Love letter to my garden

Happy Valentine’s Day, Dear Garden,

I woke up this morning feeling a little down. It was raining (again) and the world outside seemed very grey, both in colour and spirit. I came downstairs to make a cup of tea and gazed through the rain-splattered windows.

More rain…

And there you were, as always, waiting for me. No judgement, no agenda. Always changing, yet ever familiar. Ready to put a smile on my face.

Even on this murkiest of murky days, I see borders dotted with vibrant green shoots, a willow tree smothered in fluffy silver catkins…

Raindrop-bejewelled willow catkins

…clumps of pure white snowdrop brilliance, and the gently nodding pastel heads of self-seeded Hellebores.

Christmas roses trump red roses today

I’m sorry I’ve neglected you these past few months. You’ve been too frozen or too soggy for me to apply any meaningful care, and now you eagerly await the removal of winter’s debris and carpets of perennial weeds.

Soon, my love. Very soon. I promise!

You have put up with so much: the pruning that I get wrong, the staking that I forget to do, and of course the impulse buys that move around your borders until they find the perfect home.

You have given so much: an ever-changing tapestry of colour and form…

A constantly changing tableau

…a home to countless creatures (with new surprise residents every year)…

Female sparrowhawk
Female sparrowhawk

…the delight of tasty home-grown produce (even at the end of winter, you have leeks and beetroots to offer for the pot)…

Bedraggled but tasty leeks and beetroot

…sweet exotic scents on warm summer evenings, and the sparkling artistry of frozen cobwebs and frosted seed heads in winter.

A frosty cobweb

You have taught me so much too. Not just newfound practical skills, but the importance of planning, greater appreciation of the changing seasons, and a better understanding of the life that flits above your canopies and crawls within your hidden spaces.

You have helped me with the things I find most difficult. How to focus on one thing at a time, to let go of perfectionism and live in the moment…

The garden will never be perfect – but that’s OK!

…and to be more patient. All still a work in progress, but you are a tolerant and forgiving teacher.

So, thank you, dear friend for helping me find an inner calm… for keeping me healthy…for getting me just a little bit dirty every now and then…for getting me outside in the fresh air, away from my desk…for encouraging me to be creative…for reminding me of the wonders of Creation…and for bringing me so much joy.

You are, and always will be, my happy place!

Out in my happy place, whatever the weather

With love, always xx

Persevering with snowdrops: planting in the green

A few years ago there weren’t any snowdrops in my garden. I started by planting some dry bulbs in autumn, but when they failed to emerge the following year I did my research and began to plant snowdrops ‘in the green’ in the hope that one day I would have a dazzling display, the envy of every galanthophile.

I’ve planted a few clumps every year for about 5 years now and, to be honest, it’s still a battle to get them to grow. They certainly haven’t spread into the carpets of snowdrops that I long for.

Carpet of snowdrops in churchyard
The vision: a carpet of snowdrops (but without the headstones)

Although the individual clumps have got bigger.

A decent-sized clump of snowdrops
A decent-sized clump of snowdrops

Drying out

I expect this is because the foundation of my soil is clay. Despite all the organic material I add, it has a tendency to dry out in dry summers – and we’ve certainly had a few dry summers! Unlike daffodils and tulips, snowdrop bulbs do not have a water-retaining skin, so they dry out very quickly. And a dry snowdrop bulb is a dead snowdrop bulb. So, thinking about, I should just be grateful I’ve got any snowdrops after last summer’s soaring temperatures.

But I keep persevering, as nothing else in the garden puts a smile on my face in January and February quite like a bunch of snowdrops does. And I have a few decent clumps dotted around the garden now.

I'll keep planting snowdrops in the green, because every clump that surfaces the following year is so worth it
I’ll keep planting snowdrops in the green, because every clump that surfaces the following year is so worth it

Curbside snowdrops

This week, I handed over another tenner at my local garden centre for 3 more bunches of snowdrops in the green.

You can buy snowdrops in the green from garden centres, or order them online
You can buy snowdrops in the green from garden centres, or order them online

I split each clump down into three smaller clumps…

Planting snowdrops in the green

And dotted them under the hedge along the curbside in the front garden.

Plant snowdrops in the green and water well
Plant snowdrops in the green and water well

They’ve got quite a few buds on them, so I might even get a few flowers this year.

So, I will keep persevering with snowdrops. How can I resist?!

Clump of snowdrops
Guaranteed to put a smile on my face

Are you having success with snowdrops? If so, I’d welcome any tips!

How to chase the January gardening blues away

It’s raining – again! I know I shouldn’t complain, especially after the hot dry summer we had last year, but there are jobs in the garden that are starting to get a bit desperate (I’ve still got spring bulbs to plant!) and I can’t get near them without creating a big muddy mess.

Rainy day in January
Stuck inside on another wet and windy day

So, what can we do on the days when the weather completely stops us from stepping outside? For me, it’s all about the dreaming and planning – places to go, people to see, and how I would like this year’s garden to look.

‘Wish list’ plants

If you’re a plantaholic like me, you’ve probably got a long list of botanical beauties you would like to introduce to your garden. My wish list has a tendency to grow a little longer each time a plant catalogue drops through the door and after every episode of Gardener’s World! But I’ve also got to be realistic – there’s only so much room out there, so if I’m going to buy something new I need to know where I’m going to put it.

Packed garden borders
There’s always room for one more plant, right? Erm, maybe.

Top of my wish list for a while now has been a crab apple tree. They are often cited as ideal compact trees for small gardens, providing year-round interest with their colourful blossom, fruits and foliage. Nevertheless, I haven’t had the space…until now. At the end of last year we removed a large conifer hedge from one side of the garden, which may have opened up a potential spot.

It means I can now start researching crab apples again. There’s a terrific review on Gardens Illustrated of the best crab apple trees for colour and form by plant expert Graham Rice. I’ll let you know if I manage to squeeze one in!

Sowing and growing

Wet and windy days provide a great opportunity for sorting through those seed packets and working out what you’re going to grow this year. Make a plan of what you would like to grow from seed, what month you need to sow it, and where you are going to grow it. There’s oodles of advice online to help with this.

Organized seed packets
Check what seeds you’ve already got before buying more

I always tend to get sidetracked with my herbaceous borders, but I’m hoping to try to focus more on the vegetable plot this year and widen my veg-growing horizons beyond tomatoes, courgettes and potatoes. Watch this space!

Places to visit

Some of the best inspiration comes from visiting other gardens. Last year, I visited two gardens in West Sussex: Nymans and the Sussex Prairie Garden. It was a fabulous day out, and the awesome summer borders in both gardens gave me lots of ideas for planting combinations.

So, while I’m stuck indoors I’m making a list of gardens close to home to nurture my botanical soul in 2023. I’ve already found a few gems that I wasn’t previously aware of. Check out the Great British Gardens website for some inspiration near you!

Adapting plans from lessons learned

It’s all very well making plans for the rest of the year, but it’s also good to reflect on what did and didn’t work last year. Given the incredibly dry summer we had, I am seriously considering not planting hanging baskets this year. They needed constant watering, which was unfair on my kind neighbour when I was away.

I am also considering swapping growbags for larger pots to grow my tomatoes in this year. Growbags have worked wonderfully up to now, but they often needed watering twice a day through July and August last summer, and if hot summers become a trend then that’s not sustainable.

Keep dreaming

Whatever you are dreaming of, or planning for, this year, enjoy the process. I’ve just noticed the rain has stopped…so I’m heading out into the garden to see what I can tick off my January checklist.

2022 End of year review

The weather in the UK is always unpredictable – that’s why talking about it is a national pastime – but this year it has given us gardeners a rollercoaster of issues to contend with. My village in the South of England made the news twice in 2022 with some of the driest and wettest days on record.


It started with the warmest New Year’s Day since records began, with warm air from the Azores raising temperatures to a high of 16.3oC in central London. It was also the sunniest January on record in England, with the Met Office recording 80.7 hours of sunshine.

As we all (should) know by now, this general increase in temperature is concerning, but on the plus side it meant that my snowdrops, aconites and crocuses were all in bloom by the end of the month.


February was mild too, but brought a cluster of three named storms – Dudley, Eunice and Franklin – which wreaked havoc across the UK. Storm Eunice had the biggest impact in the south of England, bringing down trees, greenhouses and fences, and leaving lots of homes without power.

It brought down part of the conifer hedge that runs the length of my garden, as well as most of the mistletoe in the local cemetery. A lot of the lovely cherry blossom that had started to emerge didn’t hang around for long either, unable to to withstand the gusty weather.


In early March, landmarks across the world were illuminated in yellow and blue to reflect our solidarity with the people of Ukraine who were, and still are, in an unimaginable situation. Ablaze with daffodils and irises, the garden seemed to echo this sentiment.

After all the wind and rain, I managed to start a Spring tidy up, revealing a colourful collection of hellebores.


The borders slowly started to take shape this month, but it was an ongoing battle between me and the weeds, particularly with ground elder. I will keep digging it out, and eventually I will be victorious!

By the end of the month, the garden was looking pretty good, with tulips taking centre stage.


First broods of robins and blue tits both fledged successfully this month, we started to see evidence of hedgehogs, and we were visited by a host of butterflies and bees enjoying the pollinator-friendly planting.

I continued to do battle with the weeds though.

The sowing and growing continued.

Meanwhile, the shrubbery at the bottom of the garden started to get leafy and lush (there’s a husband in there somewhere!).


I managed to get most of the plants that I had grown from seed, plug plants or cuttings planted out this month.

With longer days and warmer evenings we started to sit outside later into the evening, enjoying some al fresco meals, so I gave the ‘dining area’ a bit of a makeover, and added some new lights.

It was a month of celebration, with an extra bank holiday and street parties to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.


The warm dry spell became a hot dry spell, and we were soon making headlines as the driest village in Britain, with no rainfall at all in July.

The garden was at its flowering peak, and watering became a full-time occupation.


As temperatures continued to soar, parts of southern, central and Eastern England officially moved to drought status, and hosepipe bans were introduced in some regions. The watering marathon continued.

On the up side, I started to harvest my tomatoes 4–6 weeks earlier than usual, and began enjoying meals of home-grown deliciousness.

There were also plenty of early, albeit smaller than usual, blackberries to forage in the hedgerows.


This month was a sombre one, with the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. A constant in so many of our lives, it hit a lot of us harder than we thought it would, and the nation went into an extended period of respectful mourning.

Life in the garden went on though, with some of my favourite plants starting to go to seed, ready for collection.


The hot dry weather had taken its toll on some of the shrubs and hedges. We’d been talking about it all year, and finally decided to remove the stressed and straggly conifer hedge bordering our neighbours’ garden, leaving us with some exciting planning for that area in 2023.

I harvested the last of the summer vegetables (peppers, chillis and aubergines), and picked the last of the tomatoes – red and green – to make chutneys and soups.

And the first frost arrived.


In November, we made the news again; this time, as the wettest village in Britain with the most rainfall in England falling in one night.

With some decent rainfall, many of the perennials that had struggled during the hot summer had a second flush of flowers.

But the lawn and borders soon became sodden, and mushrooms flourished.


December ended a long run of above-average temperatures, with a prolonged period of freezing conditions.

Even the cobwebs froze and, on several days, we experienced a beautiful hoar frost (crystalline deposits of water vapour).

The Met Office has confirmed that 2022 has been the warmest year in the UK since records began, with every month except December being warmer than average. As gardeners we are the first to see how earlier springs, warmer summers and extreme weather events are affecting plants and wildlife, and there is no doubt that we will have to adapt how we garden in the future.

For now, let’s watch this space and keep talking about what we can each do at a garden level.

All that remains of 2022 is for me to wish you all a very Happy New Year!


When is the best time to tidy the spring garden?

When I was younger I remember my mum ‘putting the garden to bed’ at the end of each Autumn, clearing and chopping everything into neat low-cut order before the start of winter. We now know how beneficial it is to leave ‘winter structure’ in place throughout the coldest months.

Winter structure in the garden
The winter ‘structure’ has become a bit of a tangled mess!

Protective debris

Leaving the dead stems in place protects the crowns of perennials from severe frost damage and provides an important habitat for hibernating insects. Birds will feed on old seed heads and will use some of the winter debris as nesting material in early Spring, while hedgehogs will snuggle under large piles of leaves.

Restoring order

It’s great to leave that protective canopy in place for as long as possible, particularly while we continue to get regular frosts. But, let’s be honest, frosts or no frosts, there comes a time when we’ve had enough of the dishevelled look and want to restore some order to our borders. For me, that’s about now, in mid-March, when temperatures start to hover around double digits, and daffodils and hellebores are trying to find their way through the confusion.

So, I’ve started to chop down the old stems and seed heads…

Time to clear wintry debris

To reveal the fresh spring growth beneath…

Spring garden revealed

Early spring colour

Having cut down all the old stems (which will be shredded and added to the compost bin) in the border nearest the patio, I can now enjoy the daffodils and hellebores that are the stars of the show at this time of year.

Early spring plants
Newly revealed daffodils and hellebores

Cutting down the old stems is only the first step towards complete springtime transformation. Next, the border will need weeding (15 minutes at a time, of course), and in a few weeks time I will be able to start dividing plants and filling in any gaps.

Choosing the right time to tidy your garden

The right time to start tidying your garden this spring will depend on several factors, including:

  • where you live
  • the weather
  • the type of soil
  • when you have time to do it.

I live in the south of England, so mid-March is normally about the right time. Temperatures are starting to climb and although we still get frosts as late as May, they become less frequent. If you live further north you may prefer to wait until early to mid-April. Keep an eye on the weather forecast for your area and that will guide you. It’s looking promising here over the next few days!!

Wet clay soil is easily damaged when walked on, so I will have to wait a few more days before cutting back the perennials in the border that runs down the right-hand side of the garden. We have just had some very heavy rain and, as it can only be accessed by walking over the lawn, I would do more damage than good by repeatedly walking over, and compacting, the clay-based soil. I will have to be patient.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of other jobs to do in the garden this month.

February 2022: end of month review

The weather has definitely hampered quality time in the garden this month. It has been cold, wet and blustery. The UK was hit by several major storms, with Storm Eunice wreaking particular havoc in the south of England.

So, although I’ve been itching to start tidying the borders, they have been best left alone. The winter’s debris has provided a comforting duvet of protection from regular frosts over tender new growth…

The February garden
The February garden: a tangled mess of winter structure

…and a haven for insects and other wildlife, sheltering from the inclement weather.

Protective winter structure in the borders
Protective winter structure in the borders

Pockets of colour

Most of the garden is a brown-beige tangle of dead stems and seedheads, but pockets of colour have begun to shine through.

Pockets of colour in the February garden
Splashes of colour around the garden: crocuses, snowdrops, rose hips, aconites, hellebores and pansies

At the shady end of the garden, a few delightful clumps of snowdrops and aconites were the first of the spring bulbs to emerge.

Snowdrops and aconites

With cheery crocuses soon joining the party.

Crocuses bring colour to shady areas

February jobs

Although I left the borders to their own devices, I still managed to get on with a few jobs. I tidied the shed, cut down the autumn raspberry canes and planted a few more snowdrops.

Planting snowdrops in the green
Planting snowdrops in the green

I unearthed my dahlia tubers from winter storage…

Unearthing dahlia tubers from winter storage

…and potted them up.

Pot up dahlia tubers

I harvested the last of 2021’s potatoes, which had overwintered well outside in the sacks that I grew them in.

Final harvest of last year's potatoes
Final harvest of last year’s potatoes

And started chitting new seed potatoes for this year’s crop.

The right kind of chit: short, knobbly, green sprouts
Chitting seed potatoes on a window sill

I even started a few indoor sowings.

First sowings: tomatoes, aubergines, chillis and lettuce
First indoor sowings: tomatoes, aubergines, chillis and lettuce

Improving areas

It was also gratifying to see some improvement in a couple of the garden’s problem areas.

Autumn-planted hellebores appear to be thriving in a previously problem area under an apple tree.

Hellebores thriving under an apple tree

And the strip of soil next to the curb in the front garden is looking tidier after a bit of weeding and extra planting.

Curbside progress
Curbside progress: snowdrops and primroses

Lunchtime walks

When I haven’t been in the garden, I’ve taken my 15 minutes of green further afield, enjoying some short walks around my Hampshire village and along the Basingstoke canal.

Basingstoke canal in February
Canal walk

In the churchyard, storm Eunice brought down huge clumps of mistletoe from the trees.

Mistletoe brought down from trees during storm Eunice

But early blossoms somehow remained intact.

First blossom in February

And I particularly enjoyed seeing larger swathes of snowdrops than I’ve managed to achieve (yet) in my garden.

Naturalised snowdrops

Patio pots

Back in the garden, the pots on my patio are slowly transforming, from early shoots to first blooms.

First blooms of the year in patio pots
From early to late February, the first layer of bulbs in my pots are starting to emerge

An early sign of wonderful things to come.

First iris of 2022
First iris of 2022

Ready, steady sow!

I’ve finally got going with my March indoor sowings, starting as always with three varieties of tomato – Moneymaker, Red Cherry and Maskotka.

The seeds were big enough to handle individually, so this year I started them in small individual pots, in an attempt to reduce the amount of pricking out I need to do (my least favourite of all gardening jobs).

Tomato seeds
Tomato seeds are big enough to handle individually

Germination is always more successful than I expect and I find it hard to discard healthy seedlings, so I usually end up with far too many plants. Last year, I struggled to give them all away (I think everyone was growing their own tomatoes last year!). So, this year I have planted two seeds per pot and reduced the number of seeds I’ve sown.

Two seeds per pot
Two seeds per pot

Aubergines (Black Beauty), chillis and several varieties of lettuce (Cosmic, Little Gem and Iceberg) swiftly followed.

Indoor sowings
Indoor sowings of tomatoes, aubergines, chillis and lettuce

It’s too cold to start any outdoor sowings (of things I like to eat), so our old decorating table will soon be straining under the weight of pots, and my kitchen will become a makeshift greenhouse for the next few months.

I’m always amazed that those tiny seeds can produce such amazing results.

Growing aubergines
Last year’s aubergines

Next on the list are courgettes and leeks, plus Marigolds, Busy Lizzies and Black-eyed Susan. What are you sowing?

Time for a spring clean

It’s that time of year when everything starts to change. We’ve certainly seen a bit of everything from the weather, including glorious sunshine and blue skies, cold frosty mornings and, currently, a double-barrelled storm of torrential rain and fierce winds. It’s a wonder our plants have any idea what to do, but our gardens march on regardless.

Mine started timidly flicking colour onto the canvas last week, unorganized bursts of random energy in an otherwise Jackson Pollock-esque tangle of winter debris.

Messy spring garden
Splashes of colour hidden among winter debris

Time for a tidy up

It spurred me into some much-needed spring cleaning, and over the past week I have gradually chopped and weeded away most of the vestiges of winter. After all, what is the point of planting spring bulbs if you fail to show off their cheery loveliness when they emerge.

Spring cleaned border
The same border after a thorough spring clean

Armed with a trowel and a pair of secateurs, I have worked my way around the main borders. Weeds in one bucket, anything shreddable in another.

Before and after

It has made such a difference – to the garden and my mood – as I now feel (despite the return of some gloomy weather) that Spring has finally arrived on my patch. Here are my before and afters.

Before and after garden border - weeding and chopping 01
Before and after garden border - weeding and chopping 02
Before and after garden border - weeding and chopping 03
Before and after garden border - weeding and chopping 04

When it comes to spring cleaning the house or the garden, I know where I’d rather be! There is nothing more satisfying. Happy spring gardening everyone.

Preparing raised vegetable beds in 2 easy steps

I don’t have a huge garden but, despite my passion for perennials, I have made room to grow a few vegetables. After all, there is nothing more satisfying than eating your own produce.

Vegetables in raised beds and pots
The vegetable patch

I have two raised vegetable beds, each about 1.2m x 1.2m, and the rest I grow in grow bags, pots and sacks. This means I can tend to my veggies without ever having to walk on the soil, which reduces the amount of digging I have to do (anything for an easy life!).

Growing veggies in raised beds, pots and sacks
Vegetable growing in raised beds, pots and sacks

Two-step veg bed preparation

To prepare the beds for this year’s veggies I have done two things:

  1. Removed the weeds
  2. Added organic matter

Remove weeds

The raised beds had got a bit weedy over the last couple of months.

Weedy raised bed

So, I removed the weeds manually with my trusty trowel – in two 15-minute sessions – making sure to remove all the roots.

I left the fennel and foxgloves that had seeded in there, as I never say no to free plants that can be put somewhere else in the garden.

Weeded vegetable bed

Add an organic mulch

I then spread a couple of buckets of garden compost over the top, a great mulch that will suppress any more weeds from coming through. It should break down under the inevitable blanket of frost and/or snow that will arrive over the next few weeks, and the worms will work their magic, putting nutrients back into the bed and improving the soil structure.

Vegetable bed mulched with garden compost
Well-mulched vegetable beds

Now I just have to wait for the temperatures to improve.

In the meantime, I am sorting my seeds and making plans in the hope of a bumper harvest of my own produce later in the year.

Vegetable harvest

Important tidying for plant health in winter

After a week of rain it’s no surprise that the garden is a bit soggy. My lawn is squelchy and the clay-based soil in my borders is heavy and sticky. So, I’m doing my best to keep to the hard surfaces around the garden, like the paths and patio, to avoid turning lawn edges and beds into a quagmire.

But there is one task that I can’t put off, and that’s the clearance of collapsed stems and soggy foliage.

Soggy foliage in winter
The old leaves of this Crocosmia have got very soggy and collapsed.

Not too tidy

I leave most old stems and seed heads in place over the winter because they provide homes and food for wildlife, and they add structure and interest to the borders during the bleakest months.

Old stems and seed heads
Old stems and seed heads add structure and interest to winter borders

They also provide protection from frost and snow for the crown of the plant and any new growth that is emerging.

Old Sedum stems protect the crown of the plant
Old stems and seed heads protect new growth emerging from the crown in winter

Clearing soggy foliage

But collapsed stems and pulpy leaves need to be cut back and removed. Leaving wet decaying material in your borders is practically inviting fungi and diseases to move in.

The decaying wet leaves of this day lily had collapsed over the crown of the plant.

Soggy leaves of a day lily

It only took a few minutes to pull the wet leaves away.

Soggy leaves cleared from crown of plant

Future compost

And it can all be recycled. The old leaves (no matter how soggy) are great ‘brown material’ to add to the compost bin. And the old stems, which also pulled away easily, can be shredded or used as stakes when they dry.

Cleared leaves and stems
The cleared leaves and stems can be composted and shredded

It was a quick and easy task that will benefit the plant. Meanwhile, there is still plenty of ‘mess’ in the garden to keep the wildlife happy.

New year’s resolution: new daily habit

15 minutes of green author Sharon de Botte

Those of us fortunate enough to have our own gardens know the benefits. Last year, more than ever before, we found out how much we valued our green spaces.

In a survey of 2000 people, commissioned by the RHS after the first 2020 Lockdown:

  • 70% said that having a garden helped their mental health
  • 60% felt that gardening had helped their physical activity
  • over 50% said they would value their garden more in future.

So it’s a no-brainer – let’s get out in our gardens this year!

Bend your knees when you are weeding


… you also have kids, elderly relations, a job, a house … there are meals to cook, rooms to tidy, a boss to keep happy, a dog to walk, a gym membership to use … the list is endless.

I know, I know …. there aren’t enough hours in the day. In fact, no matter how much you love gardening and/or love being in your garden, it always seems to end up at the bottom of your ‘to do’ list. A few weeks pass and before you know it the weeds have taken over the borders, the unpruned shrubs are becoming unrecognisable and the untended lawn is more moss than grass.

It seems overwhelming and suddenly you stop loving your garden quite so much.

I get it. I’ve been there.



the ethos of this website is to turn the chore of gardening into a pleasure, 15 minutes at a time.

15 minutes of gardening a day adds up to more than 90 hours of gardening a year. Just imagine how 90 hours of weeding, digging, planting and pruning will transform your garden.


15 minutes of green … every day

You can do anything for 15 minutes, so make 15 minutes of gardening your new daily habit in 2021 and enjoy your green space, be it well tended, dishevelled or completely out of control. Believe me, mine fluctuates between all three.

It doesn’t matter how many jobs there are to do or what your garden looks like. Pick a task from the monthly checklist, grab your tools and get out there. Feel the sun, wind or rain on your face and savour the fresh air, relish the changing colours of the seasons and enjoy the wildlife that shares your space.

Your garden will flourish … and so will you!

Author of - Sharon de Botte
Happy New Year!

Tips for outdoor cyclamen care

This week I decided to give the area around my front door a winter face lift. The local garden centre didn’t have much left in the way of bedding plants, but I was delighted to get my hands on a few pots of Cyclamen hederifolium (also know as ‘hardy cyclamen’ or ‘ivy-leaved cyclamen’). With their compact mounds of marbled foliage and colourful perky blooms, they are an ideal plant for adding zing to the garden when little else is in flower.

They are autumn-flowering plants but, with a bit of TLC, I hope I can keep them flowering into the new year.

Cyclamen winter colour
Hardy cyclamen are a great choice for winter colour

Top tips when planting cyclamen

Cyclamen are native to Europe, the Mediterranean basin and the Middle East, where they grow in woods, rocky areas and alpine meadows. They thrive in any humus-rich well-drained soil, and tolerate shade and the roots of other plants. They will do well in your garden as long as they don’t get waterlogged (as the tubers may rot) or too dry and hot.

They are best planted in a sheltered, shady spot in soil with plenty of added organic material (such as leaf mulch or well-rotted garden compost). I put some of my newly acquired cyclamen plants in a small bed by the side of the house, with lots of well-rotted bark chippings, under the shade of a Clematis montana.

Plant cyclamen in a shady well-drained spot
Plant cyclamen in a sheltered, shady, well-drained spot

I put the rest of the plants into pots by the front door, with bark chippings, Growmore fertilizer and horticultural grit. I filled in the back of the pots with some Hellebores that I have been growing from plug plants since last Spring. I’m hoping they will produce flowers this coming Spring.

Cyclamen winter pots
Cyclamen are the ideal plant for adding colour to winter pots

A few tips for ongoing maintenance

The good news is that cyclamen, once planted, require minimal maintenance, but here are a few tips for keeping them looking their best for as long as possible.

  • Protect blooms from heavy frosts (for example, with garden fleece). A hard frost is unlikely to kill the plant, but will ruin the blooms.
  • Protect the roots from extreme cold by adding a thick mulch of organic material around the plants. Avoid smothering the plants.
  • Deadhead withered blooms to keep the plant flowering (or leave the dead flowers if you want the plant to self-seed).
  • Don’t let the the plants dry out (probably not a problem in the UK!). Check if they need watering – but don’t let them get too soggy!

Finally, enjoy!

Cyclamen winter colour
A splash of colour near the front door puts a smile on my face every day