Long House Plants Newsletter 2022

Sixteen years of Long House Plants – I really don’t know where the time goes – I know I’m getting a lot of enjoyment from the nursery and garden and I was happy to be able to share the garden with so many of you last year.  It was great to catch up with so many customers.

I would like to thank you for your generosity.  All the open gardens; for the National Garden Scheme, the Salvation Army and the Macmillan Day were very well supported and I had a record breaking year for donations to charity.  I would also like to thank everyone that helped to make the days so successful, I could not do it without you running the tea shed, managing the car park, selling tickets and maintaining and developing the garden.

There will be some new cakes for this year, I’m sure one will involve chocolate and nuts, (Bakewell tart and treacle tart have been mentioned) as well as the old favourites of Victoria sponge and lemon drizzle.  The limoncello and mascarpone cake was very popular last year as were the cream teas.

Although 2021’s rain at 840mm (33.08 inches) was a bit drier than 2020 at 897mm (35.43 inches), the rain was spread a bit more evenly over the growing season which meant a bit less time spent at the end of a hose pipe.  The average rainfall per year, measured since the nursery opened in 2006 is 707mm (27.8 inches), so the last couple of years have been above average.

The Agapanthus/Kniphofia/Crocosmia border featured in Country Living magazine in August 2021, with a lovely article by Paula McWaters and some stunning images by Annaick Guitteny.  Annaick has been back to photograph the garden this winter.

I was able to help a lot of customers with border designs last year, some may be a handful of plants and others can be a large area with many hundreds of plants.  I always enjoy a chance to talk about plants and the process of finding the right plants and combination of plants to suit the garden and the customer.

The garden will be open to the public for the Salvation Army on:

Saturdays 25th June, 16th July, 13th August and 17th September 2022

The garden will be open to the public for the National Garden Scheme on:

Wednesdays 6th July, 3rd August and 7th September 2022


The garden will be open to the public for Macmillan on:

Saturday 24th September 2022

Please add these dates to your diaries – all the admission and refreshment takings go to the respective charities and I know these donations are important to each of them.

The opening hours for the nursery are from the beginning of March to the end of September, every Friday and Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 10am-4pm and

Bank Holidays 10am – 5pm or by arrangement; via the website or 01708 371719

We look forward to seeing you at the nursery this year.

Please note my new website address  www.longhouseplants.com


I thought I would base the newsletter on the garden this year and talk about why I have used plants in different areas.  My soil is typical for the area, mainly clay with very little top soil in places. I am always happy to help you choose plants for your garden.  I will quiz you about your soil and the surroundings as well what plants you like.

Heavy clay

Clay soil is difficult to work – it can be very wet and sticky over winter and impossible to dig or a bit like concrete in a hot dry summer and impossible to dig.  It is however, rich, full of nutrients and you usually do not need to add fertiliser.

The Hemerocallis border in my garden is planted in a nasty bit of sticky yellow clay soil which can be waterlogged or baked solid, but they enjoy it and thrive.  As long as these plants have some sunshine, they will bloom well. Other good perennials for heavy clay showcased in the garden are; Agapanthus, Aruncus, Aster, Bidens, Caltha, Campanula, Crocosmia, Eupatorium, Filipendula, Geranium, Helleborus, Helianthus, Iris pseudoacorus and Iris sibirica, Kalimeris, Kniphofia, Lythrum, Persicaria, Rudbeckia, Sanguisorbia, Trollius, Vernonia, Veronicastrum, Waldsteinia, Watsonia and Zantedeschia.

There are also a wide range of ornamental grasses tolerant of clay soils such as Arundo, Briza, Carex,  Deschampsia, Miscanthus, Molinia, Panicum, Pennisetum and some Stipa.

Most shrubs enjoy the fertile clay soil including Aucuba, Buddleia, Choisya, Clethra, Cornus, Eleagnus Euonymus, Grisselinia, Hoheria, Hydrangea, Ilex, Magnolia, Mahonia, Nandina Pittosporum, Philadelphus, Prunus, Ribes, Roses, Sambucus, Sorbaria, Skimmia, Spirea, Viburnum and I find Camellias do well in my soil as the clay here is slightly acidic.  However if the soil remains wet and stagnant over winter then it can be more difficult to get shrubs to establish, especially evergreens, so think carefully about your soil conditions before you plant.

If you take a walk around my garden at different times of the year, it will give you a good idea of what will grow in the local brick making clay soils.  I tend to grow plants that will enjoy local conditions – after all, why fight the garden?

Dry soil in shade

This is one of the most difficult areas in any garden to successfully grow a wide range of plants. It is especially difficult to get summer colour.

It is important to understand the degree of shade.  Light shade from the shadow of a fence/building or heavy shade from a dense overhead canopy with low branches.  Then identify the cause of the dryness.  It could be caused by the rain shadow from a building or large evergreen such as Eucalyptus, Leylandii hedge, yew tree, or from a deciduous tree with a shallower root system such as Ash, Conker or Hawthorn which are very dry near the trunk. Other trees such as apple, birch, cherry, oak and plum are less of a problem.

If you are able to plant in these areas and then rely on an irrigation system to keep plants alive,  you are providing water to the plants that are already established encouraging more roots into the area to take advantage of the extra water, making the problem worse. In drought years with hosepipe bans this can be fatal as the newer plants will be shallow rooted and prone to drying out.

This can be a tricky area to plant but shrubs worth considering include Aucuba, Choisya, Euonymus, Fatsia, Mahonia, Nandina, Osmanthus, Pittosporum, Sarcococca, Ugni and Viburnum tinus.  Herbaceous perennials that are useful include Aster ageratoides, Begonia grandis, Bergenia, some Campanula, Cyclamen, some Epimedium, Eurybia, some Geranium, Lamium, Liriope, Ophiopogon, Pachyphragma and Vinca minor

Damp soil in shade

Actaea are best grown in damp shady areas of the garden or the foliage can scorch.  The perfume from the bottle brush shaped flowers in August is delicious and heady.  Ajuga, Astilbe, some ferns, some Epimediums, Hosta, Hydrangea, Kirengoshima, Pulmonaria, Rodgersia (gorgeous perfume) and Tricyrtis, also known as ‘toad lilies’ enjoy a damp but not water logged position in the garden.

Damp soil not shady

There are lots of plants that will enjoy this situation including; Aguja, Amsonia, Brunnera, Caltha, Campanula, Cornus, Eupatorium, Geum, Hemerocallis, Hesperantha, Iris sibirica, Persicaria, Roscoea, Rudbeckia, Salix, Sanguisorba and Thalictrum.

Ground cover

If you want to have a carpet of plants that will help to keep the weeds at bay, think about Ajuga, Geraniums, Lamium, Osteospermum, Persicaria and Vinca.


I always choose my roses for perfume (roses love clay soils) and I’ve usually got a good selection of perfumed plants that can include; Choisya, Daphne, Lavenders, Osmanthus, Philadelphus, Phlox, Sarcococca, Skimmia, Syringa, Viburnums, and Wisteria but I thought I’d give you some ideas for more unusual perfumed plants.

Azara microphylla, is a small evergreen tree that smells of drinking chocolate in late winter to early spring.  Some Camellia sasanqua, such as ‘Hugh Evans’ or ‘Narumigata’ are musk perfumed, usually blooming from October to January.  Clethra, a deciduous shrub also known as ‘sweet pepper bush’ has spikes of sweet/spicy flowers in late summer, I enjoy the wafts of perfume from Elaeagnus – the flowers are insignificant and really quite plain but the perfume they give out is lovely.

Gladiolus tristis has pale green/yellow flowers with a heady perfume in the evenings, some Hemerocallis are sweetly perfumed, such as ‘Easy Ned’, ‘Lilting Lavender’ and ‘Pink Windmill’.

Some Hosta, such as ‘So Sweet’ are scented.  Itea, also known as ‘sweet spire’ have spikes of white fragrant flowers in summer.  I have a shrubby Jasmine; Jasminum fruiticans that has yellow scented flowers in summer.  Pittosporum which are generally chosen for their neat evergreen habit also have tiny perfumed flowers in summer.

Perfume for me includes plants with aromatic foliage.  I enjoy the sharp scent of Monarda, the minty fragrance from Prosteranthera, the sage scent from Salvias as well as the usual suspects of Nepeta, Rosemary and Lavender.  There is also Helichrysum italicum ssp serotinum, also known as the curry plant – it does smell of curry!  If you have a bit of room, Cercidiphyllum japonicum, the Japanese Katsura tree fills the air with the aroma of burnt sugar a bit like candyfloss as the leaves turn colour in the autumn.

Autumn colour

This can be fleeting but also glorious, many acers have very showy foliage in the autumn before dropping their leaves for winter.  Berberis, which are usually remembered for their spiky nature can also give a good show in autumn.

Ceratostigma, both plumbaginoides and willmotianum have bright blue flowers in the summer and red toned foliage in the autumn.

Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’ also known as the ‘burning bush’ has very strange flat branches but the autumn foliage is bright red and very eye catching.  Clethra, Liquidambar, Nandina, Schizophragma, Sorbaria, Styrax and some Viburnum also give a good show in autumn.

The foliage on some plants can turn red when the plant is stressed, so it can be worth keeping an eye on a plant that unexpectedly turns red.

Good for insects/wildlife

It can be helpful to extend the pollen season in your garden by having plants that have flowers throughout the year rather than just in the spring and summer and also growing a wide variety of plants can be beneficial.

Insects and wildlife usually enjoy a little water in the garden, it doesn’t have to be a pond, just a small dish.  Leaving a few dead branches in a corner to decay provides a home for stag and bark beetles.

It’s not just bees that pollinate – wasps, beetles, butterflies, flies, moths and mosquitoes all pollinate.  Perfume is to attract insects and some flowers have a landing strip for insects which is only visible in ultraviolet light.

There are many types of bee apart from honey bees and bumble bees, both of which live in colonies.  There are over 200 varieties of solitary bees in the UK.  They will often build nests close to each other despite being called solitary.  These bees do not have a store of honey, so are not usually aggressive.  They collect pollen and nectar for the larvae and usually nest in the ground.  They usually prefer to collect pollen from lots of different plants although there are a few species that only collect from one type of plant – Asteraceae for example.

Leaf cutter bees cut and collect foliage to make their nests, they need around 40 pieces of leaf to make a cell for one egg.  Foliage will show a distinctive semi-circular cut when it has been visited by a leaf cutter bee, it’s not usually harmful to the plant.

Masonry bees will burrow into old soft mortar to make their egg chambers but do not usually do much damage to buildings.  They will also use mud to make a nest between some stones or bricks.  So leaving a small pile of stones in a quiet corner of your garden  may give these bees a home.

You can usually work out yourself what is a good source of pollen by watching the plants and insects.  Early sources of pollen include Anemone nemorosa (wood anemone), Camellia, Ceanothus, Erysimum, Hebe, Mahonia, Pulmonaria, Primrose, Prunus and Skimmia, followed by Astrantia, Buddleia, Campanula, Eryngium, Eupatorium, Jasminum,  Lavender, Malva, Nepeta, Persicaria, Salvia and Trifolium.  Later in the year, Asters (the seeds I notice are loved by Goldfinches), Caryopteris, Chrysanthemum, Echinacea, Leucanthemella, Monarda, Penstemon and Solidago.

It’s not just pollen that is important, some hollow stemmed plants, such as Miscanthus are used by insects as a home and will also provide shelter from the cold weather over winter.  I leave the grass stems in place over winter and only cut them down when the new growth shows strongly at the base in the spring.  The grasses also give lots of structure and winter interest in the garden, they glow golden when they catch the rays from the low winter sun and look stunning when there is a frost.

I tend to take the view that any garden with plants is good for wild life but it’s always possible to tweak it so that it’s enjoyed by more and for longer as well as being your haven.