Martin Brady Garden Design Series: This Week: Choosing Plants - The Gloss Magazine
1 year ago

Martin Brady Garden Design Series: This Week: Choosing Plants


Garden centres are open – go armed with a list …

Normally, at this point in the year, I would have just been on my annual pilgrimage to the Chelsea Flower show and looking ahead to Bloom in the Phoenix Park, but this is not a normal year and I look forward to next year’s shows all the more.

Working alongside horticulturists and artisans, garden designers get to show off their talents with every taste and every budget being catered for. Frequently it is the beautiful aspirational show gardens and the chase for gold medals that grab all of the media focus. However when the celebrities have gone home, the true stars of any garden show are the plants and the nursery displays. It is the plants that draw me back year after year. I adore working with plants, they are at the very core of my designs. When thoughtfully chosen and expertly used they have the ability to lift the spirit and calm the soul. Nothing compares to the telling scent of a lilac or the sweet bouquet of rose “Louise Odier”.

Rose “Louise Odier”

This awareness and love for plants and the real benefits of gardening has never been stronger than it is at the moment and the desire to grow something, is growing. No one would have predicted that the re-opening of garden centres could bring so much relief to a beleaguered nation: Are we becoming a nation with green fingers?

Hydrangea Annabelle

At the beginning, remembering the names of plants is tricky. I recommend using a garden notebook or keeping a journal for the garden, jotting down the names of plants or recommendations you pick up from Monty Don on Friday evenings. Pinterest is fantastic for ideas and inspirations, particularly planting combinations. Very often one of the best ways to see and learn new planting ideas is while out and about on your daily constitutional: take a photo and look the plant up when you get home.

Philadelphus Coronarius

If you are heading to the garden centre, it will be busy, so allocate enough time to shop; when you are in a rush you are more likely to grab the special offers currently in flower, there is a good chance they may be finished flowering before they leave your car boot. Gardening is about planning and with the exception of bedding or summer-flowering herbaceous, when you buy a plant you are planting for future seasons, not for the impending gathering this weekend.

Shrubs, though frequently in the background, do a lot of the hard work and heavy lifting in a garden. Look out for Viburnums, Pittosporums, Choisya and Skimmia. Within this group you have good evergreens that flower from autumn through to early summer, often with delicious scent. Other worthy plants such as Weigela, Philadelphus, Cotinus and Deutzia deserve inclusion in more of today’s gardens. Of course you won’t go wrong with Hydrangea. Long-flowering, easy-to-grow hydrangeas have climbed their way to top of the popularity charts with the floriferous Hydrangea “Annabelle” leading the way. Look out for its more upright and less ubiquitous cousin Hydrangea “Limelight”.


In addition to plants, be sure to get fertiliser and soil conditioner or multi-purpose compost to use when planting. By improving the soil you stand a much better chance of your new plants settling in and growing. I have a feeling that similar to the scramble for toilet roll earlier in the year, some plants might be initially scarce on the benches but don’t worry, Irish growers are working flat out and the centres will keep restocking.

With not a lot of other places to go to, it seems the garden centre might be the place to be seen, so ditch the comfortable gardening gear and make an effort, the mask won’t cover everything.

Follow Martin on Instagram @martinbradygarden

More from Martin next week ….


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