The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner creates tailor-made planting plans
The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner garden design software for creating tailor-made planting plans
The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner - the intelligent planting planner
The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner - the intelligent planting planner software
The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner - the intelligent planting planner software
The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner intelligent garden design software for creating tailor-made planting plans
The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner garden design software for creating tailor-made planting plans

Intelligent Garden Design Software

Blackberry Days

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

Last night, as dusk was falling, I took the dog for a walk across the fields. The intense heat of the day had mellowed to balmy warmth, a gentle breeze drifting across from the estuary.

The scorching Indian summer is confusing the seasons. It feels like a glorious day in the heat of summer, yet the fields are harvested, the leaves are turning and the hedges dripping with dusky sloes and jewel-like blackberries. My two columnar pear trees, Beurré Hardy and one Doyenné du Comice, are heavy with fruit. The step-over is keeping the family supplied with crisp, yellow-red Falstaff apples.

It’s tempting to head off to the seaside to take advantage of this late offering of sunshine. Or pull out the sunlounger and relax with a good book. Actually, I think I might go blackberry picking – I feel an apple and blackberry crumble coming on….
Blackberries

More Low Maintenance Plants

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

Need a Low Maintenance Planting Plan? Click here

Top marks to those easy-going plants which perform spectacularly and never ask for much in return. Here are some more of my favourite low maintenance plants.

  1. Tiarella ‘Iron Butterfly’
    A stunning, clump-forming perennial, with attractive foliage and sprays of delicate flowers. Tiny, starry, white flowers, opening from pink buds, are produced in late spring, sometimes followed by a second flush in summer. The gorgeous, deeply-lobed leaves are mid-green with maroon markings and provide useful ground cover in woodland conditions.
    tiarella easy care plant

    Tiarella

    Rudbeckia sullivantii Goldsturm easy care plant

    Rudbeckia sullivantii Goldsturm

  2. Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’
    A mass of golden, daisy-like flowerheads are carried on upright stems from late summer to mid-autumn. A superb, late-flowering perennial, the cheerful yellow rays surround prominent black-brown, cone-shaped discs.
  3. Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’
    Just remember to cut back last year’s old stems to ground level in early spring and this elegant ornamental grass takes care of itself for the rest of the year.
    Strongly upright in habit, the linear, dark green foliage, narrowly margined white, arches at the top to create a cascading effect. In autumn, the leaves take on russet tones before fading to buff.
  4. Miscanthus 'Morning Light' easy care plant

    Miscanthus 'Morning Light'

    Eschscholzia californica easy care plant

    Eschscholzia californica

  5. Eschscholzia californica
    Scatter a packet of California poppy seeds in mid-spring and year after year, these brightly coloured annuals, in shades of summer sunshine, will appear, above delicate, ferny, blue-green foliage.

Tips for Low Maintenance Gardens

Lawns

You could replace grassed areas with hard landscaping, but if that’s a step too far, then consider the following:

  • Limit the amount of lawn that will need regular mowing.
  • Keep the lawn free of objects or trees which will be time-consuming to move or mow around.
  • Use a lawnmower that mulches – i.e. one that cuts up clippings very finely and blows them back under the standing grass so that you do not have to empty grass boxes.
  • Lay a mowing strip – a hard edging of paving or brick – between borders and lawns.
Boundaries

How much time can you afford to spend maintaining your boundaries?

  • Walls require little routine maintenance, fences need treating with preservative on a fairly regular basis, hedges need trimming at least once a year.
  • Informal hedges are much less time-consuming than formal ones but will tend to spread and take up more space.
Informal hedging low maintenance

Informal hedging

Mulching

Mulching will keep the time spent on weeding and watering chores down.

  • Sheet mulches, such as black polythene, can be laid over well-prepared soil. Plants are planted through the sheet, which is then covered with a more attractive mulch such as gravel.
  • The sheet mulch will help prevent weeds from establishing around your planting. Unless the sheet is perforated or a permeable fabric is used, plants will need to be watered carefully, directing water at the base of each plant.
  • If you want to encourage self-sown seedlings, don’t use a sheet mulch. A layer of gravel or bark chippings will make it easier to pull up weeds and help conserve moisture, reducing the need for watering.
Irrigation

Consider setting up an irrigation system through your Planting Area.

  • You can purchase an irrigation system from garden centres or online. Once set up, it will substantially reduce the amount of time you will need to spend on watering chores.
  • Automatic watering kits usually consist of a network of tubing, which is laid amongst the plants in your border and hidden under a layer of soil or mulch, connected to an outside tap. You can buy starter kits which provide all the components for a particular size border or buy the items individually and make up your own system.
  • Combining an irrigation system with a timer provides the ultimate low maintenance watering option and it will also look after your garden while you are away.
Raised Beds

Introduce some raised planting areas into your garden.

  • Raised beds are easier to maintain especially for anyone who wants to restrict the amount of time they spend kneeling or bending over.

Making a Family Garden

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

Need a Family Friendly Planting Plan? Click here

Our garden has grown with us. Our youngest child was born within weeks of moving in and spent the first summer being pushed around an empty plot in her buggy. Heavy snowfall that winter meant that her brothers, bundled up in hats and scarves and huddled together on their toboggan, could be pulled up to the highest point of the garden before sailing back down again. Our newly-built house stood in its newly-laid-to-lawn garden, the blank walls bare and the fences freshly painted.

Geranium Johnson's Blue Family Garden Ideas

Choose easy-going, reliable plants like Geranium Johnson's Blue

With time, both house and garden settled in, became more lived-in and weathered, more distinctly ours. We dug out our first flower beds and filled skips with all the builders’ rubble which lurked beneath the layer of pristine turf. We planted climbers and watched them clamber upwards, softening the brick façade. A pergola was erected along the path of the toboggan run, which didn’t seem quite so steep and exciting after the age of four.

This was our first real garden and we were virgin gardeners. We gardened by torchlight when the children were sleeping. We devoured gardening books in any spare time and discovered more and more things that we didn’t know we didn’t know. We bemoaned the lack of a computer program which could juggle all our plant choices and come up with stylish planting plans, just for us – but we hadn’t developed it then, so we did everything the hard way, searching out plants to suit our soil type, our windswept location, our colour preferences. And also to suit our children!

Girl planting - ideas for family garden

Give your children their own pot to plant up and take care of

The only poisonous plants I could list were foxglove, deadly nightshade and laburnum. Oh and the evil-sounding monkshood. So, I wasn’t planning to include any of these in my first plant shopping list. But I discovered there were a whole host of plants waiting to attack my unsuspecting family! We had carefully child-proofed the house – cupboard locks, door stoppers, electric socket covers. Now we needed to do yet more research into garden safety.

The majority of garden plants are safe to handle. Many commonly grown plants may cause a mild stomach upset if ingested and/or skin irritation. Some are extremely unpleasant. All parts of the ubiquitous daffodil, for example, can cause severe discomfort if eaten.

Boy and sunflower family friendly gardens

Fast-growing sunflowers are great for family gardens

While our children were small, we made a conscious effort to exclude poisonous and prickly plants from our garden, but also to adopt the strategy of teaching them from an early age not to touch or eat any plant without checking with an adult first. Now that they’re all head-height or above, we can see that they weren’t small children for very long at all. I’ll probably get to claim my lawn back from under the trampoline soon but I’m beginning to feel that day will come far too soon for my liking.

Need a Family-friendly Planting Plan?

The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner makes it easy for you to create a family-friendly garden. The interactive gardening software designs all-season planting plans for your garden, tailored to your garden’s soil and light conditions.

Choose your favourite planting style (for example: cottage, contemporary, Mediterranean) and pick your colour scheme. Select the Family Garden option as an Additional Planting Requirement. The PlantingPlanner will draw up a planting plan, which is suitable for all family members.

Buddleja - family garden ideas

Plant Buddleja for butterfly-counting fun

Cosmos atrosanguineus family friendly garden design software

Try growing chocolate-scented Cosmos atrosanguineus

Tips for Family Friendly Gardens

As well as avoiding plants which are prickly or poisonous, the following notes may be useful if you want to create a safe environment for children to play, which also offers a pleasant and relaxing atmosphere for adults to enjoy.

  • Play areas for young children should be sited close to the house, though older children may appreciate adventure areas which are more secluded.
  • Think about incorporating hiding places, stepping stone pathways and routes around the garden for great Easter Egg Hunts and Hallowe’en fun.
  • If you intend to grow your own vegetables or have regular barbecues, plan these areas in from the start.
  • Think about water safety if you have or plan to incorporate ponds or water features into your design.
  • Don’t forget a patio for relaxing or eating outdoors.
    Children in tree family friendly garden

    Climbing trees

    Child in family friendly garden

    Picking buttercups is child's play

Forest Bells

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

The ancient bluebell woods in April and May are a quintessential feature of the British landscape. Dappled sunshine. The fresh spring green of the returning leaf canopy. A  purple haze, colour-washing the woodland floor.

Bluebell woods garden plans software
We were delighted to discover wild bluebells springing up in our hedgerow when we moved to our new home. The elegant, lavender-blue flowers are narrowly tubular, their petal tips recurving like the hat of a fairy elf. Sweetly scented, they are carried on one side of the flowering stem only, weighting the slender stem down so that it arches at the top.
Bluebell woods garden design software

It is the slight and stately stem
The blossom’s silvery blue
The buds hid like a sapphire gem
In sheaths of emerald hue

‘Tis these that breathe upon my heart
A calm and softening spell
That if it makes the tear-drop start
Has power to soothe as well.

The Bluebell – Emily Brontë

Bluebell woods garden plans software
In spring, bluebells can be found in many of the woods of North East Europe and they are a common sight in much of Britain and Ireland. They are glorious at the moment in the Forest of Dean where I live and the scent on the breeze is all-pervading. However, the species is globally threatened and has greatly declined over the past half century.

And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes

May Magnificat – Gerard Manley Hopkins

Common bluebell close-up garden plans software

Common bluebell

Spanish bluebells garden plans blog

Spanish bluebells

The common bluebell – Hyacinthoides non-scripta – is protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 but it is now under threat from hybridisation with the Spanish bluebell – Hyacinthoides hispanica, which is commonly planted in gardens.

When the Spanish bluebell escapes into the wild, it quickly hybridises with the native bluebell. Both the Spanish bluebell and its hybrids will out-compete the more delicate common bluebell.

Fact file : Hyacinthoides non-scripta

from the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner

An enchanting, bulbous perennial, flowering in spring.
The plant forms a clump of glossy, linear, dark green leaves.
Upright stems, arching at the tip, carry one-sided racemes of scented, purple-blue, narrow bell-like flowers, with cream anthers.


Common bluebell garden software blog

Planting

Plant bulbs 8cm (3in) deep in autumn. Add grit to heavy soil to improve drainage.

Cultivation

Ideally, plant in drifts in light shade in moist, well-drained soil.

Allow the plant to set seed for an even more impressive show the following year. Overcrowded clumps can be lifted and divided in summer.

Wildlife Interest

The flowers are attractive to bees and butterflies.

Notes

Hyacinthoides non-scripta can be distinguished from the Spanish bluebell – Hyacinthoides hispanica – and its hybrids by its narrower bells and leaves and arching stems. Hyacinthoides hispanica is more upright, with wider flowers. The common bluebell is also pleasantly scented, has flowers on one side of the stem only and has cream pollen. If the pollen is another colour, such as pale blue or green, then the plant is likely to be a hybrid. Make sure you look at recently opened flowers before the pollen has been shed.

Easter Parade

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

The glorious sunshine of the past few days has beckoned me out into the garden. It’s always a little sad to see the cheery daffodils going over. Like the earlier snowdrops, I watch for them with eager anticipation but they are over too swiftly. This time, though, even as I pinch off the dying flowers, I’m distracted by signs of growth all around me.

Everything happens so fast at this time of year – blink and you miss it. A few days ago, the view from one kitchen window was dominated by a magnificent Magnolia stellata, swathed in white flowers and looking as though someone had tied white ribbons to every branch. In the opposite direction, our Amelanchier canadensis was equally heavy with blossom. For a little while, every trip to the kitchen had me marvelling from each window in turn. Now, the ground beneath each small tree is scattered with petals. Already the display is waning.

Magnolia stellata garden software blog

Magnolia stellata

All around the garden, though, there’s a parade of Easter belles, ready for their turn in the limelight. So what’s next?
The flame-streaked Prinses Irene tulips are opening by the garage, their fiery colours contrasting vividly with the cobalt-blue of their ceramic pot. Waiting in the wings – in the border next to the fence, my very own Sissinghurst White Border – are the green-white buds of White Triumphator tulips, poised to open into elegant, pure white flowerheads with flaring petal-tips.
In the same border, white dicentra is in flower, pretty heart-shaped lockets strung along stems which arch over a mound of ferny foliage. So, too, are the drumstick primulas, spherical clusters of white with tiny yellow eyes.
Tulipa 'Prinses Irene' Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner garden software

Tulipa 'Prinses Irene'

Dicentra Garden Design Software Blog

Dicentra spectabilis f. alba

White primula garden software

Primula denticulata var. alba

Guarding the edge of my fruit bed is the step-over ‘Falstaff’ apple, where the deepest pink buds are opening daily to pink-flushed white apple blossom. In the summer, the raspberry canes will be shoulder-high here but for now, it’s the apple tree, underplanted with tufty purple chives, which catches the eye.

The charming downy-soft, pasque flower signals that Easter is just around the corner. There’s a good-sized clump here now and I have to resist the urge to stroke the softly furry, nodding purple heads as I pass. When Easter is over, I’ll have their silky, silver seedheads to look forward to.

Falstaff apple planting software

Falstaff step-over apple tree

Pasque flower bud Planting Planner blog

Pulsatilla vulgaris bud

Fact file : Pulsatilla vulgaris

from the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner

A delightful, spring-flowering perennial.

Pulsatilla vulgaris has finely dissected, light green, leaves, silky-hairy when young.

Softly hairy, flowers are carried in spring, upright at first then nodding as the flower ages. The pale to deep purple, bell-shaped flowers have a boss of yellow stamens surrounding a central, purple stigma.

They are succeeded by silky, fluffy seedheads.

Pulsatilla vulgaris Garden Design Software Blog

Pulsatilla vulgaris - the Pasque Flower

Cultivation

Pulsatilla vulgaris likes well-drained soil in full sun. It does not like being disturbed, so once planted, leave to settle in.

Where conditions are right, the plant may self-seed and provide a colony of these beautiful flowers.

Wildlife Interest

Pulsatilla is a useful source of early nectar for bees.

Marnie Easter blog, Garden Design Software

Marnie, our Easter Belle

Marnie Garden Design Software Blog

Marnie - bored already

Low Maintenance Gardening

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

Need a Low Maintenance Planting Plan? Click here

What I need is a full time gardener! Plus a cleaner, cook and handyman/woman. Then a nanny to take care of my children and present them to me, scrubbed and fed, for a goodnight hug.

No, not really. Like lots of people, I think I thrive on the adrenaline-fuelled daily adventure. Can I tick off all the jobs on my to-do list by bedtime? Not a chance! But for job-satisfaction, there has to be an element of manageability. The possibility that I can get through at least most of the essential tasks before the end of the day.

I love to race out into the garden and pit my weeding fork against the clock. I start off in early spring with the flower bed nearest the back door and work my way round. The weeds generally get the better of me, but that’ll be at the very top of the garden so I don’t mind so much!

So I don’t need a gardener, just a low-maintenance garden. One that’s fairly forgiving, so that if I neglect to prune or fertilise one year, I’ll get another chance next year. Where the perennials won’t flop in a sulk because I forgot to stake them early enough. Or the shrubs languish, leaf spotted and resentful. And while I’m more than happy with my stock of plants putting on a more impressive show year by year, I can’t be doing with vigorously self-seeding thugs romping their way through my borders and smothering everything in sight.

Here are some of my favourite undemanding plants. What are yours?

Easy-Care Plants

  1. Bulbs are fantastically easy to look after. Hardy, reliable bulbs which come up year after year include snowdrops, daffodils, aconites and crocuses. Narcissus ‘Thalia’ has nodding, slightly reflexed, soft white petals and cups, carried in pairs on each stem in mid-spring.
  2. Narcissus 'Thalia' Low Maintenance Garden Ideas Blog

    Narcissus 'Thalia'

    Ajuga and Galium Easy Care Garden Ideas Blog

    Ajuga and Galium - two gorgeous ground cover plants

  3. Ground cover plants hug the soil, suppressing weeds. Ajuga reptans is a creeping, evergreen perennial, spreading by means of rhizomes to form a mat of attractive foliage. Short spikes of deep blue flowers appear in late spring and early summer.
  4. Galium odoratum or  Sweet Woodruff is another superb ground cover plant, with the prettiest of fragrant, star-shaped white flowers from late spring to mid-summer. Whorls of bright green leaves make a low neat mat of foliage.
  5. The Mexican Orange Blossom – Choisya ternata – is a perfect choice for a low maintenance shrub – well-behaved and needing no pruning. Its glossy aromatic , leaves are evergreen, providing all year interest. White, starry, fragrant flowers, with delicate golden-yellow anthers, are borne in late spring and then, intermittently, through late summer and autumn.
  6. Choisya ternata Garden Plans Blog

    Choisya ternata

    Geranium phaeum 'Samobor' Easy Care Garden Plans

    Geranium phaeum 'Samobor'

  7. Hardy geraniums are versatile, reliable and attractive garden plants. Geranium phaeum ‘Samobor’ has distinctively marked leaves in dark chocolate. In late spring and early summer, clusters of dark maroon, reflexed flowers, with starry white centres, appear. Though tall, it usually grows well without the need for staking, particularly in informal areas of the garden.
  8. Trees are the ultimate low maintenance plant, once established in the garden. Amelanchier canadensis is a gorgeous small tree (or large shrub), with several seasons of interest in the garden. The oval leaves open reddish-brown, turning mid-green in summer and finally taking on orange and red autumn hues. In mid to late spring, a profusion of star-shaped white flowers appear. These are followed by small green berries, which turn red and finally blue-black in early summer.
Amelanchier canadensis Low Maintenance Garden Software Blog

Amelanchier canadensis - spring foliage and blossom

Need a Low Maintenance Planting Plan?

The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner makes it easy for you to create a low maintenance garden. The interactive gardening software designs all-season planting plans for your garden, tailored to your garden’s soil and light conditions.

Choose your favourite planting style (for example: cottage, contemporary, Mediterranean) and pick your colour scheme. Select the Low Maintenance option as an Additional Planting Requirement. The PlantingPlanner will draw up a planting plan, crammed with easy care plants, to help you create beautiful borders with minimum effort.

The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner for Easy-care Gardening

  • Chooses Easy-care Plants
  • When you select the Low Maintenance option, the PlantingPlanner will choose plants which do not need routine pruning, regular staking, spraying against disease and frequent dividing. Some plants which vigorously self-seed are also excluded.

  • Matches your Planting Conditions
  • You can waste a lot of time trying to keep plants happy that perhaps were never meant for your garden in the first place -planting a thirsty shrub in a dry eastern garden, for example, or an acid-loving plant on alkaline soil. The PlantingPlanner will always aim to satisfy your soil’s requirements, removing the need for you to continually try to change your conditions to suit the plants.

  • Provides a Graded Maintenance Schedule
  • For the time-pressed gardener, the maintenance schedule provided by the PlantingPlanner will provide a useful guide to prioritising garden jobs. Maintenance advice is provided for each selected plant and differentiates between significant, beneficial and low priority tasks.

Dog’s Tooth Violets

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

The morning’s forecast predicted rain but I raced the east-flying rain clouds and flew out into the garden for a spot of tidying up.

Just outside our back door, there’s a welcoming, little border, with pride of place taken by a Fuji Cherry. In a few weeks time, its twisting branches will carry a dazzling display of blush-white flowers, but for the moment, the buds are tightly furled and clinging to the bare branches.

Fuji cherry spring buds for garden software blog

Fuji cherry buds

At its feet, the Daphne odora is valiantly breaking into blossom. It’s only frost hardy and the last two winters have taken their toll. Some of the glossy, cream-margined leaves have been blackened by frost and others have given up the fight and lie, carpeting the soil.

The feathery green-blond flowerheads of the Stipa calamagrostis have long since faded to beige and the ground beneath is strewn with its straw debris.

It’s all a bit of a sorry sight.

I dug in with my trusty weeding fork, scrabbling amongst the couch grass which sneaks its way in when no-one’s looking. On hands and knees, there’s a whole new perspective opening up.

Poking up through the leaf litter are the green shoots of my Rip Van Winkle daffodils, with swelling buds soon to open into swirling, flouncy yellow-green petals. Downy growth in the Pulsatilla clump is just making its appearance, with the first fern-like green leaf stretching itself out.

Pulsatilla vulgaris for garden design ideas

Soft new growth on Pulsatilla vulgaris

Erythronium dens canis for garden design ideas

Emerging dog's tooth violets

And then, one after the other, I spot the shy little Dog’s Tooth Violets, their brown-mottled leaves camouflaged amongst the dead leaves and mud. The creamy buds emerge through the foliage, pointing straight up, but one or two have already stolen a march on the others and the slender, red stems have formed a perfect shepherd’s crook, with the buds nodding at its end. Now all I have to do is to keep watch so that I don’t miss the fleeting charm of their rose-pink turk’s cap flowers.
Erythronium dens-canis Planting Software Blog

Erythronium dens-canis

Fact file : Erythronium dens-canis

from the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner

An attractive tuberous perennial, flowering in spring, its long white tubers giving it its Latin name and the common name of Dog’s Tooth Violet.

Leaves are mid-green, mottled with a rich brown, forming a basal rosette. From the beginning of spring, upright stems, flushed red, appear; each carrying a solitary, nodding rose-pink flower, petals swept back to reveal yellow-tinted bases and prominent purple anthers.


Dog's Tooth Violets Garden Design Software Blog

Planting

Plant bulbs at least 10cm (4in) deep in autumn. Add grit to heavy soil to improve drainage. Bulbs should be kept slightly moist until planted.

Cultivation

Erythronium dens-canis enjoys shady, moist woodland conditions and can be naturalised in short grass. It dislikes being disturbed, so only divide when clumps become overcrowded. Division can be carried out after flowering, giving the leaves time to wither before digging up the clump.

Wildlife Interest

Useful for attracting early pollinating insects.

Making a Wildlife Garden

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

Need a Wildlife Friendly Planting Plan? Click here

As keen gardeners, one of our greatest pleasures is taking a morning stroll to admire the day-to-day changes in our patch of Eden. Soft, downy buds appearing on the Magnolia stellata – more numerous with each passing year, the bronzy, unfurling fronds of woodland-loving ferns, the exquisite scent of summer roses, evoking memories of crushing petals to make ‘perfume’ as a child in my grandfather’s garden.

But there is something even more special in observing others sharing our garden with us. Counting the different varieties of butterfly on the dancing clusters of lavender-pink Verbena bonariensis. The low buzz as you pass the lavender border. A thrush, driven by freezing temperatures, squeezing on to the bird table to enjoy its lunch.

Many gardeners are actively seeking out ways to help replace the habitats that have been destroyed over recent years. Private gardens in Britain cover well over 1 million acres, so it is hugely satisfying to know that efforts in our own gardens are contributing towards the conservation of our native wildlife.

And creating a haven for wildlife brings such rich rewards. Filling our garden borders with nectar-rich flowers and berrying shrubs are a delight for the gardener as much as for the consumer of their bounty. Providing valuable food sources at the beginning and end of the garden year – by planting early spring flowers and plants with late season seedheads and berries – carry the added bonus of supplying year-round interest in the garden.

Wildlife Friendly Plants

Betula pendula 'Fastigiata' Gardening Software Blog

1. Betula pendula 'Fastigiata'

  1. All trees encourage wildlife into the garden, attracting birds and bats, as well as pollinating insects. Beneficial fungi flourish among the tree roots, which help to improve soil fertility. The Silver Birch (Betula pendula) is a slender, deciduous tree with an elegant open habit, making it great for smaller gardens. It is recorded as supporting up to 229 different insect species and its seeds are loved by greenfinches, goldfinches, siskins and redpolls.
  2. Rosa rugosa is a vigorous wild rose, with dark green, wrinkled leaves and fragrant red, pink or white flowers. The flowers, with their contrasting yellow stamens, are produced throughout the summer and autumn, followed by a magnificent display of glistening cherry tomato-like hips.
    Rosa rugosa var. alba Gardening Software Blog

    2. Rosa rugosa var. alba

    The huge crop of hips is coveted by birds, particularly finches. When grown as a hedge, it provides hiding places throughout the year for small creatures.

    Knautia macedonica Gardening Software Blog

    3. Knautia macedonica

  3. Knautia macedonica is a versatile plant, equally suited to informal cottage gardens and more formal or contemporary styles. A profusion of deep crimson, pincushion-like flowerheads bob above narrow, branching stems all summer long and the round seedheads prolong the display. The flowers are a magnet for bees and butterflies.
  4. wildlife friendly plant lavandula Gardening Software Blog

    4. Lavandula angustifolia

  5. A traditional favourite, lavender is a bushy, evergreen shrub, grown for its wonderfully fragrant summer flowers and aromatic foliage. Lavender is rich in nectar and is well-loved by bees, as well as other friendly insects. Any seedheads left on the plant are attractive to finches.
  6. An elegant, ornamental, perennial grass, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Nippon’ puts on a year-round performance. Its linear, mid-green leaves have a narrow white midrib, taking on russet tones in autumn, before fading to buff.
    Wildlife Friendly Plant - Miscanthus sinensis Gardening Software Blog

    5. Miscanthus sinensis

    Late summer, and the feathery, reddish flowerheads appear, becoming silvery-beige as they fade to plumy seedheads. These persist through the winter, creating an attractive winter feature, while providing a late season feast for birds.

  7. The vigorous, sun-loving Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii) attract bees as well as  many varieties of butterfly.
    Wildlife Friendly Buddleja Gardening Software Blog

    6. Buddleja Royal Red - the aptly named Butterfly Bush

    Lance-shaped, grey-green leaves are produced on arching shoots. The honey-fragrant flowers, appearing on dense, drooping panicles in summer and autumn, are available in a range of enticing colours.

    Wildlife Friendly Plant - Hedera helix (Ivy flowers) Gardening Blog

    7. Ivy (Hedera helix) flowers

  8. Ivy is an indispensable plant for wildlife. Its year-round dense coverage provides nesting places for birds, especially wrens, and hiding places for insects and small mammals. On mature plants, spherical clusters of tiny, yellow-green flowers are produced in autumn, followed by black berries, providing late nectar for insects and berries for birds. Ivy is one of the main plant foods for the holly blue butterfly.
  9. Wildlife Friendly Plant Echinops bannaticus 'Taplow Blue' Gardening Software

    8. Echinops bannaticus 'Taplow Blue'

  10. An architectural beauty, Echinops bannaticus ‘Taplow Blue’ carries spherical steel-blue flowerheads on tall, woolly stems and gradually open to reveal bright blue starry flowers, beloved by bees. As the flowers go over, rub away the faded florets, leaving globes of seedheads to provide food for birds and an attractive winter feature.

Need a Wildlife Friendly Planting Plan?

The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner makes it easy for you to create a garden which is beneficial for wildlife. The interactive gardening software designs all-season planting plans for your garden, tailored to your garden’s soil and light conditions.

Choose your favourite planting style (for example: cottage, contemporary, Mediterranean) and pick your colour scheme. Select the Wildlife Garden option as an Additional Planting Requirement. The PlantingPlanner will draw up a planting plan, crammed with wildlife friendly plants, to help you create a haven for wildlife in your own back garden.

Tips for Wildlife Friendly Gardens

  • Hedges or groups of shrubs create shelter and safe corridors for small animals to travel along.
  • Leave the tidying up of perennials until spring to provide winter food and shelter for insects and small mammals.
  • Bird feeders, log piles, bat boxes and ladybird homes will be appreciated by your visitors.
  • Introducing a pond is one of the best ways to encourage wildlife into your garden, but water of any kind, from a water feature to a birdbath will be beneficial.
  • Think carefully about using chemicals to control pests and diseases – they will destroy indiscriminately, disrupting the food chain for beneficial visitors to the garden.
  • Don’t forget a bench in an unobtrusive corner to observe your wildlife haven.

Heralds of Spring

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

December’s snow and ice have given way to rain and mud here in the Forest of Dean and, while I’ll be more than happy to dig out the toboggans again if the weather turns Arctic once more, for the meantime I’ve been seduced into thinking that maybe spring is just around the corner.

A prowl around the garden and – yes, the first white bulbs are appearing amongst the green shoots along the hedgerow. The snowdrops – harbingers of spring – are well on their way.

Galanthus nivalis flore pleno Garden Planning Software

Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno'

From late January, gardens all around the country start welcoming visitors keen to take advantage of that brief time of year when the ground is carpeted with a blanket of snowdrops.

Family days out take some organising in our household, but last February, on a cold and rather grey winter’s day, a triumph of organisational skill culminated in the simultaneous arrival of children, dog and grandparents at Welford Park in Berkshire. We wandered through the Beech Wood and along the banks of the River Lambourn, trying to persuade Marnie the dog that taking a dip probably wasn’t advisable, and all the time, stretching out around us, lay vast swathes of white, as if a blanket of snow hugged the ground beneath the skeleton beeches.

The pure white snowdrop is such a simple, elegant flower. In huge, carpeting drifts, they are breathtaking.

Snowdrops Weatherstaff Planting Planner Garden Sofware

Welford Park, Berkshire

For details of this year’s opening times, visit www.welfordpark.co.uk

Try www.greatbritishgardens.co.uk/snowdrops.htm for gardens near you where you can view displays of snowdrops.

Fact file : Galanthus nivalis

from the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner

An elegant bulbous perennial, the herald of the new gardening year, which flowers bravely in the teeth of winter.

Slender arching stems, with linear, grey-green leaves, carry pure white, nodding flowers in winter and early spring. The fragrant flowers have 3 white outer tepals and 3 smaller inner tepals, white too but tipped with a green mark.


Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner plant fact file - garden plan software

Planting

Snowdrops are best planted ‘in the green’ – lift and divide plants as soon as they have finished flowering. Add grit to heavy soil to improve drainage.

Cultivation

Galanthus nivalis likes moist, well-drained soil in partial shade and will naturalise quickly when conditions are right.

Wildlife Interest

Useful for attracting early pollinating insects.

Chocolate Sloe Liqueurs

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

I’m reliably informed that sloe gin tastes better and better the longer you leave it, but that’s a theory I’m not in a position to test just yet.

The sloes we picked last October had been infusing the gin with their gorgeous berry flavours for three months when the serious business of bottling-for-Christmas began. The eclectic assortment of bottles looked beautiful – lined up with their home-made labels and colourful twirls of ribbon – and I was all set to become the family’s favourite person this festive season. But what to do with all those gloriously alcoholic sloes?

Bottles of Sloe Gin Blog Gardening Software

Inspiration lay with the pretty petit fours cases I’d once bought from Lakeland Limited in a fit of domestic goddessness. Here’s the recipe for achieving top present-giver status next Christmas:
  1. Destone the sloes – I crushed mine with the flat blade of a knife which worked quite well but it was a bit of a long-winded process and I did end up with purple finger nails. Any suggestions for more efficient destoning gratefully received.
  2. Place 3-4 sloes in a petit fours case and pour over melted dark chocolate. Leave to set.
  3. Divide up at a rate of one for each gift box and one for me, until you reach the end of your
    chocolate/sloes/patience.
  4. Bask in your new-found glory whilst sipping your reserved bottle of gin and tucking into deliciously boozy chocolate liqueurs.

Sloes in paper cases gardening software blogSloe chocolate liqueurs gardening software blog

We also sampled brandy-infused chocolate blackberries , which were rather wonderful too, but I wouldn’t recommend getting behind the wheel of a car after more than 2!
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