Night-scented plants

summer evenings in the garen
Enjoy warm summer evenings in the garden filled with glorious scent
Image source: Randy Fath

On balmy summer evenings, there’s nothing better than a night-scented plant to perfume the warm, still air. The flowers are usually pale so they remain visible at dusk, making them particularly valuable for those who are away from their gardens during the day.

The colour and fragrance of evening-scented flowers attract nocturnal pollinators which, in turn, attract bats. Wonderful for wildlife, and diverse in size and form, evening-scented plants suit a range of gardening styles and budgets. They can be grown in a small pot to sit on an outdoor table or doorstep, or used to fragrance the grandest of terraces.

The best place for evening-scented plants

outdoor garden seating
Night-scented plants add another dimension to outdoor seating areas when daylight fades.
Image source:  Photographee.eu

Choose a site where you will easily enjoy their perfume. If you arrive home at dusk, place night-scented plants by your entrance so their fragrance will greet you on your return, or grow them close to where you sit out in the evening. Some people grow them under their bedroom windows to allow the fragrance to drift indoors, while I like to have pots of night-scented flowers by the greenhouse so I can enjoy them as I tend crops in the evening.

The key is to contain and concentrate the scent, so a warm, sheltered spot works best. If it’s enclosed, all the better, as it will trap the fragrance in your garden. Windy sites are not ideal as the beautiful perfume will be buffeted elsewhere.

Avoid combining too many scents or your garden runs the risk of smelling like the perfume hall of a department store with nothing standing out. Whichever evening-scented plant you select, group a number of them together to maximise the impact of their fragrance.

Where space is in short supply, grow plants in containers, or consider evening-scented climbers. And although you may be selecting these plants for their fragrance, give some thought to their daytime requirements too. For gardens in shade for part of the day, try things like Nicotiana ‘Eau de Cologne Mixed’ or Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’.

Wonderful evening-scented plants

evening primrose
Evening primrose planted en masse smell incredible when the sun sets
Image source: Mariola Anna S

Adding evening fragrance to the garden needn’t cost the earth. Pinches of night-scented stock seeds (Matthiola longipetala subsp. bicornis) scattered by a patio, a path, in pots, window boxes or hanging baskets will add incredible fragrance within 8 weeks for very little outlay. Mix them in with daytime flowering plants for the best of all worlds. Here are some seeds to try:

  • Nicotiana sylvestris, with its mop of elongated trumpet-shaped white flowers held aloft by a rosette of weed-suppressing leaves, is a big annual that grows from the tiniest of seeds.
  • The pale lilac or white flowers of sweet rocket (Hesperis matronalis) look at home in informal, cottage garden-style planting. Attractive to butterflies and bees during the day, this pollinator magnet will add evening fragrance to the garden from May to July. Deadhead to prolong flowering, or allow it to self-seed. Sweet rocket is usually treated as a biennial. Sow in late spring or early summer, and transplant to its final position in sun or part shade in autumn.
  • Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) is another night-scented biennial that is suited to informal or cottage gardens. Sow from March to May, or August to September.
  • The Tumbelina series of petunias are late-night revellers worth growing for their after-dark fragrance alone. They;re perfect for containers and hanging baskets.

Perennials and bulbs

Phlox paniculata
The white blooms of Phlox paniculata glow in the twilight.
Image source: Kittichai

Another easy way to add evening scent to your garden, perennials and bulbs will reward you year after year with sweet-smelling blooms. Here are three great varieties to try:

  • The fragrance of Dianthus Tickled Pink always stops me in my tracks on a summer evening. At around 30cm tall, it looks great in a pot on a doorstep or table top.
  • Phlox paniculata holds its own as a beautiful plant in the border during the day and continues to fill the air with its fragrance as the sun sets.
  • Lilium regale in pots or borders makes a stylish statement in contemporary and traditional schemes. Plant bulbs from autumn – pop a scoop of grit beneath the bulbs if growing on clay.

Climbers

climbing jasmine
Train climbing jasmine around bedroom windows to gently scent the evening breeze.
Image source: Antonio Gravante

Should space be at a premium, climbing plants are a great way to make use of vertical height on a wall, fence or trellis screen. Here are some fragrant climbers to train close to bedroom windows or outdoor seating areas:

  • Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’ is a beautiful, vigorous evergreen honeysuckle with white and lemon flowers.
  • The white-flowered evergreen climber, Trachelospermum jasminoides, makes a wonderful addition to gardens in milder areas. If you have plenty of space, try Wisteria floribunda.

Tender is the night….

Night-blooming jasmine, or Queen of the night,
Night-blooming jasmine, or Queen of the night, can be moved outdoors in warmer months.
Image source: pisitpong2017

Tender plants that are over-wintered indoors and brought outside for the summer can change the way your garden looks while adding amazing evening fragrance.

The flowers of night-blooming jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum) may be small, but their fragrance is a treat. For high visual impact in larger spaces try white scented Brugmansia suaveolens, or at the other extreme, pretty little Zaluzianskya ovata as a table top plant.

About the author:

Sarah Shoesmith was awarded the Centenary Prize by the Royal Horticultural Society in 2003, and gained a Distinction in the Diploma in Garden Design from The English Gardening School. She is passionate about gardening for wildlife and growing food, and writes about gardening for magazines and other sites.

Why I love compost

cupped hands holding compost
Homemade compost is the best way to enrich your soil.
Image source: Pixabay

Home-made compost is a winner on so many levels; little wonder few serious gardeners would be without a heap. The perfect way to get the best out of your plants by improving the soil, compost makes use of otherwise waste material and it’s cheap to get started. The best news? It’s really easy to make – here’s how…

What you need to make compost

three compost bins in a row
Most gardeners try to have two compost bins.
Image source: Pixabay

To the novice, making compost can can appear a complicated art with talk of heap temperatures and the perfect mix of ingredients. In reality, composting is easy. It simply harnesses natural decomposition and is open to anyone, regardless of the size of their plot.

Like much in gardening, composting can be practised on many different levels from the very basic to the more complex where copious amounts are produced in a short time. The equipment also varies from self-contained plastic containers, nicknamed ‘Daleks’, to large, open bins. These can be homemade – mine were built from old pallets – or bought as slatted, wooden kits.

If you have a very small garden, you can buy a rotating bin on legs that takes up very little space and is easy to move if required. How much kitchen and garden waste you have, and how you want to use the compost will determine which is best.

Surprisingly, some people don’t use their compost on their flowers and veg, but just let it rot down, so one bin is enough. If you want to use your compost, then at least two bins will be necessary to allow one to mature while the next is being filled. Most gardeners end up with three or more. They should be sited in somewhere that’s not too shady but not in direct sunlight. ‘Daleks’ can be stood on aviary wire to prevent rodents getting in, or bought complete with a base.

What items can be composted?

raw vegetables peelings being put into a composter
Raw vegetable peelings are ideal compost material.
Image source: Pixavril

When it comes to what can be composted, the list is long and varied. From the kitchen, there are uncooked vegetable peelings, fruit skins, the outer leaves of cabbages, out-of-date salad and even eggshells, providing they’re ground down first. I also add used coffee grounds to the pile. Cooked foods, meat, fish and dairy should not be used.

Out in the garden, anything that isn’t diseased can be composted, although I’m wary of adding thugs such as bindweed and horsetail due to the high temperatures needed to ensure their destruction. Also avoid putting in weeds that have already set seed and don’t add nettle roots as they will take hold.

Prunings should be chopped up as small as possible or put through a shredder but don’t be too obsessive about this as anything that doesn’t completely break down can be sieved out of the finished compost and returned to the heap. Larger pieces also create air pockets in the compost bin, helping to prevent the rotting mass becoming wet and slimy.

Indeed, the key to good compost is getting a balance between ‘green’ material, such as annual weeds and veg, and drier ‘brown’ ingredients. Shredded paper and thin, unwaxed cardboard – toilet rolls are perfect – should be added to heaps, aiming for a 50-50 split.

How to make the best compost

a pitch fork stuck into compost pile
Turn your compost over regularly with a fork to keep it aerated.
Image source: Elena Elisseeva

To make the best compost, add your ‘green’ and ‘brown’ material in layers, particularly if grass clippings are to be included as these can quickly turn into a sodden mass.

I line my small kitchen waste compost bucket with old newspaper, which keeps the bucket cleaner and ensures that some brown material is added to the heap with every load of vegetable peelings.

Don’t add autumn leaves but use them to make leaf mould, either in a cage made of chicken wire or black plastic bags that have a few holes in them.

Keeping compost heaps aerated is important and can be done by forking it over, or by moving it from one bin to another. In hot weather, it may need watering to prevent the mix drying out. In winter, a plastic cover should be put over to protect it from rain and keep the temperature up.

How long does it take to make compost?

someone adding and turning compost in a garden
The grand finale – adding the finished product to your garden.
Image source: alicja neumiler

It can take anything from six months to two years to make compost, but it’s well worth the wait. You’ll know it’s ready when it is dark and crumbly – often described as looking like fruit cake – and sweet-smelling. Anything that hasn’t rotted down can simply be put back to continue the process.

Making compost is cheap, easy and will hugely improve the quality of your soil. If you haven’t already tried, give it a go. Your plants will love it.

About the author: Mandy Bradshaw

Cotswold-based, Garden Media Guild member, Mandy Bradshaw is also known as the Chatty Gardener. Passionate about gardening and writing, her beginnings are in football reporting for her primary school, and Mesembryanthemum planting with her mother. She writes for not only her own blog but also newspapers, magazines and other sites.

Planting late summer veg

With a little care, you can grow and harvest vegetables over the entire winter.
Image source: MelashaCat

As the summer fades into autumn and the weather gets colder, it’s tempting to pack up the vegetable garden and retreat indoors. But this means missing out on a range of crops that you can harvest over winter, or that give you a great head start on next season.

Some veg plants need a spell of cold to be at their best, while others can be tricked into thinking that temperatures are higher by putting them into a greenhouse or cold frame.

There’s so much to do by the time spring arrives that it makes sense get ahead at a quieter time of year. And there’s nothing better than the sight of some full veg beds to lift the gloom of midwinter. Here are just some of the vegetables I’ll be growing this autumn…

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Catch cropping – getting the most from your crop

Maximise your crop output with this technique.
Image source: GrowVeg.com

Harvesting crops is a double-edged endeavour. While we have the wonderful sense of satisfaction that comes with growing our own fruit and vegetables, the very act of harvesting it can leave us with a gaping hole in our planting. This is when catch cropping comes into its own, because we can turn that gap into an opportunity to grow something else delicious to eat.

The best catch crops are either fast-maturing or winter hardy. Crops that mature quickly, such as kohlrabi, radish and salad leaves, provide us with a harvest within weeks. Winter hardy crops stay in the ground and help to bridge the hungry gap in spring before the next main crop in our rotation needs the space. Catch crops maximise yields while covering the soil and helping to suppress weeds.

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How to holiday-proof your garden

empty garden hammock when owners are on holiday
It’s ok to leave your garden alone while you go on holiday – just prepare!
Image source: pixabay

It can be hard to leave your garden to go on a summer holiday when watering, deadheading and veg harvesting are daily jobs. There’s the worry that hanging baskets will die, courgettes will turn into marrows and you’ll return to flower borders full of seed heads.

Finding a friend or neighbour – preferably another gardener – to take care of your plot is the ideal answer, but it’s not always possible. Here are some practical ideas for holiday-proofing your garden to make sure you both survive the separation!

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