• It’s time for Tulips
  • An African daisy to add simplistic chic
  • Prepare your winter garden with Sedum Herbstfreude
  • 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





Friday Finds – 19/09/14

Today it’s my sister’s birthday – Happy Birthday! However, I’ve still managed to find time to hunt out a few interesting tidbits on the great interweb this week. ;)

BlackBlack Tomatoes

If you follow any gardening feeds, you might’ve noticed a lot of noise in 2014 about this new black tomato variety. Okay, yes, it doesn’t sound that appetising, but I can assure you it tastes wonderful and gives some talking point to your vege patch, veranda or wherever else you’re growing it. Sutton Seeds now have this variety on sale, with six seeds for £3.49. Alternatively, you could wait until next June and buy three plug plants for £6.99.

In addition to the black tomato, they’ve also released a tomato ‘artisan bumblee bee mix‘. These cherry tomatoes are sure to be a conversation starter as they’re purple, pink or golden-yellow in colour.


EMSImage12094-600-600Glowing Lavender

I know I gave you a lavender find last week, but I’ve stumbled across a gorgeous ‘glowing’ lavender at GardeningExpress. Platinum blonde has the traditional soft grey leaves of lavender, but it’s growing tips are creamy-gold, making it look as if it’s got a glowing halo. It looks like a wonderful plant, and they attest to the fact it has fabulous scent as well. Currently, they’ve got a price reduction so you can get three plants for £14.99 instead of £49.99. Why so expensive?  Because it’s a fairly new and exclusive award winning plant.




craftyCrafty Garden Ideas

If you’re a fan of my Facebook page, you’ll know I regularly update with quirky and fun DIY projects for the garden. Now, Sainsbury’s Bank have produced a cute ‘Crafty Garden Idea’s’  guide. Within its pages are watering tips, a simple bird-feeder idea and ways to keep your mint growing healthily.

You can find it HERE, and your browser will open the PDF. From there, read, download and print off at your leisure.



It’s time for Tulips

If you hadn’t heard, it’s September already. That means it’s time to plant bulbs for a spring show in 2015. And, if you’re stocking up, then it’s definitely time to be thinking about tulips.

I often think that tulips are one of the more overlooked bulbs. We all fill our gardens with daffs, crocus and snowdrops, yet tend to leave tulips out of the mix. I think this tends to be  because if you throw those former bulbs in to pretty much any soil, apart from excessively wet, they’ll thrive, propagate and pop up year after year with very little management. Tulips, however, tend to fade over the years if they’re not looked after. For best results, you really need to lift the bulbs after flowering, dry them out and then re-plant – but, actually, that’s not much of a hardship considering the beautiful blooms they give you. 

But the wonderful thing about tulips is they often flower after many of the other spring bulbs have faded. Daffodils, given our weather over the past few years, can start as early as February and are gone by April/March; a time at which tulips are just coming out. In addition, I far prefer the few leaves left by tulips to the swathe of yellowing daff leaves which need to be left in place to ensure good flowers the following year. For that reason, I tend to use dwarf narcissus instead of the larger varieties.


Whether planted  in pots, borders or even vege patches for the early bees, tulips bring vibrant colour to the garden. With SO many varieties you can always find a hue to compliment your design scheme, and whether you use a single type or a cacophony of colours, they definitely deserve a place in this week’s plant pick!

Name: Tulip

Thrives In: Prefers full sun and a sheltered aspect so those spring gusts don’t damage the petals too early on.

Yearly Care: Deadhead after flowering and allow the leaves to fade before you cut the stems back. For continued shows year after year, it’s a good idea to lift the bulbs, dry them out and store in a cool, dark place until the autumn – when replanting can take place.

Growing Medium: Any well drained and fertile soil.

Quick Tip: Group together in islands of colour if you’re limited to a few bulbs as they’ll make more of an impact that way. Use in pots for a show after daff’s fade. Also, see my Friday Finds from a few weeks ago – there was a tulip freebie at J Parker Dutch Bulbs.

On My Oasis – Houseplants and Hibiscus

I need to come clean – gardening has been rather lacking this week. Work’s been busy and I’ve been obsessed with one thing – Rightmove. It’s taken us ages to get prepared; visas needed applying for, deposits needed saving, and locations had to be found. Now, we’re ready to go and what happens? There’s NOTHING on the market. I was hoping that once the kids went back to school, properties would start to appear, but my hopes have not yet materialised.  Of the very few homes available, the only one that was a slight contestant had a tiny garden so that was instantly wiped off the page. I mean, where the hell would I put all my plants? My aviary? My chickens? And the conservatory we want to build? I hate waiting, yet that’s all there is to do.

Hibiscus watch; red or orange?

Hibiscus watch; red or orange?

Talk of a conservatory has got me quite excited. I’ve never been very good with houseplants. I tend to forget they’re there and need watering. My windowsills are so crammed with seedlings for outside that indoor plants get relegated to shady corners and thus begin to die. However, having bought my husband a hibiscus for our anniversary – and with Rightmove constantly in the back of my mind – my thoughts have turned to conservatories. An aged friend recently died, and I remember from childhood that she had a glorious conservatory. It always smelled of peat, and even at Christmas, there was a tropical feeling. It was filled with begonias and ferns, and she used sand covered with Mind Your Own Business to keep the moisture in. Now I can’t stop hoping to find somewhere we can add a conservatory too so I can recreate that oasis, with the hibiscus, perhaps a bougainvillea or two, and some other tropical species. I’m sure my houseplant skills WILL get better – they’ll have too.


I have finally managed to get a Japanese anemone to take.

I have finally managed to get a Japanese anemone to take.

Outside, life goes on pretty much as normal. I’ve neglected the osteospermum rather too much this year, and the majority of stems have withered away. Luckily this is a plant that’s easy to propagate and there’s a few green bits left so I’ve snipped them off and pushed them into compost with the hope they’ll take. Failing that, I’ll have to reclaim some from clients I’ve passed plants out to over the years. However, I HAVE been pleased that my Japanese anemone root seems to have survived. These plants hate being moved, and after I took this side shoot from a friend’s garden, it pretty much died. I’ve just been watering and I discovered new leaves! Hoorah!

Hopefully there’ll be a chance for gardening this week. Have you got gardening plans? Let me know!

Friday Finds – 12/09/14

Oh, I do love buying plants….they don’t have to be fancy either, I’ll take most things. I’ve had a little scour around the Internet, and here’s some offers you might enjoy this weekend.

CLM003W_3103 for 2 on Clematis AND free delivery

You’ve gotta a lovely clematis or two. These beautiful climbers can quickly scramble across trellises and up fences, swathing them in flowers. Gardening Direct have a number of offers on clematis; mainly two plants for the price of three. Clematis Omishoro is one of my favourite, with pale pink petals that curl at the edges to reveal much brighter pink undersides. Not only do you get three plants for £17.98, it’s free delivery which is always a bonus as that P&P often pumps that seemingly cheap deal up by quite a lot. If you like a couple of the varieties, why not buy two lots with friends and half the plants?




21ff431a04d25f4381f7388f9a6ffec1.image.250x25015% off raspberry canes

It’s a great time of year to start thinking about next year’s soft fruit. Autumn’s the ideal time for planting, so this offer from Pomona Fruits is perfect. The variety shown here is ‘Joan J’ and it produces large berries that freeze well; a good thing if you ever get a bumper year. You get six canes here for £12.71 and use the code GWE9RSP to make sure you can take advantage of the discount.






TELE-CSave £5 on Fritillary bulbs

Bulbs, bulbs, bulbs. It’s all about bulbs at the moment, especially as if you get then in this month or next, they’re far more likely to flower well in their first year. I’ve always loved the Snake’s Head Fritillary, and Thompson & Morgan have a great deal – 100 bulbs for £14.98 – that’s £5 OFF! Awesome deal, whether you’re planting up pots or want to create a great swathe of flowers for a stunning spring display.






8358240% off and free delivery for ornamental onion ‘fantasia’

I love Aliums. They’re so structural, have those vast flowers and are also a brilliant plant for attracting butterflies and bees. If you want to get your hands on some at a reduced price, Spalding Bulb & Co have a pack of 12 for £6.85. However, if you get two, you get an additional 40% off the second pack. AND, if you enter the discount code ‘J3′ at the checkout, you’ll get free delivery too.

Prepare for autumn with pond maintenance

At this time of year, there’s little time to actually stop and watching the changing leaves and ripening berries. In the garden, it’s all go, from dead-heading and cutting back, to sowing hardy annuals for next year and preparing your Christmas veg. It’s also a time when you need to pay extra attention to any pools or ponds you may have to ensure they remain fresh instead of an eyesore.

Quirky water sculptures bring fun to gardens

Quirky water sculptures bring fun to gardens

I LOVE water in a garden, and really feel that no space should be without it. As soon as you mention the word water, people assume you need a great pond, but that’s not the case at all. In fact, with my current postage stamp garden, I simply have a thick plastic tub, little larger than a standard tub trug. It’s buried into the earth so it’s flush with the surface, and is home to a flag iris, some oxygenating weed and a couple of fish….and the occasional frog. It works ideally as a drinking pool for passing birds and mammals, and though in a true wildlife pond you wouldn’t ordinarily keep fish, these two keep the mosquito larvae away. But even if you don’t want a pool, there are many water features you can install which don’t actually have any open water at all. For instance, you can have a fountain covered in rocks so you get the delicate trickling sound without constant maintenance other than checking the pump’s working. There are also large and ornate water statues to create the ‘wow‘ factor in any garden and these can be used in small bodies of water.

Still, if you have a large enough space, then I for one (I don’t have kids and my dog can swim), would always have an open pond. As well as a gardener, I’m also an avid animal lover; there’s two cats, a dog, a tank of tropical fish, pond fish, chickens, finches and a vivarium of poison dart frogs….and that’s in a two up, two down, middle of terrace in London! Even if you don’t keep fish, then ponds need an overhaul every five to 10 years depending on their size as silt, dead leaves and plant material collect on the bottom and gradually reduce your beautiful water to a muddy bog. At this time of year, even if it’s the least you do, I’d;

A well landscaped pond opens the possibility of new plants

A well landscaped pond opens the possibility of new plants

  • Swathe a pond in netting to catch falling leaves. You can reduce the build up of muck on the bottom by preventing autumn leaves falling into the water. Whilst you can scoop them off at a later stage, it’s far easier to use netting.
  • Trim lilies and move them out of harms way. If you have a large space, as the weather cools, trim leaves down to the crown and ensure plants are deep enough that they’re able to avoid surface freezes.
  • Thin out marginal plants. I like seeing a pond surrounding with greenery, and it helps wildlife too, offering a secure place whilst finding a drink. BUT, you don’t want plant material to die in the water. As growth stops and flowers fade, it’s a good idea to thin plants, remove old foliage and give everything room to breathe a little. Then, in spring, you’ll see more vibrant life as the growing season gets underway again.
  • Scoop out some bottom sludge. Over time, regardless of what you do, silt and muck will build up. At this time of year, before it’s cold and fish have descended to the lower levels of a pond, scoop some of the dead material out. Leave it on the edge of a pond to allow small creatures to worm their way back into the water, before using on the compost heap or borders.
  • Consider installing a pond filter. Pond filters can be extremely advantageous for keeping the water clear, reducing the amount of pond maintenance and having happy fish. Swell UK have some great discounts on equipment so you don’t have to spend a huge amount of money if you can’t afford it.

If you’re looking for a little project (I know, ALL garden extravagances seem to start as LITTLE projects), then think about bringing water into the garden. It adds another dimension, a layer of interest and creates an entire new world of plants and creatures to explore too.

An African daisy to add simplistic chic

I always feel as if some plants are vastly overlooked for tropical looking species and varieties that are new on the scene. Osteosperumum (African Daisy), for example, seems to have a new colour shade coming out every years. However, I still have an extremely strong affection for Osteospermum jucundum; an extremely beautiful simple flower that has elegance and simplicity about it. I’ve kept it for decades, both growing up and in my own garden here in East London. It’s versatile, colourful, easy to grow and propagate and also attracts wildlife. What’s not to love?

© Thangaraj Kumaravel - Flickr

© Thangaraj Kumaravel – Flickr

One the best things about this base plant, as compared to the numerous brightly coloured varieties is, certainly in my eyes, it’s hardier. I’ve had cuttings of the same plant for over 10 years and though I’ve had bronze, yellow and purple variations on a theme, they’ve all finally succumbed to winter weather. Jucundum is a deciduous perennial that’ll pop back year after year. It’s extremely easy to take cuttings from too (I defy anyone not to be able to cut some stems, stick them in water and get them to produce roots), so as parent plants get leggy, it’s best to propagate before pulling up the main plant and replanting the fresh stock. Even if you don’t take cuttings, I’d advise a hard chop back every few years. As the stems lay on the soil, they’ll take root and other wither away behind this point, putting new growth onto the tips. It means that this plant literally creeps forward every year, moving around your garden as it sees fit unless you trim!

A crab spider ties to camouflage.

A crab spider ties to camouflage.

Another wonderful thing about the African daisy is that the flowers move around to meet the sun, opening and closing at the start and end of each day too. I love this active lifeforce that drives them, and it adds another wonderful dimension to the garden. Insects love them too, and when midday arrives and the petals have been pushed backwards to greet the rays, you’ll find all manner of bugs enjoying the nectar.

Back in the day, bronze and purple varieties flow across the path.

Back in the day, bronze and purple varieties flow across the path.

Though they prefer a sunny position, I’ve grown Jucundum in partial shade and it’s flowered well; the only downside is it becomes stringy more quickly. I’ve also create great pots of this beautiful flower with swathes of flowers hanging over the side. Popped into a herbaceous border, it’s a fine addition to any garden, but there’s no reason it can’t be a statement piece either. For example, how about dark topiary of dense green, highlighted by bright white flowers? Or a border of grasses and heucheras interspersed with dazzling daisies? For me, it definitely deserves a place as my plant pick this week!

Name: Osteospermum jucundum

Thrives In: Prefers full sun, but it’ll work in partial shade as long as you don’t mind snipping more often to keep it in shape.

Yearly Care: Deadhead as it flowers to keep fresh buds appearing. Before the onset of winter, take a few cuttings to ensure that if the worst occurs, you’ll have a few spare plants. Trim back heavily every year or so to ensure your clump doesn’t turn into a stringy, lacklustre mat.

Growing Medium: Well drained soil’s best, though it’ll grow in many substrates aside from heavy clay.

Quick Tip: Create striking pots with carex and osteospermum. Or, utilise in a sunny border to bring flowers throughout the summer months.

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(dot)com


  • It's the ideal season to think about planting tulips.

  • It's the ideal season to think about planting tulips.

  • It's the ideal season to think about planting tulips.

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