3 June 2016 - 9:43am

We've been married for 40 years this month. Blimey.

It’s our 40th wedding anniversary this month. Can’t believe it really. I now know my lovely old Dad was spot on when he told me many years ago that the older you get the quicker the time flies by. Peter has just been playing some 70s music including Barclay James Harvest on a proper long playing record, just two tracks per side of 20 minutes, fab. We had Cat Stevens (as he was called then) ‘Morning has Broken’ as part of our wedding service as did many of our mates who got married in the mid seventies. Takes you back. I had mock orange blossom in my hair when I got married. It wilted a bit, especially by my third glass of champagne, but I still love it, especially the fragrance, and we have several bushes in the garden. The most frequently planted is probably the double flowered Philadelphus 'Virginal' but the single flowered version is just as lovely. There are also dwarf versions and ones with paler leaves. Neither are to be confused with Choisya which I’m much less of a fan of, especially that nasty gold leaved version, but I know I am in the minority there! As with most spring/early summer flowering shrubs, they do get a bit congested eventually and benefit from a proper prune and a good feed after flowering. Red roses and stephanotis were in my wedding bouquet. I had a go at growing a stephanotis but failed, I think you need a conservatory to do it justice but please let me know if you have had more success. Red roses are much easier: my favourite it the Gallica rose ‘Tuscany Superb’ (pictured). It is an old rose, so only flowers once but it is so worth it. Its petals are like velvet and it is the most gorgeous ruby red. It smells wonderful too. It’s a bit gawky in the border, so I have it underplanted with a pink scrambling hardy geranium. As long as you feed them both well, they will thrive together as close companions. Another shrub, and one often overlooked but worthy of wider planting in my humble opinion, is Berberis. We have a few bushes here and they are trouble free and make good companions to other plants. You can trim them hard and even make a hedge of them. They are a bit spikey so can deter folk making an unwelcome entry to your garden, or you can leave them to grow more naturally as a backdrop in a mixed border. I have a great combo at Charnwood, red leaved Berberis (‘Harlequin’ from memory) underplanted with orange lilies, with a stripy leaved grass, a Miscanthus I think. It all works well, is reasonably trouble free apart for the bloomin’ red lily beetle, and lasts a long while looking good. Berberis have a dainty little orange flowers in summer. I feel like I’ve been weeding forever! It’s good to keep on top of it if you can but it is hard to keep up I know. This year I’ve bought more bark chippings for a generous mulch. It stops annuals from self seeding which is a bit of a shame, but it has helped me keep on top of some areas. Gravel or mushroom compost will do the same job.