Geranium Nodosum

Conrad Batten: 20 sustainable and beautiful plants

Welcome to part three of our sustainable plants fresh for 2021 where we asked five leading designers whose gardens have sustainability at the core for their ideas. 

Part 1: Conrad Batten

Conrad Batten

Conrad’s plant choices reflect the naturalistic spaces with sustainability at heart that are key to his design ethos, and offer an immersive and transportive experience. conradbattendesign.co.uk

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1

ASPHODELUS ALBUS 

In spring the flower spikes rise from a tight whorl of glaucous strap leaves – the essence of the Mediterranean in a bulb. Height (H) 1.2m. Spread (S) 30-50cm. Conditions (C) Adaptable, prefers alkaline and stony soil; full sun. Season of interest (SI) Early summer. Hardiness rating (HR) RHS H4, USDA 6a-8b .

2

BLECHNUM SPICANT

Blechnum spicant
©Jason Ingram

Known as the hard fern, this tufted evergreen fern helps brighten shady areas and combines well with many other shade-loving plants. AGM*. H 10-50cm. S 10-50cm. C Poorly drained, humus- rich soil; full sun to part shade. SI Year round. HR RHS H6, USDA 5a-8b.

3

BRIZA MEDIA

Briza media,

Acts on the muting mauves and scumbling yellows of meadows. A short-lived, quivering, tufted clump of delight. H 30-75cm. S 10-30cm. C Well-drained soil; full sun. SI Year round. HR RHS H7, USDA 4a-8b.

4

CORYLUS AVELLANA

Corylus Avellana
©Jason Ingram

A deciduous tree with yellow catkins in spring followed by hazel nuts in autumn. Leaves turn a rich yellow before they fall in October. H 4-8m. S 4-8m. C Moist but well-drained soil; part shade to full sun. SI Year round. HR RHS H6, USDA 4a-8b.

5

CRATAEGUS MONOGYNA

In the spring, the cream flowers of this deciduous tree buzz with life and are followed in autumn by rich berries. When leaves fall they reveal the purple of spiny twigs; each hawthorn has a story told through twisted stem and branch. H 4-8m. S 4-8m. C Moist but well-drained soil; part shade to full sun. SI Year round. HR RHS H7, USDA 4a-7b.

6

DAUCUS CAROTA

Daucus carota
©Jason Ingram

The wild carrot’s white umbels, occasionally with a blush that swirls around a central purple pin, froth through high-summer plantings. Seeds sprout green in autumn’s nest-like seedheads. H 30-75cm. S 30cm. C Well-drained soil; full sun. SI Spring to autumn. HR RHS H7.

7

DIGITALIS CANARIENSIS

Burnt-orange, flame-flicked flowers with an apricot blush, rise from deep-green leaves on woody, stiff stems. The spires of bell-shaped flowers grow to varying heights creating candelabra-style colour. H 75cm-1.5m. S 75cm-1m. C Rich soil; sun and shelter, frost tender. SI Summer. HR RHS H2.

8

GERANIUM NODOSUM

Geranium Nodosum
©Jason Ingram

In spring the young leaves of this knotted cranesbill unfurl like stretched hands. The pink petals, which have a metallic sheen, have a curious swaying habit. An excellent groundcover for the dappled shade of a tree. H 10-50cm. S 10-50cm. C Moist but well-drained soil; full sun to full shade. SI Spring to autumn. HR RHS H5.

9

HOLBOELLIA LATIFOLIA

Known as the sausage vine for its sausage-shaped, fruits in autumn, this vigorous evergreen climber carries flowers through early spring that have the sweetest fragrance. Adaptable, but best in part shade and needs some sun for flowers. H 4-8m. S 2.5-8m. C Moist but well-drained soil; full sun to full shade. SI Year round. HR RHS H4.

10

LOTUS HIRSUTUS

Semi-evergreen shrub with soft, hairy grey foliage you can’t resist brushing the back of your hands against. Clustered white and pink-tinted flowers run to chocolate seed capsules. AGM. H 50cm-1m. S 50cm-1m. C Well-drained soil; full sun. SI Year round. HR RHS H4.

11

LUZULA SYLVATICA

An evergreen perennial sedge that forms clumps of ribbon leaves, edged with hairs. The open flowers rise above the foliage in May and June on stiff stalks. H 50cm-1m. S 50cm-1m. C Moist, rich, poorly drained soil; part to full shade. SI Year round. HR RHS H7.

12

MALVA MOSCHATA

Known as musk mallow, this perennial creates a flutter presence in a meadow planting, or can be a shadow player on steps or by a wall. Its veined, torn- edged flowers are a middling pink. H 50-90cm. S 20-50cm. C Moist but well-drained soil; full sun. SI Spring to autumn. HR RHS H5, USDA 3a-8b.

13

PERSICARIA AMPLEXICAULIS ‘BLACKFIELD

Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Black Field'
©Torie Chugg

Blood-red flowers, carried on long, ranging stalks, work brilliantly as paint flicks of colour through grasses. Loved by pollinators, this clump-forming perennial has a long flowering period, and offers interest even when not in flower, especially in autumn when the trowel-shaped leaves take on chromatographic colour. H 50cm-1m. S 50cm-1m.

14

PRUNUS CERASIFERA

In early spring, the cherry plum offers clouds of delicate, pink-tinged white blossom, while even the hawthorn still slumbers. Followed by edible plum-like fruits in autumn. Dark-grey speckled bark, develops fissures with age. H 8-12m. S 8m. C Adaptable but best in moist but well-drained soil; full sun or part shade. SI Spring and autumn. HR RHS H6, USDA 5a-8b.

15

ROSA ‘NOISETTE CARNÉE’

A climbing rose that is often still flowering at the end of November. Its small clusters of warm pink blooms are held on mid-green leaves. The clove scent is so delicious you simply want to close your eyes and drink it in. AGM. H 2-3m. S 3m. C Rich, moisture-retentive soil; part shade to full sun. SI Spring to autumn. HR RHS H4.

16

ROSMARINUS OFFICINALIS: ‘POINTE DU RAZ’

The tufted, flicked pillow hair stems of this aromatic shrub grow into a knotty, twisted mound that makes a great groundcover or trailing plant. In May and June it is topped with clear violet-blue flowers that are excellent added to a rocket salad. H 10-90cm. S 10-90cm. C Dry, well-drained soil; full sun. SI Year round. HR RHS H4.

17

RUMEX ACETOSA

Rumex Acetosa
©Jason Ingram

The common sorrel throws up skyward wires of toasted-red flowers from mid to late summer. A low green presence, with apple-tasting leaves. Use it to stitch planting schemes together. H 50-75cm. S 10cm. C Well-drained soil; part shade to full sun. SI Summer. HR RHS H7, USDA 3a-7b.

18

SARCOCOCCA CONFUSA

Sarcococca Confusa (Christmas Box)
©Jason Ingram

Known as sweet box, this evergreen shrub is a winter enchanter, when all is quiet. A plant to linger by, and take in its sweet aroma on cold days when the temptation is to hurry on your way. The white tufted flowers hug the stem nestled in the leaf crook. H 1.5-2.5m. S 1-2m. C Moist but well-drained soil; full to part shade. SI Year round. HR RHS H5.

19

SYMPHYTUM ‘HIDCOTE BLUE’

From crumpled leaves rise bell-like flowers, held in a cluster. Warm pink in bud, they open to light ink blue, bringing early delight to bees. Easily propagated by root cuttings, it is an excellent groundcover but can be tricky to dig out as any small section of root left behind can sprout a new plant. AGM. H 30-50cm. S 50-75cm. C Moist soil; sun or part shade. SI Spring and summer. HR RHS H7, USDA 4a-8b.

20

THALICTRUM ‘ELIN’

Leaves push from the ground in early spring, dark purple in their first flush before mellowing to a more glaucous green. The flowers rise and sway on tall stems, creating a haze of lavender- pink flower that demands to be stroked. AGM. H 1.5-2.5m. S 50cm-1m. C Moist but well-drained soil; part shade. SI July and August. HR RHS H7.

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*Holds an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. Hardiness ratings given when applicable.