6 of the best plants for your garden

Whether you’re starting out in the garden or just want to get the very best from your plants, here’s Kim’s pick of the top trees, shrubs, border plants and climbers.

  • Eryngium alpinum, or Alpine sea holly, is a beautiful, spiky perennial that bears purple flower heads with silvery bracts, for a stunning metallic look. In free-draining, fertile soil and full sun, it can grow to 70cm. Dried, they make an everlasting display.
  • Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Heavenly Blue’ gives off a wonderful aroma. It likes light, well-drained soil in full sun and benefits from a warm wall in cold areas. Late spring, prune back to low buds. Brings late-summer colour when all around looks tired.
  • Sedum ‘Ruby Glow’ bears fleshy leaves and masses of flowers, from mid-summer to early autumn. This herbaceous perennial grows best in full sun, in well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil. Flowers go russet in winter. Loved by bees and butterflies.
  • Choisya ternata, or Mexican orange blossom, is a fast-growing evergreen, with aromatic leaves and flowers. In spring, star-shaped white flowers appear, and remain for a long time, often with a second flush in autumn. Although hardy, it’s prone to frost damage in exposed sites, and thrives in well-drained, fertile soil and full sun. Makes a superb screening plant.
  • Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ has an autumnal bloom of orange, then pink blossoms through winter, with a final burst of flower in early spring. Grows in moist, well-drained, fertile soil. Remove damaged growth in summer and keep trunks clear of shoots. Perfect for small gardens with a height and spread of just 2m.
  • Clematis armandii has evergreen leaves, which have the look of leather. This climber is strong-growing and needs plenty of room. It prefers a warm, sunny position, where its creamy-white flowers release the sweet scent of almonds. Look for the cultivar ‘Apple Blossom’, which has pale pink flowers – it can reach up to 6m in height. A unique-looking climber and a sturdy grower for walls and trellis – it makes a good choice for a tropical garden theme.

Selecting appropriate plants for your site and soil is essential. Check their sun and shade needs. Soil-testing kits are easy to use. Determining soil pH will save you wasting time an money on plants that aren’t suited to your soil.

Kim’s selection

All the plants I’ve chosen have been awarded the RHS Garden Merit, which recognises plants of excellence, helping gardeners to chooise from the thousands available.

Garden notebook

Gardening on the web

If you like exchanging tips over the garden fence, then try www.bbc.co.uk/gardening. At the Message Board, you can get advice from other gardeners.

Henry Doubleday
For all things organic, visit the Henry Doubleday Research Association at www.hdra.org.uk for advice on how to be a green gardener. Don’t miss the Heritage Seed Library, which aims to conserve old-fashioned vegetable varieties.

www.crocus.co.uk caters for all your shopping needs, with a host of plants and gardening products to buy. There’s also a weather report for your region, and even a planting service.

British Wildflower
Lovers of British wildflowers will like www.wildflowers.co.uk, one of the largers UK providers of wildflowers. There’s a collection of plant Data Cards (sometimes with pictures), for valuable growing information – just enter the plant name in the Plant Finder.

What’s in bloom
  • Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’
    This evergreen climber appears in early spring.
  • Viburnum tinus
    Perfect for background interest. Its white-pink flowers give off scent intermittently.
  • Crocus tommasinianus
    This early-spring bloom has pretty violet flowers and naturalises well.
  • Iris ‘Harmony’
    This plant, with its delicate flower, is ideal for raised beds.
A shockingly good tool

If you’ve ever jarred your wrist when digging, you’ll be pleased to see that Spear and Jackson has brought out a new range of tools with a shock-absorbing hilt, to make digging more comfortable. The tool heads are made from solid metal, so won’t break, and the hardwood handles are sturdy, too. We’ve got five Spear and Jackson Neverbend Proactive digging spade and fork sets to give away, worth 29,99 per piece (59,98 per set).

Garden to visit

Hodsock Priory Gardens,m Blyth, Nottinghamshire S81 0TY (01909 591204)
Famed for its drifts of snowdrops in a woodland setting, Hodsock also boasts five acres of gardens full of winter flowers. Open Saturday 2 February, every day, 10am-4pm, until Sunday 10 March. Adults, 3,50; children, six-16 years old, 50 p.

Prima solution

Q: I love it when my daffs start coming up, but I’m scared that I’ll tread on the delicate shoots, as they’re difficult to see. Any tips?
A: A good idea that’s been passed on is to mark the position with other earlier flowering bulbs, such as snowdrops of crocuses. Bedides letting you know the spot, you get an extended flowering season. Alternatively, you could put in bedding plants, such as winter pansies, to form a barrier around them.

Things to do in February
  • Weed, dig and fertilise borders;
  • Order new seed trays and pots;
  • Prune late-flowering clematis;
  • Lay turf if you need to, provided the ground isn’t frozen or too wet;
  • Make repairs to wooden stakes;
  • Protect delicate plants from frost and wind;
  • Sow lettuce for planting in March.