Archive for the ‘ Plant of the month ’ Category

Plant of the Month-March 2014

Posted Wednesday, 26 February, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Daphne bholua ’Jacqueline Postill’

This plant is growing well in my garden in a semi shaded spot that catches the late afternoon and evening sun.  It is  protected by strong winds by the nearby Crataegus (quickthorn) hedge which helps shade it slightly.  This plant provides an early display of highly scented flowers.  The scent carries well on the air and is a great way to encourage me into the garden to see this plant in full display.  Flowering in late winter this Daphne species and its cultivars are such a joy.  Coming from the Himalayas th species are hardy and provide a semi evergreen shrub.  It and other daphnes within this plant group are often known as paper daphnes, as both paper and rope were once made from the sinewy bark.

As I have already mentioned I grow my daphne in a semi shaded spot though they are quite happy to be in full sun.  I find a semi shaded location provides the cool location it likes and generally find they dry out too much during the growing season if they are planted in full sun.  I try to keep it watered during the growing season as this plant likes plenty of moisture in the growing season, mulching also helps maintain the moisture levels around the roots and enriches the soil which I find helps improve the soil structure of my slightly heavy soil.

A great plant to use in a mixed border as it will generally reach about 1.2-1.5 m in height and will have a spread of about 1.2 m.  Availability is always a problem but if you see one buy it quickly and you will not be disappointed.


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Plant of the Month-February 2014

Posted Tuesday, 11 February, 2014 at 9:29 am

Galanthus nivalis Common Snowdrop

This is probably the best-known and most widespread representative of the genus Galanthus. Often associated as a woodland plant it is not a British native having probably been introduced in the early sixteenth century.  Since then it has proved very comfortable with the conditions and naturalises widely.   I find this plant is one of the first plants to announce the arrival of Spring, and is great fully awaited appearing in milder areas in December – January.  I find in the Midlands generally we see them flowering mid January through to March.

All species of Galanthus are perennial, herbaceous plants which grow from bulbs. Each bulb generally produces just two or three linear  leaves with a flowering stalk that bears the and an erect, leafless flowering stalk, which bears a solitary, pendulous, bell-shaped white flower. The flower has no petals: it consists of six tepals,  the outer three being larger and more convex than the inner series.   After the flowers have faded the leaves die back within a few weeks.

The sight of a caret of snow drops can be quite magical and there are many famous examples of such sites.  The national trust has listed some of their properties that are worthy of a visit. These include Ickworth, Suffolk, Attingham Park, Shropshire & Newark Park in Gloustershire.  National Trust snowdrop site

If you wish to introduce snowdrops into your garden it is best to plant then as potted plants or as plants which have just been lifted and the leaves beginning to die back in late Spring.  If you do buy bulbs you need to obtain fresh bulbs because snowdrop bulbs dry out very quickly .  Bulbs need to be planted in a semi shaded location with leaf mound incorporated into the soil adding to soil moisture retention.  They will also need a site that does not dry out too much in the Summer so it is always worth fully understanding your site before you plant.

Supplier of bulbs in the green Eurobulbs,

Video of planting snowdrops in the Green


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Plant of the Month November 2012

Posted Tuesday, 27 November, 2012 at 10:36 am

Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’

I visited a local garden centre recently and as always was drawn to the planteria section to see what stock was in and what was new.  During this visit I noticed a Mahonia which had a very narrow leaf that was just about to flower.  The habit and form is similar to a Nandina but offers a bonus of flowers in winter.  Reaching a height and spread of 1 m this mahonia will provide a useful evergreen that is capable of growing in both a sunny position as well as semi shade.

Being the first Mahonia to have spine-free leaves you can use this plant in a position close to paths and doorways without worrying about the spinnes catching anyone.  As it is a compact shrub you can utilise its potential by planting it in a large pot as a focal point.  I feel it could be used with bamboos and ornamental grasses providing a slightly oriental appearance to the border.  As a new introduction I feel this will be a plant that will be increasingly seen within domestic gardens.  Mahonias are easy to maintain and with this low growing shrub I would suggest it be cut back hard every other year after flowering to about 300 mm above ground to encourage new growth and maintain a bushy habit.


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Plant of the month May 2012

Posted Wednesday, 27 June, 2012 at 12:43 pm

May is a month I shall always associate with the Chelsea Flower Show.  Having been on the Notcutts design staging team and been involved in over 17 shows for the company I have fond memories of the plants that were displayed.  Indeed Notcutts purchased Waterers Nurseries Whilst I working on these gardens I became very familiar with new introductions and old favourites.  The show has changed over the past ten years and whilst there has been a recent interest in perennial mass plantings there are still some of the Chelsea favourites to be seen.  Plants such as Magnolia and Camellias fall within these favourites, but I must include the real show favourites, Rhododendrons.  Having dropped out of favour slightly I was pleased to see Chris Beardshaw using them on his show garden again this year.  There a few plants that produce such a striking mass of colour this time of the year.

For my plant of the month I have selected Rhododendron yakushimanums and their hybrids.  It is an ideal plant for gardens on lime-free soil and is tolerant of many different aspects. I have seen it grown happily in full sun as well as semi shade.  As a plant it is fully hardy producing a round compact habit which is relatively slow-growing, remaining small over many years which makes it ideal for gardens where space can be limited.

Rhododendron yakushimanum was first discovered in the early 1900s on Yakushima (Yaku island, shima being Japanese for island), a small windswept mountainous island off the south coast of Japan. Brought to the United Kingdom in 1934.

Notcutts nursery purchased Waterers in 1982 and used the very strong links to these dwarf rhododendrons due to the breeding programmes carried out in the 1950s and 60s by Percy Wiseman and Gerald Pinkney at Waterers Nurseries to promote and introduce them to a wider market.  Indeed one of my favourite Rhododendrons is named after Percy Wiseman.  The image shows the fine colour this Rhododendron possesses.


Rhododendrons require an acid soil of pH6 or below. As I live in an area with heavy clay I always try to dig a deep planting pit breaking up the clay by adding a coarse material, such as gravel chip pings or horticultural grit to open the soil texture. The top soil should have bark added into it, to give a good tilth. In free-draining, sandy soils, digging to one spade depth is sufficient and composted bark can be added to add goodness to the soil.

The root system of rhododendrons spreads outwards, not far below the surface of the soil. It is therefore important not to plant too deep and care needs to be taken if a mulch is applied too thickly over the root system as this can suffocate the shallow roots. Rhododendrons do not need soils rich in nitrogen and therefore, in most garden situations, it is not necessary to add any fertiliser for the first two years. If you live in a neutral soil area an annual application of equestrian will help reduce the likelihood of lime induced chlorosis.

Most Rhododendron yakushimanum will reach 1.2-1.5 m over many years and will have a comparable spread.  This makes it ideal for a semi shaded border ideally that can be viewed in combination with hostas, ferns and other shade tolerant plants that can complement the dense foliage with differing leaf shapes and forms.








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Plant of the Month-June 2012

Posted Tuesday, 26 June, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Kalmia lactifolia

Mountain Laurel

I have selected this plant mainly due to a friend who highlighted the plant but could not find the name – hence coming to a professional garden designer who has a passion for plants.  Having identified it for her I thought it would be good to share this plant to others as I believe it is a plant that should be used more.

Kalmia is rarely seen in domestic gardens but does deserve more attention particularly for those who garden on an acidic soil.  With a mass of pink flowers in June latifolia provides a striking addition to any appropriate borders.  An evergreen shrub it will eventually reach a height of 2.5 m and will have a comparable spread but this is after ten years plus and I have yet to see such a specimen.  It is tolerant of exposed situations and will be happy with a north and easterly aspect.

To grow a kalmia you should plant in moist, humus-rich, deep, acidic soil in sun or partial shade. Water well until established and mulch in spring to retain moisture. Take care with pruning, as it can be slow to recover

Cultivation: Plant in moist, humus-rich, deep, acidic soil in sun or partial shade. Water well until established and mulch in spring to retain moisture. Take care with pruning, as it can be slow to recover.




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Plant of the Month-February 2012

Posted Tuesday, 31 January, 2012 at 10:17 am

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’

With the prospect of winter finally ending, February holds to the optimist the thought of the forthcoming Spring.  Often we seem to be finally losing the cold weather when along comes a late blast of cold weather towards the end of the month.  Fortunately I always look forward to the forthcoming spring which I know is just around the corner.

I remember a great visit with friends to Wakehurst Place, where there is a fine winter garden. Following my visit I looked upon winter in a totally different way.  In Wakehurst you have groups of West Himalayan birch (Betula utilis var. jacquemontii) which with their bright white bark stood out in the low winter sun.  These white stems contrasted beautifully with the surrounding dogwoods (cornus sanguinea varieties) those copper stems brought warmth to the chill air.

Building upon this experience I try to brighten my spirits by adding warmth to my borders.  Including some richer colours such as yellow, copper and red seem to work extremely well.  Shrubs flowering such as the quinces (chaenomeles) can be used but one of my favourites has to be the witch hazel.  These can be dificult plants to establish and tend to expensive, therefore it does need to command a place where it can be seen from the house.  Here it will serve to provide visual interest with its mass of narrow petals ranging from warm yellows to strong orange and reds.  I can assure you will be drawn into visiting the garden more just to witness it close up.  My favourite Hamamelis has to be Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’, a cross between Hamamelis japonica and Hamamelis mollis.  It forms a large spreading shrub with  bright green leaves up to 15cm (6in) long that turn the most amazing orange and red in autumn. Worth planting alone for this fine colouring.  In early or midwinter it bears fragrant,  copper  orange flowers, with crimped petals which are displayed upon the bare branches.

Named by Robert de Belder after his wife in 1954 this witch hazel has been recognised for its value by the Royal Society of Horticulture with an Award of Garden Merit  AGM.

If you are considering planting this fine shrub you will need to find the right location. You can plant it in semi shade to full sun on ground that is moist but not water logged.  Hamamelis dislike exposed sites and care is needed to ensure it is not caught by strong winds.  Grown on an acidic – neutral soil you will find the plant finaly reaching 3.5m high and with a spread of  3m.

When considering what would work well with this Hamamelis I could suggest underplanting the base with a dark red erica such as Erica carnea ‘Myretoun Ruby’.  I like to Hamamelis I plant space to breath as I feel surrounding shrubs tend to detract from the plants winter form and ornamental grasses can work well with their straw coloured stems.  However you wish to plant around this plant please allow it room to spread and site it so you can walk up to the plant and admire the flowers in detail.


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Plant of the Month – January 2012

Posted Monday, 26 December, 2011 at 9:32 am

Iris unguicularis

With Christmas over and thoughts looking forward to the forthcoming year it is always a pleasure to see favourite plants emerging again.  One of these favourites is the Algerian iris, (Iris unguicularis), formely known as Iris stylosa named after its pen shaped flower buds. This winter flowering iris would always catch my attention when I worked at Notcutts Landscapes in Woodbridge.  There was a small clump growing to the base of a building.  Here these iris flourished catching the winter sun allowing the plant to present its mauve flowers for all to see.  The effect was truly wonderful and made all the more pleasurable by the Chaenomeles ‘Pink Lady’ that was trained on the brick work.  The Chaenomeles would produce pink flowers held agains the stems in clusters and the combination of the pink with the mauve worked extremely well.  Now over twenty years on I still remember this association and I confess have used it many times over the years when I have found a similar situation warranted such treatment.

The clumps of this iris are rather messy which can be an irritation to those that like their planting very manicured.  I consider this a price worth paying allowing the plant to utilize the goodness it can generate from all its leaves to impove the flowering.  When I saw the plant in Woodbridge it was on a light soil in partial shade but in a slight rain shadow.  These are ideal conditions for this plant and when I have used it in the West Midlands on a clay soil I have always added grit and have even added some lime to open up the clay to open the soil structure and respond to the plants preference for an alkaline soil.  It does not need any feeding and as mentioned will prefer a semi shaded dry site.  Set to the base of a south facing wall and you will find the Iris extremely content.

In time the Iris will increase its size and can be split to create new colonies.  Like Iris siberica this is easier than said, for the roots are tough and it does demand some effort to split them.

The flowers are held about 50 cm high often sitting within the foliage but with its pale mauve colouring it leaps out.

I strongly urge you to consider this plant – it has remained a firm favourite with me for over twenty years defying gardening trends.  Just place it with care ensuring you will see it as you approach a front door or by the side of a well used access path.


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Plant of the Month-December 2011

Posted Wednesday, 30 November, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Helleborus nigerHelleborus niger

When approaching my parents front door every Christmas my eye was always drawn to a small flowering plant within the border.  For most of the year it had remained fairly unnoticed but as December approached the plant came into its own demand attention.  Producing small clear white flowers with a bright golden eye it added a bold statement within the Winter border.  The plant in question was Helleborus niger an evergreen flowering perennial. The common name for this Hellebore is the Christmas Rose even though it is from the buttercup family.  This name comes from an old legend that it sprouted in the snow from the tears of a young girl who had no gift to give to the baby Jesus in Bethlehem.  The plant is toxic and can cause severe discomfort if ingested and it is also can cause some skin irritation so care must be taken when using it.

This is a traditional cottage garden favourite but I feel it does need to be placed where you will notice the flowers when they emerge in December.   Located in a semi shaded location in alkaline to neutral soil by a front door as under-planting to a deciduous shrub would be ideal.  When the flowers start to emerge it is useful to remove   Where the soil conditions are heavy such as a clay soil, the hellebores will benefit from an application of leaf mould and if required a dressing of lime can be added to reduce the acid conditions and ‘sweeten’ the soil.

This is not a fast growing vigorous plant and it will only gradually bulk up spreading to cover an area of 400 mm over 5 years.  The flowers are held about 250- 300 mm above the  foliage.

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Plant of the Month-November 2011

Posted Wednesday, 2 November, 2011 at 10:53 pm

miscanthus sinensis kleine silberspinne

Miscanthus ‘Kleine Silberspinne”

A plant group that always impresses during November must be members of the  Miscanthus genus.  These ornamental grasses provide stature and height and animation to a garden some reaching as much as 2.5 m in height.

In autumn, Miscanthus carry  hairy, pink red or white spikelet’s in fan-shaped panicles.  With the sun rising low in the Autumn sky these flower heads catch the light intensifying the colour and adding warmth to the border.  An accommodating easy to grow plant Miscanthus prefers full sun or very light shade.  It is also fairly drought-tolerant, and grows in most well drained soils.

One of my favourite plants I like to use in my garden designs for its architectural presence is Miscanthus sinensis ‘Kleine silberspinne’.  With narrow, arching leaves and silver mid rib this grass produces panicles of dark red-brown flower that are held above the foliage.  The foliage turns to a silver colour in Autumn and remains good throughout the winter when it can then be cut down to ground level to make way for the new emerging growth.  Miscanthus ‘Kleine Silberspinne’ will usually reach 1.2-1.5 m in height with a spread of 45 cm.



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