Plants are concerned about their health….just like us!

Plants are bombarded by bugs and ailments too. There are some specific remedies available to them but there are many fewer garden chemicals than previously.  So as with us we should try and keep them in the pink with a good diet, lots to drink and not too much stress!

Many of the questions I get are about plant health. Particularly at this time of the year when a lot of plants look a bit ragged with chewed and blotchy leaves. In most cases there is nothing to worry about. Most plants are visited regularly by insects and slugs (they seem to get everywhere these days) and get bits of fungal disease due to both dry and wet weather.

But this is nothing new to them…They would get this sort of treatment in the wild and will obviously shake it off. But there is one big difference. In the wild plants thrive because they naturally grow where they are happiest.

In the garden we have to create those conditions as closely as we can and if we do we will have healthy plants which will cope with most problems.

So here are some simple guidelines on establishing “happy” plants.

1) Take advice. If you would like to have a particular plant in the garden, check the label or ask the garden centre staff if it is suitable. If it is an Acer, for example, it will need an acid soil (or ericaceous soil in a pot );half shade and above all a sheltered position away from cold or hot dry winds which will scorch and shrivel the tender foliage. If you are looking for plants for a particular spot …shady or exposed, again ask for advice.

2) Plant well. Above all plants need a good start in the garden. If the soil is poor –add some planting compost or even some topsoil. If the soil is heavy add a bit of course grit to help drainage. If the soil around the plant is not inviting, it ‘s roots may decide not to venture out!

3) Water well when planting and when growing. Lack of water is the most common cause of plant failure. And remember rain is not reliable as we know this summer. When it comes it may be too heavy and run off or it may not get through the foliage “umbrella”.

4) Food is good. Again get advice on the best feed for planting and to maintain growth. In pots and baskets there is only enough food for 4 to 6 weeks.

5) Good housekeeping helps. Ragged leaves on deciduous shrubs and trees will deteriorate as they approach autumn. Any leaves which look diseased should be picked up after they have fallen to prevent the spread of the disease next year.

So very simply stress-free conditions, food and drink are essential to good plant health!


I’m looking for a really good specimen shrub for summer. Most of my garden is spring flowering. What do you suggest?


One of the most classy shrubs is the deciduous Hibiscus (Hsyriacus in variety).They have lovely shaped leaves and striking flowers from late summer to autumn. It grows to about 2-3 metres so makes an excellent specimen or back of border plant. Choose from “Blue Bird”(violet blue with a dark eye); “Hamabo” (white with crimson eye) or “Woodbridge”(rose pink with a dark eye).It likes full sun and good drainage so add some coarse grit when planting if your soil is heavy.


Things to do in September

  1. Lawns are looking a little sad with the hot dry weather. They will come back with significant rain. Apply an autumn fertilizer and re-seed worn patches.

  2. Visit the garden centre to choose your spring bulbs – all on display in September as planting time has now started.

  3. It has not been easy to plant shrubs and trees in the dry Summer months so prepare the ground now for autumn planting – a great time to do it.

  4. Check your patio pots and prepare to replant if necessary. It is best to change the compost to avoid vine weevil damage. Baby Clyclamens are a great choice for autumn tubs. Combine with foliage and ivy and some miniature bulbs.

Plant of the month


Spectabile varieties have lovely pink, crimson or purple flowers in autumn. Most insects flock to the flowers in search of nectar.

Later, the seedheads will be flocked by goldfinches. Earlier in the year, the bracts around the stem form a water reservoir which attracts insects and small birds.