This is my final contribution for ‘Plant of the month' and as it's February (probably the worst month of the year in which to find photographs), it was suggested that I might reflect on what makes a good choice for ‘Plant of the Month'. This intrigued me, as although I've gaily scribbled many monthly pieces, I've never considered specific criteria.

So, I have to confess that the first question I ask, is do I have good photos of the plant in question? My personal rule has been to write only about plants that I've known, grown and taken pictures of, so I think it's a reasonable starting point. Secondly, does it grow for me? This makes it more personal, as I garden in a sodden stream valley with a heavy mollusc population, ruling out many wonderful plants which you may feel have been neglected during my tenure. (All the plants I've recommended have been slug and snail-proof for me, although be wary, as appetites do vary from garden to garden.) And thirdly, is it a good doer? I think we all go through phases of trying out the rare and precious, but in the end come back to those plants that we find have a sound constitution.

So what else? A good habit of growth is always a plus, as is the ability to die attractively (white lilacs take heed). A long flowering period is useful, or alternatively, dual attractions, e.g., flowers and fruits, or berries and good autumn colour, or perfume and evergreen foliage, etc. Another useful attribute is appearing either late or early, so that the border space can be used more than once, for example, under-planted with winter aconites. People do love flowers (floriferous POTMs on Facebook routinely get more ‘likes' than their greener counterparts – fact!) but I would suggest that in the garden, a more important quality is that indefinable ‘presence' some plants possess – Thalictrum ‘Elin' comes to mind, or Anemone ‘Honorine Joubert'. A final feature I would look out for is balance, particularly in modern cultivars – are the flowers and foliage in reasonable proportion to one another? Is the relationship between length of stalk and size of flower head pleasing? Has breeding allowed one attribute to suffer for the sake of size or showy-ness?

Bearing these observations in mind, I compiled a list of my own current favourite ‘Plants of the month' and how re-assuring to find that they're mostly old favourites that no gardener would want to be without. Thank you for accompanying me on my floral journey through the months and for your kind and interested comments – I've enjoyed every minute.


January: Hammamelis mollis ‘Arnold's Promise'

February: Helleborus hybridus

March: Primula Barnhaven ‘Gilded Ginger'

April: Scilla bithynica

May:

June: , my pearly-blue seedling

July: Hebe ‘Blue Cloud'

August: The HPS phlox
a sturdy treasure without a name,
endemic to our group

September:

October: Dahlia ‘Arabian Nights'

November: Chrysanthemum ‘Bretforton Road'

December: ‘Marmoratum'

Posted by Gill Mullin