• Create vibrant winter pots with Skimmia
  • Smother a rockery with thrift
  • Delve into the world of Aquilegia
  • Prepare for bees with Pulmonaria
  • Create a carpet with Ajuga reptans
  • Go Mad with Gorgeous Geums
  • Plant Pick – Japanese Spiraea
  • Plant Pick – Erysimum ‘Bowles’ Mauve
  • Plant Pick – Callicarpa
  • Plant Pick – Stachys byzantina (Lambs Ears)





On My Oasis – Potting On and Splitting Up

It’s September. How the hell did that happen? Last time I looked around, April showers had descended. Now, somehow, we’ve bypassed summer and autumn’s here. And, here it is. There’s a distinct chill in the air, the rain’s no longer that warm quenching drink and, certainly in Epping forest at least, the leaves are starting to drop.

Echinacea Double Scoop Cranberry

Echinacea Double Scoop Cranberry has been performing well


Something continuing to do rather well in my garden are the Echinacea ‘Double Scoop Cranberry’ plants I acquired from Plant Me Now earlier this year. They arrived as little plug plants and I’ve grown all three on in pots. My garden’s a little slug infested, so there was no way they’d have survived in the border. I didn’t really expect much from them in their first year, but I’ve been delighted in both the show of flowers and the additional foliage growth they’ve had. I’m looking forward to BIG things next year!

I tend to leave a few old heads on to offer some winter sculptural interest.

I tend to leave a few old heads on to offer some winter sculptural interest.

However, whilst they did well, the delphiniums I also got haven’t been quite as lucky – not because of their source, but because of the neglect (*slaps wrist* – naughty me). Whilst I kept an eye on the Echinacea, the slugs did get to the delphi’s a bit. But, they’re all still alive and I potted them on today, raising them away from the ground too – so, with a little luck, they’ll keep surviving and I can enjoy them in 2015.

I’ve finally released the Echium and Phormium from each others embrace

Aside from my little herbaceous plants, I’ve also been thrilled to note the survival of my Echium and Phormium. The former was the last of four plants I grew few seed a couple of years ago. Again, neglect took its toll rather, but this specimen has struggled onwards; even despite being covered in snow during winter 2012/13. As a gardener for other people, I often acquire snippets and
seedlings; and that’s just how the phormium came into my hands. I didn’t have a pot to put it in so threw it in with the Echium – two years later they’re still growing around each other. Oops (*slaps wrists again*). Today has been their day of release from one another’s roots and they’ve got their own pots at last! I expect they’ll be far happier – though I may have put the nail in the coffin by saying that – they’ll probably both be dead when I next report!!

For now, I have lots more potting up to do, as well as vast amounts of pot washing so i’ve got a tonne of vessels ready for moving time. In the meantime, be sure to enter the competition and get a chance to win that timber cold frame. :D


WIN a beautiful timber cold frame

giveawayI know that it’s only August, but as I’ve mentioned before, gardening’s a constantly changing pastime and, therefore, we already need to be thinking about winter. This means that as well as thinking about planting to bring colour and interest to your garden during the dimsal months, we also need to consider how to look after plants which aren’t as hardy.

With this in mind, I’ve got a beautiful timber cold frame from Wayfair.co.uk to give away. It couldn’t come at a better time of year – with the warmer months of the year beginning to wane, it’ll be important to protect those frost-susceptible plants. In addition, if you want to get a head start next spring, you can get your seedlings on the go without every windowsill in your house covered in germination trays; or is that just my home?

Made from pressure treated timber to prolong its life, the cold frame has two independently opening doors to aid ventilation and is constructed from – at minimum – 70per cent wood from managed forests. In addition, it’s RRP is £108.89, but you could get it for free! There’s no hard questions involved either, just enter the Rafflecopter below. You can tweet once per day to maximise chances and then, at the end of September, a random winner will be selected and contacted.

**Please note, this competition is only open to residents of UK and Ireland**

A prize that'll be handy in a couple of months time...

A prize that’ll be handy in a couple of months time…

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday Finds – 29/08/14

50% Off Potted Perennials

Astrantia – Star of Billion

I’m always happy to find a bargain, especially when it comes to perennials. As some of you may know, I’m not really a bedding plant or annual kind of guy (I’m just too lazy when it comes to sowing, pricking out and growing on EVERY season). Suttons Seeds are currently having a 50% off sale for single potted perennials – it ends on September 1st, so you need to be quick.

Cosmos - Choca Moca

Cosmos – Choca Moca

There are loads of goodies on sale, but what about the gorgeous Astrantia – Star of Billion (left) for just £4.49? Alternatively, if you love chocolate, there’s nothing better than Cosmos Mocha Choca; a perennial that has a very sweet sense (it really DOES smell of chocolate – I can vouch for it). It’s available for just £3.99. However, I’ve found they aren’t the hardiest perennial on the block and need some winter protection. With this in mind, you might like to check back on the blog tomorrow for a fantastic giveaway I have coming (hint, hint). Finally, with winter and foliage in mind, the beautiful Phormium ‘Jester’ is also fantastically cheap at £4.99 and adds vivid colour during all months of the year.


Phormium ‘Jester’


Clematis ‘Princess Kate’


New Clematis Variety

I’m a believer that every inch of the garden should be swathed, including walls, fencing and trellising. There’s a beautiful new variety of clematis on the market – ‘Princess Kate’. Available from Taylors Clematis for just £13.99, Princess Kate flowers between August and October, providing a dazzling display right at the end of the summer. It’s suitable for containers and grows in partial shade too – what’s not to love?



Acer - Atropurpureum

Acer – Atropurpureum

Acers With Up to 50% Off

J’adore Acers – though I’m yet to actually buy one. However, this might all be about to change now that Crocus have a sale on. I love Crocus – great plants, good prices (when there’s a discount to be found) and I’ve always found their stock very healthy. They currently have a large sale on their acers, with the cheapest starting at just £14.99 including the beautiful Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’ (left). There’s a total of 11 varieties all priced at under £20, so if you’re grabbing one for yourself,do some early Christmas shopping and get one for a gift too!

There’s a little park for Gardeners World readers too; visit Crocus from the link on the magazine’s official website, and you’ll also get 20% off!!






Up for a challenge? Grow some hibiscus from seed!

Beautiful Hibiscus

I’m celebrating my anniversary with my husband today, and I spent yesterday traipsing around local nurseries looking for a Red Hibiscus as the tropical plant has huge sentimental value for him. I finally found one, but when looking online, I also stumbled across JungleSeeds. They offer a great variety of seeds for purchases – at very affordable prices – so if you’re up for a challenge, then why not grow a hibiscus from scratch? Now, I know I actually went and bought a plant, but I’m sorely tempted to have a go at growing from seed now I’ve seen these!

Create vibrant winter pots with Skimmia

Okay, I know it’s still summer, but winter will be here before you know it. I’m honestly hoping for a cold snap this year – the wet, grey winter of 2013 was horrendous; I don’t think we had even one frost in London. That’s BAD for plants – they need dormancy. And it’s BAD for gardeners – we need a rest, AND we need lots of those garden pests killing off. If there’s no snow or frost, all those little larvae and eggs hiding in the soil just hatch and munch away with nothing to stop them!

Anyhow, I digress. If you’re thinking about seasonal planting for this winter, then I highly advise the use of Skimmia. These hardy evergreens are ideal for use in pots, and though they normally flower in the spring, you can normally pick up plants in the autumn which have been forced ahead of time, meaning you have both greenery and blooms to brighten up the dark winter days. In addition, if you manage to get hold of Skimmia ‘Fragrans’, you’ll also get a little scent too; anything to cheer up a cold day is a bonus, right?


Skimmia’s a great winter plant, especially in pots.

I tend to use Skimmia in pots because I’ve found them to be rather slow growing, and in a herbaceous bed it means they’re lost pretty quickly when spring arrives and everything starts to go mad. Planted up alongside some winter bulbs or violas, and any of the small carex species, they make a welcome sight either side of the porch. Alternatively, pop them out on the patio to draw your eye to the garden even on those days when just the thought of going outside makes you shudder.

The winter frost clings beautifully to Skimmia leaves

The winter frost clings beautifully to Skimmia leaves

Name: Skimmia

Thrives In: Full or partial shade, and in both exposed and sheltered positions; i.e. most places.

Yearly Care: Extremely low maintenance. You might want to clip off the old flowers to neaten up the plant. In sunny positions, the leaves may become chorotic (lose their colour and become pale or even white). In such cases, it’s best to move plants and remove the damaged foliage.

Growing Medium: Moist and well-drained soil is best, particularly if planted in a sunny aspect. In winter pots, ensure there’s moderate fertile soil to ensure good growth.

Quick Tip: Ideal for winter pots as its slow growing and makes the perfect contrast plant with overwintering violas or pansies.

On My Oasis – Verbena, Shasta Daisies and Visas

Oh look, it’s Bank Holiday so of course,  it’s pissing down. I managed to get away with a quick woodland walk before the heaven’s opened so now, other than a few trips down the garden, I’m indulging in a traditional day off; slumming it on the couch.

A swathe of verbena shines vividly against variegated wigelia

So, this week – in fact, yesterday – I had some REALLY good news. After a weekend away in Suffolk, where I was convinced that the best birthday pressies I could give my mum and sister (they’re both born in September) was some IOU’s in the garden, we arrived back in London to discover my husband’s visa had been approved! So, he has another 30 months in the UK. But, honestly, that’s not the exciting part – the best bit is that it means we can buy a new house = move = get a new garden for Geoffrey to play around in!

I’m ecstatic and have been surfing the housing porn of Rightmove. Of course, the first thing I lok at is the garden! I’ve known we were intending on moving out of London for some time, but now it’s really happening I’m extremely excited. It’s also come at a good time because the autumn’s is, by far, the best time to move plants. I’m sorry housebuyers, but there’ll be nothing left of my garden once I’m gone. I have a HELL of a lot of plants to start dividing, lifting and potting up…but for now, as the rain comes down, I’m enjoying what’s on offer.

A flopped daisy collects rain droplets

A flopped daisy collects rain droplets

As usual, the beautiful verbena’s are adding vibrant life to the surroundings. These really are a glorious plant, being structural, transparent and colourful. Luckily, they also sow themselves well so though I collect some seed at the end of each year in case of  a severe frost, there’s normally new plants popping up all over the place. I also nabbed some Shasta Daisies last year from a client’s when I was splitting a clump (I did ask…). They should be placed in full sun really, but I’ve found that they do well enough in shade as long as the long stems are supported. However, I was a bad gardener and forgot to do this so they’ve all flopped, but are pretty nevertheless. Other than that, it’s mostly foliage. I also forget about this end of summer period and tend to lack any dramatic buds at this time of year….however, now a move is on the cards, it’ll be time to start creating a garden all over again; HURRAH!

Friday Finds – 22/08/14

I thought it was time for a new little featurette on the blog and something, I hope, that we can all make use of. So, here’s the inaugural ‘Friday Finds’; the place to discover new plants, deals, offers and goodies from around the horticultural world.


viola-teardrops-pink-blush-01Viola Teardrops Pink Blush

If you’re already looking ahead to winter (which, I suppose, we all should be), then it’s time to think about some colour. I’m not a huge fan of bedding plants, be it summer or winter. However, these little violas – available for pre-order at Plant Me Now – are pretty gorgeous. They’re new, profusely flowering and ideal for hanging baskets or pots. £6.50 for five plants isn’t bad, and if you buy two, you get 10 for £12.

If we have a winter like last, then we’ll need something to cheer us all up. Wet, windy and grey was not exactly fun, was it? But I reckon this viola’s will stand against grey or white; whatever the winter decides to throw at us!

fairweather3_3Eryngium – Neptunes Gold

Eryngium’s (Sea Hollies) are pretty special plants and make a great statement piece in a garden. The bright blue of their sea head and leaves is hard to miss when you have a great swathe of them. This year, Suttons Seeds have got a new variety called Neptunes Gold – the iconic blue seed heads remain, but this time, there’s golden foliage to contrast. It’s a little expensive at £9.99 for one potted plant, so you might want to buy it as your month’s treat.

They’re shipping from mid-September, so if you get your order in soon, you won’t have to wait long.


2FFB8583-C181-4444-2EE11DE0EFFABE80Aralia Cordata ‘Sun King’

This came to my attention thanks to Michael Perry’s FB page. The new variety of hardy perennial is/was  available from Van Meuwen, and has golden leaves in spring which turn to citrus in the summer. The remarkable thing is that it’s leave as chlorophyll fluorescent, and it’s marketed as being able to ‘glow’ after dark. Unfortunately, though these were selling on Ideal Home, I’ve yet to find out outlet on line (Van Meuwen doesn’t have any on their site at the moment). However, I’ll keep investigating – let me know if you find them!

Free Daffodil and Tulip Bulbs

If you scour the web, there’s normally some good deals to be found on spring flowering bulbs. I often buy plants from J Parkers, and they’ve got a great offer available if you’re already in the mindset for spring 2015 – which you should be because all those bulbs need planting THIS autumn. ;)

1011576For every order, there’s a free pack of 50 assorted dwarf narcissus bulbs. I’m big fan of the dwarf varieties, particularly because in the post-flowering stage, you don’t have huge clumps of flopping green leaves that you can’t cut off for fear of damaging next year’s blooms. In addition, orders over £50 get a free bag of 25 mixed orange tulips. The autumn’s a great time to buy plants as you can get them in to overwinter so they start off in spring with vigour. If you’re thinking of spending a few quid, then cash in at J Parkers and get  a load of free bulbs!


Chitalpa Tree

Chitalpa_tashkentesisLastly, though my street is decked out with an avenue of flowering cherries, the council planted a strange tree that I’d never seen before. It didn’t do much last year, though I did notice a small pink flower, but this year it exploded into colour. A little research, some tweeting and I discovered that it’s the Chitalpa tree; a deciduous species hybridised from the Arizona desert willow. It’s low maintenance, likes full sun and is drought-tolerant, so I suspect some eager green-fingered fellow in the council thought they’d pop one in and see how it does….well, extremely well, it seems.

Unfortunately, it seems extremely hard to come by in the UK, but I haven’t given up hope of getting one. They’re beautiful trees!

Welcome to The Guide to Gay Gardening's new look!

Living in the grey smog of London utopia, I forge my little existence in a slightly loopy, hermity, hippy manner, sharing my life with the hens, cats and other menagerie that have somehow taken over my life.

If I'm not enjoying the great outdoors with my netbook in hand, I'll be snipping, pruning, planting, cutting, propagating, shovelling, or just plain admiring. You can even catch the occasional glimpse of me on the TV now and then!

Take the weight off for a while. Sit back, relax, read, send me feedback, but mostly just take a moment and look around you.....mother nature is beautiful.

Geoff Wakeling

Mail Me: geoffwakeling(at) theguidetogaygardening.com


  • The stunning Echinacea Double Scoop Cranberry. Ideal for vibrant colour in autumn. :D

  • A prize that'll be handy in a couple of months time...WIN a timber cold frame! Head over now and make your entry.

  • Are you up for a challenge? Grow some tropical hibiscus from seed

  • A stunning new clematis variety, 'Princess Kate'

  • Phormium 'Jester' is a stunning plant all year round, but excels in lifting borders on dreary days.

  • Follow Me on Pinterest