Category Archives: Types of Plants/flowers

Spotlight on particular plants and flowers.

Today was a good day!

Today was a good, a very good day. Here’s a little example of what I got up to…

Getting plants ready to brighten up the Peel Precinct

Buying Saraccoca at Hampstead Garden Centre. Berries for the birds.


All about Eucalyptus

I love the Eucalyptus tree; it has a lovely Mediterranean feel and grows easily in the UK. Lots of species of Eucalyptus are commonly known as ‘Gum Trees’ because they excrete sap from breaks in the bark. It also has medicinal properties and can be used in home made remedies. Did you know, you can crush a few Eucalyptus leaves and put them in a warm bath to help get rid of nasty colds. Safe for children too!

There are also no problems with a Eucalyptus self-seeding. It will only go to seed if you burn it. The only downside (or upside depending on your point of view) is that these trees eventually grow massive. We’re talking the size of a house, if left unchecked. Mines in a garden border at the moment, but eventually we will have to move our shed to give it more room!

Also beautiful and useful when cut and put in a vase (on its own for contemporary chic or with other flowers). Gives your home a subtle, fresh scent.

A small Eucalyptus tree

Uprooting a Fraxinus Ornus (Manna Ash Tree)

Last year I kept finding baby tree seedlings scattered around my garden. Thinking it was squirrels burying nuts and seeds, I left them and watched what they would turn into. Fast forward a year, and these seedlings have developed a ‘jack and the beanstalk’ syndrome.

They are already nearly two metres high and seem to have shot up at lightning speed. The problem is, they’re competing with my established plants and shrubs for water and nutrients. So, I took a section of one along to Hadlow College, Kent and asked the gardening experts there if they could identify it. “Oh dear,” a gaggle of nurserymen types said, stroking their chins thoughtfully. “That’s a Fraxinus. They’re devils for self-seeding and the root stock is tough to dig up.”

Hmmm. Anyway, I could have grabbed my trusty spade, but enlisted my OH instead.

Fraxinus Ornus hefty root stock

As you can see, the root is pretty thick and hefty. Although it wasn’t too deep, the roots were tricky to dig up as they were thick and entwined around my lovely acer and fatsia japonica.

My three year-old was fascinated and thought it was the ultimate weapon for shooting aliens. I’m just glad the garden has a bit of breathing space again. I’ve already spotted two more Fraxinus in my vegetable containers (lazy gardener/no-time-whatsoever-multitasking mother that I am – i haven’t weeded properly).

How to transform a jam jar into a vintage style vase

Recycle, recycle, recycle – most of us are pretty clued up now. We flatten cardboard, plastic containers, milk cartons and clothing. However, ‘upcycling is a natural progression from recycling. It’s about taking stuff you don’t use or need anymore and transforming them into new items. Shelves from wooden crates, vases from jam jars… you get the idea!

A stylish vase made from a jam jar.

Easy peasy: How to transform a jam jar into a vintage style vase.

Tools needed: Jam jar, flowers, water, washing up liquid, scourer.

Time: 15 minutes (Easy!)

Are you strapped for cash? (yep, me too!!). I needed a new vase for some beautiful peonies and decided to re-use and upcycle. Simply take an empty jam jar (mine was a strawberry jam flavour), leave to soak for 10 mins in a sink full of washing up liquid.

Give it a good scrub to remove the label. Fill with water, cut your flowers to size and hey presto… a pretty, vintage style vase. Filling this with pink peonies gives a 1950’s, feminine touch.

A thrifty project brought to you from girlwithaspade, don’t delay, do it today!

TIP: Don’t overfill small vases, simple is more stylish.

You can take this further and paint or embellish the vase using glass paint or acrylics.


“Little fluffy clouds,” (remember that amazing song by the Orb?) “What were the skies like when you were young?” ¬†Well, gypsophila reminds me of little fluffy clouds too – perfect for gardening with kids – it spreads out generously and is easy to grow.


Fatsia Japonica

I love fatsia japonica. It’s the ultimate evergreen- stylish, architectural and slightly tropical looking. Beats your hebes and conifers any day (imho). It grows well in slightly dappled shade with sun sporadically. Grows to around 6 ft and covers a wide section of ground. All year round (rain or shine, snow or ice for that matter) it grows in the unpredictable climate of the UK. Goes well with black elder, ferns, and lime coloured grasses.

Fatsia Japonica

It also has striking cream clusters of berries in the winter. Food for the birds of course.

Fatsia Japonica - large area

Fatsia Japonica, a large area of the plant

This plant was bought four years ago and was tiny – it’s in a south facing garden in the shady border, which gets some sun in the morning. Chalky, alkaline soil. If you need to fill a gap in your border, buy a Fatsia!

Black hollyhocks

Dramatic dark hollyhocks

Hollyhocks are the classic cottage garden plant. However, it’s not often you see black, purple or bruised midnight coloured flowers. I think they are beautiful and would look spectacular planted in drifts with contrasting cream or white hollyhocks. They’re on my list for next year, that’s for sure!