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How to shop at the garden centre on a sunny bank holiday

Creating a beautiful garden from a few splurges at the garden centre can prove costly so here are some tips to save money this bank holiday weekend.

Avoid 'novelty' varieties.

They are untested at surviving Scottish winters and unlikely to reappear reliably in following years.

Reliaable Echinacea
Echinacea Magnus Superior

Echinacea will not flower brilliantly even in their first year, unless you give them exactly the conditions they need and extremely unlikely to survive our winter wet. The possible exceptions are Echinacea Magnus Superior and Echinacea Purpurea, if given good drainage and are not crowded by any other plants these should return next year. Avoid all 'Cocktail' varieties unless you are happy to only enjoy them for one summer.

reliable salvia
Salvia Caradonna

Salvia's are another plant with many captivating novelty varieties. They need well draining soil, sunny aspect and soils with low fertility, ie not heavy clay. The exception to this is Salvia Caradonna which is utterly bombproof and once planted you will never be without.

Lavender's originate from the dry, gritty, unfertile soils of the south of France. Soil that is baked to a cement consistency in summer and rarely exposed to a frost in winter. Given all this, there are some extremely reliable Lavenders for the Scottish garden. Notably Lavender Angustifolia 'Hidcote'. Its slow growing so best bought as large as you can afford.

Plant Labelling

In essence, shop for 'Hardy Perennials' these are plants that are tested and proven to survive a Scottish winter. Perennials meaning they return year on year and Hardy meaning tough as old boots! Avoid plants labelled 'frost tolerant' or 'frost hardy' they are not reliable in a Scottish garden.

Labels are misleading and a lot of plants will be labelled as tolerant of part sun when in reality they need full sun to really be happy. Lavenders and Salvias need to be in 6 hours plus of direct sun to be happy. The beautiful Echinops, (my all time favourite) will grow leggy and bend over to catch the sun if planted in any form of shade.

best plants for bees

Save Money

With the exception of Lavenders and Geraniums I advise you to buy Hardy Perennials in 9cm pots rather than 2 Litre or 5 Litre. Most are remarkably fast growing and will catch up in one season. This alone can save you a fortune. They transplant better too as they have less of an established root system and will rehome more successfully.

Avoid buying potted Annuals such as Poppies, Nigella or Cosmos. Buy a packet of seed instead and just scatter on bare patches of soil (weed first!) you can grow these with ease for a fraction of the price of one plant.

Dahlia's can be a lot of fuss for one plant! They are exceptionally prolific at flowering though and flower right up until first frosts. If you are going to buy one plant that may be a one season love affair make it a Dahlia. It's not really too late to buy a tuber (looks like root ginger) Plant about 10 inches deep and water it in, you can have leaves coming up in around 4 to 6 weeks. I never think it's a waste of money to buy potted Dahlia's though. If you have a shed or cellar they can be lifted and stored for following years but I think it's fine to treat them as annuals and enjoy them for one summer/autumn.

Dahlias that flower in winter
Dahlia Totally Tangerine

These are just designed to be helpful pointers - most of all just get out into the garden and enjoy it! Happy planting x

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