A big, blousy, rounded shrub packed with mid-green leaves, flowering in blue and pink in July and August. If you grow it on acid ground, there will be more lilac flowers, while alkaline soil generates pink. Shelter from cold, drying winds is essential as this can spoil the foliage and flowers. To promote plenty of fresh, new, vigorous growth on established plants, cut back hard in early spring. Prune out from one-third to one-quarter of last year's growth to the base each year to encourage the plant to produce new shoots.
biennis Evening primrose
There are many desirable perennial evening primroses, raised one year to start flowering from the following season, but far fewer biennials. This one, the common evening primrose that grows wild on waste ground, is a wonderful border plant that is easily raised from seed. Plants first develop deep taproots and rosettes of winter-hardy leaves and then, in the second year, branching stems appear, up to 1.2m (4ft) or even more in fertile soil. These carry the familiar, very fragrant yellow flowers, 5cm (2in) across and opening in the evening.
A wide spreading small tree, it's grown for its large, russet-brown unusual-shaped fruits. The fruit is good for making into jams and jellies. The fleshy fruit is definitely an acquired taste. Don't try it until it has become so ripe and frosted that it starts to decay, when it has a sharp, acid taste. The late-spring/early summer flowers are white. Excellent in cottage gardens with an underplanting of spring bulbs. The most widely grown cultivar is 'Nottingham'.
This is a splendid astilbe for a damp border or pond side where it will produce lush filigree foliage and magnificent feathery spikes of lilac-pink flowers in early summer. It looks best as a large group but even if you only buy one plant you'll be able to divide it up into a few pieces in a year or two and replant back into the border as a group.
pendula Silver birch
The plain silver or common birch, sometimes called 'the lady of the woods' because of its outstanding elegance, is a great landscape feature, especially in autumn and while still young - older trees can become enormous, but without dominating or shading the garden too much. When planted 60cm (2ft) apart, the trees make a fine hedge, or may be grown 2.4m (8ft) apart as a screen or windbreak, which can be trimmed each winter. Growth is upright, later slightly weeping, especially the young outer stems - trim shoots off the trunk to reveal the attractive bark. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it its prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
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"The inspiration for the garden is an English watermill at the turn of the 19th Century. The mill is inspired by traditional weatherboard buildings found throughout Essex, including Southend-on-Sea.
"The garden also features a mill pond planted with deep water aquatics, marginal plants and floating water lilies and barley and arable fields typical of the period. The arable cornfield is sown with a mixture of bearded wheat, barley and oats, with annuals such as field poppy, corn marigold, corn cockle, cornflowers and camomile flourishing among the crop.
"The garden aims to provide a feeling of nostalgic reflection, invoking memories of a time when life was quieter and the countryside less intensively managed. We hope the garden will encourage people to visit Southend-on-Sea, in particular the parks and gardens."
Designer, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council Parks Technical Section