Visit our Web Shop! - London's specialists in window boxes and container gardens delivered to your door. Funky garden accessories and planters also available. Corporate and bespoke services.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Plant Resurrection

So many times people have brought me a plant with one sickly-looking leaf and asked how they can revive it. It’s a bit like the Monty Python sketch: ‘My plant’s not dead it’s just resting’. Here is my advice that might just work for some plants that are just resting. Bury them.

It’s not a cruel as it sounds. For example, shrubby plants like heathers, hebes and lavenders, along with geraniums and busy lizzies, may actually form new shoots if you bury them. Just leave the last surviving leaves above ground. If it doesn’t work, at least they had a decent burial.
For plants that are just leggy or bare at the base, burying is an excellent rejuvenation technique.

Written By Alistair Ayres

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

What will you do with the blue hydrangea?

Buy a blue hydrangea and plant it next to concrete path and it’ll turn bright pink. The reason is that lime washed out of the concrete turns the soil alkaline. Hydrangeas need aluminium for blue flowers and even if it is present they can only access it if the soil is acid. So how do you turn it back?

Potting up your hydrangea in a tub of ericaceous compost is good start to provide the acid conditions. But it may not be enough. They may still need aluminium. For this you can buy a bluing agent especially for hydrangeas that contains aluminium sulphate. Be very careful though, it can easily scorch the roots. Add less than half a teaspoon to a gallon of water and don’t use it when the compost is dry or when the plants are under stress in very hot weather.
Personally I like white hydrangeas. It avoids a lot of problems.

At Little Green Space, there is a ready made range of seasonal boxes to tempt you. Why not give one as a gift?

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Death Traps

Clay pot saucers look innocent enough but they can bring a slow agonizing death to patio plants. The problem happens during prolonged periods of heavy rain when is retained in the saucers. As a result the compost remains soaking wet and starved of air, and the plant roots slowly rot.
To protect your plants from waterlogging, fill the saucers with gravel so the plant roots won’t have to sit in water. Better still, use pot feet or bricks to keep the container above ground level.
Other common causes of waterlogging are containers without drainage holes or drainage holes become blocked. This is why you should always use a crock (piece of broken pot) or a stone to cover the holes before planting. Putting gravel in the bottom of the pot is a good idea for taller plants, as it will add stability as well as improving drainage.

Written By Alistair Ayres

(The Little Green Space Ladybird suspects that the saucer in the picture is a plastic one. For quality planters for all your window box needs, come to little green space!)

Monday, 27 April 2009

London's Number One Climber

Will it tolerate shade? What about traffic pollution? My balcony is very windy; I want a plant that will provide shelter! I really want something with scented flowers. It must be evergreen. I don’t want something that will grow too vigorously and ruin the walls! Can’t be doing with something that needs a lot of fuss, I have a busy lifestyle; it will have to take a certain amount of neglected. It gets very hot next to my porch; do you think it will survive?

There is just one answer to all these questions. Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides). Glossy evergreen leaves, attractively tinged with red in the colder months. Delicately scented white flowers virtually non-stop throughout the summer. Stays bushy right from the base, not too slow and not too vigorous. Happy anywhere. It’s almost like it has been designed for the London gardener.

Written By Alistair Ayres

At Little Green Space we specialise in beautifying London balconies! - love the little green space ladybird

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Lovely Lavender

Lavenders can make great plants for window boxes and tubs but too often you seem them all bare at the base and flopped out of shape. A lot has to with the variety you use. The dwarf varieties like ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’ are tried and tested favourites. Look at the labels carefully. Don’t buy plants simply called ‘lavender’ as they are quite likely to disappoint.

French lavenders (Lavendula stoechas), with their curious ‘buterflesque’ flowers have become very fashionable in recent years. They can do very well in containers but be aware they are a lot more tender than the other types. Young plants sold in flower are often raised in greenhouses and can sometimes become very droopy when you put them in the window box. If they droop badly, it can take a whole year for them to recover.

Pruning is essential for neat plants but never cut them back below the level of the first leaves or they will die. Wait until the new growth is well established and give them a hard trim sometime in April or early May. Once the blooms start to fade, follow this up with a light haircut before the flower stems start to turn woody.

Written By Alistair Ayres

(The Little Green Space Ladybird would like to remind tell everyone about the fabulous ready planted 'Lavender Box' window box available through Little Green Space urban gardening website!)

Friday, 24 April 2009

Simple Irrigation System

It’s been a long day, the boss doesn’t seem to understand you have a life outside of work and you still haven’t packed for your weekend away. The weather is forecast for hot and sunny. Who’s going to water your container plants?

The last thing gardening should be is stressful. I would strongly recommend anyone with a hectic life style to get a watering computer. It sounds complicated but it’s just a timer that turns the water off and on. If you can set the alarm clock on a mobile phone, you shouldn’t have much problem. It simply screws on to an outdoor tap.

The other bits you need come as kits or individual pieces. Basically, there are three elements: the black irrigation pipe that takes the water from the computer to your containers, the grey porous pipe that you use inside your containers, and plastic connectors to put the whole thing together. It’s a bit like one of those simple construction toys you might have had as young child.

Use the t-connectors to make a ring from the porous tube to use in pots and straight lengths for window boxes. It may take a few hours to set up, but you will be able to sit back and enjoy your little patch of green all summer long without every worrying about watering.

By Alistair Ayres

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Success With Japanese Maples

Japanese maples are very popular as patio plants. They can be extremely beautiful but they commonly fail to deliver their full potential. The two most common reasons are they don’t like wind, scorching sun, even in London, is too much for them. In the spring, the new leaves are also very sensitive to late frosts and aphid attacks. Once the leaves are spoiled, that’s it for the season. Forget that glorious autumn colour. In nature, they grow in slightly acid conditions but they do fine in ordinary compost. What they won’t stand is drying out or sitting in water.
If I haven’t put you off, here are my tips for the cautious grower.

1. Cover the plant with horticultural fleece (available from garden centres) to get it through that treacherous period between the buds bursting and the leaves fully opening. This will protect against unexpected frosts and aphids.
2. If you haven’t got an ideal position out of the midday sun and away from windy corners, use tougher plants like bamboos to give them a bit of shade and shelter.
3. Don’ wet the leaves while the sun is on them. They scorch very easily.
4. Prune any dead bits that you find at the end of the stems. These are nothing to worry about in themselves but can lead to secondary fungal infections.
The trick is to get those leaves through the summer so your tree can show what it has really got offer in autumn.

Written By Alistair Ayres

Scented Plants

Right now it’s early April and my whole garden is filled with a delightful, lemony scent. The plant that is so free with it’s fragrance? Osmanthus delavayi, a small evergreen shrub of around 5 feet high and wide, and in my experience rather slow growing. It has foliage a little like small holly leaves, and for a month it will pour it’s scent upon the air.

Another scented star is in the Daphne tribe, D. odora ‘aureomarginata’, another small evergreen whose scent is among the finest of all plants. All the Daphnes are scented, but this one is special.

Written By Alistair Ayres

(Little Green Space, for all your urban gardening needs, produces some scented boxes. Look out as they are only seasonally available! - love the little green space ladybird)

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Hot and Dry

On the windowsill or next to the wall, it’s sometimes easy to forget that plants still need watering even when it rains. In a sunny position during a hot summer, they may even need to be watered twice a day. Fuchsias and busy lizzies are quick to bring on your guilt by looking all sad and limp before they start shedding their leaves.

For a south-facing spot, I like to choose flowers that can take a spot of scorching and won’t sulk too much if I let them go dry occasionally.

Livingstone daisies (Mesembryanthemum) A fine leaved trailer with masses upon masses of small blue, pink or white dais-like flowers. Such a good temper: I’ve never seen it sulk or look stressed.

Felicia A trailer with small but quite startling blue flowers. You can get them with cream variegated foliage, which looks very good with blue, but I have found these to be far less sun tolerant than green-leaved forms.

Gazanias These are tough little plants that will really take a baking. The flowers, which come in all shades from cream to orange, close up on cloudy days when there isn’t enough light. I rather like them for this as it reflects my moods but it can be a bit of a downer in a bad summer.

Osteospermum Easy to please with a choice of purples, pinks, blues and white blooms. Not a party flower though as they close up at night. Trim the plants hard back after the first main flush and they will back in full bloom with a few weeks and carry on well into the autumn.

Californian poppies (Eschscholzia) Available in a range of vibrant colours that bring their own sunshine. Each flower lasts a day but they keep on coming. Very undemanding; will even grow in rubble.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Tasty Garden Salads

Young leaves make very tasty salads, you can grow them ready mixed just like those in bags at the supermarket, they are very quick compared more conventional lettuce, and require very little space to grow. The easiest way to start is use seed mixture such as ‘Salidini’. The Organic Gardening Catalogue ( offers a good range of spicy, oriental and Mediterranean mixtures.

You can sow them any time from April until August and they’ll be ready for cutting in about 4 to 6 weeks when the leaves are about 8 to 10cm high. You can graze them gradually with scissors as you need them or harvest the whole lot in one go. Leave about 1cm of stem, and you’ll get a second crop of leaves within a couple of weeks. Occasionally, you can get a third cutting but by that time it’s better to sow some more.

If you want to have a go at experimenting yourself, cos lettuce, Chinese greens, beetroot, chicory, mustard, broccoli, rocket, and basil are all delicious when eaten as baby leaves.

Written By Alistair Ayres

Monday, 20 April 2009

Last Day At Chelsea

I was a regular exhibitor at the Chelsea Flower Show for many years and I never lost the thrill and excitement when the bell rings on the last day. People gather in anticipation as gardens are ripped apart, old ladies struggle with a 2m high delphinium under each arm. It’s like a feeding frenzy when you are overcome with an insatiable appetite for more plants than you can reasonably carry.

Working at the show, I was obliged to take my staff along with more small forest down the pub and out for a meal. Many years, I took my prize specimens home on the tube to much amusement of my fellow travelers. One year, I bought an orange tree with very ripe fruit and decided to take a taxi. The driver was forced to do an emergency stop, causing all the fruit to splat against the window behind him.

How many of my Chelsea plants actually thrived? To be honest, not that many. Being forced, put on display for week and taken on a perilous journey isn’t the best treatment for plants. But I like to think they had fun.

Even though the Chelsea Flower Show has improved for visitors in recent years with the new marquee and the extended the opening to Saturday, 5pm on Friday in the last week of May still holds a special place in my memory.
Written By Alistair Ayres
(The wonderful picture is borrowed by the little green space ladybird because it is so beautiful. If the owner would like credit or removal from this site, please contact us at and we will remove it)

The Facts About Worm Composting

You can buy a worm composting kit and some local authorities even give them away as part of their recycling initiatives. They can work very well but the thing a lot of people don’t realize is that you need to treat the worms as pets. Tiger worms, or brandlings, the type sold for bait in fishing shops, are the ones used for composting.

First thing to know is that they don’t like the cold, which means you can’t leave your bin outside unprotected for the winter. You need to feed them regularly. They like vegetable waste, which is fine if you cook fresh vegetables everyday. They hate oranges. Garden waste is ok in moderation, but if you put lawn clippings in the bin, it is likely to overheat and kill them. Anything that’s a bit woody or has been sprayed is a no, no.

If you feed them right – fresh, little and often – it’s a very nice way to turn your kitchen waste into plant food. Neglect them, overfeed them, let them get too wet, too dry, too cold or too hot and you’ll be left with a bin full of rotting rubbish and dead worms.

Waves of Spring Bulbs

You can really pack flowers into a container if you choose bulbs that flower from Febuary through to May. This can be achieved by planting different bulbs at different depths. My suggestion is crocuses followed by small early daffs – ‘Febuary gold’, then grape hyacinths & snakeshead fritillarys with tulips and Turkscap lillies (Martagon) for later in the season.

In october, get a decent sized pot, and some John Innes No 2 potting compost. Fill the pot to about 7 inches below the rim. Plant your tulips and turkscap lillies, then cover them with soil and gently firm. Next layer is your daffodils, filling again with soil. Lastly, in go your crocuses, grape hyacinths & snakeshead fritillarys, adding a final 2 inches of soil to about an inch below the rim. If they’re to live in the sun, only the tulips will need removing. The rest should come back next spring.

Written By Tom O'Leary

Snail Proof Annuals

Many London gardens suffer from plagues of snails and slugs, especially so in the last few wet years. They adore tender young foliage as much as we do – so that’s something we have in common at least!

By painful trial and error I have found that what annuals they will not eat (unless starving)
  • Pot marigold (Calendula)
  • Poppies – Welsh, field, icelandic, Himalayan etc
  • Forget-me-nots
  • Annual quaking grass – in fact all grasses.
  • Cornflower
  • Snapdragons
  • Petunias
  • Lobelia
  • Feverfew
  • Foxglove
  • Poached egg plant (Limanthes)
Written By Tom O'Leary

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Number One Fan

My other passion besides gardening is making films and for the past few years I’ve been making the annual pilgrimage to Cannes. After a week of intensive film watching, non-stop networking, and wild parties, it’s good to take a day out to appreciate some of the surrounding countryside. One of the treats for me is to see the dwarf fan palms that grow wild at the side of the road.
Chamaerops humilis is the only palm native to Europe and it’s one of the toughest, tolerating high winds, periods of drought and sub-zero conditions. With its handsome evergreen fan-shaped leaves, it has to be the number one palm for London gardens. Growing well in clay or chalk, it’s a good architectural plant for a sunny border. But for me, it’s as a container plant on balconies, roof gardens, and patios, where it truly surpasses.

It’s slow growing so start with a decent-sized plant. They rarely grow above head height, especially in pots. Use a John Innes compost to give extra weight and stability and water very sparingly when the days start to get colder.

Am I ever tempted to bring one back from France? No, taking these magnificent plants from the wild is not right. Garden centres and nurseries offer plenty of specimens born and bred the UK. Bringing home the Palme d’Or, well that’s another matter. I’m working on it.
Written By Alistiar Ayres
(We agree with Alistair. Choice of compost is so important, especially in container gardening. We at Little Green Space, pay a lot of attention to detail in this regard especially for our ready planted window boxes. Love from the little green space ladybird)

Why Wisterias Don't Flower

I have done hundreds of gardening clinics and one of the most common questions around this time of year is why doesn’t my wisteria flower. It’s nearly always one or more of the following five reasons.

1. There are several species of wisteria. The Chinese ones (W. saneness) can take seven years or more to start flowering. Japanese (W. floribunda) types flower in two or three years. Hybrids are a safe bet.
2. Wisteria plants that you buy may be grown from seed or a stem of one variety may be grafted on to the roots of another one. Seed raised plants are unpredictable and generally take much longer to reach flowering stage. The easy way around both 1 and 2 is to buy plants while they are in flower.
3. Wisterias like to have their roots restricted. If the roots have space to run, plant them in bin with the bottom cut off. Old plants can be made to flower again by digging around them and cutting back the roots. Moving a plant is risky. Be prepared to loose it.
4. You didn’t prune? It’s quite easy. In summer, cut back all the long dangly bits to around 60cm. In winter, cut back all but the main stems to three pairs of buds. If you have a very big specimen, call a professional unless you are very confident with ladders and have a good head for heights.
5. Wisterias thrive on neglect. Too much food and water and they will produce a mass of leaves and no flowers.

Written By Alistair Ayres

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Early Bees

As spring approaches, London gets the odd day of sunshine which transforms the city and lightens the step. These warm days have woken the drowsy Bumblebee, a solitary helicopter. It is hard NOT to notice a Bumblebee as it zooms from one rosemary flower to the next – and it set me to thinking; ‘this bee is up too early from his winter sleep, and needs all the pollen he can get’. Having early flowering plants like heather and rosemary in your windowbox will give these early risers a much needed breakfast.

Written By Tom O'Leary

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Craft of Planting

I am always amazed when I see quite experienced gardeners resorting to the make a hole, shove it and hope for the best method of planting. When you are on a remote site with an hour to plant a hundred shrubs, it can be sometimes hard to follow best practice. At home, you have time to get your plants off to a really good start.

1. Water your plants before planting. You can tell by the weight of the pot. If they are bone dry, submerse the pot in water until you can’t see any more air bubbles and leave them to drain.
2. Remove the pot. This may seem obvious but bedding plants in particular sometimes have pots within pots that severely restrict root growth. A saw is often useful for plants that are pot-bound.
3. Skim off the top 1cm or so of compost. Even if they are no visible weeds, it’s very likely to be full of weed seeds.
4. Look at the roots. Any roots that are growing in circles will keep growing round and round once they are planted. This is one of the most common causes of stunted growth, premature death, and for trees being blown down by the wind. Always cut off any curling or overlong roots.
5. Loosen the soil in the bottom of the hole so that it will be easy for new roots take hold. Throwing in any compost you can spare is a good idea. Opinions are mixed over adding fertilizer I the hole. Research suggests that the risk of scorching the roots may negate any nutritional benefits. I prefer a light sprinkling of Growmore on the surface after planting.
6. Trees and shrubs should be planted at the same height as they were in their pots. With herbaceous and bedding plants, you can set them slightly deeper. Firm plants with fists or your feet. You shouldn’t be able to pull them out easily after planting.
7. Water after planting (this helps settle the soil around the roots) and consider applying a bark mulch if only around the root area.

Written By Alistair Ayres

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Feeding Containers

A typical general-purpose compost will contain enough nutrients to supply vigorous growing bedding plants such as geraniums and petunias with all the food they need for 6-8 weeks. After that, your plants won’t die of starvation but they’ll start feeling the pinch. With the massive choice of plant foods available, what do you use?

Liquid fertilizers provide an instant hit, like a tea with three sugars, but the effect is short-lived. Used regularly, a good liquid fertilizer can produce exceptional results.

Granular fertilizers like Growmore are cheap and light sprinkling fluffed into the compost will probably keep your plants going for the rest of the summer. Overdosing or applying when the compost is too dry can damage the roots. Compare this to fish and chips. Perhaps not the healthiest option but you won’t starve.

Slow-release granules such as Osmacote provide a steady supply of food over several months. These are your rice and potatoes. This is probably the most expensive option but very low-maintenance and recommended for permanent plants that you intend to keep for more than one season.

Blind Bulbs

A bulb is said to have gone blind when it produces no flowers. Ninety percent of the time this is because it is in too shady a position, and cannot make enough food for next year.

This is a shame, because they do so much to make the early spring garden, whilst all else slumbers. So if your daffs are in shade- move them into the sun after they’ve flowered, or if you have no room, dig them up with a sharp pointed trowel and throw them on the compost or recycling, and plant new bulbs next autumn.

With tulips you should jettison them as soon as they finish flowering, as they generally fail to produce the next year, or make puny blooms. They need ideal conditions to thrive, and it’s generally not possible to reproduce these.

The wonderful grape hyacinth should be dug up some six weeks after flowering and stored in a cool dry place, to be replanted the next autumn. Otherwise they produce lots of boring, space-consuming foliage.

Written By Tom O'Leary

Snow In April

Sometimes it snows in April.

I’ve done it myself – it’s all too easy. The UK gets a week of
beautiful weather, and you find yourself sowing seeds and buying
little tender plants. My advice is, wait up, woah there, hold your
horses! Before you know it, the cold weather’s back with a
vengence, and your little plants are looking pinched and miserable. All too
easily they can get a cold shock from which they probably won’t

The phrase is; ‘hardening off’ – the process whereby young
seedlings and plants slowly adapt to being outdoors after being raised in the
comfort and ease of a heated greenhouse. The trick is not to sow or
buy too early. Plants sown later – say late March/early April - will
quickly catch up with earlier sowings.

Once your seedings are a reasonable size, 4 or 5 inches, put them
outside in a sheltered spot during the day, and bring them in at
night. Do this for a week, and if it gets really cold again, keep
them inside while the cold spell lasts

You’re young plants will thank you for it.

Written By Tom O'Leary

Sorting out the Houseplants for Spring

Now’ s the time to go through your houseplants and give them a
spring going-over. They’ve struggled through the winter with us,
and they need a boost!

Firstly – see if they’ve become pot-bound. Are the roots bursting
out of the drainage holes? The plant will thrive if you repot it
in a slightly larger container, big enough to handle the extra
root growth, say a couple of inches all round.Tease out the roots
gently with your fingernails if they’re tightly bound.

Use a soil based compost which contains nutrients (such as John Innes No 2)
to pot on your plant, then scrape off and discard an inch or two
of the old soil from the surface, to be replaced with your fresh
soil. Do this last bit with all your houseplants. The nutrients
and organic matter in the fresh compost are just what the plants
need, and you won’t then have to feed them again for a year.Give
the plant a good watering and let it sit in a tray of water for
10 minutes while you either wipe the foliage with a felt cloth,
or spray off the dust that can clog a plants breathing apparatus.
Your plants will thank you by growing faster and healthier!

Written By Tom O'Leary

Monday, 13 April 2009

Down In The Basement

Gardens below street level can be very damp and gloomy places. Plants with dark green foliage tend to do best here but you need some flowers to bring in the light. Colours can be difficult to use and my preference would be stick with white.

White busy lizzies (Impatiens) are safe choice and so are white begonias. You could try the larger tuberous begonias as well as the smaller waxy-flowered bedding types. Zantedeschia aethiopica, the giant white arum, commonly sold as a houseplant, is perfectly hardy and will provide a striking display in a damp basement. For more subtle effects, try Aquilegia ‘Munstead White’, with its cute upturned bonnets in early summer, or one of the many tellima varieties with there delicate frothy flower heads in white or cream.

At Little Green Space (the online urban gardening site) there are shady ready planted boxes available for those who are busy and want instant splendour.

Written By Alistair Ayres

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Healthy Mints

I love mints and there are loads of different types to experiment with, including from apple, banana, chocolate, lemon and pineapple to ginger, along with the more usual peppermint and spearmint varieties. However, I would be loath to plant them in the garden because once they get established they run everywhere. In pots, they can be a lot of fun. You need to keep them moist though and repot plants once they become straggly.

Mint can also be fun for the children when grown in window boxes. It is pretty hardy. Have a look at the range of containers at online stores like little green space.

If your plants looks a bit and pale and weak in the spring, and later develop orange spots and start to lose their leaves, they have got the dreaded mint rust disease. If you are starting mint from scratch, especially if someone has given you a few runners, you can protect mint plants from infection. What you do is dip the runners (the rooty bits without leaves) in warm water heated to 45 degrees C. Use a thermometer, it mustn’t be hotter than this. Leave them for ten minutes then rinse in cold water before planting.

Written By Alistair Ayres

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Which Camelia to Choose?

You don’t have to walk far in many parts of London to see just how well camellias thrive in pots. Given some light shade, a little bit of shelter and an ericaceous compost, they smother themselves in bloom from early to late spring.

If you look more closely, you may have noticed that some camellias hold on to their flowers until they turn brown while others shed their coloured petals everywhere once the blooms mature.
There are lots of different camellias but the ones you see in London gardens are nearly always varieties of the Japanese camellia (Camellia japonica) or one of the Camellia x williamsii hybrids. The former hold on to their dead blooms, the later drop their petals.

Which to choose? I would always go for the one that looks without the need for deadheading. But, if you have a bad back or don’t like sweeping, the Japanese types may be your taste.

Written By Alistair Ayres

(Little Green Space have used Camelia for several corporate projects and found them to be very popular).

A Gardening Medical Chest

The Chelsea Physic Garden, founded in 1673 by the Society of Apothecaries, is still one of London’s best-kept secrets but it is a must for anyone seriously interested in the healing power of plants. The Garden of World Medicine is truly fascinating with beds containing healing plants used by different ethnic groups. A feature that I am very keen to see is the new Pharmaceutical Garden.

With slightly quirky opening times (12-5pm on Wednesday to Friday and 12-6pm on Sundays), it pays to plan your visit. You’ll find the entrance tucked away in Swan Walk just on the left past the National Army Museum in Royal Hospital Road (nearest tube Sloane Square). The cafÈ is particularly good and you’ll find interesting plants on sale.
Written By Alistair Ayres
(The Little Green Space Ladybird often visits the Chelsea Physic Garden - a truly magnificent day out. If the owner of this picture would like credit, please let us know. We would also be happy to take it down if required,)

Ferns for Dry Shade

Not all ferns need damp conditions. Some naturally grow in very dry parts of woods and these are especially useful for planting in dry soil beneath trees, next to walls, or a fillers or underplanting for containers.

1. Toughest of all is the male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas). It’s deciduous with typically divided ferny leaves, disappearing completely from autumn till spring. This British native grows around 60cm but there are several more ornamental forms that only reach half this size.
2. Hard shield fern (Polystichum aculeatum). A bold evergreen forming plants around 30cm tall and 60cm across.

3. Soft shield fern (Polystichum setiferum). A big evergreen fern growing about 90cm across and almost as tall. The variety ‘Divisilobum’ grows almost flat.
4. Golden scale fern (Dryopteris affinis ). Interesting habit of remaining evergreen for most of the winter and then flopping in early spring before the new fronds unfurl. The shuttlecock form ‘Polydactyla’ is particularly striking.
5. Hart’s tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium). If you’ve ever seen the tongue of deer, the fronds are about the size and shape. It’s evergreen and seems totally unbothered about what soil it grows in.

Written By Alistair Ayres

Readers should note that many of the ready planted window boxes and container gardens at little green space contain different types of fern and add shape and structure to the overall effect. (tip from the litle green space ladybird).


Grasses can make superb specimens for large pots where there form can be really appreciated. They are mostly pretty drought-tolerant, rarely suffer from pests and diseases, and never need more than annual haircut. Here are of three of my favourites which can rival the best flowering shrubs when in bloom:

Stipa gigantea, the golden oat, forms elegant arching flowering stems up to 1.5m or more, gently swaying in the breeze above a neat clump of greyish evergreen foliage.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’, the Zebra grass, has green leaved banded with horizontal cream stripes. The plume-like flowers appear in late summer and go on well into the autumn. In a 30cm pot, you can expect to reach about 1.5m.

Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hamelin' , the fountain or foxtail grass, form neat mounds of mid-green leaves and becomes smothered in hairy bottlebrush like flowers from late summer until the frosts.

Standard Fuscias

Standard fuchsias can be quite expensive but they are quite easy to grow. Pot up a young plant and insert a bamboo cane that is the same length as you want the main stem to grow. Tie in the stem to the cane as it grows (use soft garden twine rather wire) and pinch out any shoots that grow away from the main stems. Once it reaches the height you want, pinch out the very tip of the shoot and wait for it to branch. When you have two shoots at the top, pinch them out again once they grow to about 10cm.

Keep repeating this until you 8 shoots, 16 shoots and so on to get a really bushy head, When you are satisfied, let the head grow out a bit. When it’s the right size, start pinching out the tips again to keep it under control and get progressively more flowers. By now, the main stem tied to the cane should be totally clean of shoots and leaves. As the summer progresses, it will become stronger and more woody.

Written By Alistair Ayres