The season of love is upon us, and Bristol-based award-winning RHS garden designer Jason Loh is offering his tips on making a more romantic garden this month…
Most plants have heart-shaped leaves, but an interesting feature to have in your garden would be to select plants with contrasting leaf colours but similar shapes. For example, one of my favourites is Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’. It is a plant for partial shade, and in early spring lovely heart-shaped leaves emerge with a mystical dusting of silver. Very striking when paired with say Viola riviniana ‘Purpurea’ (a.k.a. Labrador violet) which is a low-growing purple-green perennial that has wonderfully dark purple dainty flowers.
Brunnera macrophylla (Jack Frost)
In The Name of Love
Plants tend to be known by their common names, although professionals generally use their botanical names to correctly identify them. There are two plants whose botanical names have their root (if you pardon the pun) in the Greek phil, meaning love:
For the indoors, you may have seen Philodendron is also known as Heartleaf. This is a great choice for a houseplant if you want something fairly robust. It can tolerate low levels of light and can generally cope with you forgetting to water it (just don’t go on an 80-day cruise around the world without asking your neighbours to lend a hand!) It has glossy leaves that emerge bronze, before quickly turning green.
Philadelphus (common name Mock Orange), the flower of brotherly-love (according to Greek legend), is a wonderfully scented shrub to have outdoors, especially when planted in a sheltered spot or near a walkway/entrance. I absolutely adore the orange-blossom fragrance. Philadelphus ‘Virginal’ has incredibly scented double flowers, its deciduous dark green leaves changing to yellow in the colder months. The flowers of ‘Belle Etoile’ have a creamy orangey-yellow centre.
Philadelphus (Mock Orange)
Agapanthus are native to South Africa – very showy plants, widely grown for their exotic flowers. These bloom from late spring to autumn, depending on their species. Agapanthus are much-loved by bees and other pollinators, and their lily-like blooms come in clusters of bell-shaped flowers. Did you know that its botanical name is made up of two Greek words – agape (a type of love) and anthos, meaning flower. This roughly translates into the Flower of Love.
Good old-fashioned charming annual Love-in-a-mist (Nigella) provide floral interest in late summer for an extended period. Their delicate flowers are nestled in wispy foliage, and are very popular choice for cut flower arrangements. Nigella damascena ‘Miss Jekyll’ has gentle sky-blue flowers, and damascena ‘Albion Green Pod’ shows off in pure white with lusciously prominent green stamens. Try ‘Albion Black Pod’ if you are after something a little mysterious.
A Shakespearean Story
If you are the dramatic sort with a wry sense of humour, these will appeal to you. ‘O woe, my Bleeding Heart’ – Dicentra spectabilis – is an English cottage favourite. Their rosy red heart-shaped flowers on delicate arching stems are a familiar sight to many. For a smaller and less well-known variety, try hunting for Dicentra eximia (fringed bleeding-heart).
‘Love lies bleeding’ – Amaranthus caudatus – has tassels of blood-red flowers. In warmer climates the tassels seem almost to spill out onto the ground. No prizes for guessing how its common name came about.
Lastly, for the unrequited among us or those with whom we have unwillingly parted ways: Forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica). According to German folklore, knights would give these to their ladies as a sign of faithfulness and enduring love.
Faith, hope and love. In the journey of life, it is good to hold on to hope and have faith for things not yet seen. But the greatest of these is love.
Wherever the month of February and Valentine’s Day finds you, know that you are loved.
Jason Loh is a multiple award-winning RHS garden designer based in Bristol. He is a keen photographer, horticulturist and artist, who also sings with the Renewal Gospel Choir – and more recently, he has become a new Dad to beautiful daughter Olivia, with his wife Charlotte.
If you would like help creating your very own garden with a heavenly perspective, visit jasonloh.co.uk, call 0117 325 8600 or email email@example.com