Tom’s 21 plant choices for 2021 are all adaptable species, suitable for a range of locations and for the UK’s increasingly extreme weather conditions and challenging garden spaces. tommassey.co.uk
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ACANTHUS MOLLIS ‘RUE LEDAN’
Dramatic, tall and elegant flower spikes, loved by bees who crawl right inside the trumpet-shaped flowers. Large, dark-green, serrated leaves at the base that will hold though winter in milder areas. Perfect for lighting up shaded areas. AGM. H 1.5m. S 1m. C Moist but well-drained soil; sun to part shade or shade. SI Summer. HR RHS H6, USDA 7a-10b.
Seen growing all over the British Isles, this little evergreen fern is great for filling gaps almost anywhere; it will grow in damp rockeries, dry-stone walls or crevices between boulders. AGM. H 45cm. S 45cm. C Moist but well-drained soil; part or full shade. SI Year round. HR RHS H6, USDA 5a-9b.
CERINTHE MAJOR ‘PURPURASCENS’
Honeywort produces a sweet, honey-flavoured nectar irresistible to bees. It has very unusual bell- shaped, purple flowers, hooded by deep blue-green glaucous leaves. Blooming from spring to autumn, they produce large black seeds that are explosively released, don’t cut back too early and allow it to go to seed if you want it to persist in your garden. H 45cm. S 30cm. C Well-drained soil; sun. SI Spring to summer. HR RHS H3.
DESCHAMPSIA CESPITOSA ‘GOLDTAU’
There are many good D. cespitosa cultivars to choose from, but this golden dew (tau is German for dew), is one of my favourites. Smaller and more compact than some, it produces a gold haze of gauzy flowers emerging from a buff-green base of slender leaves. Looks amazing planted en masse as a single species, or mixed with airy flowering perennials such as Sanguisorba ‘Tanna’. AGM. H 60cm. S 60cm. C Moist but well-drained soil; sun or part shade. SI Summer to autumn. HR RHS H6, USDA 4a-9b. 4721 76
My favourite foxglove – a real gem that will light up shady spots. Can be biennial or a short-lived perennial. Sends up tall flower spikes with close-set buds that open to short trumpets of orange-yellow flowers with brown veining. Looks great naturalised through ornamental grasses. AGM. H 1.2m. S 30cm. C Moist but well-drained soil; shade, part shade or sun. SI Summer HR RHS H6, USDA 4a-8b.
DISPORUM LONGISTYLUM ‘NIGHT HERON’
This rare perennial is fantastic for partially shaded or woodland planting areas. Bamboo-like stems of deep purple age to dark green. Narrow, bell-shaped green-cream flowers are followed by purple-black berries. Almost evergreen in mild climates or a sheltered spot but deciduous where temperatures drop lower. Cut back old growth before new purple shoots appear in spring. AGM H 1.5m. S 1m. C Moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil; part shade. SI Spring to autumn. HR RHS H6, USDA 5a-10b.
Fantastic for adding drama and an otherworldly feel to a planting scheme. Can be used as a filler to dot through a border, or as a statement in a pot. Protect from winter wet. H 1.2m. S 1m. C Poor to moderately fertile dry soil; full sun. SI Summer to autumn. HR RHS H4, USDA 3a-8b.
Our native spindle comes into its own in autumn when leaves turn bright red and it produces berries that resemble little pink and orange lanterns. Looks stunning growing alongside ornamental grasses. H 3m. S 3m. C Moist but well-drained soil; sun or part shade. SI Autumn to winter. HR RHS H6, USDA 4a-7b.
One of my favourites among the many Euphorbia species, the broad-leaved, glaucous spurge produces whorls of fleshy leaves on trailing, prostrate stems. Acid-yellow flowers are produced in spring, but this plant has year-round interest. AGM. H 15cm. S 30cm. C Well-drained soil; sun. SI Year round. HR RHS H5, USDA 5a-9b.
FOENICULUM VULGARE ‘GIANT BRONZE’
Bright-yellow umbels appear on contrasting blue- green stems in mid to late summer, followed by aromatic seeds. The blue-green leaves have feathery bronze tips, which can give salads an aniseed twist. H 1.8m. S 5m. C Moist but well-drained soil; sun. SI Summer to autumn. HR RHS H4, USDA 4a-9b.
Arching, elegant, green foliage that sways gently in the breeze. Fades through red to buff in the autumn; it will hold its foliage all the way through winter and can be cut back in early spring before new growth emerges. AGM. H 40cm. S 50cm. C Moist but well-drained soil; sun or part to full shade. SI Summer to autumn. HR RHS H7, USDA 5a-9b.
Luminous-green flower spikes held above dark- green, holly-shaped foliage make this a standout plant. Try dotting through a carpet of Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae. AGM. H 1m. S 40cm. C Moist but well-drained soil; part to full shade. SI Winter to spring. HR RHS H5, USDA 6a-8b.
A fantastic sedge ideal for damp shade. Will tolerate very wet and boggy conditions. Dense clusters of arching, white flowers emerge in spring that look beautiful grown en masse. H 60cm. S 60cm. C Moist but well-drained soil; full to part shade. SI Spring. HR RHS H5.
MATTEUCCIA STRUTHIOPTERIS ‘THE KING’
A fantastic fern. Perfect for water-side bog gardens or swales. Often turns autumnal rusty orange before dying down to ground level; new fronds unfurl in spring. H 1.8m. S 60cm. C Humus-rich, moist but well-drained soil; part to full shade, SI Spring to autumn. HR RHS H5, USDA 3a-7b.
MISCANTHUS SINENSIS: ‘YAKUSHIMA DWARF’
Plumes of feathery flowers emerge in summer and persist into the autumn, when this ornamental grass really shines; the foliage turns a beautiful mix of red, bronze and gold. Cut back in early spring before new growth emerges. H 80cm. S 60cm. C Moist but well-drained soil; sun. SI Summer to autumn. HR RHS H6, USDA 5a-9b.
MOLINIA CAERULEA ‘HEIDEBRAUT’
Fine plumes of dark flowers are held on long vertical stems borne above a basal mound of strap- like leaves. In autumn it turns bright orange-yellow, and has a transparent, ethereal quality. Best where it is backlit by the sun. H 1.2m. S 60cm. C Moist but well-drained soil; sun or part shade. SI Summer to autumn. HR RHS H7, USDA 4a-9b.
A Colorado native wildflower that has intense cobalt-blue flowers held above an evergreen rosette of shiny green foliage. After flowering cut off the flower spikes right at their base, which will encourage a profusion of flowers next spring. H 40cm. S 25cm. C Well-drained soil; sun. SI Spring to summer. HR RHS H5.
PUNICA GRANATUM VAR. NANA
Bright-red flowers emerge in the summer followed by miniature red pomegranate fruits. Leaves turn bright-yellow in autumn before dropping and leaving the fruit to shine. AGM. H 1.2m. S 1.2m. C Well-drained soil; sun. SI Summer to winter. HR RHS H3, USDA 7a-11.
A show-stopping biennial or short-lived perennial with incredible, candelabra-shaped panicles of pure-white flowers. Ruffled silvery-grey foliage provides interest before flowering. H 90cm. S 60cm. C Well-drained soil; sun. SI Summer. HR RHS H5, USDA 5a-8b.
The sulphur clover looks like a giant form of common clover with sulphur-yellow flowers loved by bees and butterflies. Native, but now quite rare, so grow this at home and help preserve the species. H 50cm. S 50cm. C Moist but well-drained soil; sun or part shade. SI Summer. HR RHS H7.
Invaluable for adding interest to the middle or back of a border, this tall perennial bares long, thin, leafy stems topped with candelabra-like racemes of lilac- blue flowers that bumble bees love. Seedheads offer interest well into winter. H 1.8m. S 50cm. C Moist but well-drained soil; sun or part shade. SI Summer to autumn. HR RHS H7, USDA 3a-8b.