I first met John when I designed and created my first Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) show garden and he was assigned to me as my ‘plant mentor’ for the project. I remember Johns’ first question:
John – ‘so, how long have you been a garden designer?’
Me – ‘about a couple of months’
John: ‘no, really, how long?’
At that point I didn’t really understand the gravitas of my actions or how challenging a show garden project would be. All I can say is, thank goodness John was there, he was a mine of information and his knowledge and passion for plants is infectious so I’m absolutely delighted he is my first guest for the Creating a Garden Border blog.
So, John, what three plants would you choose if you had to design your garden from scratch – a bit like Desert Island Discs, but for plants?
There are so many plants to choose from, I thought I would walk through my garden and see what inspired me at 6:15am!
Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ – how do plants get their names?
Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ or to give it its full, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson name, Rudbeckia fulgida var sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’, is my first plant choice.
Its name derives from a father and son, Olaus and Olof Rudbeck, who helped set up a botanic garden at Uppsala in Sweden. Olof had a student called Carl Linnaeus (the inventor of our bi-nominal system for plant naming). Carl named this plant after them. The variety, or var, was named after a William Sullivant, a specialist in mosses who happened to be in the right place…and fulgida? Fulgid means sparkly or scintillating. Apt I feel.
This brilliant yellow plant flowers from August to October without fail, grows to 60-75 cm tall, in light shade or full sun, it survives in any soil and doesn’t need staking. I divide them occasionally in spring, although autumn will do. It associates well with other herbaceous plants and looks great with grasses. I’m currently dividing large clumps into smaller clumps to plant in a wild flower area to attempt a ‘prairie’ style in a part of my garden. I leave the seed heads on for goldfinches as they love them! It’s related to Echinacea and a member of the Aster family. You can use them as a cut or dried flower and they’re also rabbit proof, deer proof and attract butterflies.
All in all, a sure fire plant that never lets you down – except scent.
This leads me to my second choice…
Scented flower – Rosa ‘Golden Celebration’
From a very old plant to a much younger one – it was introduced in 1992 by David Austin, this beautifully scented (think of freesias), stunning cupped golden yellow blooms with the added bonus of being repeat flowering, this shrub rose is a great addition to any garden. At 1.2m, with sexy dark green foliage, it’s the perfect height to sit in a border alongside many herbaceous plants like Monardas, Day Lillies and Echinaceas. Your colour coordination’s could be endless. But that scent!
Woodland flower – Tricyrtis formosana
My third choice is a little different. The Toad Lily is a beautiful plant that grows at the edge of forests in Taiwan (and parts of Japan). The clue is in the species name, formosana, which was the traditional name for Taiwan. Look out for that when you see a plant with that in the name. It’s an herbaceous perennial; Tricyrtis formosana grows up to 80 cm tall. The flowers are trumpet-shaped, light purple with darker purple spots and flowers from August to September. It has smooth dark green leaves, which are spotted with dark purplish green. This toad lily is great for adding an exotic touch to the garden as well as vertical interest. It’s best grown in a sheltered, shady border or woodland garden. Tricyrtis now has many cultivated varieties available, however I still enjoy seeing my original clump, planted 15 years ago, marveling at the sheer beauty which nature can engage and enthrall us with.
Thanks John for not only inspiring me but I’ve learned so much about your choice of plants here.
John’s impressive career started when he trained at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh and now he’s a regular medal winner at Chelsea Flower Shows, Hampton Court and many other international exhibitions (Best in Show at Japan and Floriade) working as plant choreographer for various garden designers. John also has private clients throughout Gloucestershire and the neighbouring counties as a gardener and horticultural consultant and he’s also a Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Show Gardens Judge – more information about the RHS here: www.rhs.org.uk/
If you would like to keep in touch with John you can follow him on Twitter @JCmoonpruner
What did you think of Johns’ choices? What plants would you choose?