Author Archives: plantsareforpeople

About plantsareforpeople

Head of Grounds for the University of Reading and general plant/people enthusiast

Flora Menorca

I haven’t travelled out of the UK for nearly a decade. In that Time I have had two kids, changed jobs, moved etc,so had completely forgotten how great it is to have a complete change of scene was awesome. 33 degrees celsius all week and beautiful clear sea, paella and great cheese etc, swimming, basking in the sun, new people. I did manage to programme in a spot of blog photography as I noted quite a few bits of interest on my travels to the beach and back. The image above shows a good sized palm Date palm behind our apartment, I love the way the old leaves have been so neatly cut off and that this adds another ornamental aspect to the plant.

Bougainvillea was planted around the apartments and was in 3 colours; at night lizards come out of hiding from it and crawled around the walls. at the base was a plant I didnt recognise but was a native to the island, Santolina and Hibiscus shrubs where dotted about also.

This hibiscus had new flowers daily.

The Tamarisk seen above where common, this one had some fruiting bodies at its base ( Ganoderma possibly)

On the areas approaching the beach there where a number interesting plants. This one had great flowers and was living in the sand! I collected some seed of this one.


This pic shows it in a bit more detail. As well as this plant I discovered a nice Euphorbia, a very white sea holly, possibly a Balotta and a legume. See below.


Sea Holly med style

Ballota of some form

Not sure what this is but it was used in gardens a lot; as was Oleander. I spotted a number of different colours and forms.



Something I have not seen before was the use of Pittosporum tobira as hedging. It has great leave shapes / texture and it also had loads of seed on it some thing that doesn’t happen in the uk.


It was all very nice and relaxing.

Adios !


Prairie in the Uk

As part of the relandscaping of the Harris garden in 2010 we converted many areas over to different types of plantings. This area adjoins the meadows which where sown and in between lots of naturalistic plantings. We used a technique of sowing into cultivated soil covered with 25mm of sand and then covering with jute weave to stabilise it ( go to prof James Hitchmoughs website ) As the naturalistic plantings contained many American natives, a natural ink between these areas and the meadows seemed to be a Prairie! I have been asked many times why but when it started flowering people understood. As we are a university and a botanic garden of sorts Prairie Moon nursery in the USA agreed to sell us some seed and we opted for a mixed height prairie mix. In the first instance after we sowed it a male pheasant and it’s hareem moved in for the kill and we feared all the seed was lost. However the first year (which your are supposed to cut back) we let grow and it was a sea of different kinds of Black eyed Susan’s and Prairie sage. Some short lived grasses did come through but as yet no real grasses: we think the pheasant and his crew got them!

Since then each year it has got more diverse you can see from the above it’s got good coverage and we have lots of Echinacea pallida. The plant next to it is the fantastically names Rattle snake master or Erynigium yuccifolium.

This plant the Hoary Vervain is another new arrival this year it’s a short lived perenial and looks great against the prairie sage.

Prairie in June; you can see the Prairie sage is quite dominant.

This pic was taken on my phone with a 360 degree app; once you focus you can see the four side of the prairie beds and the paths leading to other plantings.

This is one of the adjacent to the Prairie, as you can different Echinaceas, grasses and Euphorbia palustris.

The red border is on the otherwise of the hedge and shows hybrids of native Americans Monarda and Heleniums thus further linking the whole area to the prairie. It’s all great for insects and especially bumble bees which see to be in abundance this year .

Phlox and Fireweed

The fence between my garden and the neighbours got blown down over the winter and being a fairly busy person I have only just got it together to replace it. It’s been nice though, we have great rapport with Dave and Ruby the next door neighbours who are both in there 80’s. Ruby has a great eye for for plant combinations although the one pictured I am sure was unintentional. I like mixing native and non natives together; I have the white version of the Fireweed in the front garden and after one year it travelled 150cm under other plants and into the lawn, it looks great but will be removed!!

This pic is from my side of the fence about 4 metres away, I have tried to create a naturalistic scene in this corner of the garden. The native element is the scabious, it will seed every where but flowers all summer in borders. The Osteospermum have stopped flowering for a bit; these and the Agapanthus which is white add a bit more back bone to the whole thing. I like the Cream drop daylily contrasting with the scabious and the orange one with the persicaria.

This the view from the other end of the garden a few days later with the fence replaced. I have sown an annual meadow mix- ‘Golden girl’ from pictorial meadows featured at the Olympics last year. The posts where old marquee posts salvaged from a skip and cut various lengths, painted black to give contrast and structure.

The grass in the scene is Calamagrostis brachytricha or feather Reed grass; it’s a mutated version of a Udolf planting at RHS Wisley.

White Fire weed taking over my front garden….

Silky Camellia



Although the common name if this plant is Silky Camellia but it is fact Stewartia macalodendron, it’s from stream sides in southern mississippi. Over here it needs careful sighting and in the Harris garden its it is a bit crowded in by some native Hollies. The flowers are just exquisite! I don’t exaggerate just a really class plant.



A few months earlier this Davidia flowered very beautifully a few yards away; I spotted a retired academic giving it the eye! It was a wet day – we lurched from wet spring to heat wave; I believe the days of normal weather have passed.

A Perfect Plot

I recently visited a village in Berks where the gardens where open for charity. The one pictured is the garden of my university tutor, my kids did Cart wheels on the lawn and we chatted. This pic shows how tasteful and well thought through the planting is; I love the fern in the back ground and Tetrapanax rex amongst the Irises and white myosotis.



Hoary plantain


I planted these fluffy little things in March with some student volunteers- see post 6th of March, it was fun – we used an auger to drill holes in the meadow and these were the planting pits. We grew them quite large as the competition is strong, I was accused of growing weeds by the nursery staff!