Ideas for Gardens My Top 100 Plants - by George Kelly - a gardener in Ireland
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Plant Name My Notes
Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood'
Common Name: Japanese Maple
Colour: Deep purple foliage
Height:– 10–16ft Spread:– 10ft
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Deciduous small tree. Deep purple foliage throughout the season. Sounds pretty bland? Dont believe it for one minute.
My interest was aroused when I spotted a purple Acer in a garden magazine. I located a book by Van Gelderen in Belfast library and by sheer luck , it turned that I had selected the most authorative book on the market. I was dumbfounded by the number of cultivars described and decided to buy one of each of as many varieties as I could justify to judge for myself what spring colour and autumn colour acers were like in reality. I managed to convince my work colleagues to buy some as well. When 28 grafted varieties (no repeats) were delivered by mail to my house, parting with 6 of them was difficult. They were tiny, but all exquisite!
This is one of the best in my bunch. The foliage remains attractive the whole growing season.
Acer palmatum 'Shindeshojo'
Common Name: Japanese Maple
Colour: Flaming scarlet foliage
Height:– 6–7ft Spread:– 5–6ft
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Ive selected two acers. The first ('Bloodgood') was a well known variety. Many of the acers I bought were based on a single photo and in a couple of instances, from a description. I bought this one for its reputed brilliant spring foliage. I was not disappointed.
However, based on the complexity of 'Shindeshojo' I've come to the conclusion that it is impossible to convey its features properly either photographically OR in a description. Uniform it is not! It defies description due to the many shades, blends, tints, hues call it what you may which it exhibits and transforms through in the growing season. All I can say is that it is gorgeous and was given pride of place outside my french windows. Some of the acers can be breathtaking when they leaf out in spring, others when in autumn colour, some both. What isn't so widely publicised is that some can look pretty much uninteresting in summer between these periods. Not so this plant. Out of my bunch, it was one of the most consistently beautiful last year. Ive done my best photographically. Ive taken LOTS of photos of the leaves at various times and I'd say this plant is the most interesting Japanese Maple I have seen.
Ive read that it is good as a container plant and popular for Bonzai due to its small leaves.
All my japanese maple photos are in the "ACERS" database, available as a Swap CD to "Ideas Genie – Software for Plant Lovers" users. Click here for more details.
Alchemilla conjuncta
Colour: Bluish green leaves
Flowers from Jun to Sep
Height:– 8in Spread:– 12in
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7–9 lobed shaped leaves, 2ins wide, light green above with a faint but distinctive silver edge, silver beneath on silver stems. Clump forming and very neat ground cover.
Alstromeria aurea
Common Name: Peruvian Lily
Colour: Orange with red flecks
Flowers in Jul
Height:– 3–4ft Spread:– 3–7ft
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Clusters of bright orange flowers marked with deep red flecks in summer. Excellent cut flower. Vigorous and perhaps invasive.
Anemone blanda
Common Name: Windflower
Colour: Mauve
Flowers from Feb to Apr
Height:– 6in Spread:– 4–6in
Flower size:– 1–1.5in
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Opens fully in sun, Available in Blue, white or pink.
For some reason this isn't stated in the reference books that I use, but the foliage dies down in June/July leaving no visible evidence of the plant until it remerges again in winter
Anthemis tinctoria 'E C Buxton'
Common Name: Golden Marguerite
Colour: Pale Lemon–Yellow
Flowers from Jun to Aug
Height:– 3ft Spread:– 2ft
Flower size:– 1–1.5in
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I prefer pastel yellows, and this one is just that. A gorgeous plant with mid green ferny leaves which flowers over a long period.
Antirrinhium majus 'Monarch Series'
Common Name: Snapdragon
Colour: Various
Flowers from May to Aug
Height:– 10in Spread:– 5–10in
Flower size:– 1–1.5in
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Plants will survive mild winters resulting in early flowers.
A cold greenhouse is sufficient for overwinter young plants raised from a late sowing. These will flower early in the greenhouse or can be planted out for an early display in the border.
Argyranthemum 'Jamaica Primrose'
Common Name: Marguerite
Colour: Soft yellow
Flowers from Jun to Aug
Height:– 20in Spread:– 36in
Flower size:– 2.5in
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Vigorous with dark green leaves. RHS Award of Garden Merit.
Abundant daisy like flowers with feathery fliage. Good for bedding. Must be grown from cuttings each year in the UK
Armeria maritima
Common Name: Sea pink, thrift
Colour: Red/pink
Flowers from Jun to Jul
Height:– 8–10in Spread:– 20in
Flower size:– 0.7–1in
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Although more at home in a seaside location this plant is also very useful in a rockery or at the front of the border.
Artemesia ludoviciana
Common Name: Wormwood
Colour: Tiny Grey White Flowers
Flowers in Aug
Height:– 4ft Spread:– 2ft
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Can be invasive!!!
Aster amellus 'King George'
Common Name: Michaelmas Daisy
Colour: Violet Blue
Flowers from Aug to Sep
Height:– 18–24in Spread:– 15in
Flower size:– 1–2in
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Michaelmas daisies offer an extension to summer as they flower in late summer and Autumn when most other flowers are past their best. Rarely need staking and the plant will spread to form a formidable clump in a few years. I find the plant is good at resisting invasion by weeds and grass. Sprays are great for flower arranging.
RHS–Award of Garden Merit
Aubretia deltoidea
Colour: Violet
Flowers from Mar to Jun
Height:– 6in Spread:– 2ft
Flower size:– 0.5–0.8in
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This plant produces a profusion of star shaped flowers with 4 petals. Can be used in dry walls to make an attractive cascade. I use the plant at the edge of my dry sunny border. It spills onto the tarmac driveway and makes a stunning show.
Begonia semperflorens
Common Name: Wax Begonia
Colour: Red, White or Pink or Bicolor
Flowers from Jun to Sep
Height:– 6–12in Spread:– 6–12in
Flower size:– 1.2in
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A native of Brazil and available in a wide range of colours. Usually covered in bloom when due to plant out in late May/June and flowering continues non stop until frosts. Good in the border or in containers.
Glossy bright green leaves make this a very attractive plant.
Bergenia cordifolia
Colour: Lilac–Rose
Flowers from Jan to Apr
Height:– 1ft Spread:– 2ft
Flower size:– 1in
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Lush shiny green leaves which almost glow in border settings make this plant as useful out of flower as during its late winter early spring flowering period.
The large leaves are very popular with Flower Arrangers.
Buxus sempervirens
Common Name: Box
Colour: Green
Height:– 4ft Spread:– 2.5ft
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My favourite hedging plant and can be clipped into architectural shapes. Very easy to grow from cuttings in summer. My reference book says the species seeds itself readily (I havent seen any evidence of this!)
A native of Britain.
Calendula officinalis
Common Name: Calendula
Colour: Orange–Yellow
Flowers from Jun to Sep
Height:– 2ft Spread:– 2ft
Flower size:– 3–4in
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Daisy–like, single orange flowers to 4in across borne profusely from summer to autumn.
This plant self seeds readily but the seedlings are easily recognisable and are easily removed from unwanted loctions.
I always leave a few to grow and self seed each year
Camellia x williamsii 'Debbie'
Colour: Pink
Flowers from Mar to May
Height:– 6–10ft Spread:– 4–6ft
Flower size:– 3–4in
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Upright growth. Deep pink double flowers. Slightly later flowering than Donation in my garden. Looks best when it begins to flower. Unfortunately a night of frost or rain can rot the blooms and the bush can become untidy. The plant does cast the dead blooms and these can also be deadheaded to rejuvenate the appearance. An abundant succession of buds means the bush provides a valuable source of interest to see us through late spring and into early summer.
RHS Award of Garden of Merit
Campanula carpatica
Colour: Blue
Flowers from May to Sep
Height:– 6–10in Spread:– 16in
Flower size:– 1–2in
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Another RHS Garden of Merit plant. One of the very first perennials I grew from seed, and they were one of my favourites of all time. The good news for new gardeners is that you can have an awful lot of beginners luck!
I managed a mix of a good number of plants in two colours, Blue and White. They die away completely in winter and leave a tiny mound so it is a good idea to mark the spot in autumn. Keep weed free to give the delicate new growth a chance in spring. They are a bit slow to emerge in my location.
The genus Campanula has a very diverse range of species , all beautiful. The taller species grow to 3 ft and more. Prostrate varieties make lovely hummocks of neat leaves which are completly obliterated with bloom in summer. You can see I like them!
Campanula glomerata
Colour: Blue
Flowers from May to Jul
Height:– 14–18in Spread:– 12–24in
Flower size:– 1.5in
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A vigorous plant which is said to be invasive. I found it does spread but can be easily contained.The radiant blue flowers make the plant easy to fit into planting schemes . Leafy stems need staking.
Campanula lactiflora 'Pouffe'
Colour: Pale Blue
Flowers in Jul
Height:– 24in Spread:– 18in
Flower size:– 0.7in
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A foot smaller than the species, this plant has soft green leafy stems which produce an impressive display that looks at its best for about a month.
Campanula medium
Common Name: Canterbury Bell
Colour: Various Colours
Flowers from May to Jul
Height:– 2.5–3ft Spread:– 1–1.5ft
Flower size:– 2–2.5in
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These Biennials produce a wide range of colours so its pot luck when planting them as to what colour combinations will result. They need staking but are quite spectacular. I was surprised to find a few self seeded plants emerging a year or two after I had grown them, one appearing obediently in dwarf form in the rockery, 20 ft from original planting position.
Carex hachijoensis 'Evergold'
Common Name: Sedge
Colour: Green–central yellow stripe
Height:– 10–12in Spread:– 14in
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I was only gardening about 2 years when a great local gardener, Dr June Weir, gave my sister and me an escorted tour of her wonderful garden. This plant simply stood out like a beacon about two borders ahead of the tour route . I drooled so much that when my sister brought Dr Weir to my garden a few weeks later she brought a small division. Years later, so it remains, growing very little since!
This exercise has provoked another determined attempt to succeed. My research shows that it is Cultivation Group 2 in the Carex genus meaning it needs fertile soil, moist but well drained soil in sun or partial shade. It already has all of that at the front of the border.
Anyone any tips on this one? Comments Please
Catananche caerulea
Common Name: Cupid's Dart
Colour: Purplish Blue
Flowers in Aug
Height:– 2.5–3ft Spread:– 18in
Flower size:– 1.5in
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This short lived perennial can easily be grown from seed. Their cornflower like flowers are good for cutting and may be dried.
Cerastium tomentosum
Common Name: Snow–in–summer
Colour: White
Flowers from May to Jun
Height:– 6–8in Spread:– 2–3ft
Flower size:– 0.7in
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A lovely front of border plant producing an abundance of flowers and a spectacular display if given space. The silvery–grey stems and foliage look attractive before and after flowering time.
Clematis 'Nellie Moser'
Colour: Pink and white
Flowers from May to Nov
Height:– 8–10ft Spread:– 3–5ft
Flower size:– 5–6in
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This flowers on this clematis variety are renowned for fading in full sun. Its one of those rare plants which actually does better in part shade, and is suitable for a North facing wall or fence.
The main flush of flowers is in May and a few isolated blooms continue throughout the summer. Prune after flowering.
Corydalis lutea
Colour: Golden Yellow
Flowers from Apr to Oct
Height:– 2–2.5ft Spread:– 2–2.5in
Flower size:– 0.5–1in
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Easily grown from seed and self seeds readily. Seedlings are distinctive and easily uprooted. I value this plant for its very long flowering period and neat habit. Doesnt need staking and makes a neat rounded shape which it keeps for the entire season.
Cosmos atrosanguineus
Common Name: Chocolate Cosmos
Colour: Velvety black–red
Flowers from Jul to Sep
Height:– 24–30in Spread:– 18–24in
Flower size:– 2in
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The flowers of this plant have a faint but distinctive smell. Without giving any hints, I always invite my garden visitors to smell it. Some don't smell anything. Of the lucky ones who do pick up the scent, some know it reminds them of something, but they cant place it. Once they are told they do agree that it does smell of... chocolate!
So... don't expect to get knocked out by a strong fragrance, it's too subtle for that!
Its not fully hardy and is rather late emerging from its slumbers. I found the slugs attacked the new growth so enthusiastically that each new shoot was chumped to soil level – I had to resort to using slug pellets.
I like the colour and shape of the leaves of the plant before the flowers form. The pretty flowers are carried on airy stems and are produced for a long period.
Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'
Common Name: Smoke Bush
Colour: Purple leaves and flowers
Height:– 6–8in Spread:– 5–6in
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I loved this plant on first sight because of the soft purple leaves, the shapely form of the particular specimen and the dense foliage. I took cuttings of the specimen and one plant resulted. I have tried repeatedly since and havent managed a single plant!
I DO believe in beginners luck!
I dont like the plumes of tiny flowers it produces. Many gardeners remove these.
The leaves turn bright red in Autumn. The plant makes an excellent freestanding specimen.
Cotoneaster horizontalis
Common Name: Wall–spray
Colour: White/cream flowers–Red Berrys
Flowers from May to Jun
Height:– 3–7ft Spread:– 3–8ft
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I inherited a fine specimen of this plant when I moved back to the family home and took up gardening. It was one of the first plants I found a name for when hunting through gardening books, so it has a number of sentimental associations. I've read that Latin is a language to read , rather than speak. I can vouch for that as I referred to this plant as Cotton–Easter. My brother in law fell about laughing and told me it was pronounced Co–ton–e–aster. So now you know!
Its a Deciduous, stiff branched spreading shrub. In autumn, the red berries ripen about the same time as the small, glossy dark green leaves turn to red, a lovely sight, but hard to capture with a camera. The blackbirds dont plan ahead for a cold winter and feast as soon as they ripen.
Can be trained horizontally (as its name implies) or vertically. My father trained mine against a 10ft wall and it made a fairly natural fan. Ive only had to prune it twice in 15 years to tidy up a few unruly branches and it hugs the wall obediently. It did better after I fertilised the area and did some planting in the foreground of this little shrine.
Crinodendron hookerianum
Common Name: Chilean Lantern Tree
Colour: Red
Flowers from May to Jun
Height:– 7–10ft Spread:– 5–6ft
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My reference book [4] says this plant prefers a cool root position and benefits from the shade of lower growing shrubs.
Also that it survives temperatures to –10 C but should be given a sheltered position.
I have an excuse for planting it close to a 3ft wall in full sun!
I didnt know its name when it arrived in a small pot. It seems to have forgiven me because it produces an abundance of those unmistakable red lanterns every year (the lanterns made it VERY easy to identify in the book!).
I can verify the need for a sheltered position. The 3ft of the plant which extends above the wall is openly exposed at the rear to a North Wind, and the top of the plant suffered badly in the very cold winter of 1999/2000. Fortunately it survived and recovered with a vengeance to put on a thick covering of its leathery dark green glossy leaves.
Having done the research I can recommend this plant to two special Ideas Genie users. Reference book [4] says it will be restricted in size if grown as a container plant so a good plant for Maria's patio garden in Rome, Italy. Also a prefect plant for Susanna as this plant is a native of her home country, Chile.
Crocus 'Prince Claus'
Common Name: Crocus
Colour: White flowers with purple–blue
Flowers in Feb
Height:– 4–6in Spread:– 6–10in
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I dont know the variety of the original crocuses in my garden as I inherited them with the house. 'Prince Claus' probably isn't correct but its visually a fairly close match.
They were in a couple of isolated places in 1987. Now they are all around the borders close to the house, and spreading. If they are planted in a cultivated bed, as is the case in my garden, theres always a few disturbed as I weed and they seem to leg it a few feet each year (my weeding needs a lot of "enthusiasm"). The ones that ended up on the surface were moved to a new location, not "in the green" as recommended, but they seem to adapt easily.
Ideally, I'd prefer them in small clumps, but even isolated bulbs seem to naturalise to make a clump surprisingly quickly.
Did you know crocuses are divided into two groups, 1) Winter and Spring Flowering and 2) Autumn–flowering.
Implicitly, I dont have any autumn flowering varieties! Must do something about that! Picking out a few of the RHS– AGM plants, I like the look of C. medius 4ins, and C. pulchellus 7ins and it's cultivar 'Zephyr' 8ins, all mid–autumn flowering.
Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff'
Colour: Red
Flowers from Jul to Oct
Height:– 4in Spread:– 2in
Flower size:– 3–3.5in
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I'll guarantee you wont pick up a gardening book that doesnt have this plant included. I finally got three tubers two years ago, and they definitely deserve the rave reviews. Two died over winter (didnt have time to lift them) but one survived both the winter AND the slugs and snails (with the aid of a regular sprinkling of slug pellets) and gave me a wonderful display his year, beginning to flower in July.
Brilliant red flowers on beautiful dark red–purple foliage.
I read a tip in a book and have actually proved in the past that cutting down the stem to about 6ins and covering all with a heap of ashes may get Dahlias through a normal winter. The heap also marks the spot and protects from weeds.
Better still, lift and dry the tubers and store them in a frost free place over winter.
Colour: Blue
Flowers from Jun to Jul
Height:– 4–5ft Spread:– 1–1.5ft
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I wouldnt be without Delphiniums in my garden, and having thought about each plant as I prepared this top 100, I really must get some more.
I grew my first Delphiniums from seed, sown outdoors – and here's another lament to relate. As a beginner, the most difficult thing I found about growing plants from seed outdoors was not having the experience to know what the leaves were like, thus not knowing the difference between seedlings and "weedlings". If I had a good hit, and I'd marked the circumference of the area (I used a circle of sticks) I compared the seedlings inside the circle to the seedlings outside the circle. If there was a good occurrence of seedlings inside the circle and none outside then identification was fairly easy. I wryly worked out with very limited experience that seedlings ALWAYS seem to more delicate than weedlings.
One thing that puzzles me to this day is how regularly "lookalike" weedlings appear among the seedlings!
And so it was with my autumn sown delphiniums. In rich soil the lookalikes were the natives to that patch, buttercups. Man, do they have roots!
Somehow I concluded and worked on the principle that Delphinium leaves were slightly paler than buttercups. Eventually I managed to raise a really good mixture of colours from white through the pale blues to deep blues. Only a few of the deep and pale blues have survived, my neglect as they were choked by invasive orange Alstromeria, which I now recall worked really well in combination.

Delphinium grandiflorum 'Tom Pouce'
Colour: Blue
Flowers from Aug to Sep
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The elusive 'Tom Pouce'. The expert behind my local award winning garden grows this beautiful plant. She gave me some seed and I managed one plant. Unfortunately it died over winter.
Since it was grown from seed it probably was not the "true" cultivar, but it was a beautiful little plant never the less.
Last time I tried looking for a supplier on the internet all I could find were nurseries in France. My new copy of the RHS Plantfinder lists only one supplier in the UK
Anybody know of other sources for the cultivar 'Tom Pouce'?
Dendranthema 'Purple Chempak Rose'
Common Name: Chrysanthemum
Colour: Purple
Flowers from Oct to Nov
Height:– 4–5ft Spread:– 1.5–2.5in
Flower size:– 4–5in
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Chrysanthemums are way up there among my all time favourite plants. I'm one of those unfortunates who get ripped to shreds tending roses. Working with Chrysanthemums is an entirely different experience. Brush against the foliage and you are rewarded with the most beautiful fragrance. Unlike roses, where I "get" the beautiful scent in the first gentle sniff, then lose it, I find the scent of Chrysanthemums linger with strong eruptions as you work.
Pick a favourite? Impossible! Have to pick one for this list, so it has to be a cultivar discovered by a well known Chrysanth expert who lives a couple of miles from me. The discovery of 'Purple Chempac Rose' by Herbie McCauley is covered in an article in my Cultivars web site.
I bought a few plants a year after the plant was recognised by the RHS. I'm delighted to report that I have managed to keep propagating it each year, and it stays true!
Dianthus deltoides
Common Name: Maiden Pink
Colour: Deep Pink
Flowers from Jun to Jul
Height:– 6–9in Spread:– 12in
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Another one of my first perennials from seed, and the originals are still in my garden. It has made a mat about 3ft x 4ft and runs a battle with a very persistent Shamrock (well, what else would you expect in Ireland) which seems to flourish and cause maximum annoyance at Dianthus flowering time.
The plant is evergreen, but looks a bit sad during winter and early spring. In summer, pretty foliage, pretty flowers.
Reference book say it flowers until autumn. Mine don't, so they aren't going to win any awards. The cultivars, if they live up to their descriptions, should guarantee longer flowering.
Diascia cordata
Colour: Pink
Flowers from Jun to Sep
Height:– 12in Spread:– 20in
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This plant produces flowers all summer and into autumn. It is also very versatile and equally good in border or container.
Later in the season the flowers appear on long airy stems so look better from a distance than up close, and I find they are good little filler plants to augment a scheme.
There are a range of cultivars, all beautiful.
I use the pink variety to great effect with my small purple leaved dissectum Japanese maples, e.g. 'Ever Red'.
Dicentra spectabilis f. alba
Colour: White
Flowers from May to Jun
Height:– 30in Spread:– 18in
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Reference book [46] says f. alba flowers longer than the species and goes on until mid–summer.
They are probably referrring to the period when the plant looks at its best. Mine seem to flower endlessly hence the reason for making this list. Ive just had a look at my plants (time of writing 13th Sept). There are still fresh little lockets hanging on bedragged stems on the plants outdoor. A small specimen in the greenhouse is looking great, with lockets, of course!
When I found out that they are suitable for dappled shade I divided and replanted these in a number of locations. In the biggest clump it gets a few hours sun in the morning, then half shade for the rest of the day.
I actually prefer the lockets on the pink form, but it fits the short June–July flowering spec (heartbreaking).
I heard a story that you should only receive a Bleeding heart plant as a gift. I broke that rule and bought mine.
I'd never seen the flowers before and I was so delighted with the sight of the first little bleeding hearts that I paraded everyone through the greenhouse to see it. Another true delight of nature.

Doronicum 'Miss Mason'
Common Name: Leopard's Bane
Colour: Yellow
Flowers from Apr to Jun
Height:– 18in Spread:– 24in
Flower size:– 2.5in
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For some reason I had problems with this plant. The species suits a woodland setting in partial or dappled shade, moist humus rich soil.
I bought one each year, it gave a half hearted display, then prompty died. It may have had too much shade and it may also have had too many plants to compete with in the bed.
I was so challenged that I planted my latest replacement last autumn in a sunny border close to the greenhouse. I had a few flowers this year. I kept it free from weeds and included it in the feed/watering program over summer. It has now (September) spread to made a good leafy presence. Expecting a good show next year.
Awards:– RHS–AGM.
Erigeron 'Dignity'
Common Name: Fleabane
Colour: Violet–mauve
Flowers from Jun to Aug
Height:– 20in Spread:– 18in
Flower size:– 1.5in
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In a word, Erigerons are floriferous.
I really can't believe that anybody would want to refer to these top performer plants by their common name, fleabane. UUUUGH!
E. katvinskianus has a better name, the wall daisy, and there's a cultivar called 'Profusion' which [45] says is "very floriferous". If its more floriferous than the others I've seen it must be one outstanding plant. Email me and tell me how good it is if you grow this.
I admired an Erigeron in a neighbours garden for a few years then finally got round to buying one. The Michaelmas daisy like flowers smother the dense mound of foliage and make a spectacular sight and it spreads to make a bold statement. One of my favourite edging plants.
I dont know the variety, but it fits the description of 'Dignity' so Ive used that plant in this listing, although mine is 12ins x 36ins.
I found trying to capture a few images with a digital camera a real challenge, the pink flowers were miraculously transformed to blue in my earier attempts.
Eryngium x zabelii
Common Name: sea holly
Colour: Blue
Flowers from Jul to Sep
Height:– 20in Spread:– 12in
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I bought my first Eryngium from a stall at a National Trust Gardens Autumn plant sale.
I liked the leaves and had read about the beauty of the flowers and bracts. I wasn't disappointed. I planted mine beside a Cotinus and in the first year I planted pink Osteospermums nearby. It worked well for me.
The plant is a pretty good survivor. A few feet from my specimen was a fairly invasive (but I still like it) Polyganum 'Superbum'. In no time it had the Eryngium surrounded and I had no spikes for 2 years but at least it maintained a presence. This year I removed all competition and it flourished.
Dont plant them too close to a shrub. I bought and planted a second plant E. x oliverianum (RHS–AGM) at the front of a sunny bed. I found all the stems grew at an angle of 45 degrees towards the sun to avoid a neighbouring conifer. I removed the conifer in my summer tall shrub massacre!
Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve'
Common Name: Wallflower
Colour: Deep Mauve
Flowers from Mar to Jun
Height:– 30in Spread:– 30in
Flower size:– 0.7–0.8in
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I grew my first few specimen of this plant from cuttings. I'd categorise the propagation as very easy as most of the cuttings rooted successfully. They flowered as very young plants and when planted out they always seemed to have a few spikes in bloom, as I recall, intermittently right through a mild winter. The leaves are evergreen.
The bushy plants get woody and leggy in a few years so it is best to propagate a few replacements in summer each year and discard the older plants.
RHS Garden of Merit Award
Erysimum helveticum
Common Name: Wallflower
Colour: Yellow
Flowers from May to Sep
Height:– 6in Spread:– 8in
Flower size:– 1.5–2.5in
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I hunted long and hard to identify this plant. It flowers for a very long period. It was given to me by Dr Weir. I came to the conclusion that it was an Erysimum but couldnt find a photo anywhere to identify the variety. I treated myself to the latest edition of [4] (= [45] !!) and there it was pictured. The section on Erysimum had been extended and someone must have told the editor about my quest.
The flowers are very distinctive. Brown, almost black buds in the centre are surrounded with tiny yellow flowers on the circumference. Seems to last all summer like that. [4] says it is a partly evergreen perennial. I'd describe mine as a sub shrub as it ages to woody stems. It self seeds, a great relief, as I lost all mature plants last winter. I weeded the surrounding areas without upsetting the soil too much and "bingo" a few seedlings emerged. I'll be gathering more seed this year just in case!
It would probably make a very good cut flower.
Eucalyptus gunii
Common Name: Cider Gum
Colour: Pale Blue Grey Foliage
Height:– 5–7ft Spread:– 3–5ft
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A very useful foliage plant and favoured by flower arrangers.
I hard prune in spring to about 18ins to keep the plant to a height to suit my scheme. The plant looks bare for a month or two, but growth is vigorous in late summer and 3–4ft stems are typical in one year.
I found this eucalyptus looked so good in a vase with my white, pale pink and deep pink Florists Carnations.
Euonymous fortunei 'Emerald 'n Gold'
Common Name: Spindle Tree
Colour: Yellow,bright green centre
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Yellow leaves with bright green centres .
This is one of my favourite structural plants and I use it as an "eye catcher" in the garden. I find it can provide the colour and the glow among the greenery in early summer before herbacious flowers begin.
It can grow to 10ft, but I shape mine to about 15ins x 2ft with a rounded top. Easy to propagate from cuttings in autumn.
Filapendula ulmaria
Common Name: Meadowsweet
Flowers from Jun to Jul
Height:– 5ft Spread:– 2ft
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syn. Spirea ulmaria
I was walking around a nursery one warm June day and caught a waft of fragrance in the air. I traced it to a clump of white frothy headed plants which the owner informed me were Filapendula ulmaria. Beautiful!
Needs moist soil and is suitable for boggy margins of ponds.
Fritillaria meleagris
Common Name: Snake's Head Fritillary
Flowers from Apr to May
Height:– 12–18in
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These little plants are an unusual delight of nature. To a new gardener, the chequered bell shaped flowers are so intriguing and such a surprise on first sighting.
I love it when plants within a genus are distinct from one another and are easy to identify. This one seems to fit the bill.
Looking at my reference books I've found a number of other similar plants in a similar height range which I must try.
There's F. latifolia in various colours at 4–8 ins, F. pudica, yellow 6ins; F. michailovskyi (RHS–AGM) dark purplish brown with yellow at 6ins, F sewerzowii greenish yellow to purple at 12ins and F. raddeanna and so on and so on.
Then theres another great selection in the taller but stately F. imperialis (Crown Imperial) varieties.
Colour: Pale pink/Deep Pink
Flowers from Aug to Oct
Height:– 3ft Spread:– 2.5ft
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Have you ever looked closely at fuschia flowers? They are usually pendand tubes which spread out into a number of petals (or sepals) shielding a central corolla, again composed of a number of intricately wrapped petals out of which emerge 8 (usually) very prominent stamens, all hanging on a soft slender stem. Hand this all over to the hybridisers and Voila! we have a multitude of combinations of colours and colour combinations.
Some of the doubles defy descrition. Lets just say they are absolutely beautiful. They're also so valuable for their display in late summer right into autumn when most other garden plants are beginning to look tired.
Most of the fuchsia cultivars are not fully hardy. The one I have selected has been in my garden for 15 years.
Puzzle: Name that fuchia (see photos)
Galanthus nivalis
Common Name: Snowdrop
Colour: White
Flowers from Jan to Mar
Height:– 4in Spread:– 4in
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The crossover from late winter to early spring may be a bit early for most gardeners. The cold days of winter are usually still with us when these brave and very welcome heralds of spring appear. A new flowering season is upon us!
For those of us who are hardy enough to get down and turn up a few of the nodding blooms there are a wide range of cultivars available. Check out G. nivalis 'Sandersii' (syn Hoswick Yellow'') and G. nivalis 'Lady Elphinstone' for something a little different.

Gentiana sino–ornata
Common Name: Gentian
Colour: Deep blue, striped
Flowers from Sep to Oct
Height:– 2–3in Spread:– 6–12in
Flower size:– 2.5in
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If you like blue flowers then the Gentians are for you. These plants have a real touch of class. They are so neat and exquisite that every garden has room for at least a few varieties.
Personally I prefer the prostrate varieties in deep blue with the stripes on the outside, probably because they were my first encounter with the genus.
The wide funnels sit on dark green delicate leaves and proudly display their unusual inner and outer markings.
A word of warning from bitter experience. Dont allow them to be choked by weeds or crowded out by more vigorous neighbouring plants. It is well worthwhile allocating them a decent space at the front of a rock garden.
The species can be raised from seed (with care) sown in containers in an open frame so you dont need a greenhouse.
To see you through the flowering season try G. acaulis (late spring and early summer), G. asclepiadea (mid or late summer to early autumn) and G. sino–ornata (Autumn).
Each of these plants proudly carry the RHS Garden of Merit Award so they are highly recommended.
Common Name: Gladiola
Colour: Various
Flowers from Jun to Aug
Height:– 3–5ft
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I have included Gladiolias because they are terrific cut flowers. They last for ages in a vase even if, like me, you don't have the time to properly condition your plant material. The great thing about them is the way the buds open in succession from bottom to top. With 28 buds and 12 open at a time the Grandiflorus group cannot be ignored.
This genus has caught the attention of many a hybridiser. As a result the gardener has the choice of a huge range of colours and bi–colours.
If you'd like to try some of these, heres a couple of varieties to get you through the flowering season.
G. communis subsp. byzantinus. Most Gladiolias are not hardy. This one is an exception and is hardy (borderline) in the UK, probably US Zone 7/8. 3ft high magenta flowers with paler marks on the lip tepals. Flowers late spring to early summer. Carries the RHS Award of Garden Merit .
G. 'Green Woodpecker' has ruffled greenish yellow flowers with wine red marks at the throat. Height 5ft with 25 buds, 10 of which may open at the same time. Not hardy but has the RHS–AGM.
Ive found one whose name I may just remember. G. 'Georgette' .
It has yellow–suffused orange flowers with large lemon–yellow throats, 24in spikes and is 4ft tall. Not hardy.
You can choose from the popular Grandiflorus group for a wide variety to flower from early to late summer.
Hebe rakaiensis
Colour: White/cream
Flowers from May to Jun
Height:– 5.9–17.7in
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No garden should be without a hebe. They are one of my favourite structural plants. The one I have chosen here, H. rakaiensis is slow growing, evergreen, requires no regular pruning, bears racemes of white flowers and forms a dense rounded dome of glossy bright green leaves, naturally!
I also find H. rakaiensis excellent as a foliage filler in flower arrangements using oasis (amazing stuff!) Little sprigs seem to be just the perfect overall size, leaf size and texture for the job.
I grew all mine from cuttings. I gave away a couple of small plants which grew from clippings "where they fell" after I trimmed one of these shrubs back one year.
Ive now read that this variety is fully hardy and has the RHS Award of Garden Merit.
Ive had bad luck with the more showy ones. They are in the main "more tender". I bought a beautiful variety, 'Nicola's Blush' in flower and planted it in a sheltered position but it didnt survive the winter. Thinking about it, the winters were much harder then than we've experienced this past few years. I may just try another one now man's inconsideration for the environment has given us global warming.
I had a lovely foliage scheme designed around two carefully positioned variegated varieties and it fell apart when they succumbed to a cold winter. They were H. x franciscana 'Variegata' and I note they have the RHS AGM. email me if you have had experience growing these.
This Top 100 thing is a great idea. Ive identified that ground hugging grey–green leaved plant I grew from a cutting I took from a neighbours specimen. Its H. pinguifolia 'Pagei' and it is one fine plant!
Ive also found so many plants I want to try. I'll be checking out Hebe 'Youngii' (syn 'Carl Teschner' and a dinky little plant), H. topiaria, H. 'La Seduisante' and its about time I treated myself to a H. macrantha.
Hebes can be hard pruned back in April. New shoots break freely from the base.
I regret to say I once killed an overgrown H. 'Autumn Glory' (nice purple foliage) after a hard pruning, but I have a few R. rakaiensis which require the same treatment next spring. Ive taken a few cuttings just in case!
Heuchera 'Palace Purple'
Colour: Purple Foliage
Flowers in Jun
Height:– 18–24in Spread:– 18–24in
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Heucheras are used widely by professional landscapers. Their wonderful foliage and colours are great for providing contrast and drama in many schemes.
Gardeners are spoilt for choice in this Genus, and better still, most cultivars are quite distinct.
The leaves can be used in flower arrangements.
Hosta 'Halcyon'
Colour: Greyish blue leaves
Flowers in Jul
Height:– 14–16in Spread:– 28in
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I find this is one of the most photogenic of the hostas. Ive taken photos of a garden area to capture another plant as the primary subject, and 'Halycon' almost outshone it in the wings.
Unfortunately Hostas are also much sought after for their culinary properties by those other residents of the garden, slugs and snails, and if no precautionary measures are taken they can leave the plants looking dreadful at the end of the season.
Iberis sempervirens 'Schneeflocke'
Common Name: Candytuft
Colour: White
Flowers in May
Height:– 10in Spread:– 24in
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In bold swathes, this is my favourite planting partner for Aubretia.
I missed the opportunity to snap a fantastic display in a neighbours garden. MUST get it next year.
Regretably I havent managed the display in my own garden yet.
Ive had two plants for years and they are yet to make a significant statement. I came to the conclusion that mine were a poor variety so I bought 'Schneeflocke' syn. 'Snowflake' this year because it has the RHS Award of Garden Merit distinction. I bought it in full bloom. The flowers were larger than my variety so I am hopeful that this is the right plant to link up a scheme. Ive planted it (in my Mrs McCandless bed) between a pink Azalea and a swathe of pink Pulmonaria with the blue aubretia in front and they were all in flower simultaneously this year.
The stems appear to be sturdier than my previous variety.
Ive now read that I should have been pruning them lightly after flowering to make them bushy. Wonderful what you pick up when you do a Top 100!
Impatiens walleriana Accent Series
Common Name: Busy Lizzie
Colour: Various
Flowers from Jun to Sep
Height:– 8in Spread:– 24in
Flower size:– 1–2.5in
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I like this plant because it has so many uses. Its probably known best as a container plant. Impatiens are tender perennials and they will flower virtually all year round as a house plant if you can keep them free from pests. Unfortunately I find that VERY difficult.
I always buy a few trays of plug plants, pot them on, then use them as fillers in mid summer in the garden or in spots where a bit of colour is needed to cheer a drab area. And thats where they can be really useful as they are suitable for part shade if you have rich and moist but well drained soil.
I find them variable in the garden. One plant can huff and not flower well, go leggy, get clobbered by the dog or... all of those things! Then for some inexplicable reason one will be prolific and spread to 18ins. The super performer this year has a central star and is in full sun in this exceptional summer (2003) in Ireland.
There are so SO many hybrids and cultivars in this Genus.
Lathyrus odoratus 'Beaujolais'
Common Name: Sweet Pea
Colour: Maroon
Height:– 6–8ft Spread:– 2ft
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Sweet Pea's are probably one of the most popular climbers grown by gardeners. They flower for a very long period, and have the most heavenly scent. All that, and they so easy to grow from seed sown outdoors. They will provide a continuous source of cut flower material and, amazingly, cutting flowers actually encourages the plant to produce more blooms.
Here's the cultivation tips. Nip out the growing tip of the first shoot beyond the third pair of leaves from the bottom when the plants are 6ins long. This encourages vigorous growth.
They do best in any well drained but moisture–retentive soil.
Plant in full sun or (ideally) in dappled shade.
Water plants in dry weather. Deadhead frequently.
To get the best results you have to plan ahead. Dig well–rotted organic matter into the planting site in the season BEFORE planting and sow the seed in Autumn in a greenhouse or coldframe. During the growing season apply a balanced liquid fertiliser every two weeks. You will be rewarded with the earliest possible flowers, and the highest quality blooms.
Leucanthemum x superbum 'Wirral Supreme'
Common Name: Chrysanthemum
Colour: White
Height:– 30in Spread:– 24in
Flower size:– 3–3.5in
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Ohhhhh. This top 100 has been so revealing! 'Wirral Supreme' is one of the best flowers I have ever grown. Consulting my reference books for this project has made me aware of a whole range of other double cultivars in the x superbum species and dont they look GOOD!
My 'Wirral Sureme' is one of the best as it carries the RHS Award of Garden Merit. Other ones to die for (all white) are 'Cobham Gold' 24ins. 'Horace Read' 24ins.
'Agaia' semi–double 24ins and 'T.E.Killen' with 4in double blooms and yellow anemone centres are two others with the prestigious RHS Award of Garden Merit.
If this spurs you into investigating the Leucanthemums you'll find another interesting genus in close alpha proximity. Check out the hardy Leucanthemopsis which you can grow from seed for your rock garden.
They used to be ALL called Chrysanthemums at one time. It will take a bit of time to get the hang of these newer names!
Liatrus spicata 'Kobold'
Common Name: Kansas Gayfeather
Colour: Deep Purple
Flowers in Sep
Height:– 18–24in Spread:– 18–24in
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I am pleased to note that this plant is also a favourite with many florists.
The species is 3ft tall but the cultivars are in the 18 to 24 in height range [45] and more suitable for most gardens.
The species is suitable as a bog plant [4]
Ligularia dentata 'Desdemona'
Common Name: Golden Rays
Colour: Vivid Orange
Flowers from Jul to Sep
Height:– 3ft Spread:– 3ft
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I grow this plant for its bold and gorgeous foliage. I bought one at a stall and didnt know quite what to expect. The vivid orange flowers were a surprise when they appeared. They didnt seem in keeping with the plant in my reckoning.I'd class them as gaudy and hideous.
Two tips if you decide to grow this. Treat it as a specimen and give it plenty of room to make a statement. Secondly, take whatever action you prefer to protect it from slugs and snails, otherwise you'll have a sorry looking sight.
They do best in moist soil by the side of water or in dappled shade.
Lobelia 'Queen Victoria'
Common Name: Cardinal Flower
Colour: Scarlet–red
Flowers from Jul to Sep
Height:– 36in Spread:– 12in
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I love purple foliage, and this plant is one of the best.
This is one of the few named varieties which can be raised from seed and in propagation gargon it is "quite easy".
It is fully hardy, but unfortunately it is a short lived perennial and never survivies long enough in my garden to make a large clump.
Lobelia erinus 'Mrs Clibran'
Colour: Brilliant Blue/White Eyes
Flowers from Jun to Sep
Height:– 6in Spread:– 6in
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What is that causes the switch in life to flick over and make you a gardener? This plant may have been influential in my case. In the days when "awareness" began this plant caught my eye in baskets and containers, far more so that the larger flowered begonias and petunias. Once I found a name for it the attempts I made in the early days to grow it from seed were hilarious, so much so that Ive made it the subject of another article, and you might want to take a short cut and read it if you havent grown this plant yet. Its SO easy from seed.
It's included in my Top 100 list because I find it so versatile. From seedlings which look like dust, and seedlings which are like threads this plant develops into a tough and bushy beauty which will fend off competition in baskets and borders.
Lonicera nitida 'Baggesen's Gold'
Colour: bright Yellow
Height:– 5ft Spread:– 5ft
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This plant is valued for its long arching shoots and bright yellow leaves.
It is another useful plant which can be used to make a small hedge or can be clipped for topiary.
It can be allowed to display its attractive form and fresh yellow foliage to best advantage as a less regularly trimmed specimen.
I find it does put on a fair amount of growth and needs trimed 2 to 3 times per summer. Unfortunately this entails removing all the fresh new yellow growth, but it quickly regenerates a fresh flush.
I find it it a great structural plant to place among the "greens" to break up the monotony.
Magnolia stellata
Colour: White
Flowers from Mar to May
Height:– 10ft Spread:– 12ft
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I love magnolias, but this is by far my favourite.
My older reference book [4] states that M. stellata is known to be a dwarf mutant of M. kobus, but the more modern books I've referenced have no mention of this. Expert comments would be appreciated!
Slow growing, mine reached a height of 5ft in 6 years and produced an abundance of blooms over a couple of months in spring. The flowers were so pure and perfect and the scent was delicate and so beautiful.
For a reason unknown to me it died over the mild winter of 2002/2003 (as did a well established Cotinus in a different part of the garden)
I waited all summer to see if it would sprout from the base but unfortunately it appears to be well and truly deceased.
No time for post–mortems so, having done my research for this article I will purchase Magnolia stellata 'Waterlily' which has the RHS Award of Garden Merit.
Mimulus 'Mystic Mixed'
Common Name: Monkey Flower
Colour: Various
Flowers from Jun to Oct
Height:– 6–9in Spread:– 8–10in
Flower size:– 1–1.5in
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The most showy fowers in this genus are of hybrid origin.
Fortunately for gardeners, a number of the cultivars can be grown from seed. They are short lived perennials but they are usually treated as annuals (grown from seed each year).
With a flowering period from summer to early autumn these plants are well known by the experienced gardener, and of course were a Mrs McCandless favourite.
I was taking photos in a neighbours garden this year and found seedlings appearing in the most unlikely spots. I was offered a few so I selected a mixture of small plants in different colours (they flower early) and put them in pots in the grenhouse. They took a few weeks to recover, but they are now planted out and STILL in full flower, in first week October!
Looking at the seed catalogs and [45] and [46] the nearest match I can find is the T&M 'Mystic Mixed' series. In common with my acquisitions described above, these are almost entirely without marking or spotting and have a colour range wine–red, bright–red, ivory–white, yellow, rose–pink, or orange.
If you decide to try Mimulus from T&M there's also 'Shade Loving Mixed' which include 'White Croft Scarlet' and a new 2004 offering called 'Monkey Magic', pure white "mysteriously splashed with vibrant red spots'. The catalog illustrations look good!
Prefer moist humus rich soil, and good for bog gardens and the edges of ponds and streams. Smaller varieties are ideal for moist, semi shaded parts of a rock garden.
Narcissus 'Brindle Pink'
Colour: Yellow/Pink
Flowers in Apr
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I spent an afternoon at Ringhaddy daffodils in May 2002 snapping Narcissus cultivars, and I selected this one as my favourite.
Hybridised by Brian Duncan from Omagh in my home country (N Ireland) this does make it that bit more special. The entire Brian Duncan stock has been bought over by Ringhaddy daffodils. The stock is in good hands, since the owner, Nial Watson (Killinchy, N Ireland) is a Narcissus hybridisation expert and has a number of his own prizewinning introductions to his credit.
If you fancy a few, get in touch with Ringhaddy and ask for the high quality catalog. Heres the email:
email:– ringdaff– (Note:Replace the dash with @ )
Tell Nial you found his details on this site!
If you think daffodils are "common or garden", think again. This catalog will change your outlook on these most welcome spring flowers. Look what it did for William Wordsworth!
The classification and hybridising info for 'Brindle Pink' is:
Classification 2Y–P i.e. Division 2 Yellow–Pink
BRINDLE PINK, 4 (B. S. Duncan). Brindisi O.P. Sdg. I x Brindisi Sdg. 2 .[1185] .

Nigella 'Persian Jewels'
Common Name: Love In A Mist
Colour: Mixed
Flowers in Aug
Height:– 12–15in
Flower size:– 1.2–1.5in
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A very easy plant to grow from seed and to be honest, I dont know how the seed companies make money from it. One you've grown it once it will self seed and reappear in your garden for years.
Ooops! Shouldn't have said that! Theres a recent variety called Nigella 'Alan Titchmarsh' and I sowed a packet in the garden this year. Sometimes wish I had Alan to give some advice!
The feathery, finely divided foliage is very distinctive and the plants and the ruff–like bracts combine to give the appearance of a "mist" when viewed from a distance (a delicate explanation of the common name).
The flowers are a little short lived for my liking, but they are followed by striking seed pods which can be dried and used in flower arrangements. Leave a few on the plants to self seed.
I find self seeders are late to germinate but this actually makes them quite useful. I dig up small clumps of seedlings to use as fillers around the borders.
Osteospermum x 'Starshine'
Common Name: Cape Marigold
Colour: Various
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Flowers all summer. Gorgeous and floriferous.
I grew Osteospermum from seed once and I recall some very good flowers, white with a deep blue centre.
Next year I bought a range of cultivars which were on offer in a garden magazine. They were well worth the money. I actually managed to overwinter one called 'Christopher' on the underheated bed in the greenhouse.
Must try some more. T&M have seed for a new variety called O. pluvialis 'African Moon' in the 2004 catalog. These have white and apricot bicolored blooms and they claim they have outstanding garden performance.
Paeonia lactiflora 'Sarah Bernhart'
Common Name: Peony or Paeony
Colour: Pink
Flowers in Jun
Height:– 2.5–3.5ft Spread:– 2–3ft
Flower size:– 4–6in
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Paeonias are very hardy plants and a much hybridised genus. No surprise then that they are very popular in Canada, the colder regions of N America and in the UK.
I have a few varieties, all given to me by various gardeners. Unfortunately their cultivar names were unknown. I am fairly certain that the one I molycuddled for at least four years is 'Sarah Bernhardt'.
It has a scent in agreement my reference book [45]. I'd describe it as faint but absolutely beautiful. The flowers are simply exquisite. I have to carefully stake each flower carrying stem to hold the huge heavy blooms erect. Having done this, the plant gives a fine display in the garden and makes a great subject for avid photographers. Only one complaint. I wish they would bloom for a longer period.
Paeonia officinalis 'Rubra Plena'
Common Name: Peony or Paeony
Colour: Crimson
Flowers from May to Jun
Height:– 2–2.5ft Spread:– 2.5–3ft
Flower size:– 5–6in
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This was my late fathers favourite plant. It had pride of place outside a dining room window. He had heard the stories about the root system and would not allow it to be touched.
I took the bold plunge when I moved back home and I'm pleased to say the original plant survives to this day (its now at least 20 years old) , and I have four healthy plants in different locations around the garden.
I have to confess that I chickened out a little when I gingerly exposed the roots. It was the most complex system I had ever seen, so I removed sections with buds on one side of the plant without digging it up.
The flowers are truly blood red and it flowers much earlier than the lactifloras.
With its huge double blooms I would actually much prefer it to the lactiflora hybrids. The very first bloom is cut and displayed indoors each year – it's almost a ritual!.
If not staked the huge blooms can pull the stem to the ground.
Penstemon 'Apple Blossom'
Colour: Pink flowers, white throats
Flowers from Jul to Sep
Height:– 16–24in Spread:– 16–24in
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I've only been growing Pensemons for a few years but the lesson I've learned is not to crowd them. They need space so that their beauty can be enjoyed to the maximum.
My garden is notorious for producing plants one foot larger than the size given on the labels but Ive been delighted to note that Penstemons actually comply.
I've shown more interest in neat plants in the 12 to 24in height range recently. The research for this Top 100 exercise has been SO revealing, and this Genus has certainly reignited my interest. Theres a terrific application variation for the plant lovers. There are cultivars to enthral the Alpine enthusiast and Cultivars for the herbacious border in height groupings to suit any garden.
And, of course, they are great cut fowers.
Persicaria affinis 'Darjeeling Red'
Common Name: Knotweed
Colour: Red/pink
Flowers from Aug to Oct
Height:– 24in Spread:– 24in
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This poor plant has gone through an identity crisis. I got my specimen from Dr June Weir. In the plants list in her garden tour booklet it was called Polyganum affine 'Darjeeling Red'.
Since then the botanists have decided that the plant be renamed Persicaria affinis 'Darjeeling Red'.
It's made this list because I like its glossy ground hugging green foliage – as such it may be good to plant in the vicinity of my purple acers. The multi coloured flower spikes may not be earth shattering but they are welcome in late Sept and October.
Philadelphus 'Virginal'
Colour: White
Flowers from Jun to Jul
Height:– 8–9ft Spread:– 6–8ft
Flower size:– 1–1.5in
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I grew my specimen from a cutting, a definite stroke of beginners luck! I knew it was a Philadelphus but for years I could never find a photo to make an ID of the variety. Theres a lot to be said for a good range of reference books and my new Christmas present from my son (IMPULSEFUSE!!) , the RHS A–Z [46], had an unmistakable photo of the mystery plant. The photo showed a cluster of the tightly double flowers.
The blooms have a heavy fragrance which may be somewhat overpowering in a confined space.
It's a very reliable plant. My bush is laden with blooms every year.
Strangely, I've only managed to propagate one plant from it, hence the admission of beginners luck above. Ive just added a task to my Ideas Genie database. Take some hardwood cuttings this weekend (early October)!
Phygelius aequalis 'Yellow Trumpet'
Colour: Pale creamy–yellow
Flowers from Jul to Aug
Height:– 2.5–3ft Spread:– 2.5–3.5ft
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Ive included 'Yellow Trumpet' in this list because it flowers reliably and prolifically every year, and I like the pastel flowers.
This plant is only frost hardy. My specimen has managed to overwinter for a few years now in situ in my border with no special protection. Must take a few cuttings to be on the safe side!
Pieris japonica 'Variegata'
Colour: White
Flowers in May
Height:– 2–6ft Spread:– 2–4ft
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Pieris has to be one of my favourite structural plants. They are all beautiful but this slow growing variety is exceptional, though it doesnt have the RHS–AGM.
Pieris are grown mainly for their stunning pink spring foliage.
In the UK the early flush can be zapped in one night of keen frost. The plant will recover from this set back but it takes a few weeks. Trimming the affected foliage may speed this recovery.
The pink spring leaves gradually age to green, or in the case of 'Variegata' to white variegation.
I got a stunning show from a young plant which I overwintered in the greenhouse along with my Japanese maples. It blended in so well I included it in the spring foliage picture show!
Potentilla fruticosa 'Elizabeth'
Colour: Yellow
Flowers from Jun to Sep
Height:– 3ft Spread:– 5ft
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This is another plant I inherited from my father and it is a real star. It is a mass of bloom in June and July. A neighbour admired it and stopped for a chat and put me on to its name. It sounded like 'Patentalla' but it was near enough for me to find it in my book.
P. fruiticosa it most definitely is. 'Elizabeth'? Had an educated guess at this so (modestly)... could be wrong!
In any case, the original shrub is about 20 years old in full sun on the the side of the driveway and has to be pruned back from time to time to keep it from scratching the car. It is about 4ft tall and 6ft spread. The book advises me to prune in mid spring. I find it resents pruning and doesn't flower as freely that year when cut back.
Primula denticulata
Common Name: Drumstick Primrose
Colour: Pink to Purple, Yellow eye
Flowers from Mar to Apr
Height:– 18in Spread:– 18in
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I love ALL varieties of primula. The different species offer a range of heights from a few ins to 4ft. To avoid too much repitition I cut down to three for this list. I've left out lots more that I grow and wouldnt be without.
I was given a bag full of P. denticulata for my birthday. I'd seen these plants around and I was delighted with the present! They were in full bloom, some blue and some white and the combination was just so lovely. I planted them right away and they took fine (Early April)
However, the white died out in a couple of years – I have concluded that the location dries out too much in summer. During this unusually sunny and dry summer (2003) I have had to water these plants frequently. The leaves went very limp when they were drying out but they recovered overnight from an evening watering.
A neighbour has the pink form. Ive never actually seen the pink, blue and white grown together so photos would be much appreciated. I will restock this winter with P. denticulata var. Alba (white), 'Rubra' (Red Purple) and go for that combination.
Primula vialii
Colour: Blue–Violet
Flowers from Jun to Jul
Height:– 12–24in Spread:– 12in
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A very neat, distinctive and unusual plant. It is fully hardy but short lived. I'd seen and admired it in gardens and didnt realise it was a Primula until I came across it in a magazine. In bud, the calyces are bright crimson and the plant flowers from the bottom up, so the plant looks like a mini mauve poker with a red tip.
Primula vulgaris
Common Name: Primrose
Colour: Pale Yellow
Height:– 8in Spread:– 14in
Flower size:– 1–1.5in
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Fragrant, pale yellow flowers with orange markings at the base. This is the plant found growing wild in banks and shady woodland settings in Ireland, known affectionately as the Primrose.
I haven't noticed a fragrance from my primroses but they are downright pretty little plants. They are so welcome when they brighten up my garden in early spring and I value them highly.
Thinking about it, primroses and bluebells are probably the first flowers I knew. They grew in abundance on a bank on the country lane which I walked as a lad each day on my way to primary school. They must have been beautiful to have caught my attention in those early days!
If they like the location they will self seed and naturalise. In cultivation, sow the seeds in autumn. They need to go through a cold winter before they germinate, so they can be left in a cold frame.

Pulmonaria rubra
Colour: Pink
Flowers from Mar to Apr
Height:– 18in Spread:– 36in
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I'm not at all happy about the name I have for this plant. If you know what it is from the photos please get in touch.
Description wise, the pink flowers are better than those on other pulmonarias I've seen e.g. P. saccharata.
It flowers profusely for a long period, then intermittently until frosts. Leaves are evergreen.
Pulsatilla vulgaris var. rubra
Common Name: Pasque Flower
Colour: Red
Flowers in Apr
Height:– 8in Spread:– 8in
Flower size:– 3–3.5in
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When established, this flower produces an abundance of bell shaped flowers in spring.
I haven't settled on it's final positioning yet. I have it at the front of a sunny border. It has established very well and produced an abundance of flowers this spring, but I was disappointed with the clump of untidy leaves which persisted all summer. It needs to be moved further into the border where it gets full sun and it's flowers can be prominent in spring, with something in front to grow and hide the leaves during summer.
Ricinus communis 'Carmencita Pink'
Common Name: Castor Oil Plant
Colour: Purple foliage
Height:– 4–5ft Spread:– 2–3ft
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'Carmentica Pink' has bronze foliage and pink flowers.
Ive only grown this plant once and I was delighted with the effect. The gorgeous 12in leaves attracted a lot of attention by my visitors. I managed to grow quite a lot of plants from seed. They were germinated in the hot bed in the greenhouse. I lost the first batch when, one week after repotting, I decided to move a few of them on to the greenhouse staging. They turned to mush in a hard overnight frost. Be warned!
I found them frustratingly slow to get going, but later in the season, whoosh, they quickly grew to 3ft then 5ft.
Not a single one survived the following hard winter.
Rosa 'Alecs Red'
Common Name: Rose
Colour: Red
Flowers from Jun to Aug
Height:– 3ft
Flower size:– 2–3in
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Easily the best rose I have ever grown. It is dark red in bud and fades slightly when the flower opens. Not only is the fragrance strong, it is absoluely exquisite.
Roses dont do so well in my garden. This one is the exception and grows strongly and flowers freely and repetitively.
Santolina chamaecyparissus
Common Name: Cotton Lavender
Colour: Bright Yellow
Flowers from Jun to Aug
Height:– 2.5–3ft Spread:– 2–3ft
Flower size:– 0.5in
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Evergreen by definition, (leaves held over winter) this plant is one of the best I have found to add a dash of luminous silver to my border.
The shoots are actually covered with woolly white growth and the finely toothed leaves are also silvery white.
The plant produces small but bright yellow flower heads in mid and late summer. Many gardeners remove the flowers when they are in bud as they often clash with colour shemes held together by the silvery foliage.
Saxifraga exerata 'Cloth of Gold'
Colour: Golden Foliage, White Flrs
Flowers from Jun to Jul
Height:– 4–6in Spread:– 12–15in
Flower size:– 0.5–1in
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Categorised as a Mossy Saxifraga, I would describe this as a "Glow" plant and one of my favourites for edging. I study photos in books and in magazines and try to figure out what it is that makes the immediate and pleasing impact. I'm sure it is different for each gardener, but for me it is very often one or a number of gold, yellow or pale green foliage plants which have provided contrast or have lit up the scene.
This is undoubtedly one such plant. Once you know the ingredients, the secret is how to use them to best advantage!!
Ive just read in my RHS A–Z reference book [46] that this plant is best grown in shade. It would be VERY useful to brighten up a shady area and I will certainly try it out .
Saxifraga x urbium 'Varigata'
Common Name: Variegated London Pride
Colour: Pinkish–White
Flowers from Jun to Jul
Height:– 6–12in Spread:– 15–24in
Flower size:– 0.3in
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This is one of my favourite edging plants. The fleshy rosettes of London Pride are easily recognisable. They measure about 3 ins across. 'Variegata' is uniquely blotched rich yellow.
The rosettes look good all year round and the plant is grown mainly for its foliage. Pinkish–white flowers appear in summer on delicate stems up to 12in long.
A good plant for a slightly shaded area with damp soil.
The sections in the Saxifraga genus are quite diverse. I was quite surprised at first to learn that the plant I knew as London Pride was a Saxifraga as it was so different from my mossy and cushion varieties which "came with the house".
There are a number of Sections in the Genus, and they are obviously quite different. This plant is categorised as Section Gymnopera (mmm... does Gym sing?)
Sedum spectabile
Common Name: Ice Plant
Colour: Pink Flower Heads
Flowers from Sep to Oct
Height:– 15–18in Spread:– 18in
Flower size:– 0.5in
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This plant is a succulent perennial and looks good at all stages of growth. We are used to seeing butterflies and bees visiting flowers which are wide open, but strangely, they are attracted to this plant almost "in the green" or just as the small flowers begin to show a little colour in bud.
The flowers are borne in flat cymes, and these are attractive as they form.
The form, texture and colour of the plant makes it a great companion for almost any other plant.
To encourage flowering the plants should be divided every 3 to 4 years.
We have a very knowledgable Florist from Germany who contributes regularly to our Ideas for Gardens forum. If you visit you will find a very interesting thread on Sedum. ICHBINSNUR informs us that Sedums are so much at home in Germany that they are practically weeds – and can be propagated in multitudes from the fragments of a parent plant put through a shredder.
Another discovery follows, thanks to researching this Top 100.
I've found what appears to be an absolutely gorgeous sedum which I must try. Sedum telephium subsp. maximum 'Atropurpureum' . Check it out!
I'd love to hear from you if you grow 'Atropurpureum'. Is it as good as it looks?
Spiraea japonica 'Firelight'
Colour: Reddish–orange foliage
Flowers from Jun to Jul
Height:– 30–36in Spread:– 30–36in
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Spireas are normally grown for their spring and summer flowers. This particular variety offers an additional bonus, dazzling foliage. The colour of the new growth is very unusual and attractive and is at its best when it leafs out in spring. The pink flowers are loved by butterflies. They seem to have good taste!
Spireas can be trimmed after flowering to conform to the overall perspective of a small garden – fresh new growth will result and look good for the remainder of the season.
Spireas are commonly used to provide structure by garden designers.
Propagate from hardwood cuttings and root outdoors over winter.
Stachys byzantina
Common Name: Lambs Ears
Colour: Silver leaves
Flowers from Jul to Sep
Height:– 18in Spread:– 24in
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I like to play with foliage effects in the garden, and this plant would find its way into the frame in every scheme.
This plant has thick wooly grey leaves up to 10 cm long. These form dense mats. Whorls of tiny rose–pink flowers are carried in leafy spikes during summer. The bees and other insects go CRAZY for the insignificant looking flowers.
The flower spikes can put a lot of people off the plant. If you fall into that category then select the variety S. byzantina 'Silver Carpet'. As the name implies, it provides the colour in a ground covering carpet but has no spikes.
Tagetes tenuifolia 'Red Gem'
Colour: Red
Flowers from May to Sep
Height:– 9in Spread:– 9in
Flower size:– 0.7–1in
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I was introduced to the "Gem" series of Tagetes by a lady who has the distinction of winning the local "Garden Of The Year" award three times over a four year period. She would probably still be winning it, but unfortunately the competition was cancelled due to lack of funds.
She raises dozens of the plants each year in the greenhouse from self collected seed and plants them out as summer bedding. A colossal amount of work by a very dedicated gardener. Fortunately I pass by the garden twice each working day and enjoy the incredible display which goes on and on and on... endlessly. The "Gem Series" flowers for all of 5 months, from late spring to early autumn. Not only that, each dainty plant is quite substantial as it grows as broad as it does high, quite unusual for an annual.
I feel I should either salute or bow when I speak to this lady – when it comes to knowledge of long flowering and performance plants she is an expert!
To highlight just one in the series, 'Red Gem' has vibrant red blooms which are delicately edged with a fine rim of gold and set off by a golden centre over the usual finely cut lemon scented foliage. Theres also "Lemon Gem" and "Tangerine Gem".
I hoped they would self seed in my garden. I weeded carefully in spring, but... nope!
The seeds are offered for sale in the T&M catalogue (and others) , and have the footnote "Not illustrated".
I've often wondered about those "Not illustrated" seeds. Are they all as good as this one?
I would welcome your comments if you know of exceptional "Not Illustrated" plants. Comments Please
Taxus baccata 'Standishii'
Colour: Golden Column
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This is a plant for the connoisseur. It is very slow growing and makes a slender golden pillar which – just looks good. Good for adding "subtle" structure – it's presence is almost unnoticed except to the trained eye!!
Thuja occidentalis 'Rheingold'
Colour: Golden Yellow Foliage
Height:– 3–6ft Spread:– 3–5ft
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A widely planted semi–dwarf with an attractive yellow colour. Very distinctive, even to the amateur. I have only one specimen, and it is really taking it's time growing up. Be aware that lot of patience is required to wait until small plants mature. I've taken lots of photos of beautiful specimens in my friends gardens and I can assure you they are well worth the wait.
Thuja orientalis 'Aurea Nana'
Colour: Yellow Green
Height:– 24in Spread:– 24in
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'Aurea Nana' is a lovely structural plant and very popular because of its ultimate size and attractive form.
Ive learned from bitter experience not to allow grass, weeds or other plants to grow within touching distance of a conifer. The foliage can die back in such conditions and may never recover.
Thymus x citriodorus 'Aureus'
Common Name: Lemon variegated thyme
Colour: Gold–dappled leaves
Flowers from Jun to Jul
Height:– 4–6in Spread:– 6in
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No garden should be without at least one form of thymus.
They are useful as edging and can spread in time to make a lovely aromatic mat.
My favourite combination this year was a ground hugging thyme in combination with a red Dianthus deltoides and yellow Coreopsis. It was very effective. The colours were bright and cheery, and the thyme made the dianthus glow.
Common Name: Tulip
Colour: Various
Flowers from May to Jun
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Spring just wouldn't be spring without Tulips. Unfortunately they dont naturalise in the same way as daffodils and crocuses and they are a bit of a flop when cut unless you apply the florist conditioning treatment, and a few other tricks.
With more reason than any bulb, they should be lifted in summer if you don't want to lose them.
Veronica incana
Colour: Mid–blue
Flowers from Jun to Aug
Height:– 12–15in Spread:– 9in
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In my experience a tall green–leaved Veronica in the wrong place will put you off the plant. I wouldn't describe them as a standalone plant. In my opinion they are more like the supporting cast for companions. Finding that magic combination may take a year or two of trial and error, but well worth it.
Veronica incana on the other hand is entirely different. The leaves are really brilliant in the true sense of the word, and the clump is pretty much ground hugging. As such, the plant is an excellent choice for the front of the sunny (or part shade) border, where it can be boldly presented as a star in its own right.
The silvery foliage colour really is as good as you will see it portrayed in books and magazines (in reality some plants can disappoint!).
The blue spikes are dainty and entirely complimentary to the foliage. It is not at all difficult to find planting companions. You can see I REALLY like this!
I grew all my Veronicas from seed and they were very easy to germinate and in most cases, easy to grow. I have two exceptions – one green leaved plant produced light red spikes. It was so feeble that it ended up in the weeding bucket a couple of times, and had to be replanted. Its on the molycuddle list this past two years, no competitive plants and a good position, and it continues to huff and puff.
The other is Veronica gentianoides. It is annoy–iding this gent. It is so beautiful in flower, but frustratingly slow to establish.
Viburnum davidii
Common Name: Viburnum
Height:– 3ft Spread:– 3–5in
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I made a posting in our Ideas for Gardens forum to say I didn't like shrubs planted among herbacious plants in the border.
There was good reason. I went on the rampage and by removing just one of my "structural" plants this year I freed up space for 5 exceptional herbacious plants.
This one escaped the massacre, and I've admired it all summer, so I'll have to make an "Addendum" in the Forum.
In about 8 years it has made a very neat dome about 3 ft tall and wide, and I've never pruned it. If it stays like that V. davidii and I will get on just fine! With those proportions it is perfect as a structural plant in its present location. Its real assett in its current position is the calming influence it's beautiful and consistent dark green leaves has among the herbacious plants.
Have you a favourite structural plant? I would welcome your comments. Click here Comments Please
Viburnum tinus
Colour: White, pink budded
Flowers from Nov to May
Height:– 7–10ft Spread:– 7–10ft
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Another plant which "came with the house". My father planted two of these in a border which runs between my house and a neighbours. These tough plants do a lot to tame the prevailing winds which are channelled through the gap en route to the back garden. Acting as a windbreak does not seem to affect flowering in any way. What a surprise and a pleasure it is to walk up the driveway on a calm day and catch the scent from the tiny white flowers. They are so powerful that they can fill the air in the partial entrapment, and this in the dead of winter! They are about 18 ft apart, and between them I planted a Magnolia x soulangeana and an orange berried Pyracantha along the low wall.
Ive found a few seedlings popping up over the years.
Viola cornuta
Colour: White and Blue
Flowers from Apr to Aug
Height:– 6in Spread:– 16in
Flower size:– 1.5in
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Theres one problem with this plant. Beware visitors. They always provokes a "Oh... I'd love that flower in my garden"
Fortunately it recovers from an occasional mauling. I've responded to the request and ripped pieces from them in full bloom quite a few times. I even filled the holes around the plant with a high grit mix to make it easier to split "next time".
They reliably return each year, and they are survivors. I dug up one large white plant intending to plant it elsewhere and set it down in another bed "temporarily". I forgot all about it. Fortunately, it had a large rootball and just kept on growing. It's still there and flowering away every year. Ive chipped the odd bit off it now and again for replanting.
It flowers from spring to summer. It has a slight fragrance. In variety it's pretty in white, blue and lavender. It's pretty with Dianthus, Lobelia, etc. It's pretty in rock gardens. Its just... pretty!
Zantedeschia aethiopica
Common Name: Arum Lily
Colour: White Spathes
Flowers from May to Jul
Height:– 36in Spread:– 24in
Flower size:– 6–10in
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This plant is rated as Frost Hardy in the UK and as such will not survive a severe winter. That may be so, but it is a survivor in other ways. Two years ago I was given a division of what was described as a white lily in the middle of summer. I was told it would grow to about 3ft and would made a spectacular clump. I planted it at the back of mid border and forgot about it. This spring I flattened a patch of weeds to tend to a clump of Lysimachia punctata. Then I decided to weed the area, and found a few very bruised young leaves of this plant. I fumed a bit and did what I could to make it look better. To my surprise it recovered and went on to produce the first flower, and It wasn't at all difficult to recognise what it was. As you can see, its now in the favourites list.
I wish now I had planted it somewhere more prominent where its glossy green leaves are more prominently displayed.
I wouldn't think of disturbing it, so I'll treat myself to a nice cultivar. Z. 'Crowborough' is a hardier cultivar. Z. 'Little Gem' is dwarf and floriferous. The Arum Lily's are very popular with flower arrangers so its no surprise to note that my "Gardeners with Web Sites" friend Chrissie Harten grows a good selection, including Z. 'Black Diamond'.
As you know I am pulling together a list of plants which can be grown in S. Florida and S. California. If you hail from those regions, check out Z. elliotiana. Its a perennial which needs a min temp of 10 degrees C. It would need a shorter period of protection in your region. Are you growing this? Comments Please
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