Category Archives: Getting to know your garden plants

Winter gardening..

I had to take a photo of the naked tree that looks so perfect, on the way to work:




I always thought, when I drove passed, that this was the most perfectly symmetrical tree. Today I stopped and took a couple of pics from different angles.  Alas no. Apparently nearly all trees grow more strongly on one side than the other, mainly due to the light conditions.

So not perfect at all, but great for helping one navigate? (I think they grow more strongly on the southern side)

First thing to do at the garden today was cutting back some ivy on the wall that definitely looked neglected (aha me thinks, great for christmas wreaths!) I then got stuck into cutting back the Hellebore leaves to reveal the beautiful flower buds emerging from the ground.

Hello! my pet robin brings me a worm


then eats it and is gone..


Not for long.  it sits on my bucket for a photo call


Wow, I really love this robin.

In the background are beautiful blue flowers in the shade. They really sing out in a dark corner.

The Vinca major (periwinkle) is flowering



Next stop, raising the canopy of the date palm (taking off the lower branches)





That fibrous trunk is fascinating.

It is now easier to weed beneath and dig out the bramble roots.

Digging up brambles is another great Winter job.  Satisfying to get the roots out and keeps you warm and that was it for the next 4 hours…

Where did the day go?



Paulownia tomentosa, the Empress or Foxglove Tree


The featured image is a full grown specimen of this tree. The photo above is one that I have grown from seed and is in the main border.

Obviously I do not want it to grow to full size here but it can be coppiced or pollarded so that it remains in scale with the other plants. When doing this in spring you lose the beautiful mauve foxglove type flowers it produces in favour of these huge dramatic soft leaves.

It is deciduous and a native of Japan where it is held in high esteem.

If allowed to flower it can self seed quite prolifically and grow in most types of soil,  so by preferring the foliage to the flowers is an advantage…

The not quite flowering yet Colchicum


No water, no soil – aren’t they great?!

Peonia mlokosewitschii or ‘Molly the Witch’

The eyes have it….

This is our earliest flowering peony with beautiful pale lemon flowers and now look whats happening to the seed heads??!!


It is so worth growing. This is how it looked on 5th May:

IMG_1606 IMG_1615

How to maintain some plants in a late summer border (2)

Alix demonstrates some maintenance procedures for August in this short video. Today we’re looking at Budleja,  Nepeta, Wisteria and


How to maintain a mixed border : Mid-Summer (1)

In this short video Alix demonstrates how to tend to various plants after flowering is over, including Aquilegia, Verbascum, Heuchera, Penstemon, Geranium, Yucca and Sisyrinchium, with a surprise ‘find’ at the end…

Wild and beautiful

No not me!
I am talking about the Martagon Lily. Flowering now, it can grow to 4 feet tall and have as many as 50 Turk’s cap flowers on each stem. They are various hues of white pink and mauve, some have spotted petals some without and they have a gentle sweet scent. They even enjoy growing in shady conditions aswell as full sun. I have picked 2 stems to photograph and press but they certainly look great naturalised in the grass under the trees.

Persicaria bistorta superbum

A fabulous perennial plant that looks great in a herbaceous border, flowering here with alliums or naturalised in the wild garden, happily nestling in with the grasses..IMG_0730

It reaches it’s peak at the end of May/beginning of June. The leaves and flowers then begin to die down and if you then cut it back to the ground, it will grow for a second flush later in the year.

Ground Elder

Ground Elder, the enemy
Ground Elder, the enemy

If I added up all the hours I have weeded out ground elder from the borders in the last 10 years, it would probably have been 5 of them, although I sincerely hope it only felt like that and was more like 1 year. If you don’t have it in your garden count yourself lucky. Whilst it can be quite satisfying pulling the roots out of the soil (thick white roots a bit like spaghetti), you also know they travel into and through all the other plants and downwards more than a metre. Realistically impossible to get rid of in an established border organically. All we can do is try and slow it down and pick it when we see it.

In contrast, the featured image is the gorgeous variegated ground elder. Beautiful in colouring and habit, as ground cover or as an edging plant. It also has dainty white flowers held in umbels above the leaves. Nor is it invasive at all. It is rarely found in Garden Centres though, as people just don’t trust it!

Forget-me-nots, beware

This week we have been pulling out all our forget-me-nots. Given all the rain we have had recently, they are satisfyingly easy to remove. Just gather all the stems together near the base, and yank.
Shake off the excess soil and throw the plants away (compost? well that depends on your composting skills! If you are good at composting and the heap gets very hot, it will kill the seeds. If the composting is poor you will be spreading the seeds all round the garden when spreading the compost).
During the removal process you will be shaking seed everywhere. This will germinate to provide hundreds more plants next year. You will also find plenty of the seed stuck to you and your gloves. I like to wear rubber gloves to do this as the seed doesn’t stick to them.
Pulling forget-me-nots can also cause skin irritation. My face often feels itchy so I rub my face on my jumper or back of my gloves and before I know it I am all red bothered and blotchy. Not very nice at the time but easily resolved by a good old soak in the bath or hot shower at the end of the day.