Author: Janine Winlaw

Garden Talk: Top 10 groundcover plants

Great for carpeting bare ground, preventing weeds and defining the front of a border, groundcover plants are a must-have in the garden. Here are my top 10, grown for… Foliage Asarum europaeum (Wild ginger) For a lush contemporary look this is unbeatable, with glossy green heart-shaped leaves that spread to form an evergreen carpet. It prefers a moist, shady spot.  Pachysandra terminalis, which copes better with sun, also forms a dense mat of evergreen leaves with white flowers in early summer. Ajuga reptans ‘Atropurpurea’ (bugle) If you’re after a bit more colour, try this spreading evergreen, grown predominantly for its unusual bronze-purple foliage – which look great with other rusty coloured ferns and grasses. The short spikes of deep blue flowers in early spring are a bonus. It’s happy in sun or part shade, provided there’s enough water. Stachys Byzantina ‘Silver Carpet’ (Lamb’s ears) With spreading velvety silver leaves this is great for softening the edge of a well-drained, sunny border – it’s also very drought tolerant once established.  Stachys have purple flower spires in …

Garden Talk: In praise of snowdrops

There’s something magical about snowdrops with their dainty white heads appearing in dreary mid winter, giving us a reason to be cheerful. The most common variety, Galanthus nivalis – roughly translated as ‘milk white flower ’ has a single flower and green v- shaped markings on the inner petals, and G. nivalis ‘Flore Pleno’ is a frillier double version.But there are hundreds of cultivars with subtle differences in size, markings and colouring. Snowdrops are woodland plants and thrive in moist, well-drained soil, in dappled shade. They look wonderful naturalised in grass or carpeting the ground under trees.  But they also work in drifts in borders or underplanting shrubs or multi-stems such as silver birch. Pick a spot, such as a front garden or somewhere visible from a window, were you can appreciate them easily. Companion plants Aim for naturalism by planting snowdrops in little clumps of three, five or seven, with about 20 or so in total for impact. Snowdrops look stunning interplanted with tiny pinky purple Cyclamen coum or other delicate early spring bulbs …

Garden Talk: Your January to do list

Giving the garden a tidy up, on a nice bright day, is a good way to start the year. Even in mid winter there’s plenty to do from pruning to planting – and any work put in now will pay off when the busier spring season arrives. Prune: Prune tatty looking perennials left for winter interest such as sedum – avoiding new growth. And remove old hellebore leaves to make flowers more visible. Cutback ornamental grasses to within a few cm of the ground before the new growth arrives Many deciduous trees, shrubs and hedges such as beech and hornbeam can also be pruned throughout the dormant period. (Exceptions are evergreens, tender plants and prunus species (cherries, plums, and apricots) as it makes them more susceptible to infection). Cut roses back just above an outward facing bud and remove crossing or dead braches and thin weak stems – I remove branches thinner than a pencil. Prune to the height you want creating an almost vase like shape with an open centre. Prune apple and pear …

The Gardener’s Tool Kit 

Having the right tools really can turn gardening from a chore to a pleasure. So if you fancy putting something gardening-related on your New Year wish-list or are thinking of buying a present for a green-fingered friend, take your pick from these “must have” tools. Secateurs  This is key for most gardeners – a sharp, good quality pair will make all the difference to pruning and harvesting herbs and flowers. I like Felco, which last a lifetime if you look after them, but thereare many other good varieties. For those with weak hands or arthritis, ratcheting pruners are a great choice. Try to buy quality, keep them clean and dry them if they get wet, so they don’t rust. Gardening gloves Protect your hands from mud and thorns with a good pair of gloves. Make sure they fit snuggly, particularly for fiddly jobs like tying in climbers. Bamboo gloves are light and stretchy, as are Showa Floreo. Thermal gardening gloves are cosy for winter and if you’re pruning roses leather is best. Hand trowel and …

Winter window boxes

Now’s the time to smarten up window boxes for the winter season. Here’s how: Make a plan A visit to your local garden centre is a great way to get inspiration, but do some planning first. Measure your container for a rough idea of how many plants to buy. And think about the style and colour of your house – exterior and interior – you might fall for an orange plant, but will it clash from inside your sitting room? Thrillers, spillers, fillers You could block plant a simple row of white cyclamen or dusky pink heather– contemporary and stylish. But for more variety, it’s useful to think ‘thrillers’, tall evergreen plants for structure, ‘spillers’ like ivy to trail down containers and ‘fillers’, for the gaps. Compact evergreen shrubs such as pretty small-leaved hebes make good structural ‘thrillers’ as does Skimmia x confusa ‘Kew Green’ – go for symmetry here, one or three. For something bright and festive Skimmia japonica ‘Nymans’ has jolly red berries, Gaultheria Procumbens pink ones and Solanum Capsicastrum has cheery orange …