Choosing a new plant for shade

I have a gap in my Pink bed. It is behind the Rowan tree, along the West facing fence and it looks particularly gappy in Winter.

Obviously, once the Rowan tree comes into leaf, the Berberis gets going and the Buddleja flowers it will be less obvious, but it still needs filling.

The gap was created by cutting off one half of the Ceanothus which bushed out into the Pink bed and by hard pruning the Clematis montana last year, so whatever is put there will need to deal with the original Clematis montana Grandiflora as it grows back as well as the new C. montana 'Mayleen'. But 'Mayleen' seems to be heading off towards the house ie not inclined to cover my gap.

So what to choose?

Mind the toads, ignore the frogs.

I suppose an apology is in order – from me and the frogs.

As I write it is snowing in South West London – in April?. It is miserable, cold and windy. Spring has not sprung – the frogs didn't know what they are singing about. Their spawn is all over the pond, now frozen and snow covered. Let's hope some of them make it.

Interestingly the toads are still nowhere to be seen. They are still in hibernation. They obviously have a better sense of the weather than the frogs.

I am desperate to get into the garden, turn the heating down or off and generally feel the sun again. The plants seem to feel the same. They are waiting, mostly in bud, for a change in the weather. Everything is very late and we are counting the days.

But I have learned a lesson - ignore the frogs. I am now waiting for the toads and expect they will be wiser.

Annuals

I use a range of annuals to enliven pots and to further encourage insects. I don't really use them in the beds unless we are talking about perennials that fail each year and I've repeated such as Violas, Delphiniums, Lupins and Penstemons.

Normally the annuals, or the plants I treat as annuals, include Bidens (yellow), Bacopa (purple and white), trailing Lobelia (blue and white), Violas, unusual Impatiens/Begonias (small, discreet, exotic ones not big blousy ones), the occasional Digitalis and the highly scented alyssum (Lobularia maritima) in white and purple.

Cobea scandens

This is one of the plants I have grown from seed. It is a rampant climber flowing later in the Summer and into Autumn. It has huge bell-shaped flowers in some profusion but is an annual so is only useful for clothing walls or fences for a limited period. It's great fun though and it even climbed inside my open first floor study window and flowered near the ceiling when the weather was good.

Ricinus communis

Before I had the dogs I loved this plant for its fabulous coloured and shaped foliage and weird seed heads which added "tropical" looking drama to the Hot bed. However, it is all horribly poisonous and it was just too risky with puppies around so I took them out. They seem to be sensible with plants so perhaps I could grow them again in the near future.

Herbs

I love to cook and I use a lot of thyme in my cooking as well as other herbs such as bay, rosemary, oregano, marjoram, mint, sage and tarragon. So i grow all these in pots near the kitchen doors. One of the rosemaries is a flowering one, the other is not. It's lucky my bay is prospering because it get eaten a lot.

Zaluzianskya ovata

Very pretty, night scented flox with unusual flowers against dark green foliage. A little sparkler I keep in the pink wall bed.

Wisteria Alba

Long, white flowers with yellow details on a fantastic Wisteria I bought as a standard (ie multi-stemmed) but which I moved back in the bed against the fence after a few years and which has now spread across everything - the side arch, the back of my house, the back of my neighbpours' house etc and flowers profusely and often repeats later in the year. I didn't keep the label so I am not certain whether it is Japanese or Chinese. I think it's chinensis because the flower clusters are fairly long.

The best tip anyone ever gave me about buying Wisteria was always to buy them in flower, otherwise you can wait seven years. I have stuck to this and all mine have flowered from day one. I also make sure I prune them properly, down to a few buds. It makes a huge difference.

Wisteria bachytrotis 'Schiro Kapitan Fuji'

Shortish flowers (15-20 coms), highly scented, delicate and late flowering with mid vigour (250-300cms) and is up square arch. It is much less vigorous than my white Wisteria and more white than I had hoped. It's supposed to be gently blue/purple tinted but I can't see it.

Wisteria sinensis 'Caroline'

Quite short, stubby but very fragrant flowers. Not nearly as prolific as my white Wisteria in the Hot bed but very pretty all the same and it looks great mixed with the white Clematis montana over the swing seat.