Long, narrow gardens and other awkward shapes

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

When is a triangle not a triangle?

Our main garden is an elongated, right-angled triangle, bordered by a wild hedge edging a country lane. When we first moved in, the entire garden was laid to lawn and could be viewed in all its triangular, tapering glory! Pythagoras might have been delighted with the opportunity to experiment with the properties of our triangle. We were more perplexed by the dilemma of how to make a triangle look more like a rectangle!

The newly divided and planted up garden from Weatherstaff garden design software
The newly divided and planted up garden

In our vast expanse of grassness, we were also keen to add interest by creating pathways and hidden areas, as well as planting up flower borders to soften the boundaries.

We ended up making the lawn area smaller, with a more curvy shape, by lopping off the tip of the triangle. We laid stepping stones to create a winding pathway up to the tip of the triangle and used taller planting to obscure the shape.

The planting has started to fill out - Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner blog
The planting has started to fill out.

As the planting started to become established, the stepping stones began to disappear into our secret garden.

Polystichum munitum, Myosotis sylvatica, the frosted foliage of Brunnera macrophylla Jack Frost and new buds opening on Centaurea monana - woodland plants from the Weatherstaff garden design software
Polystichum munitum, Myosotis sylvatica, the frosted foliage of Brunnera macrophylla Jack Frost and new buds opening on Centaurea monana

We planted a pair of columnar silver birches, their narrow lines perfect for small gardens, and used plants which naturally favour woodland conditions.

The tip of the triangle - landscape ideas from Weatherstaff
The tip of the triangle

It has become our wild area – not least because it’s not so visible from the house so is always last on the weeding list!

Spring flowers - landscape garden ideas from Weatherstaff
Spring flowers in the Secret Garden

This area of the garden is glorious in spring, when the aquilegias, candelabra primulas and forget-me-nots are all in flower. In summer, the geraniums, hydrangeas and persicaria do well.

I tried hostas up here, as they are a perfect choice for a shade garden, but they were too far from the house for me to remember to slug-proof them and I decided to move them nearer to the back door where I could keep a wary eye on them.

In need of a hair cut - garden ideas from Weatherstafff
In need of a hair cut

Over time, the shrubs have grown tall and the planting has become dense and overgrown. It’s definitely time for another make-over – or at least, a good sort-out and pruning session, but the basic structure and pathways are still good and I’m happy that the garden no longer looks too angular.

Disguising awkward shapes

Changing the shape of features such as lawns and planting areas can help disguise unusual shapes and smooth out sharp angles. Circles (or even octagons) make interesting lawn shapes as they create intriguingly-shaped borders around their edges and draw the eye away from the less-than-perfect outline.

Splitting up the overall garden into sections, especially where there is a journey to follow to reveal each part, can be a clever way to disguise an unusual shape.

Ideas for long, narrow gardens

I appreciate that dealing with a triangular garden is not a problem too many people have. A much more common garden shape is the long, narrow plot and the geometrical puzzle becomes how to make a narrow rectangle look like a circle – or even a square!

Painswick Rococo Garden, Glos - photo by Weatherstaff
A long straight path looks wonderful in Painswick Rococo Garden, Gloucestershire

If you have a grand estate to play with. long, straight vistas are rather wonderful. But in a ‘normal’ back garden, the idea is to break up the linear view.

You know the fashion advice – if you’re short and dumpy, vertical stripes are better; beanpoles look better proportioned if the stripes are horizontal. The same ploy works for gardens. For plots which are long and narrow, you need to trick the eye into looking from side to side, instead of along the length. (Of course, if your garden is wide and shallow, you can use the same tricks – this time emphasising the length instead of the width.)

Circular Garden
Photo by Green Tree Garden Design LtdMore rustic garden photos

So instead of laying a path which runs straight down the length of the garden, create sinuous, walkways, with interesting features along the way, to create different vantage points as you walk through the garden.

Diagonal lines - garden border ideas from Weatherstaff garden design software
Making use of the diagonal   ♦    Source

More ways to break up the linear look:

  • Place a path, seating area or pond widthways across the garden.
  • Lay an area of decking so that the planks lie across, instead of down the length of, the garden.
  • Set open spaces, like a lawn or sitting areas, on the diagonal.
  • Place large objects, such as urns or obelisks, at the edges of the plot.
Dividing up a long garden - garden design ideas from Weatherstaff
Dividing up a long garden    ♦  Source

Long gardens can benefit from being split into sections horizontally, with each section given its own distinctive role and style e.g. an alfresco dining area, a lawn area, the kitchen potager.

Clematis viticella Purpurea - garden sdesign ideas from Weatherstaff
Gorgeous Clematis viticella Purpurea clambers over an iron obelisk

Garden designers often recommend building in ‘obstructions’, to prevent the whole garden being seen at once. Try adding arches, obelisks or fencing panels, clothed with climbers, so that each section of the garden is revealed in turn. Tall planting can also be used in this way.

Choosing the right plants

Once you’ve got the basic structure right, it’s time to think about updating tired garden borders or choosing plants for new flower beds. For plantaholics, that’s where the fun begins!

If you need help selecting plants to make a stylish border, you could try The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner. This interactive gardening software designs all-season planting plans, choosing plants which are tailored to your garden’s growing conditions. You can satisfy your inner garden designer by tweaking and modifying each plan until it is just how you want it to look!

Find out more here.

Happy gardening!

The Weatherstaff Team

A Crescendo of Crocuses

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

What’s the collective noun for a group of crocuses? A cluster, a crowd, a colony? A swathe, a dazzle, a drift?

Spring Crocuses - from the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner
Spring Crocuses

On a bright, chill-nipped, late-February afternoon in Cannizaro Park, the word which comes to mind is crescendo – the pale buds, pushing up in clumps through the crumpled dead leaves and winter mud-brown soil, gradually increasing in number and intensity of colour, spilling across the grassy borders, unfurling to reveal orange stamen and deep purple petals, peaking at the very moment I reach the park gates!

The cheerful little crocus - spring garden border idea from the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner
The cheerful little crocus

Cannizaro Park is a 34-acre Grade II* listed English Heritage garden, to the south of Wimbledon Common. A private garden for 300 years, it was acquired by Wimbledon Borough Council, now London Borough of Merton, in 1948 and a short time after, opened to the public.

Crocuses - from the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner
A crescendo of crocuses at Cannizaro Park

The stately home it surrounds is now a hotel and the gardens provide the backdrop to many wedding reception photographs. A little later, and it will be transformed by the mass of blossoms in the azalea dell and then the brightly coloured summer bedding in the formal Sunken Garden, but for now, the crocuses hold sway.

Sunken Garden in Winter - from the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner
Sunken Garden in Winter
Sunken Garden in Late Spring - from the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner
Sunken Garden in Late Spring   ♦ Source
Diana and the Fawn - at Cannizaro Park
Diana and the Fawn

The statue of Diana and the Fawn, originally from a Sicilian villa, can be found at the north-western tip of the park.

Rhododendron - flowering in Cannizaro Park - from the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner
Rhododendron – flowering in Cannizaro Park

Lady Jane’s Wood is known for its collection of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias. Here, only a few are flowering just yet but the plump buds hint at lots more to come. Walking through the dark azalea dell, with London’s emerald parakeets screeching overhead, it felt very much as if I was exploring a tropical rainforest!

Wild parakeet - from Weatherstaff
Wild parakeet in Margravine Cemetery
Squirrel at Margravine Cemetery, London
A curious squirrel

The next day, I had a close-up view of the ubiquitous exotic parakeet – this time in Margravine Cemetery. In fact, I felt a little like Francis of Assisi, surrounded as I was by curious and hungry squirrels and pigeons.

Crocuses and memorial stones
Crocuses and memorial stones

Margravine Cemetery is just around the corner from Barons Court tube station and forms part of the Barons Court Conservation area. It was opened in 1869 in response to a shortage of burial plots caused by outbreaks of cholera, and became a Garden of Rest in 1951.

Nowadays, it is a peaceful, atmospheric mix of wildflower-rich grassland and ancient gravestones.

Snowdrops and gravestones
Snowdrops and gravestones

Like the Friends of Cannizaro Park, the Friends of Margravine Cemetery are a voluntary organisation dedicated to improving and supporting the gardens. In 2016, they entered the Cemetery into the London in Bloom awards gaining ‘Outstanding’ in the ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ category, and a silver-gilt in the ‘Our Community’ award.

Crocuses at Margravine Cemetery
Crocuses at Margravine Cemetery

It’s not surprising then that the crocuses are magnificent here as well. As the earlier-flowering snowdrops fade, the crocuses push up, pooling around tree trunks and lining the pathways with a sea of delicate purple.

The Weatherstaff Team

On a Hunt for Winter Colour

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

Winter is not all bare branches and empty garden borders! Camera in hand, I set myself the challenge of tracking down plants which brighten up the dead days of winter.

Even when frosted with ice or with a sprinkling of snow, holly can be relied on to provide deep greens and rich red berries. Ivy and mistletoe complete the trio of festive evergreens.

In the medieval, walled town of Pérouges, in eastern France, I spotted a collection of window boxes which combined Christmas baubles and pine cones with winter pansies and cyclamen. When it’s time to take down the Christmas decorations, the pansies and cyclamen continue to brighten up the window sills.

Medieval Perouges
Sweetcorn and baubles

Decorating the house walls above them, traditional bunches of sweetcorn, together with gold and red baubles, were tied onto the winter vines, adding a splash of vibrant colour amongst the fading vines.

Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis Rosea' - winter ideas from Weatherstaff
Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’

By early January, the spidery flowers of Hamamelis x intermedia are starting to appear, while the delicate pink blossoms of Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’ – the winter flowering cherry – appear in mild spells throughout the winter months.

Mahonia for winter garden borders
Mahonia japonica ‘Hivernant’

Mahonia is a useful winter plant with evergreen leaves and fragrant lemon-yellow flowers. Winter jasmine – Jasminum nudiflorum – is a vigorous climber, with yellow flowers providing a cheery sight on grey days.

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ carries pretty, pink flowers for months through autumn and winter, while the peony-like ruffles of Camellia provide handsome clusters of colour in late winter and early spring.

Camellia williamsii 'Donation' - winter flowering plants from the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner
Camellia williamsii ‘Donation’

And with snowdrops starting to open and green shoots of early-flowering daffodils poking up from the ground,it will be spring before we know it!

The Weatherstaff Team

5 Easy Containers for Stunning Winter Colour

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

With leaden skies and the days getting shorter and colder, it was time to inject a splash of colour on our front door step!

Container for winter interest
Planting up a container for winter colour

1. Skimmia, heuchera and winter pansies

A trip to the local garden centre is a great pick-me-up at any time of year, but on a chilly November day it was a heart-warming experience! Fairy lights twinkled and deliciously cute, fluffy rabbits waved from their glittery warrens as I passed through the Christmas grotto and out into the plant sales area. Of course, there wasn’t the huge array of colourful flowers you’d find at other times of the year. Still, there was plenty of choice for garden lovers hoping to cheer up their winter flower beds – or front door steps!

Pots of young trees and evergreen topiary are superb for creating structure at the time of year when many of the perennials are fast retreating underground. I also spotted a good selection of autumn/winter flowering and berrying shrubs. These included both white and red berried Gaultheria and Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii ‘Profusion’, which has colourful autumn leaves and violet berries.

Callicarpa berries for autumn colour
Callicarpa berries

Plants don’t grow much during the winter months, so to make an immediate impact, it’s important to choose enough plants to look good right from the start. The first step is to choose the focus plant. After that, it’s relatively easy to create an effective arrangement – just keep pottering around the shelves, picking out plants and trying out different groupings, until you find the perfect combination!

For structure, I chose a striking Skimmia japonica, dripping with red flower buds, together with a couple of ornamental grasses. I picked up a heuchera with dark purple evergreen foliage, which would look stunning in my slate grey pot. It wasn’t labelled so I’ll have to wait till summer to find out what the flower looks like! Finally, a collection of winter pansies found its way into my trolley. There was a huge choice of cheerful colours, both single and bi-coloured, but I liked the sultry deep red-purple ones, that complemented the other plants in my trolley.

Back in the warmth again, I got side-tracked on the way to the till by the spring bulb collections and ended up throwing in a packet of Narcissus ‘Tête-à-Tête’, which also included some free Iris reticulata bulbs. Narcissus ‘Tête-à-Tête’ only grows to about 15cm so is perfect for small pots. It has slightly reflexed, golden petals, with deeper golden cups. Twin flowers, sometimes triplets, are carried on each stem in early spring. The beautiful iris reticulata flowers in late winter to early spring, growing to 12cm high.

Planting idea for winter flower beds and containers
Getting ready to plant
Skimmia japonica 'Rubella' - for winter colour
Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ – the centrepiece plant

Planting Time
I found some small stones to sit over the pot’s drainage holes, to prevent them from getting clogged up with soil, and added a layer of compost. Then it was time to be creative. The Skimmia japonica went in at the back, flanked by the two grasses.

Adding bulbs to winter containers
Adding bulbs to winter pots

Before adding the smaller plants, I planted a handful of the bulbs as deeply as I could. Bulbs need to be planted at 2-3 times their depth and one bulb width apart. My container wasn’t as deep as I would have liked, but I’ll hope for the best!

Winter pansies for flower beds and containers
Squeezing in the winter pansies

To finish off my winter pot, I added the remaining plants. The heuchera went in front of the skimmia and the pansies squeezed in around the edge, where I hope they will flower their little socks off in milder spells throughout the winter.

Skimmia, heuchera and pansies for winter interest
Skimmia, heuchera and winter pansies

2. A collection of winter interest shrubs with white Helleborus niger

Winter shrubs with Helleborus niger - winter container ideas
Winter shrubs with Helleborus niger

Gaultheria’s red berries, purple-red Skimmia flower buds and the fiery winter foliage of evergreen Nandina domestica line this weathered stone trough. Trailing variegated ivy softens the edges while the Christmas rose (Helleborus niger) adds a splash of winter white.


3. Cyclamen, Senecio cineraria ‘Silver Dust’ and Gaultheria mucronata ‘Pink Pearl’

Cyclamen, Senecio cineraria and Gaultheria mucronata - ideas for winter garden borders and containers
Cyclamen, Senecio cineraria and Gaultheria mucronata

Gaultheria is an acid-loving plant, so to do well will need ericaceous compost. It’s easy to give plants the conditions they need in containers, so if you love a plant that won’t survive in your garden soil, planting up a container is a good way to fit it in.
Senecio cineraria and cyclamen are happy in all soil types, so they make good companions for the Gaultheria. Not all cyclamens are hardy, so it’s best to choose hardy Cyclamen hederifolium or Cyclamen coum for your winter pots.


4. Ornamental cabbage, cyclamen and heathers

Ornamental cabbages in a winter display from Weatherstaff
Ornamental cabbages in a winter display

There were plenty of ornamental cabbages in the garden centre, which I passed by without too much hesitation. They just seemed a bit too clunky for my liking. However, in this collection of winter containers, the delicate spires of heather and the fine filigree of senecio balance the heavier purple cabbages. The cyclamens and ivy help to tie the display together.


5. Evergreen topiary

Topiary for year round interest
Topiary provides year round interest
Box topiary for winter interest in garden borders and containers
Box topiary

For the easiest of winter pots, try some box balls, cones or pyramids. Box (Buxus sempervirens) grows from mid-spring to early summer. It will need trimming in mid-summer to maintain its elegant shape but will provide year-round structure in the garden.

Looking for more ideas? The RHS has more advice here on suitable plants for winter containers.

Tips for Winter Containers

  • Plants don’t need feeding in the winter months, but they will need watering in dry, mild spells.
  • Standing pots on bricks or pot feet will improve drainage and may help protect pots from cracking in icy conditions.
  • Deadhead flowers when necessary.
  • Place the container where it will get the best of the winter sun. In severe weather, move pots to a sheltered spot or wrap in horticultural fleece or bubble wrap.
The Weatherstaff Team

Autumn Colours

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

Need a Planting Plan for Autumn Colour? Click here

Autumn Leaves - Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner
Autumn Leaves
Sorbus commixta autumn gardens
Sorbus commixta – autumn foliage and berries

The trees are looking spectacular at the moment and it’s hard to resist taking yet another photograph of the glowing colours at canopy level. But down on the ground, there are some hardy perennials which are still flowering their socks off!

Here’s my choice for the best 5 perennials for autumn colour.


These are stunning perennials with daisy-like flowers on an upright, clump-forming plant. They flower profusely from mid-summer into the autumn.

Helenium Moerheim Beauty for autumn garden borders
Helenium Moerheim Beauty

Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’ has glorious autumnal colours – fiery orange-red rays surrounding a velvety brown central disc. The rays reflex strongly as the flowers age. It has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Helenium Pipsqueak for autumn flower beds
Helenium Pipsqueak

‘Pipsqueak’ has yellow rays surrounding a velvety yellow and brown central disc. The rays are relatively short and reflex very strongly, giving extra prominence to the central cone.

Helenium Waldtraut for autumn flower beds
Helenium Waldtraut

Another award-winning Helenium is ‘Waldtraut’. The flowers have a velvety brown central disc, surrounded by coppery-orange rays, streaked yellow.

Helenium appreciates moist, well-drained soil in full sun. Cutting back the stems towards the end of May by about one-third should promote better flowering on more compact plants.

Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’

A superb, late-flowering perennial, spreading slowly by means of rhizomes.

Rudbeckia sullivantii Goldsturm autumn garden borders
Rudbeckia sullivantii Goldsturm

A mass of golden, daisy-like flowerheads are carried on upright stems from late summer to mid-autumn. The flowers have prominent black-brown, cone-shaped discs. These become an interesting feature in their own right when the glorious, yellow ray-florets have fallen.

Rudbeckia likes moist, well-drained soil in sun or part-shade. Divide every 4-5 years to maintain vigour. Like Helenium, these too can be cut back at the end of May to encourage flowering.

Anemone x hybrida

Japanese anemones are vigorous, upright, perennials, bearing numerous flowers in late-summer to mid-autumn.

Japanese Anemone for autumn borders
Japanese Anemone

Anemone x hybrida ‘Königin Charlotte’ has soft pink flowers, while ‘Honorine Jobert’ has pure white, single flowers, with rich yellow stamens.

Honorine Jobert - autumn flower beds
Anemone x hybrida Honorine Jobert

Happy in moist soil in sun or part shade, japanese anemones will spread to cover bare soil. Pull up rooted suckers to curtail its spread.

Michaelmas daisies

29th September is Michaelmas Day, the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel. The Michaelmas daisies flower around this time, with sprays of daisy-like flowerheads from late-summer to mid-autumn.

Michaelmas Daisies for autumn garden beds
Michaelmas Daisies

Many suffer from powdery mildew, so look out for Aster novae-angliae varieties, which have relatively good mildew resistance.

Aster pyrenaeus Lutetia autumn flower beds
Aster pyrenaeus Lutetia

My favourites are the starry, pale lilac flowers of Aster pyrenaeus ‘Lutetia’, and, as an added bonus, they are completely resistant to powdery mildew. A great late flowering garden plant.

Sedum telephium

The sedums also bring interest to autumn flower beds, with the colours often getting better and better as the season passes.

Sedum telephium Munstead Red for autumn border designs
Sedum telephium Munstead Red

From late summer to mid-autumn, Sedum telephium ‘Munstead Red’ has clusters of starry, deep pink flowers, with purple-red centres, darkening with age. The upright plant has green leaves, flushed purple, on bright red stems. Seedheads persist over winter, prolonging the season of interest.

Sedum Purple Emperor - autumn perennial
Sedum Purple Emperor

‘Purple Emperor’ has pale pink flowers, with deeper pink centres, while the dark red-purple leaves on ruby-red stems bring a royal richness to garden borders.

Sedum telephium Matrona autumn perennial
Sedum telephium Matrona

‘Matrona’ has pale pink flowers, with rose-pink centres. Green leaves, flushed purple, are carried on bright red stems.

Sedum telephium subsp. maximum ‘Atropurpureum’ has pink-white flowers, contrasting with dark purple leaves on purple stems. It has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

Sedums like well-drained, neutral to slightly alkaline soil in full sun. They perform well in poor or moderately fertile soil, as richer soil conditions encourage foliage growth rather than flowering.

Need a Planting Plan for Autumn Colour?

When planting up a garden border, it’s easy to end up with a one-season wonder. The flower beds are a delight in spring or early summer, but tail off at the end of the main flowering season. It can be hard to juggle all the factors which contribute to make a cohesive, all year round planting plan – finding plants which provide structure and interest in all seasons, complement each other, as well as thrive in the particular conditions you have in your own patch of earth.

The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner does all this for you, making it easy for you to create garden borders with all year round interest. Enter details of your garden’s soil and light conditions, choose your favourite planting style (for example: cottage or contemporary) and pick your colour scheme. The intelligent garden design software will create a planting plan which is tailor-made for you.

You can regenerate a plan or tweak it to add personal favourites. Let it bring out the designer in you, as you experiment with different colour combinations or scroll through the list of suggested plants to further personalise your design.

Autumn gardens @ uk.pinterest.com/plantingplanner

For more inspiration for your autumn borders, click here to follow the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner on Pinterest.

The PlantingPlanner can also be added to your ‘gardening gifts’ list. Read: Four compelling reasons why the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner is the ideal Garden Gift.

The Weatherstaff Team

Street Flowers in France

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software
Displays of flowers - border ideas
Displays of flowers in a French town
Mediterranean flowerpots - garden ideas
Mediterranean flowerpots

There are some things the French seem to do effortlessly. Crème de cassis and white wine. Raspberry tarts. Shabby chic. The careless and uncontrived juxtaposition of faded elegance and modern buildings.

And what is it about the French and flowers? Their streets are a blaze of carefully designed colour and a visit to a public park feels like an outing to the botanical gardens.

Contrasting textures in a planting plan
Contrasting textures

Grasses and sedges add movement and airiness to the designs. In a park near the railway station, fluffy lagurus ovatus contrasts with statuesque canna leaves. The pretty, delicate Gaura lindheimeri adds a light touch to many of the flowerbeds. I want to whip out my camera and analyse the plant combinations.

Gaura lindheimerifor summer borders
Waving Gaura lindheimeri features in many of the planting plans
Roundabout Planting Plans
Roundabout Planting Plans

At every roundabout, there’s a new combination of flowers to admire. It’s hard to resist pulling up and leaping out of the car to admire the planting plans close up.

Street planting - border ideas
Street planting

Outside the Hôtel de Ville, vertical height lends structure to the schemes, while the vibrantly contrasting rich purples and yellows are a source of inspiration for flower beds anywhere.

Vibrant colour choices for flower bed ideas
Vibrant colour choices

Perhaps it’s the French sense of style? Certainly, their street containers are so much more than an attempt to add a splash of colour. The designs are vibrant and contemporary, but there’s a restrained colour palette which avoids the often garish effect of summer bedding in some of our British parks. There’s no hint of municipal planting here – just a careful mix of perennials and shrubs that would look at home in someone’s back yard.

The Weatherstaff Team

Style Guide – Cottage Gardens Part 4

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

If you love charm over elegance, profusion over minimalism, natural haphazardness over control and order, the chances are that you love the cottage garden style.

Read: Style Guide – Cottage Gardens Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Annuals and Self-Seeders

Cottage gardens are all about abundance of planting and random drifts of colour. Ground covering plants weave through the planting, spilling over border edges and stitching everything together. In the same way, scattering the seeds of annuals amongst the permanent planting will plug any gaps and contribute to the random charm of the design.

Annuals are plants which germinate, flower and set seed all in one year. They die after flowering, but many will helpfully self-seed leaving a new generation of flowers to appear the following spring.

Self-seeding poppies for your garden borders
Poppies self-seed delightfully and add a splash of scattered vibrancy to borders.

Annuals are perfect for a high-impact quick burst of colour. They are fast-growers and, because packets of seeds are inexpensive, can cover a big area at a low cost. Ones that will grow directly where they are scattered are the easiest option.

Hardy annuals can be sown in the autumn to get off to a flying start the following spring. Half-hardy ones can’t take the cold. They can be sown indoors in spring, but you will need to wait until the frosts are past before planting them out in the garden. Or you can sow them directly in the garden when there is no more risk of frost, but they will take a little longer before they start to flower.

Eschscholzia californica is the state flower of California, flowering prolifically in shades of gold, orange and red, with finely dissected blue-green foliage.
They seem to have far too many letters in their name, but are one of the easiest annuals to grow. (They are grown as annuals in temperate climates, but considered a perennial in hot areas.) Tolerant of heat, drought and poor soil, these sunny little flowers bloom all summer long and are a magnet for bees and butterflies. Removing the flowers as they go over, encourages the plant to continue flowering. Leave the last flowerheads on the plant at the end of the flowering season, to allow it to self-seed.

Eschschlozia mexicana - for a cottage garden landscaping design
Eschschlozia mexicana Sun Shades

The flowers in my garden are E. californica subsp. Mexicana, the Mexican Gold Poppy. They have masses of silky flowers, which are often two-tone, with the golden centre slightly darker than the outer edge of the petal.

Poached egg plant (Limnanthes douglasii)  - flower bed ideas
Poached egg plant (Limnanthes douglasii)

Limnanthes douglasii, poached egg plant, has pretty yellow and white flowers. It self-seeds freely and is also attractive to pollinators, so is a good choice for cottage gardens. It will naturalise around the garden, providing useful ground cover. It has been granted the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) by The Royal Horticultural Society.

 Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) for flower borders
Hardy annual – Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena)

Nigella damascena is the prettiest of annuals. The flowers float in a delicate mist of ferny foliage, giving it the common name of Love-in-a-Mist. Though most usual in its blue variety, seed mixes often include pink and white flowers. Nigella will self-seed readily and is attractive to wildlife.

Annual cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) - cottage garden border ideas
Annual cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)

The annual cornflower, Centaurea cyanus, carries ruffled flowers in shades of blue red, pink, and white. Deadhead flowers as they go over to prolong flowering, leaving those at the end of the season to develop seedheads to provide food for birds. Check out Centaurea cyanus ‘Blue Boy’, which is a large-flowered cornflower in traditional bright blue. Taller varieties may need staking in exposed areas.

Look out for packets of bee flower mix, which are perfect for a cottage garden. These are seeds of nectar and pollen rich wildflowers, which not only fill in any gaps in your borders but also encourage native bees and other pollinators.


Well, maybe not total self-sufficiency unless you have space for chickens and a pig or two – but you can make a stab at it by mingling fruit and vegetables in with your ornamental flowers. Grow runner beans up willow obelisks, strawberries in pots, tomatoes in growbags. Potatoes, carrots, courgettes, colourful peppers and lettuces can all be grown in containers, so can be squeezed in to any free spaces in the garden.

A pear tree trained to form an espalier - garden design idea for a kitchen garden
A pear tree trained as an espalier

Fruit trees can be grown on dwarf rootstocks, which will stunt their growth, or prune trees to form single cordons, fans, and espaliers. I have a step-over apple in my garden and a small number of columnar fruit trees, which grow to only 1.8-2.4m (6-8ft) tall.

Rosemary - herbs in pots for a cottage garden
Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Sissinghurst Blue’

Don’t forget a ready-to-grab clutch of herbs near the kitchen door. Grow a collection of your favourites in pots – rosemary, mint, chives, thyme, sweet basil and coriander – for adding flavour to your winter casseroles or summer salads.

Sweet basil complement tomatoes beautifully. Scatter torn basil leaves over the top of a tomato and mozzarella salad, with a splash of balsamic vinegar and oil. Or rub cut garlic over a slice of grilled baguette, add a dash of olive oil, freshly chopped tomatoes and basil for a fantastic tomato bruschetta lunch.

Rosemary is the most useful herb I grow, as it is evergreen and can be harvested all year round. One of our favourite family meal is lamb chump chops with tomatoes, courgettes and a handful of aromatic rosemary.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Purpureum) - garden design ideas for a herb garden
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Purpureum)

I also love fennel – Foeniculum vulgare – an aniseed-scented herb with umbels of yellow flowers. This tall Mediterranean plant has finely dissected leaves which can be sprinkled over pork, fish or used in salads. It also looks pretty fantastic!

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) - design idea for a herb garden
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

Chives (allium schoenoprasum) are easy to grow and make a great addition to salads, soups and omelettes. They have a slight onion flavour, so are perfect for sprinkling over potato salad. The honey-scented flowers are also edible and can be added to salads.

And the most important thing to remember when planning what herbs, fruit and vegetables to fit into your cottage garden? Only grow what you most like to eat!

Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner Landscape Design Software

Need a Cottage Garden Planting Plan?

The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner makes it easy for you to create a cottage garden style border.

The interactive gardening software designs all-season planting plans, tailored to your garden’s soil and light conditions.

Select ‘Cottage Garden’ for your choice of style and pick your preferred colour scheme. Enter your garden’s climate, soil and light conditions. The PlantingPlanner will draw up a planting plan with flowers, herbs and shrubs, which are perfect for creating your very own cottage garden.

You can tweak and modify your generated plan, by excluding any plants you don’t like and substituting them with your favourites. The PlantingPlanner will tell you if your choices are suitable for your location.

If you want to grow vegetables as well as ornamental plants, you could use a collection of pots and containers to cram into gaps around your garden. Try here for inspiration.

The Weatherstaff Team

Style Guide – Cottage Gardens Part 3

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

If you love charm over elegance, profusion over minimalism, natural haphazardness over control and order, the chances are that you love the cottage garden style.

Read: Style Guide – Cottage Gardens Part 1 | Part 2

Vertical Accents

By their very nature, cottage gardens are charmingly informal and unstructured. A sea of colourful flowers all swaying at the same height could end up lacking interest and a focal point, but, fortunately, several of the classic cottage garden plants naturally provide striking architectural structure, in the form of tall spires of flowers.

Hollyhocks, delphiniums and foxgloves all create vertical accents amongst low-growing flowers.

Delphiniums cottage garden planting plan

Delphiniums are stately perennials in ravishing shades of blues, pinks and mauves, as well as white. They are a bit demanding, as they like sun, a rich soil and a sheltered spot. They also need staking as their flower spikes are top heavy and will topple without support. But they are beautiful, seductively enchanting plants so well worth the extra effort. Flowers can be single, semi-double or double, with inner sepals forming an eye (or bee) in the centre of each.

Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) also need fertile soil, a sunny spot and supporting with strong stakes. If you like dark and sultry, look out for Alcea rosea ‘Nigra’, which has stunning near-black single flowers. They are biennials or short-lived perennials, but will usually self-seed obligingly to give you more plants in their place.

Digitalis Apricot Beauty for cottage garden planting plan
Digitalis Apricot Beauty

The foxglove is a stunning architectural plant, with flower spikes up to 5 or 6 feet tall. Foxgloves are biennials or short-lived perennials, but will self-seed readily to maintain and multiply your collection each year.

Digitalis x mertonensis is a semi-evergreen perennial, with dusky strawberry flowers from late spring to mid-summer. ‘Apricot Beauty’ has spikes of apricot flowers from early to mid-summer. Digitalis is a magnet for bees and other insects, the markings on the inside of the flower guiding them towards the nectar.

Two other plants I couldn’t bear to be without are Thalictrum (Meadow Rue) and Verbena bonariensis. Both are tall, but light and airy. Despite their height, they can be used towards the front of a border as they will not screen the planting behind.

Thalictrum delavayi - Meadow Rue - for cottage garden planting plan
Thalictrum delavayi Hewitt’s Double

Thalictrum delavayi ‘Hewitt’s Double’ has mounds of delicate blue-green, aquilegia-like foliage. Tall stems carry sprays of tiny, pompom-like, deep mauve flowers from mid-summer to autumn, creating a wonderful hazy display for weeks.

Verbena-bonariensis - Weatherstaff landscaping ideas
Verbena bonariensis

The wiry stems of Verbena bonariensis are topped with dancing clusters of tiny lavender-pink flowers. The flowers appear from mid-summer to early autumn, while the seedheads can be left through the winter.


Cottage gardens are a delight in the summer months, but you will be living with it all year round. It is worth considering how you can create structure and interest in the garden when the spring and summer flowers have died back.

The most obvious way is to think about incorporating features such as obelisks, pergolas, picket fences and arches. Trees and shrubs also extend the season of interest in your garden, providing a ‘backbone’ and winter interest to the garden.

Escallonia Red Elf - flowering shrub in cottage style border
Escallonia Red Elf

Escallonias are attractive, compact shrubs, grown for their summer blossoms and evergreen foliage. Escallonia ‘Red Elf’ has a profusion of crimson flowers. ‘Apple Blossom’ flowers are delicate white-centred pink.

Fuchsia magellanica var. gracilis Weatherstaff Planting Plan
Fuchsia magellanica var. gracilis

Fuchsia magellanica var. gracilis is an upright, deciduous shrub. Throughout the summer and into autumn, little drooping, dancing flowers are produced in abundance. Red-purple berries appear in autumn.

Roses are a must, of course, with their exquisite charm and delicate, often fragrant, flowers.

Rosa Generous Gardener perfect for cottage garden planting plan
Rosa Generous Gardener

Rosa ‘The Generous Gardener ‘ is from David Austin’s collection of English Roses, which combine Old Rose flower shape and fragrance, with the Modern Rose’s repeat-flowering and wide colour range.

Stunningly beautiful and exquisitely scented, double flowers of very pale pink are carried throughout the summer and autumn, amongst glossy, dark green foliage. ‘The Generous Gardener’ can be grown as a climber or rounded shrub, with arching stems. It is highly disease-resistant.

Other old-fashioned flowering shrubs include lilacs, for their gorgeous scent, and hydrangeas – the delicately pretty flowerheads can be left on the plant over winter to extend the season of interest in the garden.

Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner Landscape Design Software

Need a Cottage Garden Planting Plan?

The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner makes it easy for you to create a cottage garden style border.

The interactive gardening software designs all-season planting plans, tailored to your garden’s soil and light conditions.

Select ‘Cottage Garden’ for your choice of style and pick your preferred colour scheme. Enter your garden’s climate, soil and light conditions. The PlantingPlanner will draw up a planting plan with flowers, herbs and shrubs, which are perfect for creating your very own cottage garden.

You can tweak and modify your generated plan, by excluding any plants you don’t like and substituting them with your favourites. The PlantingPlanner will tell you if your choices are suitable for your location.

If you want to grow vegetables as well as ornamental plants, you could use a collection of pots and containers to cram into gaps around your garden. Try
here for inspiration.

Read more about Cottage Gardens in Part 4

The Weatherstaff Team

A Guide to Plant Types for Beginner Gardeners

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

If you’re just a new green shoot in the world of gardening, you’ll find there’s a whole new language to learn!

Seasoned gardeners will casually mention their tender perennials, talk of lifting their corms and dividing their tubers, or bemoan the chlorosis of their blueberries. If you’re nodding sagely, thinking yes, that reminds me – must go and do a bit of rhizome splitting and add sequestered iron to the shopping list, then this blog post is clearly not for you.

On the other hand, if you’re not sure whether they are discussing their ailments or brass bands, then you may find this post helpful!

Dahlia 'Nuit d'Ete' - herbaceous perennial for your flower bed
Dahlia ‘Nuit d’Ete’ – dahlias are tender perennials. They will last for several years, but only if they are overwintered in a frost -free place

When I potted up my first large container, I chose some flowers from the garden centre which looked good together. Some reappeared the following year, some didn’t – I had no idea why. When we had a whole garden to play with, I thought it was time to find out a bit more.

I decided it would be useful to have a fair idea which plants would survive the winter and which wouldn’t. And which ones, no matter how snuggly they were in their fluffy horticultural fleeces, were never going to see another spring, because sadly, their genetic make-up meant they were destined to keel over after flowering, leaving behind only their progeny to carry on the family name.


These are the annuals – plants which germinate, flower and set seed all in one year. They die after flowering, but many will helpfully self-seed leaving a new generation of flowers to appear the following spring.

Hardy annual - Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) for flower borders
Hardy annual – Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena)

Many of those plants I bought for my first garden pot were annuals. I didn’t kill them. It was their destiny. I didn’t have to worry that my lack of care was responsible for their untimely deaths. In fact, for some of them, I hadn’t realised that they had died because their offspring appeared the following spring, looking just like their mums.

Not all annuals come true from seed though, which means they will reseed, but won’t be exactly the same as the parent plant. You can decide if you like the variety or whether you want to pull up the ones which clash with your colour scheme.

Annuals are perfect for a high-impact quick burst of colour in flower beds. Packets of seeds are inexpensive, so it’s a good way to fill up a garden border cheaply or to have colour and interest for a year or two while you make decisions about more permanent planting.

Some gardeners like ringing the changes, trying out new colour schemes and flower combinations each year by experimenting with different annuals.

There are two types of annuals – the tough hardy ones and the more tender, half-hardy plants.

Hardy Annuals

Hardy annuals can cope with the cold. They can be sown in the autumn or early spring, because they can shake off the winter frosts. They are all ready to take off when the growing season arrives and can cope with a bit of late spring chill. And when they set seed, the seeds can survive the winter too, so will reappear the following year.

Hardy annuals include the classic sunflower (Helianthus annuus), love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) and cornflower (Centaurea cyanus).

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) - a hardy annual
Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) – a hardy annual

Half-hardy Annuals

Half-hardy ones can’t take the cold. You will have to wait until there is no more danger of frost in your region before taking the risk of sowing them directly in the garden. A late sowing means that they will take longer before they are ready to start flowering. You can give them a head start by sowing them indoors in early spring, on a window sill, in a coldframe or green house, but you will need to wait until the frosts are past before planting them out in the garden.

Morning Glory (Ipomoea) - a half-hardy annual for summer flower beds
Morning Glory (Ipomoea) – a half-hardy annual

Don’t just rush them out there, though. These pampered little things need time to get used to the big world outside, so you have to get them acclimatised by spending 10 days or so putting them outside during the day and bringing them back into shelter at night. This is called ‘hardening off’.

Half-hardy annuals are definitely more time-consuming than the hardy ones, but if you have a nurturing nature and some time to cosset your little ones, it can be a therapeutic and rewarding experience.

Cosmos Sonata Pink - garden design idea
Cosmos Sonata Pink

Half-hardy annuals are also a bit more alluring and even flamboyant than the hardy ones, betraying their exotic origins.

The annual climber, Morning glory (Ipomoea) and Cosmos Sonata series are half-hardy annuals.

Cosmos Sonata Carmine for summer flower beds
Cosmos Sonata Carmine

A plant with a life cycle of 2 years is called a biennial. These tend not to be widely grown, which is understandable – why bother waiting 2 years for something to flower if it’s going to die straight afterwards?

Traditional foxgloves are biennials – but they helpfully self-seed, so once established, they will continue to reappear every year. You can also buy perennial varieties of foxgloves.

Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea)
Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea)
Honesty (Lunaria annua) has translucent seedpods
Honesty (Lunaria annua) has translucent seedpods

Despite its name, honesty (Lunaria annua), with its purple or white spring flowers, followed by flat silvery seedpods, is also technically a biennial.


These are the mainstay of most garden borders. They are plants with a life cycle of more than 2 years. Perennials are also called herbaceous perennials, which means that the plant is not woody (like a shrub or a tree).

Many perennials die right back to the root, but grow back again the following spring. Others, like bergenia and heuchera, are evergreen and keep their leaves in winter. They don’t die back to the root, but neither do they have a woody structure, so they are still classed as perennials.

Heuchera Pewter Moon - an evergreen perennial for winter flower beds
Heuchera Pewter Moon – an evergreen perennial, which is great for winter interest in your flower beds

Heucheras are superb, clump-forming perennials, as they have delicate sprays of flowers in late spring and summer, as well as attractive, evergreen foliage. Heuchera Pewter Moon has silver leaves, with dark silver-green veining, which are red-purple on the undersides.

Carex elata - an evergreen ornamental grass for winter garden design idea
Carex elata – an evergreen ornamental grass

Ornamental grasses are perennials too and are beautiful as well as useful. Some, like Carex elata, are evergreen. These provide good winter colour in flower borders and need just a quick tidy-up in spring.

Miscanthus sinensis Nippon - a deciduous ornamental grass for garden borders
Miscanthus sinensis Nippon – a deciduous ornamental grass

The deciduous grasses are good for winter interest too, as they don’t need to be cut back until the spring, leaving the seedheads on for the birds to enjoy during the colder months. Miscanthus sinensis ‘Nippon’ is very elegant, with upright linear leaves, which turn to russet in autumn before fading to buff in winter. In late summer, feathery, reddish flowerheads appear, becoming silvery-beige as they fade to plumy seedheads. These persist through the winter, creating an attractive winter feature.


Planting bulbs is one of the easiest ways to start gardening. Find yourself a suitable container, plant the bulbs and wait for them to grow. They may need a bit of care – watering, checking they’re not being munched by slugs, feeding them when necessary – but on the whole they’re a perfect choice for beginner gardeners. Some bulbs are good for naturalising in the lawn too although you may have to wait for the foliage to die back before mowing. Snowdrops and crocuses look amazing, planted in drifts. Read advice on how to do it here.

Crocuses - spring bulls perfect for naturalising in grass
Crocuses – spring bulls perfect for naturalising in grass

When we think of bulbs, we tend to think first of spring bulbs, like crocuses, tulips and daffodils, but you can add a splash of colour to flower beds and pots throughout the year by choosing bulbs which flower in different seasons.

Iris Apricot Topping - garden design ideas for spring
Iris Apricot Topping

Elegant bearded irises grow in spring, summer-flowering bulbs include lilies and dahlias, while hardy cyclamen and Nerine bowdenii flower in the autumn.

Nerine (Nerine bowdenii) - autumn garden design idea
Nerine bowdenii – stunning autumn flowering bulb

You can prolong a container’s season of interest by making a bulb lasagne, layering up the bulbs with the largest and latest bulbs to flower going in the bottom of the pot and moving upwards to the smallest and earliest flowering ones at the top. Sarah Raven explains how to do it here.

Bulbs are defined as a plant’s storage organ, sending shoots upwards and roots downwards in order for a new plant to grow. Strictly speaking, not all of the flowers mentioned above come from true bulbs, which are modified shoots. Bearded irises grow from rhizomes, dahlias from tubers and crocuses from corms – I’ve included definitions of these in the glossary below – but they all perform in a similar way to bulbs.


Shrubs are very useful for creating structure in the garden. Without a backbone of shrubs (and/or trees), garden borders can look desolate in winter. In other seasons too, shrubs provide the backdrop for the perennials and annuals to perform against.

A shrub is a woody plant with several stems, usually branching from near ground level. Because it doesn’t die back to ground level each winter, like herbaceous perennials, it will provide some winter interest. Evergreen shrubs, which keep their leaves in the winter, or winter-flowering shrubs are particularly useful in the garden during the grey months of the year.

Shrubs come in all shapes and sizes. Larger ones can offer privacy or height at the back of a flower bed. They can also be planted to form hedging along the garden boundary. Our garden borders a country lane and has a mixed hedgerow of holly, hazel and beech.

Mexican Orange Blossom (Choisya ternata) - shrubs for flower borders
Mexican Orange Blossom (Choisya ternata)

A perfect shrub for a middle sized border is Mexican Orange Blossom (Choisya ternata), an attractive, bushy, evergreen shrub, with white, starry, fragrant flowers. It doesn’t need regular pruning so is a fantastic low maintenance shrub.

Aromatic lavender hedge - garden design idea
Aromatic lavender hedge

Small shrubs, especially evergreen ones, can be planted close together to make a low hedge. Lavender, for example, makes a great low hedge or border edging.

Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var repens - useful shrub for ground cover
Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var repens

Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var. repens, which has been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit, is a vigorous, low, spreading evergreen shrub, which makes it perfect for forming ground cover.

Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles) - landscaping design idea
Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles)

Some shrubs, such as Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince) are useful for growing as wall shrubs but will need regular pruning and tying in to a support system.


A tree is a woody plant, with usually a single trunk. There are trees to suit every garden and some small trees – or trees with a narrow growing habit – are particularly suitable for small gardens.

Betula pendula 'Fastigiata' -tree for small gardens
Betula pendula ‘Fastigiata’

Silver Birch ‘Fastigiata’ (Betula pendula ‘Fastigiata’) is a narrowly columnar, deciduous tree, with upright branches and white peeling bark.

Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis Rosea' - winter interest tree
Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’

Ornamental cherries are great garden trees too. Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’ is a small, deciduous tree, with an elegant spreading habit. Delicate, semi-double, pink flowers appear in mild spells between autumn and spring.

Even if you haven’t got space for an orchard, don’t let that put you off growing your own fruit! You can buy fruit trees, which have been grafted onto dwarf rootstocks, which will stunt their growth. They can also be pruned and trained in different ways in order to keep their size manageable.

A pear tree trained to form an espalier - garden design idea for a kitchen garden
A pear tree trained as an espalier

Fruit trees can be trained flat against a wall or fence, tying in the branches to a frame or trellis. Any branches jutting away from the wall or fence are pruned back. This is called an espalier and looks very attractive as well as being a practical space-saving solution.

You can also train fruit trees as cordons or in the shape of a fan. These are all just different ways of producing a decent crop of fruit in a small space. They are quite fun to try though you will need to be prepared to put some effort into their maintenance.

Step-over apple trees in a cottage garden border design
Step-over apple trees make fantastic border edging

I have some minarettes in my garden, which are fruit trees with a single stem. There’s quite a lot of pruning to do to keep the sideshoots short, but they take up little space in the garden. I also have a step-over apple tree, which bears a great crop of delicious apples, and is pruned to grow horizontally on wires between two posts. It makes a fantastic edging to a productive border.

Beginner Gardeners can have stunning borders too!

Bespoke planting plans for you garden borders Designer Gardens
If you’ve ever thought designer gardens are only for the experienced horticulturist, it’s time to think again. The secret is getting the planting right – and now there is some new garden software which will help you do just that!

Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner Landscape Design Software

The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner is a garden design program, ideally suited to new gardeners. You won’t need to acquire a vast knowledge of horticulture before beginning to create beautiful flower beds in your own garden.

Simply input information about your garden’s climate and soil conditions (don’t worry, there are help panels to hold your hand through the entire process), choose your favourite colour scheme and sit back while the PlantingPlanner selects the plants which will thrive in your garden and shows you where to plant them. Each planting plan is specially created for you – and you can make as many as you want, changing your colour scheme and choice of style to try out different ideas.

A planting plan generated by the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner
A planting plan generated by the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner

The plans comes with colour photographs, descriptions and full maintenance advice, so you can keep your flower beds looking amazing year after year.

Watch the introductory video now to find out how to use the PlantingPlanner to easily create exciting garden borders with all year round interest.


Annual – a plant which completes its life cycle in one year

Biennial – a plant which completes its life cycle in two years, flowering the year after it was sown

Bulb – a plant’s storage organ, sending shoots upwards and roots downwards in order for a new plant to grow. A true bulb is a modified shoot, but corms, tubers and rhizomes perform similar functions

Climber – Climbing plant useful for covering walls or fences or for growing into trees or large shrubs. They can also be used for ground cover. Self-clinging climbers attach themselves to surfaces using aerial roots or adhesive pads. Others twine their stems around a support or use tendrils to coil around wire or trellis. A third type of climber scrambles over shrubs or trees but will need tying in against a wall or fence

Corm – an enlarged underground stem, performing the same function as a bulb

Espalier – a fruit tree which is trained to grow flat against a wall, using a trellis or framework for support.

Herbaceous perennial – a plant with a life cycle of more than 2 years. Plants may die back to ground level in autumn and then start again into growth in spring or may be non-woody evergreen plants like bergenia and heuchera

Rhizome – a creeping stem growing underground or occasionally along the ground, rooting as it travels and sending up new shoots

Shrub – a woody perennial with several stems, usually branching from near ground level

Tree – a woody perennial with usually a single trunk

Tuber – a thick underground part of a stem or rhizome, performing the same function as a bulb

Wall-trained shrub – free standing shrub which is useful for training flat against a vertical surface

Woody plant – one with a permanent structure of stems and branches e.g. trees, shrubs and some climbers

The Weatherstaff Team