Border Planting

Scent in the garden and the vase

Scented red rose (1 of 1)

When you see a picture of a red rose, - do you imagine it with scent?

The first reaction of about 95% of those receiveing bouquets from me is to stick their nose in it. - Scent is a very powerful sense, and our noses can identify about 50000 different smells.

Catching the scent of an object or flower can trigger memories. The smell of Jasmine for me brings back memories of a long ago Turkish holiday where we had breakfast in a shaded garden by a pool with a fountain.

Particularly in the summer garden, when we spend time outside, it's lovely to have perfume from plants as well as colour, and evening is a great time to make the most of it, - so here are my top performers to add to your garden, and your vase.

Scented Trachelospermum (1 of 1)

Trachelospermum Jasminoides - (Common Name, Star Jasmine)

I walked into Squires Garden Centre the other day, and they had a wonderful plant of this at the entrance,- a great way to greet customers, and put me in a great buying mood for my visit.

Trachelospermum has made it's way into a lot of the planting plans that I do. - It's evergreen, - not too rampant, but will grow enough to cover an arch, and it has wonderful scented flowers in July and August.

I particularly like the variety "Wilsonii" which also has autumn foliage colours.

Scented Mint (1 of 1)

Mint, - Corsican mint and Apple mint.

We use loads of mint in our bouquets, and it gives a fresh scent, that everyone can identify. If you use it in a garden, plant it by a path, so you can brush past it and let it release its aroma into the air. to keep it at it's scented best, - cut it back hard to the ground if it starts going rusty or getting eaten.

Sweet peas (1 of 1)

I'm just about to take the first batch of Sweet peas out of the polytunnel, - they've flowered for 6 weeks solidly, and now i'm on to plants that are outside and were Spring sown. The ones on my patio on a Huge tub are yet to flower, but hopefully they'll be giving me evening scent to accompany my evening glass of wine during the Summer holidays.

This has got to be one of the most scented flowers that I grow, and when I sell it at farmers markets, I often get asked for them "as Grandma used to grow them"

Even in these days of flower freighting, - they can't get Sweet peas to us from abroad with their perfume intact, so grow these Hardy Annuals in your own garden and you'll be rewarded with week after week of jam jars full of scent.

Sweet williams (1 of 1)

My favourite scent from this season so far though, has to come from my Sweet Williams. - They are Biennials, so if you'd like them in your garden next year, - now is the time to sow seeds, - or buy plug plants this Autumn. In a range of colours from white, through the pinks to the reds and purples, - they make a great garden plant, and are wonderful in a vase.

Others that I suggest for trying round your patio are Stocks, Nicotiana, Lemon balm (like mint, best in a pot) Jasmine, and Dianthus. - And for larger spaces in your garden, - Choisya Ternata, Philadelphus Belle Etoile, Jasmine Officinale and  of course Roses. - The picture at the top is Munstead Wood.

Any i've summer ones i've missed? - What scent reminds you of memories from long ago?



Herbs for the new planting season

The temperature has suddenly dropped, the sides on my Polytunnel have had to be lowered for the first time in months, and the phone has rung with 3 planting enquiries in the last 2 days.

It must be time for autumn planting, and September and October are THE best time of the year to put in shrubs and perennials. They get their roots in while the soil is warm, and then can romp away fast as soon as the temperature rises next year.

Trolley of herbs from pepperpot (1 of 1)
This morning's main job was to go and collect this tray of beauties from my favourite herb nursery - Pepperpot Herbs

My truck smelt wonderful as I came back through the Surrey countryside, and the lemon balm, lavender, sage, thyme, rosemary, germander, and chives will all be used a demonstrators at the next Herbs and Salads talks and workshops that i'm doing, before being planted at Hill top farm to give me fantastic flowers and foliage next year.


Border Planting Country garden border, - What a difference a year makes

As well as Flower farming at the moment, I am making time to go back and see some of the borders i've planted up in the last couple of years.

This border was looking great in dappled sunshine this week, With the Deutzia in the background flowering its socks off, and the Alliums and tulips keeping the colour theme going.

We started this border in April last year, - at the time it was full of Large shrubs which had been vigourously pruned, and a large amount of Ground elder and Bindweed, as well as some spreading Geraniums. The soil is easy to work and sandy, but it has underlying clay. This means it keeps moisture well, but is impossible to work in the wet

We cleared the border of most of the plants, and added a range of Herbaceous perennials to give a full season of colour, which can be viewed from the terrace.

By the late summer the border had filled out well, but it  looked quite untidy, so we took out another couple of the shrubs, the fence was painted black to fade into the background, and a path was laid to edge the border and keep the grass away from the plants

We also moved around some of the original plants, now that we knew what colour they flowered, so we have kept to colour themes for different times of the year.

Ilonka tulips may13-4
The early season tulips were a great mix of colours, including the salmon orange at the front. There are other bright colours that will fill that space later in the summer, but for now, the cooler colours reign.


Border planting - Front garden Colour and shape

We went back to maintain a border yesterday, that was planted 2 years ago.


This border has been creating conversations and admiring comments from neighbours, which, let's face it, is what you want for a front garden border really. - it's a bit of a change from the weedy patch left over by the builders which I found 2 summers ago.

Continue reading "Border planting - Front garden Colour and shape" »

Border planting - garden border, or large container planting?

I often get called into a garden when my clients are part way through a project. Sometimes, they are stuck with what to do next. - This was the case earlier in the year, when I was asked to devise a border plan for a great decking project.

Slater prairie style-1

In creating a fantastic open space that came out from the patio doors, they had also fashioned a large drop into the rest of the garden. They needed a planting plan that ensured their shy but energetic toddler could be seen in all the garden, and wasn't tempted to launch herself off the edge of the decking onto the lawn.

Continue reading "Border planting - garden border, or large container planting?" »

Border planting - Separation from next door without a hedge

Sometimes when I get asked to do a planting scheme, my clients just want "some plants". Sometimes I get a list of requirements.

Today I went back in the rain to see a border I planted last Autumn.


There was a very detailed list of requirements that came with this border which included

A vision to have a stunning border with shrubs flowering at different times, the border has a prime spot at the top of the hill

Screening neighbours cars

Fast growing shrubs, trees and plants

Plants to deal with the slight slope, and the poor soil from the recently removed line of 40yr old conifers

Space for a small planting line of annuals next to our driveway

Easily maintainable from our side, although Neighbour is happy to have plants

Would like to buy maturer plants to start border +1m height.

Including one tall lime green conifer by the gate as a tall screen


I could have taken them at their word, but I always like to find out what's behind requests, so I went round to see their current back garden (amazing trees and foliage shapes including Liquidamber and Acers), and showed them my source folders to get opinions of which flowers, colours, style and shapes really took their fancy.

There was a difference of preferences about whether summer colour or all year round foliage colour was the most important, but the line of summer bedding has been replaced by colourful bulbs, and easy to look after perennials like Heuchera and Asters.

The conifer was to provide a permanent screen to hide the access to the back garden, - where the shed and bins are, - instead we've used variegated Pittosporums for evergreen cover, and Physocarpus for upright coloured foliage in summer. Because these and the shrubby honeysuckle that have been used as permanent evergreen plants, are fairly fast growing, we didn't need to buy large specimens, meaning that money was saved to ensure all the space was covered.


Before planting, the border looked a long bare strip, that was highly visible to everyone coming up the road, as the house is on a bend.


Initially when planted, although the autumn colours shone through, my clients wondered whether they had made a big mistake, ad should have gone for a hedge.

Now though with the shrubs filling out, and the bulbs and perennials adding a welcome splash of colour, the border  is taking shape as it should.

Here's the view out to the road.




Border planting - Mediterranean herb borders

Today I finished one of my favourite types of projects. I brought a clients vision to life with plants to complete their design.

I love this kind of challenge where a client has had a patio, driveway or hardscape feature designed, and then needs a planting expert to finish off their vision. In this case a Mediterranean patio and urn water features with planting borders.


The 2nd set of patio doors is the Kitchen, so we wanted to make sure that as well as being beautiful, these borders are bountiful in providing the herbs for culinary use.

The 4 main border squares are each based (loosely I admit) on a herb type. - Fennel, Allium, Sage and Rosemary, with a central Stipa Gigantea grass to tie the borders together.


The area nearest to the kitchen is slightly more shady, and had been overshadowed by bushes. - These have now been removed, and we have rivers of different coloured mints and lemon balm, plus shapd bay, and Elder, to carry on the edible theme into the shade.

The end result is good looking, scented, and productive. - ideal for sitting out next to, when we get the summer.



Border planting- Hiding a busy road without an evergreen hedge

Just over a year ago, My lovely builder Mick, finished my Kitchen. After 4 years of managing with a 70's monstrosity (that friends looked aghast at) I have a lovely open plan, properly designed space, that is easy to work in to turn my fruit and vegetables from the garden into delicious meals.

This week, I got the opportunity to help Mick turn his monstrosity of an overlooked outside space, into what will be a sheltered and colourful and interesting garden.

Not all of us can live in seclusion in the countryside, and that means that there are plenty of houses out there situated right next to busy roads, and in this case, Traffic lights2012-03-23_001

Last February when I went to look at the garden for the first time, - there wasn't a lot in it. - Lots of concrete, a big change in level, some scrappy grass, and the only decent tree, a large holly was slap bang in the middle of the garden. Plus there was a huge sickly hedge.


Initially this dieing hedge of Privet, ( probably a combination of traffic pollution and suspected Honey fungus) plus lots of ash saplings, was going to be replaced by another, - but after lots of discussion, between us (Mick and his partner Gill), and the council. The decision was reached to put up a fence, and plant on the inside.

The entrance to the garden was also changed, to move the driveway further from the traffic lights, and when all the hard landscaping was taking place last year, the garden looked awfully exposed.

Being a Builder, the hard landscaping side of this project didn't phase Mick and his team, - so this week I got the wonderful job of planting up beautifully prepared border areas


We're aiming for as much shelter from the traffic as possible here, without having a solid line of plants, - so first in were 5 different Trees. - 2 Prunus, Kanzan and Pissardii Purpurea, Amelanchier lamarkii, A multi stemmed birch, plus a wonderful evergreen Cotoneaster Frigidus.


I've then gone for some lovely large shrubs, - These won't need pruning, and as some will grow up to 3-4 metres in height will be tree like in their shelter qualities


Gill had wanted colour and scent, so I picked plenty of fragrance to ensure the garden was good for the sense of smell


And to hide the rising wall of the driveway, we've got a great selection of perennials, small shrubs and grasses.


I'm really looking forward to how this garden progresses, and whether the shops and traffic lights will be completly hidden from view in a couple of years time.


A hosepipe ban, that'll hurt your border planting business won't it?

I'm in the business of Plants, and planting, and propagating, - So a lack of water, DROUGHT, when the water companies are forbidding you to use a hosepipe, that's a nightmare isn't it?

Well no, - not really.

You see my business is built on me knowing the right plant for the right place.

Advice that I give clients is always about plants that will thrive in the conditions thrown at them, not just survive. As a lot of my clients have very free draining chalk, that's pretty dry conditions anyway.

I've always told customers to install waterbutts, mulch soils, ensure water goes to the roots of the plants, not the leaves. Also water deeply, but not daily, and never bother wasting water on lawns


Even when planting borders, I've used drip irrigation, to prepare the soil,  and hand watering rather than overhead sprinklers.


With below average rainfall in 19 of the last 24 months here in the Southeast, - it's not suprising that the water companies need to do something. Maybe this season will finally teach people in the 'burbs that you don't need to leave your overhead sprinkler running every night, and that a green lawn isn't that important.

The HTA and waterwise have been lobbying on gardeners behalf, and 3 water companies have given exemption for drip irrigation, and they are discussing whether newly planted borders can be exempt (read the whole article here)

In the meantime, - if you havn't already got waterbutts on every downpipe, greenhouse and shed, then now is the time to do it, and don't forget to raise them high enough to get a watering can under the tap.