How to get the most from a small garden

Image above: Rosy Hardy at Chiswick Flower Market; photograph – Anna Kunst

Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants have become regulars at the Chiswick Flower Market. They have won multiple gold awards at Chelsea Flower Show over the past 25 years. As Chelsea has been postponed till September this year and they sell herbaceous perennials, they are retiring from the show, but they will be at Chiswick Flower Market on Sunday 2 May.

Rosy Hardy writes a blog in which she offers tips on gardening. One of her top tips for designing a small garden is to choose plants which flower repeatedly and really earn their place in a small city garden. She and her husband Rob grow all their plants at their nursery in Hampshire. Here are some of their favourite long flowering perennials that she recommends for a small garden.

“Choosing plants that flower repeatedly”

Rosy Hardy

When space is limited every plant really has to earn its place!

Image above: Doronicum Harper Crewe

Spring into summer

Doronicum Harper Crewe  Height x Spread: 90cm x 60cm

This wonderfully cheerful daisy really adds punch to a spring border and with occasional deadheading, they will flower for weeks on end.  It thrives in dappled shade, shining brightly out of the gloom. A moist but free-draining soil that has been enriched with organic matter is best.

Flowering from mid March in the south of England, until May, it combines well with late flowering Narcissus and the sulphur yellow flowers of Euphorbia such as E.epithymoides  syn.polychroma.

Images above: Doronicum Harper Crewe; TROLLIUS ‘Dancing Flame’ 

TROLLIUS ‘Dancing Flame’ – Height x Spread: 80cm x 50cm

Trollius ‘Dancing Flame’ is a very vibrant orange, large-flowered form, much prized for its ability to repeat flower. It has multi-headed stems and flowers for at least eight weeks during late spring and early summer. It makes cracking big clumps and holds itself up well.

It thrives when planted in a moisture retentive soil in either a sunny or partially shaded aspect. A fantastic plant for bog gardens, edges of ponds or stream banks. It can cope in drier conditions providing you water during any dry spells. Hardy’s launched Trollius ‘Dancing Flame’ at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014 on behalf of Patrick Fairweather who developed this stunning plant from a seedling of Trollius yunnanensis at his family wholesale nursery in the New Forest.

Images above: NEPETA grandiflora ‘Summer Magic’

Summer Magic is a robust, free-flowering catmint that has a very long season


NEPETA grandiflora ‘Summer Magic’ Height x Spread: 35cm x 45cm

This excellent variety would be an ideal substitute for a lavender hedge in soils where lavender does not thrive. Bred by Malcolm Spencer, Summer Magic is a robust, free-flowering catmint that has a very long season. It produces branching stems with wonderful lavender flowers. It was a new introduction in 2013, launched by Hardy’s at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

This Nepeta holds itself up well, which makes it a good edging plant. It will perform well in any reasonable, free-draining soil in full sun. Repeat flowering through the year can be aided with the occasional cut back in the growing season.

Image above: VIOLA ‘Avril Lawson’ 

VIOLA ‘Avril Lawson’ (Va) Height x Spread: 30cm x 60cm

‘Avril Lawson’ is a vigorous viola which if allowed, will clamber its way through shrubs. Giving the plant a cut back will encourage it to flower throughout the summer and if desired, keep its growth controlled. It’s happy to grow in partial shade or sun and in virtually any soil type.

We had to choose Viola ‘Avril Lawson’ as one of our Top Performers because its easy to grow, it flowers for months on end and its large fragrant blooms are a joy!

V.’Avril Lawson’ is often used as underplanting for roses or to edge beds, borders and walkways.

Images above: GERANIUM sanguineum var. striatum 

Summer into autumn

GERANIUM sanguineum var. striatum Height x Spread: 30cm x 40cm

This ankle-high ‘bloody cranesbill’ forms a carpet of finely cut dark green leaves studded with delicate upward-looking pale pink flowers with darker pink veins.

Lauded for its long flowering period from summer into the autumn, it is a superb ground cover plant, successfully suppressing weeds.  It looks particularly attractive sprawling over the edge of a path or framed in a gravel garden.  A veritable bee magnet. It prefers a free-draining soil in full sun, but can tolerate partial shade too.

Images above: Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’

Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ Height x Spread: 90cm x 50cm

Masses of single, soft tangerine flowers with gently scalloped petals dance on fuzzy stems above hairy, mid green basal leaves. One of the longest flowering perennials at the nursery, it performs continuously from early May into autumn, only stopped by the frosts. Introduced by Hardy’s, it has become a RHS Chelsea stalwart for its reliable and prolific flowering.

This very adaptable Geum combines well with so many colours, enhancing the mood of the planting. Try it with blues, yellows, whites, reds, purples – go on, try it with everything. As a sterile form, just remove stems that stop flowering altogether to encourage new growth. This fast growing plant flourishes in a free draining soil in full sun.

Image above: Anemone ‘Frilly Knickers’


ANEMONE ‘Frilly Knickers’   Height x Spread: 60cm x 45cm

Now we have to warn you that we are biased when it comes to this plant as it’s one of our own.  Ever so pretty and delicate with its romantically ruffled semi-double petals, ANEMONE ‘ Frilly Knickers’ has already won the hearts of many people, winning the HTA Virtual Plant Awards 2020 with an amazing 33% of the vote.

It is an ANEMONE full of surprises. Its full buds hint of double flowers within but actually reveal semi-double blooms – each pure white petal being suffused with pale lilac and finely frilled, surrounding a boss of deep golden yellow stamens. Glimpse beneath and the petals are brushed with deeper violet, a gorgeous composition.

Easy to grow and full of flower, it creates an amazing display in the border from early July into September, effortlessly bridging the August downtime period that some gardens can suffer from.   It prefers part shade but can cope with more sun, if the soil is sufficiently good, moist and humus-rich. Ramp up the romantic vibe by combining it with dark leaved ACTAEA or AGERATINA.

Image above: ANISODONTEA El Rayo

Autumn into Winter

ANISODONTEA El Rayo – Height x Spread:  100cm x 100cm

This is a great evergreen shrub for a small, sheltered garden or terrace. Hailing from the South African Cape, it needs a sunny spot and free-draining soil to thrive and can be semi-evergreen in colder winters.

Through autumn and winter, it is most floriferous producing lots of large mid-pink single flowers with deep reddish-pink centres on airy, branching stems. This display lessens in spring and summer but it is still there to admire.

Images above: HELLEBORUS Walberton’s ® Rosemary

Winter into spring

HELLEBORUS Walberton’s ® Rosemary PBR (WALHERO). Height x Spread: 35cm x 60cm

Undeniably a top performer, this hellebore was bred by David Tristram of  Walberton’s Nursery, this hybrid cross of H. niger and H. x hybridus is a sterile Hellebore producing masses of outward facing flowers from December until the arrival of spring. These stunning dusty pink flowers stand above the deep green leaves.

‘Walberton’s Rosemary’ prefers a sheltered spot in partial shade with a humus-rich soil. Perfect for woodland gardens, under-planting of trees and shrubs and for flower beds and borders.

Image above: IPHEION ‘Alberto Castillo’

IPHEION ‘Alberto Castillo’

This perennial produces masses of dainty white honey scented flowers during late winter and early spring, if crushed gently the foliage smells of onion.

Perfect for some very early season colour, this plant thrives in gravel gardens, alpine beds or containers. Just ensure you give it a sunny spot with well-drained, fertile soil.It is a summer deciduous plant, which means it dies back during the summer.  There is no reason to panic though, as the plant will reappear during the following winter.  Just remember not to dig it up!

Don’t forget that adding winter flowering bulbs such as Galanthus (Snowdrops) will help to build colour as the year moves towards spring and of course bulbs don’t need a huge amount of space so you can fill the gap they leave with later flowering perennials.

Keep an eye on the website, over the coming weeks as we will be adding Penstemon, Gaura, Dahlia and Salvias all of which flower over a prolonged period of time, but ideally should not be planted until we have had the last of the spring frosts…

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: The Junkyard Market comes to Chiswick 

See also: Chiswick Horticultural & Allotments Society elect a new chairman

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