Ursula's Cambridge Garden

Professional gardener and plantswoman writing from my small urban garden in a great city


Christmas catchup

Christmas is almost upon us, and time for a rest for us gardeners. Its been a very busy Autumn, with new clients, and new gardens to transform, as well as tree and hedge planting. Watch this space for future reports on new plantings which will come into their own as the 2021 progresses!

But first a brief re-wind to some Autumn highlights. It was a particularly lovely fall this year, with lots of stunning colour. Here the Miscanthus and Acanthus in one of my client’s gardens, looking particularly stunning in the sunshine.

Verbena bonariensis, always a good stalwart…

Back lit Stipa tennuisima…

Aster blues are perfect in the Autumn, especially after rain (above) as are Japanese anemones, another star plant (below)

Autumn is of course the perfect time to plant new trees. Here a Prunus serrula planted two years ago is beginning to really come on nicely….

And here two new fruit trees, apple and pear, look smart in their new home…

And Bay lollipops looking smart and urbane in their new pots…

I have also had fun creating some nice Christmas planters and pots this December, to add some festive cheer, that will still keep interest and colour through Winter to early Spring.

Yew hedging really comes into its own in Winter as a wonderful dense back drop to other good winter evergreens, Euphorbia characias wulfenii and Pittosporum

Now is the time to appreciate and love our winter stalwarts like Mahonia, powering away to give a colour shot in the darkest of winter days….

So, enjoy the break, I wish everyone a most Happy, quiet, safe and peaceful Christmas 2020.


August review

Despite all the difficulties of Lockdown, my clients’ gardens are florishing.  Above is a particularly lavishly planted long border containing Salvia, Lavender, Sanguisorbia, Stipa gigantica and Catmint in repetition, used to great effect.  A splendid combination for a really high impact summer border.  Below are some more shots of the same garden – the long lavender beds, and the grove of silver birch, with an underplanting of a wild flower meadow.


Another border I’m very pleased with above, is now coming to two years old, and the Phlomis, Lavender, Hypericum, Coronilla, Caryopteris and Salvia/catmint palette is knitting together nicely, with a backbone of Euphorbia and Sarcoccoca.


This very large border was empty apart from Sisyrinchium and bluebells when I arrived – it is also coming up to its two years since planting, and beginning to fill out nicely.  A solid matrix of Phormium, Cistus, Mahonias and Miscanthus, are joined by nicely spreading swathes of Lychnis coronaria, Phlomis, Achillea, Salvia, Japanese anemones, and hard geraniums.


This semi-shade border, below, is now getting on for three years since planting – Hydrangea paniculata, Hebe and Cornus form an excellent backbone for hardy geraniums and hellebores and Japanese anemones.


And the border sweeps on to become a south-facing border featuring Salvia cardonna and Geranium ‘Rozanne’.

And of course the Box hedge cutting is a big feature of late June and July…here a rather lovely double bed edging of box took a good few hours to trim carefully by hand with shears, inspecting and tidying as I go!  Painstaking work, but worth it.



And finally my parents’ rather splendid Penstemon and Linaria and allium seedheads…

And my own garden….


Happy gardening and Stay Safe.



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Through Lockdown and out the other side

I realised to my horror that I had not posted on my Blog since the end of January!

January to March was very busy indeed with a great ammount of planting for clients – shrubs, trees and bulbs, all very exciting plans.  Then Lockdown commenced from 23 March and I stopped working.  I definitely had a lot more time to work on and appreciate my own garden (see above), but after a month I have begun returning to work, by agreement with my clients and with appropriate social distancing.  In these unprecedented times, it is a comfort to know that so many people across the country are seeking solice in their gardens, and finding the strength to carry on inspired by the resilience of nature.

Before Lockdown I was busy creating a new patio border for one of my clients, previously planted with Cornus and Verbena Bonariensis, but now with Rosemary, Hebe and Cistus added for more seasonal variation.  It’s a tough call for the plants in a south-facing garden thats a wind tunnel, but these are all very tough plants that will survive and thrive.  Also the deciduous hedge line bed, seen to the left of the image, has had many tough favourite evergreens added for a secondary hedging layer, including Viburnum davidii, Eleagnus, Viburnum tinus, Choisya and Holly.

Tulip time was just starting – her photographed at another client’s garden backed by the morning sun.

The day before Lockdown I photographed my client’s front garden bed, which was planted last Autumn.  Its coming along nicely with the Euphorbia wulfenii and Coronilla complementing each other nicely.  This bed is a yellow and blue bed, with Caryopteris, Hypericum, Salvia, Lavender and Phlomis for later in the year.  The Lonicera nitida hedge is a nice framing for the plantings, which face the house, and a good deliniation against the pavement.

And this is the same bed in September 2018 containing only struggling conifers and half dying box.

During my stay at home I enjoyed tending my own garden a bit more than usual, and enjoying it in the lovely weather.

The violas this Spring have been particularly lovely….

Osteospermum are one of my favourite summer pot performers…this one from Sarah Raven is doing very well on a hot balcony is flowers from April all the way through to November.

My Cistus corbariensis is doing well as a reliable but beautiful plant for tough sunny, hot conditions.

On returning to work I was pleased to find my client’s gardens looking very well.  This planting of bluebells, Centaurea montana (knapweed), Solomen’s seal and Lilac looking good, with half barrels planted with Salvia, Catmint and Euphorbia.

And at another client’s garden, the Magnolia ‘Susan’ we planted before Lockdown (in pot) , and the Montana Clematis greeted me back after three days of rain.

Keep gardening, keep smiling and Stay Safe.


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January 2020 projects

Happy New gardening Year!  It’s been a busy January so far!

Work is progressing well at my new client’s garden – now in my fifth month of working there.  The garden is very stylish, already laid out and planted to a very contemporary design, with lots of yew hedging, lavender, grasses and strong use of mass plantings of silver birch.

Before Christmas is was non stop tidying, cutting back and trimming of hedges and perennials.    This generated a lot of debri, still being slowly cleared.  Here is some of the detritis –

Now we are progressing onto new planting, adding more seasonal succession to the established matrix of plants – more perennials and later, more bulbs.

In the front garden I have started to plant good stalwart evergreen shrubs, known toughies that will last and last (Viburnum tinus, Viburnum davidii, Holly, Bay, Pyracantha, Pittisporum etc.) to a native deciduous hedge line which is a bit bare in the winter.  This also means more shrubs in a garden where there are at present too few shrubs.

First session setting out….

Second session…

Almost there – just one end section still to go….

At another client’s garden the front garden main bed has been much improved since I found it in Autumn 2018 like this….

All the unhappy conifers were removed, and a year later in September 2019 it looked like this – lots of lovely evergreen repetition (Sarcoccoa, Euphorbias) with Salvias, Hebes and Caryopteris in a colour scheme of blues and yellows.

And now this month I planted up the first of a collection of pots to ‘adorn’ (disguise and cover up!) the old man hole cover over a deep drain pipe.  Inspired by Great Dixter’s pot collection I have planted up with Agapanthus, Achillea and assorted bulbs in blue and yellows to make a virtue out of an obstacle that obviously could not be removed from the bed.

At the same garden there is a vast circle bed which is pretty stunning in the Autumn, with huge Viburnum opulus, Cotinus and Forsythias running wild for many a long year to spectacular effect.

But now it is time to take these shrubs in hand, and the client wishes to be able to walk through the centre of the bed, so this month I am tackling the task.

Session one….

It’s a start but still a way to go, watch this space!

Meanwhile in my own garden my witch hazel flowered well in it’s big pot…

And my mass bulb planting last Autumn (in pots, otherwise my cat digs them all up in the beds!) is paying dividends now -Iris reticulata and snowdrops are out, and others on the way.

There is truly no such thing as a dull moment in gardening!


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Merry Christmas 2019

A moment for reflection on the simplicity of the winter garden before Christmas – ‘put to bed’ for the holidays as we gardeners say.  My clients’ gardens are all ready for the festive season in the stark simplicity and elegance of winter.


There’s been a lot of bulb planting this Autumn….

And tree planting…

(Newly planted fig tree Brown Turkey)

And of course an awful lot of leaves…

But now it’s time to clean away all the garden tools for the Christmas break…

Wish everyone a Merry Christmas..

And eagerly await the arrival of more of these in January 2020…..



Merry Christmas!