The Lovely Garden Blog

Shrubby Matters

Posted on 31/01/13, filed under Plant passions | No Comments

Viburnum opulus RoseumGardens of all sizes benefit from a selection of shrubs. They give height, width and stature but can add so much more in the way of scent and colour. Shrubs can perform all through the year, with flowers, berries, leaf colour and structural shape.Men worry about shrubs. In fact women worry more about men worrying about shrubs. You just know when ‘the man’ is going out there to prune and it won’t be at the right time, when the flowers have finished or to promote the right kind of growth for next year. If a man prunes a shrub it’s because a) He wants to get out of the house for a couple of hours and b) He knows that some other job might loom if he doesn’t. As a general rule of thumb, prune your shrub just after it’s flowered. I’ve been to gardens with the most wonderful mature specimens and I say to the clients ‘Oh, you’ve got Ceanothus Concha. You lucky thing. It’s such a gorgeous dark blue,’ and the poor lady of the house says ‘Dark blue flowers? Has it? I’ve never seen it flower,’ and the man rises quickly from the sofa and offers me a cup of tea…..There are some shrubs that deserve to be in every garden, regardless of size. My favourites are the Viburnums. I remember when I first became passionate about plants and used to drag the family around every NGS garden open. I saw, and smelt, my first ever Viburnum Burkwoodii in a garden just by Stopham Bridge. It was growing up a sunny wall, almost like a free-standing climber. The scent was intoxicating. I could have stood there all day, burying my nose in the flowers. They smell like a bunch of old fashioned pinks, but headier and addictive. I have three specimens in my garden at home, and when they flower I cut a tiny flower head and put it on my desk.My other favourite Viburnums are Opulus and Bodnantse. And I even like good old Davidii, with those wonderful blue steely berries from the autumn onwards. The Opulus is also called the Snowball bush, for obvious reasons. It’s that lovely limey green colour and the flowers are a greeny cream. They’re great for flower arrangements and blowsy and romantic. Lest I start to sound like Carole Klein after a gin, I’ll move onto evergreens. Sometimes you need an evergreen shrub and do have a look at Prunus Lusitanica. I often design it in as a hedge, but it’s a good performer with long racemes of white flowers in the spring, red growth at the end of the new stems and black looking berries in the autumn. Skimmia is always worth including too, especially ‘Kew Green’, which is that lovely limey colour again. It’s so scented in the early spring, and works well near the front door. Two other doorway performers are the Daphnes and Winter honeysuckle, Lonicera fragrantissima.  Daphne is so strongly scented you’re in danger of not going into the house, but standing out there with your shopping, sniffing the air and getting cold. The honeysuckle needs much closer inspection. The scent is subtle, sweet and so delicate. I was in the habit of sticking my nose right into the flowers on my way out each morning until a lady in Waitrose kindly told me it was covered in yellow pollen.








Starting early

Posted on 15/01/13, filed under Latest News | No Comments

tulips 1

Even on the coldest day of the year so far, the garden is preparing to emerge and I can see the tulips pushing through the ground in the borders. People are thinking about their gardens already.  As a designer it’s great to have a variety of projects and clients. All my new gardens will belong to the clients – it’s not about going ahead and doing something that I feel like doing. It’s a designer’s job to show what’s possible and probable whilst interpreting our client’s life-style within the garden. So many houses are updated, leaving the garden stuck in the 1930s. The start of the year is always a busy and exciting period. Most people think about their gardens now in order to be finished and ready for the summer, but some projects are ongoing for years with a new phase planned annually. It’s no surprise that clients and designers become friends. From our point of view, it’s wonderful to be trusted with something that is going to bring years of pleasure and enjoyment to the family. The process can take several months, with surveys, plans, meetings, construction and costings and then the build itself so it’s good to start early.

Has spring sprung?

Posted on 11/01/13, filed under Latest News | No Comments

bergenia-white-flowerWe are officially still in Winter – and this weekend the cold weather starts to bite. We’ve been lulled into a false sense of security with all these mild, sunny days. I feel almost cross when I need a coat but it’s only January. The coldest months are yet to come. However, a little bit of spring in the garden always makes you feel optimistic. Just putting the Xmas decorations in the loft puts winter behind me. The seed catalogues make good bed time reading (we’ve been married long enough for them to be allowed now) and it won’t be long before all the new herbaceous pots are in the nursery. Buying the smaller, one litre pots is good value. They soon bulk up into good sized plants. If you buy lupins or delphiniums this way just pot them on a few times – three at once – into bigger pots before you plant them out. If you put the small, single stems into the ground the slugs will think they’re an amuse bouche and they’ll be gone before you can say Heston. Things are starting to flower and push through the ground. Primroses and snowdrops have already appeared. Tight little buds are on the spring flowering shrubs. My auriculas look like they’ve recovered from the flu and are blooming almost enthusiastically in the greenhouse. Indoors the bulbs I brought in are opening now. Passing a tiny bowl of crocus on the hall table, or seeing pots of amaryllis standing to attention on the kitchen windowsill is enough to make anyone turn off the weather forecast.