Arley Hall’s Double Herbaceous Borders In Their Summer Glory

Arley Hall's double herbaceous borders in full bloom

View of the double borders in summer with The Alcove (left) and the entrance (right)

The grand sweep of the double herbaceous borders at Arley Hall Gardens has been delighting gardeners for about two centuries: this is one of the oldest examples of its type to be seen anywhere in the world. Exuberant summer perennials fill long, parallel borders, the garden’s brick wall and formal topiary hedging providing a traditional backdrop.

When you first walk in through the huge, decorative gates in summer and turn to see the flower borders stretching out before you, behind you, to either side, it’s hard to know where to look first. Continue reading

Strictly Come Dancing Flowers

Fuchsia 'Hermiena'

Star Fuchsia ‘Hermiena’ with backing dancers

It’s that time of the year again. Strictly Come Dancing’s Class of 2019 will take to the floor today on BBC1 at 19.00 hrs, dancing live for the nation. In celebration and anticipation, the flowers and I are showing our Strictly fan credentials.

Lilium asiatic 'Lion Heart'

Lilium asiatic ‘Lion Heart’ in ballroom finery

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Great Companion Plants For a Cottage Garden: Geraniums

This post about hardy geraniums, popularly called cranesbills, (not the pelargoniums) is the second in my series on companion plants.

Blue hydrangea with geranium companion plant

Blue hydrangea with a geranium companion

What are companion plants?

Companion plants complement the showy ornamentals society loves – roses, peonies, delphiniums and hollyhocks – filling in the gaps in the flower border and helping it flow. They’re pretty enough on their own terms and happy to mingle in, above or below other plants. Good neighbours, they will not compete too aggressively for food, water or space.

Their presence encourages a healthier ecosystem by attracting beneficial insects which is why companion plants are often recommended for kitchen gardens. To find out more about what makes a plant a good companion, check out the first post in the series, on astrantias.

Pink roses with purple geraniums at a sunny Bodnant Gardens

Roses with geraniums at Bodnant Gardens

Geraniums (Cranesbills)

If you show me a decent sized English garden that doesn’t have a geranium, I’ll show you a garden that is missing a trick. Suppliers variously describe them as forgiving, easy, undemanding, generous and enduring. I don’t have a horse in the race, but I’d agree with them.

Geranium Sue Crug and Stachys byzantina

Geranium ‘Sue Crûg’ and Stachys byzantina

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Celebrating The Southport Flower Show’s 90th Birthday

Southport Flower Show Poster from 1929

Southport Flower Show poster from 1929

Remember the days when the Town Hall was the place to go if you wanted ‘further particulars’ about an event? How life has changed since then! At this year’s Southport Flower Show, we had no horse leaping events, but we did have heritage animals, courtesy of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, including a pig that was more rare than a giant panda (and much the same size).

The cultivars may have changed over the last 90 years, but gladioli like those shown on the 1929 poster were on display in 2019, together with just about every August flowering plant you could hope for.

Perfect pink Japanese anemone flower with gold stamens

A serenely beautiful Japanese anemone

Amongst so many choice plants, this solitary, perfect, innocent-looking, pink Japanese anemone caught my eye. Continue reading

Blue Flowers

Blue poppies at RHS Harlow Carr Garden

Blue poppies

Regular readers will know of my fascination with blue poppies (meconopsis). My timing has been out and I’ve only seen the odd one or two this year so here’s a picture from Harlow Carr last year.

Blue delphiniums in the Jungle Fever Garden, Tatton Park Flower Show

Blue delphiniums

Sightings of delphiniums are always very welcome too, be they stocky little spires or towering ones. The lovely folk word ‘bee’ describes the petals at centre of each floret. The stocky delphiniums above have white bees and the ones below, lavender-blue ones.

Tall blue delphiniums at RHS Garden Rosemoor

Tall blue delphiniums at RHS Garden Rosemoor

This year hasn’t been a flower dearth – far from it. Rosemoor provided me with as many flowers as I could hope for, even setting aside the roses I shared a fortnight ago. and even though my capacity to hope for flowers is huge. Continue reading