Tag Archives: plant advice

RHS shows-lifting the veil, date announced

We have now agreed a date of 18th March for our planned event. Billed as a masterclass aimed at designers and landscapers wishing to learn more about RHS shows and/or to share their experiences, we are confident this will be a good forum for networking and learning in an attractive environment.


As well as a wealth of design and contractor expertise to share, our friends at Coblands nursery will be talking about how they can help and support designers in RHS shows, and local nursery Tendercare have offered a walk and talk at their lovely site nearby. We used both of these in our recent show action and are delighted they will be joining us.

Do please email ruth (ruth@coolgardens.co.uk) if you would like to come along. There will be a charge to cover lunch and speaker expenses.

Happy Christmas


Firepit garden just finished…

This striking lush retreat is for a client wanting a very private entertaining space. A yew hedge and taller tropical plants were used to create screening from the drive and a bespoke firepit table, raised planters and seating complete the effect.

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Cool Gardens at Grand Designs Live!…

We were delighted to be asked to join the “ask an expert” panel at Grand Designs Live this week at the ExCel centre in Londons Docklands.

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Being an expert at this highly prestigious show was a real pleasure, and we threw ourselves into it with gusto. The Grand Designs Live team took online bookings in advance for about half the time slots, and pretty much all of ours were full, so we were flat out as the rest of the slots filled up fast too!

Holly, Phil, Mark and I all loved meeting all of those who kindly showed us their gardens and plans- we were so impressed with how well prepared many people were, and the range of gardens and projects was as ever very exciting to see. If you were one of our visitors do please stay in touch and let us know how things go- the Grand Designs Live team have asked us all to show some images next time of those we helped at this show which we think will be a really nice feature.

Guest slot- Favourite plants

We are not precious at Cool Gardens, and are delighted to work with a range of top designers as well as our own . Stephen A Ryan worked with us during the early part of this year and we discussed our favourite plants- I asked him to pull it together into a blog to share and here it is. This is the first of a group as I have asked each of our designers to do the same!

FAVOURITE PLANTS BLOG 1-Stephens Favourites

“Inside the world of garden design there are many fashionable planting trends that designers focus on and at the moment two of the most talked about ignore shrubs completely they are ‘New Perennial’ planting lead by the work of Piet Oudorf and meadow planting seed mixes and I have to admit that they both sometimes leave me a bit cold.

For the vast majority of clients a good planting scheme that works all year round is normally quite a diverse and complex collection of plants and I feel that shrubs are an integral part of them. When I last visited the Cool Gardens barn, Ruth and I started chatting about our favourite shrubs and I decided to put some of my favourite ones down on paper, so here they are. I would also love to hear of your favourites be they winter flowering, summer flowering, evergreen, fragrant or whatever takes your fancy! Stephen A Ryan

Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’

Viburnum "Eve Price"

A very useful winter-flowering evergreen shrub with heads of pinkish-white flowers, opening from pink buds from December to April, followed by dark blue fruit. This popular form is denser and more compact than others and thrives in sun or shade, the shiny, dark green foliage providing an excellent evergreen backdrop for ornamental and feature plants.

Can tolerate clay or sandy soil, prefers alkaline conditions.

Height & Spread: 2.5m x 2.5m

Full sun or partial shade.

Viburnum × bodnantense ‘Dawn

Viburnum bodnatense "Pink Dawn"

Not evergreen but the dense clusters of fragrant, dark pink flowers on bare stems from November to March are amazing and dark green leaves then follow. This upright, deciduous shrub is perfect for perfuming winter walks and to fully appreciate the scented flowers plant it in a moist, well-drained border. They also last a long time if  you cut the flowers for a display in the house.

Height & spread 3m x 2m

Full sun or partial shade.

Choisya ternata ‘Aztec Pearl’

Choysia ternata "Aztec Pearl"

An evergreen shrub with dark green leaves, and clusters of fragrant, pink-tinged white flowers in late spring. ‘Aztec Pearl’ is a compact shrub that’s ideal for the back or middle of a mixed border, and in hot summers it may flower again in late summer. It can also be grown in partial shade as an attractive foliage plant. Although it’s fully hardy, the leaves may be damaged by exposure to strong winds or frost.

Height & spread 2m x 2m

Full sun.

Sarcococca confusa – ‘Sweet Box

Sarcococca confusa

This wonderful, winter-flowering, (December to March) dense, evergreen shrub is perfect for a shady spot. To fully appreciate the fabulous, vanilla scent plant it in moist, well-drained soil close to an entrance or path. Copes well with dry shade and urban-pollution. Also good in planters.

Partial to deep shade

In moderately fertile, humus-rich, moist or dry  well-drained soil

Height: 2m Spread: 1m

Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna ‘Purple Stem’

Sarcococca Hookeriana

A suckering, evergreen shrub that is useful to  form a dense thicket in a shady area. The new shoots are flushed with an attractive dark purple hue which fade as the stems age. The stems are clothed with slender, dark green leaves and in winter sweetly scented, pink-tinged, white flowers followed by rounded blue-black fruit.

Height & spread 1.5m x 1.5m

Skimmia × confusa ‘Kew Green’

Skimmia "Kew Green"

A dome shaped evergreen shrub of variable size with dense clusters of fragrant, creamy-white flowers in April and May and aromatic, pointed, mid-green leaves. This award-winning shrub is perfect for illuminating a shady shrub border or woodland garden. Requiring little pruning, it’s a useful companion to taller, upright plants in a wide border. Once established it can cope under trees if soil has high level of O.M.

2m x 2m

Partial to full shade

Moderately fertile, moist but well-drained soil

Deutzia pulchra

Deutzia pulchra

A deciduous shrub useful as a specimen plant, or in a shrub border where its pretty late spring and summer flowers can be seen at their best. These star-shaped blooms are white with a faint pink flush and they appear in slightly dangling clusters. Its a native of woodland edges and so is tolerant of a little light shade as long as it is not too dry, but flowers best in full sun.

Partial to deep shade

In moderately fertile, humus-rich, moist or dry  well-drained soil

Height & Spread: 1m x2m

Hebe rakaiensis

Hebe rakiensis

A very popular hebe, this has clusters of large, white flowers in early and mid-summer and fresh green coloured evergreen leaves. It has a mounded shape and lends structure to a mixed border or oriental-style garden. It is also salt and pollution tolerant.

Height & spread 1m x 1m

poor or moderately fertile, moist, well-drained neutral to slightly alkaline soil.

Laurus nobilis

Laurus nobilis

A lovely evergreen and when grown as a shrub is great for flanking a set of steps, a doorway or path. Can be susceptible to wind scorch so plant in a sheltered, sunny or partially shady site and winter protection in cold areas. The green leaves are valuable for their culinary use.

Clip to any shape or size.

Partial to full sun

Moderately fertile, moist but well-drained soil

Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’

Garrya elliptica

An evergreen with dark oval leaves and long, silvery catkins up to 20cm long throughout winter. Best towards the back of a sunny, shrub border, against a wall or as a windbreak in coastal areas. Can also be trained against a wall.

Partial sun to deep shade

In moderately fertile, humus-rich, moist or dry  soil.

Height & Spread: 4m x 4m

Ceanothus ‘Blue Mound’ AGM

Ceanothus blue mound

Not as straggly looking as others, ‘Blue Mound’ is an evergreen shrub with glossy oblong-ovate leaves and compact heads of small bright blue flowers in late spring

Full sun

Height & spread 1m x 1m

Poor or moderately fertile, moist, well-drained neutral to slightly alkaline soil.

Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii ‘Profusion

Callicarpa bodinieri

A medium-sized deciduous upright shrub with 5-12cm long shaped leaves that are purplish when young, turning rosy-pink in autumn. This is grown for its violet-purple berries in early winter.

Height & spread 1m x 1m

Partial to full sun

Any soil type.

Fatsia japonica

Fatsia japonica

A popular tropical-looking, evergreen shrub that has huge, glossy, deep green palmate leaves and in autumn, produces showy panicles of spherical, creamy white globe flowers.

In full sun or partial shade

Height & spread 4m x 3m

Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’ AGM

Philadelphus 'belle etoile'

‘Belle Etoile’ is a compact deciduous shrub with arching growth with oval leaves. Prized for its highly-scented single white flowers tinged purple in the centre, in late spring and early summer

Full sun or partial shade.

Height & Spread: 1m x2m

Any soil type.

Pittosporum tobira – Japanese mock orange

Pittosporum tobira

Has clusters of highly scented creamy-white flowers in late spring and early summer and lustrous, deep green succulent evergreen leaves. Japanese mock orange makes a lovely specimen plant for a sunny, sub-tropical garden in a warm coastal site. Dense and rounded in habit, in frost-prone areas give it the protection of a south or west-facing wall.

Full sun or partial shade

Soil: fertile, moist, well-drained soil

Height & spread 5m x 2m – should be pruned.

Sambucus nigra Black Lace

Sambucus "Black Lace"

black elder

A  recent introduction this has almost black, dissected foliage and from May to June pale pink, musk-scented blooms. It makes an excellent shrub for all styles of gardens and has the added bonus of having blackish-red berries in autumn which are not attractive to birds.

Height & spread 2.5m x 2m –

Partial to full sun

Moderately fertile, moist but well-drained soil