Colour in the Garden

How colourful can your garden be? What are the perfect colour combinations to add character and cohesion to your borders and containers? Following on from her popular blog, Ruby Simpson, Nicholsons Lockhart Garratt Planting Designer, is going to treat us to monthly suggestions of colour combinations for your garden.

If you want to refresh your memory, you can read the full blog by clicking here. Otherwise, scroll down and read this month’s suggestion!

Monthly Suggestions


Happy New Year everyone!

After the sparkling excitement of Christmas and New Year, January can feel a bit gloomy and miserable – but I’m here to brighten up your garden with some more plant suggestions to consider for 2023!


The creamy-white flowers of Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ smell delicious! They flower throughout the winter and provide a valuable source of nectar for any little bugs that may have been woken from hibernation too early, like bumble bees!

Sarcococca confusa (known as Winter Box) has highly scented white flowers opening amongst glossy, evergeen foliage. It is sometimes slow to get going, but eventually creates some good winter structure within the border.

A lovely, large shrub is Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’, with pretty, pink clusters of fragrant flowers, sprouting along the bare branches in winter.

Camellias come in various shades of pink, red and white, with different shapes, sizes and styles of flower – single, double, paeony-flowered, open with yellow centres, small flowers, large flowers, bicoloured, streaked, cupped, crinkled and frilled. The possibilties are endless. They are evergreen, prefer partial shade and need acid soil to stay healthy. The best option for gardens with alkaline soils is to grow them in a pot in ericaceous compost.

I think there’s always something quite special about a Holly (Ilex aquifolium). Regardless of the time of year, the deep-green, glossy leaves and strong branches always seem to have a grand presence. They are reliable, non-fussy, elegant trees and shrubs that can be pruned into topiary shapes, kept small and neat, or just left to grow…

Chimonanthus praecox is such a beautiful shrub. From afar, the tiny butter-yellow flowers seem almost insignificant, but up close, they are dainty little bells, absolutely packed with fragrance! It’s fairly slow growing but will eventually reach about 4m.

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ is one on my all-time faves. It may seem the obvious choice for this time of year, but I just love the strong rose-like scent that the tiny flowers exude in the depths of winter. Not only that, but this shrub is happy in shade and has gorgeous evergeeen leaves, delicately-margined with creamy yellow.

Magnolias are handsome shrubs and trees that are happiest in neutral to acid soil. They come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes and the range of colours and flower shapes available give you plenty to choose from. However, in January, they are covered in fuzzy, little, silver-grey buds which are so soft and velvety to touch and look absolutely delightful!


Snowdrops of course! What else did you expect? Galanthus nivalis have tiny, nodding heads swaying just above the grass when they bloom, and look especially wonderful when planted en masse!

Cyclamen coum make little blankets of pink when planted in groups. With their small and intricately-veined leaves, they make a lovely addition beneath trees or in a shady spot at the front of a border.


Clematis ‘Winter Beauty’ needs a sheltered spot to be happy, but if it is happy, it’s a real beauty! Evergreen foliage and charming, white, bell-shaped flowers with pointed petals – what’s not to love?

There are so many other things that look great at this time of the year – Skimmia, Viburnum tinus, Berberis darwinii, Hellebore flowers, Cornus stems, Birch bark – and if you’re struggling for ideas, why not pop into our plant centre and speak to one of our horticulturalists?

As much as it can be difficult to find beauty at such a dark and dreary time of the year, it is possible – you just have to look for it. Everyone can benefit from year-round interest in the garden with a bit of inspiration and some careful planning.

Let 2023 be the year we all put more thought and care into our gardens, wildlife and nature in general…

Top: Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’, Clematis ‘Winter Beauty’, Sarcococca confusa, Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’

Middle:Camellia varieties, Ilex aquifolium, Chimonanthus praecox, Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’

Bottom: Galanthus nivalis, Magnolia varieties, Cyclamen coum

PLEASE NOTE: We may not have all of these plants in stock at one time. Please speak to our plants sales team by calling us on 01869 340342 (option 1) or emailing


The year is starting to warm up! Brighter mornings, longer days and a bit more sunshine! We are all getting tempted to get out into the garden and start tidying it up and refreshing areas with new planting.

Although it still feels early in the year and summer feels a long time away, March is a lovely month when you have winter flowers still blooming, and spring flowers beginning to wake up. There are so many gorgeous plants that can cheer us up and I’m going to share some of my favourites with you to liven up your March garden!

Shrubs and Trees:

Prunus autumnalis, or winter flowering cherry tree, starts blooming late in the year and is still going now – gentle pink blossom on naked stems bring a bit of colour to the bare stems of winter. Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ is one of my favourite shrubs. With the strong rose-like scent of its abundant flowers, it’s a really valuable evergreen to have in your garden. Just make sure it’s in a sheltered spot as it is borderline hardy. Sarcococca ‘Purple Stem’ is a lower-growing evergreen shrub, covered in scented flowers at this time of year! Viburnum ‘Gwenllian’ is evergreen and flowers most of the winter and Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ has pink flowers covering its bare stems during the coldest months! And not to forget Camellias, which are begininng to burst into colour in various shades of gorgeous pink and white. Please note Camellias will enjoy being planted in ericaeous compost – either dig this into the planting hole, or plant them in a pot!


March perennials will brighten up your borders on the darkest days. I have a lovely clump of Helleborus ‘Tutu’ which has been flowering for weeks and she’s still going strong now! I can see her bobbing pink flower heads when ever I glance out of the kitchen window. Pulmonaria ‘Raspberry Splash’ is a real beauty, and quite happy in shade as well as sun. Erysimum ‘Winter Orchid’ is a big show off with bright oranges, pinks and purples all on one stem, while Euphorbia ‘Shorty’, is a reliable favourite, holding its green foliage throughout the winter in a lovely gentle hummock shape, keeping a bit of structure amongst a winter border.

PLEASE NOTE: We may not have all of these plants in stock at one time. Please speak to our plants sales team by calling us on 01869 340342 (option 1) or emailing


April is a promising month – even those of us who like to hibernate during the chilly wet weather can start enjoying the sunshine in the garden, and what an abundance of colour and beauty April has to offer when it comes to plants! 

But how do you choose a palette of shrubs and perennials for both sunny and shady areas in one garden that complement each other? Well luckily, I have put together a few of my favourites to help inspire you. 


The back bone of the border! Evergreens are essential for winter structure while other flowering shrubs help to add height further back in the border behind the perennials. Osmanthus x burkwoodii is a beautiful evergreen with pretty little white flowers in April and Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’ is another evergreen with pink buds and white flowers through most of the winter and into April. The bonus of these two evergreens is that they are both pretty happy in a partly shaded area as well as in full sun!  

Prunus ‘Kojo no Mai’ is a charming shrub, delicately blossoming on bare stems in early spring. Magnolia ‘Susan’ is stunning magnolia with pink tulip-like flowers, but just be aware it likes a slightly acidic soil so will need ericaceous compost added to the planting hole, and be fed with ericaeous plant food. Exochorda macrantha ‘Niagara’ flowers abundantly like Exochorda ‘The Bride’, but has a neater growth habit, so doesn’t spread and flop quite so much. 

Climbers and Wall Shrubs: 

Easy to forget about, but often essential to softening walls and fences, or providing extra cover to help create a garden oasis! Clematis alpina is a lovely climber and has little blue bells hanging from its branches in spring (this climber will need support). Chaenomeles speciosa Nivalis is a wall shrub and can be trained up a wall or fence with a bit of support and pruning, and its pure white flowers open up in spring. 


My favourite bit! I love so many different plants, but generally I find perennials the most exciting. If you have a more shady part of the garden, Epimedium, Pulmonaria, Dicentra (Lamprocapnos) and Anemone blanda are gorgeous shades of pink, blue and white, that work harmoniously and are happy to be planted in a shadier spot. Athyrium nippoicum Pictum is a delicate little fern, happy in shade or partial shade and complements pinks and blues beautifully. Bergenia, Erysimum and Pulsatilla are happy in full sun and in-keeping with the pink, blue and white palette. See my April palette below to get an idea of what they will look like together in your spring garden! 

PLEASE NOTE: We may not have all of these plants in stock at one time. Please speak to our plants sales team by calling us on 01869 340342 (option 1) or emailing


Things are heating up! Everything starts to kick off in May – there’s so much colour, and so many options for a beautiful plant mix! One of my favourite colour palettes at the moment includes soft apricots, pale blues and lilacs with whites, creams and greens. Its so gentle and dreamy, I couldn’t resist basing my May plant blog around it.  


Let’s begin with the gorgeous Deutzia gracilis ‘Nikko’, a non-fussy, compact shrub that grows to just under a metre tall and bears pretty, white, bell-shaped flowers in May and June. It’s also mildly fragrant, has purple autumn foliage and is very happy in sun or partial shade.  

Syringa vulgaris ‘Madame Lemoine’ steals the show with her highly fragrant clouds of flowers. Each panicle is chocka-block with tiny, deliciously scented flowers – one of my favourite scented shrubs. As a bonus, she is rather difficult to kill, so if you’re not confident of your horticultural skills, she’s a good bet!  

Viburnum plicatum ‘Kilimangaro’ has delicately layered branches with lacey umbels of creamy-white flowers. This is a large shrub, growing up to 4m tall, but well worth the space if you can spare it. 

Climbers and Wall Shrubs:

Ceanothus ‘Skylark’ is a big show-off and it’s absolutely smothered with little pom-poms of sky-blue flowers in late spring. This evergreen shrub enjoys a slightly sheltered spot and is often grown as a wall shrub, trained up a trellis or along wires on a sunny wall, as well as making a good specimen shrub in a border.  

Clematis ‘Early Sensation’ is a small evergreen climber that requires a sheltered spot in sun or partial shade. Pale lime-green buds open to bright white flowers with lime green centres.  

Good old Chaenomeles ‘Apple Blossom’ (commonly known as ‘Flowering Quince’) is spiky yet beautiful. Its spring flowers are totally gorgeous, and it also has the bonus of green and yellow fruits in Autumn. These are actually edible and in Japan they use the fruits to make a sweet-sour liqueur!  

Perennials and Bulbs:

What a pretty little thing Tiarella ‘Spring Symphony’ is. It seems to flower for weeks and weeks and is happy grown in partial or full shade! Peachy-pink buds open to white star-shaped flowers – they look like they have been dipped in paint. Once the fluffy flowers are over, the foliage is also rather attractive.  

Centaurea montana is another one of my favourites (I have many), I love the freaky flowers – the more weird-looking the better in my book. If they are happy, which isn’t too difficult to achieve as they aren’t that fussy, they will self-seed all over the place.  

Digitalis ‘Sutton’s Apricot’ is happy in sun and partial shade and is a beautiful shade of soft apricot (funnily enough). You can’t go far wrong with a Foxglove – although they are biennial, they tend to self-seed freely. Do bear in mind that they are poisonous, so it’s best to avoid eating them!  

Iris ‘Jane Phillips’ flowers a lovely shade of lilac-blue, as does Camassia leitchlinii var. cearulea – both look great planted within herbaceous borders as well as planted in swathes through a more prairie-style setting.  

Last but not least, Phlox ‘Emerald Cushion’ bears lilac flowers throughout late spring and early summer. It makes a low-growing, evergreen mound, and despite its delicate appearance is hard as nails, surviving temperatures down to –20. 

PLEASE NOTE: We may not have all of these plants in stock at one time. Please speak to our plants sales team by calling us on 01869 340342 (option 1) or emailing


Click here for our June colour suggestions:


Long hot days, barbeques, holidays and summer storms – July has come around alarmingly quickly! Prairie-style planting (one of my favourite styles!) really starts to look amazing in July. The grasses, and flower spikes and dots of vibrant colour seem to add to the hazy atmosphere of bright sunny days and lazy summer evenings. I haven’t included any roses or shrubs this time (unless you count the subshrub, Perovskia), and have decided just to concentrate on a combination of perennials and grasses that lend themselves to the prairie look.


What a lot of choice! You can achieve so much texture and colour with the right mix of grasses. Stipa tennuissima is so soft and swishy it’s hard to resist running your fingers through it, and the pretty pink plumes of Miscanthus ‘Flamingo’ will certainly add interest to any border.

In my prairie palette I have included four of my favourites:

  • Deschampsia cespitosa – unfussy and low-maintenance with fluffy, arching spikelets throughout summer and evergreen leaves. This one can get pretty tall (1.5m), but it’s so light and airy it doesn’t feel oppressive in a border.
  • Anemanthele lessoniana is evergreen with tinted rusty orange and green foliage that looks fantastic when planted with bright pink and dark purple flowers.
  • Molinia caerulea has a lovely, low, soft, arching mound of green foliage, similar to that of Hakonechloa macra. Molinia sends up tall, delicate plumes of flowers in summer, which I also find to be attractive when added to bunches of flowers cut from the garden.
  • Seslaria autumnalis, flowers all the way into in autumn! White flower spikes with mid-green foliage that becomes bright green in autumn. Happy in sun or light shade. All the aforementioned grasses are fully hardy in the UK.


I have chosen bright and dark pinks, deep purples and a couple of blue hues to mix with the grasses to create a sultry, moody feel to this prairie mix. It’s also worth noting that all of the perennials I have chosen are loved by bees and butterflies! Let’s kick off with Knautia macedonica, from the same family as Cephalaria (giant scabious), Scabiosa (pin-cushion flower/ scabious) and Dipasacus (teasel) all of which look equally great in a prairie setting! Knautia’s deep pink flowers bob around amongst the grasses adding little pops of colour throughout the planting.

Cirsium rivulare Atropurpureum is a beautiful monster, often achieving up to three metres in height. If you resist the urge to be tidy and leave them uncut for the winter, they also provide a food source for birds. Stachys ‘Hummelo’ is covered with bright pink flower spikes all summer long. Agastache ‘Black Adder’ is another all-summer-long flowerer, with dark blue flowers spikes, growing to around 90cm.

Achillea ‘Cerise Queen’ started flowering in early summer and is still going strong now. It has feathery green foliage and flat heads of flowers which make a perfect landing-pads for various pollinators! They are happy in full sun or dappled shade and thrive in almost any soil – you can’t go far wrong with this plant.

Salvia ‘Purple Rain’ is one from my huge list of favourites and the bumble bees agree with me – they absolutely love it! Spikes of purple flowers with large leaves (for a Salvia) – plant at the front of a border so they can stretch their long floppy stems out – you could certainly support them, but I quite like them to relax into their surroundings.

Also, who doesn’t love a Prince reference? Perovskia is tall and graceful with lilac flowers and fragrant foliage – I’m still unsure what I think of the scent, but each to their own…

And finally Lythrum salicaria ‘Robert’ is very similar to it’s wild cousin Purple Loosestrife who grows on the banks of streams on ponds tempting bees and butterflies to drink from its gorgeous flower spikes. It grows to around 90cm and prefers a more moist soil – keep it watered in dry weather.

Maybe this blog has inspired you to embrace the prairie look, or to make sure your garden includes lots of plants to encourage wildlife. Either way I hope you enjoyed it.

Until next month, happy planting!

PLEASE NOTE: We may not have all of these plants in stock at one time. Please speak to our plants sales team by calling us on 01869 340342 (option 1) or emailing


Here we are in month eight already! August is jam-packed with beautiful, vibrant colours! This month, I have selected lots of deep pinky-reds and dark purples that flower for months on end! My August palette covers the whole summer, starting in April and continuing into November.


Starting with the purples and blues – a gorgeous perennial that has rich purple flowers from June to August, Salvia ‘Nachtvlinder’. It likes full sun and grows to around 70cm high, this is a great addition to any border. Pop into our Plant Centre to see it in all its glory, planted in the Tin Barn borders! Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’ is an evergreen perennial with purpley-green foliage, growing up to around 80cm and very happy in full sun or in full shade! Penstemon ‘Raven’ is a great flowerer – starting in June and continuing until the first frosts. If the winter isn’t too harsh it even holds onto its foliage! Geranium ‘Rozanne’, likes sun or part shade and she flowers all summer long. Verbena bonariensis is tall and wafty – she could easily go at the back of the border and still be seen, but because of her delicate appearance, you could dot her through the middle of the border for a bit of extra height and interest without her blocking any other plants from view. She flowers from July to October and although not perennial, will self-seed all over the place, so is unlikely to disappear. Echinops ‘Veitch’s Blue’ will grow up to 90cm and will be smothered in bees! A brilliant plant for pollinators and its spikey-looking globe-shaped flowers add texture to your planting. My final offering for the blues is Eryngium ‘Blue Hobbit’, whose fuzzy little green and blue flower heads look great at the front of the border! He also has taller cousins who go beautifully amongst grasses.

Onto the pinks and reds – Helenium ‘Helena Red’ (amongst many other varieties) is a lovely mid-border plant, growing up to 80cm and flowering its head off from July to September. Achillea ‘Summer Wine’ can get to a similar size and flowers from June to August. Astrantia ‘Claret’ is gorgeous dark pink and is happy in sun or part shade and flowers June to August. Sangiusorba tanna is a lovely companion for any grasses you may have in your borders, with flowers like tiny burgundy eggs bobbing about in the breeze. Sanguisorba would look at home in prairie planting, or amongst a mixed border.


Bees and butterflies absolutely adore Buddleja ‘Black Knight’. Growing to 3m and happy in sun or part-shade, this beautiful shrub will keep the pollinators fed from July to September! Calycanthus ‘Aphrodite’ grows to 4m tall and flowers from April to August. Calycanthus is happy at the back of a sunny border.


Two plants that I had to include for their charming flowers are Clematis ‘Etoile Violette’ and Dahlia ‘Chat Noir’. Clematis ‘Etoile Violette’ flowers from June to September, grows to 3.5m and enjoys full sun or dappled shade. This Clematis looks especially gorgeous when grown through pale pink or white climbing roses, such as ‘Mme Alfred Carriere’ or ‘Generous Gardener’! Dahlia ‘Chat Noir’ flowers from July to November as well as most of his charming Dahlia friends. He looks delightful planted through a sunny border, but I personally love a huge bunch of cut Dahlias, so if you have a space for a cutting garden – why not give it a go? Dahlias grow from corms that need lifting and drying in the winter, so are much more involved than your average bulbs – but arguably worth the effort for the stunning display!

Enjoy your holidays if you’re going away, and enjoy the fabulous weather in your August garden if you are staying at home. I’ll be back with some more plant enthusiasm in September!

Until next month, happy planting!

PLEASE NOTE: We may not have all of these plants in stock at one time. Please speak to our plants sales team by calling us on 01869 340342 (option 1) or emailing


Evenings are getting shorter and mornings are getting darker, meaning September is here! However, it’s not all doom and gloom – there are still so many plants that want to flower their little heads off all the way into autumn! The range of flower colour is vast, even now, but I have decided to opt for pinks and blues, with a touch of white for my September suggestions…


For my September palette, I have chosen a jolly mix of long-flowering perennials, loved by pollinators. Verbena hastata ‘Blue Spires’ is tall and elegant like it’s popular cousin Verbena bonariensis. It flowers from mid-summer well into autumn. Echinacea purpurea is an absolute bee magnet and she looks equally at home growing in a prairie-style border as she does in a classic herbaceous border. Phlox ‘Blue Paradise’ has an incredible scent, and grows up to about 90cm tall – another plant for the bees and butterflies! 

Anemone ‘Pamina’ has lovely mid-pink flowers throughout late summer and autumn. Hylotelephium (syn. Sedumspectabile is always alive with insects as the domed panicles of flowers create a brilliant landing pad for pollinators. Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ and Monarda ‘Pink Supreme’ (also known as ‘bee balm’) are both perfect for pollinators and flower into October. Aster ‘Monch’ is covered in beautiful blue daisy flowers from the start of September and the spikes of Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Alba’ flower from August into October. Veronicastrum ‘Cupid’ is a lovely addition to the back of a border with her slender racemes of flowers and, last but not least, Penstemon ‘Rich Ruby’ who has dark pink flowers that keep going into November if it stays mild.


There are some lovely late-flowering shrubs out there – here are a few pink, white and blue options. Buddleja ‘Pink Cascade’, (aka ‘butterfly bush’) as you would imagine, attracts huge amounts of butterflies and grows to around 1.5m. Abelia grandiflora is a real gem – she flowers for weeks and weeks, and is evergreen, so brings a bit of greenery to a winter garden! Hebe ‘Blue Clouds’ is a small evergreen shrub and flowers from midsummer to autumn. Finally, Caryopteris ‘Heavenly Blue’ is a deciduous shrub with silvery-green foliage and purple-blue flowers and grows to around a metre tall.

Enjoy the peace that September brings when the children go back to school, and really make the most of your garden in this last stretch of warmer weather! Have dinner parties on the patio and picnics on the lawn and fill your borders with beautiful September colour.

Top:Echinacea purpurea, Verbena hastata ‘Blue Spires’, Hylotelephium spectabile, Cayopteris ‘Heavenly Blue’,

Middle: Aster ‘Monch’, Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Alba’, Phlox ‘Blue Paradise’, Anemone ‘Pamina’

Bottom: Buddleja’Pink Cascade’, Agastache ‘Blue fortune’, Penstemon ‘Rich Ruby’, Abelia x grandiflora, Monarda ‘Pink Supreme’

PLEASE NOTE: We may not have all of these plants in stock at one time. Please speak to our plants sales team by calling us on 01869 340342 (option 1) or emailing


October brings drizzle, darker mornings, and chillier days, but luckily there are plenty of trees, shrubs and perennials still giving us a beautiful show! The vibrant reds and oranges of autumn foliage, along with the bright fruits and October flowers of the bravest perennials flowering on towards winter, are bound to extend the seasonal interest in your garden and tempt you outside for a little longer.

Perennials & Bulbs:

As winter draws nearer, some of our favourites are still powering through until things start to get a little frosty! Anemone ‘Prinz Heinrich’ with his deep-pink petals and tall, wafty stems brings autumn colour to the middle of a border, while Verbena bonariensis still continues to happily bob around at the back! Aster ‘Mönch’ is bright and cheerful with his purple daisy flowers growing up to 60cm and blooming for weeks. Dahlia ‘Chat Noir’ is a bit more of a challenge if you are up for it – in frost pockets and exposed gardens, the corms will need lifting at the end of autumn and keeping frost-free, however, a lot of places are now warmer than they used to be and so a thick layer of mulch over the top of them should keep them nice and cosy until spring! Crocus speciosus ‘Conqueror’ are purple, and can be naturalised in grass or planted at border edges, as they are quite diddy!


Callicarpa ‘Profusion’ is one of my favourite autumn shrubs – it’s green leaves will gradually turn bronze, and it’s stems will be covered in whacky, little, violet berries! Hamamelis ‘Jelena’ is usually selected for her spidery orange winter flowers, but she actually has gorgeous autumn colour too. The egdes of the leaves gradually turn orange and red like embers, slowly spreading into the centre of the leaf until the whole shrub looks like it’s aflame! This is the same for most Hamamelis varieties. Prunus ‘Kojo-no-Mai’, a shrub that has previously featured on this blog for is delicate spring flowers, has firey red leaves in autumn. A lot of ornamental cherries tend to do really beautiful flowering in spring as well as fantastic foliage colour in autumn!


Although trees are the obvious choice for good autumn colour, some of them do it much more fabulously than others, just like the previously mentioned Prunus varieties (ornamental cherries)! Acer griseum turns bright red, which looks really striking with it’s dark peeling bark. Amelanchier lamarckii, which has lovely delicate blossom in spring and berries loved by the birds in summer, has leaves that turn orange and red. Malus ‘Evereste’ has lovely round little crab apples in autumn, starting off quite red, but becoming more of a rusty orange colour the longer they are on the tree. And last but not least, Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’, one of my favourite trees – it’s big purple heart-shaped leaves turn various shades red, orange, yellow and pink creating a bright, autumnal, patchwork canopy. What’s not to love?

Autumn does mean shorter days and colder weather – but get outside, go on long walks, have lots of fresh air and sunshine, pick blackberries for baking pies, and crab apples for making jelly and enjoy the gorgeous colours and the chilly autumn days. Then come back home to pumkin soup, candles, a crackling fire and a cosy evening in with friends and family. ‘Tis the season to get more hygge in your life…

Top: Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii ‘Profusion’, Malus ‘Evereste’, Anemone ‘Prinz Heinrich’, Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’

Middle: Amelanchier lamarckii, Aster ‘Monch’, Acer griseum, Verbena bonariensis

Bottom: Crocus speciosus ‘Conqueror’, Dahlia ‘Chat Noir’, Hamamelis ‘Jelena’, Prunus ‘Kojo-no-Mai’

PLEASE NOTE: We may not have all of these plants in stock at one time. Please speak to our plants sales team by calling us on 01869 340342 (option 1) or emailing


Just over a month until Christmas (sorry, had to say it), and it’s still pretty warm! As I was walking around my village last weekend, I spotted a huge Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ in full bloom, with a bright yellow rose climbing through it, still flowering its head off. The weather is really getting the plants in a muddle! Here’s some November inspiration, although I have tried to suggest things that you would usually expect to see at this time of year, and avoid the confused anomalies…

Perennials & Bulbs:

Anemones flower for months and look beautiful planted amongst ferns such as Polystichum setiferum, an evergreen fern with delicate fronds, perfect for a shady spot or in a woodland-style border with dappled shade.

Stipa arundinacea, formerly Anemanthele lessoniana (it’s so hard to get the old name out of my head), is evergreen and takes on a lovely bronze glow over the autumn and winter.

Hellebores are one of my favourites. I have recently become slightly obsessed and now have about 15 different varieties in my own garden (I think…). There are so many colours and flower forms available, and they are just so beautiful in the drizzly winter months! Plus, they have attractively marked, evergreen foliage. The flowers also last forever – this year, one of mine was still looking gorgeous in May, even though all the flowers had technically ‘gone-over’.

Rudbeckia ‘Summerdaisy’s Cherry’ is a gorgeous, deep, pinky-red, although there are various colours available and they tend to flower all summer and autumn long!

A few more ideas for prolonging the interest in your borders; Verbena bonariensis is still going, and competing for longest-flowerer with the Anemone! Heucheras have colourful foliage, as well as being semi-evergeen and retaining most of its leaves throughout the winter. Physostegia ‘ Autumn Carnival’ has bright pinky-purple flowers throughout autumn and is happy in clay soil or moist soil.


Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ and Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’ have vivdly-coloured, upright stems that bring decidious structure and interest to a winter border after the autumn leaves and berries have dropped.

Hebes are evergreen shrubs, available in all different shapes and sizes. They flower in various colours throughout the summer and give lovely winter structure in a border. Compact Hebes make a neat little mound to be planted towards the front of a border, and larger Hebes create good evergreen cover toward the middle and back of a border.

Viburnum tinus is a medium, evergreen shrub that can be clipped to keep a more compact shape or left to its own devices to create a lovely, evergreen backdrop. It flowers mostly in winter and spring, followed by blue-black berries, but I have frequently seen it flowering during the summer months too.

Physocarpus ‘Lady in Red’ is a deciduous shrub with red, young foliage, turning purpley-bronze as it matures. It has pink flowers in summer and the attractive serrated leaves brightening in the autumn!

Skimmia ‘Rubella’ is a small, evergreen shrub with white, winter flowers that open from dark, pinky-red buds. If anything, its bud phase is much more beautiful than its actual flowering period.

Autumn is such a beautiful time of year, and a great time to get more excited about nature. Go out and collect beautiful seed pods and and acorns to sketch and paint. Try doing some leaf rubbings with the kids, or planting up little containers of bulbs, and doing arts and crafts using leaves and loo roll tubes (there are some fab ideas on Pinterest!) It’s a great way to encourage some creativity aswell as an awareness of the environment and the natural world.

Top: Hebe varieties, Anemone varieties, Polystichum setiferum, Stipa arundinacea

Middle: Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’, Viburnum tinus, Helleborus ‘Early Rose’, Skimmia ‘Rubella’

Bottom: Rudbeckia ‘Summerdaisy’s Red’, Physocarpus ‘Lady in Red’, Cornus alba ‘Sibriica’, Helleborus ‘Linda’

PLEASE NOTE: We may not have all of these plants in stock at one time. Please speak to our plants sales team by calling us on 01869 340342 (option 1) or emailing


PLEASE NOTE: You can still plant throughout the winter, but please avoid planting when the ground is frozen, as this may be detrimental to the plant. The weather looks set to improve next week, but it is important to monitor it if you are considering planting.

We often don’t really think about the garden during the festive season, but it really can be stunning at this time of year. And what’s more, if you are stuck for Christmas gift ideas, plants are a brilliant solution!


I just love a good Hellebore. There are so many different varieties in so many colours and shapes – pink, purple, black, white, yellow, green, cream. They are single flowered or double flowered, with pointed petals or rounded petals. They have single-coloured flowers, bicoloured flowers, speckled petals and even look pretty once the flowers have gone to seed. They flower on and on, starting in early winter and pushing all the way through to late spring and their beautiful, nodding heads look magical in the frost. They have attractive evergeen leaves and they also happen to make a really special gift!


The obvious choice, but one of the best – Cornus, commonly known as ‘Dogwood’. Bright red, bright orange, bright yellow and almost black stems, there are so many to chose from – they also have white summer flowers and magnificent autumn colour.

The dried flower-heads of Hydrangeas are delicate and charming with a layer of sparkling frost. I particularly enjoy those of Hydrangea ‘Limelight’, although any variety will look wonderful in winter.

Pyracantha is good all-rounder. Great for spiky boundary planting, but also lovely trained ‘ornamentally’ against a wall. It has glossy evergreen leaves, bright red (or orange or yellow) berries in the autumn and winter, and white flowers that the bees love in summer.

Other plants:

It’s not all about flowers – think outside the box! Whether its evergreen structure, stunning stems in bright colours, or interesting seedheads, even the most unassuming plants can look so impressive when they are covered in frost!

Cyrtomium falcatum, or ‘Holly Fern’ is a glossy evergeen fern with pinnate fronds that don’t look particularly exciting most of the time, but really do look goregous with frosty edges. Infact, lots of ferns look rather lovely in the winter!

Heucheras often have frilly-edged leaves which are exaggerated by the icy-white frost on winter mornings.

Alliums are such a brilliant pop of colour in the spring, but not many people consider how great they look in the winter! The seedheads look like little fireworks dotted through the winter border, and in the frost they are so attractive they could actually be nature’s Christmas decorations.

Grasses and prairie-style planting looks so good in frosty weater and any seedheads have the added benefit of being fantastic winter homes for insects.

So, remember not to get stuck on the idea of having to have something flowering every single day of the year – there are plenty of other ways to bring interest, colour and structure into a garden! You just need to think creatively!

If you need last-minute Christmas present ideas, come and have a look at our selection of trees, shrubs and perennials. A great gift for a loved one as well as a good environmental choice! And if you still can’t decide, we also sell gift vouchers!

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, have a gorgeous Christmas and fabulous New Year and I’ll be back with more plant blogs in January…

Top: Helleborus ‘Tutu’, Cyrtomium falcatum, Hydrangea ‘Limelight’, Cornus alba sibirica, Helleborus ‘Black Beauty’

Bottom: Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’, Pyracantha ‘Saphyr Red’, Helleborus ‘Harvington Double White Speckled’, Heuchera ‘Black Pearl’, Allium ‘Purple Sensation’

PLEASE NOTE: We may not have all of these plants in stock at one time. Please speak to our plants sales team by calling us on 01869 340342 (option 1) or emailing

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Approved contractors of the Safe-contractor scheme, Nicholsons are also accredited with CHAS and Arboricultural Association. The Company recently won an award as Cherwell Established Business of the Year 2019, as well as Oxfordshire Large Business of the Year awards 2019.