The Magic Garden

raising money for charity

Tips, Ideas and Most Frequently Asked Questions

1. Ophiopogon Planiscapus Nigrescens (Lilyturf)  Black grass.

Ophiopogon Planiscapus Nigrescens, (Lilyturf), or as people call it, black grass, makes a great foil for early spring bulbs such as miniature narcissus, crocus, or even miniature tulips and later in the year small summer bedding such as begonias. 

2. Multiple Layered Containers

Last year we successfully tried multi-layering containers, with lilies near the base, then tulips and finally spring bulbs such as crocus, miniature iris etc. When the tulips and spring bulbs had finished and before the lilies emerged we replaced the top layer with summer bedding, miniature leaved ivies, etc, for an almost all year display.

In Autumn when the lilies have died down, they can be left in for another year or two and the top layer planted with winter pansies.

3. Found Objects

Why not place a collection of found objects round the base of an urn to add visual interest. This display in The Magic Garden proved popular with adults and young visitors alike.

4. Auricula Theatre

Use an old pair of steps smartened up by painting. Lean and secure to a wall and use to display auriculas in the early spring, replacing later in the year with small potted summer flowering plants.

To add extra display space, screw right angled brackets to the sides of the steps then use round or square pieces of wood and screw them onto the brackets.

Our steps were purchased on Ebay and the round discs of wood are very easily obtainable.

Auriculas do not like to get wet, so we supported a large piece of thick perspex from the top step.

5. Plectranthus in Hanging Baskets

One of the most enquired about plantings by visitors has been the Plectranthus. The one we have, we have only ever seen for sale in one garden centre, (Dimmingsdale Nursery), owned by an Indian family. It could be the variety OERTENDAHLII, (Candle Plant). The leaves have dark green tops and wonderful purple undersides and shoots roots very early from cuttings dropped in a glass of water. The cuttings are then closely planted into a hanging basket, as the plant is seen at its best with the light coming through the leaves.

It is NOT frost hardy, so it is brought into the unheated conservatory for the winter and then the cuttings are taken in the Spring.

Don`t leave the plant in very strong sunlight for long, as it scorches!

A tip given to us by John Skill:

Plectranthus Oetendahlii- Make inter-nodal cuttings of approx 7cms and plant six to a pot.

Place in the semi-shade and water twice weekly. Roots should emerge within ten days.


An alternative method is to place cuttings in a tumbler of water and watch  for developing roots. Then pot up.

6. Lysimachia Nummularia Aurea & Houseleek Hanging Baskets

Another popular hanging basket, consists of two compost filled baskets, (lined with moss), one covered with plastic mesh which allows one to invert it onto the top of the other basket. Wire the two together after planting the bottom basket with Lysimachia Nummularia Aurea. Then push a pencil through the moss and compost in the top basket and insert small houseleek offsets. Choose as many different colours as possible. The resulting effect is of a huge attractive sea anemone!

You can also plant up the tops of urns and pots with Houseleeks, on mounds of compost, held in place with plastic pond netting. One can fill any suitable open wired shape with compost then fitted net and insert Houseleeks into it.

7. Skylons

Our 'Skylons' are constructed from 2 inverted obelisks bolted together and bolted into a metpost set well into the soil.

They were inspired by a visit paid by Bob to The Fesival of Britain in 1951.


8. Lilies

Our lilies are always commented on. Why are they so large? Why so late flowering?

Quite simply - buy the best bulbs. A well drained soil is preferable and some shade. Use a little farmyard compost when planting. Keep well watered in dry periods. Sprinkle a little Blood, Fish & Bone or Bonemeal, both Autumn and Spring.

The most important tip is to cut or break off the tops of flowered plants to prevent the goodness going into the seed. Leave stems to die down naturally.

Finally a tip for getting rid of lily beetle. DO NOT SQUASH THEM! Their bodies are supposed to release some attractant into the air. Drown them in the pond, (if you have one). Failing that a bucket of water.

9. Acorus 'Ogon'

The yellow grass-like plant seen in our urns and borders is Acorus 'Ogon'. It is aquatic and prefers semi shade, as the sun scorches it. It will grow in one container for several years. All we do is keep it watered and prune away the dead blades.

10. Trachycarpus Fortunei (Chinese Palm)

It was planted in 1980. It is useful as a source of nesting material for birds and flowers profusely every year. The leaves sound wonderful in the wind and the seeds dropping onto the surrounding plants sound like rain for several weeks. We have found that we can plant almost up to the trunk, which is useful. It is said to be the only truly hardy palm in Britain.

11. Bamboo Screening

We always keep a roll of bamboo screening available for temporary cover round unsightly objects such as the greenhouse. It not only makes the building virtually invisible, but also much safer, whilst visitors are in the garden.

Visitors are often suprised when we mention the greenhouse and ask where it is, although they walk right by it!

12. Troughs

As you can see from the picture, the 'stone' troughs round the kitchen door were manufactured from paving stones, round the edge of which two or three courses of old bricks were cemented. The whole structure was then covered with cement mixed with generous ammounts of compost. 

The resulting structures are quite heavy, but can be easily manoeuvred by wooden stakes underneath and then pushed to where they are needed.

One was lined with a plastic box, leaving a space between box and trough, which was filled with compost and planted with small ferns etc., which neatly mask the edge. The container becomes a convincing water trough.

13. Allium Seedheads

As the season progresses, allium seedhead stalks become increasingly weak. If one wishes to keep them amongst plants as additional decoration, lift the stalks and heads carefully, insert a thin plant stick right into the hollow stem up to the base of the seed head and push back into the soil. They should then stay there happily for the rest of the season.


14. This is a tip given to us by John at the NGS garden, Small But Beautiful in Bloxwich.

Cut back the lower branches of shrubs and trees, taking care to make a good shape. This gives more light and space especially in small gardens such as ours.

15. Bulbs

Before planting bulbs, or leaving them for some time out of the ground, pop them into a plastic bag with some green sulphur powder and give them a good shake, to distribute the powder over the whole surface of the bulbs.

This should help prevent any mould developing. Bob always performs this task anyway, with larger liliums, fritillarias and allium bulbs before planting. Still put some grit, or sharp sand under the bulbs when planting. If not planting immediately, store them in paper bags, or cardboard boxes, in a cool, frost-free place.


16. Keep a note book of what you do in the garden; what you see in other gardens; gardens you visit; ideas you see in them that you might adapt for your own; lists of bulbs, plants that you purchase and a rough idea of where they are planted.


17. Eremurus, (Foxtail Lilies), are difficult to plant due to their spidery roots. Make a mound of soil mixed with compost and grit. Set the bud on the top. Spread out the dry roots and then anchor them into the surrounding area with pieces of thick wire, (cut and bent like hair grips). Finally, cover the roots with more compost & grit. Don't forget to mark with a cane!


18. Roof Tiles

We use large roof slates cut in half lengthways to edge raised border soil. They look good and don't take up much space.



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