Hi Debra, I’m sorry to hear of your loss, a Spanish themed garden sounds lovely. The sorts of plants which you would find in Spain are found in most Mediterranean gardens. You could try citrus trees in patio pots and bring them indoors for the winter. Fruits such as figs and grapes are hardy in the UK and their fruits and foliage add an exotic air to the garden. Plants such as Cordyline, Phormium and Spanish broom (Spartium junceum) will all add a Spanish feel to the garden although in very harsh winters they can be borderline hardy so are best planted somewhere sunny and sheltered. You could also try hardier palms such Chamaerops humilis (Dwarf Fan Palm), Phoenix canariensis (Canary Island Date Palm), Trachycarpus fortunei (Chusan Palm) and Butia capitata (Jelly Palm). These palms perform best in a sunny sheltered site but will tolerate temperatures down to about -8 °C or slightly lower. For more reliably hardy plants to add a Spanish theme to the garden try Hibiscus, Cistus, Helianthemum, Wisteria and the classic Cupressus sempervirens (Mediterranean Cypress). There are smaller varieties of this popular conifer available for small gardens! You can also imitate the neat, shapely habit of these trees with clipped box (Buxus sempervirens), either in containers or in the border.
Other classic Mediterranean plants include herbs such as lavender, sage, thyme and rosemary, all of which are drought tolerant. For annual bedding or containers, Gazania, geraniums (Pelargoniums) and Verbena all evoke the feeling of a Mediterranean garden and they cope with hot and dry weather well. It helps to use rustic terracotta or stone pots for patio plants. I hope this gives you some ideas to start with Debra, best of luck!
Hi Jeannette, sandy soil tends to dry out quite quickly so plants for dry shade may be most suitable. There are plenty of plants to choose from! For small shrubs you could try Hypericum calycinum (Rose of Sharon), Sarcococca (Sweet Box), Daphne laureola or Daphne pontica, Cotoneaster, Symphoricarpus (Snowberry) and small varieties of Mahonia such as Mahonia aquifolium, Mahonia nervosa and Mahonia x wagneri. Daphne, Mahonia and Sarcococca have nice fragrances in the winter and spring, and most of the shrubs listed are evergreen so would provide some winter interest too. Good perennial plants for dry shade include Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle), Brunnera macrophylla (Siberian Bugloss), Dicentra (Bleeding Hearts), Dryopteris filix-mas (Male Fern), Geranium phaeum or Geranium nodosum (Cranesbill), Euphorbia amygdaloides (Wood Spurge), Bergenia (Elephant’s Ears), Epimedium and Liriope muscari (Big Blue Lilyturf). Foxgloves and Honesty (Lunaria annua) are very colourful biennial plants for shade but will only provide one or two years of colour (although they are very good self-seeders!)
Bulbs can also add vibrant colour in the spring or autumn, such as Anemone nemorosa, Cyclamen neapolitanum or Cyclamen coum, snowdrops and bluebells. All of these bulbs will do well in a dry shady spot. Make sure you dig in some organic matter such as well-rotted manure or compost into the soil before planting. This will help the soil to retain moisture and will also help build up soil fertility. Best of luck!
Hi Nicola, grass seed is best sown when the soil is warm, ideally in mid spring or early autumn. It may be that the soil temperature has been too cold for your grass seed to grow and it may still appear if the soil becomes warm and moist over the next few weeks. The soil needs to remain moist whilst the seed germinates, which should take between 7 and 10 days. If there have been long periods of dryness at any point since sowing your seed then this may have caused failure. Birds also like to eat grass seed so it’s worth checking that this isn’t the cause! If you can’t see any signs of life by the end of April then you may need to sow the seeds again. If you do need to re-sow, it’s a good idea to improve your soil with compost or well-rotted manure first as this will help the soil retain moisture and will help germination. If birds are a problem make sure you temporarily net the area until the seeds germinate. I hope this helps Nicola, good luck.
Hi Tracy, I’m sorry to hear about your Clematis ‘Josephine’. It sounds like you may have over-watered it, causing some root damage which in turn causes drooping as the plant struggles to maintain growth. At this stage the best thing to do is to leave it and keep the compost fairly dry. It may well recover slowly on its own but be prepared that it could also die. It might be best to buy another clematis just in case, I’m sure your neighbour will understand if you explain. If the clematis does recover then you can either give your neighbour both or keep one for yourself! Best of luck Tracy, let us know how you get on.