04 Dec 2021

Gardening: Make your rockery pop

In The Garden with Jo McGarry of Caragh Nurseries

Gardening: Make your rockery pop

Add a pop of colour to your rockery

I had a lovely message from a reader suggesting a topic for this week, which I will happily oblige with an answer.

The family sent in a picture of their rockery and would like to know what plants I would add to it, and also what my Top Five shrubs for each season are.

So firstly, thanks for your message and I’m delighted that you find my weekly ramblings useful for your garden. In terms of your bed, which you tell me is 20ft x 5ft along a west facing wall with plenty of sunshine at the front of your house, I think you are definitely missing some colour and a bit of height, but also some texture and softness.

I think Nepeta, or Catmint, is always a great addition to beds like this. I know it dies down in the winter, but you get such a long flowering period from it from April through to October.

I would also include a nice Hebe, something like Silver Dollar with its lovely foliage and year round colour. Usually in a smaller bed like this I would include Saracocca confusa to add winter flower and scent to the garden. As this bed is all in good sun it might not like that position, however, as I would usually plant it in partial shade. In this case, maybe add a Hellebore or two for winter interest instead - although make sure that when the plant is flowering you cut back all the older leaves to give it room to grow and the plant can put its energy into flowering and growing.

I would add another ground covering plant, which my correspondent says his daughter likes, something like a nice Salvia and a Thymus or a well behaved Heuchera, and then add some very on trend succulents. Sedums would be ideal, fitted through the bed.

One of my favourites to use in the garden currently is Senecio Angel Wings. As I use them so much we are currently out of these here at Caragh Nurseries, but I do hope to have the new batch ready very soon.

For ground cover in larger areas, Vinca minor is a great option as is Ajuga or Pachysandra terminalis. These three plants will cover an area well, but for this smaller garden they would take it over too much. Instead, I would use these plants for banks or larger underplanting areas that can take this sort of cover. Likewise, a good Geranium or Alchemilla Mollis covers really well and the benefit of these is that they control weeds.

My Top 5 Shrubs for seasonal interest

Viburnum Opulus

I love this beautiful shrub and you get so much bang for your buck with it. In May and June the branches of this vigorous deciduous shrub are smothered with large, snowball-like clusters of white or green-tinted white flowers - which sometimes age to pink. With maple-like, fresh green leaves that become purple-tinted in autumn, it's an excellent ornamental plant for a sunny shrub or mixed border.

Pieris Forest Flame

'Forest Flame' is a large evergreen shrub, the young foliage bright red, becoming pink and cream and finally green. It has small, cream bell-shaped flowers in large branched clusters in spring. Adding lots of colour.

Hydrangea Quercifolia

This is an extremely long-lasting, cone shaped plant which flowers from midsummer well into autumn. It changes colour as the season progresses. In autumn, its oak-shaped leaves turn a bronze, orange and reddish-purple before falling, creating a great run of interest - a delightful but different Hydrangea.

Nandina domestica ‘Blush Pink’

This is a particularly flamboyant variety of heavenly bamboo with blush pink young foliage in spring. The new growth retains its pink hue throughout the summer, developing to fiery red shades in autumn and winter.

During the following year, the leaves mature to green, but the fabulous colours are replaced by a new flush of fabulous pink growth. The vibrant Heavenly Bamboo also bears dainty white flowers in July followed by small red berries.

This superb semi-evergreen shrub makes an ideal specimen plant with plenty of year round interest.

Eunoymous Blondy

Blondy is a real showstopper with its variegated foliage in green and golden yellow. This beauty is very compact and bushy, at about 25-50 cm high (depending on pruning) and 25 cm wide. Euonymus Blondy is an easy plant and can be planted in the sun or partial shade, in any type of soil. With its compact shape and cheerful foliage, Euonymus Blondy looks well

Next week, I might consider the top trees for year round interest and offer options that will keep your garden in colour all year round

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