Making the cut

Secateurs at the ready everyone! We are now nearly half way through September and that means one thing in the garden… it’s time to start cutting back. For those wanting advice/confidence on how to start cutting back in their own garden I have included a quick guide using Veronicastrum as an example. Remember you can do this with any herbaceous perennial/ornamental grass that dies back to soil level in winter. Be careful of tender perennials with semi-woody stems e.g. Penstemmon & Artemisia; these should be cut back after winter has finished.

There are several reasons why we cut back herbaceous plants in the garden. First of all it improves growth and flowering; if done early enough after flowering, some species including Geranium, Salvia and Delphinium will produce a second flush later in the same season. For others it ensures a more vigorous, floriferous plant next year. Secondly it neatens up the garden by removing foliage before it dies or becomes diseased. Thirdly (most importantly in my opinion) it makes applying mulch to your beds much easier as there are no leaves/stems/flowers/seed heads in the way!

This lovely Veronicastrum has done its stuff for the year, all flowers are now finished, it’s the perfect time to cut back.
With a sharp pair of secateurs cut back to just above ground level (2-3 inches).
All cut back and weeded.
It’s good practice to chop up rigid stems to aid breakdown of lignin in cell walls on the compost heap.
All five plants cut back and ready for their annual dose of nutritious compost!

Pruning perennials to a novice gardener might seem quite daunting but there really isn’t anything to fear… just like a hair cut, have faith they will grow back! (and with even more vigour than before).

It is worth mentioning that those wanting to leave seed heads etc. for birds and insects should postpone this process until early spring (February) when the same process applies.

Any questions tweet me @emmysheltonhort

Happy chopping!

Clearing away the cobwebs: rediscovering a garden

The beauty of gardening and garden design is that no two jobs are the same. Not only is each space, location, climate and growing conditions slightly different, the origin of each garden also varies greatly. By this I mean that creating a garden isn’t always from scratch. In fact, gardens rarely start with a completely blank canvas; there is often a mature tree or hedge that needs to be sympathetically incorporated into the design.

Of course, the ultimate example of this is undertaking a full restoration project. A garden initially conceived over 100 years ago with trees that are older than any living person on this planet. With it comes a succession of people who have been inspired and contributed to its overall vision. The excitement of starting on a new project like this is thrilling and foreboding; what treasures will we find? can we unearth and improve what others have done before us? will we do justice to the vision of the garden’s creator?

A mature confier has gradually eaten away at the driveway over the years, making it difficult for vehicles to pass.
Lifting the lower branches lets in the light and shows off the curve of the drive.
What is this lovely large Magnolia hiding?
Removing lower branches reveals beautiful architecture, a statue in an alcove and some nice shrubs including Skimmia japonica and Euonymous fortunei ‘Silver Queen’.
This walkway is overgrown full of Carex pendula and suckering shrubs.
A bit of digging, pruning & tying in opens up the space and shows off the pencil Taxus baccata.

Restoration, by definition, is the “restitution of something taken away or lost” and is so important before things decay so far that they cannot ever be rediscovered. It is a long process that requires imagination, foresight and lots of resources. The best bit is that we can benefit from the imagination and foresight of its creators all those years ago and hope that in another 100 years time, new generations will appreciate what we have done too.

May in the garden

Where is this year going?! Amazingly we are already in the second half of May, spring is in full swing and summer is literally just around the corner.

The gardeners amongst us will know that there is always plenty to be doing at this time of year in the garden. For those of you who are keen to get involved but are unsure when/what/how, we thought we’d share with you some of the things we have been getting up to and why they are so important!

  • Planting- we have been finishing all of our planting jobs for the season; April/May is the best time for this as the ground in soft and warm and the nurseries have good stocks of high quality plants.
  • Weeding- now that we’ve had a bit of wet weather and sunshine the weeds are taking off! Hoeing around borders on a regular basis keeps work to a minimum. Pesky weeds growing very close to plants need carefully teasing out with a trowel or hand fork.
  • Mulching- well-rotted compost/bark chippings are a great dressing for flowerbeds. Not only does it reduce weeds, it keeps in moisture and improves soil structure over time- worth the barrowing and shoveling!
  • Hedge cutting- strictly speaking, box hedges should be cut in June but in gardens where there is a lot of box (Buxus sempervirens) we start early to make sure we can get it all done! Trimming topiary early makes life a lot easier as the perennials are yet to grow up and get in the way.
  • Constructing- putting up obelisks or other structures in the garden for climbing/trailing plants to grow up/along before they get too big.
  • Seeding- now that we are safely out of early morning frost season it is a good time to reseed/fertilise/top dress lawns where necessary.

And there you have it, plenty to be getting on with in the next couple of weeks. Any questions about any of the above or any gardening queries in general tweet me @emmysheltonhort .

Happy gardening!

January jobs

I’m often asked: “what is the best time of year to makeover my garden?” and the answer is anytime you like.. there is no time like the present!

And what better time than January, it’s a new year, a new start and there’s still plenty of time to prepare the garden for summer glory.

Having recently embarked upon a new maintenance/rejuvenation project with one of our clients I thought I’d share with you some of the tasks we are undertaking. Anyone can have a go at these jobs and start transforming their garden. We believe that by starting early in the year, you can kickstart your 2019 garden maintenance routine and fall in love with your garden again.

Firstly cut back all that dead foliage and clear up all those leaves, it might be back breaking but it’s very satisfying and a good way to make visual progress at this time of year. Remember to compost herbaceous waste, it’ll make great mulch next year!

Mixed border before annual clearance

Mixed border after a cut back & weed. Note: Penstemon don’t get cut back until winter frosts are over.

If you have Hellebores start cutting back (and disposing of) the leaves, this not only reveals a gorgeous army of flowers underneath, it also prevents fungal leaf spot, which Hellebores are particularly susceptible to. My advice would be to burn the foliage to make sure the fungus isn’t introduced into your compost

Cutting back hellebore leaves

Hellebore flowers revealed

By now, Wisterias should have dropped all of their leaves so you can easily see the buds. Prune back stems to the second or third bud and remove any dead, damaged or diseased wood.

Wisteria before winter prune

Wisteria after winter prune

Now get some heavy duty gloves and prune those roses, the harsher the better. Trust me, they’ll thank you for it. Don’t be frightened, just remember to make an angled cut above an outward-facing bud and you’ll do no harm.

Shrub maintenance is also a lot easier at this time of year, less foliage means you can see what you’re working with. I always start with the three d’s: dead, damaged, diseased. If any of the above apply, get rid. Then take out a third of old stems at the base if the plant is becoming overcrowded. I find the best tools for dealing with shrubs are extendable loppers and a pruning saw.

Viburnum x bodnantense getting some attention

You’ll be amazed at how much rubbish even the smallest of gardens produces. My favourite methods of waste disposal are composting (anything soft/herbaceous) and burning (anything woody/pernicious) but if you don’t have the space or means for this there’s always green waste collection or a good old trip to the tip!

If you have any questions about January jobs, or any other gardening-related queries, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me on twitter @emmysheltonhort

Happy gardening!

Gardens Restore our Wellbeing

Happy New Year to you all, and a massive thank you to everyone who follows Applewhite Garden Design on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

We are doing something a bit different this year…

At the beginning of 2018, Emmy and I explored the idea of creating a garden in Grantham Hospital. I’m sure you will agree, our hospital grounds are gloomy, depressing and uninviting and in much need of some TLC.

Naively we thought we could draw up a design, employ a contractor and hey presto! Ward 6 would have a garden…

It didn’t quite work like that. Understandably the NHS has a ton of protocol and red tape to wade through, with health and safety issues at the forefront. However, after a lot of perseverance we should have the go-ahead to start the project within a few months.

Having received so much positive feedback about the concept we decided to roll the idea out to all Lincolnshire hospitals. In order to facilitate this we need to raise substantial funds. Consequently we have set up the charity G.R.O.W. Gardens Restore Our Wellbeing.

Applewhite Garden Design has completed the pioneering design, but we need to raise money to pay for the groundworks, landscaping and materials.

The bank account should be set up by the end of February so we can start raising funds after that.

If any of you have groups, clubs or gatherings that you would like us to talk to, we would very much welcome the opportunity to explain the charity and the progress we are making.

Visit and follow @GROW_charity to keep up to date with the latest developments. Join us in helping to make a difference.


Lowther Castle: growing in the ruins

You may be surprised to hear that us gardeners are very busy at this time of year. The lawns and weeds may have slowed down, but there is a lot to do in preparation for spring/summer 2019. As the nights draw in, time is precious and we are constantly busy with orders, deliveries, setting out, digging, planting, mulching, pruning and staking.

I therefore took the opportunity last month to get in a mini break to The Lakes before the chaos of autumn planting began. An early Friday morning visit to Lowther Castle in Penrith, Cumbria was undoubtedly the highlight.

A dramatic sky sets off the gothic silhouette of Lowther Castle’s remains.

Having heard great things about Dan Pearson’s 21st century design amongst the ruins I am pleased to say my expectations of ‘The Parterre’ and ‘The Courtyard’ were exceeded. The ruins themselves are breathtaking, the views are stunning, the scale is immense and the planting design ties it all together to enhance the overall sense of place.

Stunning views across ‘The Lawn’ from ‘The Parterre’

Spectacular planting including Hakonechloa, Actea, Cornus, Acer, Hosta, Hydrangea, Heuchera and various climbers within the walls of the ruins creates a feeling of a place lost to nature.

In late October there was lots of autumn interest in the garden

The best thing about Lowther is that it is not a restoration project. Instead it is more of an interpretation project: many of the the semi-forgotten parts of the garden including a rockery and Japanese Garden from the Victorian era are still in tact, as is an ancient Yew Walk, but the new parts of the garden are exactly that, new.

View of the Bampton Valley from the Western Terrace

I am already looking forward to returning to Lowther once the new Rose Garden is complete, I’m sure it will be a sight to behold (and inhale)!

You can follow progress on the Rose Garden at Lowther here

Visit to Latour-Marliac

Whilst on my summer holidays in the South of France last month, I made a short excursion to the famous Water Lily Gardens in Le Temple-sur-Lot.

The site has been an active nursery since 1875. Founded originally by Joseph Bory Latour-Marliac, an expert on bamboo (hence the varieties Phyllostachys nigra ‘Boryana’ and P. bambusoides ‘Marliac’) the nursery continues to cultivate over 200 varieties of water lily. Remarkable considering when Latour-Marliac started hybridising there was only one white hardy species in Europe.

The are 65 cultivation pools each containing 10 compartments holding a total of more than 200 varieties

After exhibiting his new collection in Paris in 1889 (alongside the recently completed Eiffel Tower), Latour-Marliac won an award and most importantly, the attention of Claude Monet.

Terra cotta pots used for multiplying and maintaining water lilies have stood on the edges of the ponds for over 135 years.

Latour-Marliac went on to supply the water lilies for Monet’s water garden at Giverny, which subsequently became the subject of his world-famous series of paintings.

Japanese bridge arching over the pond; a nod to Claude Monet’s at Giverny.

A particularly gorgeous species: Nymphaea ‘James Hudson’

Overall it was a great day out, a trip to Giverny is definitely next on the list!

The nursery and water garden at Latour-Marliac are well worth a visit: click here for more info





From design table to coffee table

Spring is always our fun time of year,  completing gardens that were on the design table last year.

This courtyard garden was a lovely task. Set within a magnificent old coach house built when Cromwell was around! The shape of the area lent itself to a formal concept, with some ebullient planting to add colour and height, giving the impression of greater space.



This was our first project together which was great fun. Emmy’s skills with surveying and mine with planting were already proving a great combination. Once all the measurements were finished, Emmy transcribed them onto CAD. Vectorworks CAD is proving invaluable with its efficiency and precision – (mind you, this does depend on the operator!).

Master Plan Detail

With no access for small machinery, the project was labour intensive. First the beds were marked out to show which cobbles needed removing and which frost damaged bricks needed replacing.


New soil was brought in and the beds were left to settle for a couple of months


The fun part…. Martin placing the Obelisks and Emmy weeding and reorganising the existing beds which already had a great colour scheme and plenty of choice plants.


All hands on deck …..


And finally …