Our Exciting Sensory Garden Plans – The Plants

Well, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks in the garden and the house. In fact, I’ve been juggling about six different projects all at the same time, hence why there has been a lack of blog posts. Once I’ve got a few more jobs out of the way I’ll be back to posting much more regularly. In the next two weeks I will be revealing the finished garden canopy, part of the finished deck and hopefully, the revitalised living room with its vintage French doors. After that I’ll be showing the complete courtyard with deck and dining area too and also the master bedroom, so it’s all go! Today though, I’m talking about the plants in the first five borders.

Blue and white hydrangea border
The Blue and White Hydrangea Border. You can see our new Tasmanian Tree Fern in the distance.

Imposter syndrome

I’ve had to find ways of being able to buy 20-30 of the same plant and stay on budget. I find the average garden centre in the UK incredibly expensive, especially now. So, I thought I would try and get a few trade accounts at various nurseries. As far as I was concerned, I had designed loads of gardens over the years and I have definitely designed for other people too.

I talk about gardening to thousands of people every day, surely that puts me within the “trade” category? Effectively, Mr C, my hubby, and I have been inadvertently running a property developing business over the last 24 years. Part of that was designing the gardens and filling them with gorgeous plants. So, why shouldn’t I try for a trade account? It’s so easy to have a sense of imposter syndrome working on Instagram and here on my blog. It’s time to start believing in myself. 

The other thing I’ve been doing is dividing plants that I already had and saving plants from the original garden. I also took cuttings of my Hydrangea Limelight and Annabelles. So hopefully there are a lot more free plants to come!

The beds

Each flower bed has been designed to be a triangle, using the Victorian wall for each border’s backdrop. The triangles create diagonals across the space, creating a zig-zag journey down the garden. So far, I have designed five of the borders. Each has it’s own distinctive style, but hopefully they all flow and feel like they belong together. All five are in the first half of the garden, closest to the house and begin straight after the deck and summerhouse, which creates a courtyard. The single storey extension and the wall next to it are going to be clad in off-white weatherboards. The planting in this space will be in either rattan or zinc planters, all from Cox and Cox

The five borders so far are: 

The Limelight Hydrangea Bed

This was the first bed I started thinking about when we bought our house. My lovely friend Loi from @loithai is the expert in limelight hydrangeas over in Maine, the other side of the pond. I’m taking my inspiration from him and I’ve asked his advice on how to look after them. I know Hydrangea Annabelle is much more popular in the UK and, in fact there will be an Annabelle bed, which is border number six and I’ll discuss that later. However, Limelight blooms sit on much sturdier stems than Annabelle. I also love the colours that they proudly display over a very long season, running from Acid green to snow white to dusty pink and beyond. 

There are 15 Limelight Hydrangeas surrounded by a hedge of Hidcote Lavender with its intense blue spires. Between all of this I have underplanted with aliium purple sensation. In September I will be planting at least another 100 Allium Purple Sensation in this border and the Silver Birch Border. I also added Ajuga, which has a tendency to spread, which is exactly what I want. It stays low and is evergreen. There are deep purple blue spires in spring and early summer and the leaves are aubergine in colour.

The Blue and White Hydrangea Bed

I’ve just finished this bed and it sits directly next to the garden canopy from Coastal Garden Buildings, so you get a really great view of it when sitting there. It’s edged in Hidcote Lavender again for continuity and flow. It also creates a heady scent for people sitting in the canopy.

I’ve used Hydrangea Macrophylla Zoro, which has intense true blue flowers and black stems. It’s a real gem of a plant. To contrast those I have used Hydrangea Macrophylla Zebra – black stems and pure snowy white blooms. To add height and interest I have underplanted with Veronicastrum Albiflora with it’s tall white spires and also Nigella with it’s delicate petals and leaves.

The Silver Birch Bed

The Silver Birch Border is going to form a bit of a showpiece. I want it to draw the eye and make you want to venture close to it. The idea is that once inspected it ignites the imagination and sense of adventure, luring you further down the garden to see what’s beyond its icy white peeling bark. 

There are nine Silver Birch Trees – Betula Utilis Jacquemontii Snowqueen. they create dappled shade and the sun steams through them with shafts of golden light. Under the trees are four Taxus Baccatta balls (Yew). Digitalis Pururea Alba (White foxgloves) are dotted around the space along with Astrantia Star of Billion, Leucanthemum and Lychnis Coronaria Alba. The border is edged in Hebe Wiri Mist, which has an almost continual spray of tiny white flowers. it’s also evergreen, so adds structure for winter.

If you want to read more about the Silver Birch Border, then click the link.

The Jungle Bed

This is Mr C’s border. It doesn’t quite fit with the rest of my design, but gardens are for real people, not just for Instagram. It’s important that the whole household feel like the garden is theirs. He chooses the plants and then I do all the hard work and planting! Joking aside, this border is about having fun with colour and texture. Although, I do have very tight stipulations about the use of yellow and orange. Basically, it’s a big fat no!

Missy at the jungle border.

The tallest plants are at the back, which include a seven foot high Tasmanian Tree Fern from Architectural Plants – if you haven’t been you must go, banana plants of various types and also a very unusual plant called Pseudopanix Ferox, or toothed lancewood. Thank you to Laura at @Iamagardener for finding that name for me! She’s fabulous and knows a lot about plants, so do check out her page!

There is an array of Cordylines and Phormiums of various shades, Hostas and Angelica Gigas with it’s beautiful, almost pre-historic umbrella of blooms. Phyllostachys Nigra (Black bamboo) lines the far edge of the border, next to painted ferns, White Freesia and hardy orchids like Bletilla Striata.

The Purple Bed

This is one of the smallest beds and was created to surround a cherry tree. However, the tree is dying! I knew it was too, because I had to dig out a plethora of Winter Helliotrope roots and in doing so I had to dig down deep. This meant uncovering a lot of the cherry tree’s roots. They were orange, soft and wet. I fear it is the dreaded honey fungus again! I wanted to take it out, but between us it was decided to leave it there. it’s definitely going to die. We have an idea of using the trunk to display a sculpture if that happens.

This bed is edged in Hidcote Lavender and encircles white and purple Monarda, or Bergamot, Pennisetum Little Bunny and other grasses. I’ve added Centaurea Montana and curry plants for the silver foliage. I tend to cut off the yellow flower heads! in the centre is a large swathe of Verbena Bonariensis, which is one of my favourite plants. Its tall angular spires topped with long-lasting heavenly purple blooms. The bees love this one! Did you know that this plant, with it’s square angular stems formed the basis of the very first design for a skyscraper?

Future plant bed

Once the first half of the garden has been completed, I hope to start on at least part of the second half of the garden. In fact, at least one border has to be created as I’ve already got the plants! It’s going to be a bed full of Hydrangea Annabelle, edged in an evergreen shrub that isn’t box! The seventh border I really do need to get on with is my Dalia bed.

I’m so behind on getting these planted up. They are already sprouting new shoots. I’ve only dabbled with dahlias so far, but this time I really want to go for it and I’m hoping that because we have a walled garden and therefore, a mini microclimate, that I can keep the tubers in the ground all year. Of course, I will make sure there is plenty of mulch on top of the soil throughout the winter. Here’s hoping! Anyway, best get planting! Have the best day.

JP Clark signature


  1. Sara
    June 26, 2022 / 7:39 am

    Your garden is beautiful JP …so interesting to see how you put it all together. I love dahlias so am watching with interest to see the new bed. I have a white dahlia I leave in the ground and it does really well. I leave others in pots and put in fresh compost in March to start them off again.

  2. Jenny Virgilio
    June 26, 2022 / 8:51 am

    I love receiving your emails. I am a keen gardener, but I tend to buy what I like, and plant it, along with the plants that we inherited. It is a small garden, with sleeper edged borders. Is there anything plants that you can suggest that could tie it all together?
    Thank you in advance.

  3. Sally
    June 26, 2022 / 9:09 am

    Beautiful!! (and SUCH a lot of work – hugely well done!).

    Ok, though, – you’ve opened the door yourself by mentioning sourcing through a trade account (lucky you!) 😉, ‘let’s talk costs’ time?…

  4. Marion Cole
    June 26, 2022 / 9:23 am

    Fabulous JP . You are amazing and very obvious your element. Love it.

  5. Marion Cole
    June 26, 2022 / 9:24 am

    Very obviously in your element! XxM

  6. Christine fairclough
    June 26, 2022 / 4:20 pm

    Probably a bit late in the day for you now, but there is a man who comes to Gosport market every Saturday morning, his plants are fantastic! and very reasonable!
    He must have been coming for 25 years+, I have certainly been going to him for at least that long! and my garden is full of his plants!
    if he hasn’t got a plant you want he will endeavour to get it for you and for a lot less than garden centre prices.
    He is definitely worth a visit, best time is 8:30am, just as he has unloaded his big van and is tucking into his bacon sandwich!!
    He comes from Hindhead way, sorry don’t know his name.
    We just call him the plant man!!
    If you do find the time for a visit park in Morrisons and just on the High St, opposite Iceland you’ll find him!

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