1 Alan Titchmarsh 2 Geoff Hamilton 3 Monty Don 4 Carol Klein 5 Percy Thrower 6 Alys Fowler 7 Christopher Lloyd 8 Toby Buckland 9 Chris Beardshaw 10 Charlie Dimmock 11 Rachel de Thame 12 David Domoney 13 Adam Frost 14 Fergus Garrett 15 Gertrude Jekyll 16 Margery Fish 17 Capability Brown 18 Humphry Repton 19 Vita Sackville-West 20 Sarah Raven
Can you tell what these anagrams are? They’re all famous gardeners and TV celebrities. No prizes it’s just for fun!
1. Charlatan Smith
2. Gotham offline
3. Donny Tom
4. Locker nail
5. Hort crew prey
6. Fallow ryes
7. Dorothy Prechills
8. Blondy cub kat
9. Crab dishwasher
10. Admire choc milk
11. Heathered clam
12. Monday dove ID
13. Data forms
14. Frustrate Greg
15. Tell judge kerry
16. Greyish farm
17. Wobbly patrician
18. Hypermorph nut
19. Civil valets tweaks
20. RV has AN era
Fill your garden with flowers and fragrance this season. Val Bourne picks her favourite shrubs and perennials that bloom in deepest winter
You can’t have failed to notice, the days are stretching out and in a few weeks’ time we’ll have a full 12 hours of daylight. Luckily, plenty of winter-flowering plants are willing to brave the weather and, when it’s cold and grey outdoors, a few fresh flowers produce a special kind of magic.
These winter flowers have to be rugged to withstand the weather, so they tend to be small and subtle in form and colour. There are milkshake pinks and whites, and pallid, moonlit yellows. These colours stand out well in low winter sunshine while most of the garden is lying dormant.
The function of every flower is to attract insects, so that pollen gets transferred from one flower to another. At this time of year they can’t be big and blowsy, because they wouldn’t last five minutes in a downpour. Their secret weapon is fragrance, which is why so many winter-flowering plants are sweetly scented. Give them a sheltered spot, preferably one that gets afternoon sunshine, and their perfume will carry on the warm, still air.
Most of these sweetly scented flowers hope to attract an early bee. However, green flowers lure in flies and native Helleborus foetidus produces a meaty smell so it’s known as the stinking hellebore, but don’t let that put you off! It’s a stunner, with crisp, divided foliage and clusters of maroon-edged, apple green bells.
In order to survive, these flowers have developed several strategies. Some, like winter-flowering Daphne bholua, have thick waxy petals. Starry-flowered Magnolia stellata has spaces between its petals to allow frosty air to escape, while others are merely collections of stamens, perhaps with a few small petals facing downwards to shed rain and snow.
WINTER FLOWERS: ANSWERS
1. Galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop) 2. Convallaria majalis (lily-of-the-valley) 3. Leucojum vernum (spring snowflake) 4. Eranthis hyemalis (winter aconite) 5. Crocus chrysanthus (snow crocus) 6. Sternbergia lutea (winter daffodil) 7. Cyclamen hederifolium 8. Cyclamen coum 9. Cyclamen persicum (Persian cyclamen)
How well do you know your winter flowers? Here we’ve picked our favourites to see if you can name them... answers below
1 Flowering Jan-Feb, these classic white nodding flowers spread from bulbs, creating naturalised clumps. Plants prefer sun or part shade. Often planted ‘in the green’. H and S10cm (4in)
2 Fragrant groundcover plant with white nodding bells (May) and broad leaves. Plants prefer part or full shade. Often used in wedding bouquets. H25cm (10in) S30cm (12in)
3 Nodding white flowers on tall stems March-April. Flowers have green tips to their petals. Plants prefer moist, well-drained soil and full sun. H30cm (12in) S10cm (4in)
4 Golden chalice-shaped flowers with bright green ruffs. Flowers Jan-Feb in sun or part shade. Will colonise damp shady woodland borders. H8cm (3in) S5cm (2in)
5 Flowering Feb-March, these golden-yellow blooms come from corms, have a purple outer mark on the petals and strappy leaves. Sun and well-drained soil. H10cm (4in) S8cm (3in)
6 Flowering Sept-Nov, these upright yellow goblets are fully hardy and prefer a position in full sun. Fast growing and will colonise a border in time. H15cm (6in) S8cm (3in)
7 Pretty marbled heart-shaped leaves and fragrant flowers in pink or white, Oct-Nov. Flowers emerge before the leaves, then leaves remain into winter. H12cm (5in) S15cm (6in)
8 Same genus as 7 but with squatter, shorter, upswept pink flowers, Dec-Mar. Rounded silvery-green leaves that die back in spring. Grow in part shade. H and S10cm (4in)
9 Same genus as 7 and 8 but not as hardy. Comes in various colours, with darker pink or dark magenta flash around mouth of the corolla. Flowers Dec-May. H20cm (8in) S10cm (4in)
For the answers CLICK HERE
Many gardeners greet frost with a heavy heart. It’s a sign that winter has finally taken hold of our gardens and that any tender plants left outside will have succumbed to its icy grip. While we can protect prized specimens with sheets of fleece, mulches of straw or organic matter, cloches and heated greenhouses, without such shelter or insulation, a heavy frost spells disaster for all sorts of plants – from tender perennials to newly established plants, exotics, succulents and those valiant little half-hardy annuals that are still in bloom.
Frost can strike at any time from autumn until late spring. It normally forms on still, clear, cold nights, when the cool air makes water vapour condense and form droplets as dew. When the temperature falls below 0C (32F) the dew freezes into ice crystals.
There are five main types of frost:
● Air frost occurs when the air temperature falls below freezing point at least 1m (3ft 3in) above the ground
● Ground frost occurs when the surface of the ground, objects or trees, has fallen below freezing point
● Grass frost can occur when grass freezes but manmade concrete or Tarmac surfaces don’t, because they can hold onto warmth
● Hoar frost is a particularly feathery type of frost. Here the ice crystals form when the ground or surface temperature reaches freezing point before dew begins to form. Fog tends to prevent the formation of hoar frost, because it reduces surface cooling
● White frost is more globular than feathery. This occurs when dew forms first, then subsequently freezes.
Frost causes damage because plant cells contain water. As temperatures drop, so the water freezes into ice crystals that can rupture cell walls and contents, and stop plant proteins from working. Symptoms include stems collapsing and foliage becoming scorched, browned or blackened. Sometimes plants can die.
Not every frost is hard enough to kill plants, however. Conditions such as a morning fog can slow down the thawing process, giving plants a chance to thaw out slowly, resulting in less damage. Hardier species contain a type of anti-freeze made from complex sugars and amino acids, which can lower the freezing point of their cell contents, while many shrubs and trees rely on bark to act as an insulation layer.
What’s more, those plants growing in sheltered positions, out of frost pockets, next to the house or shaded from morning sunshine can often escape without any damage at all.
The good news is that a frost-damaged plant isn’t necessarily a write off. After the risk of frost has passed in late spring, the plant may start to show signs of life again. Trim off scorched growth back to an undamaged bud and the plant should respond by producing new shoots.
Evergreens needn’t be green. Many of them are variegated and these create a pattern of light and shade, although you do need to use them sparingly or they’ll dazzle you a little too much. The paler parts of the foliage, sometimes cream or yellow, don’t produce chlorophyll so variegated plants often survive well in shadier places. The golden rule with variegation is to blend the colours. White and green foliage tends to jar against yellow and green so it’s best to segregate them.
• Green and yellow foliage lights up darker areas of the garden. Medium-sized shrub Eleagnus submacrophylla ‘Limelight’ has sage-green leaves splashed in gold and tiny, highly fragrant flowers in late autumn. You can get the same strident variegation with a much smaller evergreen, Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald n Gold’, and this bushy, slow-growing shrub will eventually reach 3m (10ft) if left. It can be grown as a wall shrub. Or, use variegated Persian ivy Hedera colchica ‘Sulphur Heart’ to clothe a wall, although this non-clinging ivy will need supporting wires. Aucuba japonica ‘Crotonifolia’, one of the toughest evergreens of all, has green leaves dotted in yellow. You can add more dazzle with orange-trumpeted, bright-yellow daffodils like ‘Jetfire’. Or calm things down using pale-pink winter heathers and silver-leaved deadnettles such as the pink-flowered lamium, ‘Beacon Silver’.
• Cooler cream and green variegated plants are subtler and daintier and there’s a euonymus called ‘Emerald Gaiety’ that bears white-edged green leaves. This makes a fine front-of-border edging to soften a path. Pick up the same blend of milk white and sage green with the self-clinging English ivy Hedera helix ‘Glacier’. Ivies can be grown on upright poles covered with netting, on fences, or up walls, but some ivies won’t climb so refer to a specialist such as Fibrex Nurseries. You could also use variegated Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Silver Queen’. This tall conical shrub, which can reach over 2m (6 1/2ft), casts a silvery spell in winter light.
All the forms of P. tennuifolia have crinkled evergreen foliage and ‘Tom Thumb’ has green foliage, but the new growth emerges black to create a lovely contrast. Add a frill of the black, strappy grass Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ to complete the look.
New growth is often brighter and the very readily available Photinia fraseri ‘Red Robin’ produces bright red shoots above high-gloss green foliage. Use it as a specimen shrub, or create a hedge, but trim it back in summer to encourage a flush of young growth. There’s also a new berberis with vivid-red foliage, named ‘Admiration’, well worth seeking out. You’ll get a similar flush of sunset red with heavenly bamboo, Nandina domestica, but this does best when grown in pots in colder gardens. Create a bright contrast using miniature blue bulbs such as muscari, scilla and Anemone blanda. Or add a golden touch using conifer Pinus mugo ‘Carsten's Wintergold’. This produces golden needles once the temperatures drop.
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Got a green-fingered friend to buy for? Whether your gift is for you or for gardening friends and family, try these fab ideas for size
WHERE TO BUY
Birds & Bees nestbox £42 Wudwerx at Not on the High Street 0203 318 5115; www.notonthehigstreet.com
Bosworth Wellington Boots in aubergine £49.99 Town & Country 01869 363674 www.townandco.com
2019 Calendar with seeds £24.99 Not on the High Street 0203 318 5115; www.notonthehigstreet.com
Brussel sprout tree ornament from a selection £4-£7 at RHS shop 01483 211320; www.rhsshop.co.uk
Gardeners Bountiful Hamper £15 Heathcote & Ivory 0207 483 8383; www.heathcote-ivory.com
Globe tealight holder £19.99 Crocus 01344 578111; www.crocus.co.uk
Indoor-outdoor star light from £25 at Cox & Cox 0330 333 2123; www.coxandcox.co.uk
Mushroom tree ornament from a selection £4-£7 at RHS shop 01483 211320; www.rhsshop.co.uk
Niwaki sharpening stones £15 Niwaki 01747 445059; www.niwaki.com
Set of three A6 fern notebooks £8 RHS shop 01483 211320; www.rhsshop.co.uk
English country garden diffuser £30 Stoneglow John Lewis 0345 6049049; www.johnlewis.com
Vintage gardens mug £10 Laura Lee Designs 07805 066417; www.lauraleedesigns.co.uk
Dig the Gloves £14.99 Burgon & Ball John Lewis 03456 049049; www.johnlewis.com.jpg
Grow Your Own Funky Veg £13 Moonpig 0345 4500 100 www.moonpig.com
Professional topiary shears soft squeeze large £29.99 Burgon and Ball 0114 233 8262 www.burgonandball.com
Ladybird house £9.50 Marks and Spencer 0333 014 8000; www.marksandspencer.com
Lantana geo terrarium in black £29 Made 0344 257 1888; wwwmade.com
How well do you know your berries? Here we’ve picked some of the most handsome red ones – see if you can name them
BERRY 1 Reliable evergreen shrub with leathery leaves. Dioecious (male and female flowers on different shrubs) – it’s the female plants that bear the berries. H2.5m (8ft) S1.5m (5ft)
2 Berry-bearing female shrub with a male name. Gold-margined, prickly evergreen foliage. Compact, conical habit; needs male partner to produce berries. H6m (20ft) S5m (16ft)
3 Popular large prickly shrub with strong arching stems bearing geranium-red single flowers, followed by distinctive urn-shaped hips. Has an AGM. H2.5m (8ft) S2.2m (7ft)
4 These berries belong to a deciduous shrub in the gooseberry family with flowers borne in dangly racemes. It’s useful for jelly making. H1.5m (5ft) S1m (3ft 3in)
5 Herringbone branches smothered in red berries in winter. A deciduous shrub with a low, spreading habit. Fine in gardens, but illegal to plant in the wild. H1m (3ft 3in) S1.5m (5ft)
6 Small evergreen shrub whose bamboo-like foliage is purple-red when young and in autumn. Small white flowers late June-July are followed by red berries. H and S1.5m (5ft)
7 Perennial bearing sweet fruits on arching canes in summer or autumn. Berries are ‘aggregate fruit of many drupelets’ that leave a hollow core when picked. H and S1.5-2.4m (5-8ft)
8 Native climber producing fragrant summer flowers Jun-Sep followed by bright red shiny berries. Cottage garden favourite loved by bees and moths. H7m (23ft) S3.5m (11½ft)
9 Originating from Dutch province of Guelderland, this deciduous shrub has mophead flowers June-July, good autumn foliage and bird-friendly berries. H5m (16ft) S4m (13ft)
1. Skimmia japonica (female) 2 Ilex altaclerensis ‘Golden King’ 3. Rosa moyesii ‘Geranium’ 4. Ribes rubrum (red currant) 5. Cotoneaster horizontalis 6. Nandina domestica (heavenly bamboo) 7. Rubus idaeus (autumn-fruiting raspberry) 8. Lonicera periclymenum (honeysuckle) 9. Viburnum opulus (guelder rose)
Fire and ice, parchment and pastels, earth metals – the autumn garden is rich in colour combinations just waiting to be discovered, says Val Bourne
The November garden is fired by vibrant contrasts. From the muted hues of plants retreating underground or losing their leaves to prepare for winter sleep, to the saturated colours of fiery autumn foliage, hips, stems and late flowers that linger into November.
Brown, beige and khaki dominate now, but low autumn sunlight picks up every detail and enhances the smouldering accent hues and makes them glow.
Aromatic silver plants will provide a steely backdrop for any of these colourful treasures and their foliage will give your seven-spot ladybirds and spiders a place to shelter, too. Leave these ‘ever-grey’ plants intact and cut them back in April when spring breaks through.
It’s a good time to make full use of colourful grasses in reds, browns, parchments and frosted greens. Use them to ring an ornamental acer or small tree, or weave them through an autumn border like a series of fibre-optic lamps. Fine-fronded grasses move and sway when it’s wet and windy, but will freeze-frame in frost to provide elegant ice sculptures. Use taller grasses as punctuation marks among billowing asters and make good use of all those earthy oranges, bronzes and golds. They’ll lift your spirits – even on a dreary November day.
These autumn treasures hold the secret to next year’s new plants. Val Bourne explores this exciting wonderland
As autumn mists roll in and fruit ripens on the branch, the garden’s colour palette shifts from the floral fantasia of high summer into something altogether more mellow. Shades of russet, warm-red and khaki fatigues come to the fore, giving the garden an earthy, rosy look.
Seedheads play an enormous role in the garden now and, as the sun sinks lower in the sky, they provide texture and form and add a decadent note to the border. Their presence also helps wildlife, because seed-eating birds, such as goldfinches, descend along with busy little wrens who frisk the plants for insects and grubs.
I adore the shiny brown seedheads of acanthus ‘Rue Ledan’. Each pod, reminiscent of a conker, has a jagged grey bract wrapped round like a scarf, and the complete spike turns almost black in winter. And I can’t resist dieramas, or angels’ fishing rods, once the papery seed capsules form and begin to scatter their perfectly round, mid-brown seeds. The extra weight from the seeds makes them tremble and quake in the slightest wind, like conductors of an orchestra.
In any case, it’s fashionable for a garden to fade as the year wanes and Piet Oudolf, the Dutch landscape architect, has perfected the technique in gardens such as Trentham Long Borders in Staffordshire and Scampston Hall in North Yorkshire. German landscape architects were the first to plant up public parks and roundabouts with naturalistic planting that made an impact right through the year until they were cut down in early spring.
Admittedly not everything endures. Persicarias, for instance, disintegrate to mush at the first sign of frost so it’s stiff-stemmed plants that shine now. If they’re tall, so much the better because winter sun can spotlight them as effectively as any theatre designer.
Brighten up the patio with colourful new planters. Here’s our pick of the latest designs
Green Basics top planter £6.99 (H23cm/9in) Elho www.elho.com
Elho Corsica doorstopper in vintage blue £11.99 (H20cm/8in) Longacres 01276 476778 www.longacres.co.uk
Elho Green Basics vertical planter in cherry/lime green £6.99 per layer (W46cm/18in) Webbs Direct 01527 860000; www.webbsdirect.co.uk
Garden wall planter £189 (H75cm/29in) Amelie Design 01384 230829; www.amelie-design.co.uk
Orla Kiely ceramic pot with wooden stand £40 (H17.5cm/7in) Hurn & Hurn 01603 559250; www.hurnandhurn.com
Set of ombre pots £20 (H18cm/7in) Annabel James 0345 548 0210; www.annabeljames.co.uk
Tabor small yellow pot £43.50 (H24.5cm/10in) Abode Living 01273 621116; www.abodeliving.co.uk
Nurgul tall round pot £26 (H57cm/23in, W46cm/18in) B&Q 0333 014 3357; www.diy.com
Oval window planter box £35.99 for 2 (H27.5cm/11in, W58cm/23in) Wayfair 0800 169 0423; www.wayfair.co.uk
Hanging plant pot £5 Wilko 08000 329329; www.wilko.com
Plastic guttering makes a cheap but cheerful planter for small succulents, sedums and echeverias, says Max McMurdo
When you have limited outdoor space it’s great to create as many planting opportunities as you can. Vertical planting, intended to produce the effect of a ‘living’ wall, has been used in a lot of stylish garden designs for urban yards and patios. This design uses basic plastic guttering, which is really easy to source from any hardware store. It works beautifully for plants that don’t require too much soil, such as succulents.
Here I’ve opted for four lengths of guttering, but you can use as many as you wish, cut to length to suit your space. You could paint the guttering in bright colours; I was after a sleek contemporary look; grey is also a nice neutral tone to allow the plants to stand out.
YOU WILL NEED: Plastic gutter pipe • End caps • Rope • Hacksaw • Tape measure • Drill to make draiange holes • Compost • Plants
1. CUT GUTTERING Lay out the guttering, measure, mark and cut to the length you want using a hacksaw. Hold each piece steady as you saw. File the sawn ends smooth with a half-moon file or sandpaper.
2. FIT CAPS To make drainage holes, drill through the base of each length in several places. Attach end caps to each length of guttering.
3. MEASURE AND KNOT ROPES Measure and cut the rope into two equal lengths. Tie a knot at the halfway point in each length and fold the ropes at this central knot. Measure and mark every 25cm (10 inches) and knot the rope at each marked point. Repeat for both ropes.
4. CHECK KNOTS ARE ALIGNED Check that the knots align on both ropes (so the guttering will sit level). Adjust the position of the knots if necessary. Heat the cut ends of the rope with a lighter to prevent fraying.
5. POSITION GUTTERING Slot the guttering through each knotted section, pushing the rope snugly against the end caps. Plant up.
READER OFFER This project is taken from Upcycling Outdoors by Max McMurdo with photogrpahs by Brent Darby (£20, Jacqui Small). Readers can buy the book at the special price of £15 with free UK p&p. To order please call 01903 828503 quoting ref QPG500
There are few sights more captivating than a colour-themed dahlia border in full throttle. And what better way to view them in all their myriad shapes and hues than at a dahlia festival? From village shows to open gardens, stately homes to nursery fields, there are dahlias blooming everywhere this month. The National Trust’s Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire has a particularly memorable dahlia border that begs a panoramic photo when you visit; similarly, Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire has a dahlia collection to die for; and the National Dahlia Society is holding its own dahlia show at RHS Garden Wisley in September, complete with judging and demonstrations. Dave Gillam, Chair of the Society, has plenty of good advice on how to keep dahlias looking fabulous.
“Generally the only thing dahlias don’t like is shade,” says Dave. “So, start by picking a sunny, open site. In winter, they can cope with cold and they can cope with wet, but not at the same time. So, if you have heavy soil but don’t want to lift them in autumn, the best bet is to create a slight mound at the bottom of their planting hole, so you’re raising the tuber above the natural water level. Add grit and plenty of organic matter when you plant, then in winter, simply cover the crown with straw as an organic mulch.
“In garden situations, it’s worth trying to leave them in the ground over winter. If they survive that first year, when the plants are at their smallest, you’ll have them for life. It’ll save an awful lot of time and effort lifting and storing them. Besides, many dahlias are lost through improper winter storage – for instance, don’t put them in plastic bags or leave them in wet compost.
“If you do decide to lift your tubers over winter, wake them up slowly in spring. Don’t plant them out until they’re showing actual signs of growth. Instead, plant the tubers in a pot on a warm windowsill and wait for them to show signs of life. Plant them out after the last frost and they’ll be in flower as early as June.”
Dave has being growing dahlias since he was 10 and regularly competes in the National Championships against around 200 other serious exhibition growers. “My secret is to give the plants what they need before they need it,” he says. “If they’re showing signs of stress it’s too late. You have to keep the soil constantly moist, control the number of flowers and keep their stems well supported: I use three canes in an inverted pyramid to give the flowers plenty of room.
“The hardest thing is getting them to flower at exactly the right time for exhibition. It’s a very concentrated effort – I grow about 460 dahlias on my allotment and I’m not allowed a hosepipe, so all the watering, as well as the weekly feeding, is done by watering can. But then, this is a Mexican plant that stores moisture in its tubers, so it can take pretty hot, dry conditions.”
Dave Gillam's Top Tips for better blooms
• STOPPING/TOPPING This is the act of removing the growing tip when the plant has 3-4 pairs of leaves (left). This makes for a stronger, bushier plant, triggering the next 6-8 shoots lower down the stem to start into growth.
• SIDESHOOTING This is when you remove the sideshoots lower down the stem to strengthen those that remain, so each stem only carries one main bud and flower.
• DISBUDDING This technique involves removing the ‘wingbuds’ on either side of the central flowerbud to make more space for the main flower, allowing it to reach its fullest potential size.
WHERE TO SEE DAHLIAS
ANGLESEY ABBEY Quy Road, Lode, Cambridgeshire CB25 9EJ l Dahlia displays from end Aug to mid-Sept. Adults £15; NT members free. 01223 810080; www.nationalturst.org.uk
THE SALUTATION Knightrider Street, Sandwich, Kent CT13 9EW l Displays, talks and demos. 15-16 September, 10am-4pm. Adults free. 01304 619919; www.the-salutation.com
CHENIES MANOR Chenies, Rickmansworth, WD3 6ER Rare and unusual cultivars to buy. 27 August, 2-5pm. Adults £6. 01494 762888; www.cheniesmanorhouse.co.uk
KELMARSH HALL Kelmarsh, Northampton NN6 9LY Tours, demos and dahlia clinic.
2 and 16 September, 11am-5pm. Adults £10. 01604 686543; www.kelmarsh.com
AYLETT NURSERIES North Orbital Road, St Albans AL2 1DH l Field trials and exhibition. 8-16 Sept, 10.30am-4.30pm. Adults free. 01727 822255; www.aylettnurseries.co.uk
NATIONAL DAHLIA SOCIETY SHOW RHS Wisley, GU23 6QB Exhibits and competitions. 4-7 Sept, 9am-5pm. Adults £14.50; RHS free. 01483 224234; www.rhs.org.uk
Ornamental grasses are enjoying a hey-day in modern garden design, adding romance, movement and special colour effects. Louise Curley nominates her top 10
1. Best for colour: Imperata cylindrica
For striking colour it’s hard to beat Japanese blood grass, with its narrow upright leaf blades that are green at the base becoming blood red and deep burgundy towards the tip. The leaves glow like flickering flames when backlit. It’s not completely hardy, so plant it in a sunny spot in well-drained soil and mulch in autumn. Or, grow in a container and bring under cover in winter. Plant with heleniums and rudbeckia or for a dramatic contrast alongside the blue-flowered hardy plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbago). H40cm (16in) S30cm (12in)
2. Best for height: Stipa gigantea
This statuesque grass has a delicate, transparent quality. Clumps of slender leaves grow to about 60cm (2ft) tall, then produce towering stems topped with delicate oat-like flowers from midsummer. Once the seeds have been shed the seed heads continue to look good well into winter. Plant so it can catch the sun; its golden seedheads will shimmer like gold. Clumps are hardy but need full sun and a light, well-drained soil. The leaves have sharp edges so wear gloves and long sleeves when handling. Comb through the plant in spring to remove dead foliage. H2.5m (8ft) S1.2m (4ft)
3. Best for seedheads: Chasmanthium latifoilum
A rarely grown grass that originates from North America where it’s also known as northern sea oats. Its loose clumps of broad leaves resemble bamboo, accompanied by masses of unusual flat flower heads that look as though they’re been pressed by an iron. The whole plant dries to a lovely rich russet brown colour in autumn. Cut back stems to ground level in early spring. It needs fertile soil that’s moist but well-drained in full sun. H1m (39in) S60cm (24in)
4. Best for screening: Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’
A stiff grass with an erect habit, which makes it perfect for use as a screening plant. Plant it in rows to create an unusual hedge. It’s one of the earliest grasses to start into growth in spring when slender green leaves and stems emerge followed by wispy, buff-coloured flowers. Will happily grow in full sun or light shade in most soils as long as they’re well-drained. The slender columns of bleached, straw-like stems stand well throughout winter. H1.8m (6ft) S60cm (24in)
5. Best for groundcover: Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’
This wonderful low-growing ornamental grass forms tumbling cascades of striped yellow and green leaves. It looks fabulous when planted in large drifts at the edge of a path or underneath trees and shrubs where it creates a soft floaty feel. Plant in well-drained soil in full sun or part shade - the leaves can develop red tints when grown in full sun. Cut back to the base in spring. H35cm (15in) S40cm (16in)
6. Best for fluffy flowers: Pennisetum villosum
A graceful plant with fine slender leaves and large, fluffy, caterpillar-like flowers. These whitish-green plumes take on purple tints as they mature. It’s a tender perennial that’s often grown as an annual. It may survive the winter in a mild area; plant in a sunny, well-drained location and add a mulch to protect its roots from the cold. It works well edging borders, but also makes a good container plant, which means it can be brought under cover in late autumn to protect from the worst of the winter cold and wet. H and S60cm (24in)
7. Best for stripes: Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’
An upright grass with a fountain shape thanks to its elegant arching stems and foliage. Its ‘zebra’ name comes from the cream horizontal stripes across its green leaves. This variegation is temperature dependent and usually appears in midsummer but the leaves can scorch in full sun, so plant in light shade. In hot summers silky, finger-like, coppery-pink flower spikes can appear. The foliage turns a tan colour in autumn. Cut down in late winter to allow new growth to appear. H1.2m (4ft) S45cm (18in)
8. Best for container growing: Festuca glauca
A compact grass that forms low-growing hummocks of grey-blue, needle-thin leaves that’s perfect for growing in containers. The evergreen foliage provides structure for container displays all year round. Flower spikes appear in summer and fade to brown. Comb through the plant in late winter to remove any dead foliage. Plant in spring with dainty white violas and dwarf white narcissus, then replace them with white or purple summer bedding and perennials such as salvias, Cosmos sonata and Bacopa ‘Snowflake. H30cm (12in) S25cm (10in)
9. Best for winter structure: Miscanthus sinensis ‘Malepartus’
A majestic plant that has fine arching green leaves with a white stripe down the centre and spectacular purplish-brown silky flowers that glisten in summer. Foliage turns a lovely russet brown in autumn and holds its shape into late winter when it can be cut down to the ground. Plant in blocks or drifts to form natural screens or as specimen plants in a border to add strong vertical shapes. Needs a sunny, open position and well-drained soil. H2m (7ft) S1.2m (4ft)
10. Best for movement: Hordeum jubatum
Foxtail barley is a short-lived perennial, but it can be treated as an annual and is easy to grow from seed. It will self-sow in free-draining soil in a warm, sunny position and produces delicate pale pink, silvery, barley-like flowers. Plant in drifts and the flowers will sway in the breeze creating attractive waves. Plants thrive in gravel gardens or at the front of a border where it can be interplanted among dainty plants that have an airy quality, such as Shirley poppies, love-in-a-mist or verbena ‘Lollipop’ – the shorter version of Verbena bonariensis. H60cm (24in) S30 (12in)
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Ergonomic wooden garden sauna lounger £59.99 (sale price) ManoMano www.manomano.co.uk
Home deck chair in Palm £34.99 Argos 0345 640 3030; www.argos.co.uk
Jagram Meltemi Long Rocking Lounger £512.99 Garden Site 0121 355 7701; www.gardensite.co.uk
Hanoi Adirondack chair in acacia £299 John Lewis 03456 049049; www.johnlewis.com
Keter Atlantic sunlounger £100.49 (sale price) Wellindal www.wellindal.co.uk
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Let your garden dictate what to grow, says Val Bourne. It’s the quick and easy way to happier, healthier plants
Plants are rather like people: they have particular preferences and needs. Put them in the wrong place and they look miserable and often succumb to stress and disease. My own Cotswold garden lies along a line of freshwater springs, so the soil’s moist and deep in certain places. These areas are perfect for moisture-loving plants such as Phlox paniculata. However silver-leaved plants such as santolina generally lack sparkle here so they’re tucked into the drier hot spots close to the house.
Every garden, however small, has a mix of different microclimates – whether it’s damp, shady or dry. These in turn are dictated by the geology underpinning the soil; soil depth and structure; geographic location; exposure to or shelter from drying winds; and the amount of sunlight received during the day. Each part of the garden can be completely different, so it really pays to spend time getting to know the conditions in each of your planting areas.
My south-facing garden gets a lot of sun throughout the day, but there are also shady spots under trees and shrubs that are the ideal place for spring woodlanders.
The south-western corner gets bathed in afternoon and evening sunshine, so this area is best for late-summer and autumn plants, which look their best backlit by the setting sun once the days shorten.
My hottest areas get day-long sunshine and this suits Mediterranean lavender, rosemary and thyme. Slightly tender plants such as Melianthus major (South African honey bush) and Miscanthus nepalensis, a frizzy grass that needs good winter drainage, are planted here too because the warmth of the house protects them from the worst of the cold weather.
Finding the right plant for each part of your garden is key. See if you can map out the sun’s path at different times of the day and year: certain shady borders may receive more sunlight in winter, while others might enjoy a little dappled summer sunshine once the canopy closes overhead.
The pH of your soil also dictates what does well for you. Certain plants thrive with their roots in acid soil, others love alkaline conditions. It’s worth visiting local gardens near your own, to see what plants do well there.
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Sock it to the neighbours with an outrageous clashing border, says Louise Curley. Go on, we dare you!
Orange and pink flowers offer the ultimate colour clash. They’re perfect if you long to break free from the tasteful pastels and bland monochromatic schemes that have come to dominate suburbia.
Bold colours have the ability to excite and stimulate, but for many of us the strength of these hues scares us. We’re unsure how to use them and worry that they seem a little brash. What will the neighbours think?
Frankly, our winters are long enough and grey enough for us to celebrate summer with vibrant colour. Take inspiration from the late Christopher Lloyd and his garden at Great Dixter in East Sussex where he experimented with colour to bold effect. He disregarded the ‘rules’ that he felt governed the use of colour and what he thought constituted ‘good taste’ in favour of a more adventurous approach to planting. In his book Cuttings: a year in the garden (2008) he wrote: “Are there colours that we must use together? I think not. Well-handled… any two colours can be pleasingly juxtaposed.” You don’t need to be Christopher Lloyd to have fun with colour and to partner plants that sizzle together. And if you’d rather take a few tentative steps, then try out these colours in container displays first to build your confidence.
Our favourite two-tone plants
Cottage garden fragrant climber. Happy in light shade in fertile, moist but well-drained soil. Fully hardy. Flowers July to October. H7m (22ft) S1m (39in)
Rose ‘Rosemary Harkness’
A hybrid tea rose with a bushy habit and strongly scented flowers. Blooms June to November. Thrives in full sun in fertile, moist soil that’s well-drained. H1m (39in) S70cm (27in)
Half-hardy shrub with exotic tubular flowers in fruit cocktail colours. Plant in sun or part shade. Grow in a container in John Innes No 3 compost. Move under cover in autumn. H1m (39in) S1.5m (5ft)
Dahlia ‘Totally Tangerine’
A fabulous showy anemone-flowered dahlia. Happy in most soils as long as well-drained. Needs full sun. H90cm (36in) S75cm (30in)
Zinnia ‘Zinderella Peach’
For a subtle mix try these salmon pink and peachy orange flowers. Sow direct in May into well-drained soil in full sun. H60cm (24in) S45cm (18in)
Antirrhinum ‘Orange Wonder’
Soft tones of rose-pink and orange. Needs sun and moist but well-drained soil. H90cm (36in) S45cm (18in)
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Get a head-start on April by filling borders with zingy-green perennials, tulips, flowering shrubs and leafy foliage plants. Val Bourne has some recommendations
April is a high-energy month, but it’s an unpredictable month as well. It’s a bit of a rollercoaster and flowers can be thin on the ground once the early daffodils, hellebores and crocuses have faded into distant memory. With summer-flowering perennials just about stirring, it’s important to plug the gaps with some April flowers. If you’re not sure what to plant, head to garden centres for inspiration, and read on...
Early April sees two of my favourite tulips looking their best. ‘Orange Emperor’ (a Fosteriana with languid soft-orange petals, shaded in pistachio-green) is lovely in pots or in the ground. It’s perennial, returning year after year, so an economical one to plant. Cut back to one leaf after flowering. ‘Daydream’ (a Darwin Hybrid) is a chameleon that opens to soft-yellow and then colours up to sunset shades. In the second half of April, Triumph tulips begin to open their thick-petalled, egg-shaped flowers. The purple ‘Negrita’, woven among the soft-mauve ‘Shirley’, is almost a garden cliche, but it works well round roses with a splash of copper-orange to pick up new rose foliage. The lily-flowered ‘Ballerina’, although a little later, overlaps and all three return year on year.
The pink and white forms of lamprocapnos (dicentra) is wonderful with pink tulips such as ‘Barcelona’. The white form, which is a weaker grower, could be used in shadier places with a green and white tulip such as ‘Spring Green’.
Create a woodland glade
The sun can still reach the ground under deciduous shrubs and trees in April, so woodland and shady plantings can keep going. In shadier areas the handsome hardy male fern, Dryopteris filix-mas, will unfurl its impressive fiddle-back crosiers even in dry shade. Their fronds stretch upwards just as our native English bluebells begin to turn blue. These natives hang their flowers on one side only, unlike upright Spanish bluebells, and the colour is far more intense. You can acquire Hyacinthoides non-scripta in the green from Peter Nyssen nurseries. Young ferns in smaller pots are easier to establish.
Add zingy acid greens
Add an electrifying touch of spring zing to your garden with Euphorbia epithymoides (formerly E. polychroma). It dies away in winter then revives in spring and produces a foot-high pouffe of acid-yellow that’s perfect with all blues including scillas and blue muscari.
Euphorbias persist for many weeks, because their so-called flowers are tough bracts. Keep them vigorous by cutting them back to the base after flowering and, if you can, take cuttings from the young basal growth. There are evergreen euphorbias for shade and they include Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’. This has beetroot-coloured foliage and lime-green flowers. Both these plants are clump-forming but some roam and Mrs Robb's Bonnet (Euphorbia amygdaloides robbiae) has a tendency to move on.
You’ll also get a bolt of golden light from a biennial called Smyrnium perfoliatum, which is an umbellifer (it has flat topped flowers). If you want to establish any biennial in your garden, plant some in three consecutive years and then leave it to self seed.
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Plant a chocolate feast for Easter. We pick our top 10 dramatic plants with delicious names. By Louise Midgley
Few can resist the lure of chocolate. It’s a heavenly edible that’s a feast for all the senses, with its distinctive aroma, velvety texture and addictive flavour. This spring, indulge your sweet tooth by creating a whole border full of plants infused with the sweet scent of cocoa or bestowed with deep, richly coloured foliage and flowers. After all, a garden would be extraordinarily bland if all the foliage was the same shade of green. It’s far better to plant an appealing mix of dark and light foliage and flower colours to create some definition and contrast between plants. A spectrum of mahogany, burgundy and dark chocolate tones provides a wonderful foil against which paler coloured flowers can radiate.
Here we’ve provided a delicious mixed assortment of rich, chocolatey plants to choose from, some with perfumes reminiscent of chocolate. Position them close to your favourite seating area and sit back and indulge in their delicious scent and beauty.
1. Cosmos atrosanguineus Chocolate cosmos unites the colour and heady fragrance of chocolate in one delectable plant. The deep maroon, long-stemmed flowers unleash a vanilla/chocolate aroma in the heat of the day. Plant in full sun for best effect. They prefer moist, well-drained soil and perform especially well in pots and containers with good compost. The tuberous plants are only half hardy and should be lifted at the end of the season and stored in a frost-free environment. H70cm (2ft 3in) S45cm (1ft 5in)
2. Akebia quinata Make use of a vertical space – perhaps a pergola or fence beside the patio – by growing this delicious chocolate vine. Sit out in the spring sunshine and savour the exotic spicy-chocolate aroma wafting from racemes of delicate plum coloured flowers. While this climber enjoys a small footprint on the ground, it will need space to climb, although some judicious pruning of mature plants in late spring will keep it in check. An easy plant, happy to establish in most soil types and in sun or shade. H10m (33ft) S2m (6ft 6in)
3. Heuchera ‘Chocolate Ruffles’ Now available in a veritable rainbow of colours, Heucheras have fast become indispensable groundcover plants for many gardeners. ‘Chocolate Ruffles’ forms a mound of heavily crimped burgundy leaves that reveal a silky, deep-purple underside. Creamy white, miniature bell flowers appear on purple stems in summer. More drought tolerant than other cultivars, this accommodating variety is happy in sun or part shade and robust enough to thrive in some degree of dry shade. H and S30cm (12in)
4. Aquilegia viridiflora ‘Chocolate Soldier’ This unique, dwarf columbine differs from its lofty cousins, not just in height but in its rare yet elegant colour combination. Its two-tone, chocolate brown nodding flowers are encased in green petals and topped with long graceful spurs, which emit a sweet fragrance from late spring to early summer. As with all aquilegias, it prefers deep rich, free-draining soil in full sun or dappled shade. Give this coveted little beauty a prime spot to be seen and appreciated while in flower. H30cm (12in) S25cm (10in)
5. Digitalis parviflora ‘Milk Chocolate’ Find space in sun or shade for this scrumptious perennial foxglove. It’s delightfully quirky but unlikely to be sold in your local garden centre. Seek it out from good plant sales or specialist nurseries online. Tiny, densely packed, chocolate-bronze trumpet-shaped blooms encircle a rigid spire that rises above glossy foliage and lasts from summer well into autumn. A real winner for pollinators, bees and butterflies and contented to grow in any garden soil. H60cm (24in) S30cm (12in)
6. Iris ‘Dutch Chocolate’ Luxuriate in the beauty of a flag iris in full flower. This exclusive variety flowers for longer than average and may re-flower if conditions are favourable. It boasts voluptuous blooms of ruffled petals in hues of chestnut and deep tan and is richly scented. Plant with the rhizomes slightly exposed in well-drained soil in full sun. The rhizomes need to be baked under the sun’s warmth to promote future flowers. H80cm (31in) S25cm (10in)
7. Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’ Breathe in the deliciously intense, chocolate fragrance of these summer-flowering dahlias as it floats far and wide in the breeze. Buds of these decorative dahlias open to reveal velvety flowers with deep crimson petals and an almost ebony centre. Dahlias are greedy feeders, need plenty of water and a position in full sun to continually produce new blooms from July until the first frosts. A good plant for attracting wildlife to your garden. H90cm (3ft) S45cm (18in)
8. Coleus ‘Chocolate Mint’ Coleus in their many flamboyant, colour combinations make great bedding plants or specimens for the conservatory in winter. The name of this little gem perfectly befits its cocoa-coloured foliage with mint green scalloped edges. As an ornamental member of the mint family, it will grow well in a shady or sunny, sheltered spot. Coleus grow into uniformly shaped plants, which make them ideal for edging a border or growing as stand-alone plants in containers. H35cm 14in S35cm 14in
9. Aquilegia ‘Roundway Chocolate’ Double blooms in tones of milk chocolate with a hint of ginger are highlighted above a froth of delicate grey/green ferny foliage. Flowering in late spring/early summer, aquilegias combine well with other cottage-garden plants and late-flowering spring bulbs. They relish dappled shade and nutritious soil, although will pop up in most garden environments. Remove faded flowers if you want to avoid a profusion of seedlings (which don’t always come true from seed). H60cm (24in) S30cm (12in)
10. Physocarpus ‘Diabolo Chocolate’ A striking, deciduous, ornamental shrub that thrives in the poorest of soils in sun, shade or even a tricky north-facing aspect. Its warm, mahogany foliage is greatly enhanced by a profusion of pretty white-blushed pink flowers in June and July, followed by equally attractive reddish-brown seeds. One of the easiest shrubs to grow, yet most rewarding in appearance. Should it outgrow its space, lightly prune immediately after flowering. Fully grown H2m (6ft) 6in S1.5m (5ft)
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