15 March 2018

Last summer I wrote about some Japanese plants that would enhance Dorset gardens.  In November I visited Japan to see many examples of the 4 types of Japanese gardens: the Stroll Garden, the Tea Garden, the Courtyard Garden and the Dry (Zen) Garden.  They provided a lot of inspiration for gardens in Dorset in terms of both form and the planting.

As I mentioned in the summer Cameliias and most Rhododendrons require acidic soil and although there are seams of this soil in Dorset, most of the gardens are on alkaline soil.  Until recently that only answer in these cases was to grow them in pots or raised beds filled with ericaceous soil but there is now a group called Inkarho which are lime-tolerant (www.rhododendrons.co.uk) and come in a variety of sizes and colours.  Some have already achieved the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM).  They are hungry feeders but well worth growing.  

Underneath the trees I mentioned in the summer: Prunus ‘Kiku-shidare-zakura’, Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’ and ‘Bloodgood’ and Cornus kousa, the Japanese grow a variety of ferns such as Dryopteris erythrosora/affinis, Blechnum, Asplenium and Polypodium.  These are generally grown in beds of moss, however this requires very damp conditions and unless you want to water then every morning to simulate the dew, I suggest that in Dorset this can be replaced by Sagina subulata (Irish moss) and Pachysandra terminals ‘Green Carpet’.

To add spots of colour (less than we are used to in a traditional English cottage garden) you can include Iris sibirica/ensata and Deutzia for spring/summer interest, Anemone x hybrida/hupehensis and Hydrangea for late summer/autumn interest and Cyclamen hederifolium & coum and Nandina domestica for autumn/winter interest.

Enjoy the late winter sun in your garden while tackling a few chores:


  • Plant new hardy perennials
  • Cut off old Helleborus leaves to stop disease
  • Deadhead Narcissus, Primula and Pansies
  • Cut back Hydrangea and Mahonia

    Visit the following Dorset gardens to enjoy the any sunshine and spring events:


  • Knoll Gardens: Preparing for Spring on 17 Mar 2018, 10.30am - 12 noon,  £15.00; Bugs and Buds on 31 Mar 2018, 10.30am - 12noon, £4.50 (http://www.knollgardens.co.uk/events/)
  • Minterne Gardens: for their young Acer leaves and Azaleas
  • Compton Acres Gardens: for the Japanese Tea Garden (Roji)
  • Kingston Lacy Gardens: A walk round the beautiful network of droves and along the stunning 1835 Beech Avenue on 2 March, 1000-1200.



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