A time to shine

Today I cannot help but write you a descriptive piece celebrating the painted sage, or Salvia viridis, that is flourishing in my garden, because it is simply lovely. I have two plants, one pink and one blue and their inky bracts add depth to the cacophany of colour that explodes in my garden throughout the summer. This arrangement is the result of my planting a rumpus of plants, with joyful abandon, over the last year or two. Bright, orange pot marigolds mingle with the softer, paler, creamy-yellow blooms of anthemis tinctoria, creating a mass of pretty daisies. The French lavender, that still continues to bloom even now in early November, looks magical; butterfly blooms basking in the morning light. Lady Bradshaw throws her cheerful, yellow, geum blooms into the mix. Waving them around on long, thin stems she can’t keep up this cheerleaders dance for long and her flowers begin to straggle; it’s a good thing the strappy irisis are there to prop her up. Delphiniums in blues, pinks and whites captivate for a moment but, now the summer party is over, it’s the painted sage that are left standing.

The blue salvia is flourishing and the top six inches look, for all the world, like they have been dipped in navy ink such is the intensity and saturation of the colour. The pink is not quite so rich in colour but nonetheless, it is still beautiful.


These two were left overs from a herb display I created at the Arley Hall flower show. I love doing that show! I have the best banter with the guys who build the stands because I change my mind on a whim when some new idea takes over. With much laughter and joking around we always get there in the end and I finish up with such happy memories and several sage plants!

These plants are my go to plants when I want to create an eye catching display full of colour so it makes perfect sense to have them in the garden. However these sages are not readily available at your local garden centres; they are the indie performers that rock my plant world.

Painted sages are hardy annuals which means they germinate, flower and die in a year. Fortunately they are easy to grow from seed each spring and will flourish in your garden from summer right the way through autumn.

How to grow salvia viridis

These hardy annuals can be sown in a cold frame or un heated greenhouse in August/September or February to April. Plant out when all danger of heavy frosts has passed.

Plant out in a sunny spot in well-drained soil 30 cms apart. These salvias reach a height of 45 cms and will flower from early summer well into autumn.


Plant combinations

These sages grow well with both French and English lavender. My blue variety grows beside lavender stoechas ‘Blue Madrid’ and I love that the colour is picked up in both plants. Lime green plants such as euphorbia oblongata and nicotiana  alata are also a fabulous combination.

The softer pink salvias also work well thrown into the mix with bright greens and inky blues. For a subtler effect grow them amongst the tiny white Pom-Pom flowers of gypsophila elegans.


Yes! Bees love salvia viridis!



A time to not prune

Whoa Manchester you have gone pruning mad! Judging by the questions asked during this weekends gardening hour you are eager to get out into the garden and snip and prune to your hearts content. You have out of control apple trees, wonderful wisteria whose unruly tendrils have left you close to hysteria, roses you want to raze to the ground and acers that you simply feel the need to chop!

Well hold it right there my friends; step away from those secateurs for this is not the time to trim.

This is a time to revel in the glorious colours of autumn. It is a time to trundle happily through drifts of fallen leaves; kick them into the air with gay abandon and watch them tumble back down to form a crisp golden carpet beneath your feet. This is a time to harvest the apples that hang, like ruby red baubles, on wayside trees and, without doubt, this is absolutely the best time to stop what you are doing and stand in awe of the Japanese maples.


Japanese maples, or acers, are grown for their foliage and eleagant stature. They come in shades of red, green, peach, pink and chartreuse; variegated or saturated. They have bold leaves, fine leaves, filigree leaves; all manner of leaves. They are tall, short, compact or spreading; there is an acer for every occasion.

Acers lend themselves perfectly to growing in containers in a loam based compost such as John Innes no 2. Others are happy growing by a pond and nearly all look wonderful in a gravel garden with a few well placed rocks. Of course these trees are well known for their place in Japanese gardens and no zen garden would be complete without them.

Perhaps it’s the gracefulness of their form or is it the exquisite beauty of the leaves that causes us to pause for a minute beside these precious plants.  Whatever their magic is I encourage you to fall under their spell. Take a moment, stop…and breathe. Stand in awe and absorb the colours, lose yourself in the detail, because these moments of mindfulness will do wonders for your wellbeing.

And, when the leaves have fallen from the maples, apples and roses, there will be a time to trim. It’s in late winter when everything’s asleep, apart from me. I will be writing you a post about pruning. So for now, enjoy the season!

And put those secateurs away 😉








Shed Hideaway

I’ve fallen in love with my shed. Whenever I drive into the show ground, turn the corner and see it standing there, a vision of loveliness, my heart melts a little. Painted in the palest of cream with smidges of dove-grey it reflects the sun and creates the perfect backdrop for the herbs and edible plants that surround it. The roof is adorned with masses of scented thyme; silvery and delicious the bees have discovered it and the air is filled with gentle buzzing.

I’m a little surprised by the palette I have chosen, I thought I would throw a few hot pink salvias in there to liven it up. I’m glad I didn’t. This little haven doesn’t need to shout out for attention it already captures the imagination.

Inside the shed the atmosphere is divine, warm and bright. Even without a roof light the sun comes flooding in. I’ve put a little chair in there and made a windowsill for the tender basil plants, it smells amazing. When I go in and close the door the outside world is forgotten. I take a deep breath and smile; this is my shed hideaway.