Plants that give great bang for your buck

When your garden is open to the public, it needs to be at its best all of the time. That’s where some garden stalwarts make all the difference. Geoff Stonebanks shares some favourites from his award-winning garden.

Shasta daisy
Leucanthemum ‘Snow Lady’ (Shasta daisy)
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With so many stunning blooms in the garden, visitors always want to know what are my favourite ones. Well, with over 600 to choose from that’s a difficult question. If we take the 2015 season, here are a few that stood out for me.

Gazania ‘Sunbathers Tikal’
Gazania ‘Sunbathers Tikal’

Gazania ‘Sunbathers Tikal’ is right at the top of my list. For the last four years I have been trialling plants for Thompson & Morgan. This beautiful plant was supplied by them and has now graced the garden for two years. Let’s hope that the ones I put in the greenhouse over the winter make it through to bloom again this summer.

I have always had a bit of a penchant for daisies and the gorgeous Erigeron karvinskianus, otherwise known as Mexican fleabane, has always been a favourite popping out of cracks and crevices around the garden. Equally, Leucanthemum ‘Snow Lady’ (Shasta daisy), makes a real statement in the garden encompassing the rusted green table and chairs in the cottage garden area for the last six years. This is one of my favourite areas of the garden and always looks so magical.

Erigeron karvinskianus
Erigeron karvinskianus

Another favourite from Thompson & Morgan is the beautiful Buddleja ‘Buzz Magenta’. Developed to grow in a patio pot, this one is actually growing in the ground behind the pond. It is one of the first plants to catch visitors’ eyes as they enter the back garden and looks so majestic.

Garden memorials

My lilies are very special too; they were planted in a green ceramic pot over 16 years ago by my late Aunt, who died in 2004. I inherited them, along with other containers from her garden, and every year they bloom magnificently, hopefully they’ll do even better this year with a boost of Flower Power Plant Food. I have done nothing to them over the years other than feed them and they never let me down.

My Aunt’s brother, my father Ron, loved gardening too and after he died in 2007 I inherited many of the plants from his garden. He loved fuchsias and one of his favourites was the ‘Empress of Prussia’, which abounds in the garden from the many cuttings I have taken from the two standard plants I received. They always look so eye catching throughout the summer months and many have been sold on to visitors to the garden wanting to take something away with them.

On the day my father was cremated, I bought a dazzling Hydrangea ‘Schneeball’ which I have planted in the garden along the central path. It’s a lovely white mop head variety and fades through shades of green and pink as it ages.

Purple power

Verbena bonariensis
Verbena bonariensis

A plant that abounds throughout the garden, especially in the beach garden at the front, is Verbena bonariensis, which rises majestically from the gravel in huge clumps swaying in the breeze. I started off with a single plant and over the last four years it has self-seeded and I just let it go.

Then there’s a plant that I bought back in 2014, not knowing much about it, Salvia ‘Amistad’. It has been incredible in the garden for two years now producing blooms up to 6 feet tall in the beds by the fence. It’s almost electric blue blooms make a really dramatic statement in the garden and visitors to the garden love it too.

My final choice is a stunning plant I bought last year, after seeing it at the Chelsea Flower Show, Glumicalyx flanaganii; it’s a stunning perennial plant with nodding heads of creamy flowers with bright red and orange centres. It hails from South Africa and flowers in the summer. I put mine in a large container in the gravel garden and it flowered profusely all season. Let’s hope the winter protection I gave it will enable it to amaze visitors again this season.

Geoff Stonebanks

About Geoff Stonebanks

Geoff Stonebanks lives in Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex and spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden - Driftwood - he has raised over £95,000 for various charities in 8 years, £56,000 of that for Macmillan. The garden, which first opened to the public in 2009 has featured on BBC2 Gardeners' World, Good Morning Britain and in many national and local media publications. In his spare time, Geoff is also the National Garden Scheme's Social Media & Publicity Chair as well as an Assistant County Organiser & Publicity Officer in East & Mid Sussex.
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