Great Companion Plants For a Cottage Garden: Astrantia

Astrantias at Arley Hall

First, What is a companion plant?

Plant society members often think of their ‘pet’ plants as the stars of any border: flowering perennials, shrubs, trees and climbing plants that are guaranteed to turn heads. Think of peonies, roses, hydrangeas, day lilies, dahlias, delphiniums, hollyhocks, or even topiary as in the picture of Arley Hall, above.

Companion plants are the ones with a supportive role. They are chosen to complement the feature plants, contrasting or harmonising with them, in colour, texture or form. I can’t imagine a traditional herbaceous border without companions to fill in the gaps and create a tapestry effect. While companions add to the richness and diversity of the garden, they will not compete too aggressively for the limelight or for resources such as food, water or space. They create a healthier ecosystem by attracting beneficial insects.

Many of my favourite companion plants are long-flowering, allowing the garden to transition seamlessly from one season to another. You might have overlooked every one of the companion plants I’ll be highlighting in this short series of posts, but I believe they’re worth their moment in the spotlight.

Astrantia (masterwort)

Red astrantia

Astrantias are such useful, trouble-free companion plants that you’d be hard pressed to find a major English garden without them. Masses of small umbels are held airily on wiry stems like a profusion of stars, as their Latin name suggests. The intricate, lacey flowers are encircled by papery bracts of varying lengths.  Continue reading “Great Companion Plants For a Cottage Garden: Astrantia”

Cheerleading For Frilly Flowers: Double Peonies

Pink peony

If ever a flower looked like it was wearing a petticoat, this is it. It’s hard to believe this bloom is only partially open. The yellow petals in the centre will gradually become more prominent, but I like the flower at this stage while the outer petals are still a pure pink, and are forming a protective cup around the inner petals.

White peony

The second peony has it all for me: I love the pearly character of the creamy white petals and the way those yellowy petals create an inner glow.  Continue reading “Cheerleading For Frilly Flowers: Double Peonies”

Want quick results in your garden? Or are you a patient gardener?

Gertrude Jekyll Garden, Lindisfarne
A hundred year old garden, designed by Gertrude Jekyll at Lindisfarne and restored by the National Trust

Most industry research tells us that today’s gardeners expect instant results, particularly if they’re new to gardening. Not a problem: if you have the money to throw at a garden, you can almost certainly achieve quick results, if that’s all you aspire to. Just plant or pay someone to plant big, expensive plants – lots of them – when they are all in bud and just about to bloom.

Whether the garden will stay the same for long without intervention is another question! Continue reading “Want quick results in your garden? Or are you a patient gardener?”