Do glow in the dark plants exist? Technically, no- but if you grow some white-blooming plants, you’ll find they give an ethereal glow when there’ a full moon. White is bang on trend for 2017, and a few white flowering gems have been bubbling up in trial grounds across Europe this summer. The most notable must be Calendula ‘Snow Princess’, the very first put white English Marigold. Having this garden favourite in crystal clear form gives it potential for different uses. Swathe some through existing borders of perennials – it’s a ‘sow and grow’ hardy annual, you just tip the seed into your border and job done.
White is so cool that you can use it with rich psychedelic tones as well as softer pastel tones. At the RHS Wisley Garden, they use the silver sheen of Cerastium as an under planting to very jazzy bedding plants; and it looks fab. Conversely, at Easton Walled Gardens, Lady Cholmeley has swathed Cerastium through mauves, blues and pinks.
So, if you can’t decide what colour to have in your garden, why not have none, and opt for white!
New ‘old’ plants
A large part of my job at Thompson & Morgan was to devise new ways of making ageing plants popular. One of my favourite ways of doing this was to look for remixes of bedding plants!
Last year French marigold ‘Strawberry Blonde’ strolled onto the bedding scene. Born from a new stable of germplasm in the USA, ‘Strawberry Blonde’ was a new plant, but one you recognised. I am sure our grandparents or parents had some marigolds in their garden, but I bet they haven’t seen anything like ‘Strawberry Blonde’.
This year it is all about Petunia ‘Night Sky’. It has certainly got everyone talking. Its otherworldly blue blooms are marbled and spotted with white, and change before your very eyes as they are affected by temperature.
Terrariums are also getting a lot of coverage and are quite popular with people who may not even own a garden, which in my opinion is great, as it means different audiences are getting their fingers dirty.
While they may be a little tricky to set up, and plant up, terrariums can actually be relatively self-sufficient, as they are a micro-climate. The condensation of water from the sealed container rises and then drips onto the soil, making it self-watering.
You can also plant bottle gardens, they are then sealed and look after themselves for many years. The oldest bottle garden is said to have been sealed in 1972.
If you aren’t quite up for the terrarium and bottle garden challenge, then why not try out a geometric plant house, which tend to have open sides so your plants will need watering. The geometric plant houses look particularly good with cacti and succulents, or even air plants – now that’s a really trendy look.
Our next trend was picked up at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, and that’s fairy gardens, which could also be referred to as a ‘garden on a plate’.
A fantastic holiday project for school children, these are miniature gardens, which are really fun to create. In fact, I was often entering my own creations into the local flower show when I was a wee lad.
Simply cover a wide plate with a soil of your choice, then build the garden on top. Think small pieces of gravel to form pathways, small twigs to masquerade as trees, moss for lawn… perhaps you could even employ some model railway accessories. There are lots of accessories now available online and in garden centres to augment your creations, such as little fairy doors and houses and characters to bring your fairy garden alive. Check out www.fiddlehead.eu for plenty of ideas and inspiration.
Everyone loves sunflowers and why the heck not? But, generally everyone always grows the same big yellow ones. Yes, they are lovely, but there’s so much more to choose from too. Try red, orange, even pink for starters. Then there’s hedging types, trailing types, cut flower types, perennial types- some with scent too. You could never bore of the sunflower family.
The annual types are incredibly easy to grow, and are a ‘throw and sow’ annual – so just scatter the seed where you want it to grow and let nature take over the rest. Perennial forms will need to be purchased as plants, and are well worth a try. Helianthus maximiliani is taller than me (I’m 6 foot 2) and has flowers arranged all the way up the stem, much like a hollyhock. Those blooms can be super late, so you might need to wait until October. Don’t forget to give the blooms a sniff too; it’s a gentle cocoa fragrance.