Who best to ask for ideas on the most beautiful plants than the men and women who care for some of the most iconic gardens? We asked five gardeners who have worked in five very different gardens, from the romantic Sissinghurst to the contemporary style of New York’s High Line, and from the gardens of a boutique hotel to the private gardens of His Majesty King Charles III.


The list of plants they compiled is brilliantly helpful and inspiring, one that will help any gardener choose what to plant where.

Head gardeners: 

Debs Goodenough (DG): The Kew-trained Canadian was head gardener at Highgrove for 11 years, working for HRH King Charles III to create his vibrant organic gardens. She now lives on the Isle of Wight. 

Eric Rodriguez (ER): Eric is director of horticulture at the High Line in New York where he has supported ecological horticulture .

Martin Ogle (MO) Martin was head gardener at Lowther Castle and led its restoration project through the many stages of its development working closely with designer Dan Pearson. 

Michelle Cain (MC) The former music promoter trained at Capel Manor and was head gardener at the famous gardens of Sissinghurst Castle. She now works at Ventnor Botanic Gardens. 

Tom Coward (TC) Tom heads the garden team at the hotel Gravetye Manor, once the home of Victorian ‘wild garden’ exponent William Robinson.

100 of the most beautiful plants and flowers

Annuals and biennials

Centaurea Cyanus 'Blue Boy'

Made for a Royal buttonhole, this large-flowered, old cornflower cultivar with its rich, blue-hue flowers performs well in borders, or grown as a cut flower. Height (H) 75cm. Spread (S) 10-30cm. Conditions (C) Easy to grow in any well-drained soil; full sun. Season of interest (SI) Late spring to summer. Hardiness rating (HR) RHS H6. Selected by Debs Goodenough (DG)

Cleome Hassleriana 'Violet Queen'

Its interesting foliage and unusual flowers add vertical accent and an airy quality to a herbaceous border. It’s almost at its best as it finishes its display in late summer with spider-like seedpods that dry to give interest into the winter. H 1.5m. S 1m. C Moist but well-drained soil; full sun in sheltered position. SI July – September. HR RHS H2. TC

Cynoglossum Amabile

Stunning annual with the most intense azure-blue flowers. It will work well from an autumn sowing over-wintered in a cold frame and then planted out in spring for May flowering. Subsequent spring sowings will flower later. AGM. H 40cm. S 30cm. C Moist but well-drained soil; full sun to part shade. SI May – July. HR RHS H5. TC

Echium Vulgare

I first fell in love with this biennial on a trip to Prospect Cottage in Dungeness, where it is a wildflower in the coastal shingle. Its gentian blue combines perfectly with a self-seeding, orange, Californian poppy (5). At Gravetye it makes a wonderful addition in gravel and among our azaleas. H 75cm. S 75cm. C Well-drained soil; full sun. SI May – July. HR RHS H7. TC

Eschscholzia Californica

A versatile self-seeder that is easy to pull out when in the way. There are many hybrids from white to red but I prefer the standard burnt orange. It has worked well at Gravetye sown through a bed of nepeta. H 30cm. S 30cm. C Best on poor soils; full sun. SI May – June. HR RHS H3, USDA 6a-10b. TC

Tagetes 'Cinnabar'
Tagetes 'Cinnabar' © Maayke de Ridder

Hesperis Matronalis

This lovely biennial has worked best at Gravetye from a June sowing and drifted through the mixed border as an autumn planting. H 1m. S 50cm. C Moist but well-drained soil (will appreciate a little lime); full sun to part shade. SI May – July. HR RHS H6, USDA 3a-8b. TC

Onopordum Acanthium

An attractive biennial thistle, which in its first year forms a rosette of spiny leaves. Give it room and it will serve you well. May self-seed. H 1.8m. S 90cm. C Fertile, well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil; full sun. SI Summer. HR RHS H4, USDA 6a-10b. MO

Tagetes 'Cinnabar'

A seed form developed by Christopher Lloyd at Great Dixter through the 1980s. Starting with a dwarf and variable marigold, he continually collected seed from taller, darker-flowered plants. The result is a vigorous deep-red marigold, with the charisma of its breeder. H 1.5m. S 1m. C Any well-drained, alkaline to neutral soil; full sun. SI July – October. HR RHS H3. TC

Number 1: Cornflower 'Blue Boy' © Jane Tregelles / Alamy Stock Photo


Allium Nigrum

Multi-flowering clusters of white florets dotted at the centre with green ovaries and light green striping on underside of florets. Good pollinator-host. H 50cm. S 8cm. C Rich, medium-dry, well-drained soils; full sun. SI Late spring to early summer. HR USDA 4a-7b. ER

Camassia Leichtlinii subsp. Suksdorfii Caerulea

Group One of the loveliest bulbs for a wildflower meadow. Its bright blue spikes are magical among flowering grass. At Gravetye we use it in our orchard, where it’s grown en masse, and it times perfectly with the apple blossom. H 1m. S 50cm. C Prefers a moist soil; full sun to part shade. SI May. HR RHS H4. TC

Cyclamen Coum

Under the naked beech canopies in winter, blankets of this wonderfully tough pink cyclamen mix with other early harbingers of spring. Naturalises well. Beautifully mottled leaves add to its charm. AGM. H 10cm. S 15cm. C Well-drained soil; prefers light shade, does well under deciduous tree canopies. SI Winter to early spring. HR RHS H5. DG

Erythronium 'Pagoda'

Decorative groundcover with purplish mottling and hanging, yellow, reflexed flowers that have green bands. Lush, ephemeral groundcover in woodlands. AGM. H 30cm. S 10cm. C Moist, humus-rich soil; partial sun. SI Spring. HR RHS H5, USDA 2a-9b. ER

Galanthus Elwesii

Snowdrops are priceless in any garden. This is one of the earliest, showiest and easiest to establish and has proved most vigorous at Gravetye. AGM. H 20cm. S 5cm. C Moist but well-drained soil; part shade. SI January – February. HR RHS H5, USDA 4a-7b. TC

Gladiolus Communis subsp. Byzantinus

A designer favourite that is changing the perception of this genus. Its vivid magenta colour partners well with so many other things. I love it with acid greens, such as Euphorbia palustris. AGM. H 60cm. S 10cm. C Moist, well-drained soil; full sun. SI May – June. HR RHS H5, USDA 6a-10b. MC

If you follow a strict pruning regime for your wisteria, you will be rewarded with showy pendant racemes of fragrant flowers.
© Gavin Kingcome

Leucojum Aestivum 'Gravetye Giant'

This very good form of a beautiful native was selected at Gravetye by William Robinson. Particularly robust and long flowering, it will accept almost any soil but seems to thrive in one of our damp meadows. H 75cm. S 30cm. C Very versatile. SI March – May. HR RHS H7. TC

Narcissus 'Hawera'

A charming and dainty dwarf daffodil, featuring up to five elegant little primrose yellow flowers per stem, with starry, reflexed perianth segments and an incredible scent for such a tiny thing. Perfect at the edge of a woodland or in pots. AGM. H 25cm. S 10cm. C Fertile, well-drained soil; sun or part shade. SI May. HR RHS H6, USDA 3a-8b. MC

Narsissus Hawara
Number 16: Narsissus Hawara © Jason Ingram

Narcissus 'Pueblo'

Exquisite, Jonquil daffodil in a delicate mix of creams. Multi-headed with up to three flowers per stem. Its delicious, sweet scent is the heady stuff of dreams. Absolutely exceptional. H 30cm. S 10cm. C Fertile, well-drained soil; sun or part shade. SI March – April. HR RHS H7, USDA 3a-8b. MC

Scilla Bifolia

Will form thick carpets of sky blue if left undisturbed. Works well in borders and shrubberies but is especially effective in wildflower meadows, where it times perfectly with Narcissus pseudonarcissus, complementing the native daffodil’s lemon yellow perfectly. AGM. H 10cm. S 10cm. C Very versatile. SI March. HR RHS H6. TC

Tulipa 'Salmon Impression'

This luxuriant Darwin hybrid is a soft blend of salmon, apricot and rosy pink, creating a dreamy, ethereal quality that looks best when illuminated by morning light. Tall, impressive and perennial. H 55cm. S 25cm. C Any well-drained soil; sun or part shade. SI April – May. HR RHS H7, USDA 3a-8b. MC


Ampelopsis Megalophylla

Its huge green leaves turn bright red, pink and orange in autumn. The profusion of green flowers in summer are followed by pink berries that ripen to black in autumn. Needs plenty of room to reach its true potential. H 10m. S 10m. C Sheltered position in sun or part shade. SI Summer and autumn. HR RHS H4, USDA 5a-9b. MO

Clematis 'Gravetye Beauty'

Bred at Gravetye by William Robinson’s head gardener, Ernest Markham. Delicate with seductively rich red flowers. Benefits from liquid feed through summer, works well scrambling through evergreen shrubs such as Sarcococca confusa. H 2m. s 50cm. C Well-drained, humus-rich soil; full sun to part shade. SI June – September. TC

Clematis 'Mayleen'

Deliciously scented, this beautiful, light-pink clematis with bronzed-tinged foliage drapes many a wall in the garden flowering over a long period. AGM. H 8-12m. S 1.5-2.5m. C Full sun to part shade in any moist, well-drained soil. SI Late spring to early summer. HR RHS H4. DG

Clematis Wisley (= 'EVIPO001')

Rich violet-blue with a reddish flush, this is an eye-catcher at Highgrove against pale Cotswold stone walls. AGM. H 3m. S 1-1.5m. C Any moist, well-drained soil; full sun to part shade. SI Summer to early autumn. HR RHS H6. DG

Clematis Pitcheri

Twining petioles allow this vigorous vine to climb and display nodding, mottled, urn-shaped, petal-like sepals with recurved tips. Decorative, fluffy seedheads in autumn. Drought and heat resistant. H 3m. S 8cm. C Moist, well-drained soils; sun to part shade. SI Late spring to early autumn. HR USDA 5a-9b ER

Lonicera Periclymenum 'Graham Thomas'

A beautiful native honeysuckle, which has the most stunning clusters of white flowers that turn to a buff yellow. Its twining habit makes it a great choice for growing up a host tree or over an arch. One of my favourites. AGM. H 7m. S 7m. C Most moist but well-drained soils; full sun or part shade. SI Summer. HR RHS H4, USDA 7a-10b. MO

Clematis pitcheri
Number 24: Clematis pitcheri © Jason Ingram

Lonicera Sempervirens 'Major Wheeler'

One of the longest blooming honeysuckles, with flashy, tubular, orange-red flowers. Partially evergreen in warmer climates, mildew resistant. H 18cm. S 3m. C Average, well-drained soils; full sun to part shade. SI Late spring to early autumn. HR USDA 4a-8b. ER

Rosa 'Madame Alfred Carriére'

Vigorous climbing rose with clusters of fragrant, fully double, pink-flushed, creamy-white flowers. Give it space through a tree to perform its true potential. AGM. H 8m. S 2.5m. C Grow in moist but free-draining soil; sheltered, sunny position trained to a wall or fence. SI Summer and autumn. HR RHS H4, USDA 4a-10b. MO

Wisteria x Valderi

Flowering at the height of spring, this Japanese wisteria dominates the senses, with long clusters of fragrant lilac-violet flowers. Can be trained to cascade up or over walls, pergolas or through trees. H 8m+. S 1-1.5m. C Moist but well-drained soil; full sun to light shade, south- or west-facing aspect. SI Spring to early summer. HR RHS H6. DG


Asparagus Officinalis 'Gijnlim'

A male cultivar with green spears emerging early with defining, deep-purple tips. A high yielding favourite of HRH. AGM. H 1.5m. S 50cm. C Well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil; sun to dappled shade. SI Spring cropping. HR RHS H7. DG

Brassica Oleracea var. Gemmifera 'Rubine'

Highly productive Brussels sprout with walnut-sized sprouts of good flavour. Keeps its red colour when cooked. H 60cm. C Fertile soil with good organic matter, free-draining and pH near to neutral; sunny position essential. SI Autumn. HR RHS H7. DG

Daucus Carota 'Purple Haze'

Not just a novelty vegetable, a sweet, main-crop carrot excellent for eating raw or cooked. It stores well, is a favourite on the plate and is rich in antioxidants. Sow directly in ground or under frames or cloches. H 25cm. S 15cm. C Light, stone-free soil kept moist throughout growing season; sun. SI Autumn and winter. HR RHS H4. DG

Malus Domestica 'Howgate Wonder'

Remarkable apple with fruit that will grow to the size of a bowling ball. Grown as an espalier it is always a showstopper. Flavour is acid sweet, crisp and very juicy. Very pleasant raw as well as being a good cooker, it makes excellent juice. AGM. H 4m. S 4m. C Best in rich soil; sheltered spot. SI May for blossom; July – October for fruit. HR RHS H6. TC

Malus domestica 'Howgate wonder'
Number 32: Malus domestica 'Howgate wonder' © Andrew Montgomery

Ribes Nigrum Cassissima Noiroma

The acidity has been bred out of this modern blackcurrant, resulting in a very sweet, large juicy fruit. Not so good as a jam, but excellent raw. My young daughter is addicted to them and is always asking when they’ll be ready again. H 1.5m. S 1.5m. C Rich soil for best flavour; full sun. SI July. TC

Ferns and grasses

Adiantum Pedatum

Delicate fronds with circular-spreading, fan-like pinnae and dark stems. AGM. H 60cm. S 35cm. C Cool, moist woodlands, with well-draining, slightly acidic soil; part to full shade. SI Late spring to autumn. HR RHS H6, USDA 3a-8b. ER

Carex Oshimensis 'Everillo'

Clump-forming evergreen sedge providing bright, lime-green foliage even in deepest winter. Works well in either waterside or winter schemes and perfect for a shady spot. H 50cm. S 50cm. C Moisture-retentive soil with good drainage; sun or shade. SI Year-round. HR RHS H7, USDA 5a-9b. MC

Muhlenberg capillaris
Number 37: Muhlenberg capillaris © Kevin McCarthy / Alamy Stock Photo

Cheilanthes Lanosa

Evergreen, upright fronds with silver, hair-like scales, sun and drought-tolerant. C Loose, gritty, free-draining soil; full sun to part shade. H 30cm. S 30cm. SI Year-round. HR USDA 5a-8b. ER

Muhlenbergia Capillaris

Attractive, wiry green leaves precede open, pink inflorescences up to 30cm long, floating above the crown-like plumes of pink smoke in early autumn, holding their attractiveness through late winter. H 75cm. S 75cm. C Sandy to rocky, dry to medium-dry soils; full sun to light shade. SI Early to late winter. HR USDA 5a-9b. ER

Veronicastrum virginicum f. roseum
© Claire Takacs

Onoclea Sensibilis

A handsome, deciduous fern with strikingly arched, bright-green fronds in spring that turn to an attractive yellowish brown in autumn. A lovely plant to consider when planting for a woodland theme. AGM. H 45cm. S 45cm. C Moist but well-drained, acid-to-neutral soils; part to full shade. SI Spring to autumn. HR RHS H4, USDA 6a-9b. MO

Osmunda Regalis

This exceptional fern has oval-to-oblong, bright green fronds. Mature plants bear tassel-like, rusty brown flower spikes at ends of taller fronds. A good structural plant and key addition to any stumpery. Useful for very wet gardens. AGM. H 2m. S 1m. C Most cool, moist soils; prefers shade but will grow in full sun if given plenty of moisture. SI Spring to winter. HR RHS H4, USDA 6a-9b. MO

Panicum Amarum 'Dewey Blue'

A low-maintenance, perennial grass with light-blue foliage and a flowing, fountain-like form, that needs warm weather to emerge but thrives in marginally fertile soils. Pale-blue flowers appear in late summer to early autumn, followed by tan seedheads that persist through winter. A stunning addition to prairie-style planting. H 1.2m. S 80cm. C Average, well-drained, dry to medium-wet soils; sun to part shade. SI Year-round. HR USDA 2a-9b. ER

Stipa Ichu

Elegant, white-plume flowers waving above light green, hair-like foliage that will give lovely movement to a planting. A tactile plant that it’s difficult to walk past without running your hand through. Drought resistant and semi-evergreen. AGM. H 1m. S 50cm. C Free-draining soil; full sun. SI June – September. HR RHS H4. TC


Aralia Cordata

Has incredible structure and shape and will stand proud until first frosts. I love its large umbels of magnificent flowers. H 1.2-2m. S 1.2m. C Prefers light shade, can grow in full shade, or full sun providing it has a reliable water source. SI Spring to autumn. HR RHS H4, USDA 3a-9b. MO

Asclepias Purpurascens

Showy milkweed with small, pinkish-purple flowers on purple umbels. Flowers are a nectar source for butterflies and the leaves food for monarch butterfly caterpillars. H 80cm. S 50cm. C Average dry to moist, well-drained soils, performs best in poor, marginal, drought-prone soils, full sun. SI Late spring to early autumn. HR USDA 3a-8b. ER

Eschscholzia californica
Number 5: Eschscholzia californica © shapencolour / Alamy Stock Photo

Brunnera Macrophylla 'Betty Bowring'

A superb, clump-forming perennial with delicate sprays of pure-white forget-me-not flowers in spring. Great with hellebores, geraniums or ferns. H 60cm. S 60cm. C Fertile, humus-rich, moist, well-drained soil; full sun to full shade. SI Spring to summer. HR RHS H4, USDA 3a-7b. MO

Cephalaria Gigantea

Scabious-like, pale-yellow flowers float on tall, willowy stems, rising from large clumps of pinnately lobed leaves. Needs a lot of room, but an impressive choice for the back of a border. H 2m. S 80cm. C Fertile, moist but well-drained soil; full sun to part shade. SI June – September. HR RHS H7, USDA 3a-9b. MC

Cypripedium Paviflorum

Terrestrial orchid, easily identifiable by its large, yellow lip, pouch-like slipper flower that is creamy yellow. H 50cm. S 30cm. C Moist, rich woodlands, well-drained soils; part sun to light shade. SI Mid to late spring. HR USDA 3a-8b. ER

Dahlia Merckii

A dainty plant providing an abundance of lilac-pink, nodding flowers. Is quite easy from seed as well as tuber divisions and cuttings. Has been reliably hardy at Gravetye in some quite neglected spots for nearly ten years. H 1m. S 50cm. C Rich and fertile, well-drained soil; full sun, sheltered site. SI July – October. HR RHS H5. TC

Dahlia 'Preference'

Hard to choose a favourite, but the colour of this semi-cactus dahlia – apricot, fading to yellow in the centre – can’t be matched. Pinch out growing tips to encourage bushy plants. H 1m. S 60cm. C Well-drained soil, enriched with organic matter; full sun. SI July – October. HR RHS H3, USDA 8a-11b. MC

Dalea Purpurea

Small, purple flowers arranged around a cone-shaped inflorescence. A highly drought-tolerant, nitrogen fixer that attracts multiple pollinators. H 75cm. S 30cm. C Rocky, open woodland and prairie gardens, average to medium-quality, well-drained soils; full sun. SI Early summer to late summer. HR USDA 3a-8b. ER

Delphinium 'Cassius'

As patron of The Delphinium Society, HRH has many favourite cultivars of this structural perennial. ‘Cassius’ with its deep-blue, iridescent flowers is a particularly fine, strong form. H 1.7m+. S 50cm. C Moist, well-drained soil; full sun in a sheltered position. SI Summer. HR RHS H5. DG

Dianthus 'Devon Wizard'

This highly scented pink with striking reddish-purple flowers punctuates the edge of the Cottage Garden borders leading both the eye and nose. AGM. H 25cm. S 25cm. C Well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil; full sun. SI Summer. HR RHS H6. DG

Diascia Personata

This lovely plant has a wonderfully long season and is particularly useful in a matrix planting with grasses and other perennials. Its pink blooms appear to float among the other textures. It roots easily from cuttings and younger plants seem to perform best if it is propagated regularly. H 50cm. S 50cm. C Moist but well-drained soil; full sun to part shade. SI May – October. HR RHS H4. TC

Iris x robusta 'Dark Aura'
Number 62: Iris x robusta 'Dark Aura' © John Richmond / Alamy Stock Photo

Disporum Longistylum 'Night Heron'

Exotic-looking woodland perennial, with bamboolike, deep-purple stems that become dark green. Its clusters of narrow, green to creamy yellow, bell-shaped flowers are followed by purple-black berries. AGM. H 45cm. S 30cm. C Prefers a humus-rich soil; shade. SI Spring to summer. HR RHS H6, USDA 4a-8b. MO

Epimedium x Youngianum 'Niveum'

Masses of the most delicate, tiny pure-white flowers, held on pink-tinted stems above heartshaped, bronze-flushed leaves. H 30cm. S 30cm. C Fertile, moist but well-drained, humus-rich soil; part shade and shelter from cold, dry winds. SI March – April. HR RHS H5, USDA 5a-9b. MC

Erysimum 'Winter Orchid'

I’ve seen this evergreen flowering in the garden in the dead of winter and then continuing to do so throughout the year. Its coppery orange blooms turn pink and purple as they age. H 30cm. S 40cm. C Moderately fertile, well-drained, neutral or, ideally, alkaline soil; full sun essential. SI Year-round. HR RHS H4, USDA 7a-10b. MC

Geranium Psilostemon

Versatile and vigorous perennial with wonderful magenta flowers. Needs pea-sticking and regular divisions but is excellent for inter-planting with spring interest and late summer annuals after a cutback. AGM. H 1m. S 1m. C Most soils; sun or shade. SI May-August. HR RHS H7. TC

Gillenia Trifoliata

A must-have perennial for any garden with the most stunning clusters of dainty white flowers in summer. Its leaves add real structure and shape to a border, and turn a coppery colour later in the season. AGM. H 1.2m. S 60cm. C Prefers moist soils; will tolerate shade or semi-shade. SI Spring to autumn. HR RHS H4, USDA 5a-9b. MO

Helenium 'Sahin's Early Flowerer'

This is probably one of the longest flowering heleniums, and its strong-orange, daisy-like flowers are really fun to work with. I particularly enjoy it with the contrasting spikes of blue or purple salvias, such as S. ‘Indigo Spires’, or S. ‘Amistad’. Regular divisions will extend the flowering season. AGM. H 1.5m. S 1m. C Any reasonable soil, with added organic matter; sun or part shade. SI June – October. HR RHS H7. TC

Hemerocallis Fulva 'Flore Pleno'

All daylilies are show-offs, but this one takes the prize for exuberance, with large, fully double, rich orange flowers and a red throat. Vigorous, prolific and a long flowerer; totally happy in waterlogged soil. H 1.2m. S 80cm. C Any moist soil; full sun. SI Summer. HR RHS H5, USDA 3a-9b. MC

Hibiscus Moscheutos

Showy, white or translucent-pink dinner-plate-sized flowers with contrasting centres, reminiscent of tropical hibiscus. Decorative seedheads in autumn persist through the winter. Late to emerge, preferring warmer days before breaking winter dormancy. H 1.95m. S 95cm. C Best in rich, moist soils, does well in average moist soils; full sun. SI Early summer to late summer, seedheads autumn through winter. HR USDA 5a-9b. ER

Hosta Sieboldiana var. Elegans

Sculptural, corrugated blue-grey leaves topped with spikes of lilac-tinged white, bell-shaped flowers in dense racemes. The striking leaves contrast perfectly with other foliage plants. Slug resistant. H 75cm. S 90cm. C Fertile, moist but well-drained soil; part shade; shelter from cold, dry winds. SI Summer. HR RHS H7, USDA 3a-9b. MC

Iris x Robusta 'Dark Aura'

Grass-like foliage with purple flowers, veined and yellow at the base of the falls. Magnificent in large groups or individually adds elegance to a border. H 90cm. S 50cm. C Any good soil, preferably moist but not waterlogged; sun or part shade. SI Summer. HR RHS H4, USDA 3a-9b. MO

Kniphofia Rooperi

A plant to illuminate the border and end the summer with a flash of colour. Neat olive-green strap-like leaves blend in subtly, making it useful even at the front of the border. By the end of the season, its iridescent orange pokers are radiant in the autumn light. AGM. H 1.5m. S 1m. C Moist but well-drained soil; full sun. SI September – October. HR RHS H5. TC

Paeonia Lactiflora 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Large, ruffled double flowers in apple blossom pink, lusciously perfumed, productive and reliable. The sight of its perfect magenta-marbled buds brings me much joy. Flowers may need support, but worth every effort. AGM. H 90cm. S 80cm. C Moist but well-drained, deep, fertile soil; sheltered position in full sun or part shade. SI May – June. HR RHS H6, USDA 3a-8b. MC

Paris Polyphylla

This exotic-looking, hardy perennial has whorls of bold green, lanceolate leaves. Spider-like flowers throw out long, thread-like, yellowish-green petals around a black knob in the centre of the plant. I grow this with wild strawberry and brunnera; a great combination. H 60cm. S 30cm. C Best in moist humus-rich soil; shade or semi-shade. SI Spring to autumn. HR RHS H4, USDA 5a-9b. MO

Selinum wallichianum
Number 70: Selinum wallichianum © Jason Ingram

Penstemon Digitalis 'Husker Red'

Spectacular pollinator plant with double-lipped, tubular, white to pinkish flowers in loose panicles on solid stems. Foliage is dark purple, almost burgundy. Great naturaliser in prairie, open woodland, and field settings. H 75cm. S 60cm. C Average, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil; full sun. SI Mid-spring to early summer. HR USDA 3a-8b. ER

Persicaria 'Pink Elephant'

Persicarias are some of my favourite perennials, and if I could pick only one it would have to be this cultivar. Beautifully proportioned and compact, it’s small, plentiful, soft pink flowers have a lovely waving habit, rather like an elephant’s trunk, and last over a really long season. Works really well repeated along the front of the border. H 50cm. S 1.5m. C Will thrive in most well-drained soils; sun but tolerates some shade. SI June – October. HR RHS H7. TC

Salvia Azurea

Drought-tolerant with powder-blue to azure florets on tall inflorescences that attract a variety of butterflies and bees. Beautiful at home in naturalistic, wildflower fields, or cottage gardens. H 1.5m. S 90cm. C Average quality, dry to medium, gravel or sandy, well-drained soil; full sun. SI Midsummer to mid-autumn. HR USDA 5a-9b. ER

Salvia 'Nachtvlinder'

A lovely, dark-purple salvia, which has proved to be quite hardy for us at Gravetye. It has a very neat habit and a long season and is excellent at the front of the border, spilling over a path. Best from cuttings in late summer. AGM. H 75cm. S 1m. C Moist but well-drained soil; sunny, sheltered spot. SI May – October. HR RHS H5. TC

Selinum Wallichianum

I love the late frothiness of this beautiful late-flowering umbellifer. It provides great architecture in the border and is great as a cut flower. Considered as the queen of all umbellifers it’s certainly one to consider. AGM. H 1-1.5m. S 5m. C Grow in moderately fertile, moist but well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. SI Late summer. HR RHS H4, USDA 6a-9b. MO

Number 63: Kniphofia Rooperi © Rachel Warne

Silphium Terebinthinaceum

Dramatic, 7cm-wide sunflowers emerge from a basal clump of oval leaves 60cm in length. Great height at rear of garden, in prairie-style, wildflower gardens. H 2.75m. S 90cm. C Average, medium, well-drained soils, tolerant of poor soils, medium moisture; full sun. SI Early summer to autumn. HR USDA 4a-8b. ER

Thalictrum 'Elin'

This tall, elegant plant looks like a Thalictrum delavayi on steroids. Despite its stature, the plant has a translucent quality that makes it a lot of fun. Its pretty lilac and cream flowers are stunning against the dark-purple stems. But, deep into the winter, it’s its structure and height that really sets it apart. AGM. H 2.5m. S 1m. C Rich, well-drained soil, sun or part shade. SI June – July. HR RHS H7. TC

Verbascum Phoeniceum 'Violeta'

Ascending spires of delicate, five-petalled rich purple flowers. Unopened buds look like star-shaped cushions. It’s an absolute delight. Weave through a border to contrast with silver foliage, or pale-yellow flowers. H 90cm. S 40cm. C Poor, well-drained, alkaline, soil; full sun. SI May – June. HR RHS H6, USDA 6a-10b. MC

Veronicastrum Virginicum 'Spring Dew'

I always look forward to seeing the formal upright towering spikes of this plant that dominate the border in midsummer. In the garden at Lowther Castle, it’s grown alongside a frothy filipendula and the two complement each other beautifully. H 1.35m. S 50cm. C Moist well-drained soil; full sun or part shade. SI Summer and early autumn for spent flower stems. HR RHS H4, USDA 3a-9b. MO

Shrubs and trees

Acer Palmatum 'Shin-Deshojo'

Small Japanese maple with striking emerging leaves that are scarlet to deep pink for several months before turning reddish green throughout summer. Eye-catching, dotted through the Arboretum for early displays among spring bulbs. May be container grown. AGM. H 3m. S 2m. C Moist but not wet soil; light shade, protect from winds and scorching sun. SI Spring. HR RHS H6. DG

Acer Platanoides 'Princeton Gold' (= 'Prigo')

This vibrant, golden-leaved form of the Norway maple holds its leaf colour through to midsummer; a statement tree drawing the eye and framing significant features in the garden at Highgrove. Planted in the open, it provides vivid autumn colour. AGM. H 12m+. S 8m+. C Most soil types, tolerates air pollution and drought conditions; full sun to light shade. SI Spring to early summer; autumn display. HR RHS H7. DG

Aesculus Parviflora

This North American native shrub, forms a dense mound of palmate leaves and has upright, showy, white inflorescences with red anthers and pink filaments. Great pollinator, it offers conker-like nuts, known as buckeyes, and beautiful, pale-yellow foliage in autumn. AGM. H 3.65m. S 4.5m. C Moist, rich soils, intolerant of drought, part shade to shade. SI Midsummer to autumn. HR USDA 4a-8b. ER

Amelanchier Canadensis

This splendid deciduous tree or shrub deserves a place in any garden. This particular cultivar has beautiful, star-shaped white flowers from mid to late spring. Also not to be overlooked when planning for autumn colour in the garden. H 6m. S 3m. C Moist, lime-free, well-drained soil; full sun for best autumn colour. SI Spring and autumn. HR RHS H7, USDA 7a-10b. MO

Number 87: Indigofera pendula © Jason Ingram

Betula Populifolia 'Whitespire'

Columnar, narrow, deciduous tree often with multiple stems, but can be trained to a singular form. Flexibility in the trunks and branches allows resiliency in high winds. Striking bark is a welcome sight in any winter garden. H 12m. S 6m. C Medium to wet soils but tolerant of poor, shallow soils; full sun to part shade. SI Showy catkins in early spring, russet-yellow leaves in autumn, striking winter-interest bark. HR USDA 3a-8b. ER

Cercis Canadensis

Deciduous, low-maintenance, electric-pink pea flowers precede the emergence of heart-shaped leaves, followed by brown pods that persist through the winter. Pale, greenish-yellow leaves in autumn. H 9m. S 10m. C Average to medium, moist, moderately rich but well-drained soils; full sun to part shade. SI Late winter to early spring. HR USDA 4a-8b. ER

Clerodendrum Trichotomum

Suckering, deciduous shrub that can be trained to grow as a tree. White, fragrant, clusters of flowers followed by dark-lue fruit subtended by fleshy, magenta calyx. H 5m. S 5m. C Organic, rich soils; full sun to part shade. SI Early summer to autumn. HR USDA 7a-10b. ER

Cornus Kousa 'John Slocock'

One of the most prolific flowering cornus, with a more upright habit than the species. The huge, creamy-white bracts of this cultivar become blotched with pink as they age and are followed by deep-pink, strawberry-like fruits in clusters. AGM. H 4m. S 4m. C Well-drained soil; sun or part shade. SI May – June. HR RHS H6, USDA 5a-8b. MC

Daphne Bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’

With its highly scented, long-lasting flowers in winter, this semi-evergreen shrub has been used by HRH in the Arboretum and Stumpery, to entice the senses when the winter air is cleanly crisp AGM. H 1.5-2.5m. S 1.5m. C Moist but well-drained soil; full sun to part shade. SI Winter. HR RHS H4. DG

Euonymus Europaeus

A must in any garden when looking for autumn colour. Its showy red fruits split and open in autumn to reveal orange seeds. A beautiful shrub that I’ve had the pleasure of using in several different gardens. H 3m. S 3m. C Grow in welldrained soil; sun or part shade. SI Summer and autumn. HR RHS H4, USDA 5a-10b. MO

Ginkgo Biloba

A great choice for a focal-point tree. It has fan-shaped leaves that turn a beautiful, bright yellow in autumn. It also has interesting grey bark. Tolerant of pollution and so suitable for urban areas. H 15m. S 8m. C Well-drained soil; full sun. SI Summer and autumn. HR RHS H4, USDA 5a-10b. MO

Hydrangea Aspera subsp. Sargentiana

One of the finest hydrangeas. Its dark-green leaves are downy on the underside, and its lovely blue inner flowers are surrounded by lilac-pink to white ray florets in summer. Adds brilliant structure to any border. H 4m. S 4m. C Moist but well-drained, acidic to neutral soil; sun or part shade. SI Summer and autumn. HR RHS H3, USDA 7a-9b. MO

Indigofera Pendula

Very long, pendulous racemes of pink or purple wisteria-like flowers, set from arching branches bearing elegant, blue-green leaves. Sissinghurst favourite, flowering all the way from summer to autumn. Re-shoots strongly from the base if cut back hard. H 3m. S 1m. C Light, well-drained soil in a sheltered position; full sun. SI July–October. HR RHS H5, USDA 7a-10b. MC

Lonicera x Purpusii 'Winter Beauty'

In the depths of winter, clusters of tubular, white flowers with prominent yellow anthers cling to bare branches filling the air with a heady fragrance that can stop you in your tracks. A valuable addition to the winter garden and a vital source of nectar for bumblebees disturbed from hibernation. AGM. H 2m. S 2.5m. C Any well-drained soil; sun or part shade. SI November–March. HR RHS H6, USDA 5a-9b. MC

Magnolia 'Heaven Scent'

Used in many parts of the garden at Highgrove, this small but vigorous magnolia performs well, with a magnificent, early display of showy rosy-pink flowers, with intermittent flowering through the rest of the summer. AGM. H 12m. S 8m+. C Moist, well-drained soils in neutral or acid conditions; full sun to part shade. SI Spring and summer. HR RHS H5. DG

Thalictrum 'Elin'
Number 72: Thalictrum 'Elin' © Claire Takacs

Magnolia x Wieseneri

Incredibly rare but sensational cultivar, the most strongly scented of all magnolias. Its upward facing, saucer-shaped, ivory flowers have a central boss of dusky-pink stamens and look almost too perfect to be real. H 6m. S 8m. C Well-drained, fertile soils; full sun or light, dappled shade. SI May–July. HR RHS H5, USDA 6a-9b. MC

Malus Hupehensis

In my view one of the most stunning of all crab apple trees, which has heavenly, fragrant, white flowers in spring and cherry-like fruits in autumn. In the garden ours originate from Great Dixter, the fruit is slightly more delicate than other forms. AGM. H 8m. S 8m. C Moderately fertile, moist, free-draining soil; full sun, will tolerate partial shade. SI Spring and autumn. HR RHS H4. MO

Philadelphus Coronarius 'Aureus'

A signature plant at Highgrove, with its bright yellow leaves brightening up borders and drawing the eye to further explore the garden. Its longlasting fragrant flowers add to its usefulness. AGM. H 1.5-2.5m. S 1.5m. C Any moist, well-drained soil; full sun to part shade. SI Spring and summer. HR RHS H6. DG

Phlomis Leucophracta

Unusual shrub with very interesting evergreen foliage. Fluffy, gold-edged leaves and amber flowers in late summer. A tricky one to propagate but we have had some success with cuttings taken in August and given bottom heat. Excellent structural plant in a mixed border. H 2m. S 1.5m. C Better in poor soil, free-draining, sheltered spot. SI Yearround HR RHS H4. TC

College Barn in Somerset
© Rebecca Bernstein

Rosa Abraham Darby (= 'Auscot')

Old-fashioned English shrub rose, bearing large, peony-shaped and deeply cupped, sumptuous blooms that have a rich fruity fragrance. Repeatflowering in soft shades of pink, apricot and yellow. Almost thornless, with glossy foliage. H 1.5m. S 1m. C Fertile, moisture-retentive but well-drained soil; sunny position. SI June–October. HR RHS H7, USDA 6a-10b. MC

Rosa Gertrude Jekyll (= 'Ausbord')

Continually flowering through the summer and early autumn, this highly scented rose with deeppink fully double flowers and healthy disposition ranks highly among HRH’s favourites. AGM. H 1-1.5m. S 50cm-1m. C Fertile, moist, well-drained soils; full sun. SI Summer to early autumn. HR RHS H6. DG

Rosa Jacqueline Du Pré (= 'Harwanna')

Just like its namesake, this rose is a class act: its simple blush-white flowers exude elegance and beauty. Her large blooms with distinct coral stamens and scalloped petals repeat well and are complemented by a musky scent. H 1.2m. S 90cm. C Fertile, humus-rich, moist, well-drained soil. SI June-September. HR RHS H6, USDA 5a-10b. MC

Gladiolus communis byzantinus
Number 14: Gladiolus communis subsp byzantinus © Sharon Pearson

Rosa Jude The Obscure (= 'Ausjo')

This repeat-flowering rose with its delicious citrusy scent and soft yellow flowers charms everyone who puts their nose to its bouquet. Grown at entrance points of the garden. H 1.5m. S 1m. C Full sun and all soil types. SI Summer to early autumn. HR RHS H6. DG

Salix Gracilistyla 'Mount Aso'

This is a new one at Gravetye, which I’m really excited to see develop. A beautiful willow that stands out for its abundant, large pink, male catkins. These fade to silver before covering themselves in yellow pollen. Works best when regularly coppiced. H 3.5m (when regularly coppiced). S 3m. C Prefers damp soils; full sun. SI February–March. HR RHS H7. TC

Salvia x Mendizabalii

Known until very recently as Rosmarinus x mendizabalii, this ornamental rosemary has velvety, grey leaves with the texture of newly grown deer antlers. Small, bright-blue flowers in spring and again in autumn. The most popular of the Mediterranean introductions in the Delos Garden at Sissinghurst. H 1m. S 80cm. C Very well-drained, gritty soil; full sun. SI Year-round. HR RHS H4. MC


Viburnum Plicatum f. Tomentosum 'Mariesii'

Distinctive, horizontal, tiered branches, profusely laced with thousands of upstanding white flowers in late spring. Deeply veined leaves turn fiery red in autumn when flowers turn to black fruits. Works well in Japanese schemes. AGM. H 4m. S 3m. C Any moderately fertile, well-drained soil; sun or part shade. SI May. HR RHS H6, USDA 5a-8b. MC