Louise Curley

26 Jan 2022 11:52

Top Ten Garden Plants: part two

In my previous post I listed a collection of plants that I wouldn’t be without, plants that I know are not just dependable and easy to grow but that have long-lasting flowers which attract wildlife too. This second part of my top ten features perennials, a shrub and my all-time favourite ornamental grass.

Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’: also known as catmint because of its fragrant foliage which is very appealing to felines, nepeta makes mounds of grey-green leaves above which spires of lavender-blue flowers are held from May to September. Throughout the summer the plant is abuzz with bees who absolutely love the nectar-rich flowers. If you struggle to grow lavender, which needs very free-draining soil and doesn’t do well in the wet British winters, this is a great alternative. It grows to about 50cm high and is perfect planted at the front of a border.

Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’: the use of ornamental grasses has become increasingly popular over the last couple of decades and I love them. I’ve grown quite a few different types but ‘Karl Foerster’ is one of the best. It makes upright clumps of slender green leaves in spring, earlier than most grasses, followed by tall flower plumes which are initially a light purple colour before fading to green. These, along with the leaves, then take on buff tones in autumn which provide some of the best winter structure for a perennial border. The top growth can be simply cut back to just above the ground in late February.

Verbena bonariensis: slender, wafty plants are great for creating a naturalistic feel in a garden. I like plants that move in the breeze, as this makes a garden feel alive rather than a static space, and plants with narrow stems have a lovely see-through quality; rather than blocking a view they can be used to subtly screen off sections of a garden. For these reasons, this verbena with its willowy, branching stems is a perfect choice. Its clusters of tiny, neon pink-purple flowers add little pops of colour and they’re loved by butterflies. It flowers for ages too.

Salvia ‘Amistad’: salvias are an excellent group of plants and it is tricky selecting just one, but, for me, ‘Amistad’ is a special plant. It grows to 1.5m (5ft) with the stems producing rich purple blooms, which are a magnet for bees. It can be in flower in late May and will keep on going until the first frost, and while it isn’t completely hardy, it’s easy to take cuttings in autumn – keep these on a bright, warm windowsill over winter and pot on in spring. I love it combined with the ‘Karl Foerster’ and dahlias.

Lilac: this is a plant choice where my heart has ruled my head. There are other plants which flower for longer, which have more attractive foliage and which would be better choices for a small garden, however, some plants are favourites for sentimental reasons. I love lilacs and their heady perfume which permeates the air in late spring. I remember smelling one when I was a child and being smitten, so I was delighted when I moved to my new house four years ago to discover there was a mature lilac at the back of the garden. Last May was unusually warm which meant it was possible to smell the lingering perfume of the lilac from the house. It was magical!