Autumn planting for your garden

Hot, hot, hot

This has been the hottest and driest summer that I can remember. My grass turned a fetching shade of brown. The leaves are already falling from the trees. My flowerbeds are almost devoid of colour as the flowers are over almost as soon as they bloom. Everything seems to have suffered in the heat, even the weeds. Autumn colour has however thrived as many of these plants come from hot areas.



Thank heavens for the rain

The rain when it did come was heavy and prolonged. I could almost hear the flowers and trees lapping it up greedily.  My lawn has returned to its normal green and soon we will be into the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. There is plenty of time now the ground is damp to plant up for next year.

Plump plums but rubbish raspberries

Fruit crops have been variable. I have masses of plums and damsons but the raspberries have suffered from the lack of water. My apples, both cooking and eating are looking good. Strawberries suffered and I had very few plump fruits. The superstar of this year’s edible crops has been the tomatoes.  I have a glut and they taste delicious.

Beautiful geraniums

In the borders the geraniums are doing well.  They seem to be able to cope with the heat and I am grateful for their display of blue, purple and white flowers.  Geranium Rosemoor which has lilac blue petals with deep purple veins has been splendid. I am also rather fond of gaudy red geraniums in pots which brighten up the patio.


Another plant which coped in the heat is the hydrangea. For years they have been out of fashion but this summer their huge pink, purple and white blooms have been a cheering sight.

Drought resistant Penstemons

Penstemons have also beaten the heat. They are quite easy to grow and so far this summer have proved drought resistant.

My hanging baskets have loved the sunshine. As long as I keep them fed and very well-watered they flower all summer long and should last well into the autumn too.

Fewer pests

One good consequence of the drought has been the lack of pests. Slugs have been few and far between and I have not been plagued by black, white or greenfly unlike in wetter years.

Gardening tips –  Dead head flowers regularly. Divide perennials for even more colour next year. Pot up strawberry runners.

Start looking for plants for your garden again!!


#penstemon #geranium #summer #sunshine #drought

Hotter than 1976

Hotter than 1976

It has been a challenging year in the garden. A bitterly cold winter with two deep snow falls, followed by a delayed spring and then a glorious summer. It has been the warmest and driest summer since 1976 but my plants are suffering.

Fabulous time for Dahlias


Everything is so dry

The garden is so dry, the flowering season has been compressed. Roses flowered early but there are few new buds and my sweet peas have put on their worst display ever. Stunted growth and barely a flower. A colleague planted hers early and was rewarded with a fabulous display. This autumn I will follow her example and sow sweet peas in the greenhouse ready for planting out in spring.

Weeds are thriving

At the nursery it is too hot to work in the polytunnels so I have been finding jobs to do in the shade. There’s lots of weeding to be done – why don’t weeds mind the lack of water? And, the watering is endless.

Targeted watering

With the threat of hosepipe bans across the country I have been careful with my watering, targeting those plants which need it most. I only water in the early morning or in the evening. But despite regular watering many plants have wilted and been spoilt.

Hot weather stars

Some plants are thriving in the hot weather. Agapanthus, with its gorgeous spikey flowers has been a star. So too have the pelargoniums.  I particularly like Pride of Exmouth with its rich, red blooms. Another flower which can tolerate the dry conditions is Zaluzianskya which is originally from South Africa.

Grow grasses

If you want to be sure of what to plant in dry conditions, plant grasses. There are so many varieties and they come in every shade. Not only do they give colour and shape to a garden they also move in the breeze so the vista is always changing. Particular favourites include Carex Comans Dancing Flame, a must for any garden.

Gardening tips – Keep watering where you are able to.  If you are in a drought area concentrate on your flowers and vegetables, the lawn will recover as soon as it rains.  Weeds need to be kept on top of as they are setting seed and one seed head can mean at least 100 weeds next year,


#pelargoniums #roses #sweet peas #1976 #grasses #summer #sunshine #drought #agapanthus

Heavenly scent of summer

The garden is heady with the heavenly scent of summer flowers. Foremost among them are the honeysuckles. They are at their best in the evening and have been truly magnificent this year. Their perfume is really intense and the bees love them.

Summer flowers so easy and colourful include Astrantia and Perlagoniums

Busy Bees
The bees are also adoring the Philadelphus, another summer favourite with its white blooms and orange blossom fragrance. If you are lucky enough to have Lime trees you will notice they too are attracting bees. Mine have so many bees on them the whole trees are vibrating.

Tulip trees worth the wait
Another tree with flowers this month is the liriodendron or tulip tree. Its delicate light green and orange blooms are glorious even though you have to wait 25 years after planting for the first buds to appear. The blooms only last a week or so, but they are worth the wait.

Old fashioned roses
The roses are putting on a tremendous display. The borders are awash with colour and I love the perfume of the old fashioned varieties. They might not last as long as their modern cousins but I’ll take scent over longevity.
Another sweet-smelling favourite is Syringa with its profusion of white and purple flowers.

The Lupins are still flowering and if you deadhead them in time they will send forth a second spike to give you flowers for the next month. ‘Manhattan Lights’ is a particular favourite of mine….


Complementing the lupins are the taller, majestic Delphiniums, especially the deep rich blues and purples. Delphinium Black Knight is a particular favourite of mine.

Thyme the thug
One plant I have been ruthlessly culling is thyme. It is a lovely aromatic herb but this year it has outgrown the herb garden and is putting in an appearance in my flower beds, crowding out the plants I want to see. It has become a garden thug and needs to be dealt with. As I cut it back its wonderful aroma joins that of the other flowers.

Gardening tips – The foliage of daffodils, tulips and other flowering bulbs can be cut down now. Keep deadheading roses to prolong their flowering period. Plant out annuals and summer bedding. Start sowing seeds for next year’s flowers including wallflowers, sweet Williams and polyanthus.

#lupins #delphiniums #scent #roses #summer #bees #thyme #honeysuckle

A Lupintastic Chelsea 2018

Lupins in every show garden – my job is done!

Lupins were the flower of the moment at the Chelsea Flower Show.   The show gardens were full of them, their tall, vibrant spikes bringing colour and form to the fabulous displays.

We have always loved lupins but now garden designers have realised just what a wonderful flower they are.  Our job is done.

At Chelsea we were back in the Grand Pavilion after a few years’ absence and it was lovely to be part of this show again.  The lupins were as unpredictable as ever. Initially they were late due to the cold, damp spring and then the hot weather nearly spoiled them.

Silver-Gilt for West Country Lupins

But they came good and we put on a Silver-Gilt winning display. I was interviewed by the BBC and the publicity has generated a huge interest in our lupins.  We have been inundated with orders and I am sorry for any delays in processing them.  We are working through the backlog as fast as we can.

Chelsea was a wonderful experience.  It is an extremely busy show and the whole ground was heaving with people.  If you want to get a good view of everything you need to be there early.  It is a complete contrast to Malvern where we were earlier in the month.

Malvern – an informal show

Malvern is more informal and the backdrop of the marvellous hills is magnificent.  There is more space, the plants feel fresher and it is a much more relaxed than Chelsea.  However, both give us the chance to meet existing customers and to extol the virtues of lupins.  It is also an opportunity for us to see our lupin groupies and familiar faces who have visited us over many years.

Fabulous wisteria

Away from the shows the warm wet weather has resulted in the best display ,of wisteria for many years, their delicate purple and white blossoms blanketing walls in colour.  It is beginning to fade now but in its place are swathes of clematis in every shade of pink, purple and cream.  Its dense foliage provides perfect nesting spots for sparrows and tits.  Early in the morning the noise in the garden is deafening as the birds chatter away. Last year squirrels stole my peony buds but not this year.  I love the big, blousy blooms and treasure their short existence.


Gardening tips – don’t cut down the foliage of daffodils, tulips and other flowering bulbs.  They need their leaves to build up next year’s bulbs so you will just have to live with the messy look for a few more weeks.  Carry on planting summer bedding, including achillea, geraniums and delphiniums for colourful displays through to autumn.  You can still plant lupins too!


Malvern Spring flower show 2018

Gorgeous sunshine and cruel frosts

Well, what a couple of weeks of topsy turvy weather.  One minute gorgeous warm sunshine encouraging everything to spurt forth with exuberance. The next, overnight frosts cruelly nipping some of the blossoming fruit trees in the bud.  But, the bees are back gorging on the crab-apple nectar and on Saturday I heard my first cuckoo, a true harbinger of spring.  I also saw the gorgeous dainty lilac-petalled cuckoo flower blooming merrily on the verge.  As I cycled alongside the river I was surrounded by the pungent scent of wild garlic and watched wood anemones  nod their creamy-white heads in the breeze.  All signs that the season is changing despite the continual wetness underfoot.  However the spring displays have been shorter than usual with the daffodils, tulips and blossom all being over almost before they started.


Magnificent lupins

In the garden the first lupins are, at last, starting to flower.  The usual suspects Towering Inferno, Beefeater and Masterpiece are first, their magnificent rich red, purple and scarlet spikes adding swathes of colour to otherwise drab flower borders.


Malvern Spring Show

In the nursery we are in for a busy few weeks.  Next Thursday (10th) we are at the RHS Malvern Spring Show.  Malvern is without doubt one of the friendliest and most informal flower shows in the UK.  With the imposing Malvern Hills as a backdrop we will be showing plants illustrating the theme of a Devon cream tea picnic on our stand (number 3029).  We would love to see you there.



Preparing for Chelsea

It should be good preparation for our first time back at Chelsea after a couple of years off, at the end of the month.  We are a bit apprehensive about exhibiting again at this huge and prestigious event.  However, it will give us the chance to show everyone what we do here at Westcountry Nurseries and why Devon is the best place in the UK for our lovely lupins.  In preparation for Chelsea we are being filmed by the BBC, another daunting experience.

In the greenhouse the dahlia tubers I potted up last month have green shoots.  Most of my vegetable seeds have germinated, with just the chillies and peppers showing a reluctance to put in an appearance, but they still have time and with a bit more warmth should soon start to grow.

Outside the birds are a frenetic hive of activity.  Nest building is well underway and a mallard has decided to make my rockery her home.  I’m not sure it is the best place to bring up young, but I’ll keep you posted.


This month’s gardening tips

Things to do this month: sow a second set of herb and salad vegetable seeds in a greenhouse or cold frame to ensure successive crops.  Dead head daffodils and tulips once they have finished flowering but leave the leaves as they are needed to produce the energy for next year’s flowers.

#spring #lupins #RHS #Malvern #Chelsea #creamtea #Devon

Spring is here and lupins are budding up for Malvern Flower show

Spring, sun and birdsong

Finally we have some sun after what seems the longest and wettest winter ever.  As I stand outside the lush, thick grass is growing although the ground is still too wet to risk the lawnmower. A blue tit is busy building his nest in the Lidl birdhouse (recent birthday present from a friend) outside my office window. She is thrilled he has already occupied her des res present. Today I have watched as he has been chipping away at the opening, removing the decor to his own taste. I wonder why. Blue is after all his colour.  Bumble bees are taking advantage of the first nectar of spring.  There is a welcome warmth on my back and the dirt under my fingernails is a welcome sign that I have been sowing seeds ready for the months to come.

There are welcome shades of green in the hedges from the early hawthorn and the garden is springing to life.  The first delicate pink blossom is out on the cherries, purple aubretia is tumbling down the rockery and faint tinges of colour can be seen on the tightly closed tulip heads, a premonition of their glories to come.  Daisies are dotted across the lawn and the first magnolias are parading their ostentatious blooms.  They are such transient plants I can’t begrudge them their show boating.

In shady areas hellebores and cyclamen cover the ground, their beautiful creamy, yellow and purple heads a haven for early bees.  Elsewhere vibrant orange, pink and purple polyanthus compete to give the most colourful display.

In the greenhouse lobelia seeds are under glass and the first spring sown sweet peas are nestling next to their autumn planted sisters.  Last year’s dahlia tubers have been given re-potted and given their first drink.  I never sow them direct into the ground because I forget where I have put them and find myself hoeing their emerging tips in a spate of over-enthusiastic weeding.  It seems much better to start them off in a pot and then to transfer them once you can see what you are doing.

Inside ladybirds have woken up from their wintry hibernation and need to be coaxed out of open windows into the garden where they will be a defence against the unwelcome greenfly later in the year.

Preparations for Malvern Spring Flower Show 10th – 13th May

We are well underway – we have lots of different varieties of Epimedium, Geum, lupins and other herbaceous perennials on the go. The display lupins finally have some buds and the warmer days are pushing on growth at a rapid pace.

In the adjacent field the wild daffodils with their dainty lemon-yellow heads are dying down, their heads swelling with seed. My huge tubs of mixed daffodils from Scamp in Cornwall are resplendent on the verhanda despite the changeable weather. A little battered but so vibrant and colourful. Young lambs born in the farm next door are gambolling in the fields, tearing round as fast as their spindly legs will allow, playing king of the castle, taking it in turns to knock each other off the coveted highest spot.

Things to do this month:

Sow vegetable and flowers seeds in a greenhouse or cold frame; plant onions, garlic and early potatoes; plant spring bedding plants to bring welcome colour

#spring #daffodils #lambs #tulips #dahlias #magnolia #hellebores #gardening #flowers #

Westcountry Lupins RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Between 22nd and 26 May 2018 – The RHS Chelsea Flower show will be with us once more featuring an array of beautiful featured gardens all looking for that top honour of Best display. Other awards during the show include best city garden, best floral arrangements, best trade stands and many more.

The Chelsea Flower show is a great day out for anyone that’s a gardener lover, just like the team at Westcountry Lupins, who’ll once again be entering with our colourful Lupin Flower display.

Westcountry Lupins Wins Gold – RHS Chelsea Flower Show

In 2015, Westcountry Lupins won our 3rd gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show including our deep purple Lupinus ‘Masterpiece’ which was much in evidence in many of the show gardens and even behind the presenters for the BBC coverage.

Westcountry Lupins -Chelsea Flower Show Display
Westcountry Lupins -Chelsea Flower Show Display

All our Lupins are arranged at Chelsea Flower Show by Westcountry Lupins own, Sarah Conibear, Director and Founder of Westcountry Nurseries. As a company we have an excellent track record and are also three times Chelsea gold medallists and Gardeners’ World Live, won for our now infamous lupin displays at the Royal Horticultural Society flower shows.

Westcountry Lupins – RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018

This year we’re going to be at the Chelsea Flower again after a break and we’re looking forward to once again showcasing our Lupin displays. Most importantly the opportunity to meet and greet visitors to our stand and to showcase our flower displays and answer questions about our Lupins and the many other great flowers we grow and sell on our website. Besides that we will have lots of mixed lupin seed and plug plants of our very best lupins for you to buy and take home as a souvenir of your lovely day at the show. We guarantee a rainbow of colours for you to photograph or do selfies!

Lastly we will also have a competition flier where you can WIN  a £50.00 Voucher! Simply name and post a picture of your favourite Lupin on Facebook or Instagram including #WestCtryNursery and #lupins or use Twitter and include @WestCtryNursery #lupins for your chance to win before the draw on 28th June 2018. Winner will be announced on social media and our website. A recent article in Devon Life gives a preamble to our preparations.