Archives for September 2013

Garden Plant Selection – Oranges for October

This month’s plant selection will help you get the most from the autumn colour that’s all around. By adding some additional splashes of orange into your planting borders, it will enhance the effects of the autumnal leaf colours of the trees. Most of the pink flowers will have finished so won’t clash with some vibrant orange.


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Most of my October plant selections do have longer flowering/berrying periods than just October, so may not last the entire month, depending on where you live.

Pyracantha Orange Charmer

Pyracanthas are often a very underrated plant, which is a shame as they have so much to offer. They are evergreen, covered with clusters of white flowers in the spring, followed by berries through early winter. They will also grow in a wide range of soils and can take a reasonable amount of shade. They do have some quite nasty spines and are often used to burglar proof boundaries. However, combined with the right plants, they can look stunning at the back of a border.

Zauschneria Olbrich Silver

Sometimes known as the Californian Fuchsia. This is a great herbaceous perennial for well-drained soils. It has lovely soft silver foliage that turns almost white looking in really dry soils. It flowers for several months and should see you through to November. It doesn’t grow that large, usually between 1-2ft tall. It needs to be in full-sun. Whilst it can take quite tough growing conditions it’s not that hardy, so protect from frost.

If you’re not able to get hold of Zauschneria or need something a little hardier then Fuchsia Thalia is a good alternative as it has similar flowers.

Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’

This is a really long lasting flowering herbaceous perennial, though you do have to cheat a little to get it to flower well in October by cutting back the dead flowers of summer. It starts to flower in June. It grows well in most soils and will reach about 3ft tall. It’s pretty hardy and prefers to grow in full-sun.

Nandina domestica

Sometimes known as the Sacred bamboo. Nandina has orangey/red berries in the autumn months, but that’s not why I’ve chosen it. I love the evergreen foliage colours, they look particularly good with orange flowers in the autumn. It’s also got an interesting structure, so it adds form to a border. The leaves tend to arch out from bare stems, a bit like a bamboo, hence it’s common name. White flowers in the spring, make this a pretty good doer for most soils in semi-shade to full sun.

Crocosmia Constance

Most Crocosmias tend to finish flowering a little earlier than this variety. It has long grass-like foliage which gives rise to long arching flower stems of vibrant orange. They like well-drained soils and preferably full sun, but will often grow fairly well in semi-shade. Crocosmias are bulbs and will die down in the winter.


BUT do be warned, plants alone will NOT give you a stunning garden – you have to get the design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

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Garden stone and gravel – How to use gravel effectively in your garden

Gravel-GardenGravel and cobbles of mixed sizes can be used in all sorts of different ways in the garden. You often hear people say ‘oh I hate gravel’ and they are very averse to using it in the garden. But done well it is an incredibly diverse and useful material.

When people say they hate gravel, what they often mean is they hate the pea shingle that gets stuck in sandals as they walk through it. Or they’ve seen huge areas of it where it’s just uninteresting and dull.

So how do you use gravel in a way that enhances your garden?

There are four main things you need to consider when choosing gravel.

1 Function

Gravel can be used for many things from paths through to areas of open space. It’s a much cheaper alternative to using paving and less maintenance than grass. If you are using it instead of a lawn or a paved area you need to carefully consider how it’s going to look so that you don’t end up with a very boring area. By incorporating planting and different sizes of gravel it can be made to look a lot more interesting.

2 Location

If you’re going to be walking across the area regularly, then I definitely recommend the use of stepping stones or a solid compacted path so that it’s easy to walk on. Also take into account how much sun the area is likely to get. If the area is particularly shady then the gravel will most likely end up discolouring and going green. Which wouldn’t be very nice to look at! If you’ve chosen large enough cobbles, then it would be okay to pressure wash them and you’ll get away with it in a shady area.

3 Size

The key to gravel looking good and functioning well all comes down to size. If you’re going to be walking across it regularly, then small sizes are more comfortable, but then of course they do end up getting in your shoes. If you just want an area to be quite open and with some plants through the gravel, then I like to use 20mm stone mixed with larger sizes of mixed River cobbles.

4 Type

These days, there is an absolutely staggering amount of different types of gravel you can choose from. It can make choosing which one to have a complete nightmare. My personal preference is to keep it quite simple and go for more subtle natural shades.


What type of gravel or stone should you choose?

Avoid any gravels that have been artificially coloured as they end up looking like a cemetery stone! Also be careful of very porous and chalky types of stone. If there is a lot of powder coming off of the stone and on closer inspection you can see lots of tiny holes then it’s going to go green, because of the porous nature, a lot quicker than a solid gravel.

I already mentioned that I use 20mm builder’s stone, this is for several reasons. Firstly I like the look of it, there’s a nice mix of cream and brown and slightly purply colours and it and secondly the price. Because 20mm stone is often used for driveways and for mixing in with ballast, it tends to be relatively cheap. As soon as you purchase any form of gravel that has a fancy name, you can guarantee it’ll be expensive.

20mm stone and river cobbles

20mm stone and river cobbles

To make it look a bit more interesting, that’s when I add the mixed sizes of river cobbles. It completely transforms it from being just a regular looking gravel. Now builders merchants stone will differ from region to region. That’s one of its other advantages, it tends to be sourced locally so naturally looks good with the surrounding areas. It’s also travelled less of a distance which makes it better environmentally.

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Transforming a bland garden – Case study

So, just how do you go about transforming a boring and bland garden into something that is beautiful, eye-catching and won’t blow your budget?

CIRCLE-GARDEN-beforeStep 1 Take a good look at the overall shape of your garden.

Is your garden long and narrow in shape? Perhaps it is wider than longer? Or maybe it is a square shape? Maybe, none of those and you have a really odd and awkward shape garden?

If your garden is long and narrow you need to use shapes that make it look wider (lawn and patio shapes are the critical ones to get right here). If it’s a wide garden you need shapes to make it look longer. If your garden is square, you need to use shapes that create interest and draw the eye around it. And if you have a really odd shaped garden, you need design shapes to take your eyes away from the awkward angles.

Step 2 Apply the right shape of lawn, patio or deck to suit your shape of garden that creates interest and makes best use of the space.

I will cover how to do different shape gardens in upcoming blog posts. Today though, we’re going to focus our efforts on how to tackle a square shaped garden. If you can’t wait for future blog posts in this case study series, and you have a long narrow garden you desperately want to transform, then head over to the free LONG garden web class.

Step 3 Once you have your main shapes organised, then choose a focal point that leads the eyes around the garden and creates additional interest.

Focal points can be anything from a nice statue to a bench or urn. You can even use showy plant varieties as a focal point. A plant like a Japanese Maple with deep burgundy coloured foliage makes a great focal point.

So, let’s now break down those three main steps by looking at a case study.

Square garden case study

Now, although this garden isn’t a perfect square, it’s close enough for demonstration purposes.

The main problem with it was the existing block paving patio was very boring. There was no nice mixture of paving or nice shape to it. Also, the path that led straight to the garage was at a bit of an odd angle and didn’t do the garden any favours visually. In other words, there was no real design shape to the garden.

The first job was to disguise the shape of the relatively new patio and lead the eyes away from the straight lines and bland paving. This was done by the use of a large oval, brick-edged lawn and curved shaped water feature area. A big sweeping curved gravel and stepping stone path replaced the old paver path to the garage, making much better use of the shape whilst still being practical.




If you compare the garden before to the after picture below, you can see just how much difference correctly shaping the lawn can make. The factors like the planting, water feature and pergola obviously play an important role, but the key is getting the lawn shape right BEFORE adding all those other goodies!


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Garden Plant Selection – September Stunners

To help you choose plants for your garden, here’s a selection of some of my September favourites to brighten up a sunny border. You can either plant them together in combination or mix them in with your existing plants.


Click on the image above to view larger and right click ‘save as’ to download it.

Most of my September plant selection do have longer flowering periods than just September, so may not last the entire month, depending on where you live.

Verbena bonariensis

This can often be fairly short-lived, particularly in the UK because it’s borderline hardy, and doesn’t do well in cold, frosty conditions. Having said that, if you can get it grow, it’s well worth it as it will often flower for several months, from July to October. It’s perfect for the middle to back of a border as it can get from anywhere from 4-6ft high. It does need something in front of it as it can get floppy. It works wonderfully with grasses as the soft, airy flowers float above the grasses.

Verbena does best in full-sun with a moist but well-drained soil.

Phygelius New Sensation

Also known as the Cape Fuchsia, Phygelius is semi-evergreen and will do well in both full sun and some shade. It flowers most of the summer from July through to September. It grows anywhere from 2-3ft tall, sometimes taller if conditions are right. It prefers a  a moist but well-drained soil, so is the perfect accompaniment to the Verbena.

Caryopteris Kew Blue

Sometimes known as the Blue Spirea. Kew Blue is a particularly dark blue form of Caryopteris. It’s slightly more compact than the usual version, only reaching about 3ft hight. Although it isn’t evergreen, it still deserves a place in the garden. It’s another one that needs full sun and a well-drained soil and doesn’t do well in excessively cold conditions. It will flower from August through to September and when combined with scarlet pink, looks stunning.

Echinacea purpurea ‘Fatal Attraction’

This Echinacea or coneflower as it is often known is a particularly deep shade of pink and works well with the other plants in this month’s selection. It grows to just over 2ft high and is a great plant for the front to middle of a border. It will flower from June to September, in a good year. It likes full-sun but will take some shade. A fertile, well-drained soil will give best results. Echinacea do die down in the winter months, so you’ll need to plant it near evergreens, like the next one on our list.

Agapanthus Umbellatus

I love Agapanthus, they have gorgeous blue flowers which last for months, have interesting strap shape leaves and are mostly evergreen. Umbellatus is one of the taller varieties, it reaches about 4ft high and loves to be in full-sun with a moist but well-drained soil for best results. They won’t do well in really frosty locations, but some winter protection will often see them through cold snaps.

What are your favourite planting suggestions for September?

Leave your comments and suggestions in the Facebook or website comment boxes below…

BUT do be warned, plants alone will NOT give you a stunning garden – you have to get the design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

Register on this page:

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