Gardening Advice

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Perennials and grasses for early autumn colour

Perennials and grasses for early autumn colour 0

Late perennials and warm-season grasses will make a garden beautiful from July until the frosts, and sometimes afterwards, even into winter. Subshrubs like lavender and perovskia are also part of the late summer garden.

Fashionable grasses have a long season of interest. What is so lovely about grasses is the way they move in the breeze, giving movement and a pleasant rustling sound to the garden. Some, like Miscanthus cultivars with their lovely arching habit and beautiful late-summer plumes that persist into winter, can be used structurally, placed evenly along a border. Miscanthus and other grasses can be used as specimens, or in drifts in a prairie planting, with late, natural-looking perennials.
  • Maria Collard
Choosing and growing hydrangeas

Choosing and growing hydrangeas 0

Some people feel that hydrangeas are rather old-fashioned, having encountered them in their grandparents’ gardens, but think again! Hydrangeas are wonderfully generous plants, leafing out early in the year and suppressing weeds with their handsome leaves; they flower for months, usually from midsummer, often changing colour as they age. The leaves of these deciduous shrubs often colour well in autumn. The climbing varieties are self-clinging, so there is no need for supports. Macrophylla hydrangeas tolerate coastal exposure, too.

Hydrangea flowers are good for cutting, and also for drying for winter. The smaller ones are good in soil-based compost in large containers, which looks really wonderful if the same cultivar is planted in a row of identical pots, in a courtyard or formal garden.

  • Maria Collard
Choosing and growing hardy geraniums

Choosing and growing hardy geraniums 0

Hardy geraniums, also known as cranesbills for their long beak-like seed-pods, are brilliant plants for the garden. They are different from, though distantly related to, pelargoniums, commonly, but wrongly, called geraniums – lovely plants, but tender, so are used for summer bedding, window boxes and pots.

Hardy geraniums are very obliging plants, reliable and easy to grow. They are herbaceous perennials, dying back in winter but putting out fresh new growth quite early in spring. Their deeply cut leaves are very attractive, many colouring well in autumn, and some, like Geranium renardii, are virtually evergreen. They are very good for pollinators, like bees and hoverflies.

  • Maria Collard
Growing Primulas

Growing Primulas 0

Primulas are a joy in the spring garden, and some will continue through the summer and into early autumn. They are herbaceous perennials, much more refined than the bedding polyanthuses, and when in the conditions they like will come back for many years.

Native primulas are very easy-going, and lovely in wild gardens, woodlands and meadows. The Asiatic primulas are fussier, liking reliably damp, acid to neutral soil; they are good in bog gardens, or on stream or pond banks, and are brilliant for bringing rich colour to a shady area. There are other lovely primulas, too, good in borders, and all love a deep, humus-rich, reliably moist, even wet, usually acid to neutral soil – a treat for those whose soil lies heavy and wet, and who sigh when ‘well-drained soil’ pops up on the website. All the ones discussed below are fully or very hardy.

  • Maria Collard
Magnolias

Magnolias 0

Magnolias are beautiful, glamorous plants, with their tulip-shaped, goblet-shaped or strap-petalled flowers. They are also very ancient; one of the first flowering plants on earth, they pre-date bees and their open flowers are pollinated by beetles. Some are deciduous; these are mainly spring-flowering, usually on the shapely, open, bare branches, a glorious sight to behold in the spring garden. Evergreen magnolias usually flower in summer, including the beautiful, cream-flowered bull-bay, M. grandiflora, best trained on a warm wall.

There are several myths about magnolias. One is that they grow very large, and you would certainly need a big garden to grow M. campbellii at 50’/15m, but there are many, many, smaller cultivars or species ideal for smaller gardens, like M. stellata with starry white flowers, or the ‘Little Girl’ series, perhaps the best of which is ‘Susan’, with narrow, tulip-shaped crimson petals, paler within. And there are magnolias, like Fairy Blush and Fairy White, which are small enough to be grown in large containers, as can M. stellata.

  • Maria Collard
How to choose and grow hazelnuts

How to choose and grow hazelnuts 0

There are only three nuts we can grow in our climate – walnuts, sweet chestnuts and hazelnuts – and the last is the only one which can be grown in a less than large garden. Hazelnuts are very nutritious, containing good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) folate, minerals, fibre and Vitamins B6 and E.

Home-grown ones are really delicious, eaten fresh or toasted, for cooking and baking, or making a brilliant salad oil or your own Nutella. And they are very, very good for wildlife.

  • Maria Collard