The British countryside is experiencing a bumper crop of holly berries this autumn, thanks to perfect weather conditions in 2018. So the traditional Christmas plant is putting on its best display in over 20 years. As well as being a symbol of the festive season, the common native evergreen provides vital winter food for animals and birds and makes Holly the perfect plant of the month for December. Get yours in time for Christmas!
Keep reading to check out our favourite evergreen Holly plants, a handy guide for planting Holly in borders and containers.
Once planted, Hollies resent disturbance, so buy younger, smaller plants are the way to go as these are easier to establish in the garden. So, take a look below at our bestselling varieties.
A brilliant hedging plant. Forming a dense prickly barrier, English Holly is a welcome source of food and protection to wildlife in the winter. Their glossy evergreen leaves and bright red and orange berries are a beautiful sight during the festive season.
Our superb, premium Holly variety. This new variegated Holly is ideal as a feature shrub or very prickly barrier hedge. The glossy, dark green leaves are patterned with a broad, irregular, speckled, cream margin.
An outstanding collection of Hollies. These colourful evergreens produce striking red berries from December. The collection includes one of each variety: ‘Sharpy’, ‘Golden Van Tol’ and ‘Aurea Marginata’ and one male ‘Blue Prince’.
First launched in 1975, #NationalTreeWeek is the UK’s largest tree celebration, annually launching the start of the winter planting season. Take this fantastic opportunity to discuss the importance of trees to our planet as well as key environmental issues, so get inspired to plant through our fantastic selection of bestselling trees.
Here’s our top 10 flowering trees to spruce up your landscape and help the planet.
One of the most popular Japanese flowering cherry trees, Prunus ‘Kanzan‘ is loaded with pinkish/purple double flowers with a frilly edge. The flowers bloom from March until its bronze foliage begins to unfurl. The bronze coloured leaves turn green before adopting burnt orange colours in autumn.
Holder of the RHS Award of Garden Merit, ‘Nigra‘ is a beautiful Magnolia variety. Their tulip-shaped deep purple-pink flowers blossom in late spring and add an exotic touch to the garden border. Also, their blooms are fragrant and well-loved by pollinators.
This bushy little tree that provides interest all year round, with masses of white flowers in spring followed by red, edible fruit in summer (get them before the birds do!). One of the most striking plants for autumn colour with its vivid flamed leaves.
A real showstopper. This phenomenal tree is the centerpiece of any spring garden. The rich magenta pink flowers bloom on bare stems in late spring before the large heart-shaped green glossy leaves emerge and turn into a vivid yellow in autumn.
Fast growing and easy to care for. This extremely hardy tree is tall and slender, with almost blue young foliage. Pretty white flowers emerge in early summer and their sprigs of grey-blue foliage can also be brought inside and used in cool-themed flower arrangements!
Brighten up the summer garden with this vigorous, deciduous shrub. The large and fragrant pompom-like white floral clusters bloom in late spring. In autumn, vibrant red berries appear and are an excellent food source for birds throughout the cold months.
A winner of the RHS Award of Garden Merit, Wisteria ‘Multijuga‘ is one of the most desirable varieties of Japanese Wisteria on the market today. Noted for its excellent fragrance, their trailing clusters of highly fragrant lilac flowers bloom from May through to September.
The definitive English desert apple with an aromatic flavour. This red tinted apple ripens in October and is ready to pick. During April and May, the tree itself develops beautiful white flowers that attract butterflies and birds into the garden.
A terrific plant that deserves a spot in any garden. They may be small, but Heather are inexpensive, evergreen plants that provide colour even in the coldest months. Originating from the Scottish Hylands, transform any garden border, patio or rockery with the vibrant floral clusters of Heather and turn any garden into a carpet of dazzling colour.
To celebrate Heather as our plant of the month, we have selected our best Heather mixtures and collections on offer, as well as ideal planting partners, a planting guide and even some traditional folklore about Scotland’s national flower.
These small Heathers make a big impact with their masses of tiny blooms that flower all winter long into the spring. This collection of low-growing evergreen shrubs make excellent and colourful ground cover.
One of the hardiest of the Heathers. This wonderful mix of Erica Heather are low and quick growers, which will form eye-catching mats of pink, white, purple of red blooms. The perfect plant to compliment early spring bulbs.
Fill your garden with beauty all year round with this collection. Our summer Heathers bloom from July-October, while our winter Heathers flower from December to February. Plant en masse on a slope and an impressionist’s landscape will burst into life.
Among the most hardiest and most varied of all Heathers. Appearing from mid-late summer, these showy flowers practically glow with their bright and beautiful shades. An easy to grow contender for adding to cottage gardens or as ground cover.
Looking for some floral inspiration? Here are some tips on companion planting with Heather…
When planted en masse, Heathers and Heaths make a swath of tones and foliage with easy appeal and graceful texture. Adding some dimension to such plantings further enhances the garden area and increases interest year around.
Birds can play a vital role in the garden’s ecosystem, from natural pest controllers to simply bringing joy and life to the garden. By choosing the right plants, you can produce both food and cover for garden birds all year round. There are lots of ways to give bird populations a boost, from creating nesting shelters to planting shrubs rich in berries.
In this week’s blog, we have listed the top bird-friendly shrubs to provide bird food and shelter to handy and simple crafts and tips to attract these wild visitors to the garden.
A classic winter wonder. Holly Blue Angel produces shiny evergreen foliage with an unusual blue tinge on the leaves and masses of red berries in the winter. When birds need a source of food in the winter, Holly berries are the perfect snack.
A brilliant evergreen hedging plant. It is slow growing, low maintenance and acts as a deterrent with its dense prickly barrier. With bright red and orange berries in winter, this native plant is a great source of food and shelter for birds.
A robust Pyracantha. Producing masses of red berries in summer and clusters of white blossoms in summer, this decorative shrub adds plenty of interest for wildlife as a spot for nesting birds and they contain an abundance of pollen for bees.
A beautiful and useful shrub. With sprinklings of white June blossoms followed by masses of golden berries, this multi-tasking plant is a great climbing, specimen or screening plant and is also well-loved by birds in the winter.
This popular British Native hedge can withstand harsh winds and temperatures and the thick and thorny branches make an excellent barrier. Red berries appear during the autumn months to tempt hungry birds to the garden.
This robust little shrub blooms with beautiful pink spring blossoms amongst bright green foliage. Even in the winter, the stout, interweaving branches and their red berries act as a nesting sight and food source for birds.
This climbing vine is perfect for adding autumn colour to the garden. At different times of the year, this vigorous creeper provides fruit, caterpillars and nesting material for birds. Its dense leafy cover also makes great shelter.
You won’t find a more dramatic sight in autumn than a Boston Ivy. Their leaves change from a summer green to a bright crimson in the autumn. This variety produces clusters of dark blue berries that are a perfect food source for hungry birds.
This winter-flowering Honeysuckle produces masses of fragrant, creamy-white flowers. In autumn, it provides berries and shelter for birds and in summer, the scented flowers attract insects; a great food source for birds.
It’s easy to attract birds to the garden, here are some bird-friendly gardening tips that you can do in any outdoor space, big or small.
DIY Bird feeders/boxes
Turn your garden into a desirable home for birds from winter through to spring with a cosy nestbox. You can even make your own mini nature reserve for them if you’re handy. The best weatherproof and secure material for constructing your own is wood.
Garden birds benefit from feeding all year round. Place feeders high off the ground. Use wire mesh feeders for peanuts and seed feeders for other seed. Where cats are a problem, use a bird table where cats cannot reach. You can even make your own by simply using sticking bird seed to a toilet paper roll using peanut butter and using string to hang them from a branch.
Many birds will use bird baths and ponds for bathing, so urge birds to seek out your garden as their one-stop shop for their daily routines. Keep an eye on your bird bath over winter to ensure they don’t freeze over in the cold temperatures.
Azaleas and Rhododendrons are the jewels of the late spring garden. Rhododendrons and evergreen azaleas provide interest all year round, while deciduous azaleas produce excellent autumn leaf colours. There are literally thousands of species and varieties and a huge range of flower colours. Their exquisite blooms bring notes of exotic colour to pots and containers, beds and borders and lightly shaded areas under trees. Some are compact enough for the smallest gardens, others require the space of a woodland where they can reach massive proportions.
What’s the difference between Azaleas and Rhododendrons?
There is a garden philosophy: If you like it, it’s a flower; if you don’t, it’s a weed. It’s hard to have compassion for weeds, but they’re just plants growing in places where they’re not wanted. One approach is to pull the weeds out by hand but why not try a completely different approach? A thick mass planting of ground cover plants can control weeds by keeping the direct sunlight off the soil, which can cause weeds to germinate and can compete with the weeds for water and nutrients.
Here’s a guide to identifying the garden enemies in your garden.
Some are annuals and have a one-year life cycle that ends with them setting seeds for the next generation.
Others are perennials, like dandelions (having a lifecycle longer than one year). You may need to eradicate the main root of these to remove them.
Ground Cover for Full Sun
In full sun, the following ground cover plants are fantastic choices for beautiful and efficient sunny borders.
This beautiful hardy and versatile plant forms spreading clumps of colour through late-spring and are perfect for ground cover planting. They love full sun and is tough enough to suppress weeds and thrive even in the poorest of soils.
The large and vivid blue bell-shaped flowers of this plant are certain to make a lasting impact as ground cover. With its reliability, stability of colour and long spreading foliage, this plant is the perfect partner for suppressing weeds in your garden whilst providing lasting beauty throughout summer.
This plant is a heat-tolerant, drought-tolerant ground cover option. This Thyme variety adds an attractive mat of leaves with highly fragrant pink/mauve flowers in the summer. They are great for planting in crevices as they are great for choking out weeds.
For erosion control, few ground covers work better than this creeping perennial. They’re drought-resistant, not picky about soil quality and love full sun. Carpet your garden in the rich colour of Phlox Candy Stripe to attract butterflies and keep the weeds at bay.
Our superb mixture of summer flowering Heather will provide a carpet of vibrant colour in a ground cover display. Not only do they brighten up otherwise dull areas, they can be planted in partial shade areas and also work to suppress weeds
Ground Cover for Partial Shade
For a slightly shady area of the garden, try these:
This excellent ground cover plant offers a mound of silvery-green foliage beneath an abundance of dainty pink flowers. This sprawling perennial is a great summer flowering plant to suppress pesky weeds, and can also be planted in rockeries and dry stone walls.
Also known as ‘Dragon’s Blood’ Sedum, this variety may be the hardiest and most versatile of all weed-suppressing ground covers. Their trailing stems root easily and do well in places where little else will grow. This year round beauty provides bright green fleshy leaves with star-shaped pink flowers in summer.
With this plant’s reliability, stability of colour and resistance to pests and diseases, it has earned the RHS Award of Garden Merit. Their masses of star-shaped blue and violet flowers will bloom into late August and are very useful in the ground where the spreading foliage will produce a blanket of weed suppressing ground cover.
Ajuga keeps weeds out by creeping over the surface of the soil, putting down roots as it goes, and all the leaves knit together to leave not a millimeter of soil into which a weed can wheedle. Also, their vibrant green and purple foliage with white edging are perfect for colourful ground cover.
Originating from Turkey and Bulgaria, Rose of Sharon is one of the best ground cover options. Not only are their yellow star-shaped flowering popular with bees, their shrubby low-growing habit is extremely valuable for smothering those unwanted pesky garden weeds.
This magnificent evergreen shrub produces vivid red foliage on long slender leaves that have a unique metallic glimmer. They form in to a dense dome of foliage making them excellent ground cover to suppress weeds. Also, they look fantastic planted in pots/containers.
This amazing Hosta sprouts large pure white leaves in late spring/early summer that develop green streaks as the season progresses. Perfectly happy in shade, when paired with other Hostas, these plants knit together seamlessly to create a blanket of efficient weed suppression.
After you’ve picked your ground cover plants, it’s time to get in the garden!
To help you plant your ground cover this spring, here is our handy step-by-step tutorial, so that you can get the best performance and results from your garden this summer.
Which plants work the best for weed control?
Dense evergreen varieties are the best option if your main aim is to suppress weeds.
What do i need to do to prepare for planting?
Be sure to fully eradicate all existing weeds before you plant, especially perennials such as dandelions, as they will become near impossible to remove once your ground cover is planted.
Will the ground cover kill my other plants?
Place decorative rocks or stepping stones between ground cover and perennials to maintain a barrier for spreading stolons, or above ground perennials.
When planting more than one ground cover variety, spread mulch between the plants to conserve soil moisture and reduce unwanted plant growth.
What aftercare is required for ground cover?
Spread netting or old sheets over ground covers during autumn leaf drop. It can be difficult to rake leaves out of thick ground covers, and allowing the leaves to sit can create unhealthy conditions.
The stunning flowers of the Rhododendron have earned them a legion of fans, and quite right too! Some varieties of full size Rhododendrons will simply keep growing until they grow into giant trees, although you can prune them down, these larger varieties may not be an option in your garden.
This month we’re taking a look at some stunning dwarf varieties. The compact growth habit of these shrubs give them an outstanding formal appearance, making them ideal for small city gardens or courtyards where space is at a premium. They’re even small enough to slot nicely beneath taller shrubs in the border, or grow nicely in a rock garden.
Prepare the ground by digging in plenty of compost, neutral or acidic organic matter, or leafmold etc. Plant so the roots are covered, not too deep and apply a good layer of mulch lightly over the surface, don’t pack it down. Re-mulch and feed with an ericaceous fertiliser each spring.
Ericaceous fertiliser? This is for plants that are not as happy in limey soils. It’s a lime-free acidic compost that was habitually made with peat – however as awareness that adding peat to soils is bad for the environment you can now easily find peat free varieties to buy.
Dwarf varieties can cope with positioning in full sun but need evenly moist, well drained soils so keep on top of watering them in the hottest part of summer. Rhododendrons like lots of water and use rain-water if you can – you should particularly avoid tap-water if you live in a hard water area. As with larger Rhododendrons they won’t do at all well subjected to frost so take care to protect them and avoid areas you know are prone to it in your garden.
In truth not very much! Azaleas are a group within the Rhododendron family and they have some small differences. Rhododendrons will have ten or more stamens, while an Azalea will usually have five stamens. Rhododendrons have larger leaves and they will be paddle-shaped, Azalea have smaller, elliptical leaves. Also Rhododendrons are evergreen, whereas Azaleas can be evergreen or deciduous.