Growing daphnes


Daphnes bring plenty of interest to the garden during late winter and spring, with clusters of highly fragrant flowers in white, pink or mauve. They look great in mixed borders and shrubberies, and you can also get dwarf forms that are suitable for growing in containers. Not only do they bring colour and structure to the garden and provide early-season nectar for bees, but the flowering branches can be used for cutting too.

Flowering shrubs, such as daphnes, are a great low-maintenance alternative to flowering perennials or bulbs, providing year-round structure and height. Producing a repeat show of flowers every year, they’re easy to grow, non fussy and usually last for many years.

How to grow daphnes


Choose a sheltered site in full sun or partial shade with any free-draining soil. Dig a hole which is larger enough to fit the rootball, plus a little extra room. Dig in a an organic mulch to the bottom of the hole to give the plant a really good start. Position the plant in the pot and backfill with soil, firming down afterwards. Water generously after planting.


Daphnes require very little maintenance. Most evergreen varieties have a compact growing habit – they don’t tend to become unruly, therefore don’t need to be pruned. Larger, deciduous varieties, such as Daphne mezereum (pictured) can be pruned after flowering if necessary, but should be kept to a mimimum.


Two fragrant daphnes for £12


Enjoy the gorgeous scent of these beautiful and low maintenance daphnes from spring onwards every year. These particularly compact varieties are ideal for growing in containers or small gardens, attracting bees and filling the air with fantastic fragrance. With this offer, you can buy the collection of two (white and pink) for just £12. Only available while stocks last, order early to a avoid disappointment!

Save on daphnes now

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Top 10 bulbs to plant this spring


Summer-flowering bulbs provide some of the biggest, best and most exotic-looking blooms, and spring is the best time to plant them. Not only do they look fabulous growing in borders or containers, but many make wonderful cut flowers too, so you can also enjoy freshly-picked blooms in your home.

You’ll often find these beauties ready-grown and in full bloom at the garden centre during summer, but this is the most expensive way to buy them. With a small amount of early planning you can easily grow them yourself, setting your garden up to be a colourful oasis at a fraction of the price.

So, if you’re itching to get out in the garden or even just to start planning your glorious summer of colour, you’ll be pleased to know that now is a great time to start.

Read on to find out the top 10 summer-flowering bulbs to plant now, plus growing tips…

Continue reading my guest blog post on Farmer Gracy –>

Save 15% on dahlias at Farmer Gracy


Save 15% across the entire range of premium dahlias at Farmer Gracy until 31 March 2018. Plant them this spring for impressive flower displays throughout summer! Please enter offer code GONJ15DAHL at checkout to claim your discount.

Buy dahlias now

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Growing crocosmia


Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’

I can’t wait to get out into the garden and start planting this spring, so I’ve been having a think about what I’d like to grow this year. I like plants that do well without too much input from me, so crocosmia is definitely on my list. It’s just so easy to grow and it really isn’t fussy – I know I can just pop a few plants in this spring and wait, they’ll go on and do their thing later in the year.

Crocosmias provide excellent late-summer colour, and they’re available in a range of fiery shades to add that bit of fresh brightness that’s really needed at that time of year, lasting well into autumn. Best of all, they’re fully hardy so they can just be left in place to repeat year after year.

Crocosmias are grown from bulbs, and spring is the best time to plant them. They’ll thrive in any sunny location with free-draining soil. I tend to order most of my plants online – crocosmia bulbs are normally sent out by the supplier in the spring. They’re fully hardy, so there’s no need to worry about protecting from frost or planting into pots to start off, simply give them a good soak in a bucket of water to wake them up, then plant them relatively shallowly straight into the ground. Water them well after planting and then leave them to it! It’s a good idea to continue watering them throughout their first summer because they’ll need to anchor their roots while they establish.

In late autumn the leaves will start to turn brown. At this point, I cut the whole lot right down to the base. After a few years, the clump will start to grow. They are easily divided by lifting and literally chopping the roots clean in half with a spade, then both halves can be replanted, essentially giving you a free plant!

Save on crocosmias


Plant crocosmias this spring and for vibrant colour throughout summer and autumn. Crocosmias are fully hardy and easy to grow, providing masses of colour with very little effort – it’s hard to go wrong with this reliable plant! You’ll save 20% on the brilliant range of premium crocosmia bulbs at Farmer Gracy until 31 March, 2018. Simply enter offer code GONJ20CROC at checkout to claim your discount.

Save 20% on crocosmias now

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How to train a climbing rose

Photo © Jim Powell

Besides Christmas shopping, now is a great time to tend to your roses. They’re dormant until around late-February, so take the opportunity to give them a good prune, remove old branches and train them to shape.

You can achieve this traditional, fan-shaped look by training the long stems as they grow. Once established you’ll be able to replace old flowering stems with fresh young shoots to keep it happily thriving.

Which rose?

It’s not all about choosing the flower you like the best. You want one that’s the correct size and shape for the space. Choose a climbing rose which grows anywhere up to about 3m tall (depending on the size of the space available).

Growing supports

I think wire supports look best as they are virtually invisible from a distance and the rose can quickly cover them. You will need to drill holes into the wall and screw in vine eyes and then secure a heavy duty garden wire in horizontal lines between them. You can also use trellis – you may need more than one if you have a large space to fill.

How to train

The rose will produce multiple long stems throughout the season. Choose the healthiest ones and tie them to the support. Try to avoid positioning stems across each other – ideally you want them all to sit in their own space, running parallel and opening out into a fan shape.

How to maintain

Remove any long stems that are growing from the rootstock, or that are in the wrong position, as and when they grow. Continue to tie in healthy young stems as they grow and start removing old ones when you need to make room. Continue to avoid crossing branches too.

Top tips

  • Deadhead flowers throughout the summer to encourage new ones to grow.
  • Leave the last flush of flowers to die back naturally rather than deadheading them, they’ll turn into lovely red hips providing autumn and winter colour.

Roses are incredibly versatile – find out more ways to grow them in Kendra Wilson’s book My Garden is a Car Park and Other Design Dilemmas (Laurence King, £12.99).


One of my favourite climbing roses…

Rose ‘A Shropshire Lad’
£17 from David Austin Roses

Save on roses at Bakker

Save on roses at Bakker

Save 10% across the entire range at Bakker, including their fantastic collection of roses. Simply enter offer code BLOG10OFF at checkout to claim your discount. Offer is valid until 30 June 2018 and can be used on anything in the range, including plants, tools, pots and much more.

Save 10% at Bakker now

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Plants for dry shade – video

Watch my quick video where I show you three plants that can grow in dry shade under a pine tree…

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Things to make with elderflowers



Elders grow absolutely all over the place – they’re the ‘weed’ of trees. We’re lucky to have them, because their flowers are so delicious and so versatile, you can make a whole host of tasty treats and drinks with them. Best of all, they’re free!

When picking elderflower, make sure you choose trees that are growing away from roadsides, as they can be polluted or dirty. The best place to pick elderflowers is in coutry hedgerows or in parks. The flower heads a big, so you’ll need to take a few carrier bags with you.

Here are some great elderflower recipes that I’ve found online that I’d like to try…

Deep-fried elderflowers with sugar, salt and fresh chilli
These work well as a tasty and unusual savoury snack to serve with drinks. Find Stevie Parle’s recipe for deep-fried elderflowers with sugar, salt and fresh chilli on

Elderflower delight
This must be the quintessentially English version of Turkish delight… Find the recipe on River Cottage – Elderflower delight.

Elderflower and gooseberry vodka
This fragrant and easy-to-make drink can be served ‘on the rocks’ or added to a cocktail. Find the recipe on BBC Good Food – Elderflower & gooseberry vodka.

Elderflower gin and sour elder
Here are two tasty summer tipples. Find Stevie Parle’s recipe for elderflower gin and sour elder on

Gooseberry, elderflower and Sauvignon sorbet
A refreshing and sophistacted dessert to wow your guests! Find the recipe on BBC Good Food – Gooseberry, Elderflower and Sauvignon sorbet.

Elderflower fritters with honey
Eat these as a dessert, a decadent garnish or a sweet nibble. Find the recipe on BBC Good Food  – Enderflower fritters with honey.

…That should keep me busy for a while!

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I love gardens with lots of flowering perennials – they’re so much more substantial than bedding plants. Not only do they provide plenty of colour, height and movement, but they’re relatively fuss free and easy to care for too. One of the best things about perennials is that they stay in your garden and flower every year, each year forming a bigger, more established clump.

At the end of the flowering season, chop perennials right back to 1-2 inches. They’ll then become dormant for winter and then regrow the following spring.

Here are some easy sun-loving perennials which are flowering now in my garden:




Verbascum like hot, sunny borders and cope well with drought. Some varieties grow very tall and are perfect for the back of the border. This one (‘Southern Charm’) is shorter, growing to under 1m, but it is quite bendy and usually requires staking.

Hardy geranium



Hardy geraniums are great because they’re flower from June right the way though summer. They require very little maintenance – just cut them right back if they start to look tatty and they will grow back and flower all over again. They don’t really need watering and can grow in very poor soil, in sun or partial shade. In my opinion, these are the best summer-flowering perennials for beginners. I think this one is Geranium ‘Johnsons Blue’.




Astrantias are low maintenance and look great in the border, plus they also make great cut flowers too. They come in various shades of pink, mauve, white and burgundy.




Sisyrinchium grow well in sunny borders with very little fuss, and they’re ideal if you don’t want to spend lots of time watering. The leaves are in a similar ‘fan’ shape to irises and multiple, small creamy yellow flowers are produced up the stem. Growing to about knee height, they look great planted in clumps near the front of the border.




Nepeta is also known as catmint. Bees and butterflies love it, and it has a soft, wild look to it, making it ideal for wildlife and cottage-style gardens. The leaves have a sweet, minty smell.

If you’re a busy person and want colour in your garden but don’t have time for faffing around, give these a go. They’re quite bog standard, but they’re very reliable and don’t ask for much care.

Do you like flowers which attract bees, butterflies and other wildlife? Read my other blog post, Plants for pollinators.

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