In the bleak midwinter,

… except that it is not like winter at all. It has been unseasonably mild and not at all like winter. It is strange how plants react to peculiar weather and although some plants have been behaving oddly, with flowers on the apple trees, others seem to avoid being tricked by mild nights. The witch…

Time to take stock and to plan for next year

As the year nears its end we look forward to a new gardening year and make plans for 2022. Those of us with gardens have been fortunate over the past two years; to have somewhere to go and work and lose ourselves. I am sure our gardens have all progressed well as we have been…

A touch of luxury: Orchids

If you want to give a gift that has a touch of class and could last for years, choose a moth orchid (phalaenopsis). Many years ago, when I started gardening, orchids were rare and expensive. I was desperate to own and grow orchids but they were hard to find and the most common were cymbidiums…

Cyclamen and poinsettias

Cyclamen I have a great fondness for cyclamen. Apart from being colourful and elegant, they remind me of my grandparents who always had one in the bitterly cold front room in the bay window, seen by no one but passers by. Their plant was probably decades old, kept in a lean-to greenhouse in summer when…

Hyacinths for Christmas

What do you buy a gardener for Christmas? There are gloves, tools, hand cream and plants as well as more practical gifts like labels, compost and pots. But with all of us needing cheering up, I think that plants are a good choice and Nags Hall is packed with plants for all pockets and tastes….

Feeling the chill

We have been blessed with a mild autumn and I have been enjoying the display from the latest autumn flowers. Salvias, alstroemerias and the chrysanthemums have been blooming as though winter was never going to arrive but a series of hard frosts has brought me back to reality with a bump. At this time of…

Little garden helpers: ladybirds

Of all the insects that we find in our gardens, ladybirds, after bees, must be the most highly regarded. Although their colouration is designed to warn birds that they are not a tasty snack, we are always glad to see them. While I shake or brush off any other insect that uses me as a…

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…