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Reliable plants for small gardens

Val Bourne / 22 October 2013

Twenty reliable plants that flower for a long time which are particularly suitable for those with smaller plots, although they all deserve a space in any garden - regardless of its size.

Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’
Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’

Plants for small, shady gardens

Saxifraga x geum Dixter Form
This is compact form of London Pride that produces small evergreen rosettes (about two inches at most - or 5cm) that stay packed together. The dainty wands of tiny, crimson-eyed white flowers are about a foot high. Use this plant as a neat edging in semi-shade.

Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’
A diminutive wood spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides) that forms a small roundel about a foot high. The sultry foliage keeps its colour in winter and in spring greenish yellow flowers appear. Good with miniature daffodils that might include Narcissus ‘Trena’.

Pulmonaria ‘Diana Clare’ AGM
This is probably the best pulmonaria of all, with longish leaves the colour of weathered copper followed by violet flowers that keep their colour. Tidy in August and the foliage should look glorious in winter, before March flowers. 

Bergenia ‘Overture’ AGM
Lots of bergenias offer good winter foliage but they are too large for smaller gardens. ‘Overture’ is compact and colours up to deep-red before producing foor high spikes of bright-pink to magenta flowers. Needs dappled shade and a warm position.

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Tulipa ‘Spring Green’
This must-have cool and elegant tulip will grow in shade and it’s fairly perennial, returning for at least four years. A typical viridiflora with white flowers streaked in green in late April. Wonderful among wintergreen ferns or close to evergreen shrubs. Plant in November.

Sarcococca confusa  AGM
An evergreen Christmas box that produces pendant creamy clusters of flower in winter, followed by black berries. It’s highly scented and keeps its shiny green leaves all year round. Slow-growing and suited to containers. 

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Hayes Starburst
Also for a container in shade, or grow it tumbling down a low wall, this creamy white hydrangea has floppy stems topped by double flowers that form stars.

Erythronium californicum ‘White Beauty’ AGM
This is one spring bulb that shines, with mottled foliage topped by cream pagoda flowers. Lift them up to reveal their brown necklace. Needs good soil and performs best in cool, damp springs.

x Heucherella ‘Kimono’ AGM
Evergreen silvered leaves with a green tinge, attractively marked in maroon. Subtle with leaves resembling a kimono laid out before wear. The brighter ‘Stoplight’ is yellow-green and red.

Galanthus ‘Magnet’ AGM
This is an easy, strong snowdrop to grow with single white flowers that dance in the wind due to the wiry arm on their stems. 

Rudbeckia fulgida var. deamii (Deam’s coneflower) AGM
Rudbeckia fulgida var. deamii (Deam’s coneflower) AGM.

Plants for small, sunny gardens

Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’ AGM
The classic catmint ‘Six Hills Giant’ is too large for small gardens, but this diminutive foot-high catmint is perfect, providing silvery foliage and trailing blue flowers. Best on a border edge.

Geranium ‘Elke’
A short trailing hardy geranium for a border edge, flowering over many weeks with white-edged pink flowers.

Rudbeckia fulgida var. deamii (Deam’s coneflower) AGM
This will cover three feet of ground space and the same in height (1m x 1m). However, no other yellow daisy is as crisp, as long flowering or has just good foliage. 

Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’ AGM
The perfect partner for Deam’s coneflower and arguably the best aster of all, with large-lashed lavender daisies held above good foilage. (also 1m x 1m) 

Lavandula x angustifolia ‘Melissa Lilac’
Quite the best English lavender, with sumptuous large flowers in soft lilac-pink. Give it your sunniest position and cut it back hard in late August, to promote new growth in autumn. Then it should do well for ten years or more.

Erysimum ‘Bowles’ Mauve’ AGM
The classic perpetual mauve grey-leafed wallflower, although not scented. Give it good drainage and full sun and it will flower for months. forming a substantial roundel. Trim it after June.  Widely available.

Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’
Simply the best sedum, with neat dusky foliage, neatly crimped round the edges, topped by ruby-red flowers in August. Doesn’t divide like the Red Sea.

Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’
The longest flowering geum of all, flowering continually form spring until autumn. The long stems always have a flower of two in warm pumpkin-orange. The foliage is also good.

Origanum leavigatum ‘Herrenhausen’ AGM
A magnet for butterflies and bees in the second half of summer, with two-toned sprays of pink and purple flowers held on dark, wiry stems above tight, dark foliage.

Hemerocallis ‘Corky’

A diminutive lemon-yellow day lily producing mahogany-backed flowers on dark stems over a long period. Very wiry in habit. ‘Golden Chimes ‘ is its golden-yellow sibling. 

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.