Long House Plants Newsletter 2023

I always thought a wet, cold, windy miserable day would be the worst thing for one of our open days but it turns out that a really hot day is worse for visitor numbers.  Despite all the difficulties with the weather last year, we raised over £5000 which was shared between Harold Hill Salvation Army and the National Garden Scheme and also raised £1300 for Macmillan Cancer Support when we opened the garden at the end of September.  Thank you to everyone for their support; helping in the tea shed, garden, selling tickets and organising the car park.  We couldn’t do it without you.  Thanks also to all of you for visiting the garden and eating cake here and then taking cake home to eat.  After some of the open days there weren’t even any left overs!

On the subject of cake, a rum butter and walnut cake is being tried at the moment and looks as if it will be on the menu for 2023.  The sticky toffee cake was popular last year and there have been several requests to bring back the mascarpone and limoncello cake.  The Alma Arms in Navestock kindly supported our catering last year by providing quiche and have offered a contribution again this year.

The garden was featured in the March 2023 edition of Gardens Illustrated with an article by Paula McWaters and photographs by Annaick Guitteny featuring some of my Camellia collection.

The weather in 2022 was challenging.  It was very dry up until the end of September, then we caught up a bit with rain in the last three months of the year, ending up with 658mm (25.9 inches) for the year.  This compares with 704mm (27.73 inches) average rainfall 2006-2022.  I would have preferred to have some of the November rain earlier in the year.  The positive thing about having a dry spring followed by a hot summer is that the plants roots will have gone deeper in search of moisture so helping them cope with the hot dry summer.

The cold weather and snow in mid-December was unexpected and unwelcome.  The damage from this early cold spell will be seen later in the year.  Look on it as a planting opportunity!  We also had a fair number of frosts throughout the winter.

I was able to help a lot of customers with border designs last year and also saw some customers by appointment after the nursery shut for the winter.  I do enjoy working out what is in your mind and then getting the right look with plants that suit the garden, existing planting, the soil, the aspect and you!

The garden will be open to the public in aid of the Salvation Army between 11am and 4pm on:

Saturdays 24th June, 15th July, 12th August and 16th September 2023

The garden will be open to the public in aid of the National Garden Scheme between 11am and 4pm on:

Wednesdays 5th July, 2nd August and 6th September 2023

 The garden will also be open to the public in aid of Macmillan between 11am and 4pm on:

Saturday 23rd September 2023

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 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 www.longhouseplants.com

or 01708 371719

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


 I am often asked ‘what is your favourite plant?’ and I can honestly say that it’s impossible for me to choose.  If the question is asked differently, that can be helpful.  ‘What is your favourite plant in flower today?’ narrows it down a bit as can ‘what is your favourite perfumed plant today?’ or ‘what is your favourite pink rose?’, ‘what is your favourite grass for seedheads?’  I will often say that I love a particular plant but I also love all the others!

Of course, my choices will be different to yours – like all art, gardening is a very personal thing.  I am often asked for an ideal plant for a particular situation.  I will do my best to find you a plant that will grow successfully in your garden but you might not like it or it might not be the colour that you have in mind.  I will also consider the plant in the future – how tall will it be in 10 years’ time and how far will it have spread?

I know some plants flower for a short period of time but I enjoy them when they do and this makes me think about different times of year.  If something is in bloom all year then there is nothing to look forward to and the changing of the seasons becomes unimportant.  It gives you an opportunity to change the look of your garden with the seasons.  Skillful planting can mean that the garden has different plants with interest all year.  Not many pieces of art can change completely with the seasons.

I did start to make a list of the plants that I cannot do without but very quickly ran out of room.  Some plants become favourites because they do well in a difficult spot where very little else will grow, like Vinca minor or Sarcococca, which will grow in a very dry shady place.

Some plants are difficult to propagate, like Daphnes so while I love them, the perfume is superb, propagating them is very frustrating.  Some shrubs have a wonderful perfume but the flowers are rather insignificant such as Elaeagnus and Pittosporum but they both provide important evergreen structure in the garden.  Forsythia are glorious for a few weeks in the spring but then fade into the background.  Philadephus have wonderful perfume but are not evergreen and some can become very large shrubs.

For eye-catching colour in the summer, I think of perennials – Agapanthus, Crocosmia, Hemerocallis and Penstemon always come to mind.  Roses can give colour and perfume but some people do not like roses (I always struggle with this).

Some perennials like Asters and Chrysanthemums bring colour into the garden in the autumn.  Snowdrops give a welcome display throughout winter with Galanthus elwesii flowering in late winter to early spring.  Anemone nemorosa are such pretty little things flowering in the spring, then Iris and Campanulas  I could go on and on and still miss out things that I adore.

Some plants are just a bit strange Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’ has winged branches which become apparent when it drops its leaves for winter.  The leaves are the most brilliant red before they drop, so it’s a bit of a Cinderella plant to my mind.  Arisarum proboscideum has flowers that look just like a mouse has dived into the ground amongst the foliage.

Coronilla are perfumed and bloom over a long time but can be rather untidy in growth habit which some people find charming and others just itch to get hold of the secateurs (which they should resist because the plant does like being pruned hard back).  Grevillea ‘Canberra Gem’ is also evergreen and blooms for a long time, it is rather more tidy in habit when a bit older and can be clipped but is not perfumed.

There are some plants that I enjoy but are not widely popular – I love Roscoea, these hardy members of the ginger family have an exotic appearance but are easy to grow and are still relatively uncommon.

I have noticed that garden style varies enormously between customers – some want a green oasis without any flowers, some want colour all year, some only want evergreen shrubs that can be pruned, some want a grass garden full of movement, some want to help wildlife and some want a bit of everything.  Whatever your style, your garden should be a reflection of you.  For me it’s a feast for all the senses.