Follow our plants calendar for a blooming marvellous 2022
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It’s almost time to turn over a new leaf, and if you’re planning your planting for 2022 think about including specimens that will keep your garden looking spectacular all year round.
So, whether you’re short of winter stars, want inspiration for spring blossom, a wealth of blooms when you’re summer entertaining or a palette of burnt orange, ruby red and zingy yellow in autumn, there are plants for every season.
Make use of the dazzling stems of dogwood, ranging from reds to orange and yellow, which will create both structure and colour in an otherwise bare scene. Add early snowdrops to create a swathe of white ground cover. The rich scent and vibrant yellow flowers of mahonia makes it a shrub worth growing and it’s so tough that even the newest gardener shouldn’t go wrong.
The garden may not quite be thawing but the pink flowers of bergenia, known as elephant’s ears because of the shape of their leathery leaves, should be emerging if you’re lucky. It’s also the month for pint-sized blooms such as Iris reticulata to appear – ideal for planting in pots – while the delicate, nodding heads of hellebores, in shades of subtle cream to almost black, provide beauty and grace in the border.
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Daffodils in pots, borders or naturalised in grassy areas for a colourful rewilding effect are always a front-runner for the optimism of spring, while crocuses provide a mauve contrast and primulas and polyanthus burst into colourful life in containers and the front of borders.
Great spring shrubs include the tough forsythia, with its blaze of spiky yellow flowers, flowering quince to train against walls, and the elegant Magnolia stellata, the star magnolia, which will sit easily in smaller gardens, showing off its white flowers measuring 10cm across.
Blousy blossom appears on showstoppers such as flowering cherries – if you have plenty of space to grow them – while pieris will begin to display their red young foliage and make good partners for rhododendrons as they require the same conditions.
If it’s mild, April is also the time for many tulips in all shapes and sizes – from species varieties to frilly parrot types or traditional stand-tall Darwin favourites. Or try snakeshead fritillaries as their nodding mauve and white heads bring colour and form to wildflower meadows.
This is when Group 2 clematis emerge, the large hybrid climbers such as ‘Nelly Moser’ and ‘Lasurstern’ showing off their saucer-shaped blooms on trellises, walls or weaving through other shrubs. Pick a later variety to pair with roses for a riot of colour.
May is also rhododendron season and if you have acid soil in dappled shade you could be on to a winner. Watch their size, though. Some grow to mammoth proportions, while dwarf types will suit smaller plots – and the range of colours is almost endless, from whites to pinks, reds and mauves.
Everyone’s spoilt for choice this month and the garden should be swathed in colour, with roses, delphiniums, lupins, bearded irises and alliums providing a fantastic cottage garden look.
Rewilding fans should also be reaping the colourful benefits from wild flower patches, with frothy cow parsley, buttercups, bellflowers, ox-eye daisies, poppies and red campion attracting beneficial insects to the scene, while cranesbill geraniums provide valuable ground cover and pink and purple colour in borders.
This is the time for bedding – hanging baskets replete with petunias, geraniums, nemesia, fuchsias and lobelia will be vying for patio space, while sweet peas will need cutting for indoor scent and colour.
Fans of exotic plants will appreciate the sword-like leaves and tubular sprays of crocosmia flowers, some of which offer startling colour, like ‘Lucifer’ and ‘Emily McKenzie’. Alternatively, enjoy the purple giant lollipop blooms of the agapanthus. As well as the larger varieties you can also get smaller types for containers, such as Agapanthus ‘Lilliput’, if you don’t have much space.
As some of the earlier perennials will be going over, Phlox paniculata provide all the colour you need to fill in the gaps, available in shades from white to purple and everything in between and growing to around 90cm tall.
Other good bets include Japanese anemones – although once they’ve settled into a border you’ll have a job getting rid of them – and lilies, whether trumpet types like the white Lilium regale or oriental hybrids which can grow to 1.5m in the border or kept smaller in pots. Put them somewhere you can appreciate their delicious scent.
The star plants of September have to include ornamental grasses which provide striking architecture and movement as well as feathery flowerheads in subtle hues. Stipa gigantea, pennisetum, miscanthus and Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ provide a fountain of foliage for months.
Other late summer winners include asters, heleniums and rudbeckias, while many dahlias are still in their prime, including ‘Bishop of Llandaff’, and the perennial Sedum spectabile provides clumps of fleshy leaves bearing large flat heads of star-shaped flowers, ideal for the front of borders.
It’s berry time and if you’ve wildlife in mind, consider planting evergreen pyracantha, which produce a profusion of red or orange berries, Rosa rugosa, which produce tomato-red hips, or rowan, a compact tree whose leaves turn yellow to red and purple, while birds feed on its orange-red berries.
Foliage-wise, Japanese maples take a lot of beating, as their leaves turn from warm yellows to burnt orange, flaming reds and burgundy. Good subjects include ‘Bloodgood’, and many can be planted in a pot as they are slow growing. Try Acer palmatum ‘Inaba-shidare’, with its filigree-type leaves and burgundy foliage which turn crimson in autumn, or ‘Osakazuki’, whose bright green leaves turn brilliant scarlet.
Architecture is all-important at this time of year, so consider evergreens like the Fatsia japonica, with its palm-sized leaves and clusters of round flowers followed by black berries. Another stalwart shrub is Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’, a deciduous type whose bare branches are adorned with bunches of pink-budded flowers which fade to white.
The festive season means holly – an easy-to-grow shrub, but it often depends on a male and female being planted near each other to bear berries. Alternatively, Ilex aquifolium ‘J.C. van Tol’ is hermaphrodite, perfect if you only have room for one holly and want berries.
Ivy has over the years had a bad reputation, but in winter its berries are vital food for birds and worth considering if you have an ugly eyesore you need covered. There are large-leaved, speckled-leaved, heart shapes and curled foliage, but try to go for the native Hedera helix, which produces small flowers which are a magnet for pollinating insects in autumn, followed by black berries in winter.