Archives for category: herbaceous perennials

Where there was once turf,  gravel parking areas,  forgotten borders and gardens in need of drastic renovation,  there are now  vast tracts of colour, shape and form. Over the last ten years these gardens have all  become special and memorable places.  Why ?   Because the owners have allowed me to create great big beautiful borders for them.

Intense colour vibrancy for Selina.

A true sense of  place, peace and elegance for Martin and Judy.

I spend half a day each week pruning, weeding and being immersed in the heady scent of  countless roses, spectacular Spring Magnolias, Peonies and Cherry Blossom expertly chosen and planted by Mary – Geoff’s late wife.

Ten years ago the flowering period had almost finished in Wendy and Alan’s garden by mid-May  – not now.

Being able to plant Gunnera and create  borders that stretch as far as the eye can see for Eleanor and James.024 A chance conversation six years ago led me to work for Diane and Dom.  A head for heights and balancing on the top of narrow walls is essential, this garden is  particularly vertical in places.080

Growing the majority of the flowers, both for the table decorations and the garnishes for Suree at The King and Thai restaurant in Brosely.

What excites me, and will keep me as a professional gardener and horticulturalist for life, is knowing  that there will always be an alteration that can be made through new planting  to continue the development of these gardens.

I read garden design journals by the mound, and visit specialist nurseries searching out plants to increase my knowledge.

With this in mind I recently made my first visit to the Wildegoose Nursery in Shropshire.  What an incredible horticultural find.  This place will definitely provide the answer for my decisions on how I can continue to improve the structure and visual impact of many a garden.  The plants are incredibly well sourced, beautiful and extremely well priced.  There is also a great cafe.

My only other decision is which mug to have my first cup of tea from ?   I think it might be my Waltons mug.  After a long hot summers working day a shed load of tea will sort me out.040


I have spent the last seven years designing and caring for the Wild’s family garden.

The two main borders are undeniably long – coming in at around 40 metres.   Planting is in  large-scale blocks, generally around 2 metres square.

Silver birch trees were planted as young saplings six years ago. Now, during winter  the  white stems provide good visual structure from the house.

A stream bissects the garden, leaving the soil naturally  damp.  I have planted swathes of many of my favourite plants that like  these conditions including  Gunnera manicata, Rodgersia aesculifolia, Ligularia denticulata, Flag Iris and Marsh Marigold,

Adjacent to this sits another long border containing many of my favourite  big perennials.

The white daisies and Rudbeckia herbstonne are still in tight bud at the moment, but it wont be long before they are in full flower.

Achillea millefolium Gigantea, Helianthus Lemon Queen, Cephalaria gigantea and  Globe artichokes are looking  stunning at the moment.  These are big plants, in a big border.

Do I consider this , or any other garden in my care complete ?  No.  I will shortly be planting  Veronicastrum virginicum  Album-  a truly  majestic white perennial.  I do feel  their presence should be in abundance in this  garden.104






My new camera has arrived.  I am delighted.

I recently constructed two new raised beds at home, which immediately heightened the enjoyment of my garden.

015 Throughout the week I spend somewhere between 35 and 40 hours working in other people’s gardens. I dig, weed, prune, design, plant and resolve gardening problems.  I truly love being a gardener, I find it good for my soul and well being, both physically and mentally.

When I get home,  my garden is an old brick paved farm yard.  Every year I spend a long time re-arranging the containers which are jam- packed full of my favourite plants, creating the garden I want to enjoy.  I am now able to get my hands in the soil as I plant in the large raised beds, rather than squeezing newly grown plants into containers.  I  feel I  am finally gardening in my own garden.  It makes me feel good.

I need a new kneeling pad. Geoff’s dog ate it. This was the best kneeler I have ever used, you can see all the layers.  Sadly it was not Spaniel proof …011

These are my favourite  garden related images from 2016.  I hope you enjoy them.028This huge drift of chocolate cosmos and squirrel tail grass was taken in  August at Aberglasney gardens.  I thought the combination was perfect.

217 From my own garden.  I love the longevity of asters, followed by their stunning seed heads.

020From Diane and Dom’s garden. My precious  Niwaki secateurs, and a Christmas present of a box of truly delicious Belgian chocolates.

013A clump of Erythronium Pagoda in the rain, under hydrangeas.  We should all make space for them in a shady spot.  Stunning.

november   2013 099Late autumnal light running through the border at Selina’s,  full of asters and crocosmia.

011Cornus midwinter fire in front of White birch at Geoffs’.

004Exploding frozen stems in Eleanor’s garden, November 2016.

014Summer light through the Veronicastrum and Helianthus at Martin and Judy’s.

009My garden, marjorum, feverfew, squirrel tail grass, mid summer.

014Bees on centeura in Wendy’s garden.

I  hope  2017 is a  spectacular photography and gardening year for all of us

010No more  tools in the car for a fortnight, instead it will be full of holiday essentials and sand, rather than gardening tools and soil.

Someone actually said to me, “You are having a fortnight off, won’t you get bored ? “The quick answer was ” No I won’t”  Time  to go rock pooling, visit an art gallery or two, catch up with friends, have fun and no doubt do a great deal of laughing.

It  would not be my blog without images to remind me of how great it is to to spend my day with plants.  When certain plants come together in the sunshine (and rain) , it really is the best career.

I really enjoy propagating  plants from seed

006This year I grew  Coreopsis hybrida Incredible Tall mix, grouping  it with  Achillea terracotta. I love the combination of these two plants, and can  imagine it working really well as a huge drift in a long border, and  I have one customers garden in mind to try this out.

Scabious atropurpea Black cat, a brilliant self seeder, fantastic colour and the seed heads remind me of miniature pineapples.008

My favourite plant from seed this year is Hordeum jubatum – Squirrel tail grass.  It was really simple to germinate, and has looked stunning for weeks.  Thankyou Thompson and Morgan seeds.009

It has been a truly busy working  week, Images from my own , and gardens in my care follow.

Earlier in Spring, I decided all the perennials  in one particular  garden really needed dividing to maximize their  flowering capacity.  My only problem was the size of the border, it’s not small  – almost 30 metres in length, adding to this I am only there for  around 3 hours a week.  It would have taken for ever.

I came up with a solution, and dug out the old woody centre of each congested clump, rather than digging up, dividing and replanting.

The results this  Summer, are incredible, there are dozens and dozens of stems  waiting to come into flower.


This border (which belongs to Eleanor ) contains several personal  favourite flowers,  including :-

Helianthus  Lemon Queen (image from 2015)  A late Summer towering perennial, which regularly  tops out at over 6ft.089

Rudbeckia Herbstonne (image from 2015) .  A stunning tall border perennial.  Flowering from late July onwards.087I often find, that when I lift and divide this perennial the smaller clumps are attractive to slugs, with my new approach they have grown away at an  incredible rate.

Achillea millefolium (image 2015)  A tall back of the border perennial, flat creamy white flower heads.DSCN1028

Leucanthemum Phyllis Smith, a truly magnificent shasta daisy, at just under a metre tall, it is a stunning flower, a firm favourite of mine.006

When I first started working in this garden, I made a very neat hoop shaped willow edge to the front of the border.  Six  years on, the hoops have all but disappeared, instead  I  regularly prune  back  the willow at various heights, to enable the perennials to be seen. Rather than being an edge to the border, it has definitely become an integral element.

I really do love spending time in my own garden ( and greenhouse) .   As a self-employed gardener, having spent my working week looking after others, I am perfectly  happy just sitting in mine, being  with friends having a curry and a beer on a Saturday night.  Gardens have the capacity  to be really quite sociable places, and I love mine.

In addition to my own, other gardens I also love include Sheila’s, The Raven’s, Diane and Dom’s, Annabel’s,Geoff’s, Suree’s, Judy’s,Selina’s, Julia’s, Eleanor’s,Wendy’s, and Simon and Treasa’s.  For  the majority I work throughout the entire  year, which allows me to observe their  floral and structural plant dynamics  on a weekly basis,which never disappoints. They are all special places that I truly do enjoy being in.   None of them are weed free,and  ground elder is just another element.

What is my definition of love with regard to gardening ?   – An immense sense of pride, well being, and joy,  and those rare occasions when the combination of plants  makes me quite emotionally charged, when I think I have got it right at that specific moment in time.

Favourite Images from this week follow.  I hope you enjoy them.

Last year, I put together a new garden using  divided clumps of perennials .  Ladies mantle, Cat mint, Geranium Rozanne, Sysirinchium striatum and Astrantia major to name but a few.  All flowered profusely over several months.

With  the onset of Spring all my clients perennials are now under scrutiny,  anything  slightly congested and woody is  being  rejuvenated, through division (or complete removal  if they are no longer of merit).  This will  make a  huge difference to their health and flowering capacity, ultimately  creating space for new  or soon to be propagated plants.


With  newly created gaps in the border I can  start  designing.  Colour is my first thought,  I then start to link in appropriately sized plants.  My palette for home this year will  include chocolate brown, burnt orange,maroon , black , lime green, raspberry  and primrose yellow.  Below  are a selection of my choice plants.

Chocolate Brown –  Chocolate cosmos.  I planted these into containers at home last year,  brushing past them frequently  en- masse the scent is  chocolate heaven.    They looked particularly fine against Perovskia Blue Spire.  A  haze of metallic purple and brown, quite sublime.

Burnt Orange  –     The arrival of the Woolmans catalogue  has  spurred on my new interest in Chrysanthemums.   Evening Glow, described as having an effective golden glow is definitely on my list.

Burgundy/maroon –  If you can cope with the yellow flower then Lysimachia purpurea   with its intense  burgundy foliage  is definitely worth a space in the border.  It has the capacity of escaping its allocated space, however  not being deep rooted it is  easy to remove.  My absolute favourite perennial is   Knautia macedonica, with  a burgundy pin cushion shaped flower which billows through many  gardens from early Summer till late Autumn.


 Black  – Centaurea Jordy  a deep plum, almost black flowering perennial  has been acquired.  I   have several packets of Black Currant Fizz  (see above) a hardy poppy, that will  be sown right through Wendy’s border.  This image is third year generated seed. Over time  they take on different  forms from their initial deep burgundy /black  to this mix of red and deep maroon.

Lime Green –   Euphorbia, their beautiful bracts are often willing to supply this colour.   I  have planted them in countless gardens, and my Euphorbia of choice – is Characias Wulfenii

What is your favourite colour ?  maybe you should include it within your garden or window box this year ?





As   much as I enjoy  creating, tending  and watching  vast  borders change with the seasons, I am particularly taken by Autumn.  Soft plant material begins  to  disintegrate, seed heads form, pigments start to fail,and berries become visually dominant. This is an incredibly vibrant and exciting  time of the gardening year.


090October  appears  in the main  to be consisting of  removing plants that have outgrown both their allotted  space and visual interest, in so creating space for new interesting additions.  Kniphofia and Persicaria are presently  at the top of my interesting plant list, with  Persicaria  Red Dragon topping my  favorite foliage plant of the year.


Kniphofia  – there is just something very special about their statement  colour that appeals to me.  Recent acquisitions include Kniphofia  Lemon Bees

082  and  Kniphofia Mango Surprise

044. These Kniphofia belong to  Wendy, they looked pretty amazing in June.


There is no point in keeping plants that bore you, gardens need to be inspirational places of visual beauty, whether that is in flower, seed, stem, or berry. or  a butterfly resting on Rudbeckia herbstonne.


Enjoy your autumn gardens.   I will enjoy fourteen .