Category Archives: garden

Alcea rosea

July’s plant of the month at suburban-garden is Alcea rosea otherwise known as the hollyhock.

Alcea rosea peachy pink - suburban-garden I just love the wide array of colours and really love the height they can give to a border. Some have already flowered while others are still waiting to open. These plants are also incredibly bumblebee friendly.

I know they do need some maintenance but a summer’s not the same without them! I’ve found that cutting off rusty leaves and leaving them pretty much to their own devices is much more beneficial for them. They are supposed to be drought-tolerant but when it is really hot I do make sure they are watered well.

What plants really make your summer come alive for you?

Read more about hollyhocks at suburban-garden.

Achillea ‘Moonshine’

Achillea Moonshine - suburban-gardensuburban-garden’s plant of the month for June is Achillea ‘Moonshine’

For some the brash yellow may be a little too much in certain garden planting schemes but it really helps brighten a corner of the garden that is shrouded in shade during the afternoon. Our achillea has been in the ground for four years now and goes from strength to strength. I love the flat heads of brilliant yellow that rise above mint-green downy leaves from May to September.

I’ve found that this achillea is less susceptible to slugs and if I cut it back after its first flowering, I may encourage a second flowering. This year I may also need to replace it with new plants grown from cuttings if the stems have started to go woody. It is a little extra work but as I couldn’t have a garden without this plant I don’t mind.

Read more at suburban-garden

Geum ‘Bell Bank’

Geum Bell Bank - suburban-gardenApril for me is the month of geums. There is just something so adorable about their
drooping heads and bright green leaves. Geum ‘Bell Bank’ is one of the spring flowering geums that provides a wealth of colour just as daffodils and tulips are starting to fade. And I just adore the peachy- pink colour petals.

Geums are really easy to grow and extremely hardy plants. They grow well in pots and are suitable for all soil conditions except dry and heavy clay. If you have clay soil, you can still plant geums in the ground, I would just recommend that you add plenty of organic matter before planting as well as a mixture of grit and compost.

Geum ‘Bell Bank’ is more suited to being planted in more moisture retentive soil in dappled shade however other spring geums are more tolerant of full or part sun. Read more at:

I have started to ‘collect’ geums and grow at least ten different types in our garden. What plants have you started to collect?


Achillea ‘Moonshine’

Achillea Moonshine - suburban-garden

June’s plant of the month at suburban-garden is Achillea ‘Moonshine’. Perfect for sunny places, this achillea is drought tolerant and will even cope with problem dry soil.

If you’ve tried achilleas before and they’ve just disappeared but you still want them in your garden then try this one as it is more hardy than other types and is less likely to topple over. Read more at suburban-garden

What’s your favourite achillea?

Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’

Cirsium rivulare 'Atropurpureum' - suburban-gardenMay’s plant of the month at suburban-garden is Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’. An attractive addition for any garden, with spiny green leaves and beautiful crimson heads, this extremely hardy thistle is a magnet for bees and other wildlife.

What’s your favourite plant for attracting pollinators, butterflies and other wildlife?

Geum ‘Moonlight Serenade’


April’s plant of the month at is the glowing Geum ‘Moonlight Serenade’. I adore the creamy-yellow flowers that float above silver-haired stems and leaves. This plant really does brighten up a shady spot. Find out more at: suburban-garden

At the moment our garden is slowly becoming a world of colour. The kerica japonica is awash with yellow  while the tulips are once again putting on a vibrant display. An unnamed pulmonaria plant that every year tries to sprawl across one of our terraces is proving to be a real bee magnet. Then right at the back of the garden underneath a slow growing conifer is a pale pink bergenia that has also captured my heart this year. What plants really make your garden come alive at this time of year?


Our garden in 2015

Back garden view - suburban-garden

Our garden is a work in progress. We started with a blank canvas albeit an overgrown, bramble and rubble infested one. To the untrained eye it still looks a mess but there is some light in among all the weeds. Every year we find that it grows more beautiful and the plants have started to grow into their surroundings.

Saying that there are some plants that refuse to flourish and these are moved to more suitable parts of the garden if possible. Slowly we are developing a greater understanding of the deep shade and extreme sun that inhabits our very long garden. The key is to work with what you’ve got rather than against it, have great patience and observe everything.

The following is a pictorial summary of the highlights from last year and includes a lot of photographs.

These are the main areas of the garden over the course of 2015 compared to two years ago when we moved in (first picture):

Most of our plants are still in pots from when we moved as we have a perennial weed problem in the form of ground elder, bindweed and grasses that needs to be minimised before we plant up our flower beds. Although this takes more time, we’ve learnt that getting rid of any problems before planting helps in the long run.

We also improve the soil when we plant by adding a combination of leaf matter, our own compost, shop-brought compost and rotted manure. I also add some sand and keep topping up the sand reserves on each bed every year to help drainage and improve root growth.

The very back of the garden was more akin to the secret garden with brambles and ivy having the run of the place. Even a massive tidy up refused to make a dent in the situation as a couple of months later the back was as overrun as before. And the discovery that we had bricks, glass and old carpets buried under the soil made clearing incredibly disheartening. This year we’ve made a concerted effort to really keep the back as clear as possible. Not only is the process of moving bricks tedious but we’ve also found that we’ve now got enough bricks to build a small shed!


2015 plant showstoppers:

It goes without saying that every flower in our garden gets photographed – at least three times during the course of the year, so these are the highlights from 2015:

Most of the geums in our garden are spring flowering and these ones prefer partial/dappled shade and really came into their own last year.

I adore the nodding heads of aquilegia plants in the spring. There’s something magical about these plants and they remind me of my Gran’s back garden that was overrun with all different variations of these plants.

Sunflowers are one of my favourite flowers. They may be showy and grow so tall that they suddenly collapse in a gentle gust of wind but they put such a smile on my face.

One of the most frustrating parts of moving is that I had to wait a whole year before these hollyhocks flowered but I was not to be disappointed. There isn’t anything better than a looking out of a window obscured by hollyhocks. The black hollyhock was incredibly long-lasting, flowering from May to November.

A host of poppies always graces our garden. Whether they are the Welsh poppy, Meconopsis cambrica, oriental poppies or poppies that set seed so easily these blooms produce an array of colours, shapes and textures.

And this a selection of other plants that really shone throughout the year:


2015 vegetable and fruit garden:

Last year was a mixed bag in terms of fruit and vegetables that we managed to grow in our garden. The tomatoes just kept coming right up until November and the broccoli proved to be a winner as well until it started to go straight to seed. Courgettes were brilliant until August and then they faded away rapidly. And we’ve never had such a large crop of potatoes as we did last year. 2015 was also our first year of blueberries so I’m hoping for a longer season this year.

However it wasn’t a great year for runner beans or strawberries. Both had very short seasons which was disappointing. We also tried growing leeks again which didn’t quite work out as everything went very chaotic in the summer and I forgot about them. There is one leek still vainly trying to swell up in the back garden and doing fine. But it’s just one! Still when we do eat it, I’m hoping the taste will be worth the wait.



We’ve been really lucky in that there is an abundance of wildlife that navigates the back garden boundaries. There are the usual suspects of robins, herons, hedgehogs, foxes and grey squirrels but we’ve also been privileged to see a muntjac deer, great spotted woodpecker, green woodpecker, newts, bullfinches, goldcrests and an unidentified bird of prey.

The one sad moment from last year was the strong winds from last autumn which not only took several of our tiles and fences down but also took a humongous ash tree that was in a neighbouring garden. It created a lot of destruction in other people’s gardens by taking not only other trees and a fence down in its wake but several sheds, a summerhouse and a greenhouse.

Ash tree - suburban-gardenTo me this tree was magnificent because the great spotted woodpeckers would happily scamper all over it, tapping at the bark. Each spring I would eagerly await to hear their tapping noises and hope to be able to record their presence during the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. With the tree gone I was afraid that I wouldn’t hear the recognisable tapping sounds again. However I have been so happy these last few months as I have started to hear the woodpeckers once more and know they are still around.

Change is inevitable and I accept that in the knowledge that we will plant some ‘manageable’ trees in our own garden and just to hear that tapping sound is comfort enough.

Just by compiling this short summary of our garden last year and searching through the many photos has prompted me to think about just how much we achieved last year. This year will present its own set of challenges within the garden but I am so very grateful for this little part of tranquility that we are looking after.