Plants of The Month

If you wish to find a nursery which supplies any of the plants listed, try searching here


Magnolia campbellii ssp mollicomata

This absolutely stunning Magnolia comes into flower in March at Llanover garden. It is one of the magnificent collection of Magnolias that grow there. See them on the NGS open day on Sunday 27th March.

Magnolias form an ancient genus named after the French botanist Pierre Magnol. They are originally from East and Southeast Asia.

The genus has 210 species and new cultivars continue to emerge. This one, Magnolia ‘Watermelon’, with its 8 inch flowers should appear in our garden at Highfield Farm later this month.

Cyclamen coum

In late winter, early spring the woodland walk is carpeted with the delicate blooms of Cyclamen coum. This member of the primrose family, with its characteristically round/kidney-shaped leaves, will self seed and gradually provide a naturalised ground-cover. It is fully hardy. It originates from around the Black Sea and also from Turkey and Lebanon.

It should not be planted in association with Cyclamen hederifolium, the autumn flowering Cyclamen with its more decorative leaves, because it will be out-competed. Although the the Cyclamen tubers are poisonous to mice and squirrels, the little devils will still dig them up, so keep an eye out.


Two years ago I bought a plant from Bob Brown after one of his talks at Llanthony. “This plant”, he said “will never stop flowering”. He was right, it hasn’t stopped.

Anisodontea capensis ‘El Rayo’

Clearly a member of the mallow family, Malvaceae, and commonly known as the African Mallow, this is an upright, evergreen to semi-evergreen sub-shrub, growing to around 1m tall with hairy stems and hairy, lobed leaves. Saucer-shaped pink flowers 3-4cm in diameter, with darker magenta-pink to reddish centres and veins, are borne from summer into autumn. It is H2, ie frost hardy to <-5C. Well, that’s according to RHS. Ours flower all throughout the year, has reached 2m tall and has survived two (mildish) winters. Indeed, it is so vigorous that we have to cut back to shape in late spring. This encourages more flowers!

The South African plant, from Cape Province, is soil independent and prefers a sheltered siting. Ours is in half shade.

We are enjoying a mild end to January and many plants remain bamboozled. We now have grape hyacinths (Mascara armeniacum) in flower! However, it is particularly pleasing to welcome the early arrival of the first Iris reticulatas. We grow ours in shallow clay pots in a John Innes-based compost with a grit topping. This allows us to place them on window sills (or is it cills) and doorsteps to allow us to enjoy them close up and catch just a trace of their delicate perfume.

This one is Iris reticulata ‘Blue Note’, which, like Iris ‘Spot On’, is an introduction from Canada, where enthusiast and breeder Alan McMurtie has spent many years hybridising and selecting the very best cultivars. I particularly admire the slender, V-shaped petals of ‘Blue Note’ and their yellow-freckled undersides. They are best divided and replanted in fresh compost each autumn.

Iris reticulata ‘Blue Note’

Another plant that is simply not behaving to RHS guidelines is Ageratina ligustrina, commonly known as privet-leaved Ageratina and otherwise Eupatorium ligustrinum! Anyway, this beautifully compact evergreen shrub from Mexico and Costa Rica should flower in Autumn. It did, but has never stopped. It is slightly tender (H3), but soldiers on with us.

It is a member of the Aster family and has small, lightly perfumed, tubular flowers borne in corymbs. It is soil independent should be grown in a sheltered position.

Ageratina ligustrina

We are back!

These are the dog days of January and we don’t garden this month. However, we do walk the garden every day because the is so much to see even on these short, grey SAD days. There are plants, totally confused and flowering out of season – we have new flower spikes on Acanthus mollis ‘Rue Ledan’, there are peerless lavender blue flowers on the (now) Corynabutilon x suntans ‘Jermyns’, the Ageratina/Eupatorium ligustrinum just won’t stop flowering.

The new season plants are already with us – Camellia sasanqua ‘Rainbow’ has been flowering since November and still looks glorious.

Camellia sasanqua ‘Rainbow’

This perfectly hardy, glossy green-leafed, lightly scented beauty is from Japan and China, where it grows in mountainside locations up to 900 metres. It is quite vigorous, but can be pruned to desired form after flowering in Spring.

Known as the Empress of Winter, it has a long history of cultivation in Japan for practical rather than decorative reasons. The leaves are used to make tea while the seeds or nuts are used to make tea seed oil which is used for lighting, lubrication, cooking and cosmetic purposes. Tea oil has a higher calorific content than any other edible oil available naturally in Japan.

But if it’s perfume you want, look no further than the Daphnes, and empress amongst this family is

Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’

This wonderful upright semi-evergreen plant has intensely fragrant purplish-pink and white flowers in terminal clusters from January onwards. It if hardy, though would benefit from a sheltered position. It grows to 2 metres. I’ve found it impossible to propagate from cuttings!

January is the month of witch hazels, Hamamelis. These delicately perfumed plants flower on bare branches. They originated both in North America or Japan and China. They grow in acid to neutral soil, happily in dappled shade, in a woodland setting, and are hardy to -15C (H5). BUT they don’t really thrive in alkaline soil or deep shade. Witch hazel has long been used in traditional medicine to treat anything from damaged skin and bruises to insect bites. The freshly cut stems from the plant were also used for water divining.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’

This variety was bred by Robert de Belder, a diamond merchant and nursery owner near Antwerp, Belgium, for his wife Jelena de Belder-Kovačič. Earlier, when visiting Robert’s nursery, Jelena, a Slovene, suggested that they started breeding Hamamelis and propagating from cuttings. The shared interest in rare plants led to romance and marriage. The first witch hazel grown from cuttings on the property, which would become known as the Arboretum Kalmthout, bloomed in January 1955. The shrub had intense orange-brown flowers which reflected the winter sun. Robert named the variety, Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’ It was a hybrid of H mollis and H japonica. He entered it that year at an exhibition held in London by the RHS . The shrub earned a Certificate of Merit, leading the couple to design what would become one of the most well-known arboreta in the world


Staphylea colchica

This early flowering, deciduous shrub hails from Georgia. It has lightly fragrant, hanging clusters of white flowers, up to 6 inches long. The buds are eaten like capers. It is fully hardy (-15C) and will grow anywhere.

Amelanchier alnifolia ‘Obelisk’

This deciduous shrub/small tree is from North America and can grow to 12-15 ft. It is compact and fastigiate in form. It is smothered in green-white flowers, with good autumn colour and fully hardy (-20C). Likes acid to neutral soil. Perfect for the smaller garden.

Rubus spectabilis ‘Olympic Double’

A deciduous, thicket-forming, suckering, prickly shrub. Doesn’t sound too appealing does it? However, this North American subject is a beauty, with its rose-like double magenta flowers.. Grows to 2m in any soil, in full sun or partial shade and is fully hardy (-20C).

Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Yukigoten’ (Yellow Quince)

From China and Japan, this deciduous spiny shrub is ideal for growing against sunny walls or fences. It reaches a height of 2m and width of 4m and is a wonderful early nectar source. Fully hardy (-20C).

Peony delavayi

This is a beautiful deciduous shrubby peony from China with delicate finely divided leaves and stunning red-mahogany flowers with yellow stamen. It’s a creeper but not invasive. It will grow up to 2.5m in any soil, in sun or partial shade and is hardy to -15C.

March 2021

Iris reticulata ‘Pauline’

This little beauty is native to Russia, the Caucasus and northern Iran but is cultivated widely throughout the temperate regions. It’s fully hardy (H6 to-15C), but prefers well-drained soils and is particularly suited to rock or gravel gardens. It’s small stature lends itself perfectly to windowsill pots.

Sophora microphylla Sun King

This beautiful small tree is from New Zealand and a member of the pea family. It is widely available, evergreen, easy to grow, hardy to-10C (H4), indifferent to soil pH and a delight on a bright March day. It prefers full sun and will grow to 2-3 metres.

Stachyurus chinensis ‘Celina’

A beautiful small tree from China and Taiwan, which flowers in late winter – spring with these cascades of lightly perfumed yellow bells. Prefers a sheltered site in part shade in neutral to acid soil. H4 – hardy to -10C. A must have, particularly this cultivar ‘Celine’. A more common form S. praecox is equally beautiful.

The Tenby Daffodil, Narcissus obvallaris

There are over 36,000 cultivars but only 30 species. This is a species or wild daffodil. It was first documented in 1796 and is only found in UK and predominantly in South West Wales. Plant some to increase and consolidate numbers in cultivation.

Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’

Viburnums are very important early season flowering shrubs. V Tinus is a familiar plant, originating around the Mediterranean, but this cultivar, Eve Price is rather beautiful. Rose pink buds burst into white lightly perfumed stars. It is a robust plant which will grow almost anywhere in most soils, although it does prefer slightly shady moist areas. H4 – hardy to -10C.

February 2021

The days are lengthening and the garden is beginning to stir. It always surprises me to find so many plants in flower this time of the year when insects for pollination are so few. I guess that’s why a lot of winter flowerers have strong scents as an attractant.

Salix gracilistyla ‘Mount Aso
Rose gold pussy willow

Salix gracilistyla ‘Mount Aso’
Rose gold pussy willow

This Willow is a beautiful plant. The Mount Aso cultivar is a multi-stemmed, deciduous, male shrub with upright, wide-spreading stems. It is named after Japan’s largest active volcano on the island of Kyushu. If you ever have the good fortune of visiting this area, you must try the onsens, hot springs. It will grow to a mature height of 4.5 metres and spread of 3 metres. It is highly recommended to coppice the plants every 2-3 years to ensure the best display of catkins. It is fully hardy (H5) and independent of soil type. Perfect for cut flower arrangements.

Correa reflexa var. nummulariifolia
Correa reflexa var. nummulariifolia

This delicate Antipodean, Correa reflexa var. nummulariifolia, is endemic in Southern Australia and Tasmania.  It is a prostrate, spreading (1.5m), hardy (H5), evergreen shrub with rounded, grey-green leaves, white-felted beneath, and clusters of pendent, tubular to bell-shaped, yellow-green flowers from winter into spring. Commonly referred to as the Australian fuchsia. Plant in full sun or partial shade in a well drained soil.

Corylopsis pauciflora
Buttercup Witch Hazel
Corylopsis pauciflora
Buttercup Witch Hazel

The Buttercup Witch Hazel is indeed a member of the Hamamelis family and native of Japan and Taiwan . It is a deciduous spreading shrub, growing to 1.5 m tall by 2.5 m wide. It produces masses of primrose yellow flowers with a Cowslip-like perfume, in pendent racemes on bare stems in early spring, followed by leaves opening bronze and turning to rich green. It is happy in partial shade and hardy to -15C (H5). If you have the space, this is a must-have plant for early spring colour.

Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’
Winter Cherry
Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’
Winter Cherry

This is winter-flowering, ‘rosebud’ cherry. It has been in flower since Late November but is now coming into its own. It is an elegant, small, spreading deciduous tree with these semi-double, pink-blush flowers emerging from pink buds. Expect it slowly to reach 4-5 metres in time. It is robustly hardy to -20C (H6). The leaves progress from bronze in spring, to green in summer and gold in autumn. Looks good underplanted with Cyclamen coums.

January 2021

Dark Days and Heavenly Scents

I’m writing this at 4.15pm and it’s dark. Just as well that I’m hibernating from the garden. I have made it a policy to do nothing, or at least the bare minimum, in January and February. I find that this leaves me refreshed and recharged to go again in March. First job always to cut back the winter grasses and prune the Hydrangeas. This doesn’t mean that we don’t walk the garden in the first two months, we do of course, at least once a day, because there is plenty to enjoy.

When we get a fine day, I will photograph new plants as they emerge.

Clematis urophylla ‘Winter Beauty’

This delicate, evergreen, winter-flowering Clematis, climbing over a fence or wall is a real treat on a sombre January day. It will grow to about 3m but is only marginally hardy, H3 to -5C, so grow on a south-facing aspect.

Hamamelis x hybridus ‘Jelena’
Hamamelis x hybridus ‘Pallida

These witch hazels are sweet scented and a welcome addition to the winter garden. The flowers appear before the leaves and the plant often takes on a shuttlecock profile. Amusingly, the plant has nothing to do with witches. The name comes from old English word ‘wych’ or ‘wice’ meaning bendy. An extract from the plant, also called Witch-hazel, is used in ointments for topical use eg treatment of hemorrhoids and nappy rash.

These plants originated both in North America or Japan and China. These varieties are hybrids of H. japonica and H. mollis. They grow in acid to neutral soil, happily in part shade, in a woodland setting, and are hardy to -15C (H5).

However, if you want intoxicating perfume near your door, plant Sarcococca.

Sarcococca hookeriana ‘Purple Stem’

Cut a few stems, place in a vase of water in any room and it will fill with this sweet perfume for days. This ‘Sweet Box’ is a compact, fully hardy (H5 to -15C), evergreen shrub that can be clipped to form a hedge. It is soil agnostic and will grow in partial shade.

2020 November – December

It’s been a great year for the garden but it has left plants totally confused about their seasons with flowering times early, prolonged, repeated, late. However, it does mean that as we enter the dog days of winter the garden is still rich with colour.


Hellebores are emerging with their sometimes shy, nodding flowers. It helps to see them at their best if you cut away any dead or damaged leaves. They are part of the buttercup family and there are some 20 species. They occur naturally in an arc from eastern France to central China, with a concentration in the Balkans. The visible flowers are in fact made up of 5 sepals not petals, with the small, true petals at the centre of the inflorescence. Hellebore comes from the Greek meaning ‘food that injures’ – ie it’s poisonous. Its roots were once used as an emetic for those who had swallowed poisons – oh-oh!

The image has been used to symbolise serenity, tranquility and peace, or, at other times, scandal and anxiety. According to Greek mythology, the daughters of the King of Argos suffered from a form of madness that caused them to run naked, crying and mooing like cows through the city streets. As time passed, their madness increased and even spread to other women in the area. Melampus of Pylos, a legendary soothsayer and healer, used Hellebore to save the daughters from a madness. Yes, a remedy made of Hellebores cured women’s madness. It is the logo of the Hardy Plant Society!

There has been an explosion of new varieties and cultivars in recent years, produced either by hand pollination, like the super plants offered by John Massey at Ashwood nursery if you have a bob or two, or by micro propagated interspecies.

A particular favourite is the series of Helleborus x hybridous doubles, bred by Ellen Akerboom of Nachtvlinder nursery , Holland

Helleborus x hybridus Double Ellen White
Double Ellen Red
Double Ellen Pink

It is 1st December and we have 14 different roses flowering in the garden.

This morning’s harvest – Rosa Brother Cadfael, Emma Hamilton, The Lady Gardener, Tottering by Gently, Kew Gardens, Jacqueline du Pre, Simple Life, Lady Marmalade, Lady of Shallot, Eye of the Tiger.

Abelia x grandiflora

Abelia x grandiflora has been renamed in some places as Linnaea x grandiflora. It’s a hybrid first raised by a nursery on Lake Maggiore in 1886. It has dainty glossy leaves and is almost evergreen and grows to about 1.5m. However, its real appeal is that it flowers in late autumn with a multitude of lightly fragrant, pink-blushed white flowers, with conspicuous colourful calyces on soft arching branches. It responds well to pruning to shape. It’s soil agnostic and hardy to -15C (H5), but thrives in a sheltered sunny position

Arbutus undo – Strawberry Tree

Another glossy evergreen which flowers in the Autumn, Arbutus unedo, this one from the Mediterranean. It bears rosy pink, urn-shaped flowers in panicles but is celebrated for its red, strawberry-like fruits, which are edible and made into jams and fruit juices. Hence the name Strawberry Tree. It is found in the Madrid Coat of Arms and even depicted in the central panel of Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights (see if you can find it). It is hardy to -15C, soil independent and is best grown in full sun in a sheltered site. Can get quite large.

July – October


Late summer to early autumn is the time when we think of Asters. Asters are obviously members of the Asteraceae (Compositae – ‘daisies’) which is the largest plant family on Earth with over 32000 species, which range from Artichokes to Zinnias. They are found from sea level to the highest mountains and they flower throughout the year.
Some of what are commonly known as Asters these days have been renamed Symphotrichum and others Eurybia and there are various Genera within the Asteracea which share the name Coneflower – Rudbeckias, Echinacea, Ratibida, Dracopis . Rudbeckias are also known as Black-eyed Susan or Brown-eyed Susan – but then again, so is Thunbergia alata! Confusing isn’t it.


It’s that time of year when serious plants people make the pilgrimage up to Old Court Nurseries on the lower slopes of the Malvern Hills, just outside Ledbury, to meet Helen Picton and to discuss and purchase Michaelmas daisies – Asters! Helen and Ross’s nursery houses the Plant Heritage National Collection of autumn flowering asters and related Genera, with more than 430 varieties. It is a treasure trove. These plants have had a well-deserved resurgence of late and they form beautiful combinations with late summer grasses.

In general, the European Asters (Italian Asters) have retained the Aster name eg the popular Aster x frikartii  ‘Mönch’ but, one of my favourites, Aster ‘Twilight’ is now Eurybia x herveyi. Michaelmas daisies are now pretty universally called Symphotrychum. We have –

New York Asters – Symphyotrichum novi-belgii (syn. Aster novi-belgii) – A North American native; susceptible to powdery mildew!! No thanks
New England Asters – Sympyotrichum novae-angliae (syn. Aster novae-angliae) – also native to North America and Canada. Some of these reach 2m and are rarely subject to powdery mildew. Yes please.

Symphotrychum Sayer’s Croft and Symphotrychum Vesta
Aster Quinton Menzies
At the other end of the scale – Symphyotrichum ericoides f. prostrata Snow Flurry

This Genus was named after Olof Rudbeck the Elder (1630-1702), a distinguished Naturalist, Philologist, and Doctor of Medicine (he had discovered the lymphatic system), and was the founder of Sweden’s first botanic garden

Rudbeckia triloba

This is perhaps my favourite Rudbeckia. Sadly, it’s a short-lived perennial but will self-seed lightly. I replenish, either by growing from seed, or purchase each year. It’s triloba because the basal leaves have 3 lobes but the plant reaches 5 feet with airy sprays of flowers. We grow it in combination with grasses, particularly the beautiful Calamagrostis brachytricha, and Persicaria ‘Fat Domino’. It’s perfectly hardy, H6 down to -20C, grows best in full sun and is soil independent. There is a beautiful orange-red flowered variety called Prairie Glow. It failed with us this year however.

Rudbeckia fulgida deamii

This is a great plant. More floriferous than the familiar ‘Goldsturm’ and slightly taller. It’s eye may not be quite as dark but it has a longer season, flowering well into November. Again, it’s fully hardy, non-discriminating and will grow in partial shade. A must have in my book.

Rudbeckia maxima

This is one imposing plant. With it’s distinctive glaucous basal leaves, it produces these very tall , 2 metres high, flowering spikes which sway gracefully in the wind and are a great compliment to airy grasses like Stipa gigantea. In the autumn, the petals drop but the large black cones survive to give excellent winter structure.

Kniphofia caulescens
Kniphofia rooperi

I love Kniphofias. With selection you can have them flowering from April to November. These two are late varieties. Caulescens has this glaucous grey-blue foliage and dusky salmon flowers, whilst rooperi has bold, strong orange and yellow flowers to 1.2m. Both are from South Africa, are evergreen but need to be kept tidy, and both are H5 hardy to -15C. Grow in sun for maximum flowering.

Lespedeza thunbergii

This is a sub-shrub, a legume, which dies back completely in the winter. It is a native of China and Japan and was brought back in the 18th Century by Swedish botanist Carl Peter Thunberg. It’s a cascading plant and in our garden needs some vertical support. It is very floriferous from September well into October and a stunning addition to the late season garden. It is generally disease free, soil independent, prefers a sunny position and at H5 is hardy down to -15C.


Look out, it’s Hydrangeas for the following months and I’m a bit obsessive. So I will build a gallery of the various different types as they come into their glory. We have acid soil so are lucky to have a full range of colours. Hydrangea breeders are busy souls and the selection of new cultivars that are launched each year is mind-boggling.

There is some dispute about the derivation of the name Hydrangea. I had always thought that the hydra meant water-needing, but other say that the seedpod has a similar shape to the Hydra – a Greek water vessel, or looks like the head of the mythical monster the Hydra. Who knows!

Hydrangeas occur naturally in East Asia – Tibet, China, Japan, Phillippines, Java, Sumatra, and in North America and the western coastal regions of Central and South American in temperate growing conditions So they are very happy in our climate.

The true flowers are tiny and the delicate and showy parts of the sterile flowers are in fact sepals. Hydrangeas are unusual in that the colour of their flowers can change – particularly the mopheads and lace caps. The colour depends on several factors

  • soil acidity, an acid pH of 6.5 and below is sufficient to allow blue flowers. The lower the pH, the more intense the blue
  • aluminium. The plant must be able to absorb aluminium to establish blue flowers. Blue flowers contain 10 times more aluminium than pink flowers. Aluminium can only be absorbed from soils if they are acid.
  • but it’s not a hard fast rule eg Hydrangea serrata Preziosa remains bubble-gum pink in acid soils
Hydrangea involucrata ‘Yokudanka’

This delicate beauty from there mountains in Japan is late flowering and together with another involucrata ‘ Takado Yama’, below, extends the season into October

Hydrangea involucrata Takado Yama
Hydrangea arborescens ‘Hayes Starburst’

Another tree Hydrangea from North America. It is quite compact and flowers from early summer to early autumn, with dense, rounded clusters of double, pale green flowers turning white with age.

Hydrangea aspera ‘Hot Chocolate’

This plant is quite simply gorgeous. Introduced to nurseries as recently as 2012, this cultivar was bred by Maurice Foster in Sevenoaks, Kent, my Hydrangea hero. If you ever get a chance go and visit. With its coarse, velvety leaves, big lace caps and peeling bark, this one is distinguished by its red wine reverse on the leaves. Go on, go out and buy one.

Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’

This is a Oak-leafed Hydrangea from North America, easily recognised by its boldly lobed leaves and superb, long lasting double flowers. As autumn approaches these leaves change from green to crimson and then burgundy. A superb, fully hardy, specimen.

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Ayesha’

This distinctive cultivar from Japan. The cup-shaped sepals make it look a little like lilac and it’s slightly scented (unusual for Hydrangeas) It has this pale lilac colour in the garden but cuttings we’ve taken are pink (should have used an ericaceous compost) but beautiful nonetheless.

Hydrangea Serrata ‘Kurohima’

This delicate beauty is also from the mountains of Japan. A little more tricky to cultivate but we love the contrast with the muscular macrophylla types.

Hydrangea serrata ‘Preziosa’

Now this serrata is a different kettle of fish. Robust, showy, prolific flowering with sepals changing from pale pink through bubblegum and candy floss pink to dark red as they age. A truly gorgeous plant.

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Rotschwanz’

This is one of the lacecap Teller hybrids bred in Switzerland. We give it some shade and it rewards us with this startlingly red colour.

Hydrangea paniculata Vasterival

This beauty, with its enormous propeller sterile flowers, was first isolated in 2012 in Vasterival, the garden of Princess Greta Sturdza, in Varengeville sur Mer, Normandy. These flowers can reach 3.5 inches across.



June is the month of roses. Until recently I have never really considered roses in the garden. I think that this stems from my grandfather’s obsession with hybrid tea roses , planted in a thorn-dense rose bed, where my football inevitably ended up, irretrievable! How things change. Driven by Jenny’s obsession and ably assisted by David Austin and Peter Beale, we now have 50 or more at Highfields Farm, and they have been fabulous this year (at least until the recent storm shattered a few). Here are some examples-

Rosa ‘I am Macmillan” to commemorate the nurses
Rosa ‘Ghislaine de feligone – sumptuous and very floriferous
Rosa ‘Highgrove’ – rich and velvety
Rosa ‘Kew Gardens” – doesn’t stop flowering
Rosa ‘Lady of Shallot’ – flowers endlessly. We use it to form a hedge. Squirrels eat the buds!
Virtual Garden Tours

Guin Vaughn introduces us to her garden at Trengrove House

Melanie Molyneux introduces us to her garden at Rockfield Park

Sarah Clay introduces us to her garden at Wyndcliffe Court

Arne Maynard’s latest Allt y Bela posting


Virtual Garden Tours

Highfield Farm

A quick look at some of the shrubs in the “Collection” area

High Glanau

Hilary Gerrish of High Glanau was, of course, unable to open her beautiful garden for the NGS this month so has published a collection of virtual tours and photographs on her Instagram page. Here’s the connection –

Nant y Bedd

Similarly, Members Sue and Ian Mabberley’s magical garden up in the Black Mountains, Nant y Bedd, has been included in the NGS Vitual tour series. Here is the link

Sue has also posted her advice on compost making


Arne Maynard has published a magical series of walks through his magnificent garden at Ally-y-bela on Instagram. Here is the first as a gateway to the series. Tap on ‘Arnemaynardgardendesign’ in top left corner for the complete series.


Virtual Garden tours

Some short films of gardens in our County

Woodlands Farm

Highfields Farm


Pauline’s Picks

The weather has been glorious & we have spent hours outside. Everything is growing well. 
This cold snap this week has meant the potatoes needed covering at night. We have planted 16 varieties of potatoes this year as we went to a potato seed fair this year in the Forest of Dean. It will be interesting to see what the different ones taste like, and see the different colours; one variety is purple! Our local garden centre also sells loose seed potatoes so we have 5 or 6 of each (a row).
The yellow phlomis is from a cutting from my niece’s wedding 19 years ago. It brings back lots of happy memories of the day.
Time to go & open tunnel.


Rhodotypos scandens

Rhodotypos scandens

This plant is sometimes called jet bead because it forms shiny black berries after flowering, but it appears to flower all year. The simple flowers have four white petals and conspicuous stamens and the leaves are deeply pleated with serrated edges. There is only one plant in this genus but it’s a really good performer. Originally from China and Japan, it will grow in sun and partial shade and is independent of soil type. It grows to 4-5ft and is hardy to -15C (H5).


Euphorbia characins ‘Black Pearl’
Euphorbia griffithii, Unknown, Euphorbia amygdaloides purpurea
Euphorbia x pasteurii

This is the ‘spurge’ family, really diverse in size, form, colour and includes plants like Poinsettias and others which look like cacti and succulents. They are found all over the world in tropical and temperate settings. The name spurge comes from the mediaeval practice of using certain varieties of Euphorbia as purgatives and laxatives. BUT DO NOT TRY THIS! The milky sap or latex of the common garden varieties ( which evolved to deter vegetarians – grazing animals I mean!) is a strong irritant and can cause serious inflammation. So wear gloves when pruning, splitting or transplanting.

The range available to the gardener is immense. The RHS lists over 1600 varieties. There are varieties which will grow in pots, in full sun, in dry gardens, in woodland, in dry shade and even in bog gardens. We love them and our collection is ever growing. Some examples are shown here.

The Euphorbia x pasteurii is an interesting plant. Ours is now 7ft high and covered with highly scented flowers which fill the air with a honey perfume. It is a E. mellifera x E.stygiana, looks tropical and is very robust. Laid low and beaten up by snow two years ago, I cut off the damaged branches and the plant quickly broke into new growth. If anything it is a bit of a thug but I love it.


Epimedium ‘Lemon Zest’, Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’, Epimedium ‘Spine Tingler’, Epimedium ‘Pink Elf”
En masse with a Euphorbia and winter weary Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’

Epimediums are commonly known as barronwort, bishop’s hats, fairy wings or horny goat weed. Most varieties originated in China and Japan but there has been an extensive programme of propagation, so the varieties available to the gardener is ever growing and increasingly bewildering. Nevertheless, these are magical little plants and, as they originated on the forest floor, they do well in moist shade where they will form a gorgeous haze of colour from their multiple flower heads. Their new leaves are usually bronze or copper coloured, sometimes decoratively veined, and will turn red in autumn. Flower colour will range from white through yellow, orange, pink to purple.

They are fully hardy(H5 down to -20C) and some varieties can reach 0.5m. These are delicate beauties for the woodland garden and shaded borders.

Pauline’s Daily Pick

Pauline Faraday, a Member who gardens in Glascoed, is picking collections of flowers from her garden to share with us.

26 April

Another glorious week in the garden. Mind you we now need some rain but not too much. Days seem to be busy. 
A lady in the village is making laundry bags & face masks & I have managed to find her lots of material which is suitable to use. She is using the chapel hall so she has lots of space to work.
We are very lucky to have the outdoor space. Of course we miss seeing the grandchildren running round the paddock but hopefully later in the summer they will be able to come over. I’m hoping it won’t be too long before we can go to Scotland.
It is so hard for friends & family who have relatives abroad. It is a bonus to have FaceTime etc.
Lovely cowslips out & I can see the early purple orchids coming up. Lots of things seem to be early this year. The bluebells look good as well.

14 April

A lovely quiet Easter. The insect bites have caused a bit of a problem. They were probably very hungry & thirsty with this dry weather. Everything is growing so fast. The apple & pear blossom is plentiful so hopefully lots of fruit later in the year.
Lovely asparagus to eat.

9-10 April

Happy Easter to everyone. Hoping you all have a quiet & peaceful weekend.
2 types of flowers today as I didn’t do one yesterday. 
We have been so busy outside that we are tired when we come in. The birds are happily singing & the robin is coming to the fat balls that are about 2 feet from Michael’s head. We don’t normally grow tulips but have a few this year. I’m meant to be clearing & cleaning back patio but it is 21° and sunny.
The primroses are lovely & luckily the rabbits aren’t eating them
Have a lovely quiet Easter everyone. 
We have had our weekly shop from Sarah so we are set up for a week.

8 April

Today we have daffodils & narcissi as with the warmth they are gradually going. We have been picking for about 6 weeks. These last ones have lots of scent & several have come from Scotland. The parks department in Edinburgh has a nursery shop where they sell plants & bulbs etc to raise extra funds & use up extra plants grown; we have found the quality of bulbs and plants to be excellent. Hopefully we will get to Edinburgh again soon

Daffodils and Narcissi

7 April



Illicium simonsii

A bit of a rarity this one. This is one of the Star Anises ( a poisonous one), and like everything else, it is flowering early this year. We bought it from Bleddyn and Sue Wynn-Jones up at Crug Farm Plants outside Caernarvon. These two intrepid plant hunters have introduced over 4000 new cultivars into the UK from their 25 years of visits to China, Taiwan Korea, Vietnam, Philippines, the Himalayas and recently South America. This place is a Mecca for we plantaholics.

The Illicium family first appeared over 100 million years ago (when Dinosaurs roamed the Usk valley – well perhaps!) and they are now found in North America, the Caribbean and Asia. Bleddyn collected our particular aromatic cultivar in Szechuan, China from a 3,000m (10,000ft) elevation. It has remained hardy in our garden over several winters now. It prefers acid soil and reasonable light.

We have another, Illicium griffithii, which has red flowers and will be featured later.

Read about this lovely couple in a recent Country Living article.

Sophora microphylla Sun King

This beautiful small tree is from New Zealand and a member of the pea family. It is widely available, evergreen, easy to grow, hardy to-10C (H4), indifferent to soil pH and a delight on a bright March day. It prefers full sun and will grow to 2-3 metres.

Wasabia japonica

If you have ever had the good fortune to visit Japan, you will recognise the dining ritual of having fresh wasabi rhizome grated for you, and you’ll know that it tastes fundamentally different from the tubes of green stuff you buy in the UK – a little less fiery and much more complex in its flavour, and you have to eat it fresh! If you haven’t had it grated for you, you’ve never eaten wasabi. Our tubes of ‘Western Wasabi’, in fact, contains little or no actual wasabi – it is mostly horseradish, mustard and green colouring.

In order to reclaim this fabulous condiment, we have been growing our own. It takes a few years to get the thickened stem/rhizome, but on the way it produces lots of these beautiful clusters of white flowers. It is only hardy to -5C. We could fleece them, but we prefer to grow in the greenhouse. You can eat the leaves and flowers in salad or fry them tempura-style.

For the impatient amongst us, you can buy fresh wasabi rhizome from Jon Old at The Wasabi Company

Ribes sanguine ‘Elkington’s White’

This flowering currant was recently introduced and is still quite a rare variety. It produces very showy, pendent clusters of pure white flowers in spring. After these have faded, rounded, blue-black fruits form, creating further interest. This deciduous shrub has thornless stems, and can be used as an informal, flowering hedge, as well as adding interest to the shrub border early in the year. The rich green leaves have a hairy, white reverse and are slightly aromatic.

Ribes sanguineum was originally found in USA and this lovely new introduction is fully hardy to -15C (H6), will grow in sun or partial shade and is unfussy about soil type. It can reach 6ft but prune regularly to establish the desired look and to improve flowering on strong healthy growth. 

Cyclamen coum pallidum

This delicate beauty hails from the Black Sea and Caucasus mountains, from Bulgaria through northern Turkey to the Crimea. This Cyclamen has reflexed, twisted, almost circular petals. It flowers through winter into spring and is fully hardy to -15C (H5). Naturalise in semi-shade under trees and amongst ferns, but keep separate from its rather more vigorous autumn-flowering cousin, Cyclamen hederifolium which can overwhelm this delicate soul.

One thought on “Plants of The Month

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