Gatecrashers: watch out for unwanted guests.


Plants are like people … Well, so much for my waxing lyrical about the joyous party that is the garden; I forgot to mention the gate crashers and other tricky customers that inevitably show up to make a nuisance of themselves – weeds. My particular bugbear is that absolute pest, oxalis, an odious little pernicious uninvited guest. Similarly, hairy bittercress has that “it’s only me!” characteristic of a bore, popping up on top of the rhizomes of irises, in pots, and anywhere you really don’t want it. If you leave it too late, it will have developed seed pods and the second you touch it, they burst, pinging thousands of their irritating offspring into the surrounding soil. This year’s stop/start weather seems to suit them just down to the ground – a few days of heavy rain, then sunshine, allows them to germinate, then a few more days of rain keeps us out of the garden and gives them an opportunity to put on growth. Infuriating. Some of these party poopers were actually invited into the garden in the first place, plants like Japanese anemones, which I initially loved but now hate with a passion. It is like a really annoying ex-boyfriend, who every time you think you have got rid of him turns up to stalk you at the most inopportune moment, insinuating himself right into the middle of an otherwise lovely gathering. While in this anthropomorphic vein, what about delphiniums? They are like extremely beautiful, refined, but ultimately incredibly tiresome women; high maintenance, needing rich compost (as opposed to men), staking and constant protection from slugs and snails. As friends, you put up with them for years until finally a eureka moment happens and you are able to say “no more!” and cut them out of your lives. I am replacing mine with steadier, ever-reliable and easy alternatives, Aconitum napellus ‘Arendsii’ and a really good campanula persicifolia or glomerata ‘Superba’. Both of these plants will provide the height and deep blues of delphinium without the constant care and attendance the latter need. July can be a tricky month. The garden is often neglected for long periods of time due to holidays and away days, the early flowering stars are over, and the great late summer/early autumn stalwarts – dahlias, heleniums, crocosmias and rudbeckias – are not in flower yet, so fill up with long-flowering and easy standbys. These are the old dependable friends, ones we often take for granted and don’t nurture as much as we should – acanthus, achillea, anthemis (all the As), knautia and lychnis – all easy and long-flowering, drought-tolerant and can manage without staking or much faffing around, and slugs hate them. Happy gardening, and fingers crossed the sun will shine on us.

Digging out horseradish

Digging out horseradish


One thought on “Gatecrashers: watch out for unwanted guests.

  1. Great stuff, did I get any of those low maintenence plants? You probably said all the names but they didn’t stick! Want to come and see my pretty garden tomorrow afternoon after 4? I could come and get you…. Caroline


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