Grown To Come Indoors

Travel Writer Pat Richardson shares the pleasure of her own little corner of heaven to come home to

Some foliage plants earn their place in my garden because they look good with flowers in a vase – and that’s a good enough reason for me!

Bamboo and lilies, for example, were made for each other. I also grow a tall, feathery bronze fennel – Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’ – to cut and couple with roses. Bluebells look great with a little lime-green foliage – which is why I grow spirea Magic Carpet.  Two more favourites – Heuchera Plum Pudding with its deep burgundy leaves, and Euonymous fortunei emerald ’n’ gold – are good all-rounders. And herbs aren’t restricted to my kitchen: a mixed bunch in a jug makes a great dinner table centrepiece, and usually includes fragrant rosemary with its lavender blue flowers.

I find small blooms in miniature vases delightful, and often pick up one or two on my travels. You might not think of them as vases – I’ve bought odd liqueur glasses, whisky tots, egg cups and even old eye-baths at flea markets and antique fairs, to hold miniature bouquets (or blooms that break off with next-to-no stem) and sometimes put one at each place setting. Another dinner-table favourite is to twist tendrils of small-leafed ivy (thoroughly rinsed and dried) into napkin rings.

Seed heads, too, are worth watching for and good for displays. My favourite is the pasque flower – Pulsatilla vulgaris – which is as pretty as the bloom it supersedes. If something dries of its own accord, in situ, as this does, just cut it and put it in a vase without water, then leave it until it is completely dried out. A spell in the airing cupboard (if you have one) can help.) Afterwards, handle with care, as they can be delicate.

Some clematis seed heads can be fun, too, although they’re usually on such short stems that they can’t go in a vase – not even an eye-bath! – but they look lovely tucked under the ribbon on a gift box. So does a dried sprig of ground cover rosa polyantha ‘Pink The Fairy’ – which I grow in three big patio pots. So free-flowering is this little super star that I often pick (and rinse and dry) fresh sprigs to lie on place mats or side plates – no vase needed for the few hours they’re there.

I hope I’ve given some ideas for looking at your garden plants with fresh eyes – and getting even more pleasure from them.

Pat Richardson has many years experience as a travel writer including 16 years as Travel Editor on Best Magazine. She has since turned freelance and writes mainly for the Daily Telegraph’s Escorted Travel and Cruise Supplements. As well as tending her own delightful Kew garden, she runs, a writing and editing service and consultancy, and, a website showcasing properties with a past.