Do they seed….?

We attended a two day plant sale last weekend, always an interesting experience. A lot of customers had various questions regarding their proposed purchases, one of the most frequent being “Does it seed?”

That started me thinking about “self-seeders”.  I think most people don’t really mean does a plant set seed ( which , thankfully , in most cases is “Yes” otherwise how would us poor nursery people keep going?) but is it  over-free with its seeding habits thus being a nuisance.

After the sale I wandered around the nursery garden and although a lot of the planting combinations are deliberate some of the most stunning ( and often transitory) ones are where a plant, often an annual , has just popped up amongst a group of plants.

I guess the answer to the question is “Yes if you’re lucky”  after all if you don’t like the self -seeder you can always pull it out and if you do…..well thats what gardening is all about for me!

Some of my favourite self-seeders are :

014Alchilla, campanulas, chichory, centranthus ,dierama,  digitalis , erigeron, geranium, knautia, nigella oenothera, oregano, primroses, ranunculus, scabious, sisyrinchium,stipa, verbena, veronica and violas!  This isn’t a comprehensive list I’m sure to have forgotten something but does go some way to explaining our very relaxed gardening style at Harrell’s Hardy Plants.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Heaven Scent

DSC01361I’ve just come in from the garden, 15 minutes spent in the greenhouse tying up the tomatoes is all I can do at a time as its so warm. By the greenhouse is a shrub Philadelphus coronaria aurea and the scent is so lovely. I have a swing seat by it and spend as much time as possible there drinking in the heavenly scent….. when I retire I shall spend more time smelling my plants and appreciating them. That’s my promise to myself!!

Plant of the Week: Tree Peony Jin Gee

We have been (and still are) so busy at the nursery that there has been no blog for several weeks however walking around my garden yesterday I was forced to stop and look at my beautiful tree peony. This is its third year with me, second in the ground (it took a while to find the right spot for it) and it never ceases to impress.

The double flowers are six inches across in a lovely lemony-apricot with a pink edge and as an added bonus are scented!

There are so many beautiful peonies and tree peonies available I just wish I had more space for more of them.DSC01352

Humble Umbels

As I was walking my dog along the riverbank the other morning I saw this beautiful  stand of cow parsley and it reminded me of how much I love all the umbellifer family. I decided to put together a montage of DSC_0075

some of my favourites, from the top left, the annual Ammi majus in a pot, Cenolophium denudatum, Peucedanum ostruthium “Daphnis” , Seseli hippomarathum, and Smyrnium perfoliatum.

Plant of the Week: Daffodil W P Milner

DSC01346I think this little daffodil is my favourite of all the minis.

It’s a very old variety, pre 1869, bred by Henry Backhouse and named for his brother-in-law. WP  is 8″ to 10″ tall and the flowers are  a pale lemony yellow to start but then fade to a delicate cream, the petals are slightly twisted and these, with its nodding flower heads are a lovely sight in the early spring, flowering March/April.

WP Milner is at home in the flower beds, on rockeries, in pots or allowed to naturalize in grassy areas or in light woodland. I grow mine in the borders and in pots and if I could only have one small daffodil it would be him!

The Buzz Word is….

Bees, naturally. I saw my first bumble bee 10 days ago in the nursery garden, about the time we were potting on plants. It got me thinking about plants for bees and how it’s easy to take it for granted that flowers will set seed. Of course, if there were no bees ….. well, pollination would be confined to the wind pollinated plants e.g. most grasses, the ant pollinated plants e.g. cyclamen and those pollinated by humming birds. We haven’t got any native humming birds here at Harrell’s, as you might guess, so there would be quite a poor harvest of seed and of the fruit and veg. we like to grow for our own tables.

An excellent bee plant is Trifolium – or clover- the scourge of every dedicated lawn-grower. We don’t grow the low form, Trifolium repens, but the two taller ones, Trifolium ochroleucom and Trifolium rubens. The first is a creamy white and flowers in late May through to June; the second is a reddy-pink and flowers from June to early July. Both make a clump about 24-30 inches tall.

When we take them to plant sales, I’ve been known to remove clinging bees from their flowers before I can load them into my car!

Another plant that I have found to be very bee-friendly is the Salvia family. The shrubby, mostly hardy, microphylla  type are extremely long-flowering, staring in early June and finishing in the first hard frost, which last year, gave me (and the bees) nearly six months worth of flowers!

They will need a favourable spot in your garden, sunny, well-drained and/or sheltered. Mine live in a raised bed against my house wall – south-facing; and another lot live in gravel-enriched(!) soil on the south-facing side of my greenhouse, where I have dug their root ball slightly under the greenhouse walls to keep them drier.

At the nursery our Salvia live on the Berm and have survived there for the last three years with a cloche over the ones I know need a dry winter – Salvia guaranatica for one.

Finally, another buzz started in my garden last Wednesday – my male frogs singing (bass or baritone) to lure the lady frogs to mate. Spawn count at the time of going to press? 8


Full Up! – the result of Mid-Winter Blues

This is the time of year when all my chickens come home to roost…… or more correctly when all the plants I’ve ordered during the above mentioned mid-winter blues start arriving,  all  needing a place to live. I find myself pacing my (tiny) garden muttering to myself trying to decide where  I can put them. All the space I thought I had in December & January now seems to have green shoots of emerging perennials or bulbs & the avalanche of new plants just keeps on arriving!

Firstly my Dahlias, from, I’ve been so restrained & only ordered two, “American Dawn” a stunning mixture of coral , apricot & purple, & “Blue Boy” a lovely lavender blue. These will join my  impulse buys locally of another Dahlia “Creme de Cassis” & Begonia “Splendide Apricot” which caught my eye in a moment of weakness.

The end of last week brought an e-mail from saying that my order was being dispatched this week   … a Hakoneckloa  “Naomi”. I’ve been looking for this, a lovely purple tinged version of the stunning shade grass, for a while, also a real treat, a dwarf Rudbeckia I saw at the Eden Project last year & instantly coveted.

Later on next week will be  sending my order, a Deschampsia “Northern Lights”,  and a Liriope  “Silver Dragon” seen & desired on a trip to the US three056 years ago & a perennial for shade that I’ve not heard of before, Leucosceptrum japonica “Golden Angel” .How exciting is that, a really new- to- me plant!

You might think that by now I’d have learnt my lesson but no four daylilies will be on their way from Belgium in April! I came across & again could not resist!

Fortunately in all these temptations I am joined by my sister who orders her fair share of plants ( & in some cases more than me… but she does have a much larger garden) then the cost of the postage is halved  a win -win situation.

Right, now back to the drawing board  …. I wonder if I squeezed up that plant I could shoe-horn another in????