Monty, oh Monty


“Among the things made by man, nothing is prettier than an English cottage garden, and they often teach lessons that ‘great’ gardeners should learn.”

William Robinson, “The English Flower Garden,” London 1883

It’s official. I am old. I’ve got a crush on Monty Don!

In a desperate attempt to turn the mud pit in our backyard into a beautiful English cottage garden with seasonal interest, I have been devouring old episodes of Gardeners Word, eagerly jotting down notes on planting advice and pruning instructions.

With spring another good two months away (thank you, Sweden), and planting tulip bulbs off the menu – not recommendable unless you want to invite deer to munch it all off – all that’s left for me to do is, in fact, planning and pruning.

Swedish gardens are typically made up of lawn, mature trees and deciduous shrubs that turn a depressing shade of poop brown in winter. If you are lucky, you might find a rose or two, or – if you are very, very lucky – a couple of hydrangeas.

When we moved to Sweden one and a half years ago (can you believe it’s been that long?!), I thought that gardens in Sweden were kept relatively bare because the climate didn’t allow for more abundance. Now I know that although the growing season here is much shorter than in the UK (184 days (6 months) in Sweden compared to 252 days (8.4 months) in the UK), you can – in theory – plant almost everything. The problem is that a) you have to make sure that deer won’t devour your treasured horticulture and b) you are going to have a hard time finding the plants you are lusting after, as Swedish garden centres’ choice is limited. As much as I love the fact that society in Sweden is in general more equal, I think the Swedes have taken it a bit too far when it comes to consumer choice. I don’t want to have the same car as my neighbour. Or the same bathroom. Or garden!

Luckily, I have found garden centres in the UK who are happy to ship up North (e.g. David Austin roses), and I have made the acquaintance of a lovely gardener chap with connections to Germany’s growers world. Beofre you get all excited now – he’s got nothing on Monty.

A list of deer proof, winter hardy plants (H5). In case google is what brought you here, dear fellow gardener in despair. 

  • lavender
  • chives
  • garlic
  • mint
  • peonies (YAY!)
  • hydrangeas (be still my beating heart…)
  • ivy
  • holly
  • hellebores (double yay!)
  • prickly roses
  • snowdrops
  • daffodils
  • narcissus
  • some clematis
  • in general, they tend to avoid anything that’s very perfumed and/or poisonous*

*which could make you think they were clever. Given that they love to jump right in front of cars and then stop to stare into the headlights, I’m not too sure about that.


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