Gardening Mediterranean Style

Windowboxes of red pelargoniums for a Mediterranean style garden

In the summer, you can smell the herbs on the air as you head south towards Provence, but our visit at Easter was a tad too early for that. The morning and evening air was chilly, but by mid-morning the sun was hot enough to cast off cardigans and enjoy an alfresco café noisette.

Not too early though for the vines to be in full leaf or for red pelargoniums to be flowering brightly in window boxes at wooden-shuttered windows.

Scented Jasminum officinale – summer jasmine – was already clambering over stone walls and above blue-painted windows in St Rémy de Provence.

I’ve admired the flower displays on French roundabouts before, but here the road islands have a distinctly Provençal...

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Long, narrow gardens and other awkward shapes

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

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!

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...

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Autumn Colours

Autumn Leaves - Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner

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.

Helenium

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’ 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).

‘Pipsqueak’ has yellow rays surrounding a velvety yellow and...

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Style Guide – Cottage Gardens Part 4

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

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.

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.

Annuals are perfect for a...

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Style Guide – Cottage Gardens Part 3

Rosa Generous Gardener perfect for cottage garden planting plan

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.

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 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...

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A Guide to Plant Types for Beginner Gardeners

Crocuses - spring bulls perfect for naturalising in grass

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!

When I potted up my first large container, I chose some flowers from the garden...

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Move On Up!

Actinidia kolomikta in landscape plan

Sultry, seductive, with a slight hint of chocolate – my first climbing plant was Akebia quinata. I fell in love with its photograph and set off to track one down for my very own!We had just invested in a beautiful pergola. It was delivered – a collection of posts and panels and a hefty stash of 3in nails – and assembled by a local builder. It was all looking rather good. Until the moment when we realised that we still had a rather large collection of nails and, on closer inspection, discovered that the builder had gone home before securing the rafters. And, right on cue, came the first gust of wind and rumble of thunder. The pergola’s first night...

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Finding the Perfect Plant – Deep Shade

Cornus canadensis shady garden plan

Some plants are particularly versatile and unfussy, making themselves at home and seeming to thrive wherever they come to rest. Most plants however have a preference for a particular set of growing conditions or cannot cope if the temperature gets too high or the water supply too low. Keen gardeners may relish the challenge of coaxing a particular favourite plant to prosper, but if you don’t have the time to lovingly cosset your choice specimens, getting the plants in the right place to start with is the way to go.

Plants for Deep Shade

If your garden is dark and gloomy on even the brightest day, you may have resigned yourself to a colour palette ranging from forest green to...

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More Low Maintenance Plants

Rudbeckia sullivantii Goldsturm autumn garden borders

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.

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’...
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Making a Family Garden

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.

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...

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