Pink Delight

Early Summer Floral Design

Here is a Constance Spry inspired arrangement featuring early Summer plants grown in Scotland for you to try.




Foxglove – Digitalis purpurea (mixed hybrids)

 Foxgloves are incredible statuesque flowers at their best grown in a woodland setting. They put on a dazzling display in early summer each year and come in a range of colours from soft pinks, white and apricot shades.  They are a biennial plant meaning they put on a rosette of leaves in the first year, followed by flowers in the second. It is best to harvest the seed once ripe and sow in March each year and keep a succession of plants growing. Note the seed requires light to germinate so never cover the seed when sowing into a seed tray. Alternatively let them seed themselves around in areas of your garden. The flowers are loved by bumble bees and they they do best in humus- rich, moist well drained soil in shade or semi shade. The name Digitalis means finger or digit as the flowers are thimble like in appearance. It is also important to note that all parts of Foxgloves are actually poisonous both to us and animals. Despite this Foxgloves are used in modern medicine as a heart stimulant drug.




Rose – Rosa ‘Alan Titchmarsh’

What is summer without Roses in your floral creations. This soft pink Rose is just irresistible and desirable in your summer garden flowering in June. They like full sun in fertile humus-rich soil and it is best each Spring to feed them with well rotted manure and your own compost to keep them in peak condition. Dead heading Roses is an important process to encourage more flowers. Each flowering stem can be cut back as far as three sets of leaves. The amount you cut back controls, to some extent, the shape and size of your plant.




Cirsum rivulare “Atropurpureum’

 The plume thistle is a tall crimson, flowering herbaceous perennial of about 2 metres which looks handsome in the middle of a herbaceous or mixed border. It does best in full sun on moist well drained soil, however it can tolerate some dryness and partial shade. If you find the plant starting to self seed and become an issue you can cut back the seed head in the Autumn. It is also easy to collect the seed and grow from seed. I love it in a garden and so do the bees they are always all over it when it is flowering.




Hosta ‘Blue Jay’

There is nothing quite like the blue foliage of certain Hostas. The wonderful thing about blue Hostas is that slugs and snails tend to prefer the green forms to eat rather than the blue. This will mean fewer munched and hole ridden Hostas in your garden. Prized for their foliage they also have flowers that appear in lilac or white during July and some can even be scented. Place in a light- or semi-shaded position and  Hostas are very hardy so they’ll thrive even in a north-facing garden or frost pocket. They are ideal for a rain garden or pond area, and can also be grown successfully in containers.

Red Campion – Silene dioica

 This dainty native wildflower has pink flowers that are known for brightening our roadsides, hedgerows and woodland edges in early summer each year just after the bluebells have gone over. The flowers are also a good source of food for moths, bees and butterflies. They flower in May and June and do best in semi shade and are tolerant of most soils. You can sow the seed from March – October.

Geranium macrorrhizum

One of my favourite hardy Geraniums which has attractive delicate pink flowers. These flowers appear on long stems with protruding anthers and pistil. They grow well in full sun but can also thrive in shade. With a spreading habitat it is best to divide this herbaceous perennial every 3 – 5 years and feed with an organic mulch each Spring. Bees also love this plant and once it has finished flowering it is a good idea to dead head using your shears to encourage a second flush later in the summer.



Growing Pulsatilla

The genus Pulsatilla are a group of attractive perennial wildflowers native to the Northern hemisphere and distributed across a wide range of Europe and SW Asia. In our own gardens we can enjoy growing Pulsatilla for their magical early spring flowers. The flowers are soft and the foliage is covered in delicate grey-green hairy foliage. After flowering the attractive silky seed heads last for many months.


In the wild Pulsatilla grow in grasslands where the soils are alkaline and of limestone origin. They are herbaceous which means they die down in winter by losing their leaves and they also have deep tap roots.  In early spring the leaves re-emerge before they flower and tend to bloom for many weeks. Often called the Pasque flower as they bloom at Easter and make an ideal companion plant for many early spring flowering bulbs such as miniature daffodils, crocus and muscari. Like many of these, Pulsatilla are an invaluable source of early season nectar for pollinators such as bees.


Plant Pulsatilla in well-drained, alkaline soils with full to partial sun. In wetter climates, these herbaceous perennials are best situated on sloping beds, a rockery and in raised beds so their roots don’t sit in waterlogged soil over the winter season. They thrive in cold weather and look particularly beautiful with a dusting of morning frost on their silvery foliage. Each year it is a good idea to allow the plants to release their seeds before cutting off the old flowers stalks to allow them to gently re-seed themselves in your garden. Once young seedlings emerge they can be transplanted without too much difficulty to your desired location. Once established they produce those long, deep tap roots and do not like being moved so leave them in their situation.

Pulsatilla vulgaris (lilac form)


Chic Chicory

Add excitement to your winter vegetable patch by growing the glamorous vegetable chicory. This winter vegetable is a must as it is incredibly hardy and looks terrific on your plate. It is not grown enough in the UK yet it is the perfect winter vegetable for you to grow alongside kale. A member of the dandelion family, Chicory is a perennial herbaceous plant, mostly used for salads or cooked where it tends to lose its bitterness.

It grows best in fertile soil and can grow happily in full sun or part shade. It is best to direct sow the seed about 1cm deep in late May – July for harvesting in the winter months later that year. You can also sow the seed in cells for planting out or in some cases you can actually force this vegetable inside. Another clever way to cultivate this vegetable is by sowing the seed in a half gutter pipe which you can then easily slide out and transplant into your vegetable bed. This is such a versatile vegetable that it can even be grown in plant containers or window boxes. The key is to keep chicory moist to prevent the bitterness of the vegetable developing. The flowers on the plants are also edible.


Chicory Salad Recipe  

Ingredients: Pear, chicory and blue cheese. 

Wash the chicory and discard the outer leaves. Slice up the chicory and pear into thin slices. Add lemon juice to prevent discolouration and lightly toss in a bowl. Add parsley and walnut halves to the mix. Prepare a walnut and lemon juice dressing which is drizzled over the salad. Then gently crumble blue cheese over the top and serve immediately.



Clementine Wreath

Make this festive Christmas wreath which is contemporary in its regular appearance, yet bold in the use of materials and colours. The design is composed of a tightly grouped ring of clementines, cranberries and green leaves. There is nothing that says Christmas more than sweet clementines and cranberries! The wonderful thing about this wreath is it has a citrus smell, but can be made more aromatic by using bay leaves or other herbs instead of evergreens like ivy.



Florist wire


Florist ring soaked


Leaves; bay leaves, ivy, pine, skimmia

Step 1: Push florist wire through the base of each clementine from one side to the other, then face the ends down the way to create a hair pin shape. This can then be pushed and secured onto the florist foam. Remember to soak the foam ring in water prior to assembling the wreath.

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Step 2: Arrange the clementines in a tight circle on the top of the ring by pushing the wire ends into the foam.


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Step 3: Form an inner ring using short sections of florist wire or cocktail sticks to insert the red cranberries into the wreath.

Step 4: Evenly distribute the leaves around the wreath ensuring no foam is visible.


This wreath will look spectacular hung on a door or wall and can even be used as a table centre piece with the addition of candles. It is a heavy wreath so if you plan to hang it do ensure you fix it securely.

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Japanese Acers

Once you plant one Japanese Acer  in your garden you are likely to become addicted to Acers! Many gardeners can’t stop at just one. One reason for this is the staggering diversity of Acers available but it is hard to believe they have come from primarily three species; Acer japonicum, Acer shirasawanum and Acer palmatum.

In colour, size, shape and texture no other tree provides so many options. You will find dwarf, midsize and large forms. Some are vase shaped while others cascade or form a column. In some cases the leaves can be star shaped, deeply dissected or nearly round. The colour range in Japanese Acers is breathtaking ranging from purples, reds, oranges, yellows and greens. Often under appreciated are their sculptural trunks during the winter months.


Design wise they provide colour echoes as well as textural highlights when dispersed through your borders. Even a single specimen can create a stunning centrepiece in the garden. These trees are basically like a living sculpture and they are constantly changing throughout the season. Planting companions are Ginkgo biloba, Rhododendrons and Metasequoia glyptostroboides.

Even if you have a small garden you can still participate in Acer madness. They do particularly well in small containers and pots. Once in a pot your tree is then mobile and able to be moved around your garden to suit your preference.

When growing Acers make sure they are sheltered from strong winds and harsh bright sunlight to prevent the leaves becoming scorched.


How to plant a bulb lasagne

To get long lasting spring flower displays you need to try layering bulbs in what is called a ‘ bulb lasagne.’  This is when you layer them up one on top of another. It starts with the largest and latest flowering bulbs like tulips which go in deepest, moving to medium ones like daffodils (narcissus). The  smallest and earliest flowering bulbs  eg. crocus, snowdrops, iris, grape hyacinths, scillas, puschkinias, chinodoxas and anemones can go  in the top layer. The emergent shoots of the lower layer bulbs just bend magically round anything they hit sitting over their heads and keep on growing. Isn’t nature wonderful!



With this  technique you need to plant the bulbs slightly further apart than you would in a pot with a single layer, so 5-10cm  apart is the right sort of spacing. The first layer can go as deep as 30-40cm deep. Typically in  pots, you can plant your bulbs closer than you do in the garden but  they shouldn’t touch each other or the sides of the pot.



Then cover them over with a couple of inches of potting compost, before you place the next layer of bulbs. I tend to dress the top of the pot with grit – this will prevent mice or squirrels trying to dig up the bulbs during the winter months.


Drainage is key with bulbs, so make sure  all your pots and containers have more than one hole  in the bottom. Keep them watered after planting, and regularly in the first weeks when their roots are forming. Don’t let the compost dry out.


Grow Ammi

The spectacular Ammi makes one of the most useful and productive filler flowers in the summer garden.  It can be an annual or biennial, upright or spreading, with fern-like pinnately divided leaves and large branched umbels of small creamy-white flowers. With an airy splendour it works well amongst a range of plants in a mixed herbaceous border or in a bouquet. The more you pick, the more the plant will flower!

It prefers to grow in sun or partial shade and in well drained soil.  Sow seeds indoors or under glass in a seed tray 6-8 weeks before the last frosts – then transplant out for the growing season.  Allow your seed to develop to save and to sow the following year or leave the seed head for the goldfinches in your garden which will come to feed on them during the cold winter months.  The flowers are also beneficial for pollinators and predatory insects in your garden.

It is best to pick the flowers when 80% of the flowers on the stem are fully open. If harvested earlier there can be a tendency for the stems to wilt.   The fresh flowers of Ammi typically last from 6-8 days in a vase and it is suggested to add flower preservative to the water.

The origin of Ammi is uncertain.  It is generally considered to be native to southern Europe, northern Africa, and western and central Asia.






The Coffee Show Garden

The Coffee Garden won a Gold medal, Best in Show and the People’s Choice Award at Gardening Scotland 31st May – 2nd June 2019

Designed by Kirsty Wilson and constructed by the RBGE Diploma in Garden Design students.


Coffee is one of the world’s favourite drinks, one of the most important commercial crop-plants, and the second most valuable international commodity. Everyone loves coffee and it is one of life’s greatest pleasures. However many people have forgotten the home of coffee and that it is originally from a plant. Although there are 125 species of coffee, we only actually use two species to produce the popular beverage Coffea arabica and Coffea robusta.

Many plantations are based on one plant meaning low genetic diversity, which means they have low tolerance to pests and diseases. Our climate is changing and this could directly affect coffee production in the future. This is why monitoring, and studying plants is vital to our survival on earth – without plants there is no life. This show garden reflects the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s mission to educate people about plants, connecting people with nature and making a positive impact on the world.

At a time when climate change is arguably the most pressing of global challenges, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) is working with partners at home and abroad to address the central issue of worldwide plant conservation. RBGE’s work involves protecting plant species before they disappear and monitoring the situation to understand the speed with which their habitats are changing.

RBGE is currently conducting work in Colombia as it is one of the most biodiverse countries on earth. Practically every kind of ecosystem can be found within its borders. Colombia is one of the world’s greatest coffee-producing nations, selling US $2.64 billion around the world each year.  RBGE Colombia aims to study the biogeography evolution and conservation of Colombian biomes. Field expeditions are being conducted in close collaboration with local communities and researchers in areas of Paramo, mountain forest, cloud forest, dry forest and lowland rain forest. This garden highlights RBGE’s outreach abroad and highlights the institutions impact on explaining and exploring the world of plants for a better future.




The colour theme for the garden is bitter chocolate, lime green and soft apricot – inspiration taken from the shades of the fruit from the Coffea plant which contains the valuable coffee beans.



The Garden’s message

  • Highlights RBGE’s work in terms of education, research and conservation to the public visiting the show.

  • Connects people with nature and the importance of plants affecting our daily lives.

  • Highlights the threats to coffee production and other plant life globally from climate change and habitat loss.

  • Promotes the purchasing of environmentally friendly and fair trade coffee and the sustainable use of coffee cups.

  • Displays that RBGE is at the forefront of the battle to save the planet through its work both at home and abroad.




Plant List for the Coffee Garden: 

Acer ‘Bloodgood’

Acer ‘Senkaki’

Actaea simplex ‘Brunette’

Actaea simplex ‘Pink Spike’

Aquilegia ‘Black Barlow’

Aquilegia vulgaris ‘William Guiness’

Carex testacea

Deschampsia flexuosa ‘Tatra Gold’

Dryopteris wallichiana

Euphorbia characias ssp. Characias ‘Humpty Dumpty’

Geum ‘Alabama Slammer’

Geum ‘Flames of Passion’

Geum ‘Tequila Sunrise’

Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’

Heuchera ‘Binoche’

Heuchera ‘Black Sea’

Heuchera ‘Caramel’

Heuchera ‘Green Spice’

Heuchera ‘Lime Marmalade’

Heuchera ‘Sweet Tea’

Hosta ‘Empress Wu’

Hosta fortunei var. albopicta f. aurea

Hosta ‘Summer Dress’

Iris ‘Kent Pride’

Libertia ‘Grasshopper’

Mathiaosella bulpeuroides ‘Green Dream’

Paeonia ‘Coral Charm’

Paeonia ‘Pink Hawaiian Coral’

Pistia stratiotes

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Amber Jubilee Jelfam’

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’

Sambucus ‘Milk Chocolate’


The  plants for the design were sourced from:

Binny Plants, Mac Plants, Caulders & McLaren’s Nursery









String of Pearls

Curio rowleyanus

This fascinating succulent has an incredible hanging habit with globe like leaves. The leaves of this plant have evolved as bead like globes that help it  limit evaporation in its desert home of South West Africa where it grows between rocks.   Desirable in your home it will look great styled in a hanging planter or placed on an item of furniture where the trailing stems can hang down for the best effect.

The small white fluffy flowers are cinnamon-scented, followed by small fluffy seed heads. It likes a lot of bright light in your home so make sure you position it in a sunny room.


If you look closely at the globular leaves, you will notice leaf windows (epidermal windows) similar to the markings on a classic beach ball. These clear leaf windows allow more sunlight to pass into the leaf for maximum photosynthesis. Many other succulents such as Lithops and Haworthia use this similar adaptation to their leaves.



‘String of Pearls’ will hate to sit in moisture, which means use a free draining mix of compost such as 50:50 John Innes No 2 and horticultural sand.  It is best to slow down the watering in winter to maybe once a month, but check the soil before you water every time. Ideally in the active growing season it will need watered once a week. Feed once a month from spring through autumn with a standard house plant liquid fertiliser.

Taking cuttings for friends is as easy as just snipping off a ‘string’. Strip some ‘pearls’ from part of the stem and bury this part in well-draining compost at the edge of a pot. Within a few weeks, it will root and become a new plant.


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