Jan 212012



Ever since I set myself the challenge of only featuring winter pots that don’t feature all the usual suspects such as ivy, skimmias, pansies, cyclamen and so on, output on this blog has dropped dramatically. So it’s just as well that I came across these winter containers at John Massey’s garden.

John isn’t a fan of pansies as they often get mildew, so he prefers to use other plants. In these pots, he’s got a few winter stalwarts such as skimmias, carex and ivy, but to them he’s added flotsam and jetsam from around the garden: seed heads of grasses and perennials, leaves, berries and pine cones. It’s a technique that florists use all the time, and one I’m definitely going to adopt.

Jan 182012

Ashwood Nurseries, Staffs

I loved these giant teasel heads in John Massey’s garden. They’re made of galvanised steel and were made by Neil Lossock at the Dragons Wood Forge in Herefordshire. He also made the gate below. Neil will be at the top of my list of people to call when I finally get a garden and simultaneously win the lottery.

Jan 162012


I took a trip out of London last week to the much-loved and respected Ashwood Nurseries in Staffordshire. I was there to meet the owner, John Massey, who has a beautiful three-acre private garden in the nursery grounds.

John’s garden looked so good it was almost enough to make me love January. Everything was about three weeks ahead, so my timing turned out to be perfect – the carpets of snowdrops, magenta cyclamen coum, yellow aconites and hellebores of every hue looked impossibly pretty among the yellow and red witch hazels (hamamelis) and red-stemmed dogwoods.

Sadly my camera couldn’t really do them justice (it’s got a rubbish zoom and I didn’t want to trample over John’s borders), but you can see some pics here. I did however manage to capture this border, in which most of the grasses and perennials have been left standing over the winter.

A big part of planting up a border is getting the right combination of contrasting forms and textures. The upright grasses contrast with the button-like heads of Aster ‘Little Carlow’, the coneshaped coneflowers (echinaceas) and the cotton-wool like seedheads of Clematis tangutica ‘Bill Mackenzie’.

John’s garden also makes use of evergreens, many of them clipped into distinctive shapes. His cloud-pruned holly hedge is Ilex aquifolium ‘Alaska’ – its small leaves lend themselves to being pruned in this way.

John’s garden is open to the public several times in January and February. Do go for some winter cheer, inspiration and the amazingly popular tearoom.