Plant Profiles

Brilliant berberis


This showy plant (Berberis ottawensis var. purpurea) looks spectacular year round, but right now its burgundy-red foliage is a shining beacon in the winter garden. And let’s face it – there’s not much going on in the garden right now, unless it involves colourful foliage or big, bold leaves. In spring it produces pretty yellow flowers which contrast brilliantly with its egg-shaped leaves. And best of all, it’s a hardy plant, so no matter where you live in the country, you’ve got a good chance of keeping it alive. It’s ideal for hedging too, reaching a height of around 2.4m. Plant it in a well-drained soil in sun or part shade.

Plant Now: Lilies

Lily Tiger Edition

For a fragrant and luxurious treat, you can’t go wrong with lilies. These summer flowers are among the loveliest bulbs, with their elegant, trumpet-shaped blooms that are spectacularly showy in the garden and long-lasting in a vase. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from and the bulbs are in garden centres now. They require chilling for flower development in summer, so the cool ground between May and September is the perfect time for planting. But get them in the ground as soon as you bring them home. Lily bulbs have no outer papery layer so they’re prone to drying out.

Lilium varieties
There are three main types that are commonly available in shops. Asiastic lilies, Trumpet lilies and Oriental lilies. Asiatics are the first to flower from late November or December, but their showy blooms are unscented. Trumpet lilies are next, just in time for Christmas. Then come the Orientals, sometimes from December but usually January to March.  [Read more…]

Plant Now: Hyacinths


There’s still time to plant hyacinth bulbs – in fact, they like a cooler ground, just like tulips. Any time up to early June is fine. And, like tulips, hyacinth bulbs are best chilled in the fridge for a few weeks before planting to promote strong root and flower growth.

Plant bulbs about 10cm deep in free-draining soil in full sun. Once growth emerges, feed with bulb food.

If you prefer to grow your hyacinths indoors, plant in a hyacinth vase instead. [Read more…]

Plant Now: Tulips

Yellow tulip

Have you been chilling your tulip bulbs in the fridge for the past few weeks? Then you can dig them out and plant them now. Whether grown in the ground or in pots, in frost-free areas tulip bulbs require a period of chilling before planting. In cooler areas, no chilling is needed, although chilling does produce taller plants and earlier flowering.

Tulips are best planted in late autumn (mid to late May) when the soil temperatures are cooler. Plant in a sunny position in deep, rich, well-drained soil. You can add a slow-release fertiliser to the soil when planting, or use a low-nitrogen, high-potassium fertiliser throughout growth.  [Read more…]

Grow your own raisins


I never considered myself a true self-sufficient gardener until I began growing grapes. These juicy orbs can be turned into almost anything, from cheap plonk and fancy verjuice, to jams and jellies and plump raisins. The leaves can be used as a green wrapper for dolmades, and the vine clippings can be woven into rustic garden supports or wreaths. Grapes are one of the most versatile crops you can grow in the backyard and it’s prime time for planting.

[Read more…]

Candy-striped cosmos

Cosmos Candy Stripe

I truly adore this cosmos from King Seeds. ‘Candy Stripe’ has been a floral favourite for a couple of years now and she still delivers on all her promises. She thrives on neglect (just as well), she grows a mighty 110cm tall (if not taller), she blooms from spring to autumn (what a trooper) and she self-seeds if you leave her to it. She even makes a great cut flower. Like all cosmos, ‘Candy Stripe’ is a no-nonsense, no-maintenance sort of plant. She’s fast-growing, prolific flowering and drought tolerant. And, apparently, resistant to disease. This year my white cosmos succumbed to powdery mildew. But not ‘Candy Stripe’. She had not a single powdery puff on her.

Achillea head wreath

Head wreath
My achilleas are flowering their socks off right now (bottom photo). In fact they flower for a fair few months of the year. They’re a superb filler plant, being broad-shouldered, and their tiny flowers last a good two weeks in a vase. But achilleas are vigorous perennials, with a tendency to bowl over less vigorous plants in the same bed. Give them their own contained bed and you’ll have fresh flowers for many months of the year.

Check out the simple head wreath (seen here at Loreta’s blog), which features daisies, chrysanthemums and purple achilleas. I have the daisies and the purple achilleas. I just need to find myself some deep purple chrysanths. Gorgeous!

Plant now: Poppies


Late summer/early autumn is the perfect time to sow poppies, including these fancy hybrids, Papaver somniferum ‘Rose Feathers’ (top) and ‘Swansdown’. These posh poppies produce fluffy balls on stems up to 90cm high – great for mass planting and picking for indoors. They’re frost-hardy, so you can sow them directly where you want them to grow. Keep seed moist until germination, then water with a fine spray until established. Available from Egmont Seeds.

Pretty pink poodle


Here’s another picture of the fanciful new echinacea, ‘Pink Poodle’. Note the frilly petals; this shot was taken before most of the heads had transformed themselves into raggedy poodles. In the initial stages the flowers often look more like the traditional echinacea, but as they age they gradually develop a fuller, fluffier form, adding more rows of petals from the central flower head, like a floral Mohawk. There’s still time to ENTER THE DRAW TO WIN ONE (plus the new varieties ‘Coral Reef’ and ‘Tangerine Dream’). To enter the draw, check out the fifth post below, or click right here to go directly to it.

Plant Now: Dianthus, Carnations, Pinks

Montage Dianthus

Pinks, carnations, sweet Williams – they’re all members of the Dianthus family, and they can all be sown now. Pinks and carnations are perennial plants while the shorter bedding dianthus and sweet Williams are biennials, although many of the newer hybrids are grown as annuals.
The various types all require the same growing conditions – full sun and well-drained soil. Cover seed with no more than 5mm soil and avoid overwatering while establishing, as stems may rot. Even established plants will succumb to stem rot from excessive watering or rainy weather. Dianthus will benefit from some food, but too much will produce lots of foliage at the expense of flowers.
Seeds can be bought from Egmont Seeds and Kings Seeds.