MyGardenSchool – Week 4 Summer Luxuriance

MyGardenSchool very kindly offered one of their courses to me in return for writing a review of their 4 week on line courses. This is not an advertising feature, MyGardenSchoool do not have any input as to what I have written and my views are entirely unbiased.



Over the past four weeks, I have discovered why my container planting does not give the wow factor that I always strive for.  The planting and maintenance of containers is far more time consuming than general gardening, however they provide a great scope for planting all sorts of things that wouldn’t otherwise grow under your garden conditions.  Done well and properly the end results will be very satisfactory.

During the four weeks of Container Gardening, tutored  by Harriet Rycroft, we have covered the principles of container gardening, winter and spring planting and are now into summer luxuriance.  The choice of shrubs and plants in summer is endless.

Assignment 4 asks what is our favourite colour in the garden. I am not sure what my favourite colour is, most years I aspire to having a bright cheerful garden in a mixed colour scheme, but never achieve it.  By default and not by design my predominant garden colour is shades of pale pink to deep rose.  For summer 2015 I decided on a purple/burgundy colour scheme but the flowers didn’t stand out, instead they blended too easily into my pink colour scheme.

The second part of the assignment was select a tall plant, a bushy plant and a spreading or trailing plant featuring our favourite colour.  As this is a theoretical assignment I have decided to step out of that comfort zone of mine and go for warm, hot summer colours using plants which, in my opinion, would not sit comfortably within my cottage garden flower beds.

My initial thought was to have a prairie garden in a container. When browsing in the local garden nursery for assignment 2 (Principles of Success) I came across some beautiful grasses including Pennisetum Orientale ‘Karley Rose’ but it’s pink and I want to get away from that.


Photo Credit: J Parkers

Having dismissed the Karley Rose, I remembered the other grass I liked was Imperata Cylindrica ‘Rubra’ also known as Japanese Blood Grass. It is a great red, and contrasted well with the white Echinacea ‘White Swan’.


Photo taken by me at Haskins Garden Centre

That still doesn’t fulfill my warm, hot, summer colour scheme so I turned to Pinterest. I typed ‘prairie container gardens’ into the search engine and a myriad of photos appeared, I really was spoilt for choice. Cracked it! Be really brave and go for Cannas, these are hot and mixed with Begonias would really be a hit you-in-the-face planting scheme. This container looks as though it has Calendula, and although I recognise the green trailing plant I can’t remember what it is called.


Photo credit:

Somehow the more I looked at it the more it failed to strike a cord with me, I am not sure what is wrong with the planting but to me it is dull and lifeless, which is an interesting lesson in itself in what not to plant.

Then I found exactly what I wanted – a tropical planting. With no information other than a photograph trawled the internet and found similar plants.

This is my summer luxuriance planting:-

* Cordyline ‘Red Star’ – it will give focus, structure, height and colour.


Photo Credit: Crocus

* Ghost Lady Fern – I chose this because this is more tolerant in dry conditions that other ferns. If I had room, I would also plant a Dryopteris Filex-Mas, but as it prefers partial or full shade I would have to be careful where I placed the container.


* Begonia ‘Million Kisses Passion’ – great name for a plant! It has wonderful orange trailing flowers.


Photo Credit: Hillier Garden Centres

Below is the photograph that has inspired my choice, I think it looks wonderful and the container is just great.


Photo credit: Barbara Peake Wise

I think they would live together very happily.  Placed in a partially shady place on the patio, this combination should give welcome colour to the garden, the cordyline and ferns can be put in a frost free place during the winter and bought out again in following years.

If you are interested in doing a short on line gardening course, have a browse through the MyGardenSchool website, and take your pick.   They are offering 15% off all online gardening and floristry courses in October.  Quote code MGSBTS

End of Month View – September 2015


What a stroke of luck I booked this week off work!  The weather has been glorious, although with a marked nip in the air at night, during the day it’s been warm and sunny.  I love September.  Some people groan “oh it’s climate change”, but I remember going to school in September dressed in a summer dress, pullover and blazer, by lunchtime we would be sitting in the sun on the school fields having discarded our pullovers and jumpers.  50 years ago no one used the expression climate change – it was just the norm.

I am writing this on the 2nd October, a few days late for the EOMV, and it’s still warm and sunny.  The only bugbear I have at this time of year is fighting my way through the spiders and the many webs they have managed to weave around the garden, trapping me at every turn.

I do think that the plants are a little confused, and have been lulled into believing it’s still time to be flowering.  My Compassion Rose is still in bloom, and today I noticed a lot of greenfly.


I am still cutting sweet peas, but I suspect this may be the last lot which is sad as I have had an excellent supply for my mum, who loves sweet peas.


I also noticed that Penstemon ‘Sour Grapes’ , whilst looking a little leggy is producing new flowers.

In the middle of the garden, Penstemon ‘Garnet’ and Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ are not ready to close down for autumn yet.


I tried to get away from the pink theme in my garden this year but by default and not design it would seem that pink is still the predominant  colour, after green.  However, I am really proud of the Cosmos ‘Pied Piper’ grown from seed, as long as I keep remembering to deadhead them on a regular basis they are providing lots of colour in the bottom border.

The side patio was becoming a bit of a jungle and in need of a serious tidy up.  It is now looking a little better and the garden wheelie bin is almost full. Here, again, the spiders lay their traps for me, stringing their webs from one side to the other, which makes it a bit like running the gauntlet when I go to the bins.  I now carry refuse bags in front of me, face high but still get caught sometimes.

image image

As I was photographing the garden this morning, I noticed that the Fatsia Japonica is throwing up their peculiar spikes of what I suppose could be called flowers.


At this time of the year the hydrangeas slowly move into their autumn shades.  The Madame Emile Mouilliere is turning from a pure white to a pale green tinged with pink.


Still on the side patio. I am not sure what happened but a few months ago half of the choysia died.  I lopped off all the dead parts and am happy to say that it has recovered and is healthy again.  It did me a favour as it was really rather large and it now a lot neater.


Regular followers of my blog will know that I have been reviewing an online 4 week container gardening course run by MyGardenSchool.  It has made me take stock of the odd assortment of containers and plants that I have dotted around  and  I am slowly having a sort out and rethink.  Looking after pots of plants requires a lot more thought than I usually give them which is probably why they always look so neglected by the end of the summer.


Moving on to the back garden again.  The north facing side of the garden will not see anymore sun now until next year.  It gets very damp and boggy, fortunately the hydrangea and astilbe live very happily in these conditions.


On this trip around the garden, a quick visit to the front garden, which doesn’t often get a look in. The Cotoneaster is glowing red in the sunshine and always amazes me, it grows in the wall and I can’t think where it gets its goodness from.

image There is a large Skimmia in the front which is covered in red berries all year round. The leaves are looking pale and slightly yellow so I think it probably needs a bit of a feed.


That almost ends my EOMV tour of the garden for the end of September, well two days into October! Before I go, let me share the Sedum which is looking magnificent, as usual, and the nasturtiums that always appear about this time of the year and brighten up a dark corner.

Thank you Helen from Patient Gardener at for hosting the End of Month View. Please hop over to her blog and take a look at all the other EOMV’s from a whole load of other garden bloggers from around the world as well as the UK.

MyGardenSchool – Week 3 Planting Pots for Winter Interest and Spring Joy

I have now completed week 3 of my free online course with MyGardenSchool.  This is not an advertisement for MyGardenSchool, they are not able to edit this post, my views are entirely my own.

Week 3 was planting a 24″ wide x 12″ deep pot to give winter interest and spring joy.   Coming at the time of year we are beginning to decide and order/buy bulbs for our spring joy, doing the assignment this week virtually and not actually proved quite tough.    Not only was a 24″ pot larger than I would normally use, mainly because I like collections of plants that I can move around, it was no mean feat to keep my purse closed. Designing on paper is something that doesn’t come easily to me.

I am fast realizing I am a ‘go with my gut feeling’  gardener, rushing in with my heart rather than my head.   The Container Gardening course tutored by Harriet Rycroft is teaching me to think, investigate technical issues and plan plan plan BEFORE planting or even buying anything.  Assignments are critiqued by Harriet giving constructive help and advice.  Whilst I was proud of my virtual planting, Harriet made important points which made me realize it was not going to be a successful one.

Sitting in front of my laptop with my student notepad I thought, investigated and saved photos of winter plants and spring bulbs to my Pinterest board.   I chose a purple/orange color scheme, starting with a skimmia ‘rubella ‘ as my key plant (I know it is red in the winter but it is a subtle red), with heuchera ‘paprika’ and erysimum ‘winter orchid’ with a wonderful peach and purple flower.

Erysimum Winter Orchid

Any gaps I would then fill with the cheerful faced Viola in a bronzy/yellow which I think will sit quite comfortably with the other tones in the container. I love Violas and much prefer them to the larger pansy. Their little happy smiling faces make me just want to smile back at them.

Choosing bulbs was not so difficult, it was deciding how any of each I needed that was hard.  Keeping to the peaches, I chose three tulip varieties to be planted at the bottom of the layer of bulbs. The first tulip is one that Harriet introduced in her video lecture – ‘Prinses Irene’. It is ideal for the peach/purple design, and is slightly shorter at 30cms (12″) than the other two, ‘Request’ and ‘Brown Sugar’, I deliberately choose similar coloured tulips as they are different heights giving a layered look – that was the idea anyway.

Prinses Irene


‘Brown Sugar’

Mistake Number 1 

Then I had a mad moment and decided to plant three Fritillaria ‘Imperialis Rubra Maxima’ bulbs.  I have never grown these and thought they would give impressive height to my spring joy.   This is what Harriet had to say on my choice:

“I think the Imperial Fritillaries might be a step too far in a 12″ deep pot. The bulbs are very big, so in order to have 6″ of compost above them (which they’d need for stability) you really need to plant them at about the same level as the tulip bulbs. This would reduce the number of tulips you could fit in. And you need to remember that the fritillaries send up very big, thick shoots, and send down a lot of vigorous roots, so will demand plenty of elbow room. Also they grow to about 3 feet tall, so might look top heavy in a 12″ deep pot. I wouldn’t put Fritillaria imperialis in containers less than 18″ deep really, in fact I usually use them in even bigger pots. Fabulous plants though! And Bold and Brave is definitely to be applauded! If you can get a really big pot, you should go for it.” 

Fritillaria Imperialis Rubra Maximus

I had a little search to find the right  Narcissi, wanting to keep away from yellows. I love brightly coloured yellow daffodils and narcissi and these will certainly have a place in my garden pots but not in this planter. Eventually I found Narcissi ‘Trepolo’, ‘Fragrant Rose’ and ‘Vanilla Peach’. The one thing I have learned from this assignment is that I don’t know how to work out how many bulbs to plant within a confined area. The larger bulbs were not too difficult but I was stumped with the Narcissi trying to plant virtually taking into account the key plant, Skimmia, the Heuchera and the Eyrsimum.  I think I wouid probably plant 10/12 bulbs of each variety.

‘Fragrant Rose’

Mistake Number 2

It could be that come the spring I would have to remove the Heuchera, having done its job in the winter to give colour, into other pots to make room for the spring shoots.

Harriet made this obvious point that I had not taken into account:

“It would be hard to remove any of the surface plants in the spring as they will have put down roots – and you risk damaging emerging bulb shoots if you try to dig or pull plants out. Better just to plant the bulbs a little less densely” 

Finally, the top layer of my spring bulb planting will be Iris Retinulata. Many of these are blue and I wanted to plant purple shades, these will be the first to flower introducing bright colour alongside the orange toned Violas and I want them to look ok when the Eyrismum starts to flower. I had no idea there were so many varieties and I have fallen in love with the pale lilac ‘Sheila Ann Germany’ and the bright ‘Purple Gem’.

This is what Harriet said:

“Iris reticulata are great for a shot of properly early colour, but as you say prefer deep planting, which takes them down to similar levels with the tulips etc, a level which is getting pretty crowded in this planting. I would usually use crocuses (eg C. tommasinianus ‘Whitewell Purple’) in a planting which has lots of deeply planted bulbs, because these only need to be about 2” deep and can be put in swathes or groups near the edge of the planting. I reckon the little iris prefer to have less root competition, so it might be worth having them in separate pots (I tend to use “long toms” which are deep but narrow) and dressing the top of the compost with some nice grit. Then they can also have the space to flower without being crowded by the foliage of other plants and bulbs, and air circulation around them is better. Mind you, I do also try them in mixed plantings – but with mixed results.”

Iris Reticulata Sheila Ann Germany

Armed with a lot more technical knowledge and some important does and don’ts I will now start to order spring bulbs and find a suitable 24″ pot for my winter interest and spring joy planting which should look spectacular.

Next week is the final part, Summer Luxuriance.   I have thoroughly enjoyed this online course and am learning a lot.  The initial website issues have been sorted out and any frustrations in connection with that are over.

A Mid September Show of Flowers

The secret to good warm weather in September is to clear out your summer wardrobe and air the heavier tog duvet.  Once you have done all this you will then have an Indian Summer.   Yesterday and today have been glorious gardening days.   I have sorted out some pots that were looking tatty and this afternoon I mowed the lawn.   The garden looks spruced up and shipshape.   Although there is a lot of green, some colour remains in the garden and, armed with my camera, I fought my way through the plethora of spiders webs…my head is still itching… to take photos of the flowers gracing the flowerbeds.

Some of the pics were sadly out of focus so I have ditched the white Gaura, the Fuchsia and the Cleome along with a couple of others.  Oh, the Sweet Peas ‘Beaujolais’ were picked yesterday to take to my Mum so there were none left to photograph, I am hoping for one more picking.

Below are the flowers left adorning my garden in the middle of September.


Dahlia – Paula


Hardy Geranium – variety unknown


Japanese Amenome


Hydrangea – madame-emile-mouillere




A fading Zinnia – it was really bright at the height of summer – but still pretty


Phlox Lady – strawberry


The last of the Compassion Rose


Cosmos – ‘Pied Piper’ from Higgledy Garden


Amaranthus ‘Caudatus Red’ – Love Lies Bleeding. Also from Higgledy Garden


Yellow Dahlia – no idea of the variety, the tubers were given to me a few years ago and I don’t dig them up.


Scabiosa ‘Back in Black’ – Another successful seed from Higgledy Garden


Caryopteris – ‘Heavenly Blue’

I am busy now looking at bulb catalogues and planning my winter and spring planting which is always exciting.