Six plants for a new garden

by James Alexander-Sinclair

Imagine, if you will, that one sunny morning you were suddenly plucked from your existing garden and plonked into a new one ... and you were only able to take six plants from your existing garden.

Tulipa 'Ballerina'I have a question for you, one that my wife came up with recently while we were mooching around the garden. Imagine, if you will, that one sunny morning you are suddenly plucked from your existing garden and plonked into a new one. The transfer is so unexpected and so swift that you're only able to take six plants from your existing garden.

So which six plants will you choose? Will you go for something big - a favourite cherry or a noble oak? Maybe an evergreen to liven up your winter? A rose planted to commemorate an anniversary, a herb without which your cooking would be bland or maybe just a piece of herbaceous fluff which stirs the soul? Remember: these will be the only six plants that you are allowed - you won't have access to any nurseries or garden centres.

Choosing my own selection has proven very difficult - I've changed my mind many times and woken in the middle of the night muttering about monardas and hardy geraniums - but here are my six plants for a new garden:

Tulipa 'Ballerina': so many tulips, almost all of them gorgeous, but as I have to choose, I'll plump for this one. Water-ice-orange, a waist like Grace Kelly and the faintest scent of velvet glove.

Bupleurum longifolia: the leaves have a slight blue tinge and the singed toffee-coloured flowers are so subtle that they seem to only whisper (but such seductive words that the heart melts).

Phlox 'Blue Paradise': I think these are the very best of the family. A sort of washed denim colour that changes with the light. Almost glows in the looming dusk.

Rosa laevigata 'Coopers Burmese': a climbing species rose. It only flowers once (though magnificently) but has fabulous hips, deep reddish purple stems and polished evergreen leaves.

Feijoia sellowiana: an evergreen silvery leaved shrub for a sheltered corner. I first saw this at the marvellous Stone House Cottage Gardens. The flowers are exquisite, like an underwater pincushion (and if my new garden is somewhere warm I will get fruit as well).

Persicaria polymorpha: an extraordinarily vigorous plant, which never disappoints. It rockets from nothing to about eight feet and then, over the six months, the white blooms turn into pinkish seedheads.

Darn it. What about beech trees, yew hedges, alliums, all sorts of clematis, deep red roses, winter honeysuckle, eryngiums, penstemons, pelargoniums, rudbeckias, dahlias, lilies, helianthus and, especially, all sorts of verbena and sanguisorba.

Is it too late to change my mind?

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Talkback: Six plants for a new garden
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Gardeners' World Web User 20/08/2008 at 17:09

Hello, James, I'm a longtime visitor, first time commenter.

Were I forced to leave my corner of Katy and taken somewhere as unfamiliar as Fulton (what in the blue blazes is a Surface to Air Recovery System?) to start a new garden, I would plant the following (once I had recovered from my hospitalization for depression at the thought of life in a place where there were no nurseries or garden centers):

1. Gulf Coast Penstemon (P. tenuis), my favorite spring perennial, and one that reseeds nicely. 2. Red Bauhinia (B. galpinii) for its ability to stop traffic with its nasturtium-like red/orange blooms and its prettily rounded leaves. 3. Vitex 'Montrose Purple', a variety with much fatter and bluer spikes of flowers than the species. Passersby frequently stop to ask me what it is and where they can get one. I could trade seedlings for more plants. 4. Batface Cuphea (C. llavea), because it's hardly ever out of bloom and makes a nice ground cover. 5. I'd have to bring one of the old garden roses ... I'd probably choose Souvenir de la Malmaison for her beauty and fragrance. 6. I'm stuck. Do I choose Echinacea because they're so reliable, or do I gamble on being able to barter Vitex or Penstemon seedlings for coneflower seeds. Mexican Bauhinia? Rangoon Creeper? Coral woody penta? Mexican Buckeye? Wait, there will be no spring garden if there is no Toadflax, my favorite annual ever. I'll put the seeds in my pockets. That's my 6th!

Gardeners' World Web User 21/08/2008 at 21:14

Oh, how difficult! I think most of my choices would be seen as 'bog-standard' but much loved. I would have to take fuchsia Beacon, which lives up to its name, and the common snowdrop Galanthus nivalis. Which rose? Either Gertrude Jekyll or Albertine. Two trees: My lovely deep purple double syringa vugaris (variety unknown), and my gigantic Bramley apple. Must have some rosemary, the prostrate kind, and - oh heck, that's it! Impossible!

Gardeners' World Web User 22/08/2008 at 14:44

Not an easy thing to do. I have changed my mind so many times... Interesting to see your list, Katy, as I haven't ever grown most of those plants: I am particularly smitten by Bat Faced Cuphea. I think that pockets full of toadflax seed is perhaps stretching the rules a little bit.

Grannyanne: nothing is ever bog standard if it makes you grin (except perhaps certain colours of Bizzy Lizzy that are best in other people's gardens!)

Emma: You are definitely pushing the tolerance of the judges! Cut your list down by two.

Gardeners' World Web User 23/10/2008 at 13:05

I have just purchased ,from Gardeners World some bare root plants, (Cottage garden selection)which will arrive shortly i hope.Can you please tell me when i need to plant them out, in the garden,or do i need to put them in pots first for the winter months, and then plant out in the spring,

Gardeners' World Web User 25/02/2009 at 22:52

ISN'T THE POLMORPHA PERSICARIA SOMETHING ELSE. HERE IN CORNWALL, ONT. CANADA IT GROWS SO GREAT. I HAVE ONE FOR A FEW YEARS AND SO DOES MY BROTHER. THEY SEEM TO HANDLE PART SHADE REALLY WELL TOO. I GROW GOATS BEARDS, AND HAVE DIVIDED IT FOR AN EXTRA PLANT OH THREE YEARS AGO. AS AWESOME AS THAT IS, POLYMORPHA BLOOMS LOVELY FOR MUCH LONGER, ALTHOUGH MUCH COURSER. THERE IS A MINIATURE GOATSBEARD TOO, WHICH I AM NOW TRYING. I HESITATED TO BUY THAT AS I LOVE TALL PLANTS (but i'm trying to get into shorter ones too). Of course astilbes dazzle in the shade with other colours and love shade even more, but the colour show is only two weeks. Another companion I just started last year is the Rodgersia. Others that compliment are spring plants and tulips, daffodils, giant alliums, hostas and false and real Solomon's Seals. I loved an English bluebell a couple years ago it lasted a year and a half. So lovely. RAVEN

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