Some garden centres will try and sell you tulip bulbs in August, because they soon want to make space for the (too early) sales of Christmas decorations. That’s way too early for tulips though! You should reserve your bulbs by mail order, to ensure later delivery, to coincide with the best time for planting tulip bulbs, October-November.
Planting later means you can avoid soil-borne diseases (‘nasties’ are killed by the cooler autumn soil temperatures) and ensure flowering at the optimum time- mid to late spring. The beauty of tulips is their late appearance- they bridge the gap perfectly between spring-flowering daffodils and the first of the summer-flowering perennials.
Do you want to know 3 of my very favourites?
Well, I always like to grow something a bit different, so rather than the usual red tulips in supermarkets and florists, why not grow your own fancy bouquets with ‘Florist’s Treat Mixed’? This is the best selection of peony-flowered tulips, which are unashamedly flamboyant!
‘Red Impression’ is that classic red tulip. A better perennial than most, this will come back year after year and not die out after a single season. Be bold and grow them nice and close for maximum impact!
My last choice is a classic variety Tulip ‘Blueberry Ripple’, which pretty much looks like a heritage tulip, but with modern vigour and a tough attitude! Each petal almost painted by hand-in the most divine lilac-blue shade.. Let it take pride of place in a container on it’s own, pack the bulbs in, max out your display!
However, one that is always on my radar is the hard to get hold of, Tulip ‘Brown Sugar’ ! It is gorgeous, and a variety that always makes me stop in my tracks. The bronze blooms look like brown sugar, but also SMELL of it, and from 6 foot away too! An incredibly choice bulb, which is worth trying to find!
Let’s not be shy about this, ensuring winter colour in your garden will take a little bit of planning. In the harshest winter months, it’s only the odd turbo-charged pansy that has enough energy to push through a blanket of snow and ice. You need to guarantee yourself some winter colour every year with the help of a few perennials and bulbs, here’s 3 of my favourites:
They like to be treated mean..! Any cold borders, north-facing areas, awkward shady spots will cause your hellebores to thrive! A nice rich soil and fresh mulch each year is all they demand! Hellebores will effortlessly ‘clump up’, creating a thicket of stems and leathery foliage through the year. Let the flowers take centre stage too, by removing the foliage each winter. Thompson & Morgan have been breeding hellebores for over 10 years now, and have created a rainbow of colours- including the rare and in demand slaty blues and primroses. One of their future aims is also to create up facing flowers, meaning those blooms won’t be so shy any more!
It’s amazing how something so delicate can be so tough, isn’t’ it? This diminutive little bulb is a joy at the beginning of each year, often emerging through the snow with a little frosted hat. Try growing them in pots too, so you can have a sniff of the dinky blooms, yes- you will be able to smell honey!! The key piece of information you need to know about Snowdrops is that they’re best planted ‘in the green’, which means just after flowering, whilst the bulbs are in growth.
This classic clematis must be a glutton for punishment- blooming through the darkest months of the year- from November to February! Growth is care-free and quick, plants are evergreen so always neat and tidy and the almost individually-designed blooms hang from the stems in clusters. If you can brave the cold, you can enjoy the gentle fragrance from each bell too!
We have all seen Japanese gardens in the UK, haven’t we? They were all the rage back in the early 90’s!
But, have you seen the other way around, an English garden in Japan? Well, Barakura was the brainchild of fashion designer, Kay Yamada, and after 20 years, represents the most beautiful and important English style garden in Japan.
Earlier this year, I was super excited when I was invited to speak at the garden during their autumn events, where I’d be lecturing on new developments in kitchen gardens, talking about the history of UK kitchen gardens, and showing students how to make up some mixed autumn containers!
Head gardener, Andy, a former Northumberland chap, was my shepherd for the week. Gardening at Barakura is an exciting challenge, as you can’t grow just anything from the UK, it takes a few years of trial and error, as their summer’s can be so hot, oh and winter’s of -20C! Plant selection is super important, and the differing climate means some sun-lovers are thriving in shady spots, where they get some respite from the baking sun!
Japan is such an interesting country to visit. The geographical isolation especially means that the culture is like no other, and I was already aware that I had to be super polite, and things might move at a slower speed to that of the UK! The food? Well, I love to try anything, so I was completely at home, and was eating fresh fish, carrots, even cauliflower for breakfast…!
I really enjoyed spending time with the students, and they were especially enthralled with my new developments in kitchen gardens lecture, especially the edible flower section, where I revealed begonias and tulips could in fact be added to their salads!
I loved making up the mixed containers too, and being able to run around the garden centre choosing whichever plants I liked was fun. The containers were seen as quite short-term, so we were literally flower-arranging with plants, really shoehorning them in.
After Barakura, I had chosen to stay on and visit a few companies developing new flowers and vegetables, and have some interesting new things in the pipeline, so watch this space….!
Summer is here and correct me if I’m wrong, but the weather is being quite well-behaved so far. The occasional storm is actually a positive for the plants, giving them a good soak. The rain will encourage leafy growth, meaning you get even bushier plants, with the potential for more blooms! But, it is also the time of year where we go on holiday to enjoy the sunshine and watering becomes an issue, so how can you keep your garden looking great during these periods?
An occasional down pour can be great for plants in borders, but the rain doesn’t always get into patio pots. The dense canopy of leaves means rainfall will often bounce off, so watering by hand (or setting up an irrigation system) can’t be beaten. There are some really efficient systems now available, often with computerised timers, so you won’t have to forgo those weekends away!
You could consider asking a neighbour to water them for you, it might even give them the gardening bug! When you go away try to move the plants into a shaded area, this will cause them to dry out a little less. Remember how thirsty tomato plants can be. Plenty of water and feed will give you bumper crops. Try to be consistent though, to avoid problems with fruit set. Our tomato auto-watering collars are a great way of getting water directly to the plant roots. This is especially useful in grow bags, where water runoff can be an issue.
Our Water Wizard™ is always really handy for watering flower pouches effectively, and can be used with any drinks bottle! The spike means water gets down deeper, and is more evenly distributed, into the pouch. Why not try them in patio pots?
Feed is so important! A top dressing of Incredibloom® RIGHT NOW will give the effect of your plants supping an energy drink! But will last much longer. Remember that Incredibloom® gives more bountiful growth, more stems, more leaves, AND more flowers!!
How do you keep your garden watered whilst you are away? We would love to hear your ideas so please post your tips and advice below.
If the plant bug has bitten you, and you’ve filled your garden already, then you need to think; ‘what do cities do when they run of space..?’ Answer: they build upwards! You can use this same concept in your own garden to great effect. There’s no excuse to have bare fences and walls when there are so many climbers to choose from. It’s not just about traditional climbers any more either, so you need to think beyond clematis and honeysuckle. Have you tried climbing fuchsias, climbing petunias, even climbing geraniums…??
Something else that can decorate your walls is hanging baskets ! Just a few wall brackets here and there and your garden will soon look like the hanging gardens of Babylon! Be wise when you plant up for easier maintenance; mix in a water-retaining gel to reduce the frequency of watering, and keep them dead-headed and preened to make them bloom for longer!
On patios, you can buy containers which add height, for example the ‘stack-a-pot’, where you can make the most of the space; it’s almost like a little skyscraper! It’s ideal for cropping strawberries, so who thought you needed a vegetable patch to grow your own. Tonnes of vegetables can be grown and harvested on the patio; and you’ll find them easier to care for too and the crops nice and clean and easy to pick! You can also try our tower pot, train plants into pillars of colour on your patio.
Walk around any neighbourhood during the summer and you’ll see plenty of glorious Hydrangeas. They’re one of the most tough and durable shrubs for a European climate. They’re also available in a huge range of colours… although, you wouldn’t know it, as most of the ones I see seem to be pink or blue! Well, prepare to be dazzled… and you’ll need your sunglasses!
Hydrangea ‘Glam Rock’ is just bubbling with fluorescent colours…the mix of green, blue AND pink make for a colour blend which has absolutely no shame. This dazzler comes from some German breeders who are changing the face of this plant; with more daring colour combinations on those tried and tested macrophylla forms.
Hydrangea ‘Glam Rock’
So, whilst Germany is going dayglo, Japan is focussing on the fullness of the bloom; new variety ‘Love’ has 2-tiered florets, which look like delicate porcelain. But, of course, there’s nothing delicate about this Hydrangea, it’s as tough and robust as the rest. ‘Love’ is the sister variety to this year’s Chelsea Flower Show winner ‘Miss Saori’ too, what better recommendation could there be!
A type of Hydrangea that isn’t as common in the UK is the Hydrangea paniculata; although they’re slowly becoming more popular, and rightly so. They’re just as tough as macrophylla, and give huge plumes of flowers like tattered lace; and some blooms exude sweet nectar too. The most well-known across Europe is ‘Vanilla Fraise’, which has strawberry-tinged flower heads, which look almost good enough to eat! ‘Levana’ is another cool one, with flowers like a wedding cake!
Hydrangea ‘Vanilla Fraise’
Pruning is easy too, and you can be quite lazy with H. macrophylla types actually. Prune hydrangeas in spring, as leaving the stems intact will give the plants some added frost protection. Simply remove the flowered stems back to a strong bud each spring. H. paniculata are pruned during spring too, just trim back all stems to a healthy set of buds, keeping a neat framework in place!