All-purpose potentillas

Continuing from my post the other week on plants everyone should have in their garden, I must mention potentillas, often called shrubby cinquefoils, though no one really calls them that. These are very hardy, mounded shrubs and the wild species may be native, though it is probably a garden escape. They are so easy to…

To lift or not to lift?

It is that time of year when the last of the summer flowers are over and we need to prepare for winter. Tender plants should be in the greenhouse and we can cut down all but the last of the herbaceous flowers. And with frosts imminent, we need to decide on what plants to dig…

Prickly but pretty

Because I am often asked to recommend plants for other people’s gardens it is good to have a list of reliable, crowd-pleasing plants tucked away at the back of my mind. Everyone has different tastes and a lot of plants that I consider beautiful would probably be considered dull by many. Lots of lovely plants…

When everything is less than rosy

It is the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and many of us will be enjoying the rewards of all our hard work over the past year. But we all know that gardening is not always the simple ‘plant and enjoy’ that we expect. Here are a few of the problems you may find in…

Pots of winter sunshine

It has taken me many decades to finally adopt a fair attitude to heathers. When I was still very much an apprentice and working at Nags Hall, heathers, planted with conifers, were all the rage. Open plan estates were dotted with neat lawns and island beds of heathers and conifers, promising colour all year and…

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…