Archives for category: summer borders


On the 26th March, I sowed these  Thompson and Morgan and Sarah Raven seeds in my unheated greenhouse,  I am so happy with the results,  flowering just in time for my recent 50th birthday.




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

The vast  majority of my plants spend their lives in large containers rather than a border, as our  garden is a hard paved yard.  This has provided a  rare opportunity of being able to completely redefine the spatial composition  on  a regular basis, as I move the containers around, aiming to create a perfect series of spaces.


I  allow the plants  to self seed.  Consequently  there is  a wide  selection of many of my favorite hardy annuals, perennials and grasses, which grow  in between the brick paviors.     This creates interesting combinations as I place containers alongside  the self setters. Favourites include Verbena bonariensis, Valeriana officinalis,Squirrel tail grass, marjoram and Ammi majus.


So how did I  design my garden ?  I  made a list of what I considered important.

  • Two seating areas –  one  close to the house, the second  further into the garden.
  • An area to grow vegetables and salad.
  • An outdoor cooking area.
  • The planting  would be informal in its design style and required  to provide year long food and shelter for wildlife.

Using these design principles I created my garden.

The only constant is the  greenhouse which sits at the end of the garden. Even the new veg beds could be moved if I decide they are not in the right place.

My favourite place is the seating area closest to the house, as from here you can look through the garden.  This space is no more than 6m2 and enclosed by my favourite grass Anemanthele  lessoniana which comes right up to the table.  I  created additional spaces by using the containerised plants and weld mesh to divide up the garden.

Our garden faces west, slowly through the day the sun moves round, with  certain areas being literally baked during  Summer.  In  Winter light levels are really quite low due to the  angle of the sun.  Aspect is a crucial consideration in design.

My garden is a place of great peace, I truly love spending time in it.








It is true, I have known it for years.  There is a reasonable amount of ground elder in  the gardens in my care.

Even though I continue to mulch and weed out the borders regularly  it still remains.  I do admit to the fact that I quite  like the white umbellifer flower.


If you look carefully you can  spot the ground elder in a few of them.


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.

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 ?





018097090P1050606P1040424november 2013 100november 2013 099november 2013 104P1050586345When most people say ” I’m in the garden”  what they normally mean is that  they are sitting down and relaxing.  When I say  ” I’m  in the garden” I actually mean I am either  ankle, knee, thigh, or head deep in the border, with the latter being my favourite.  Towering  Rudbeckia herbstonne  provides  this heavenly  opportunity  regularly through the Summer.

It  is  a completely  different sensory experience  once  you  clamber  inside,  providing  a far greater sense of the dynamics of  the planting, rather than viewing from the sidelines.

Being the generous gardener I am,  this WInter  I will create  some  pathways enabling  my customers  to climb in,  so they too  can enjoy their gardens from within.

028Every year I come across new bulbs and planting stock  as I work towards trying to create perfectly balanced borders.  I recently visited  Trentham Gardens and  have finally experienced  perfect borders on a grand scale.  I think my customers will be experiencing somewhat of a  revamp of their gardens over the coming  months. The huge borders and spaces created  by Tom Stuart-Smith  and Piet Oudulf  are perfection in their spatial design and planting. I  have read about their work at Trentham and seen countless images , but to actually be there to experience it is something else altogether, it was  inspirational.  The individual elements of the giant borders  are exquisite , in its entirety this  landscape is  stunningly beautiful. To put it bluntly  I found it  quite an overwhelming and humbling  experience to  actually be there within this exceptional landscape.  You really should make a visit with your cameras.


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With so many  new ideas from Saturday, I am sure there is some way I can  incorporate elements of the landscape at Trentham, into the gardens in my care.


The above image is from 2014 .  I have since removed vast amounts of the yellow daisy , as it was beginning to run through the border swamping the Veronicastrum,  I am much  a happier with the balance  this year.


I bought this Persicaria in the winter, when it was looking particularly non-existent in its container.  I was running out of spaces for it, so in it went  between the Monbretia and Hypericum.  I love this combination.  I think I will split it up for next year, and bring  in some Amenantheles lessoni.


Vast amounts of the same plant, when a border is big enough to take it, does pack a late summer punch.  Crocosmia against the blue echinops and the Lysimachia atropurpurea is always a favorite of mine. Next year  I intend to incorporate  Buddleia Black Knight and the grass Calamagrotis Karl Forester , with its fantastic upright habit that will last all winter.



Even without rain drops on the petals the  luminosity of Tithonia the Torch continues to stop me in my tracks on a daily basis in my own garden. Home is  very much a self seeded paradise, with many a container wedged in between those self setters. Next year I intend to plant up vast containers of Helenium Herbstonne,  an incredibly tall late Summer  flowering  yellow perennial that  I have a great deal of time for.


This  kniphofia  Mango Popsickle  is a recent addition at home  I love the colour, the label informs me  it  will flower right throughout the summer.  If only I had come across it earlier.



The above  image is from 2014.  Since then I have grown on more heleniums , which are ready to go into containers to grow through my favorite grass Amenatheles lessoni.  Whichcontinues to  self seeding   ever so freely at home.

Other images from this week follow in all their late summer beauty.


Not a flower, just a perfect tool in the perfect tool belt, a mighty fine combination.



Crocosmia Lucifer is ready to burst, however have you seen Crocosmia  Hell Fire?  – a rather magnificent  blood red specimen.  In the rain it is iridescent, I would like to note that it rained quite a lot last week…P1050630


P1050558In addition to designing, implementing  and maintaining giant borders , plant propagation is pretty  high up on my list of things I love to do.  Scottish thistle is  one of my favorites, it is definitely not  for the faint hearted gardener.   I bought the seed  from  Nicky’s seeds several years ago.  Whilst it does not appear to self seed too freely, it creates  a striking sculptural element in gardens.  Beware though it is the meanest spikiest stem you can ever imagine, trying to stake it is a gardeners nightmare.


I have watched this  self- set  black currant grow in one border  for the last couple of years.  It  looks particularly well placed  against the Lysimachia atropurpurea.

P1050566P1050563This Philadelphus  amazes me with  its sheer flowering capacity every year.

My own garden is coming along very nicely. It is  doing just what I wanted it to do, in that  I have let everything self seed to almost the point  of chaos, but not quite –   Trust me I am a gardener.P1050634P1050639

More images of gardens follow,  a wet but great week to be a gardener.