THIS year I opted not to buy conventional summer annuals, thereby reducing the amount of time it takes to water the garden through warm spells. Instead, I have planted up over 150 pelargoniums which we all commonly know, and refer to, as geraniums. Having planted them back in the second week of May, they are only just starting to come into their own and produce beautiful flowers. The bonus is that they do not mind drying out every so often meaning much less watering for me. I was concerned the displays would not be as eye catching, but feedback for early visitors suggests otherwise.

I have quite a few hydrangeas, all planted in the ground. Looking good this week are hydrangea Annabelle, which unlike many Hydrangea arborescens varieties rarely flops due to its well branched, compact growth habit. It is a wonderful specimen for a shaded border or woodland garden, mine’s in a shady spot behind the new railway sleeper wall but just starting to pop its head above the parapet.

The other is Red Baron with rosy red flowers in a mop head form which are produced in abundance on this easy to grow hydrangea. The blooms of Hydrangea macrophylla Red Baron slowly fade to a deeper, more subtle shade of red as they mature during the season, extending this hardy shrub’s interest through into autumn. Its compact growing habit means it can also be grown in containers on the patio as well as being included in a shrub border. I’ve got two in a border at Driftwood.

Today, June 18, you can take a short drive north of the city and visit three Balcombe gardens which are opening for the National Garden Scheme from midday until 5pm. Combined entry to the three plots is £7.50 and children go in free. The three gardens are full of variety and interest. Set above the High Weald, 46 West up Farm Cottages is a classic cottage garden. Winterfield, in the village, is a packed country garden while Stumlet, nearby, is restful with lots of places to sit and enjoy the home-made teas. Full details at

Now is a good time to help improve the health and appearance of your house plants by moving them outside. Most indoor plants revel in the fresh air (although it’s best to keep tender tropical plants, such as moth orchids and African violets, indoors.) Rain will wash away accumulated dust, while increased light intensity promotes healthy growth. But although they’re already accustomed to shade and warm temperatures, your plants will suffer if moved outside all in one go, so acclimatise them first.

Read more of Geoff’s garden at