Choosing plants for traditional gardens

A garden that changes with the seasons is a lovely addition to a period home. Here, horticultural experts share some of their favourite plants for a traditional scheme

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Cyclamen persicum

Family: Primulaceae

plants for traditional gardening cyclamen persicum

Cyclamen persicum is picked by Steve Guy, head of horticulture at Dobbies Garden Centres (0131 561 6406)


The Persian cyclamen is a small plant that blooms with romantic, heart shaped leaves and upswept petals in a warming range of colours from white through to soft pinks and vivid magentas. It can be planted in the garden for some autumnal colour and grown indoors as a houseplant.


To grow as a houseplant, place the potted Cyclamen persicum in a cool area where it will catch the bright light but be kept out of cold draughts. It will also thrive as a planted container outdoors.


When kept indoors, this pretty plant will usually bloom from November until March or April.

Top tips

Dead-head regularly to encourage new and continuous flower growth by tugging sharply at the dead foliage.

‘Diggory’ snow drop

Family: Amaryllidaceae

plants for traditional gardens snow drop diggory

Snow Drop ‘Diggory’ is available to buy from Ashworth Nurseries


‘Diggory’ is one of the easiest specialist snowdrops to recognise. Rather than the petals being smooth and glossy, they are puckered and crumpled, a little like taffeta, expanding with a strong curve to resemble a Chinese-lantern, dangling from a slim stalk. The edges of the leaves curve back on themselves for a pleated effect.


While taller than the common snowdrop, it is still a fairly small bulb and should be planted near the front of a border or in a raised bed where its handsome globes can be admired. Plant bulbs in late summer or buy ‘in the green’ in early spring.

Snowdrops like a rich, well-drained but moisture retentive soil with good light in the growing season and summer shade and should not be allowed to dry out completely. They don’t do well in permanent containers so plant them into open soil and give them the occasional feed of general purpose fertiliser or tomato food while they are growing and a mulch of compost or leaf mould in autumn.


From the middle of January, snowdrops are flowering their socks off, providing a fabulous winter spectacle which peaks in February.

Top tips

Always put snowdrops where you can see them from the house. They look best as part of a mixed planting scheme, so team them with mauve Crocus tommasinianus, small evergreen ferns, cyclamen and cheerful yellow aconites. They also look good with grasses or under colourful shrubs and trees such as dogwoods and witch hazel.

‘Olivia Rose Austin’ Rose

Family: Rosaceae

plants for traditional gardens olivia rose austin


David named this new rose for 2014 after his granddaughter, so it had to be something rather special! The soft pink, rosette blooms are of beautiful Old Rose formation and have a lovely, strong fragrance with delicious fruity tints. It is also exceptionally healthy.


A vigorous, multi-purpose shrub, it is ideal for formal plantings, mixed borders or for growing in a large pot. It will also form a fragrant, floriferous hedge. Approximately 3ft high by 2½ft wide. It’s available as a bare root between November and April or in a pot all year round.


Repeat flowers in fragrant flushes from late June until the first frosts. When in flower, the entire plant is cloaked in bloom right to the ground.

Top tips

For real wow factor, where space permits, plant in groups of three or more. The individual plants will then grow together to form one dense shrub, creating a more continuous display and making a definite statement in the border.

Dahlia ‘Andy Murray’

Family: Asteraceae



This new single flowered dahlia was launched in celebration of Andy Murray’s Wimbledon victory. It is such a winner due to its unusual combination of large nectar-rich golden centres, warm honey and apricot blended petals, and intense bronze-black foliage. Some yellow dahlia varieties can be a little too shocking to blend into a planting scheme, but this one is a delight.


A well branched, bushy dahlia that will reach approximately 80cm/1m, and with such deliciously dark foliage, it looks great near the front of a border. Alternatively plant in a handsome pot on the patio. Grow dahlias from rooted cuttings or tubers under glass in April and plant out after the last frosts in early June.


From July onwards, long blooming dahlias are building themselves up to knock your floral socks off throughout summer and well into autumn. Feed often with dilute tomato feed.

Top tips

Never plant out without protection in place. Their juicy shoots are too tempting for every slug and snail in your garden. Place squeezed citrus rinds around the garden in early spring. These will draw out the first battalion. At planting time use copper rings or surround plants with slug deterring mulches or organic pellets. Nip shoot tips to encourage a bushy habit. Water generously.

 Choisya ‘Aztec Gold’

Family: Rutaceae

Choisya aztec gold plants for traditional gardens

Choisya ‘Aztec Gold’ Mexican Orange Blossom is availible to buy from Wyvale garden centers


This relatively new introduction to this genus of hardy evergreen shrubs has attractive, golden foliage with slender, pointed leaves that are rich burnished gold at the tips and greenish/yellow shade towards the base, maturing to green in winter. The colour of young and old leaves varies, giving the plant an additional layer of interest. ‘Aztec Gold’ was developed by Hillier plantsman Alan Postill by crossing ‘Aztec Pearl’ for its leaf shape with ‘Sundance’ for its foliage colour. It has a Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit.


It prefers a reasonably fertile, well-drained soil and is happy in sun or partial shade. Suitable for planting in the garden or in a patio pot, it reaches a height and spread of about 1.2 x 1.2m.


In spring and early summer, clusters of almond-scented white flowers appear and then occasionally, if conditions suit, more will come along in the autumn. Add these to the wonderful depth of foliage colour and you have an all-round winner.

Top tips

If you plant in a sunny spot the end of the shoots will be a rich golden yellow and the main part of the plant will remain greener in colour. If you have a shady spot then the plants overall colour will be more lime than golden. It’s also great for attracting bees to your garden.


Family: Plantaginaceae

New zealand hebe plants for traditional gardens

Buy various Hebe breeds from Crocus


This is a collection of four new hebes that have been specially selected for their compact habits and stunning dark foliage through the winter and spring months. The foliage has led to their being named after classic red wines: ‘Merlot Memories’, ‘Ruby Port’, ‘ Claret Crush’ and ‘Burgundy Blush’.


These compact plants look great in a patio pot but will also enhance any border where they will grow to approx 60cm by 60cm. They were selected by a team of specialists at the Worcestershire nursery where they are propagated from cuttings. These hebes are best grown in sun or part shade where they will thrive.


The dark foliage of the cooler months fades to a mid green just before the summer show of flowers arrives in June, making these plants with year round interest.

Top Tips

Protect young plants from frosts and give them a light trim after flowering to help maintain their lovely habits. With four plants to choose from you can create your own wine collection in the garden!