Water soldiers

Contrasting leaf shapes in the pond

These aquatic ‘spider plants’ are Stratiotes aloides or Water Soldiers – a British native, that is to my mind, a highly desirable ornamental pond plant.  You can see them here creating an excellent visual contrast with the lily pads and water Mares Tail (Hippuris vulgaris). Continue reading

Pasqueflowers re-bloom in August

Purple pasque flowers unexpectedly emerge for a second flush in August

Pasqueflower, Easter flower or Meadow Anemone (Pulsatilla vulgaris), is one of my favourite plants. Almost every stage of its flowering is interesting:  The large flower heads emerge in spring (close to Easter) along with the foliage, all of which is covered in fine silky hairs, and look striking especially when backlit by low spring sunshine. Continue reading

Morning Light

Morning Light

6:00 am. The view from the house this morning. Extraordinary quality to the light. The rain clouds have only just lifted a chink and the sun is sneaking under, low, acute, glancing.

The greenhouse greets the dawn. The white lavender is shining in shards of reflected light. Beyond large heads of white dahlias wait for their turn in the sun. Over the hedge Alliums snake skywards. The distant landscape isn’t awake yet.

Espalier trained Japanese holly


(Updated July 2016. One of the trained Japanese hollies, with new shade planting at its feet)

I came across four rather nice Japanese hollies at the garden centre recently. Realising their creative pruning potential I snapped up the lot. Here is one of them (see right)


I’m not sure exactly what species they are: the label said Ilex Maxim which is not the proper nomenclature. I’m pretty sure it’s not I. crenata as that has smaller leaves, whereas these are quite box like and spineless. I. crenata is often used for creating Niwake – Japanese garden trees – pruned in cloud style over many years to resemble much older trees in a stylised and abstract way. The label that came with my new best friends claimed they were fast growing, and I could tell their wippy branches were just begging to be bent to my will.

I had a place in mind for two of them – the long face of my garden workshop, either side of the doors. My plan being to train them into neatly clipped 4 tier horizontal espaliers – much like pyracanthas that are one of the few non-fruiting trees that still gets the espalier treatment from time to time.

They are to form an interesting back drop to a narrow bed of shade loving hostas and ferns. This bed is too narrow to carry any tall plants, without them looking like regimented soldiers so wall training is an ideal option. The shade-tolerant Ilex fit the bill perfectly as this wall faces a little north of east,rarely getting the sun, except in the late summer afternoon. Continue reading

The Green Roof: lessons from the first five years


This is a visual catalogue of how my green-roof developed over its first five years, following its initial planting in Autumn 2009. My intention had always been to establish a low maintenance bio diverse plant community of drought tolerant garden plants. I now know that this is possible, but looks more like a weedy wild meadow than a garden.

This initial experiment was a success in many ways, as the beautiful photos below show, but by mid-2015 it’s ecological direction was clear: self seeding grasses and annual weeds were destined to win. More than half of the plants varieties I had tried to grow became extinct. Several garden varieties I had not planted turned up and ran riot. The whole area was becoming a seed bank that was infecting the surrounding garden. But I had learned some important lessons and had enjoyed its unfolding beauty along the way. Continue reading