Easter Delights


There has been much debate about my white bluebells on social media this week. Are they Spanish or English? White English bluebells do exist although they are rare in the wild. In domestic gardens like mine they are much more likely to be a hybrid form and the sheer quantity of flowers per stem lead me to believe this even more. However, they make a nice change from the blue and take visitors by surprise.IMG_20170416_114354

I was surprised to find quite a few Cosmos seedlings in the front border this week and I am guessing they must be from ‘Xanthos’ which were nearby last year. This is a first for me, I have never had self sown Cosmos before. IMG_20170415_115644

We went to see some friends in their ‘new’ cottage this weekend, The Old Smithy in Harrold, near Bedford. They don’t claim any credit for their beautiful garden and are doing the sensible thing by letting everything happen for a year before making any changes. The bones are definitely there and few changes will be required, The previous owners did a great job of planting a selection of tried and tested shrubs and perennials.IMG_20170415_115427

The different levels and material changes add to the interest and the stone retaining wall helps to maintain the raised border without bending down. Early spring blossom is everywhere making it a garden for several seasons.IMG_20170415_115519

The arch covered with ivy and Clematis montana ‘Elizabeth’ is a joy and provides a colourful focal point where the driveway meets the garden,IMG_20170415_115716

And the separate garden alongside the drive is dominated by a wonderful and productive Bramley apple tree underplanted with Bergenias and tulips.

What a lovely start to the Easter weekend!


Mid Week Review


Sometimes it’s the happy accidents that make the all the difference like this Euphorbia characias and Clematis macropetala, what a lovely colour combination.IMG_20170404_173008

Always exciting to see Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’ piercing through the ground. It loves my heavy clay soil.


The Fritillaria imperialis just before I spotted a Lily beetle!


Who says Hyacinths don’t grow well after being forced in pots. This one is five years old and getting better every year.


Garvinea 'Rachel'

Garvinea ‘Rachel’

There is something about red. I just love it. I seem to be drawn to it. It is warm and ripe and hot. I have a lot of reds in the garden. Here are just a few.

Salvia microphylla 'Royal Bumble'

Salvia microphylla ‘Royal Bumble’

This pretty Salvia is in flower at the moment right outside the garden room window alongside the popular ‘Hot Lips’.

Red Pelargonium

Red Pelargonium

Pelargoniums are such a reliable performer in a hot summer and I always buy a few to put in pots around the patio.244

I love big blousy red poppiesDahlia 'Redskin Mix'


And red dahlias…this is ‘Redskin’051

And Geum ‘Mrs Bradshaw’ a chance seedling introduced by Perry’s nursery in Enfield017

You might have read about my love of chillies and this particular Cayenne variety which grows so well in my greenhouse

Yum Yum!

Yum Yum!

And finally, our scrumptious and reliable autumn raspberry ‘Brice’ .

Just can’t resist red!


Germinating Strawberries

When I finally got down to sowing the Toscana F1 strawberries from DT Brown, I read a few reviews and blog items and it seemed that germination was a bit tricky, particularly at this time of year, even in a propagator. However, I came across a “surefire” way of getting the pesky little seeds to germinate on an american homemade youtube video which looked promising so I decided to give it a try and……………….it worked!014

A week after placing the tiny seeds on damp kitchen paper sealed inside a ziplock plastic bag kept in a warm, light place, seven out of ten have germinated. I am not bothered about the others at the moment, experience has shown they can be erratic so they can stay in the bag a bit longer.

In the meantime, I have just carefully transferred the seedlings by toothpick into a pot of sieved seed compost. Fingers crossed!012



One of this years additions to the cutting garden was Chrysanthemum ‘Froggy’ from Sarah Raven and it has produced a bumper crop of small green button flowers, perfect for a contemporary looking vase. Obviously it would work well teamed with white, yellow or pink but it also looks good just on it’s own set off by the darker green of the foliage.

Confused Campanula

All the Campanulas have finished flowering, had their seed collected and been cut down – except this one! Funny how some plants just won’t give in!

This Campanula latifolia was one of several grown from seed in March and planted out at the same time and yet is either flowering again or is at least 6 weeks behind the others. What a strange year it has been!

David’s Dilemma!

The statue of Michaelangelo’s ‘David’ has followed us around for many years. It was a present to my wife when she left work and we feel compelled to have him ‘on show’! He has been nestled in a shady corner out of main view since we arrived and gradually, the ivy has got to work on him. We have always been slightly concerned about offending the sensibilities of our elderly female friends and neighbours and so nature has kindly provided a solution!

Phew-eniculum vulgare!

It seems from what I have read, that the smell of Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare (hence the pun!) is one of those you either love or hate. I therefore consider myself lucky at the moment because the acid yellow umbelliferous flowers have given way to thousands of seeds which are now ripening on the huge clump by the back gate and there is the most gorgeous smell of licorice / aniseed as we brush past it each morning to take the dogs for a walk.

The tall feathery foliage on thick branching stems makes a bold architectural statement in any garden. It loves a well drained poor soil in full sun and, unfortunately for some, seeds itself freely around the garden. I think the smell takes me back to my childhood eating Bassett’s Licorice Allsorts and aniseed balls!

Today’s Top Tip

I have just read a most exciting tip in the latest edition of ‘The Cottage Gardener’, the quarterly magazine of The Cottage Garden Society and I thought I would pass it on.

I am indebted to Jo Webber from Looe, Cornwall, who wrote about her successful experiment of increasing her stock of Verbena bonariensis by layering, a propagation technique more commonly used with shrubs such as forsythia, daphne, viburnum, rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias. Jo explained that in October, when the plants had finished flowering, she cut off the seedheads and gently bent the tall stems to the ground, covering them with soil at each leaf node. Apart from making sure they did not dry out, Jo then ignored them until April when she was delighted to find lots of new plants! They were separated from the main stem and replanted where she wanted them.

A very unusual way of propagating an herbaceous perennial but I suppose it makes sense that in Spring, the growth hormones will be strongest in the leaf axils where side shoots would naturally form. Jo doesn’t say whether she wounded the stem at each leaf node before burying them, something you would normally do with shrubs, but maybe that is not required in this case.

I think this is an amazing and innovative idea and something I am definitely going to try for myself. I already have quite a few plants of this variety but I would happily have more. Normally, the stems would die back and new shoots would appear from the base each year but I have noticed that in mild winters, this species often shoots again from the previous years growth although a late frost can cut it down.

Thanks Jo!

Bidens aurea ‘Hannay’s Lemon Drop’

This variety of the popular north american Bidens aurea was introduced many years ago by Hannay’s Nursery in Bath and is one of the hardier forms which is why I decided to try it here in the chilly Cotswolds. The seed, which is barbed helping it to hitch a ride from grazing animals, came from last year’s Cottage Garden Seed Exchange and was easy to germinate into very sturdy little plants. However, during April, May and June they just sat there at about 30cm tall waiting for some warmth and sunshine.

I had read that this form of Bidens can run and become a bit of a thug if it likes your soil and aspect so I decided to plant it carefully in several very different parts of the garden. To my total surprise, it has done best with it’s feet in sticky clay and is now 120cm high and still growing. The flowers are a lovely lemon yellow tipped with white, similar in size and shape to Coreopsis to which it is closely related.


The dark green foliage and wiry green stems makes me wonder why this daisy species is an ‘aurea’ which usually means ‘golden’ or ‘yellow’ foliage. Perhaps it refers to the yellow flowers although this would be a departure from the usual nomenclature rules.

Received wisdom suggests this variety should be treated like a Penstemon, often hardy enough but take cuttings just in case. Also, don’t cut the old foliage down until April to give some protection over winter. I am going to collect my own seed and grow a few new plants each year given how easy they are to propagate.

The tall airy stems are strong and upright and do not require staking, a definite bonus in my windy front garden, and the flowers seem to last for ages attracting bees and other pollinating insects. Overall, a very garden-worthy plant for late summer colour which blends in well with reds, purples, yellows and whites and doesn’t mask the plants behind it. I have it planted in front of my Photinia hedge with white and dark purple Cosmos, Agastache and Nicotiana alata and alongside permanent shrubs of Euonymus japonicus and Amelanchier lamarckii. It just seems to work.