Plant News

Growing plants, comparing plants, writing about plants.

The world of plants is vast and can be daunting, but the pleasure of gardening is in learning what works; for you, for your garden and for the natural world around you. There’s no right or wrong, no better or worse, you’re free to decide for yourself what to grow.

Join me in an exploration of plants. I’ll be making visits to different gardens, nurseries, trade and public plant shows throughout the year, where I’ll be looking at the plants being grown and sold so that I can share ideas that you might want to try in your own garden. I’ll also be writing about vegetable growing on my allotment, and I’ll be taking a look at some of the many new plant introductions that come onto the market.

July and August

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog or updated this website. As life has returned to something closer to normal, my working life has become busier, I’ve been able to go away a lot more and all the garden shows, group visits and plant trials I help with have been back on again. It’s added up to an enjoyable but rather hectic schedule that’s kept me from writing about any of it.

Hopefully your lives have also been fuller and busier and generally more fun this year, so I doubt you’ve been pining for my blogs! But I’m determined to catch up again, and I must say I’m pleased with my latest blog on the Visits with Interesting Plants page. I didn’t have to go far to write this blog. No further than the bottom of my garden in fact. I hope you’ll find it interesting.

Summer has been cantering along while I’ve been busy. And what a summer it’s been! June saw roses at their peak and although the dry weather wasn’t ideal in many ways, at least the blooms of roses, peonies and the like were able to look their best. At the end of the month I was delighted to be invited to Iford Manor Gardens near Bradford on Avon, where the rose of the year for 2023 was announced. It’s a beautiful peach-coloured climber called, aptly, ‘Peach Melba’. It’s got fantastic fragrance and I’m told is fairly compact, growing to about 2m high, so it’ll suit smaller gardens.

Iford manor gardens is well worth a visit if you’re nearby. It’s a very romantic garden in the Italian style with an air of slight neglect which must take quite a lot of work to achieve.

Then right at the start of July there was the RHS Hampton Court Garden Festival. This did take place last year but was much reduced in size, so it was great to see it back to it’s best this year. There were some cracking show gardens and plenty of top notch nurseries with plants for sale.

I also visited Waltham Place, a biodynamic farm and garden near Maidenhead. It’s a private garden so I wasn’t able to take many photos, but it was fascinating to see and hear about the principles of biodynamic gardening. The garden was certainly alive with insects.

The shows are thinner on the ground in August, but it’s still a good time for visiting gardens and I plan to do a few trips to make the most of the season, especially while the sun is shining.

What a season it’s been though. A record breaking summer and not necessarily in a good way. I was away in Ireland through much of the heatwave but came back on the day temperatures hit 40 degrees in the south east. When the plane doors opened I thought we’d come to the wrong country. When I got home I had to look round straight away to see what had survived and what I might have lost.

These are the before pictures ….

Luckily, a lot of what I grow in the ground had been fine. The alstroemeria, knautia and even the white hydrangea in the picture above have all come through, they just look a bit tired and scorched in places. The leaves of one heuchera are covered in scorched patches but it’s still flowering.

Last year this heuchera thrived, but the sun has been too strong this year

All the pots in the back garden were hooked up to irrigation. I have two sets running off one timer attached to an outside mains tap, and am currently using two solar powered timers which pump water from a tank and a water butt. These are at the bottom of the garden and in my greenhouse. Not that these had saved everything. The tank of water had run dry so the plants in the greenhouse had wilted badly, and a pipe had popped off one of the two mains operated irrigation sets so some pots hadn’t had water for what looked like a few days. Several plants were close to dying. Even one of my normally drought tolerant salvias had suffered badly and the crocosmia growing in the ground at the bottom of the garden had collapsed.

Solar powered irrigation pumping water from a tank in the greenhouse.

The front garden pots had been heroically saved by my neighbour who watered them every day while I was away. I was very grateful!

I don’t want to be using too much precious water to keep my plants going and of course I don’t like losing them like this, so it’s tempting to immediately start thinking that all my planting will have to be more drought tolerant in future. But then I remember that last summer in the south east was cloudy and wet for much of the time, with very few hot spells and those we had were very short. So it’s not really that simple.

What our gardens need as the climate changes is resilience to whatever gets thrown at it, so increasingly I’m looking at the plants that have done well last year and this year. Luckily there are quite a few. I’ve got several agapanthus which can take the heat and are fairly drought tolerant, plus they will flower well in a wet year. My clematis plants looked tired in the heat but haven’t stopped flowering and always do well in soggy summers too. Hebes seem fine in heat (though less good in wet winters it must be said!). Abelia has proved itself adaptable and a small annual phlox I’d grown from seed this year really came up trumps in a pot where a salvia nemerosa had given up flowering completely. I thought roses would be more of a problem but all the roses I’ve got in the ground and those whose pots got watered coped surprisingly well in the heatwave. But then they grow roses in Italy, don’t they, so there are a lot of varieties able to cope with heat.

We may have to re-think, re-plan and replace a few things as extremes of heat and rain become more common, but we can find a way to keep our gardens looking colourful by growing adaptable plants.

Discover plants. 

Enjoy growing!

The copyright of all images and text used in this website belongs to Janice Shipp unless otherwise stated.