Here’s a comprehensive list of plants that reside in mytwo diminutive courtyard gardens. All will tolerate a certain amount of buffeting by salt-laden gales, but are grown by me in relatively sheltered conditions. Most plants are also happy on chalk and reasonably drought tolerant. Many plants listed will not cope well with frost, so if you live further north in the UK check for hardiness in your area. Follow the links, where available, for more details.
The Jungle Garden
- Lyonothamnus floribundus ssp. aspleniifolius(Santa Cruz ironwood) – splendid ferny foliage and netted, peeling, red bark. The birds love it for fashioning their nests. Flowers, like a white achillea, appeared for the first time in 2015.
- Phillyrea latifolia– (Japanese green olive, above) – sculptural small tree with glossy evergreen leaves. Best allowed to develop itself into a brooding, cloud-like shape. Pleasing fawn-coloured bark.
- Laurus nobilis ‘Angustifolia’(narrow-leaved bay) – much prettier than the common-or-garden bay and very tolerant of salty winds.
- Pseudopanax chathamica (Chatham Island lancewood) – one of the strangest trees we’ve encountered. Leathery leaves, extremely slow growing and currently very slender. Insignificant flowers followed by black and green berries.
- Ficus carica ‘Brown Turkey’ (Fig) – had to be given a severe chop this winter, so just re-establishing itself.
- Pittosporum tobira ‘Nanum’(Japanese pittosporum) – forms rolling hummocks of glossy, evergreen foliage. For the finest foliage colour grow in light shade. For white flowers grow in full sun.
- Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Fota Blue’ (rosemary) – semi-prostrate with deep blue flowers.
- Digitalis sceptrum(Isoplexis spectrum, above) – a wonderful fuzzy-leaved, orange-flowered foxglove from Madeira. Definitely not hardy in colder areas, but well worth the gamble elsewhere.
- Euphorbia mellifera AGM (honey spurge) – best in full sun where it forms a wonderfully rounded bush with honey-scented flowers in spring. In shade it becomes leggier, but attractive nevertheless.
- Melianthus major AGM (honey bush) – glaucous, silvery, tooth-edged foliage which smells like peanut butter when crushed. Dramatic red flower spikes drip with nectar, hence the common name.
- Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’(Lady Banks’ rose, above).
- Holboellia latifolia– rampant climber with fragrant, waxy flowers in spring and unusual aubergine-shaped fruits in autumn.
- Trachelospermum jasminoides(Confederate jasmine) – allegedly unhappy on chalk soils, but not with us. Attractively evergreen and covered in showers of fragrant white flowers in July.
- Passiflora ‘Snow Queen’
- Clematis ‘Happy Anniversary’ – large, cheerful, mauve-blue flowers in summer.
- Clematis ‘Wada’s Primrose’
- Clematis ‘Guernsey Cream’
- Clematis ‘Fuji-musume’
- Geranium maderense (Madeiran geranium) – one of our signature plants at The Watch House. A very special, very tender geranium which forms a trunk topped by wonderfully tropical-looking foliage and atomic clouds of pink flowers in April and May. If in doubt, bring indoors over winter.
- Geranium palmatum – often confused with Geranium palmatum, but unforgivably so. Leaves are a similar shape but a paler green. Flower stems emerge and form a Catherine wheel of pink, rather than a dense cloud. Geranium palmatum is also significantly hardier and therefore longer lived.
- Agapanthus africanus(African lily, above) – another of our signature plants. Highly variable in colour, stature, hardiness and flower power, so best purchased from a reputable nursery. Evergreen and intolerant of ice and snow on its leaves, which can cause damage. Plants will regrow again in spring. Water April to September with tomato feed to encourage flowering.
- Echium pininana(tower of jewels) – A native of La Palma in the Canary Islands, but widely cultivated in milder parts of Britain and Ireland. Echiums are nothing short of showstopping, taking two or three years to build up sufficient head of steam to produce a 12ft spike of blue, mauve and pink flowers. These last from April until November and are irresistible to bees and butterflies.
- Echium wildpretti – A slightly shorter, scarlet version of the above. Forms a neat, attractive rosette of fine silvery leaves. New to us, so hardiness in East Kent is unproven. From Tenerife, Canary Islands.
- Zantedeschia aethiopica(Ethiopian lily) – requires little introduction. Retains its lush green leaves through the winter if the weather is mild, then produces gently fragrant white blooms in May and June. Completely pest free in my experience.
- Beschorneria yuccoides – looks for all the world like a common-or-garden yucca for most of the year, but in a good season produces enormous, rather phallic red stems bearing red and green flowers. Very exotic, very tolerant of drought and frost, but snails find it delicious!
- Convolvulus sabatius (blue rock bindweed) – not at all like the dreaded white flowered type. Non invasive and non twining, it drapes its blue flowers over walls, steps and rockeries.
- Solanum laciniatum (Kangaroo Apple) – a tender plant often grown as an annual for tropical planting schemes. Violet blue flowers followed by yellow and orange egg-shaped fruits.
- Astelia nervosa‘Westland’ (New Zealand Flax) – a wonderful, small astelia with silver leaves burnished red. Likes a moist soil and bright position, although tolerant of light shade. Great in woodland plantings or as an accent.
- Asarum splendens (Chinese Wild Ginger) – a fabulous evergreen ground cover plant which tolerates dry shade. Silvered, heart-shaped leaves look very similar to a cyclamen, but are evergreen in mild gardens.
- Spigelia marilandica (Indian Pink) – an exciting new addition to our garden. Hails from Missouri in the USA where it grows in moist woodlands and on stream banks. In our garden the red and acid yellow flowers look totally tropical. I can see this becoming a firm favourite.
- Polystichum setiferum ‘Divisilobum’
Bulbs, tubers and rhizomes
- Lilium regale AGM
- Lilium ‘Golden Splendour’ (above) – simplicity itself, this lily has pure, golden flowers with a wonderful spicy scent. It has made itself very much at home in our raised beds, so much so that I am loath to unsettle the clumps, even though they are now in the shade. The flower stems extend into the light, frequently coating hair and clothes with indelible pollen!
- Lilium ‘African Queen’ – they breed lilies big these days, but African Queen is stately without being out of proportion. The flowers have the grace and lustre you’d expect from a plant with such a regal name, accompanied by an exotic fragrance.
- Lilium ‘Debby’
- Lilium ‘Pink Flavour’ – a splendid, mahogany pink Asiatic lily which flowers in late June. Stocky enough to work well in a pot
- Hedychium ‘Stephen’ – There are better gingers in my opinion, but I have been building this one up for a few years so am loath to boot it out in favour of another. Apricot orange flowers are totally tropical but do not last long. Best appreciated for its arching stems of bright green foliage.
- Canna iridiflora (x ehemanii) – the queen of cannas, with carmine flowers drooping from tall stems.
- Cautleya spicata – a complete trouper, related to the gingers. Will stay for years in a large pot, rewarding with yellow flowers emerging from deep red sheaths. Keep well watered and watch out for slugs and snails.
- Roscoea auriculata
- Eucomis bicolor
- Dahlia ‘American Dawn’ – a stunning decorative dahlia which form a strong plant. The flowers are a combination of grape, apricot and raspberry – quite delicious!
- Dahlia ‘Firepot’ – displaying all the colours of a summer sunset, Firepot is compact, floriferous and perfect for pot culture. Grow alongside other fiery colours, especially crocosmias.
- Begonia corallina – a beautiful begonia with flowers like flambuoyant earrings and a climbing habit.
- Begonia ‘Firewings Orange’
- Begonia luxurians
- Begonia ‘Glowing Embers’
- Fuchsia ‘Orange Crush’
- Fuchsia ‘Dark Delicious’
- Fuchsia splendens
- Fuchsia ‘Space Shuttle’
- Fuchsia arborescens
- Rhodochiton atrosanguineus
- Mina lobata
- Ipomea indica
- Salvia patens
- Salvia corrugata
- Salvia ‘Hot Lips’
- Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’