Idea for Spring window box, pot or basket

Looking for something a bit different to give a great display and last through Spring…into Summer?

Tew planter

Athyrium niponicum var. pictum, the painted lady fern will brighten a shady area with its spectacular wine-red petioles and richly coloured fronds. If it does catch a little sun the colours become more intense. Here we have planted painted lady with a vivid Ajuga reptans in a lead trough for a client whose garden we maintain in Great Tew.

All spring container planting

Whilst in a lovely Oxfordshire garden in Chinnor this week creating a herbery and giving a good seasonal Spring tidy-up we planted these baskets, three of, giving a repeat effect with maximum style in an old stone house courtyard. Sorry photograph is not the best in the rain! Scilla campanula, Iris pixie, Ajuga reptans, Hedera trailing and Pansy white with yellow blotch. Lots of form and texture, little informal and unexpected pops of colour from the Iris.


Perennial herbs with good culinary use were planted including bay, chives, hyssop, oregano, curly parsley, french parsley, sage and common thyme. Hyssop is an old herb making a comeback, a good flavouring herb fresh or dried, it tastes a lot like mint but more grown up. Fresh it can be used in salads, summer soups and stews and has the versatility of infusing in puddings, cooking with fruit or sauces. Simon was on BBC Radio Oxford talking about hyssop live at The Big Feastival as it created much interest. We left some space for more summer herbs and to allow the herbery to flourish.

Mad about Muscari?

Grape hyacinths…do you love them, dislike them or really know them?

Many gardeners view grape hyacinths as ruffians, seeding freely and producing masses of tiny bulbils. But these delightful scented spring bulbs can be used in a wide variety of situations; you just need to know which plant to choose.

Naturalising – The cultivars of Muscari armeniacum seed freely and spread quickly, so they are perfect for naturalising in lawns and meadows. ‘Early Giant’ and Album’ (a white cultivar) have large flowerheads that will stand out above a lawn. Consider planting the bulbs in wide rows or other shapes to create a more formal design.


Borders – Grape hyacinths look effective at the front of mixed borders or when combined with other spring flowers such as daffodils, squills and wood anemones. M. latifolium is a slow-spreading species with tall flower spikes that can stand above other foliage. The flowerheads have a pretty two-tone effect with dark blue fertile flowers at the base and pale blue sterile flowers at the top. Another plant that looks good in borders is M. botryoides ‘Album’ which has tall, graceful spikes with white flowers.

Containers – Grape hyacinths can be grown in pots and containers, either on their own or with other spring bulbs such as narcissi. Pale lavender-blue M. ‘Valerie Finnis’ and yellow M. macrocarpum ‘Golden Fragrance’ are eye-catching cultivars that will hold their own amongst other plants or create a stand out display by themselves.

Alpine Beds – Smaller species with a tidy habit are best displayed in raised beds with other low-growing plants. M. pseudomuscari and M. commutatum form small clumps and grow best in a sunny spot.

Forcing Bulbs – Some grape hyacinths force more easily than others. M. armeniacum ‘Christmas Pearl’ does not require a cold period and is easy to force: pot up bulbs in autumn, leave them for 12 to 16 weeks in a cool, dark, frost-free location, then move the plants into indirect sunlight to trigger growth. When they are 10-15cm tall move them to a sunny windowsill to encourage flowering.



Bewitched by Hamamelis

Bewitched by Hamamelis

With their scented, spider-shaped flowers, Hamamelis sparkle in the winter sunlight and herald the coming of spring. Their crimped petals in hues of red, orange and yellow always put a smile on my face and brighten even the gloomiest of days.

Hamamelis has a long history of use by humans. They are more commonly known as witch hazels, and it is from the bark of Hamamelis virginia that the astringent witch hazel is extracted. From a small genus of five species there are now more than 100 cultivars, and the good news is that there is one to suit almost every garden.


One of the most compact cultivars is Hamamelis intermedia ‘Harry’, growing to 2.5m x 2.5m. It is an early flowering shrub with large ribbon-like, light orange flowers and a fresh floral fragrance. ‘Diane’ is a popular selection with sweetly scented, rich coppery-red flowers and a spectacular display of autumn leaves in shades of yellow, orange and red. At 4m x 4m it is one of the larger cultivars, and has a particularly spreading habit. ‘Orange Peel’ is particularly well named. With petals like candied peel and the sweet scent of marmalade, it flowers through January and February and colours well in the autumn. ‘Barmsted Gold’ has eye-catching bright yellow flowers that smell of bergamot. It is one of the most commonly available cultivars and is strong, reliable and free-flowering – great for beginners!

My favourite is ‘Vesna’, a vase-shaped witch hazel that is less spreading than most, growing taller than it does wide. It has pretty orange-yellow flowers that smell of honey and a beautiful display of yellow and orange leaves in the autumn.


Hamamelis are versatile shrubs and thrive in many gardens; however, they do prefer a slightly acidic soil that holds water in summer and drains well in winter. The only real downside is that Hamamelis take between four and six years to get going, so you will have to be patient. But they are worth waiting for: in a few years you will be rewarded by a dazzling display of flowers that will become more prolific each year and leave you smiling on the coldest winter days.

Choose an open site with good light and water well while they establish. They flower on one-year-old wood so if required prune little and often rather than cutting back into the plant.



Kitchen garden for Jamie Oliver

We were delighted to be asked by Jamie Oliver’s The Big Feastival to design and produce The Little Patch ‘grow your own kitchen garden’ at Alex James’s Farm, Kingham, Oxfordshire on 1st and 2nd September 2012.

Here’s a taster of what you’ll find in the garden… espalier apples, step-over apples and pears, speciality fruits, salad vegetables and luscious legumes. A culinary corner in which to go mad with herbs and discover new tastes and scents – young gardeners will love this too. In The Little Patch you can even make an herb bouquet to pop in a jug or as a gift.


Get ready to do the Chelsea Chop

With Chelsea Flower Show fast approaching, we do the Chelsea Chop at the end of May. A method of pruning to keep the size of your herbaceous plants compact, it produces particularly good results on Sedums, Heleniums and Solidago. In a bed where a group of herbaceous plants are repeated, the chop delays flowering until later in the summer and gives a much longer lasting display.

Gap planting in a cottage garden

Prune, preen and plant. The tidy beds and border service includes trimming and deadheading established plants so that they look full and flourishing. Through natural plant cycles and the effects of climate or environment, openings emerge. Customers often ask “What can I plant in the gaps?” and we are happy to help with a suggested plant list which you can buy yourself or ask us to source from local nurseries or further afield.

Recent suggested list for a customer

  • Helenium ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’
  • Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’, particularly lovely variety which also featured in Andy Sturgeon’s Best in Show garden at Chelsea Flower Show last year
  • Ajuga reptans ‘Burgundy Glow’
  • Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’
  • Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’
  • Geum ‘Lady Stratheden’
  • Euphorbia griffithii

Gap Planting

Natural garden boundary design

The Oxfordshire Gardener was commissioned to create a linear scheme focused on a beautiful pleached hedge to give natural height. The fence was first erected onto the boundary, a double ‘H’ design was constructed to the face of the fence to soften the upright lines. Five pleached trees were planted, 8ft in height and spanning 40ft in total to create an instant young hedge. A training system was put in place to develop the form of the hedge as it grows.

Book an event gardener

Booking an event gardener can help in the preparations for your event, so that your garden will be looking its best – lush and green, rich in flowers, tidy edges, preened pots or gleaming patios. To prepare for your celebration, send us a quick enquiry or call us on 01869 338592. We are here to help!

Book an Event Gardener