as winter finally leaves, we are so starved of softness and warmth that we clutch at signs that the ground is warming up at last. Unless you live in Scotland and still have snow, in which case I send you my sympathies from here in the soft South…


My favourite plant… March

Iris unguicularis - Jardin botanique Henri-Gaussen

A few years ago, the delightful elderly lady who lived in an even more elderly cottage across the lane from us, took the difficult decision to move into a care home and enlisted my help in the task of editing her possessions down to a core collection which would fit into her new surroundings. Having dealt with all the books and other items, she then turned her attention to her dearly loved garden and dispatched me outside with a trowel while she directed operations through her open window.


My favourite plant… February

Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis'

Are you looking out of your window, searching for signs of spring and returning colour? If, like me, you constantly scan your branches and borders for new buds and shoots then perhaps this little tree will help to bridge that cold dismal space between the end of autumn and the arrival of that delicious veil of pale green chiffon over trees and hedges which announces that the warmer weather is finally on its way.


Organic Pest Control


It seems odd to be writing about pest control when there are hardly any plants showing right now but I was watching James Wong on the BBC series ‘Great British Garden Revival’ recently and was struck by his suggestion for protecting lilies from predations by the scarlet lily beetle which does so much damage. His solution is to grind up old garlic cloves which contain a chemical which is effective at discouraging beetles from feeding on the lily. He then adds water and puts the mixture into a small hand sprayer.


Things I have learned….

Winter Garden Golf Resort Achental

At this time of year it seems traditional to exchange small volumes of (occasionally) humorous wisdom on a wide range of subjects, most of which remain unread in the downstairs loo. So, for the purposes of your enlightenment and entertainment, here are my Christmas Horticultural Wit and Wisdom offerings:


My favourite plant… November

Cornus aff. controversa new foliage

Do you ever see a plant and think ‘I’ve simply got to have one of those’? I did, last week, losing my heart totally to a beautiful tree for which I would happily clear swathes of my garden, just to be able to enjoy it for its structure, colour and habit. And can I have one? Alas not.


My favourite plant… October

This time last year we visited the RHS gardens at Harlow Carr in Yorkshire, early on a damp, misty morning with low sunlight and dew drops shining on cobwebs everywhere. Having finally managed to get beyond the enormous drifts of Helenium, Rudbeckia and Echinacea, all of which were stunning, as was a crab apple, Malus Hupehensis, laden with tiny scarlet fruits, we found ourselves on a path along the stream garden at the bottom of a wooded area and there, at the end, was a sight to make anyone gasp. For the RHS is the proud possessor of a spectacular climber, the Vitis Coignetiae or Crimson Glory Vine, originally from Japan. This specimen must have been in place for decades and scrambles up, through, and over a very large mature oak. The cool night temperatures had started its transformation from a soft green curtain to a veil of colours.


My Favourite Plant… September

As the summer draws to a close and borders are full of flame reds, oranges, golds and yellows, fading roses and firework dahlias, a forgotten plant suddenly makes a surge under the study window at home. This baked south facing bed is filled with a number of roses, a white Japanese anemone with land-grabbing tendencies, some hardy geraniums and a Romneya coulteri with a wandering habit and which never appears in the same place two seasons running. At the back of this crowd, Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ now sends up bright, softly hairy pairs of oval green leaves and long spikes, black in stem and bud and bright blue in flower.

When Less really is More

If we are to believe all that is written, there is much to be said for using a restricted colour palette in the garden. Many try but few succeed and those which do run the risk of being either mimicked to the point of parody (Sissinghurst’s celebrated White Garden) or failing and resulting in an underwhelming blandness. Those gardens that do carry it off, however, are generally planned thoughtfully and executed carefully, with constant meticulous maintenance to ensure no deviation from the original concept. I was fortunate to spend some days in an outstanding example of the genre, Buckingham Place at Rekawa, near Tangalle in southern Sri Lanka.