This Week’s Guest Blogger is Andrew Humphris, Head Gardener at Parham House and Garden in West Sussex

I have been in horticulture for over 40 years and have been lucky enough to have worked at some stunning Houses and gardens through my career. This has given me an in depth understanding of Gardens and plants, but it never ceases to amaze me that every day you are learning something new. This is the joy of gardening, continually striving to learn more and do things better.

It may seem daunting to start with but the simple pleasures of sowing a seed or taking a cutting and watching it grow into a full-size plant never goes away.

For the past two years I have been working at Parham House and Garden in West Sussex as Head Gardener. The garden has always had a bindweed issue and during lockdown, when staff and volunteers were largely absent, the size of the problem was fully realised. It was decided that a major programme of renewal was needed involving emptying beds completely to enable the control of the bindweed more effectively. Once some of the beds were clean, we could start thinking about the new plantings in these beds. Many of the borders at Parham have a colour theme which we wanted to maintain, but I was also very conscious of our ever-changing climate and coming off the back of a very hot summer we are looking at plants that can tolerate these extreme conditions.

Trying to maintain the feel of an historic garden with exuberant borders while taking in to account these changing conditions is a challenge but certainly not unsurmountable. I have long had an interest in Salvias and in these times, they are becoming more and more valuable.

There is a huge variety of species and cultivars, from 4-metre-tall perennials to ground hugging shrubs to tender annuals and everything in between. A lot of these plants are tolerant of a wide range of conditions and have scented foliage and a long flowering season. Undoubtedly my favourites are the smaller shrubby Salvias from Mexico. Of these Salvia microphylla and its varieties are the hardiest as they come from higher elevations in the mountains. Salvia gregii comes from lower elevations and is less hardy and these two hybridise to form Salvia x jamensis. All of these three are crossed with other shrubby Salvias to get new colour breaks and two colours on one flower such as Salvia ‘Hot Lips’.

Three of my favourites are in the picture and are planted in the beds in front of the house at Parham. Salvia ‘Nachtvlinder’ with its rich velvet flowers is a low spreading shrub, whilst Salvia microphylla ‘ Pink Blush’ has a pale pink flower and is a little taller. Salvia ‘Dayglow in the background has richer magenta pink flowers on an upright shrub to 1 metre tall and in my opinion is the best of them all. All of these have an incredibly long flowering season form June until October, in fact the picture was taken in the third week of October and very drought tolerant once established. Their flowering does seem to slow down in extreme heat but perks up again once a little cooler. They are also robust hardy plants although with our milder winters there are few of these shrubby Salvias that do not survive our winters now so long as they are given reasonable drainage and do not get waterlogged. Surely there is a place in most gardens for these wonderful plants.

Parham House and Gardens open again on Sunday 9th April 2023 to find out more visit their website


This Week’s Guest Blogger is Laura McEwen, a Gardening Enthusiast with a focus on wellbeing

Hello, I’m Laura and I became enthusiastic about gardening two years ago after we moved house. Before that I had a small paved courtyard and so used to tend to my pots, but my larger garden needs a lot more care and attention.

I started to learn a lot more about the positioning of plants, soil types and care (after some unsuccessful planting and wasted money at the garden centre!) as well as growing things from seed which I had never done before. I became more and more enthused to look at each area of my garden and see how I could make my mark on it. At the back there was some old worn out decking that had previously been used as a seating area. We ripped it out and transformed it into a mini allotment and wild flower meadow. It was so satisfying to watch the transformation take place from a bare, muddy patch of earth to an area thriving with flowers, vegetables and wildlife.

During this time, however, I was diagnosed with SLE, better known as Lupus. I knew something had been wrong for years and so although it is never good to be diagnosed with a chronic illness, in some ways it was a relief to have an explanation. Despite this, I was keen as ever to carry on gardening and managed my Lupus by not going out if the sun was too strong, always wearing a hat and getting plenty of rest when possible (with two kids!). I felt determined that the benefits of gardening would outweigh any setbacks.

This worked well for me for a while and I enjoyed experimenting growing new things in the allotment and building up my displays of flowers. Unfortunately, at the start of the year I had a setback I couldn’t ignore: one of my lungs collapsed. In between the ups, downs and hospital appointments I still managed to do some ‘light’ gardening as I did not want to stop. I have since had surgery to hopefully rectify the problem and am now on the road to recovery. In the New Year, I am looking forward to the getting back into the garden more, rejigging my allotment and filling the gaps in my boarders with new varieties of plants, flowers and grasses. I need to stay active to help my recovery and gardening will be the perfect way to do this as long as I ask for help when it comes to the heavy work. Next project: renovating a very old and battered greenhouse!

Follow me on Instagram @wildgardentherapy

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Melanie who owns and runs Bishy Barnabees Cottage Garden that sells cottage garden seeds

Hi I’m Melanie and I set up my business selling seeds and happiness in 2020.

I have loved gardening since I was a very small child, helping my dad in his vegetable patch or following behind my grandmother as she selected tomatoes from her warm greenhouse or picked armfuls of fragrant sweet peas for her house.


As I grew up gardening became ever more important to me. It’s been a sanctuary when times were tough, a place to enjoy and play in when my own children were small. A space to grow vegetables to feed my family and to grow flowers to feed the soul!
And of course, a place to encourage wildlife in to live alongside us.

Gardening has always been essential to my well-being and never more so throughout many years of debilitating joint pain that I suffered.
At this point in my life, I was very limited in what I could do in the garden, but I needed it more than ever. I needed it for peace and tranquillity, to watch the insects busy at work, I needed it for colour and for hope.

Nothing brings as much positivity and hope as sowing a few seeds and then the excitement of watching them germinate, grow and bloom… makes you dream of new possibilities and hope for the future.

6 years ago, after many, many appointments I was eventually diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and was finally able to get the help I needed to start to recover. With the correct medication the pain has subsided, and movement has returned.

With this relief came a dream and a desire to bring gardening to others. To inspire people to pick up their trowel and to reap the huge physical and mental benefits that gardening brings.

I wanted to get everyone (whether they had an enormous garden or just a small balcony) to get outside, sowing some seeds and beginning their gardening journey towards positivity, joy and happiness.

The dream was to sell beautiful, healthy flower, veg, herb and chilli seeds. And so, in November 2020, during the second lockdown, I made my dream a reality.

I named my business Bishy Barnabees Cottage Garden because I live in the gorgeous Norfolk countryside and here in Norfolk ladybirds are known as Bishy Barnabees!
And ladybirds are truly a gardeners best friend. Gobbling up hundreds of pesky aphids in their lifetime and so helping enormously with organic pest control.

8 months after setting up I decided to take a leap of faith and left my teaching job to concentrate full time on Bishy Barnabees Cottage Garden… let my creative side take over and to make the business a place of inspiration, motivation and positivity.

The business has grown (organically of course!) and I now sell fabulous boxes of carefully curated seeds as special gifts for gardeners.

Sustainability is at the heart of everything I do and produce.
I garden organically, I make my own comfrey fertiliser, I encourage into the garden as many pollinators and wildlife as I can, and all my packaging is either recyclable or compostable.

In my experience gardening and well-being go hand in hand and so I am on a mission to get everyone out into the garden. To find out what makes them tick and what will bring them joy and satisfaction.

Is it growing vegetables to feed their family? Or creating a cut flower garden so they can pick bunches of flowers to gift to loved ones?
Is it wanting a place to rest and recuperate or a place to work through the frustrations of the day?

Whatever it is you can be sure you’ll find it in the garden!

To discover more about me and my business you can visit my website

Or follow me on Instagram

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Philip Oostenbrink, the Head Gardener at Walmer Castle and Author of Jungle Garden

Jungle Gardening in a Historic Garden.

Walmer Castle and Gardens lies on the East Kent coast, about 10 minutes north of Dover and is looked after by English Heritage. The gardens are approximately 8 acres, but the grounds, which include the beach, are about 22 acres. Within the gardens a woodland and meadow can be found, as well as an extensive kitchen garden, perennial borders with cloud hedges and a garden designed by Penelope Hobhouse for the Queen Mother’s 95th birthday.

The first time I visited Walmer Castle and Gardens I loved the space in the dry moat, up to 20 metres wide in places. About 6 metres below the level of the rest of the garden, it was created as a defence when the castle was built in 1539. It was never built to hold water, but once the enemy got in, it was very difficult for them to get out in a rush again, creating easy targets for the soldiers within the castle.

Throughout the centuries the moat had other functions too. It was filled with trees and shrubs at one point, was turned into a kitchen garden during the time the Duke of Wellington lived at Walmer Castle and had a tennis court in the early 20th Century. For the past 30 years or so it just had shrubs in borders along the castle walls and wasn’t high on the priority list.

When I applied for the job of Head Gardener I was very keen to hear about what would be possible in the moat. The Senior Gardens Advisor told me exactly what I was hoping for; that it just shouted out to be turned into a more tropical scene. As I love the style and have written a book called ‘The Jungle Garden’ I was looking forward to using different leaf shapes and sizes in the existing borders, making it look attractive from within the moat as well as from above. The reason we can use quite modern plantings in this historic part of the garden is that at Walmer Castle we haven’t got historic planting plans. With it (still) being the official residence of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, the gardens have always seen many changes and we work more with a type of planting instead of particular plants. This means that within the moat we work with trees and shrubs in the planting but can work with more recent introductions. This means we have planted plants such as Tetrapanax, Pseudopanax and tree ferns, with underplanting of Boehmeria, Persicaria and Hakonechloa.

To have such freedom and being able to use modern introductions in a historic garden is quite unique. Within English Heritage we are curators of the gardens, so period gardens usually have to keep their planting period correct. We are after all looking after these gardens for future generations so people will be able to see a certain style of garden, or a garden by a certain designer in centuries to come. This is why we have gardens of all kinds of different periods within English Heritage. Although it can seem limiting to some, if you look at Victorian gardens and the number of plants that were introduced by the Victorians, you may discover otherwise. Some fine examples of period gardens within English Heritage are Brodsworth Hall and Gardens in South Yorkshire, Wrest Park in Bedfordshire and Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.

To see our progress in the jungle moat and visit Walmer Castle and Gardens you can book your tickets via the website. Although pre-booking isn’t necessary, it will always give you the best offer. Entrance is free for English Heritage members.

http://Walmer Castle and Gardens | English Heritage (

You can also follow our progress via my personal Instagram account: @Mr. Plantaholic, or Twitter: @HG_Philip.

My book The Jungle Garden is available at many (online) bookshops, or more information can be found on

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Sally-Ann Harte who has an Instagram Page and posts photos of flowers she grows in her garden

I have always enjoyed gardening and I get such pleasure from just being outside in the sun, wind and rain, I really don’t mind what the weather is doing as long as I’m wearing the right clothes! The rewards are plentiful and if something isn’t successful there is always next year! Gardeners are so optimistic! With gardening you are always looking forward so it creates a very positive attitude and this spills over into my whole life.

I concentrate on the single flower from a simple daisy to everyone’s favourite, the rose. Much to my surprise my followers have grown steadily and are still rising! I find this astonishing and have wondered why my photos are so popular but I think just focusing on the beauty of a single flower can really make you look in depth at the exquisite detail and perfection nature gives us in
return for a little water and attention.

Plants can be expensive but buying from a local plant sale not only saves your pocket but you can be reasonably confident that it will grow in your garden too. Also being a member of your local gardening club will get you out and about and gardeners are incredibly generous in sharing their knowledge. Growing plants in whatever medium you can be it a flower bed, a pot or a
window box is a surprisingly rewarding experience and the flowers will ignite all your senses. Seeing the colours, enjoying the scents, the rustle of the leaves, the taste of the fruit and softness of the petals. Simply everyone can enjoy something from gardening.
Go on, give it a go! @sallyannharte

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Katie Mack, A Professional Gardeners’ Guild Trainee

Top Tips for Autumn Interest

Hello, my name is Katie and I am a professional gardener from Yorkshire. I’m currently
enrolled on the 3-year traineeship with the PGG (professional gardeners guild). This is a
wonderful opportunity as it gives me the chance to work across the country with different
teams, plants and landscapes. Today I’m going to be giving my top tips for bringing Autumn
interest into your gardens!

1. Delay the seasonal cut – you may be familiar with the gardening phrase ‘if it’s brown,
chop it down’; but, personally, I love to see the full cycle of plants – including their dying off
stage – right through the autumn months. As conditions on the planet becoming increasingly
difficult for wildlife, these autumn seed heads and natural structures provide a living refuge
for biodiversity. Poppy seed heads, hydrangeas and teasels are particular seasonal
favourites of mine.
Often, with many herbaceous plants, you can give them a cut back mid-season (aka the
Chelsea chop) which allows you to control the size of the plant throughout the summer
months, meaning a ‘desperate border tidy’ can hold off a little longer. It also encourages
some earlier blooming plants to give a second late flush, allowing you to get a longer
flowering season from your garden.

2. Acers are ace – Acers are probably the one tree that people can identify, and for good
reason too! The vivid colours of Acers throughout the autumn months, certainly justifies
their popularity. Dotted sporadically through a garden, they can help give the space a sense
of perspective and depth, drawing the eye to key areas. A recommendation of mine would
be the Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’ – with stems like a crimson red whip, contrasting the
delicate dripping of the autumnal yellow/green leaves, this acer certainly compliments a
seasonal garden.

3. Structure of the shrub – for me, a good autumn garden focuses on the idea of structure.
An easy way of achieving this is through the use of evergreen shrubs. Whilst a bright,
colourful herbaceous boarder optimises the English summer garden, installing a mixed
evergreen shrub border is a fantastic way of gaining that instant impact through the colder
months. Mahonias, Viburnums and Photinia all offer their own unique charm within an
autumn garden and can provide a beautiful compliment to the brown dying back structures
of the summer.

4. Don’t forget to underplant – layering is an essential part of any garden and autumn is no
different. We can often be guilty of neglecting this throughout the colder months, yet
swathes of colour can provide such joy in the starker days. My recommendations would be:
• Cyclamen
• Autumn crocus
• Erigeron

5. Feature food – one of the key events at this time of year is Halloween, so you could
consider growing squashes or pumpkins in your garden for that ‘seasonal interest’. Not only
do the vibrant colours have an autumnal feel, the sense of achievement from growing your
own pumpkins (for carving or eating) is an added bonus! They are super easy to cultivate
too; and who knows, it may inspire you to keep on growing your own sustainable food!

6. Tones and textures – we tend to associate autumn with browns, yellows and orange but
there are plenty of trees and shrubs out there that give a vivid kick of colour through the
autumn months. Some favourites worth a mention:
Euonymus alatus (for a dramatic red to liven up borders)
• Cherries (which give an almost pink/coral – glow in the low sunlight)
Cotinus (for the muted red and purple hues of autumn)

7. Pyracantha – Hedgerows come alive in September with the berries of hawthorns,
rosehips and elderberries. But the autumn berries of pyracantha are so abundant and
charming to see, that it can really liven up a dull space. It’s thorns are tough and unforgiving,
so I would personally suggest keeping them out of the way & at the edges of the garden. I
was converted to appreciating Pyracantha through seeing it trained espalier, so would
recommend giving this a try!

8. Featuring flowers – it can be a tricky time of the year for more tender plants as,
depending on your location, the frost may come quite early. Even so, it’s always nice to have
a part of the garden set aside for seasonal cut flowers to liven up the home. Fortunately,
there are some measures you can take to protect against the (early) frost. Where possible,
avoid planting tender species in open and exposed areas of the garden, or in particularly low
spots where cold air settles. An autumn top dressing can protect the roots but if you’re
mulching to keep the plants warm, ensure it’s done on a day where the ground isn’t frozen;
otherwise you’ll be counter productive and insulate the cold instead. Some late flowering
plants include:
• Dahlias
Nerine bowdenii

9. Make time for the fungi – though they are rarely an intentional part of gardening, they
are an essential part of the seasonal cycle, hence funguses being worth a mention in this
article. They are a vital part of the life cycle and help break down organic matter, thus
releasing carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and phosphorus into the soil and the atmosphere.
They’re also a fun part of autumn, and I enjoy going for walks, hunting for them and
identifying the different species.

10. Rustling grasses – after a busy flowering season through the summer, I always
appreciate the calming effect of ornamental grasses as we move into October & November.
They look great in a long border, especially dotted amongst the seed heads of Phlomis.
There is such a vast variety of grasses ranging from the dominant architectural structure of
pampas grass, to the slow growing nature of mondo grass. Some of my favourites are:
• Stipa
• Molinia
• Pennisetum
Looking ahead to the future seasons – autumn is a great time to have a good tidy in the
garden. With many herbaceous plants dying back and deciduous shrubs dropping their
leaves, it gives us chance to see the bones of the garden. Now is the time to be planning
ahead and get your spring bulbs planted. Remember to care for your lawn too. Often we can
be guilty of neglecting turf during the colder months, but as we draw to the last cut of the
season, it is a good time to consider aerating and over seeding the lawn to make it even
better next summer.

Hope you enjoyed the tips – happy gardening!

For more garden inspo, you can follow my Instagram: @katiemackgarden

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Cindy Seeley, the Owner of Amber Cottage Flowers

Hi there my name is Cindy and I am the owner of Amber Cottage Flowers. It feels so strange saying ” I am a self employed flower farmer florist”, because this is actually a world away from the care sector where I spent 25 years working previously.

You may be wondering how this change came about, well back in 2020, I (along with many others), decided that life needed to take a new path. I had lost both parents and suffered through menopause and I felt myself slowly slipping away.
With lockdown, came time, and the time that had been bestowed upon us gave rise to the importance of freedom, family, health and well-being. Things that I ( we) had taken a little too much for granted I feel.
I realised that being out in the fresh air, surrounded by nature and birdsong was where I wanted (needed) to be and the stress of being behind a desk each day was damaging my mental health. So I took the decision to go part time.

I have always loved flowers, so much so, my youngest grandson gave me the nickname Nanny Flowers some years ago. I decided in May of 2020 that I wanted to grow my own blooms and have a garden full of them. I had no experience and even less knowledge, so off I went and goggled pretty much everything from seed to compost.
I joined the Instagram community who were, and still are so supportive and knowledgeable and happy to share their wealth of experience. I also joined the university of ‘YouTube’.
I put my first seeds in the soil and I watched in amazement as life appeared. From that moment, I became hooked. I was in complete awe of that tiny speck that could turn into such a thing of beauty, I just marvelled in the power of ‘ mother nature’.

I decided from day one that I would not use any chemicals within my growing and I would recycle any plastic that I would need to use. I wanted to be an eco-friendly grower.
At this point, I was a ‘ hobby grower’. My first flowers appeared at the end of the July, beginning of August. I had obviously been a little late to the party, but I became well and truly, smitten. ” If I could produce these beauties in this short time, just think what I could produce next year “…
Things seem to naturally evolve, my son is an organic vegetable grower and he delivered weekly veg boxes and we come up with the idea of offering organic flowers to his customers.
Again, I researched how to put bunches of flowers together, how to cut and condition, how to wrap etc. YouTube become my best friend

The feedback I received was lovely, people commented on the ‘ garden style’ and the scent of the flowers, and someone even asked me to make their wedding flowers… I initially declined due to fear and lack of experience but this lady had every faith in me and loved my flowers and style so I agreed.
The wedding flowers were loved and my confidence grew.
By 2021 I had lost my job in care so I decided to throw myself wholeheartedly into being a flower farmer/florist. I pushed myself out there as being different. There were no other organic flower farmer/florists in the local area, all the other florists were still using floral foam in their design work.
I had decided long ago that I would never use it.
My principles were from the offset to use organic methods , to always encourage pollinators, to reuse all plastic pots and not use single use plastics and never to use foam. I knew who my customers were, so I set out to find them.

I advertised locally, and attended a start up business course, and Amber Cottage Flowers was born. It has been slow but I am starting to get my name out there as more and more people become environmentally conscious.
Supermarket flowers have predominantly been imported from all across the globe in refrigerated vehicles and are usually covered in chemicals in order to preserve them further. These processes, as I am sure you can imagine, have a huge detrimental effect.
When flowers are bought from Amber Cottage, you can rest assured that they are fresh and colourful and full of scent and are free from chemicals. I use only brown paper to wrap or will send flowers out in recycled jam jars to keep them hydrated.
2022 has been a whirlwind of different life experiences. I was asked to deliver a bouquet of flowers to the Queen for her birthday

I joined Flowers From The Farm and this led me to being part of the team that won LARGE GOLD at the Sandringham flower show and I met the then, Prince Charles and Camila.

I have also had the privilege of meeting and building friendships with other Norfolk growers and I have had the honour of creating wedding flowers and farewell flowers

Is gardening, flower farming hard work? Most certainly Yes! Are there uncertainties? Again, Yes! Mother nature does not work to our schedule, she will do her own thing, however, one thing is for sure, despite the crazy weather and the unpredictability, it will, for certain, always be magical….
So, I then forget the achy joints, the bruises and long hours worked, as before me is beauty and I get to see people’s faces light up when they receive their arrangements.
I have come a long way and this new way of life found me when I probably needed it the most.
“Just living is not enough….one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower” Hans
Christian Andersen.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Geoff Stonebanks, who owns Driftwood Gardens

My last feature for Gardening with Disabilities Trust was posted back in May last year, so those that read it will be aware of my multi-award-winning garden in Seaford on the south coast, between Brighton and Eastbourne. A lot has happened in the intervening months, including me suffering with both my knees, but especially the left one. I’m pushing 70 next year and finding it a little more difficult to garden than I used to, finding more rest stops are needed to ease the pressure on the knees!

So, something had to give. Throughout last summer, I harboured the idea of reducing my terracotta pots, always brimming with summer annuals and shrubs, from about 300 to 100. The aim being to reduce the time needed to water and hence the amount of time on my feet.

The image above shows how intense the planting was then, a corridor of containers behind the house and many in the area around the green table and chairs. I imagined, in my head, a new drought tolerant area, dug out of the chalk, held back by upright vintage railway sleepers. I sketched out on a piece of paper what I had imagined and asked a local landscaper, who trims my boundary hedges each autumn, if he was able to recreate it for me.

The response was very positive and in October last year the new sunken garden was created. You can see pictures of the area as the mini digger took hold and now, how it looks this summer, the perfect area for gatherings with family and friends and for visitors to the garden to enjoy their tea and cakes.

Another sacrifice this year, to deal with my standing around with visitors on public open days for the National Garden Scheme, was to consciously make the decision to stop having public open days and to just accept visitors, by prior, pre-booked arrangement. I’m listed in the scheme’s Garden Visitor’s Handbook and also in the BBC Gardeners’ World 2 for 1 booklet. We’ve received 170 five-star reviews on Trip Advisor too, so holiday-makers to Sussex can pick up the idea of visiting by checking their site.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the response this year, with almost 450 people having booked to see the garden through the open period, that1st June to 31st July. So successful has it been I extended opening until 31st August.

The knowledge of who will visit each day has made it so much easier on me physically and more importantly, reduced the time I have to spend baking cakes. Regular visitors have commented how much nicer it is to have fewer visitors in the garden at any one time and my time is more readily available to chat to them.

I have organised a garden trail along the coast for Macmillan Cancer Support each year since 2012 from Brighton to Seaford, but this year may have been the final one as it too is so demanding, single-handedly organising the event. So, my very final public days were over the weekend of the 23rd and 24th July when the trail’s Patron, Christine Walkden was on hand to help us celebrate over £100K raised for the charity over the years.

One year on from contemplating a significant design change to the garden, I can happily say that the impact on my knees has been significantly reduced. I used to spend about 6 hours watering the garden, from front to back, before the changes and now can do it all in about 2.5 hours. The dramatic reduction in containers and the fact that many of my plants are more drought tolerant now helps this too. I made the decision back in May not to buy any summer annuals, just geraniums which require less watering too.

I did fear that returning visitors would feel the “wow” factor had disappeared from the garden, but I need not have worried as the feedback has been overwhelming.

This comment was recently posted to Trip Advisor by Judy Spector. “Wow what Pizzazz! A sensational gardening experience. If you don’t go to to any garden you have to visit Driftwood. The flowers, the carefully thought out planting, the garden ornaments, for sale for the Cancer charity, not to mention Geoff’s excellent home- made cake and tea served on exquisite china. The bonhomie of its celebrated owner and his Partner who have worked so hard to make this a joyful experience for their visitors is renowned. Our third very pleasurable visit and most certainly not the last.”

Read more of Geoff’s garden at

This Week’s Guest Blogger is James Smith, a Landscape Designer who writes about ornamental grasses

Why I Love Grasses
Who doesn’t love an ornamental grass? Well, if you had asked me this when I first
started designing, I would say me! I am not sure on why I didn’t like ornamental
grasses, maybe due to lack of knowledge about the plants and how to use them in a
planting scheme. It wasn’t until I visited the tranquil Knoll Gardens located in Dorset
circa 2018.

After my visit to the gardens that were established in 1994, it completely changed
the way that I saw grasses and how they can be incorporated into the planting
scheme. I learned that grasses can be blended with perennials which in turns adds
drama, texture, movement, and structure the garden. This is all achieved by carefully
thinking about where you are planting the grasses and how to affectively get the
most out of them.

Planting them where you are going to get a slight movement from the breeze as well
as near paths as this is the best way to hear the sound that they create. Another way
that grasses and be utilised is by planting them in accordance with the suns
orientation. I think there is nothing better than the dappled shade created by the
taller grasses. Grasses are also greatly used as underplanting for multi stems, and
standard trees, by using grasses such as Hakonechloa macra or Stipa tenuissima, will
help highlight, and ensure that the tree is framed perfectly

Planting them where you are going to get a slight movement from the breeze as well
as near paths as this is the best way to hear the sound that they create. Another way
that grasses and be utilised is by planting them in accordance with the suns
orientation. I think there is nothing better than the dappled shade created by the
taller grasses. Grasses are also greatly used as underplanting for multi stems, and
standard trees, by using grasses such as Hakonechloa macra or Stipa tenuissima, will
help highlight, and ensure that the tree is framed perfectly.

Grasses are typically low maintenance; some will need cutting back once a year and
others may need a simple comb through with your hand!
Now to give you a hand in choosing some grasses, below is a list, in no particular
order of my favourite grasses and what I like to combine them with.

1) Hakonechloa macra
As mentioned previously in this blog, Hakonechloa macra is a fantastic plant to
underplant trees with and for hogging path edges. This low maintenance deciduous
perennial produces luscious mounds of green leaves and airy green flowers in late
summer. If you give this plant a chance, as it is rather slow growing, then it is an
impressive sight when planted in large groups. Cut back the old flowering stems and
any dead foliage in late winter. I love to partner this plant with structure shrubs such
as Pittosporum tobira ‘Nanum’.

2) Stipa tenuissima / Nassella tenuissima
Recently changing it’s name to Nasella tenuissima, just to annoy everyone! Now, I
love Stipa in all varieties, I used it in my RHS Flower Show Tatton Park and the
majority of my designs, when given the right context. The Stipa, or Mexican Feather
Grass as it is commonly known is an evergreen grass that is brilliantly utilised in a
large border to create soft movement. If necessary, just back dying strands in early
spring. I like to get the best out of this plant by planting it alongside Verbena
bonariensis or Salvia ‘Hot Lips’

3) Pennisetum alopecuroides
The Chinese Fountain Grass grows in dense clumps of 60cm long leaves which in
winter turn brown. This plant flowers green / purple which are faintly hairy in late
summer and early autumn and looks brilliant in a coastal planting scheme as well as
being planted en-masse. All you have to do with this plant is to prune it back and
remove dead or old flowering stems in spring. I combine this plant with late
flowering perennials such as an Aster.

3) Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’

Reaching a potential height of 1.5m, this grass is a robust perennial specimen that
brilliantly works well when combined with Verbena bonariensis or Agapanthus. This is
such an amazing plant if you want the dappled shade affect in your garden as well as
providing stature and movement. To get more out of the Feather Reed Grass you can
divide it mid spring and make sure that you cut back to around 6-10 inches from the
ground in very early spring before any new growth resumes.

4) Lagurus ovatus
The Hare’s Tail Grass or Bunnies’ Tails is an annual grass grows in small tufts, usually
at a maximum height of 0.5m with dense fluffs of flower heads. The flower heads are
especially useful if you are in to drying flowers. Being from the Mediterranean this
grass loves to be in a warm and sunny location, and I personally love to see it in
courtyard gardens and in containers. Unlike the other grasses mentioned, the
Lagurus ovatus doesn’t need to be pruned. Despite the height difference, I have
planted this with a Verbena bonariensis on my balcony, but I think they do balance
each other out. Another plant that works extremely well is the Sanguisorba officinalis.
The red and white flowers of both plants make each other stand out.

5) Briza media
Finally, a native grass, the Quaking Grass, is a short living, semi evergreen perennial
that grows in sunny or partial shade and up to 1m in height. Flowering in Spring and
Summer, this grass possesses heart shaped purple and green tinted flowerheads that
over time turn to a buff like colour. This also makes it brilliant for dried flower
arranging. I recommend pruning the flower heads back in the late summer to
encourage new growth. I love to see this grass companioned with Achillea
millefolium or Leucanthemum x superbum.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Flo Scott, who writes about permaculture

I always wanted to learn to garden, even as a child I begged my father to let me have a patch of garden to try growing things, but it wasn’t until I got my first allotment in my early 20’s that I started to learn to grow food and that’s when I first heard about permaculture. Permaculture is a design system which helps us to create sustainable lifestyles.

Many years later, we finally had a garden of our own, I’d done my permaculture training, and I’d learned all about how to grow food in a very easy-care low-maintenance way, which by then was very necessary as I had been diagnosed with a range of chronic illnesses which still limit my energy and ability to garden today.

The permaculture growing techniques I use in my garden, are based on principles that help us to mimic nature to reduce the need for working hard in the garden. I use the no-dig method in my veg beds inspired by Charles Downing’s no-dig market garden, which uses mulches to suppress weeds, hold in moisture, and to build and feed the soil. I also have designed my garden to be like a forest, with lots of layers of edible plants. For example, I have an apple tree and Hazel in the canopy layer, below which I grow fruit bushes such as red, black and white currants, and raspberries. I have strawberries, wild strawberries, and herbaceous perennials such as sweet Cicely to provide ground cover and in the root layer I have leeks, and bulbs. Climbing up the fence I have thornless blackberries, and Japanese Wineberries. This is also a good way of packing a lot of edibles into a limited space.

I designed the landscaping of the back garden using sustainable and locally sourced materials such as the oak timbers for the raised bed terracing, sweet chestnut fencing from a local wood, and locally made bricks for paving. Having raised beds helps me so that I don’t have to bend down too far to garden and using the no-dig method means I only need to use hand tools.

Now that my garden is established, it’s easy to maintain. I have planted lots of edible things that like to self-seed, such as rocket, mustards, borage, nasturtiums, which in future will save me from raising everything from seed. The main jobs through the year are planting out new food crops, occasional weeding, mulching with homemade compost, watering pots, and harvesting, which I can do myself or with a little help from my husband.

You can find regular updates of my garden by following me on instagram @perma_flo and my Facebook page Flo Scott Permaculture Designs

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