Dreams of summer fragrance

The days may be short and chilly but we can still dream about summer. And we can plan too. We are in the middle of the busy autumn planting season and this is the perfect time to plant trees and shrubs. There are many advantages to autumn planting: The soil is still relatively warm and…

Well-behaved grasses

When I started gardening, ornamental grasses were rarely considered as ingredients in our borders. The exceptions that spring to mind are blue Festuca glauca, which makes neat hummocks of spiky foliage and variegated Phalaris arundinacea, sometimes called gardeners’ garters. The fescue was always admired but the phalaris was always treated with suspicion. It is gorgeous…

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…

Apple time

It is the season when we are surrounded by apples and it is a sin to buy imported apples. Of all the fruits we can grow, apples are the most rewarding and probably the easiest. It is true that strawberries will crop more quickly but the plants need replacement after two years and apples are…

Tulips and hyacinths

We should be planting spring-flowering bulbs over the next few months but one type needs planting as soon as possible; prepared hyacinths. It was always exciting when the boxes of prepared hyacinths arrived when I was working at Nags Hall in the 80s. They were always displayed next to hyacinth glasses and I am sure…

Crocus and ‘not’ crocus

As the garden centre shelves start to fill with wonderful spring-flowering bulbs, look out for the autumn-flowering section. Autumn-flowering bulbs are wonderful and bring a real touch of freshness to the autumn garden. But, unlike the daffodils and tulips, which can wait a while for planting, these need planting now. After all, they will be…