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Green Fingers: 'Providing interest year around in flower beds'

Green Fingers: 'Providing interest year around in flower beds'

AS we pass the longest day of the year we realise that summers days are numbered, and we must make the most of them. We have been busy tending to our vegetables and plants as well as ensuring our flower beds look their best.

Last weekend we bought plants and planted a new mixed flower bed in front of our garage. We wanted this bed to be made up of both shrubs and herbaceous flowers.

This ensures that when the herbaceous plants die down in the winter there is still some interest in the bed. We also wanted to ensure that we had some plants with scented flowers, so we did some research and made choices.


A spot in well-drained soil in a sunny bed or border suits Penstemon down to the ground (they hate waterlogging) and they are the easiest things to propagate from shoot-tip cuttings in summer. This is a cost-effective way of increasing stock- particularly if you have a larger garden.

Overwinter the youngsters in a cool greenhouse or a cold frame before planting them out in April and leaving them in the ground in successive years until they fizzle out and lose their vigour. But that will be several years ahead, especially if you give them a sprinkling of rose fertiliser in spring and again in summer to keep them going. Other than that they are trouble-free and do not even need staking.

The problem is deciding when to ditch them and replace them with new ones, for they are really keen to keep on going. Our garden is a relatively new one, only being cultivated for the last five year.

So issues of spent plants needing replacing has not yet occurred. Other than that Penstomon are a highlight of summer and I can’t recommend them too highly. Give them a whirl and see if you agree.

Nepeta (Catmint)

The most likely type of catmint you will see for sale is: six-hill-giant. Nepeta x faassenii ‘six hill giant’ is a herbaceous perennial. This means that, although it will live for years, it will never get woody.

It is also considered an herb plant, the genus having been used medicinally for centuries in several ways, including as a sedative. I have to say that I have found this plant to be among the hardest working plants in our garden.

Nepeta’s are fragrant plants, the grey-green leaves of Nepeta x faassenii may be harvested and dried for use in potpourri. The violet-lavender flowers are small but numerous, and they are shaped like little trumpets. The plant will reach 2 to 3 feet in height, with a somewhat greater spread.

Growth habit is mounding. As a hybrid plant, you don't have to worry about it spreading via seed (it's sterile); nor will it spread via rhizomes, despite its roots in the mint family. So here you have two shrubs that work great in any garden, are great for filling gaps in summer colour and provide food for pollinators.

Contact James


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