Spring flowering trees are perhaps the most impressive sight in a garden – one of the best, in our humble opinion, is the Amelanchier lamarckii or the Serviceberry. Truly stunning, with long racemes of white flowers produced in late March, this small tree has a place alongside the path to the office here at JJ Designs and is greatly admired.
The emerging copper coloured leaves turn a mid green in late spring before maturing to rich reds as the autumn approaches. The rounded fruits, red in summer before turning black in autumn, are edible.
Amelanchiers do best in moist, well drained lime free soils and are a good choice to plant near to buildings.
So, give this small tree a home, it tries so hard to get your attention at this time of year.
We are sometimes asked what our ‘Desert Island’ plant would be and the reply sometimes suprises customers. This month we have opted for the Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’ for our Plant of the Month, a plant which does everything you ask of it beautifully and without fuss. It will grow in the shade or full sun, doesn’t mind clay or sand soil and is loved by birds for its nesting potential.
Plant of the month – Viburnum tinus
At this time of year this Viburnum is covered with glorius white flowers which is just what you need when Spring has arrived one day and then gone the next. The picture you see above is one we grow as a hedge in our garden and it provides great , evergreen screening where it is needed.
So don’t dismiss this often overlooked, versatile shrub which can be clipped to a size to suit the space available and will reward you with its adaptability.
The aim of any landscape designer is to create a garden which looks good all year round – not an easy task. As one of my greatest influencers, Piet Oudolf said “A garden is exciting for me when it looks good throughout the year, not just at a particular time. I want to go outside and for it to be interesting in all weathers, in early spring and late autumn”
Plant structure for the winter garden
Oudolf’s philisophy was to resist the temptation to cut perennials and grasses down as soon as they show signs of dying in the autumn and use this changing structure as a feature. Many grasses such as Miscanthus, Calamagrostis and Pennisetum make a spectacular show when covered in early morning frost – something we at JJ Designs use repeatedly in our planting schemes.
Many perennials can be left to show off their beautiful winter silhouettes too, including Sedums, Rudbeckias and Echinaceae.
Holding these grasses and perennials together it is important to make use of structural evergreen plants. We are particulary fond of clipped cones of Box, Yew and Holly in our planting schemes.
Using the structure of evergreen shrubs in the winter garden.
Bamboos are especially attractive in winter and many evergreen varieties bring a new texture to this green tapestry. Their long and thin leaves are often paler green than those of surrounding evregreen shrubs. Trembling and rustling in the wind, they become transformed when coated in frost.
So, before you cut your perennials and grasses down in autumn, maybe it’s time to let them show what they can do in the winter.
In October the garden takes on a more sombre mood, when the heat and bright sunny conditions give way to cool, moist mornings and misty sunshine. Complimenting this change of pace we have chosen the Verbena bonariensis which will provide you with a suspended cloud of purple, blue flowers.
Plant V. bonariensis in full sun and well-drained soil. It is fairly drought tolerant so doesn’t require watering once established (unless we get no rain) and enjoys the heat. Although it will grow acceptably in poor soil, it will thrive in fertile soils with high organic matter.
We like to team it with grasses, such as Pennisetum and perennials, Foeniculum vulgare (fennel) and Artemesia ‘Powis Castle’. Butterflies and other insects adore this plant and add to it’s dream like qualities. Despite it’s height, 3-6 feet, the stems are very delicate so don’t be afraid to plant it near to the edge of paths where you can enjoy it’s qualities to the full whilst still seeing the plants beyond.
In a similar way to last month’s plant of the month, the Echinaceae, we are loving the American prairie style of plants and recommending you try the Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’. Both of these plants, when planted in groups perhaps with the addition of some Calamagrostis grasses will give your borders that autumn prairie feel.
Plant of the Month September – Rudbeckia
The Rudbeckia bears wide, black eyed, single yellow daisy flowers with cone shaped black centres from August to October. It is ideal for creating late summer colour in ornamental borders. Short enough not to need staking and doesn’t spread so fast that frequent division is necessary, making it an easy-care plant.
We have found that it tolerates some light shade but does need soil which doesn’t dry out. Team it with shorter grasses such as Pennisetum or Calamagrostis – best to be bold with groups rather than planted individually.
The long, hot summer we are experiencing this year has inspired this month’s plant of the month – the Echinacea. This tall perennial with it’s daisy flowers has all the ingredients to lend your garden a prairie style all of it’s own.
Plant of the Month – Echinacea
During August the garden goes through a lull, with the earlier flowers starting to tire of the sun. The Echinacea fills this gap well with a variety of flower colours from white to yellows to greens. A further point in their favour is their ability to ward off winter colds as a herbal remedy.
We like to team Echinacea with tall grasses such as Calamagrostis or Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’. These combinations reinforce the Echinacea’s roots in the North American prairies.
We have found that, over the years, these perennials do tend to disappear and then return. Whilst Echinaceas are hardy it is thought that a wet start to a winter may affect their ability to overwinter. With this in mind we treat them as annuals and love them all the more for it…
When we think of Hydrangeas it is the mophead types that come to mind, a stalwart of acid soils in coastal areas. Whilst these hydrangeas are pleasant enough they are perhaps getting a bit ‘uncool’.
Our plant of the month for July is the Hydrangea paniculata ‘Kyushu’ which is of the lacecap variety and a whole lot cooler for it…
Plant of the Month Hydrangea paniculata ‘Kyushu’
This deciduous plant will make a beautifully shaped medium or large shrub which prefers a shadier spot in the garden, think woodland style planting schemes. Don’t be afraid to prune to a size which works for you, simply cut back to 5cm of the older wood in early spring.
We like to associate this variety with other shade loving plants, such as Astilbe, Anenome x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’ and helleborus.
Embrace the shadier side of your garden and try a Hydrangea paniculata.
This month we have chosen a classicly beautiful flower to grace your new border, the Hemerocallis, commonly known as the daylily.
Hemerocallis – Plant of the Month
All daylilies need is reasonable soil and at least half a day of sunshine and they will bring impressive rewards for relatively little work. As their name suggests, their flowers last only a day so regular deadheading is the only effort, but what a flower it is. We prefer to grow the species rather than the hybrids as the flowers are less gaudy and the size, more compact. Team the yellow flowering types with Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’ and the reds and oranges with Crocosmia and Fennel.
Once flowering is complete, cut to the ground and fresh new growth will emerge for the remainder of the summer months.
As with most good things there is a downside – this month we have chosen the Gallium oderatum as our plant of the month. Let’s get the downside out of the way first, it does tend to spread, although only slowly and it is easily controlled. The upside is that it loves growing in difficult positions, namely beneath hedges and trees, where it form a lovely low evergreen mat. In May white flowers appear to complete the reason for our recommendation.
So, if you have a difficult area of a border which is in dappled shade and a bit dry too, this could be answer. Keep a close eye on it however. We team it with Hosta, which are strong enough to compete with the Gallium, and spring bulbs to give a great spring display. The Gallium will grow over the spent bulb foliage, keeping a neat show.
After the unsettled and prolonged weather over winter we have chosen the brightest and most cheerful plant for our plant of the month – the Hyacinth.
We have had this spring bulb in our garden for many years and each spring they never fail to impress and be the centre of attention for a brief spell in early spring. One of the loveliest scents of spring, the heady fragrance can be captured many metres away.
These bulbs do best in sun or partial shade in soil which is never waterlogged. As the colours can be a little bright we like to keep small clumps set amongst other spring bulbs, such as small daffodils and primroses.
As with all spring bulbs, hyacinths sprout, bloom and start to fade into dormancy before deciduous trees fully leaf out, so you don’t have to worry about too much shade from nearby trees. Plant the bulbs in autumn.
If you want to truly chase away the grimness of winter, these bulbs are definitely the way forward…