Plant of the Month

Plant of the Month, January

1st January 2015

Helleborus nigerIt might be the dark days but that’s when some sensational plants can catch your eye. Helleborus niger, a classic winter flowering plant also known as the Christmas Rose. No garden should be without them, they are hardy and all will grow on local soils! They are the plants that you pass by but suddenly call you back with their sweet scent or show of flowers.

They need to be planted in heavy, rich, limey soil that won’t dry out in summer months.  Their leaves die down in June or July, after which the plants should be kept cool and shaded until they begin to grow again in early spring. They are also wildlife friendly and are a valuable source of pollen for early bees.

TV gardener David Domoney is the celebrity champion for Helleborus this month. With a keen passion for horticulture, David started his career as a plant advisor in a garden centre, progressing through supervisor and management roles to becoming a plant buyer.

David said: “Flowering Hellebores make you wonder at the beauty and resilience of nature as they open beautiful flowers in the depth of winter. The diversity of the colour and blooms together with integrated shaped emerald green foliage across many varieties make this a perfect first choice as the calendar year starts.

Plant of the Month, December

1st December 2014

SarcococcaThere is one really seasonal and under used plant that deserves being better known, and that is Sarcoccoca or the ‘Christmas’ or ‘Sweet Box’. There are several sorts of this fragrant, winter flowering evergreen that can fit in with any scheme you may be planning.

Former Chanel model, and founder of the Edible Busstop, Mak Gilcrist is a real fan; “This plant has incredibly intense scent and thrives at a time of year where there is little scent in the garden. I particularly like that about it. It’s a sensuous indulgence in the deep mid-winter.”

Sarcoccoca makes a great addition to a winter garden as it’s a tough, reliable plant that is very easy to grow. Perfect for a border, in containers or as ground cover it will grow well in shade while its delicate white flowers bloom over winter and early spring. Sarcoccoca grows slowly and gradually to form low-growing mounds of evergreen foliage and also has red and black berries once flowering has finished.

Plant of the Month, November

31st October 2014


Autumn BlazeAt this time of year they are so much in evidence and we are just into the best tree planting time of the year. Trees add structure to the landscape and garden; there are all types, shapes and sizes. From flowering cherries and crab apples to evergreen yews, there are trees to suit every taste and position imaginable. Trees offer different leaf size, shape and colour and many have attractive flowers, fruits and seeds. There are those that flower magnificently in spring to those whose leaves offer brilliant autumn colour just before leaf fall.

Trees can be selected for all soil types, including very wet and dry land. They can tolerate acidic, chalky, sandy and clay soils. They even make up soils in new gardens or landscapes. Some trees make excellent hedges and screens whilst others make ideal specimens set in the middle of a lawn.

All trees require some support and protection such as stakes, tree ties and tree guards. Fertiliser can be added to the planting hole and mulch can be added after planting to preserve moisture and keep down weeds. Trees are best planted in the autumn, especially bare rooted varieties. Container grown trees can be planted at any time of the year providing the soil/ground is not frozen or water logged.

There is a tree for every location and a good top ten would be:

  1. Himalyan Birch Betula utilis var. jacquemontii
  2. Silver Birch Betula pendula
  3. Snowy Mespilus Amerlanchier lamarckii
  4. Christmas berry ‘Red Robin’ Photinia fraserii ‘Red Robin’
  5. Freeman’s Maple Acer freemanii ‘Autumn Blaze’ (Pictured)
  6. English Oak Quercus robur
  7. Pin Oak Quercus palustris
  8. Crab Apple Malus ‘Evereste’
  9. Crab Apple Malus ‘Rudolph’
  10. Vilmorin’s Mountain Ash Sorbus vilmorinii

There has been a lot of publicity over the past years about fatal diseases affecting our native trees, especially Oaks and the Ash, so a good alternative for a hardy English native is the attractive Lime Tilia cordata.

By planting trees you can reduce or improve your carbon footprint and generally enhance the environment. Trees can transform an area by introducing welcome shade, protective shelter and wildlife and are an investment for future generations. Research in HTA’s Greening the UK campaign has shown that just a 10% increase in tree coverage in urban areas will counter the predicted 4°c temperature over the next 100 years caused by climate change and the urban heat island effect.

As part of the ‘Plan it, Plant it this Autumn’ campaign, the Horticultural Trades Association is also encouraging gardeners to celebrate the 39th annual National Tree Week, which is run by The Tree Council from 29 November –7 December 2014 .

Holly, Plant of the Month

2nd October 2014

We know it’s a bit early for Christmas, but hollies are starting to look really attractive in the garden centre and make a wonderful addition to the winter garden. Hollies prefer a free draining soil and a sunny position, but will grow in most places, even poor soils, and are extremely hardy.

Female HollyThere are varieties which will reliably produce berries year after year. Most hollies (“proper” name, Ilex) carry either female or male flowers and both are required to make berries. Berries are carried on the female plant, so most gardeners will choose a female holly and hope to have a male holly nearby that will provide the pollen. It could be a wild holly in the hedge or a specially planted male sort, and it doesn’t really matter if it is an all-green plant or a variegated variety.

So what are the good varieties? Confusingly, there are female varieties with male names, such as ‘Ilex aquifolium Golden King’, and ‘Silver Milkboy’, as well as ‘Silver Milkmaid’. Similarly, there is an excellent male variety with a female name, ‘Ilex Silver Queen’.

There are a very few self-fertile hollies, of which ‘Ilex J C van Thol’ is one of the best. The Blue hollies are hybrids and are known as ‘Ilex x merserveae’. There are mostly compact varieties with dark green prickly leaves that have a blue ‘cast’ to give them their name. ‘Blue Angel’, ‘Blue Princess’ and ‘Blue Maid’ are good berrying varieties, while ‘Blue Prince’ is an excellent pollinator.

Plant of the Month, September

4th September 2014

Pink AnemoneThe pretty Japanese Anemone is a classic late flowerer and a favourite with gardeners. Gardener’s World photographer, Jason Ingram, told the Horticultural Trade Association (HTA), “Japanese anemones are extremely photogenic flowers which brighten up the garden in late-summer or autumn, producing simple saucers in white and various shades of pink. They are a ‘must have’ border plant for the autumn and put on a fantastic display in the period where most gardens are starting to look tired and over.  I love that their beauty adds a whole new dimension of colour and texture to my garden.”

Japanese Anemones, also known as ‘Windflowers’ with their flowers held high above the foliage, can be grown in sun or shade and are good for lighting up a dark corner of the garden.  They do like a well-drained soil and often spread by themselves, creating new clumps that can be lifted and planted elsewhere.

Japanese Anemones are at Orchard Park, and cost £9.99 for a 2L pot.

Plant of the Month, August

31st July 2014

HydrangeaI can’t remember a summer without hydrangeas. Their large blooms bring flamboyant colour to the garden in late summer and autumn. They are easy to grow, dependable and improve with age. Use them in big, bold groups in the border, or even try them in large containers.

Hydrangeas are deciduous and can be either treated as large shrubs or small trees. They are grown for their beautifully domed or flattened flowers which appear from late summer for about a month.

The flowers normally consist of a mass of fertile flowers surrounded by infertile flowers which give the hydrangea its large flower heads. Hydrangeas are recommended for the amateur and the experienced gardener alike.

Mop head hydrangeas (with rounded heads of large flowers) come from Japan where the native species with lace cap flowers (flattened heads of large flowers) have been grown for hundreds of years. When these plants reached the west in the eighteenth century they caused a sensation, initially treated as tender and grown indoors. There are now many, many varieties to choose from.

Musician, singer and keen gardener Katie Melua is also a big fan of hydrangeas, and she told the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA), “Even as a singular flower head, a hydrangea is majestic to me.  Flowering from summer all the way through to autumn, large cone shaped hydrangea flowers command a lot of attention.   The variety and richness of colours from white to the deepest purples are another glorious quality of this plant. Even when the flower is dying, the textures of the tiny flowers and the large florets, means the colours carrying on.  I used a lot of hydrangeas at my September wedding and was able to keep and dry nearly all of them.  They still fill the house with that richness and bring back the lovely memories of that day.”

Plant of the Month for July, Salvia

27th June 2014
Saliva, prices start from £7.99Saliva, prices start from £7.99

A plant that is valued by landscapers and novice gardeners alike for its colour and structure is the much loved Salvia.  It’s also a favourite of BBC Gardener’s World presenter Pippa Greenwood who says, “I’m a great fan of the hardier salvias.  Even before the buds open they are attractive plants with erect stems, often with aromatic foliage and forming a sort of clump of exclamation marks. Then when the flowers appear, usually in shades of violet, purple, pink or white, they can bring any sunny border to life instantly.  Provide these plants with a well-drained but humus-rich soil and plenty of sun and they are easy to grow…seriously rewarding and simply gorgeous!”

Salvias are long flowering, with the potential to put on a great show from June through much of the summer and into autumn.  If you remove the flower spikes as soon as they have faded, or give the entire plant a serious haircut as soon as the last of the flowers fade, then they will keep flowering and you can often enjoy a second flush of flowers in October.  They are much loved, not only by gardeners but also by bees and butterflies. Nominated and agreed upon by British growers and retailers, the HTA’s Plant of the Month campaign highlights the plants that are widely available and looking especially good each month.


Plant of the month, March

21st February 2014

I know it has been a wild and wet winter but there are an awful lot of plants out there flowering fit to bust! Some of the winter and spring bedding has taken a beating but pansies and violas are so resilient that they quickly recover with a few days good weather. March is the perfect time for a garden spring clean after the winter, re-invigorating and livening up existing flower beds, borders and containers. Pansies are the perfect spring plants – along with primulas, forget-me-nots and wallflowers and are perfect contenders for patio pots, hanging baskets and window boxes, ideal and easy to plant.

Pansies and violas are two of the most popular bedding plants and are great for filling the gaps in borders once you have cleared away bedraggled or dead plants.  Their names are often used interchangeably. Plants considered to be pansies have four petals pointing upwards, and only one pointing down. Violets have three petals pointing up and two pointing down.

Both are hardy annuals that offer colourful flowers in your garden. They both need watering regularly and need to be planted in moist, well-drained soil.

Pansies and violas like sun and cooler temperatures. Make sure you remove fade or dead flowers to prolong blooming and encourage more flowers to grow bringing a joy of spring to a garden following cold winter months.

…read more »

Plant of the Month

25th November 2013


We are definitely talking trees! Trees add structure to the landscape and garden. There are all types, shapes and sizes. From flowering cherries and crab apples to evergreen yews, there are trees to suit every taste and position imaginable. Trees offer different leave size, shape and colour and many have attractive flowers, fruits and seeds. There are those that flower magnificently in spring to those whose leaves offer brilliant autumn colour just before leaf fall

Trees can be selected for all soil types including very wet and dry land. They can tolerate acidic, chalky, sandy and clay soils. They even make up soils in new gardens or landscapes. …read more »

Plant of the Month – Aster

4th September 2013

Meanwhile, perennial Asters, Sedums and Japanese Anemones are all on full song. All are easy to grow and have a good long flowering season. They can be planted almost anytime of the year but inevitably you will notice them more in the garden centre when they are actually in flower. Local soils range from sandy acid, to heavy alkaline clay and shallow chalk. Any of them can be improved with some good organic matter to grow this collection of autumn beauties. Asters [Michaelmas Daisies] include a large range of hybrids and it is worth checking labels to see that you have what you want in terms of height and colour. …read more »