December Plant of the Month – English Holly

English Holly – Ilex aquifolium

Holly bush with berries

When thoughts turn to Christmas it’s hard not to think about Holly – especially as if you happen to be doing any shopping at this time of year you’ll probably be seeing it everywhere!


Anybody growing a holly tree will tell you the joy they’ve had raiding the branches for creating homemade wreaths and garlands, a great activity for keeping kids occupied in the exciting run up to Christmas! Holly sprigs are also marvellous when added to a winter bouquet and can be painted or sprayed silver for a truly dazzling display.

In general our most common holly is the Ilex aquifolium also known as the English Holly, a glossy green prickly leafed shrub with bright red berries to brighten up a winter garden.



Hollies tend to be shapely, architectural plants that will happily hold there own as a stand-alone feature. In the garden evergreen hollies are an excellent choice. The iconic prickly leaves will give all year round pleasure with vivid new growth in spring and summer and in winter the female plants will be laden with berries. Holly bushes are dioecious, meaning they need male and female plants to pollinate, and without pollination you won’t get any berries. In general you only need to have one male plant nearby and it will pollinate multiple females.




Tips for the wildlife friendly gardener.

The female plants produce flowers that will later turn in to berries in winter – great for birds.

The male plants produce flowers that make pollen – great for birds and butterflies! Despite their very subtle scent you will notice lots of honey bees and other pollinating insects hovering around your holly bushes in the spring.

Holly hedges make excellent homes for birds and wildlife, the prickly leaves excellent for winter protection.




Plant out in full sun, or partial shade and they prefer well drained, sandy soil but will cope with most soils as long as there is good drainage. Give them a good mulching. Hollies don’t like to be disturbed and are slow growers, sometimes not really showing any progress for 2-3 years however a mature shrub is well worth the wait!

You shouldn’t need to prune hollies too much as they will form a good shape by themselves however if you do need to do a little light pruning to remove damaged, diseased wood do it in late winter or early spring. Mulch and feed after pruning.

Click HERE to view our full Ilex range!

November Plant of the Month – Viburnum


Winter Viburnum x bodnatense

Getting colour into your gardens in winter is always a concern, and when achieved – a real treat! Viburnums are easy to grow, and deliver on not just colour but also bring a heavenly fragrance to a garden when our spring and summer favourites have faded away. Most varieties produce red, blue or white berries in autumn, great for birds and wildlife (those berries are often poisonous to humans).

There are a dizzying array of viburnum varieties, with huge variations in leaf shape and forms of flower heads, some are evergreen and some deciduous, some flower in winter – others late in spring! The variety and versatility make them invaluable for gardeners seeking all year round interest.

You can find our extensive range of late autumn and winter flowering shrubs HERE and evergreen shrubs HERE.

Winter Flowering Viburnum


Bod dawn.


C lamont

POTM AGM october


POTM November Viburnum

Hardy and robust, they are easy to grow and will flower best in a sunny spot, but can tolerate shade. They prefer well cultivated soil containing ample humus or will grow in chalky soils, they don’t like being waterlogged. As with all plants given a bit of attention in the beginning they will flourish so start them off with some leaf mould and lots of room to develop.

Cut back old and damaged branches after flowering (deciduous types) or in May (evergreen types).

Possible pests problems:

  • Viburnum beetle – causes defoliation in spring and summer – pale yellow larvae attack the leaves in spring, with the beetles attaching in summer. Although the viburnum will look tatty it will usually survive an attack. If you want to treat with chemicals the best time is early spring when the larvae first appear (mid-April-May). Never spray when in flower.


  • Viburnum whitefly – much rarer, these tiny white flies live in the underside of the leaves and cause mould to appear on the upper side of the leaves. These would need a chemical spray to treat in mid-summer when the flies appear, again don’t spray them when in flower.


  • Aphids – also called blackfly. You’ll probably already be familiar with these as they are pretty common and most plants are susceptible to them. They can cause stunted growth, curled leaves and mould. You can use chemical controls. For natural solutions encourage more useful insects to your garden like ladybirds and lacewings that will prey on the Aphids. Lots of plants are well known for deterring Aphids such as marigolds, onions and garlic and the herbs coriander, mint, dill and oregano.

Spring flowering Viburnum

We have a range of spring flowering viburnum that will produce the beautiful fragrant flowers – these are well worth considering in your winter garden schemes for the amazing colour changes to their leaves in the autumn, and autumn and winter berries.

Viburnum carlesii_0002128
Carlesii – summer red berries ripen to black in autumn


Viburnum opulus Roseum
Viburnum opulus Roseum (commonly called Guilder Rose or Snowball Bush) stunning ornamental shrub that is particularly hardy.


Viburnum plic. Kilimandjaro 025
Viburnum Kilimanjaro – pure white flowers grow in layers on tiered branches, resembling a snow covered mountain. In autumn, the foliage turns shades of burnt orange and gold, and in winter the berries will provide a valuable source of food for winter birds.


Viburnum 'Mohawk'
Viburnum ‘Mohawk’ – evergreen. Compact and rounded in habit, this variety is best appreciated when planted near paths and patios where its delicate aroma can be fully enjoyed, though it also makes an attractive addition to cut flower displays.

October Plant of the Month – Actea simplex (formally Cimicifuga)


(Actaea simplex)

Cimicifuga in garden

This plant is one of our absolute favourites and it’s easy to see why!

A rose by any other name…..

Scientists have proven that Cimicifuga are in fact from the Ranunculaceae family so should now be called Actea! Commonly known as Bugbane, you’ll probably still find these selling as Cimicifuga.

Other common names – Black Cohosh, Black Snakeroot, Fairy Candle.

We currently have two excellent varieties on offer.

Cimicifuga ramosa

Cimicifuga ramosa Atropurpurea
Each plant, when established, will throw up giant spikes up to 210 cm tall in July and August. The stems are black with racemes of stunning white flowers. A spectacular border plant with luscious bright green basal foliage. Winner of a RHS Award of Garden Merit, (see below for details).




Cimicifuga Atropurpurea Brunette

Cimicifuga Atropurpurea Brunette. Luxurious dark chocolate brown-purple foliage is contrasted with beautiful white fragrant flower spikes that appear in late summer or early autumn and last for weeks. A fantastic upright habit, it can reach a height of up to 1.5m.
Luxurious dark chocolate brown-purple foliage is contrasted with beautiful white fragrant flower spikes that appear in late summer or early autumn and last for weeks. A fantastic upright habit, it can reach a height of up to 1.5m.

Cimicifuga, or Actaea are grown for their spectacular lush foliage, much like Hosta are, however where a Hosta’s flowers can be quite unremarkable, the rising spears of Actaea are simply stunning, with clustered racemes of dainty white flowers formed in midsummer.

Their sweet scent is a magnet for insects and they are a great source of nectar for butterflies and bees.

Companion Plants

Actaea really love to be planted in shade, and they are not alone! It can be quite daunting when you find yourself confronted with a North facing or shady garden, but don’t despair – there are far more shade loving plants out there than you think, including flowering varieties that will inject a bit of colour!

For more plants that are ideal for planting in shaded or North facing gardens read our article on Shade Gardening – CLICK HERE.


POTM October Cimicifuga

Cimicifuga will spread out so plant it where it has room to grow. It will thrive in cool positions, they will cope with full sun only if the soil is kept moist but well drained and not in boggy conditions. Ideally plant in full or semi shade. Make sure they are sheltered or protected from frost. This is a long lasting plant that can be slow to start and may not flower in its first year, when it does, deadhead spent flowers. Once established leave undisturbed, feed in late spring.

These are supplied as loose roots – for more information and a helpful video guide with step by step instructions on planting loose roots CLICK HERE.

September Plant of the Month – Echinacea purpurea

Echinacea purpurea

Echinacea mixed

Echinacea are incredibly vibrant coloured cone flowers with giant heads on tall stems. Their bright colours will attract wildlife to your garden, as bees and butterflies love this plant as much as we do. The purpurea varieties are the only Echinacea grown from root stock, producing those thick stems that make them perfect for use as cut flowers. Echinacea are a tough plant, their eye catching colourful blooms that draw so much attention actually love to be ignored, a great hassle free choice for you garden.

The delightful shades of Echinacea purpurea are ideal for a summer border. The cheerful flowers look great mixed in with other plants and bulbs, or can be planted en-masse for a bold splash of colour. They will even do well in pots – plant in a deep container and position where they will get plenty of sunlight.

Companion plants

colourful mixed perennials flower bed

Echinacea are spectacular in a mixed border – as illustrated above. They partner really well with Rudbeckia varieties, as you can see above, the bright purples look particularly striking against the bright yellow of the Rudbeckia Goldsturm. We’ve highlighted a few more great companion plants in the gallery below.


POTM September Echinacea Quick facts box

Echinacea need to be grown in full sun, they won’t thrive at all in shade but will cope with a little. They are tolerant of a wide range of soils as long as it is well drained and they are drought tolerant once established. Deadhead to prolong flowering. You can propagate by division in spring and autumn but they prefer not to be disturbed and can become more bushy in habit but less floriferous.

How-to Tutorial

Jeff demonstrates how to plant border perennials together in this easy to follow video. Rudbeckia and Echinacea complement each other exceptionally and both make excellent summer border plants.


Pinch off spent flowers on a regular basis — or use them as cuttings in flower arrangements — to extend the blooming period. Apply a quality flower fertilizer several times during the gardening season to promote big, beautiful blossoms. Mulch to prevent weeds, conserve moisture and improve aesthetics.

Cut plants to the ground in late winter after flowers have gone to seed.

Click HERE to view our full range of Echinacea!

August Plant of the Month – Oriental and OT Lilies

Oriental and OT Lilies

For a large, showy display you can’t go wrong with a beautiful Lily and this month we’re focusing on the Oriental and Oriental Trumpet (OT) Lilies. Native to Japan, these highly fragrant beauties are often called stargazers as their flowers tend to be outward and upward facing, as if they are looking up.

Oriental Lilies

Lily Fields of Gold

With their unusual and unique colour and markings Oriental Lilies are truly exquisite specimens, producing an abundance of flowers per bulb. Hardy and easy to grow, they will reach heights of two to six feet tall, excellent additions to a beds or borders and they can even be grown in pots. Oriental lilies will bloom late in the summer season, July – September.

OT Lilies

Lily Anastasia

OT lilies are a cross between Oriental and Trumpet varieties producing very tall plants, up to 2.5m mature height, perfect for the back of you borders. These beautiful Lilies can be incorporated into the back of your garden borders where they can tower over other bulbs and plants and act as a wonderful backdrop for your display. They will reach their full height by their third year and will naturalise if left undisturbed.


POTM August Oriental & OT Lilies

Plant at least 15cm/6in deep. Liliums prefer fertile, well drained soils, they’re not keen on lime in the soil. Surround each bulb with a little sharp sand under and above to keep off slugs and excessive wet. They give a much better display when planted in clumps of 3, 6 or 12 bulbs, 45cm apart. They appreciate the shelter of low growing shrubs or other plants near their roots. Planting time is from October to April/May. You can also plant lilies in pots. As they can get quite tall use a large pot that will fully accommodate the roots and you may also need to stake the plants for a bit of extra support. Stake at the time of planting to avoid damaging the bulbs.

How-to Video Tutorials

Oriental Lilies

Giant Goliath Lilies

Worse pest: The Red Lily Beatle. The adult bugs will eat away the foliage and flowers. Look out for orange-red eggs or black larvae under the leaves or late for full size (8mm) bright red adult Beatles. You can protect your lilies by spraying them or by hand you can remove and crush them but a large infestation could be very time consuming as you need to check daily!

Lilium Romantics collection
Lilium Romantics collection – These fabulous dwarf lilies are ideal for growing in pots or at the front of a border – perfect for smaller gardens that would be overpowered by the taller varieties.

Click HERE to view our full range of Lilies!

July Plant of the Month – Scabiosa caucasica

Scabiosa caucasica

Scabiosa Mixed

Introduced to the UK over 200 years ago Scabiosa caucasia are a striking alternative to the sunny yellow, orange and red shades that tend to dominate the summer months. They become a beautiful sight once their amazing and colourful blooms appear during the summer, flowering perpetually from June through to the first frosts in autumn. They make excellent cut flowers, but left in the garden are highly attractive to butterflies and bees.

POTM July Scabiosa








Scabiosa like a sunny position. They will do best in temperate weather conditions, do not allow to get over wet in winter. In a really hot summer they can die back but as the weather cools towards October they may start to flower again. Extremely hardy and free flowering; they will thrive in most well drained soils – particularly good for chalky soil.


Deadhead to promote flowering. When established they will be more drought tolerant.

Will naturalise if left undisturbed making them a good addition to a wild garden.

Top Picks

Scabiosa Caucasica Snow Cushion

‘Snow Cushion’ is a mound-forming, deciduous to semi-evergreen perennial with broadly lance-shaped, variably-lobed, grey-green leaves and upright, wiry stems bearing semi-double, white flower heads from early summer into autumn.

This attractive perennial will produce pincushion type flowers from June through to late October. They are very hardy plants and free flowering, and Scabiosa thrive in most types of well drained soil.

Click HERE to view our full range of Scabiosa!