RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022 – A Sneak Peek

The dress code at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show these days might feel a little casual for some – more jeans and t-shirts, less royal frocks and hats.

But there is still plenty of glamour to be enjoyed! Wafting around surrounded by blooms with a glass of Pimm’s or bubbly in hand sounds pretty glamorous to me! No matter how you’re dressed.

Or even undressed...

Remember our nude peony-ed model at the 2019 Chelsea Flower Show (pictured right)? We had such fun.

This year we are excited to be back in full bloom and having a ball exhibiting at the Floral Marquee at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022.


What We've Been Up To

With so many colours, shapes, scents and varieties to choose from, we can say that there certainly is a peony to suit every garden style and choice. Their delicate but blousy blooms enchant visitors to the show year after year and we want this year to be the most memorable peony exhibit yet.

It has been nearly two years since we have displayed peonies in their full glory at the RHS Chelsea so we are delighted to be back and full force, bringing back some fun after the difficult two years of the pandemic.

Our exhibit has been in the making for the last 18 months with a photoshoot taking place on the nursery last Spring.

As the largest exhibit we have ever undertaken, our team is hard at work growing over one thousand peonies for the display.

Send us all your growing vibes please!


What Will You See?

We are creating an experience where you'll find yourself immersed in the wondrous world of peonies and falling in love with them as much as we have, appreciating all of their unique and beautiful qualities.

We hope this will stoke your desire for having your own peonies growing in your garden, even if you have never grown them before.

In our dreamy display of peonies you will be able to see yourself having fun, like you did as a kid – playing in a whimsical forest surrounded by magical flowers.

The display will feature a large backdrop image from our ethereal photoshoot. At the centre of the exhibit will be a peony-covered swing, courtesy of Sitting Spiritually, allowing you to imagine yourself enjoying the tranquility of our ‘midsummer nights dream’, experiencing the serenity that gardens can provide while feeling more connected to nature. A beautifully sculpted Fairy by Robert James and all trees provided by Valley Plants. The intoxicating fragrance of the peonies will transport you to another world, allowing you to experience the wonder and versatility of peonies.

To really get the full experience you'll want to keep an eye out for our Photocall at the show – an opportunity for you to snap some pics of a beautiful Fairy Queen in our enchanted peony forest doing what fairy queens do.

Which is?

You'll have to come and see for yourself!

And that is just the tip of the petal of what’s in store for you at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year.

So come and see us! We look forward to seeing you there.

If you haven’t got your tickets yet, you better grab ‘em here...

RHS Chelsea Flower Show

in the buff in 2019...

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022

Cut Flower Peonies – Grown at Home

Why grow your own peony cutting garden?

Isn’t it easier to just order a bunch of blooms whenever you need one? Arranged perfectly and ready to go?


But we think it’s more fun to grow your own, as well as these other compelling reasons:

  • You’ll have access to a wider variety of peonies.
  • You can choose the peonies you especially like and get the look you want.
  • You’ll learn more about your garden and your peonies in the process.
  • You’ll have a regular supply of peonies in season which can be more affordable in the long run.



Here’s how to get started on growing your own peonies.

Which Peonies are Best

Blooms from most herbaceous cultivars perform well in both the vase and garden.

These are some of the best peonies for cutting (some pictured right):


If your peonies are young (less than 3 years old) it’s unlikely you will be seeing flowers just yet.

Peonies mature relatively slowly and they will need time to establish well to be sturdy enough for flower picking.

However, they are worth the wait. Being perennials, peonies are a great choice for a cutting garden as they will come back every year to knock your gardening gloves off with their beautiful blooms.

When Planting

In cooler climates, peonies can be planted in either spring or autumn so you could get started now. Here’s how:

  • Plant in a sunny spot in well-draining soil with less frequent, longer watering to encourage deeper, stronger rooting.
  • Don’t plant them too deeply. The eyes should be no more than 2.5-5cm below the surface.
  • Make sure there is enough space between plants – at least 60cm – as peonies benefit from good air circulation. This also makes them easier to pick.
  • Keep the area weed-free so your peonies aren’t competing for nutrients.
  • Provide staking/supports if needed.
  • Include peonies of different bloom times in the same bed to avoid empty patches


When Picking

It’s more cutting than picking you’ll be doing as it’s best to use secateurs rather than the hand to get a good clean edge so they can draw the water up well.

The best time of day to pick/cut them is on a cool day or in the morning.

You’ll want to:

  • Make sure your secateurs or scissors are really sharp.
  • Cut peonies when the bud is quite soft but not yet opened. A gentle pinch between your forefinger and thumb should reveal that the bud is as soft as a marshmallow.
  • Pick them with a bucket of water in hand and put the stems straight in (the ends start to seal over as soon as they’re picked so if you put them straight in the water they will drink up the water more readily than later).


When in the Vase

If picked at the marshmallow stage, within a day or two the flowers will have opened and you should have beautiful peonies in a vase for at least a week.

Make sure to:

  • Take off the leaves that will be under the water and put a little Milton in the water. This will stop the fungal moulds from growing and prolong the life of your cut peonies.
  • Every few days, trim the stems and change the water to keep them fresh.

A Garden of Love

While it’s always a treat to receive a bouquet of flowers for Valentine’s Day celebrations, a plant would be even better.

The longer lifespan means you won’t be forgotten any time soon.

Especially with peonies – you’ll be thought of for decades!

Here’s some ideas on what plants to bring into your or someone you love’s garden or home to send the message of love:



  • Unending love/immortality
  • Said to cure a broken heart


  • Annual or perennial depending on the variety
  • A long history of medicinal use




  • Grow it to wish for love
  • Carry it to win love
  • Love, patience, elegance, good luck and gained wisdom


  • Majority are perrenials, while some are annuals and biennials
  • They bloom from late summer to first frost so are popular in autumn and winter flower arrangements
  • Also referred to as ‘Starworts’ or ‘Michaelmas’




  • Red ones say ‘I love you’
  • Rose-coloured ones say ‘in love’


  • They are perennials but if you buy them from a nursery, treat them as annuals
  • For centuries the oil extracted from the flowers of certain species has been used in insecticides
  • The plant’s petals are actually florets with both sexual parts




  • Their fragrance is thought to inspire love
  • Apparently you can attract love into your life by growing crocus


  • An early-blooming spring bulb-like structure called a corm
  • Their leaves and petals are insulated by a waxy layer helping them weather occasional frost and even a bit of snow
  • Saffron is the product of Crocus




  • Pink carnations symbolize a mother’s love
  • Red symbolizes a deeply romantic love or pure love


  • Also known as ‘pink clover’
  • There are 3 main types of carnations: large flowered, spray, and dwarf
  • They are edible and delicious as part of a dessert or on their own




  • Love, inner strength, beauty, kindness
  • A way to say ‘I’m forever yours’


  • All dahlia are edible
  • In Mexico, Dahlia tubers are roasted and made into a drink (in place of coffee)
  • The ‘Little Dorit’ variety was named after the Charles Dickens novel


English Lavender


  • purity and devotion
  • a lavender scented note or clothes scented with lavender are thought to attract love


  • an evergreen perennial shrub
  • lavender comes in other colours other than lavender – white, yellow and pink




  • Red peonies symbolise love, romance and passion
  • Pink peonies communicate lasting love, good fortune and prosperity


  • They come in every colour except blue
  • Bees prefer the ‘single’ form
  • Their petals are on the dessert menu in China
  • They can live on for more than a century!




  • Having yarrow in your home will bring you love for 7 years!
  • They’ve been said to find your one true love


  • A hardy perennial
  • Make good companion plants
  • Birds love them - apparently used by Starlings in their nests as they stop the growth of parasites
  • Attract bees and other beneficial insects


If you already have a few of these in your garden or home then you’re well on your way to love.

Winter Gardening – What to do in January

It’s the new year!

And it’s the middle of winter!

It’s tough to feel excited about that when it’s frosty and wet outside. You look over at your garden and think there’s not much going on out there.

But the grey winteriness of January is actually a fine time to prepare for a busy spring and summer.

Here’s some suggestions.

In general

  • Keep the birds going. Winter can be hard for them as their water sources freeze and food is more scarce so keep those feeders full and leave some of the garden a little untidy (read: wild) so they and other creatures can enjoy a bit of shelter
  • Compost/re-purpose your Christmas tree
  • Make a bug hotel and help keep your gardens eco system healthy
  • Tidy up the shed/greenhouse and sharpen your tools



  • As you may know, come frost or snow, peonies really revel in the winter as it’s a time for them to rest and digest and get ready for spring. If you’ve cut them back in autumn once the leaves had wilted and put a little mulch around them (not in the middle) you can leave them be. They are hardy to about -20C and usually flower better than ever after a cold winter
  • If you didn’t cut the leaves back it’s best to do so as soon as possible to prevent the wet from bringing on the mould. And if there’s already some mould on the remains, don’t compost this foliage, rather put it straight in the bin. That’s the kind of love you don’t want to spread


Other Plants

  • Plan what you want to plant in spring and order the seeds, bulbs and tubers now
  • Check any supports or protection you put around your plants are still enduring
  • Look out for weeds and remove from the root
  • Get those bare root plants in now such as fruit trees, shrubs, hedges, peonies, roses and hardy geraniums
  • If you have already have fruit trees, shrubs, bushes and roses, now’s a good time to prune them
  • Dahlia can be uprooted, dried out and stored inside now to protect them from the harsh winter conditions. See how to overwinter them here
  • Harvest winter veg such as parsnips, kale, brussel sprouts and leek
  • Grow some microgreens or sprout some sprouts in your kitchen


After Heavy Snow

  • Remove snow from greenhouses and hedges to prevent damage
  • Try not to walk on the grass after heavy snow or frost as it will damage it. But if you must make a snowman, the fun is worth the risk


Indoor Container Plants

  • Make sure indoor plants are well hydrated and misted often as central heating can dry the air out and damage them


Outdoor Container Plants

  • Make sure your outside plants are getting enough water especially if partly sheltered. The soil should be damp by at least a hand’s depth
  • At the same time, you don’t want them too wet. Raise outdoor container plants onto feet or bricks to avoid them having soggy “feet”


As you can see, there’s plenty to do so we better get going!

Christmas – A Time to Give Back

Is it just me or is this year speeding to a halt?

Another year! Another December! And we’re all still around to enjoy it.

Now that’s something to be grateful for.

Another thing to be thankful for is our gardens. They are just the best little pieces of peace we could ever have. Sanctuaries. Places to experiment and learn more about life and ourselves.

This time of year is a good opportunity to think about how we can show our gratitude.

Here are some ideas:

Give to the Earth

One way you can do this is by thinking of ways we can look after the environment.

For instance, cutting down on unnecessary waste at this time by reusing old Christmas decorations. Or making your own out of natural/recycled materials.

Give to Your Peonies

While your peonies are not flowering they’re having a long, rejuvenating slumber underground.

So here are some ways you can show your peonies some gratitude for all the hard work they’ve done and are still doing:

Herbaceous and Itoh

  • With the stems and leaves having died back, trim the stems without cutting any exposed peony ‘eyes’
  • Make sure to clear the ground around each peony plant and dispose of the stems and leaves in the bin. It can be tempting to compost them but this may attract botrytis, especially if it is a wet winter.
  • If your peony is mature (5+years) it’s likely that the crown will push through the soil in winter and show some ‘eyes’. You won’t need to worry about protecting them as peonies love the cold of winter and will be just fine.


Tree peonies

  • While the leaves are also dead and require removing, there is no need to trim back the branches. They’ll be fine out there in the cold. If you’ve trimmed them already, that’s ok. As long as the roots are well established the branches will grow back.
  • Unlike Herbaceous peonies, Tree peonies like to be buried more deeply. So if it looks like it needs a bit of a boost, experiment with adding a few inches of soil around the base of the trunk.


Give a Peony

As mentioned, peonies aren’t flowering now. But they will be next year and the year after that and the year after that!

Peonies are the most wonderful, long lasting gift to give as they really do just keep on giving. They grow on for decades.

And although the receiver may find it a bit strange getting a pot of soil with some dormant roots in it, they will not be disappointed.

You can think of it like gifting a savings account to a relative for future gifts. Such as being able to go to university or buying a piece of property. They may not be able to enjoy it right now but when they do, it will be the best gift ever!

And that’s peonies – the best forever gift.

Growing Peonies for Cut Flowers

Keen on growing your own peonies specifically for cut flower?

Some varieties are better suited to cut flower production than others. We are looking for stems that are long and strong with striking, large blooms.

Herbaceous peonies are a great option as they perform well in both the vase and garden. There are many varieties to choose from, in a range of colours, and many peonies are fragrant so there's the added bonus there!

But where to start?

Let’s have a look at some of the things you’ll want to bear in mind when planting peonies for cut flower.


Any position in the garden will be fine, in either full sun or part shade preferably in a more sheltered place away from strong wind.

Soil Conditions

Any type of soil will be fine as long as it has excellent drainage. If you do have lighter, sandy soil, remember to add a generous amount of organic matter to the bottom of your planting hole and perhaps feed a little more regularly.

Best time to Plant

In cooler climates like we have here in the UK, peonies can be planted in either Spring or Autumn.

Planting Depth and Spacing

  • Don’t plant them too deeply. The eyes should be no more than 2.5-5cm below the surface
  • When you order from us your peony will be in a pot already planted at the correct depth which makes it easy to plant it straight in the ground at same depth
  • Make sure there is enough space between plants – at least 60cm – as peonies benefit from good air circulation. This also makes them easier to pick

How long until Harvest Time?

If your peony plants are still less than 3 years old you won’t see many (if any) flowers yet. Peony cutting gardens take a little while to get going as the plants develop relatively slowly and need time to establish well before flowers can be picked.

Not having any flowers is not a bad thing as it means all the energy and nutrients are going in to the roots and building a strong foundation. You want a strong plant that will keep on going for decades so you can reap the gorgeous rewards for as long as possible.

From 4 years and up you will see a marked difference in flower production.  At Primrose Hall we nurture all of our plants until they are at least 5 years old ensuring they are mature flowering Paeonia plants. So you are much more likely to see it flowering from its very first season in your garden. Little patience required.

When to Pick?

The best time to pick peonies is when the bud is quite soft but not yet opened. A gentle pinch between your forefinger and thumb should reveal that the bud is as soft as a marshmallow. Pick them at this point, rinse them in cold water (especially if they are covered in ants!) and put them straight in a bucket of water or vase.

Within in a day or two the flowers will have opened and you should have beautiful peonies in a vase for at least a week.

Which Varieties are best?

Varieties such as ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ seem to do best as cut flowers, as do other soft coloured double varieties such as:

Paeonia lactiflora 'Boule de Neige' (Peony 'Boule de Neige')

Beautiful double white flowers, highly scented, with crimson flecks on the outer part of the petals on dark green foliage. Flowers mid-season. 

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Vogue’ (Peony ‘Vogue’) (Fragrant)

Excellent herbaceous perennial with dark green foliage and huge white double flowers with a crimson edge and inner petals with a silvery reflex. Absolutely stunning. 

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Madame Calot’ (Peony ‘Madame Calot’) (Fragrant)

Herbaceous perennial with dark green divided leaves and large, double pale pink and cream flowers. Highly scented, floriferous.


These ones make great cut flowers too:

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Honey Gold’ (Peony ‘Honey Gold’) (Fragrant) (Mid Season Flowering)

Fragrant semi-double creamy white flowers with a pale yellow centre on long strong stems.

Paeonia ‘Claire de Lune’ AGM (Peony ‘Claire de Lune’) Fragrant (Mid-Season Flowering)

Claire de Lune is a very special peony because of its unusual lemon coloured flowers and gorgeous scent; it also makes an excellent cut flower. Claire de Lune has distinctive broad mid-green leaves and stunning lemon coloured single, cup-shaped flowers with golden centres. Floriferous, impressive and reliable peony.

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Doreen’ AGM (Peony ‘Doreen’) (Fragrant)

A herbaceous perennial with finely cut green foliage and lightly scented, HUGE, single flowers of pink guard petals and yellow centres. Fragrant, large flowers.

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Victoire de la Marne’ (Peony ‘Victoire de la Marne’) (Fragrant) (Mid-Late Season Flowering)

Mid-sized burgundy purplish red double flowers with lighter edges. A striking flower with a distinctive colour.


Happy gardening! May the peonies be with you!

Caring for your Tree Peony

Tree peonies.

The loveliness that’s inspired many beautiful art pieces through the ages.

And you can have one of these charming muses living in your very own garden.

They are sure to make a real statement in a sunny garden border, growing up to 2-3 metres, although they respond very well to pruning and can be kept at a more manageable 1-1.5m.

Tree peonies are long-lived, deciduous shrubs with large, sometimes dinner plate size, flamboyant, often fragrant flowers in a variety of colours. They range from white through pink to dark red and purple; yellows are also available, along with the more unusual apricot shades.

They are happiest in a sunny or lightly shaded, location sheltered from strong wind to prevent foliage and flower damage and although they can take up to four years to get settled and start flowering the rewards outweigh the wait!

You can plant containerised tree peonies at any time in the year - just remember to water it well when you plant it.

Planting Pointers

Some planting tips:

  • Tree peonies are often grafted onto herbaceous peony rootstock so the graft union will need to be planted about 15cm below soil level. This encourages it to form its own roots
  • Once in, water generously to settle the soil


TLC for the Tree

Technically, tree peonies aren’t trees but rather sub-shrubs so they need much the same care as herbaceous varieties.

This is how you can help your tree peony stand the test of time:

  • It is best to water regularly during the first summer especially during dry spells
  • Mulching well in late Autumn to late winter with organic matter helps keep moisture in but leave a dish around the base of the plant which is clear of any mulch as that can lead to root rot
  • Prune in the Autumn and either take back the top growth by about 1/3 in stages or, if you have a multi-stemmed tree peony, cut back every 3rd stem to about 2cm, removing the oldest stems first
  • After hibernating happily through the winter chill you’ll want to give it a little boost with a feed come Spring time


Want one?

So! If you are thinking about adopting a tree peony into your peony family have a look at these lovelies (pictured right):

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Kokuryu Nishiki’ (Japanese Tree Peony) (Early-Mid Season Flowering)

Japanese tree peony with large semi-double incredible dark burgundy/purple flowers with white veins/flashes on the outer petals

Paeonia ‘High Noon’ AGM (Japanese Tree Peony) Fragrant (Early-Mid Season Flowering)

Stunning semi-double to double, large yellow lemon scented flowers with a red basal flare. Will often flower again in the autumn. Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit so it is a very reliable tree peony

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Shichi Fukujin’ (Japanese Tree Peony) (Early-Mid Season Flowering)

Japanese tree peony with large papery thin striking double pink flowers with a raspberry basal flare. Often with a crinkled edge

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Kuro-Ageha’ (Japanese Tree Peony) (Mid Season Flowering)

A romantically deep red bloom with large golden stamens in the centre of this semi-double peony

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Fuso-no-tsukasa’ (Japanese Tree Peony) (Mid-Late Season Flowering)

An absolutely stunning, elegant Japanese tree peony with large, pure white double flowers

Peony of the Month – ‘Morning Lilac’

Does your garden need some purple in its life?

Do you want to add an intersectional and/or a midseason bloomer to your peony collection to compliment your early and late flowering varieties?

Well, this unusual and rare purple princess– Paeonia ‘Morning Lilac’ – may just be the perfect addition.

With its huge, semi-double, strong purple flowers with a darker purple edging it’s no wonder it nabbed that RHS Award of Garden Merit. And that finely cut divided green foliage provides excellent Autumn colour and interest, turning a beautiful red in both Spring and Autumn.

‘Morning Lilac’ was created by crossing extremely rare Lactiflora ‘Martha Washington’ and Lutea Hybrid ‘Golden Era’ in 1990 by Anderson and registered in 1999. It is a fragrant and floriferous variety that produces myriads of large blooms – up to 15cm across - all over its top and sides.

Sound like a welcome guest? We thought so too.

Intersectionals really are the best of both worlds with their massive flowerheads, richly coloured foliage and compact growth habit. They can grow up to 90cm tall and are tough – more tolerant of cold weather than tree peonies and also not bothered by the heat. On mature plants you can expect to see between 40 and 50 flowers over flowering season. And the flowers last twice as long as other peonies – going on for four to five weeks with lots of small side buds.

So if you’re set on adding some of this purple peony love to your garden to perhaps compliment your ‘Coral Charm’ and lovely yellow ‘Bartzella’, this one would fit in rather nicely.

Nothing like a pop of purple to jazz things up a bit!

Just make sure to implement these top tips for growing your intersectional successfully:

  • Buy a well-established, mature peony plant
  • Plant in a sunny or part-shaded sheltered position in any free-draining soil
  • Don’t plant your intersectional peony too deep – ensure the crown is no more than 25mm below the surface
  • Feed your peony once a year in the Spring, Summer or Autumn
  • Cut back intersectional peonies in the Autumn
  • Water your peony consistently while buds are forming in the Spring but take care not to over water as peonies don’t like having wet ‘feet’ or roots

With this little bit of care you can expect to enjoy gazing at these beauties in your garden for many years to come.

And that’s what we love about peonies – they just keep giving back so much more than we put in.

Enjoy your gardening and let us know how it goes!

Peonies that Symbolise Love

With Valentine’s Day coming up are you wondering what peonies to send to a loved one? Which peonies symbolise love?

Peonies symbolise many different things, depending on the colour. In China, red is a symbol of royalty. Only emperors and their families used it, so red peonies came to embody wealth, prosperity, honour and respect. Peony is a traditional flower symbol in China and is called 牡丹 (mǔdān) which means “the most beautiful”.

In Western culture red flowers are generally associated with love and red peonies have come to symbolise love, romance and passion.

Pink peonies are commonly used in wedding bouquets as they symbolise lasting love, good fortune and prosperity. They can also depict love at first sight.


These days most of us don’t think very deeply about the specific meaning of flowers when deciding what flower to pick. We usually just go with a colour or form we like, don’t we?

But there was a time when flowers spoke volumes.

Communicating with flowers dates back to the 1700s in Turkey but the Victorian era was a time when this form of communication really took off. This happened after Lady Mary Wortley Montagu visited Turkey and discovered the way harem girls communicated with each other – sending coded messages via flowers.

She wrote:

“There is no colour, no flower, no weed, no fruit, herb, pebble, or feather, that has not a verse belonging to it; and you may quarrel, reproach, or send letters of passion, friendship, or civility, or even of news, without ever inking your fingers.”


It was the ideal vehicle for expressing thoughts and feelings that were considered taboo at the time. And in the Victorian age full of rules and restrictions, that was just about anything to do with expressing emotions.

Assigning meaning to specific flower types to communicate feelings or desires is known as floriography and it became not only a craze but one of the main ways anyone was able to get their untoward thoughts across without uttering or writing a single word.

So if you received a bunch of flowers like this:

White Peonies (bashfulness) + Red Peonies (true love) + Magenta Ranunculus (dazzled by your charm)  + Pale pink Sweet Peas (meet me)

You can be sure potential love is on the horizon!


So why not send a peony? You never know what could happen…

Some options of appropriately named and coloured peonies you could go for are:

'Love Affair'

Unusual, rare and highly sought after. A mid season flowering 'Itoh' semi-double, white, bowl-shaped bloom with a beautiful fragrance

'My Love'

Herbaceous perennial with striking double blooms in blush with small red flares fading to white

'Bowl of Love'

A short version of 'Bowl of Beauty' with carmine pink outer petals and pale cream petaloids. An exquisite fragrant, mid season bloomer

'Pillow Talk'

A gorgeous, sweetly scented, large double peony with soft, creamy cameo pink rose-type flowers. Makes an excellent cut flower.

'Berry Berry Fine'

Unusual and highly collectable, mid season ‘Itoh’ with finely cut foliage on sturdy framework and incredible fragrant, single to semi-double, deep lavender pink flowers highlighted with darker pink streaks and plum basal flares

'Pink Parfait'

A late flowering, herbaceous perennial with double, deep pink highly fragrant blooms that make excellent cut flowers

'Red Charm'

An indulgent, sturdy, early flowering, herbaceous perennial with large, fragrant, deep ruby red cup-shaped flowers with ruffled centres


An early-mid season, strong and reliable herbaceous variety that’s a floriferous grower. It has beautiful fragrant, semi-double bright red flowers with golden centres

'Peter Brand'

A heavily scented herbaceous perennial with divided foliage, erect stems bearing deep pink-red double flowers, with ruffled inner petals

Which peonies would you choose?

Click on a pic to take your pick!

Planning a Garden for Retirement

Planning a Garden for Retirement

As you grow older it makes sense to plan a garden that will cope with the downsides of aging so that you can continue to enjoy it and not have to work quite so hard to keep it up to scratch.  At the same time, one of the pluses of retirement means that more time can be devoted to creating the garden you’ve always wanted.

Look for plants that are easy to look after and that stimulate the senses.  Bright colours, strong scents such as herbs and different foliage in dramatic shapes and sizes provide a contrast for failing eyesight and a weakening sense of smell.   Contrast the planting between light and dark as your eyes start to fail so you can see where the edge of the border and path is and use strong colours such as hot yellows and reds to help with this.  In particular look for vibrant Crocosmia George Davison, or Liatris spicata, even marigolds and the long-flowering and colourful Coreopsis grandiflora ‘Sunray’ and, of course, lilies.

Raised flowerbeds give character to the garden, are kinder to aching backs and can be used for vegetables or flowers. View your garden in retirement as a journey.  You may start with vegetables in these beds but, in time, they can also be turned over to less intensive usage such as shrub borders which will supply regular flowering all year round.

Wider paved paths – not gravel – with gentle curves are low maintenance and easy to get around.  Gravel requires raking regularly to keep it weed-free which can be time-consuming.

Adding seating areas in different locations is not just kinder on the eyes they also enhance your enjoyment of the garden and provide regular resting spots. Include wider edging of raised beds or ponds so that you can take a break and perch there to enjoy your plants or fish more closely without having to bend down.

Ponds and water features are also excellent in retirement, providing interest and variety. Add flowers that attract wildlife too such as Lavender and Sedum matrona for bees and Buddleja ‘blue chip’ for butterflies.

As you age, it is wise to reduce the amount of lawn in the garden and increase paving areas, adopting gently sloping paths as they are easier to maintain and better for mobility.  That said, if viewing a verdant green lawn is your pleasure, then stick with it.  A lawn is still a great economic and forgiving surface – even in drought – but edge it with paviours or natural stone so that the mower can go straight over the top and you avoid the need to clip the edges.  Locate these seating areas so that they have a clear view of the wildlife and then create activity areas with bird tables and bird baths, feeders or coconuts.

Lighting is not just an aesthetic but an essential feature, especially as you age making it easier to get around. It also extends the garden’s use allowing it to be admired from within the house at night-time and even highlighting the wildlife in the garden at night.

It’s important to make sure that there’s plenty of shade as well as sunny areas in the garden as we are less tolerant of heat as we age.  Cultivate trees and bushes add a pergola or create a shady cool area for hot uncomfortable days with the use of plants in cool blues, purples and whites to sit and read and do the crossword.  Bushes and tree requiring little attention include viburnum bodnantense Dawn, box and Lonicera lemon beauty and great small trees such Amelanchier canadensis or Prunus subhirtella Autumnalis rosea

Drought tolerant plants will also make the garden easier to maintain. Look out for the almost totally green Euphorbias, grassy santolinas or hydrangea petiolaris.  Don’t forget alpine and low growing plants which often don’t grow too big and which will flower for ages providing they have plenty of sun and well drained soil. Look out for Erodium bishops form, Primula auricula or sedum voodoo.

If one of the joys of retirement will be time spent with grandchildren, you may wish to create special areas for them. Open spaces whether paved or lawned are perfect for outdoor games or for erecting climbing frames or trampolines.