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…

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…