Jan 262015


January is the worst month for this blog. It’s too early for most early bulbs like aconites and iris reticulata (and you don’t tend to see them in the average garden anyway) so if I’m lucky I see a few cyclamen or pansies in a windowbox. So thank heavens for evergreens.

The planting in the grounds of Cheltenham College is mostly evergreen – euonymus, lavender, santolina, box, choisya, viburnum. Coupled with the well tended lawns and giant cedar, it must look immaculate all year round – if pretty much the same in every season. I enjoy walking past it, as it’s such a hit of green. I’ll be interested to see if any spring bulbs appear, or whether they embellish it with summer bedding.

Jan 242015
Garrya elliptica


I’ve never been much of a fan of Garrya elliptica, but this one caught my eye. The long, silvery catkins really caught the low winter sunlight, and the whole plant seemed to sparkle.

Seeing it reminded me of studying for my RHS Level 2 examination in an evening class, many moons ago. One of the women on the course was pregnant, and we said she should give the child a botanical name. Of course that would have been easy if the child was a girl, but impossible for a boy. The only name we could come up with was… Gary Eliptica.

You probably had to be there.

Jan 192015
Chalice Well Garden, Glastonbury


The last few days in the West Country have been cold but beautifully sunny and yesterday it felt almost spring-like. To blow some cobwebs away, we walked up Glastonbury Tor and on the way back, popped into the Chalice Well Garden.

What a lovely place. It’s very tranquil, largely due to the water from the Chalice Well that flows throughout – into pools, rills and the main Vesica Pool (above). The iron-rich waters stain the stone red. Birds were tweeting furiously, and the garden was awash with strong scents from sarcococca, mahonia and viburnum. I’ve never seen so many seats in a garden, for quiet contemplation – one has a lovely view of the Tor (below).

As we sat and stared at the Vesica Pool, I was reminded of a story that a hippy friend told me recently. He took his new girlfriend to the garden last year, at a point when they hadn’t really talked about how their relationship was going. As they sat side by side at the edge of the pool, he thought he’d ask her: ‘Would you like to be my girlfriend?’. To which she replied: ‘I thought I already was.’ They’re now living together.


Dec 122014


Now here’s a plant that I hadn’t seen before – Anisodontea ‘El Royo’, or Cape Mallow. Its hibiscus-like flowers persist throughout winter on this west-facing wall in Olive Mason’s garden, Dial Park – apparently they shrivel up when there’s a frost, but bounce right back again. A quick Google has revealed that you can buy it at Cotswold Garden Flowers.

It looks so fresh and summery in the winter gloom. If I had a sheltered, west facing wall, I would definitely plant one. As it is, I have an exposed, west facing wall, so I don’t think I’ll risk it.

Nov 172014
Spider plants in a window box


I’m a big fan of spider plants in a window box. What other plant would trail as brilliantly as this? This pic reminds me of the wonderful window boxes I saw a while back in Connaught Square – they had a few spider plants stuffed into them, in between numerous other delights.

The worst gardener in the world could keep a spider plant alive. I’ve got a couple hanging from the ceiling in my conservatory. They’re hideously pot bound and starved of water a lot of the time (I always seem to forget about them), and exposed to huge extremes of temperature. And yet they still keep pumping out their little baby plants, which I pot up occasionally. You know they’ve finally had enough when their leaves turn very pale, but give them a quick water and they’re soon as right as rain.

Incidentally, I like these dark wooden window boxes – I’ve never seen anything like them before.


Oct 302014
Pelargoniums and paperwhite narcissisi in conservatory


There’s a clash of the seasons in my conservatory at the moment. Some paperwhite narcissi have flowered way earlier than I was expecting, and some pelargoniums (including the wonderfully named ‘Happy Thought’, in the front) have decided to flower again.

The tiny space is getting very congested – I’ve already brought in some tender plants, such as lemon verbenas, which was a bit premature given the ridiculously mild weather we’ve been having. Soon a couple of bananas and a fuchsia will be making their way in. Mind you, the effect I’m going for is Andie McDowell’s indoor greenhouse in the film Green Card, so a bit of congestion is fine by me.