When choosing plant for your garden, what is it that helps you to decide? Do you, like me, have an anxiety attack if there is a gap in your border? Perhaps you buy on impulse because the flowers are pretty, or the right colour, or flower at the right time? Or do you chose for structure or size? How many times have you bought a plant that claims to be compact and ends up a few years later as a giant shrub? And do you consider the conditions you are planting into before you buy?
I have several mature plants of galtonia which I had grown from seed some years ago that had outgrown their pots. So I decided to consult my garden dictionary to find the best spot for these now large bulbs in the garden. The description went as follows:
Galtonia: Genus of summer flowering bulbs grown for their elegant spikes of funnel shaped flowers. Needs a sheltered, sunny site and fertile, well drained soil that does not dry out in summer.
Right, so it needs shelter, sun and soil that is not dry but is well drained. How on earth do I replicate that? At a recent plant sale, I asked a specialist iris grower what conditions her bulbous iris preferred. She said they liked well drained clay soil. Have you ever come across such a thing? Not without tons of compost to break it up and endless digging I hear you say, and could you call it clay soil then?
The conclusion I've come to is not to worry too much about such things. Its obviously no good planting a herb that originated on a sun baked Mediterranean hillside in a shady bog garden, or an acer in a site exposed to a constant gale, but as long as you are reasonably sensible and are prepared to water in your new plants well in their first year, most plants will do their best to survive. If you get it wrong the first time, you can usually move it and try again.
If you are interested in finding out more about what to plant where, Beth Chatto is the expert and has written books about her experience of planting in both dry and wet sites. In her garden near Colchester in Essex she planted up a dry garden on the site of an old car park which has thrived magnificently throughout many hot and some not so hot summers. It's well worth a visit if you are ever in the area, there is a gorgeous woodland garden and a plant nursery as well. The website with an on-line catalogue is www.bethchatto.co.uk telephone 01206 822007.
Now is a great time to go visiting gardens. If you pick up a National Gardens Scheme yellow book, you will find dozens of lovely private gardens to roam around for about £2.50 a time, many of them local. New NGS gardens this year open this year and close to Tollerton include 17 Main Street Keyworth (June 1), and Elms Farm in Bassingfield (10 August), both in the afternoon. If you visit a garden and enjoy it, please let me know and I'll include your recommendation on this page.