Archive for the ‘Winter’ Category


An Orchestra Of Autumn Colours!

October 25, 2012

wwwgardendesigner7.jpgAs I’ve said before, my favourite time in the garden is in the spring but for my husband it is the autumn. He loves to see all the wonderful rustic colours that the leaves turn into before they fall from the trees.

Around this time of the year there are some super trees to provide orange, gold, bronze and crimson colours for autumn interest and on the top of my list is the Acer palmatum atropurpureum, which I have in my own back garden. This will be turning from its usual purple colour foliage to bright red and when the rays of sun shine through it, it is absolutely stunning.

Autumn is also the season for ornamental berries to show off their splendour. The evergreen Pyracantha is one such shrub that has super bright orange berries and can be grown in a shady or sunny position against a wall. The more sun it’s exposed to, the better, brighter and more berries it will produce.

For clusters of red berries Cotoneaster shrubs are good for this and they are easy to grow in any ordinary garden soil.

For really unusual stunning purple berries that are shown off on bare stems go for the Callicarpa shrub. It can grow to a height of thirteen feet and it’s definitely one for my shopping list.

An interesting perennial that comes into its best around this time of the yeargardenblog761.jpg is the Physalis alkekengi, otherwise known as the Chinese lantern, because of its super decorative papery orange calyces, which resemble lantern shapes. This plant is a vigorous spreader, so leave plenty or room for it. It is also useful for dried flower arrangements.

A dainty and exotic looking hardy flowering perennial is the Schizostylis coccines ‘Sunrise’, The kaffir lily. It has lovely salmon-pink showy, gladiolus-like spikes of open cup-shaped flowers that flower from late summer to early winter and it’s good value for money in any flower border.

Another hardy perennial to flower outdoors this month is the Chrysanthemum. There are so many forms to choose from and a wide variety of colours too. Chrysanthemums can also be used as cut flowers to provide some indoor interest too.


A Bright future

October 20, 2012

wwwgardendesignercouk-20.jpgThis is the time of year when many of us start to spend more time indoors and forget about the garden, however, you could save yourself time and money by using the time now to plan your garden for next year.

This is the best time of the year when we should be thinking and planning how we would like our gardens to be and want sort of plants we would like to be growing next season.

Autumn is certainly the garden’s “renewing time”, as this is when we should preparing and improving the soil by digging in lots of organic matter and many of the existing plants in a garden can be transferred and replanted.

This is also the prefect time to plant new trees, shrubs and bulbs. Existing lawns can be repaired if parts are worn out and during this time you could be reshaping your lawn for new flower borders or to completely renew and smarten up your garden.

A well-designed border can really enhance and add interest to the garden. When planning a border consider some of the following elements: what form or shape would you like the borders to be?

A straight traditional border gives more of a formal theme and if it butts up to a lawn then it will be easier to mow. A less formal look is to have curved edges to a border to give it a softer attractive feel and look.

Always consider the aspect your border faces, for example if it is southwwwgardendesignercouk-24.JPG facing it will get hot sun all day and if it is north facing then it will have to have shade loving plants. So therefore it may be preferable to have larger planting borders where the garden get more sun light.

Think about plant and colour schemes; the most popular request I get when I am asked to design planting schemes is for all year-round colours. Now it’s not always possible to have borders in full flower all year round, but the objective to achieve is that there is some form of interest in a border for each month of the year.

The best way to do this is to sit down and with pen and paper and under a list of the months, list what plant will be looking its best during that particular month.  At this stage you should consider the colour scheme as well. Do you want a hot border with lots of bright colours or a soft pastel cool coloured border?

When planting up your border start with your ‘star performers’, those are the plants which are going to be the focal points, then plan for the evergreens as this will provide the back ground and framework to your border. After that, plan the shrubs and perennials to give seasonal interest and finally finish off with the ‘fillers’ such as bedding plants and bulbs.

Even though we’re in the autumn season now, use this time wisely to shape up your garden for next season.


Hooray For Hostas!

May 25, 2012

I think that a well-designed garden should have good green foliage, as this is where the eye can take a rest from all the other colours going on in the garden. Foliage also adds shape, form and texture to the garden and complements flowers.

One super plant that provides excellent elegant large foliage interest is the Hosta, Plantain lily. This perennial produces long stems with bell-shaped flowers, but this plant is mainly grown for its architectural foliage, which on some varieties can be up to fourteen inches long, and the whole plant can grow to a height of three feet tall.

The bold Hosta leaf comes in four main shapes: ovate, lance, round and heart-shaped and many Hostas also have lovely attractive variegated markings of white or yellow. Hostas come in a wide range of different lush shades of greens, from lime greens through to glaucous grey-blue leaves.

Most Hostas are clump forming perennials and like to grow in moisture-retentive fertile but well drained soil with a bit of shelter from cold drying winds. Hostas also prefer a full or partial shady site and don’t like the soil to dry out, so remember to give them a good mulching each spring to conserve moisture. A regular feed of nitrogen will also keep Hostas in tiptop condition.

The only down side to Hostas are that they are one the favourite foods to slugs and snails (see last week’s article) and after these pests have fed on them they can end up looking very much like lace curtains. Professional growers are now trying to produce Hostas with tougher leaves so that they’re not so tasty to slugs and snails. I personally grow my Hostas in containers to minimise slug and snail damage and use a John Innes No 2 compost with some grit to help drainage.

Hostas are so versatile as they can be used in many ways and in different styles of gardens. They can also be grown as individual specimen plants or ground cover and I think they really look super around ponds or water features.

My favourite Hosta is the Hosta sieboldiana var. elegans as it has rounded heart-shaped, heavily deeply puckered glaucous grey-blue leaves and this specimen makes a wonderful planting combination with my contrasting red Acer and the lovely deeply cut fronds of ferns.

So, for super irresistible foliage plants for a garden, Hostas certainly get my vote.



There’s Something Astir In The Garden Already…

February 13, 2012

Early spring flowers are now awaking, starting to stir and will soon burst into bloom to give the garden some much-needed masses of colour to bring it alive. The sap is slowly starting to rise with the anticipation of a new season just around the corner and there are plenty of plants to look out for during the month of February.

Regular readers of my column will know that one of my favourite flowers is the Iris, and in February the early-flowering dwarf Iris makes its appearance. This dainty little flower grows only to a height of about six nar.jpginches and comes in a variety of colours from yellow, blue or purple and usually has pretty markings on its petals. They’re best grown in a sunny spot and perhaps in a raised bed or container so that their beauty can be admired at close hand.

One early flowing Narcissus is the Narcissus cyclamineus, the Wild Narcissus. This is also a very dainty plant and grows to six to eight inches tall and has golden yellow flowers with swept-backed petals. Grow this vigorous perennial bulb in rock or a woodland garden or alternatively you could naturalise it in your lawn.

The Crocus has been a favourite in many of our gardens and there is an early variety to start colouring up the garden this month called Crocus tommasinianus. This pretty goblet shaped flower comes in a choice of colours of white, lilac and purple.

Primrose-Polyanthus primulas are a very diverse group of winter to spring flowering perennial that come in a wide range of bright colours. They are commercially grown for bedding or containers to produce early flowering plants and they remind me of pretty small Victorian posies and are plants to look out for during this month.

One particular Clematis that’ll be coming into flower around now is thefreckles.jpg Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’. This late winter flowering Clematis has creamy-white flowers with delightful red speckles. Grow this in sun, although it will tolerate dappled shade against a wall or through a deciduous tree to give winter interest.

A very useful early flowering shrub for the garden is the Chaenomeles, or better known as the Ornamental Quince. It’s quite a versatile shrub as it can tolerate a shady site and can be grown in a shrub border or be trained against a wall. This shrub has lovely dense clusters of cup-shaped flowers which come in a variety of colours from white to various shades of pink or apricot through to more brash shades of red. This shrub provides autumn interest when it produces its small apple-like fruits, Quince.

Even in the last month of winter our gardens can produce a cheery colourful sight with early flowering plants… a sure true sign that spring is on its way.


Planning The Year Ahead!

January 25, 2012

flora4.jpgIt’s during this time of year that many of us plan our next summer holidays and possibly reminisce about our last summer’s break.

When I’m on my summer holidays in my favourite parts of the world, I often think how nice it must be to live in the part of the world where the sun shines most of the time, and then I realise how much I would miss what we have here…

… seasons.

It’s with the seasons that we’re lucky enough to have such a wide variety of plants.

I know that most of us hate the dreary winter months, but natural beauty can still be found in our winter gardens. A winter garden shifts its emphasis from the focus and details of leaves, flowers and colour to more of the outlines of solid and definite geometric shapes.

There’s nothing like a cold frosty morning with the garden sparkling and glistening as the sunlight shines on the plants creating a vivid winter wonderland. I think our gardens take on a completely new dimension in the winter, particularly when it snows and it all looks neat, clean, crisp and uncluttered.

If you’re lucky enough to have outdoor lighting, don’t just use it in theflora4.jpg summer nights when you’re outside with friends, turn it on in the winter evenings and enjoy your stunning night-time winter garden. The forms and structures of a garden such as deciduous trees and pergolas become striking canopies covered with frost or snow, and the winter’s low sun angle will create artistic silhouettes and shadows.

Clipped hedging and topiary create prefect shapes and I think they’re the backbone to a winter garden. A well placed statue or an decorative bench will create a focal point and add interest to dull corner and in a winter garden and will come into its own when most of the surrounding plants will have lost their softening foliage.

Certain plants look so lovely when touched by the frost such as the fine foliage or feathery plume seed heads of ornamental grasses or the frozen long pendent catkins that look like hanging Christmas tree decorations of the evergreen shrub Garrya elliptica.

It’s always interesting going abroad and seeing the native plants and even the weeds; some of which we here regard as tropical plants, however it’s always good to come home to my own garden… and of course, the British seasons.

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Adding Colour In January

January 12, 2012

snowdrrops1.jpgEven in this cold month of January in the gloomy winter season there are plants that can liven up more or less any garden and even make it a flowery, scented and colourful winter wonderland.

One of the first perennial bulbs to pop up around this time of year is the Galanthus plicatus, otherwise known as the Snowdrop. A carpet of Snowdrops with their dainty nodding delicately scented white flowers look so lovely grown beneath trees and shrubs or naturalised in turf.

Another plant worth having in our gardens around this time of the year is the Lonicera, or the shrubby Honeysuckle, with its wonderfully scented flowers. This shrub grows to a height of six feet with clusters of small white flowers and likes a sheltered spot in sun or dappled shade.

The Sarcococca hookeriana, the common name being Christmas Box or Sweet Box, is a useful small shrub for a small garden as it only grows up to two feet in height. This is an evergreen shrub with lovely dark green glossy leaves and clusters of very small honey-scented pink-tinted white flowers and prefers growing in a shady site.

If I had to choose, then I would say that my favourite winter flowering shrub has to be the Chimonanthus praecox, Wintersweet, because of its glorious powerful scent. It also has interesting small waxy-looking yellow flowers and will grow to a height of twelve feet.

Another winter stunner is the Hamamelis, Witch Hazel, which has super, fragrant, spidery, yellow flowers on bare branches and it truly is a good choice for providing winter interest in a garden.  It can be either grown in a shrub, border or as a specimen plant.snowdrops2.jpg

An attractive ground cover for winter colour is the Eranthis hyemalis, the Winter Aconite, which is a vigorous spreading perennial. With its attractive round rosettes of leaves with a bright yellow cup shaped flowers in the centre, it will really brighten up any garden that looks a little sorry for itself around this time of the year. Grow this perennial in full sun but under the canopy of a deciduous tree or shrub, so that the soil isn’t too dry during the summer months.

A winter flowering perennial that I adore and think is a “must” for lovely winter flowering interest is the Helleborus niger, which is also known as Christmas Rose. This beauty has white saucer shaped flowers that are sometimes tinged with pink and it flowers from winter to early spring.

The Helleborus orientalis, better known as the Lenten Rose, comes in a variety of interesting dusky colours and flowers from mid-winter through to spring. After the Helleborus have finished flowering, they continue to provide evergreen interest for the rest of the year with their architectural leaf form.  Helleborus prefer a dapple shaded site where the soil doesn’t dry out too much.

So those shady spots in the garden can really come to life with some winter flowering plants to provide colour interest in the garden for winter.

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