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by Susan A. Tindall

Some plants emit their fragrance at night. These fragrances are generally intense, even memorable, in the darkness adding both simplicity and mystery to the experience. In practical terms the main night-pollinators in the UK are moths. These insects are attracted by scent at the ‘sweet’ end of the fragrance spectrum. The ‘night-time plants’ therefore have honey, jasmine or honeysuckle scents.

It helps to site these plants in places that are protected from strong winds, so the fragrance can hang in the air. Plants can be positioned by a window that is opened on a warm evening. Where there is a front garden, include a night-scented plant so that late in the evening you are greeted with an exquisite fragrance as you approach your front door.

Plants to consider:

Nicotiana alata (Jasmine tobacco) and Nicotiana sylvestris (Mountain tobacco) are tall plants that flower from July to September. Just two or three of these inexpensive plants, generally grown as annuals, can provide a heavy, delicious fragrance. There are a number of smaller cultivars, some of which will carry some scent but the species are the best, and their white tubular flowers are also visible in the dark. It is possible to grow them in a container. Oenothera biennis (Common evening primrose) opens its fragrant flowers at dusk and can be allowed to naturalise in a wilder part of the garden.

Much more modest in height, Saponaria officinalis (soapwort) has a sweet fragrance, especially noticeable in the evening. It is likely to flower in July. If elegant foliage is required Hosta plantaginea (the August lily) is fragrant at night, flowering in August.

There are several climbers which are night fragrant and these include the desirable, borderline tender Trachelospermum jasminoides (Star Jasmine) and Wisteria floribunda (Japanese wisteria). Lonicera periclymenum (the common woodbine) is also worth considering. Usually grown for the beauty of their foliage but having flowers in April that have an exceptional honey fragrance, Pittosporum tenuifolium and its many hybrids are excellent. Lonicera syringantha (the lilac honeysuckle) is a late spring flowering shrub with a sweet fragrance that is very noticeable in the evening and night. Since the fragrance of these plants is generally carried for several yards they can easily be incorporated in planting that is grown for its flowers or foliage effect in the daytime.

Finally, in order to provide some visual interest after dark, grow a few white flowers that will be attractive at night. These could include white Cosmos and white Phlox, the latter is also fragrant and attracts hawk moths at night.


Enjoy!

Susan A. Tindall.

At Stewarts Garden Centres we have any of the above in stock but stock does vary by season so please call ahead if you are after something specific.

The post The Scented Night Time Garden appeared first on Stewarts Garden Centres.

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By John Hawkins

If you’ve tasted strawberries straight from your garden, you’ll know how delicious they are…

As summer has arrived, it is time to think about one of this country’s favourite fruits, the strawberry. If it is a fruit that you can enjoy, you should easily be able to grow some – they do not require a lot of room, and will happily thrive in pots or hanging baskets.
The ideal spot in the garden will be sheltered, with some sun, well drained and be neutral to slightly alkaline. Before planting, dig in a liberal amount of organic matter.

When it comes to choosing your variety, things have moved on since we all grew Royal Sovereign, a good flavour but prone to disease and viruses. You will find a wide range of varieties and, by selecting early and later fruiting types, you are able to have a longer fruiting season.

When planting, it is important to allow sufficient room between plants, 18ins between each plant and 30ins between the rows. If you are growing in a strawberry pot or hanging basket use a vegetable planting compost.

After Care

Strawberry fruits should be kept off the soil if possible, straw will do the job, but if it is hard to obtain strawberry mats, ground cover fabric can be used. In dry summers strawberries will need watering, but try not to water in the evenings as wet fruit on a warm night can cause mildew.

To increase your stock or replace old plants, select runners from healthy plants (only select runners from plants with clean leaves) no mottling or crinkling. You only need to replace when the yield of fruit starts to decrease, usually after five years or so.

Have you looked at the mouth watering range of fruit jams available from our gifts department? There are lots to choose from!

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By Karl Read

A juicy steak seared to perfection, crispy grilled vegetables, tasty succulent chicken, sweet and delicious chocolate brownies! It is possible to cook all these things and more on a Weber BBQ!

Weber build a wide range of gas, charcoal, electric and portable BBQ’s for people who want to enjoy a casual, relaxed style of everyday outdoor living. A barbecuing company who are in the business of building high quality BBQ’s, they take great pride in building performance and durability into the heart of each and every BBQ they make.

When you take home a Weber you’ll realise it’s more than just a barbecue…it’s a great barbecue every time. Most models come with up to 10 years warranty, meaning you can buy in confidence knowing your BBQ will last for years to come!

Come into our centre today to see the fantastic range on offer!

The Perfect Steak

Serves: 4
Preparation Time: 0.05

4 steaks (preferably rump or sirloin), 1″ thick
2 cloves garlic minced or pressed
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil

Trim excess fat from the steaks. In a glass dish or heavy plastic bag combine the remaining ingredients. Marinate the steaks for 1 hour at room temperature or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. If refrigerating, bring steaks close to room temperature 1/2 hour before grilling for more even cooking. Preheat the barbecue on HIGH. Brush grids with olive oil. Proceed as directed in the steakhouse grilling guide below.

A. Place steak on angle on hot grids
B. Flip the steak as show below
C. Turn and flip steak again.
D. Finally flip the steak again

Come to Stewarts for some more great recipes!

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By Rebecca Moy

Everyone loves summer, it’s a time for fresh air, warmth and outdoor fun.  With the warm evenings we all tend to extend our time outside and this often includes al fresco dining, during the day or into the evening. There is nothing quite like an outdoor garden party, it’s great fun and may help you impress your neighbours and friends when you have added a little attention to detail.

A garden party does not have to cost the earth, it can be done simply if you have some good resources to hand. If you purchase items well, these can be enjoyed for years to come, not just for the garden party!

Here are a few tasters to get you going:

Lighting

As the sun goes down, there’s nothing more wondering than the lights coming on in the garden. These can be in the form of solar or low voltage lighting. How about investing in some solar lights to wind around trees or large shrubs?

There are also some wonderful tea light holders and lanterns available in stunning colours to brighten up the garden.

Warmth & Cooking

Even on balmy days the evenings can bring on a little chill. Impress your friends with lighting a Kadai firebowl or chimenea to keep them warm.

It creates a wonderful ambience and it is mesmerising watching the flames from a glowing fire. You can even cook on many of the firebowls and chimenea these days.

If you are looking to invest in a barbecue then look no further than our great selection! We have the best selection on the south coast at Stewarts Christchurch, and good ranges at Broomhill and Abbey Garden Centres too.

Dressing the table

What better way to impress your guests by creating a beautifully laid table in the garden.
We offer a huge range of picnicware, which is long lasting and will really add a wow factor to the table. Add a focal point, such as some picked flowers or greenery from your garden. You don’t have to be a florist to do this!

The recipe for the perfect picnic

Make the most of this summer by taking the family out for a picnic on the beach or in the forest.
Don’t forget the bring picnicware, cool bags, and wine coolers to make the perfect lazy summer day!

You can find all of this in our Outdoor Living Area, and whilst your there why not have a look at our Cube BBQs from Eyerdure by Heston Blumenthal, or the Q range from Weber, they make a perfect pick up and go!

The post Garden Parties appeared first on Stewarts Garden Centres.

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By Doug Cameron and Chris Allen

The long summer nights have begun and are a great chance to enjoy the garden with some good food and good company.

This time of year is a great time to find fresh local fruit and vegetables and here at Stewarts we aim to use as much local and seasonal produce as we can. We are part of the New Forest Marque which is a great organisation, as it means that when you are buying a New Forest Marque product you know that you are getting authentic New Forest fare of the highest quality, and helping to support traditional country ways.

One of our favourites to use is local New Forest strawberries in a fruit tart or simply with some cream on top.

Here is one of our recipes which you can try at home and wow your family and friends with, or just as a summer treat for yourself!

Recipe
  • 250g butter, softened
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 large free range egg
  • 300g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 250g halved New Forest strawberries
  • 7 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp spoon caster sugar
Method
  • Heat oven to 160°C/140°C fan/gas 3 and grease and line the base and sides of a deep 20cm round cake tin with a little of the butter and baking parchment.
  • Put the butter, golden caster sugar and vanilla extract into a big mixing bowl. Beat until light and fluffy with an electric whisk or by hand if you are feeling strong.
  • Beat in the eggs, one by one, and then fold in the 300g flour and baking powder.
  • Spoon out 85g of the batter.
  • Stir the extra 7 table spoons flour into this with a cutlery knife so it becomes crumbly.
  • Fold the strawberries into the rest of the cake batter and scrape into the prepared cake tin.
  • Scatter over the crumble mix followed by the caster sugar. Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer poked in comes out clean.
  • You may need to lay a sheet of foil on top after 45 minutes if the cake is browning too much.
  • Cool for 15 minutes in the tin, then finish on a wire rack and enjoy.

A little bit about us Douglas Cameron
Head Chef, Stewarts Christchurch

Having worked for Stewarts for 11 years I’ve seen the coffee shop change dramatically over the years. In the summer of 2010 we had a large refurbishment in the coffee shop, which increased our seating and serving area, this made us able to offer a much wider variety of freshly made home cooked meals and cakes.
I started off working for Stewarts as front of house but I was soon offered a job in the kitchen as an assistant. With this amazing opportunity I was able to improve on my skills and soon was able to achieve my level 2 and level 3 NVQ in Professional Cookery.
Not long after I was given the position of Second Chef where I grew to be a budding chef and expanded my knowledge a great deal.

In July 2014 I was offered the Head Chef position, this gave me a great opportunity to put my own stamp on the way we produced some great home cooked food.
I have been on an insightful journey and I look forward to many more exciting years to come at Stewarts!

Chris Allen
Second Chef, Stewarts Christchurch

I am a local inspired chef with a passion and knowledge for good food.
I have trained and worked locally in the New Forest in a wide range of hotel and restaurants. Whilst working in the New Forest I have gained a variety of skills and knowledge about locally sourced fresh produce, which I was able to bring to Stewarts.

I have even done my fair share of foraging and picking to create home cooked dishes, I have been with Stewarts for 2 years where I have grown by skills as a chef.
One of the best parts about working at Stewarts is I love how fresh and local the food is, what can I say, I love every minute if it!

The post New Forest Strawberry Crumble Cake appeared first on Stewarts Garden Centres.

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By Glenda Stansbury

We all know you cannot beat the satisfaction of growing your own fruit and veg and the immense pleasure it brings to pick your own fruits of labour. The toil of previous months seem to get swept away on the first taste of your crop, yes, those flavours really are more intense aren’t they? It seems home grown really is the best option all round, for your purse, your convenience, the environment, (no air miles being accrued generally, unless you are lucky enough to go harvesting on an olive grove in Spain), and most importantly for your own mind body and soul. And so let’s agree Homegrown is where its ‘appenin!

Which leads me conveniently on to asking how many of you take notice of the Homegrown labels that are cropping up at our Christchurch and Broomhill centres? Are you aware that Homegrown, doesn’t just mean Grown in Britain? I am sure you will all be noticing the red white and blue flower logos around the store promoting Buy British. Stewarts are passionate about supporting local small independent businesses that have real products that we feel our customers will enjoy and benefit from, whilst obviously helping the trader to get their name out there. However, when I say Homegrown, I mean perennials and shrubs that have been home grown on our nursery at Wimborne. By the end of this article I think Homegrown will be so embedded on your minds you will be rushing to the store to snap up those quality plants! Apologies, I will return to the point!

Last year, I had the pleasure of working in the Christmas department at Christchurch, but naturally it was only a temporary contract, there is only so much time dedicated to Christmas, although Susie Stewart works all year sourcing and obtaining the best of what’s out there for all of you for the festive season… honest!

My Christmas contract expired just as an advertisement appeared for staff to cover the spring period, helping at Stewarts Nursery. Ideal, working outside in the Spring, a pleasant drive from home to Holt, the birds singing in the morning, sun shining and casting shadows on the bough of the silver birches, what could be nicer than working outside plant prepping? My somewhat romantic notion of work at the Nursery was immediately shattered, March arrived but had forgotten to tell Mother Nature she was supposed to wake up and shine on us.

I found myself with layer upon layer of thermals, gloves, hats and hot drinks. Did anyone notice my hip flask? (just joking Martin!). This was turning out to be no ordinary job but one of endurance! There is always a positive to a negative though, and the warmth of the staff and their positive attitudes to getting the job done just as efficiently regardless of the cold was what kept me going. The Nursery team know the meaning of hard work and dedication and their horticultural knowledge is so admirable, these employees will be there at the crack of dawn if that’s what’s needed, it really is as simple as that… Monty Don would be glad to work with them.

Homegrown really transpires to be plants that have been tended, irrigated, fleeced and given every possible chance to succeed from day 1, treated like a new-born child. That TLC is the start of weeks of nurturing until they are ready to fly the nest of the Nursery ready for picking and dispatching. So Dear garden lover when you see the Homegrown sign, please remember these plants really have been grown down the road in Dorset; they have been cultivated and nurtured with a passion seldom found in other industries… Now, please queue in an orderly fashion, in the naturally British way, Homegrown is where its ‘appenin!

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By Rebecca Moy

Having worked since the age of 13 with plants and still working with them now, it reminded me how we really should celebrate that we live our lives surrounded by them and that they still amaze me!

Just for a second, imagine life without plants. For a start you probably wouldn’t be here but even if this were not the case just imagine how sad the world would look without them?

I think we forget how much they do and give to us humans. For a start they feed the world from animal to human. They give us clean air so we may breathe, they take in the carbon dioxide and expel oxygen and we do the opposite so we are a perfect fit! They are used for fuel such as to keep us warm. Everywhere we look something is made from a plant, such as the homes we live in, the buildings we see and furniture we use. They are now even being used as a petrol substitute to aid in lessening the global warming impact.

Many of our vitamins come from plants and many of our medicines too either directly or have been synthesized to imitate plant constituents, as for example Morphine (from the Poppy plant). The aspirin we take has derived from Willow Bark. So each time you have even a minor headache just think of that plant that’s helping to get rid of it. Scientists are still finding new cures for many diseases today by studying and using plants that aid in saving lives and making others more comfortable.

Plants are used for sewage and wastewater treatment, they shade us from the sun, give us protection from strong winds, they help absorb the rain, create wonderful dyes for materials for items such as clothes, carpets, home furnishings, provide us with our morning cup of tea or coffee, toast and the list goes on and on!

Without plants we wouldn’t do what many of us love – gardening! Gardening helps us keep fit, can help lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and can boost the mind and the emotion. Turn it on its head you will find that gardening, alias plants, have saved the NHS millions of pounds, how you may ask? Take for instance a small local nursery called Cherry Tree. This is a charity based on horticulture that provides meaningful occupation in a supportive environment, aiming to restore well-being to people with mental illness. Plants have a calming influence and without the opportunity of working at the nursery many of the people involved would be relying heavily on the NHS for help and they would definitely have not got the loving environment and support as they get with Cherry Tree.

Plants have a family tree of over ½ billion years and over these years they have developed an extraordinary range of strategies to survive.

The Bristlecone Pine is the oldest living thing on earth. It only grows for 6 weeks of the year so that for the rest of the year it can conserve all of its energy due to living in such a cold bleak place. To help it survive these conditions it keeps each pine needle for up to 30 years. Plants are just like animals and humans, they too have to battle against predators, disease, produce offspring and some even have to hunt for their food such as the Venus Fly Trap.

Did you know that 20% of all plant life on our planet is grass? There are 10,000 species and they are the main diet of 1000’s of animals. Two in particular have changed the world, as we know it today. Rice was cultivated 10’000 years ago and now ½ the population of the world depends on it. Wheat has travelled even further due to its relationship with the human and it now underpins the development of Western Civilisation and covers more land than any other kind of plant.

So when you read this, do you like me, feel a little guilty that perhaps we don’t thank the plant enough for what we have today? Not only do they do this all of this for us, and more, but they also make the world a brighter more attractive place to live in! So from me, thank you plants!

The post Do we take plants for granted? appeared first on Stewarts Garden Centres.

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By John Hawkins 

In the 1960s the bedding season was totally different from today, both in its length and its range of plants. The first of the box bedding appeared in the month of May and by box I mean in a wooden seed tray of 48 plants (pre decimal) and if you only wanted a dozen we would cut them out with a knife and wrap them in newspaper. With the box bedding we had a good range, Stocks, Mesembryanthemums and Zinnia were still in fashion along with all the usual suspects but Impatiens had not arrived (probably a good thing if last year is anything to go by). If you had a seed catalogue from the early 60’s you would see that the plants were all open pollinated, as opposed to the modern F1 hybrids. This did mean that if you had a plant that you were particularly fond of you could save the seeds, and could grow them again next year and be sure they would be the same.

Now moving on to pot grown bedding, here you would find the biggest change. Again, the first plants appeared in May and Geraniums were the main seller, with the bright red Paul Crampel and salmon pink King of Denmark being the most popular. We also had the Ivy leafed Geraniums, Fuchsias – bush, trailing and standard, Pelargonium and tuberous Begonias. The range of seed grown pot bedding such as Petunia, Begonia, Salvia and Nemesia was a lot smaller. You would not find Surfinia, Million Bells, Bacopa or any of the numerous trailing plants on offer today. To grow them you would not have found any of the tub and basket compost on offer today either.

 
A typical hanging basket would have used red Geraniums, blue Lobelia and whiteAlyssum. When you think of the wide range of plants available today you realise how things have progressed in the last 50 years. We did however have a gardener in the late 1960s who placed an order for 100 red Geraniums for Easter (for the opening of a factory). They were grown to order and delivered on Good Friday, kept in a greenhouse overnight and planted out on the Saturday morning. After the opening they were carefully lifted, put back in the greenhouse and replanted in May.

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By Tim Bucknall

There’s no room for complacency though – through intensive farming the countryside is getting less and less wildlife-friendly, and so it falls more and more to gardeners to support wildlife. So what are the best ways to do this? All creatures need the right habitat, and it’s possible to provide a range of these in a small space. For example, bird boxes, bumble bee nest-boxes and boxes for other insects are a great way to provide these – but evergreen shrubs can also provide great hide-aways. A bramble bush, patch of weeds or pile of leaves can be really useful, from providing feeding sites for birds to nest sites for bumble bees, or even cover for a hedgehog – so don’t be tempted to over-tidy every inch. Give yourself the afternoon off to sit and enjoy your garden, while the wildlife enjoys the hidden corners! And of course water in the garden is a great benefit, whether it’s a full-on wildlife pond, or a simple birdbath.

Insect-friendly planting

This is one of the easiest ways to help wildlife in the garden, and one of the most enjoyable. Insects are after nectar and pollen, which come from flowers with an open form (although single-flowered varieties are often better than double). Different species are active at different times, so it’s great for you and the pollinators if you can always have something in flower in the garden. Bumble bees can emerge early in spring, and need a good supply of food to start their new nests. Mahonias are outstanding for this, as is Berberis darwinii and of course, spring bulbs are a great resource. As spring moves into summer there are too many great plants to name but two that can’t go without mention are Verbena bonariensis, and Buddleia.

The Verbena looks great all summer through until autumn and is loved by a range of insects. The Buddleia only flowers for a few weeks, but while it is out it has to be the favourite nectar plant for butterflies – if you want to know what butterflies are around at this time of year, look at a Buddleia. Another opportunity that shouldn’t be overlooked is hanging baskets. Some hanging basket plants offer little to wildlife – Pelargoniums (often called Geraniums), Busy Lizzies and Begonias all offer little or nothing, but others can be fantastic – look for flowers that have a visible centre or stamens. The Brachycome by my front door has a cloud of tiny hoverflies around it.

As late summer moves towards autumn there are still shrubs supporting insects – perhaps most notably the Hebes – but the stars of the garden are the lateflowering perennials. Asters (Michaelmas daisies) and Rudbeckias are two great classics and like many others are in the daisy family. These have open, flat flowers perfect for hoverflies and other insects. Whilst taking a break from writing I’ve just watched a bumble bee and a small tortoiseshell butterfly competing for the same flower on an Echinacea, another member of the same family. However, if there’s one flower that is the butterflies’ favourite at this time of year it has to be Sedum. There are many varieties, but for me the favourite is still good old ‘Autumn Joy’.

Feeding at the end of the season can be very important as many species are preparing to hibernate or even migrate: so a good display of flowers now doesn’t just lift your spirits, it can set the insects up for a good start next spring.

The post Wildlife Friendly Gardening appeared first on Stewarts Garden Centres.

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by Susan A. Tindall

These are plants that require very little in the way of maintenance. They should all be a reliable presence in your garden for many years and serve as good foundation plants while your taste and garden style evolve. Considered in terms of one’s wardrobe they generally represent everyday wear rather than horticultural haute-couture.

Three shrubs

The humble Euonymus fortunei. These are evergreens and come in many forms, mostly variegated. Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’, and the silver-edged Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’ are two excellent examples. These plants form attractive foliage mounds that can be trimmed to round or domed-shapes if needed. They form bright interludes in winter and some will climb if grown against a wall. They make good low-growing feature plants and could, for example, be set either side of steps. They should get by with the occasional trim but can be cut hard-back if they become too large.

The coloured-stem dogwoods: Cornus alba, Cornus sanguinea, and Cornus sericea. They are primarily grown for the colour of their bare winter stems, but some have variegated foliage which makes them desirable all summer. Cornus alba ‘Spaethi’ has elegant green and yellow variegation while the green leaves of Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ have excellent autumn colour. Dogwoods need cutting to near ground level in spring to maximise their stem colour.

The affable spiraea in many varieties that includes the spectacular spring display of white flowers on the hearty Bridal-wreath Spiraea ‘Arguta’ which is managed with a simple annual prune. In addition there are a useful range of Spiraea japonica forms with domed heads of flowers that appear in July in red, pink and white shades. A number of them have stunning spring foliage in gold and copper shades such as Spiraea japonica ‘Goldflame’. The japonica forms only need a hard prune every few years to keep them compact.

Three herbaceous plants

Clump-forming geraniums such as Geranium x oxonianum forms flower profusely in summer. They generally produce flowers in shades of pink and purple. The bright pink flowers of Geranium x oxonianum ‘Wargrave Pink’ being a prime example. The clumps can be divided and distributed around the garden, perhaps in front of shrubs, to create a repetition that unifies the planting in your garden. Shear off the foliage and flowers when the plants become ragged and they will quickly regenerate and often re-flower. These robust plants can even hold their own in a wild garden, successfully competing with grass.

Bold crocosmia are an excellent choice in a sunny and open garden in warmer areas where their red and orange flowers blaze forth from mid to late summer. Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora ‘Carmin Brilliant’ is a sizzling ‘hot effect’ plant. It doesn’t need pruning but the dead collapsed foliage may be removed in winter.

Sedum spectabile and telephium varieties and Sedum Herbsfreude Group are tough and desirable plants that flower in late summer and autumn. Their domed-heads are in shades of pink and white. The purple foliage of Sedum telephium Atropurpureum Group ‘Purple Emperor’ makes a strong, colourful foliage contribution as well. The dead heads of sedum can be removed in autumn or left till spring if the architectural effect of the dead flower heads is appreciated.

And a climber

Clematis viticella and its forms flower with great freedom from mid to late summer going into autumn. They are hardy, vigorous, and more disease resistant than most forms. One handsome form is Clematis ‘Madame Julia Correvon’ with dusky red flowers and pronounced yellow stamens. The viticella clematis need hard-pruning in early spring but are otherwise left alone.

Finally

All these plants can generally thrive without pest-control measures. They are, with the exception of crocosmia, hardy in most parts of the country. Herbaceous plants and the smaller shrubs can be moved to different parts of the garden as your needs change. In the generous tradition of the gardening community, excess or unwanted plants can be gifted to others. Don’t forget, our outdoor plants teams are a goldmine of information should you have any questions!

The post Easy-Going, Great Value Plants for New Gardeners appeared first on Stewarts Garden Centres.

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