Steve Whysall going to do more of what worked last year in his garden such as using this dwarf papyrus.
Steve Whysall going to do more of what worked last year in his garden such as using this dwarf papyrus.

My evolution as a gardener has involved numerous phases.

When I started out, I was madly into annuals, any half-hardy plant or tender perennial with a pretty flower.

I grew trays and trays of marigolds and pelargoniums, snapdragons and nicotiana, all from seed.

For a few years, I was also bonkers about vegetables and I excitedly planted pole beans and bush beans, rows of radishes, beets, lettuce and cabbage.

Geranium macrorrhizum as groundcover and green bench

It wasn’t long, however, before I came down with the condition all gardeners get, descriptively known as “plant lust” — the obsessive desire to have all the latest and hippest plants. When I got the disease, herbaceous perennials were all the rage.

Perennials, perennials, perennials. I couldn’t get enough of them. It was a fever. But that was how we all were in the 1990s. Perennial mad.

I remember one gardener telling me how her plant lust felt: “When I am on my way to the garden centre or nursery, it is like I am going to meet a lover. My heart is racing. I feel a surge of excitement. I just can’t wait to get there and bring home new plants.”

Simple planting of astellia with purple oxalis.

If you are experiencing this right now in your life, let me assure you, it will pass — you will move on, you will eventually accept that you don’t need or really want every plant featured in your favourite gardening book or magazine. Be patient, it takes awhile to subside.

Well, I am well past plant lust. And I am no longer obsessed with annuals, although I still love them and use them in abundance to produce a vibrant splash of colour.

Vegetable gardening never really was my thing. I still grow a few things, mostly herbs, basil, parsley and tomatoes.

Green on green is the rule in Whysall garden

Fortunately, I have good friends who are avid food gardeners, so I still get to share in their bounty — a generous supply of leeks and lettuce, parsnips and beets, not to mention figs in summer.

Today, I want my garden to be more green and manageable, so I have been shunning floppy perennials and replacing them with evergreen shrubs — boxwood, Japanese holly, azaleas, rhododendrons, sarcoccoca, skimmia, yew, nandina, pyracantha, cotoneaster,…