Scottish garden in January


winter garrya ellipticaIt’s January again in our part of Scotland, but the suspended, withered state of the garden doesn’t bother me as much this year, for some reason. Maybe because, unlike the state of the world, I know the garden will get through this dark, cold time, without fail.

This morning there is a scouring wind that’s shaking the absurdly tall stalks of last year’s delphiniums and the strappy brown leaves of the dead crocosmia, which are, I think, the only debris that really irritates me. I hate crocosmia out of all proportion: its invasive rhizomes, its cocky orange flowers.

Maybe I’ve just gone off orange.

Can’t think why.

But apart from those dead crocosmia, which I swear I will yank out today, I don’t mind seeing the dead pieces of last autumn’s perennials shake in the breeze. I know this means they’ll snap off with an easy crack, so I can do a quick bit of tidying as I pass through the garden without needing to run in for my clippers.

I have a fantastic garrya elliptica I inherited which you can see in the top right of the photo above: its white tassels catch the breeze, like a wintry weeping willow.

January 2017 is a difficult time for any thinking person on this planet, not just the 5 million who marched last week. But I’ve decided to take my cue from my resurging garden, and my absolute faith in it. It will get through this, and so will we. Yes, a tyrant is trying to hold hostage the country that raised me. But we live in a time when collective action has never been more possible, or more powerful.

We will hold him accountable. And we will be unstoppable: a force of nature.

I am hopeful. Because spring is coming.

What reasons to be cheerful do you see in your garden?

To keep in closer touch with what I’m up to, I’m tweeting at @sheilamaverbuch most days, and I’m also on Facebook and Instagram as @sheilamaverbuch, where I post pictures of my garden with greater regularity. Please come say hello!

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SWG007 Mid April: planting combinations, new peonies and ailing camellias


peony Duchesse de Nemours

I’ve been in my small garden long enough to know that every square inch is precious, so I still surprise myself when I realise I’m giving up space to plants I don’t love, like a pieris near the French doors by my office.

There’s a camellia I love – camellia sasanqua Winter’s toughie – which is struggling in a small pot in the courtyard part of the garden. The right thing to do would be to transplant it into an ericaceous barrel with the pieris, but I’ve hesitated because I’m afraid of crowding out the pieris. The shrub has only just moved into its own barrel after tucking in beside a rhododendron for a number of years, and my natural sympathies for the plant make me reluctant to force it to share space again. But it’s time to be ruthless: the camellia means more to me, and with my full garden getting ever fuller, I really can’t afford to be indulgent.

In this week’s podcast I’m talking a bit about my ruthless streak, including my habit for shamelessly chopping back strong perennials that are crowding out first-year plants like a fabulous Bourbon rose I bought at the RHS Chelsea flower show last year. I couldn’t think of the grower’s name during the recording, but it is Peter Beales Roses, a fine grower who had a most impressive (and crowded!) stand at last year’s show.

You can hear the current episode below, or use an app like iTunes or Stitcher to subscribe to it as a podcast for iTunes, Windows or Android: Stitcher subscribe instructions are here.

Here’s a list of plants and other key names in this week’s episode:

  • Pieris
  • Rhododendron purple splendor
  • Tulips Orange Emperor, Professor Rontgen, Passionale, Moneymaker, Clusiana Sheila
  • Narcissus Sun Disc
  • Zaluzianskya – night scented phlox
  • Anemone Blanda
  • Lavender: Lavandula angustifolia Hidcote
  • Mahonia japonica
  • Lily of the Valley – convallaria majalis
  • Herbaceous Peonies: red Sarah Bernhardt; Duchesse de Nemours (pictured above)
  • Bourbon Rose Mme. Isaac Pereire
  • Peter Beales Roses is the supplier I visited at last year’s RHS Chelsea flower show
  • Sarah Hayhoe is the stained-glass designer: see samples of her work in one of my Chelsea posts from 2013.

What are you doing in your garden this spring? Have you allowed yourself to spring clean plants that aren’t earning their keep?


SWG005 Mid-March in a Scottish cottage garden


Feu de Joie narcissus a double daffodil


For gardeners it is indescribably exciting when the bumblebees get moving, the pollen starts flying and the blossom on the fruit trees starts bursting in springtime. In this episode of the Stopwatch Gardener podcast, I’m looking at the mystery daffodil that baffled me for years before being identified by the friendly Duncan at Croft 16, and I’m indulging in early fantasies about the roses to come, the first of which will appear in May.

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SWG004 Early-mid-March in a Scottish cottage garden


Magic portal in the garden - through the fireplace surround

Welcome to another episode of the Stopwatch Gardener podcast, where this week I’m rushing about the garden like a mad thing, getting excited about every early-spring plant and the very first humming bumblebee of the season.

I also take a minute to remember my lovely, much-missed dog Lizzy as I look at the place in the garden where she was buried a few years ago.

I’m delighted that Crug Farm has joined Beth Chatto, Vanessa Mann and Frank Kirwan to donate plants to my Rare Plants for Rare Disease fundraiser for neuroacanthocytosis research on 24 May 2014. If you run a nursery, especially if you trade in rare or unusual plants, I’d love to ask you for a donation to this worthy cause. Contact me here if you can help with a rare plant donation.
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Moss-covered pot of emerging Tulip Mount Tacoma



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