Feed the birds

There is a delicious irony in the way that most gardeners love to feed wild birds and then curse them in summer when they polish off all the red currants and peck holes in every one of the strawberries. I am guilty as charged and have planted my fruit bushes in the garden and intend…

Murdannia – a new houseplant

It is not often that a completely new houseplant appears for us to try but last year I was tempted by something I had never seen before, called Murdannia ‘Bright Star’. When I was in charge of buying houseplants at Nags Hall, several decades ago I often let my heart rule my head and bought…

Tulip time

Spring seems a long way off right now and soon our attention will be consumed by other (festive) thoughts, though things will be different this year. We need to focus on good thoughts and nothing lifts the spirits quite like spring bulbs. Most of these should be planted by now, though I confess I still…

Fatsia japonica: Houseplant or garden shrub?

When I was working at Nags Hall in the 80s the selection of houseplants was far smaller than it is now. Orchids were certainly not as widely available and African violets were the order of the day if you wanted colour in the home, unless you were content with a potted chrysanthemum. Of course, with…

Autumn – made for maples

We can forget the mists and mellow fruitfulness this year, gales are the order of the day. Most gardeners plant for autumn colour, dreaming of the fiery tints leaves will display at this time of year, nature has conspired against us this year with a series of gales that have prematurely ripped the leaves from…

Thinking of summer: sweet peas

It may seem ridiculously early to be thinking about plans for next year but it always pays to plan ahead, as long as we are ready to change those plans according to the seasons. One of the jobs I have remembered this year, as I have been busy making my raised beds in the veg…

The season for chrysanthemums

As nights lengthen and get cooler, thoughts turn to chrysanthemums. In fact, you may have had them in bloom for many weeks in your garden because they are a varied and quite confusing bunch of plants. But most people can recognise them and, if they are in doubt, a squeeze and sniff of the leaves…

How deep should you plant bulbs?

Bulb-planting season is in full swing. Now is the perfect time to plant as many bulbs as you can, to be sure of a bright spring. All the small bulbs should be put in as quickly as possible but tulips can be left until November before planting. But how deep and how close should you…

Foxtail lilies

Among the many spring-flowering bulbs offered in autumn, foxtail lilies are the most intriguing and, like some lagers, reassuringly expensive! It is wrong to call them bulbs since they are not bulbs at all but fleshy roots. They certainly look weird, with a growing bud and spokes of thick roots radiating from the centre. Variously…

A star of the season

Michaelmas daisies (yes, this Tuesday is Michaelmas) are in my thoughts at the moment and may be in yours if the gales of the past week did not flatten them. These hardy perennials are invaluable for bringing colour to the garden in autumn but their late blooming works against them as much as for them….