Having just celebrated the dawn of a New Year, now is a great time to plan your garden for 2021 (if not your resolutions!). But with so many possibilities, where do you start?
Well, let’s begin with the best part, plant inspiration! Planning your garden based on plant preference is a fun and easy way to get stuck in. And there are lots of great plants available to get the chlorophyll pumping.
To make things even more interesting, I’ve put together a bumper list of 52 incredible plants – one for each week of the year (you can find the corresponding week numbers using this calendar)! With this list, you’ll never be short of things to plant. From Sarcococca to Clematis cirrhosa, browse my huge selection below…
1. Sarcococca (Christmas Box)
A plant that you may smell before you can see it! Sarcococca do a good impression of box, but without half the hassle. PLUS, those powerfully perfumed blooms start off the year with a bit of a bang! Browse Sarcococca now.
2. Garrya elliptica (Silk Tassel Bush)
Garrya is a somewhat playful shrub, with tasselled blooms in the depths of winter! It’s most at home against a wall, where it can be used to great effect! Loves a coastal location, and can be a rather glamorous windbreak! Buy now.
3. Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’
The scented blooms of Daphne usually coincide with the crisp winter air, and boy is it a delight! They can be fussy until they’re established, but they really are worth the fuss! ‘Eternal Fragrance’ is a newish variety, with flowers from April to October, so that’s just wow!
4. Chimonanthes praecox (Wintersweet)
It’s a bit boring the rest of the year, but the perfumed blooms of Wintersweet make it deserving of a spot in your garden! I have always adored the way the flowers dangle themselves from the naked stems of this handsome specimen too!
5. Galanthus elwesii (Snowdrop)
The ‘Big Daddy’ in the world of Snowdrops, Galanthus elwesii is robust, with big strappy leaves and wholesome blooms. Said to be one of the easiest species to establish too, buy ‘in the green’ for best results. The blooms smell of honey too, if you fancy getting muddy knees… Get some now!
6. Edgeworthia chrysantha (Paper Bush)
Edgeworthia is glorious! Golden yellow blooms really inject hope into slow, dull winter days. Yeah, fair enough, they are pretty dull for the rest of the year, but it’s great structural shrub, just make sure the plants around it flower in the summer.. Find yours now.
7. Iris ‘Katharine Hodgkin’
This Iris has got to be a 1000-liker on Instagram! It is simply wow. Whilst it’a only 4 inches tall, it sure makes itself known, with intricate, multi-coloured flowers. Plant in the autumn to give yourself a spring treat! Try this duo pack of these glorious Iris.
8. Hamamelis (Witch-hazel)
Another racy shrub, with blooms on its bare stems! The Witch Hazel proves it worth in the garden, with winter blooms AND rustic autumn colours. I also find the leaves quite handsome, in an oversized Beech way. Let’s not forget the scent either, you’ll be tempted to ‘accidentally break one’ and plonk in a vase.. Such a divine shrub!
9. Daffodil ‘Cheerfulness’ (Narcissus)
Well, it does just what it says on the tin, this Daff! I know it’s cheesy, but it really is a harbinger of spring, with clusters of scented blooms on stems that beg to be cut for indoors. Imagine it as an under-planting to Birch Trees, just IMAGINE THAT.
10. Hyacinth ‘Blues Mix’
We couldn’t plan a year of flowers without sneaking in a few Hyacinth. Any blue variety is my go-to, I love the cool colours and icy vibe. Choose good garden hyacinth varieties if you want them to come back year after year too. Here’s the ‘Blue Rhapsody’ Mix!
11. Primrose ‘Blue Zebra’
I love a thrilling Primrose, and have been known to use them as houseplants too! ‘Stonewash’ is as designer as you get, with fantastic tie-dye effects. Throw them into any old border, and you’ll be amazed at how long they bloom. Order in the autumn.
12. Fritillaria meleagris (Snakeshead Fritillary)
Another spring bulb that’s ready for it’s close-up! Happy in heavy soils and even grows wild in my home county of Suffolk. They look great in long grass, or in a cute table-top terracotta pot. (Can’t say that with a mouthful!) Try some for yourself.
13. Narcissus ‘Replete’
Yes, I know it’s not pink, but it almosttt is! ‘Salmony-orange’ ruffled blooms are delightfully over-sized, but thankfully the stems are strong enough to support them! Plant up a clump, you won’t regret it!
14. Forsythia x intermedia
You really know spring has arrived when you canter around your local neighbourhood, stalking the handsome yellow shrub known as Forsythia! It’s another plant that has everything on display, as the blossom drips from the bare naked stems. Racy! Go for it.
15. Myosotis (Forget-me-not)
If flowers wrote fairytales.. forget-me-nots would be the star of the show. I sometimes think I’m addicted to the soft powder blue of the dinky little blooms. Looks best when allowed to run riot and self-seed, if I’m totally honest! Hope you’ll choose some.
16. Erysimum ‘Winter Series’ (Perennial Wallflower)
This plant would flower 12 months of the year if you let it, perhaps it even will! There’s so much going for this plant- from fragrance to magical colour changes- it ain’t half fancy! Find some Erysimum now.
17. Tulip ‘Gavota’
Why grow Tulips if you’re not going to grow the show-offs! ‘Gavota’ is a right Joseph’s Coat, and you’ll enjoy watching the flower age too, as the petals fall aside and the colours run. This is art! Try this collection of stripey Tulips!
18. Eriostemon (Gin and Tonic Plant)
If you’ve done dry January, you’ll probably get to April and need a fix! This Australian plant has hundreds of starry flowers, and waxy foliage that smells of GIN AND TONIC! You have to have it.
19. Allium sphaerocephalon
The ‘Traffic Light Allium’, and that’s a darn sight easier to say than Allium sphaeracephalon! Any type of Allium is ethereal, and I adore the way the flowers float above the border, adding that extra layer of planting. Designer tip right there! Order yours here.
20. Lupin ‘Westcountry Hybrids’
So seductive, the Lupin is a marvel of nature, and the recent ‘Westcountry Hybrids’ really ramp up the colour stakes. Not only that, they are stronger, more disease tolerant and flower just a touch longer, too (and sometimes twice!). Here’s a few Lupins to choose from.
21. Aquilegia ‘Swan Hybrids’ (Columbine)
Aquilegia can be short-lived, but if you look out for a hybrid, you’ll get far better value. In fact, a garden can’t be a cottage garden until you plant a few Columbines, it’s the law! Buy now!
22. Osteospermum ‘Purple Sun’
Summer is just about to kick off, and your Osteospermum will be some of the first subjects to bloom! They’re pretty happy whatever, expect when you over-water them. So don’t do that. Order yours today.
23. Delphinium ‘New Zealand Hybrids’
The kiwis are the leaders when it comes to Delphinium breeding. The ‘New Zealand Hybrids’, whilst not imaginatively named, are strong, windproof, disease resistant and flower twice. Worth the investment.
24. Tree Peonies
The traditional Peony is nice and all that, but not ideal if you’ve got a bad back. Plants are low down, and you’ll be stooping to soak up the scent. Tree Peonies are taller, more branching, and their blooms even more fancy, and FRAGRANT! Here’s quite a range for you to choose from!
25. Philadelphus ‘Little Love’
Shrubs for people that haven’t got space for shrubs, this dwarf ‘Philly’ is adorable. The flowers smell of orange blossom, so they say. Easy, good for front of the border, or patio pots. Grab yourself one now.
26. Cosmos ‘Xanthos’
An exciting colour break for the often-pink Cosmos family. Remarkably better shaped than the usual wild Cosmos, with branching and non-stop flowering. And this lemon-yellow is simply effervescent. Buy a few seeds now, for a really great value filler.
27. Clematis ‘Crystal Fountain’
The Clematis that thinks it’s a Passion Flower! Bred in the Channel Islands, the pompom excitement of ‘Crystal Fountain’ is available to everyone, since plants are compact and can even be grown in pots! Buy now.
28. Petunia ‘Limoncello’
I bet you thought you didn’t like Petunias! Check this yellow beauty out, with lemony flowers, and an added ruffle for good measure. Spice up your summer! Easy to grow from seed too!
29. Bidens ‘Beedance’
If you love honey, you’ll love ‘Beedance’! This brand new breeding will have your traditional basket plant choices quaking in their boots! Sneaky tip: keep the plants dry in the winter, and they may grow again in year two! Here’s a few Bidens to whet your appetite!
30. Canna ‘Cannova Mixed’
For many years, Canna were far too exotic for our humble home gardens. However, ‘Cannova’ transforms them into a bedding annual with almost every colour of the rainbow! Find a few colours here.
31. Sweet Pea ‘King’s Ransom’
While we wait for the first true yellow Sweet Pea, we have plenty else to keep us happy! ‘King’s Ransom’ is rather hard to describe, and even harder to photograph well.. The marbled flowers have an awesome colouring, somewhere between raspberry and magenta… has to be seen to be believed!
32. Geranium ‘Rozanne’
There are 52 plants in this list, but if you only have space for 1, make it ‘Rozanne’! Sun or shade, rain or shine, get set for 5 to 6 months of azure blue colour, rivers of it! I recommend you start with at least 3 plants!
33. Liatris spicata (Gayfeather)
Once you’ve stop giggling at the common name, you’ll be wanting to plant this purple member into your garden! Bees, birds, butterflies, and YOU, will love it.
34. Cosmos ‘Cupcakes Mixed’
Everyone loves a cupcake! This unique Cosmos doesn’t have 5 petals, rather it only has 1! This creates a cupcake! Marvellous border plant, and originally arose in a customers garden in the USA, don’t you know! Grow from seed or plugs.
35. Hydrangea ‘Runaway Bride’
From the creator of Surfinia Petunias, this multi-blooming Hydrangea is a floral fantasy, with garlands of white blossom on open branching plants. Heck, it would even look good in a windowbox!
36. Dahlia ‘Lubega Tricolor’
We had to include a Dahlia in the list, didn’t we? Short patio height Dahlias, with fresh-faced blooms in red, yellow and white. Positively tropical! You can save the plants for the next year too. I may even grow some myself!
37. Chrysanthemum ‘Poppins Series’
Here’s how to grow cushion Chrysanthemums with minimal pinching out! The ‘Poppins Series’ is bred just outside Cambridge, and is a worthy replacement once your garden Petunias fade… Not yet widely available commercially, but you may find some here.
38. Sempervivum ‘Chick Charms’
Hard to imagine these plants were once old-fashioned, the ‘Chick Charms’ new selections have transformed them into a trendy must-have plant! Basically an outdoor succulent, plants are very forgiving, drought tolerant and just check out that autumn colouring! Buy a few now.
39. Ornamental Kale
Kale is a buzz area of edible x ornamental hybrids right now, and a great cold weather patio plant. You can choose from ornamental, traditional varieties, or hold out for the new edible coloured Kales coming later this year! Buy the ornamental types now.
40. Colchicum ‘Waterlily’
Bear in mind you won’t see this plant for a large portion of the year, as it only emerges twice, once to bloom in the autumn, then with a bounty of foliage each spring, disappearing back beneath ground after each show. ‘Waterlily’ is my pick of the varieties, with ultra sexy rich pink flowers. Check stocks here.
41. Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Joy’
Autumn isn’t autumn without a Sedum.. or two! Fleshy plants with flower heads bejewelled with florets, heavily enjoyed by bees! Blooming in late summer, but their autumn legacy lives on as the decorative seed heads dry on the plant. An excellent investment!
42. Rhus typhina (Sumach)
Most people wouldn’t recommend Rhus, as it can spread like a b****! However, if you stay vigilant, or plant into a rock-bounded border, it could work! It all depends on how much you love the candelabra shape of the tree, and kaleidoscope of autumn colours. Buy at your peril!
43. Cyclamen ‘Miracle Series’
Cyclamen can cope with a bit of chill, and I think they look great alongside miniature conifers and heathers for that winter vibe. ‘Miracle’ is a popular variety, with a myriad of colours in the mix.
Fancy experimenting with an outdoor Poinsettia? The Princettia Series is super new, very different breeding, and it’s a darn sight less fussy than Poinsettia! They’ll take a bit of cold, and won’t sulk if you look at it the wrong way… Go get in the queue!
45. Camellia sasanqua
Your eyes do not deceive you, it’s a Camellia that blooms in the autumn! Much prized in Japanese gardens, and you can even make tea from the leaves. Somehow it’s more delicate than the spring types too, and a welcome November appearance. Find a very cool variety here!
46. Callicarpa bodnieri ‘Profusion’ (Beautyberry)
You probably won’t notice this plant if you glance at it in midsummer, however the November display is full on disco balls! Enjoy them before the birds find them… Here’s a great offer on this ace plant.
47. Viola ‘Bunny Ears’
Never has there been a more obvious name for a plant. Fantastic colours on diminutive little plants, even when they’re frosted up to their eyeballs in winter. An excellent modern selection from Japan.
48. Iris unguicularis (Algerian Iris)
You can have any colour of Algerian Iris, as long as it’s mauve. A joyful winter sight, as the rather unsuspecting grassy foliage plays host to the painted blooms. I love it, and you will too!
49. Viburnum bodnantense
Another shrub you will probably smell before you see it. Watch out if you’re planning to give it a sniff though, you may poke your eye on the bare twiggy stems! Try it out for yourself.
50. Mahonia x media ‘Charity’
It seems to be a staple plant in parks, gardens and on roundabouts, but don’t let that put you off! A Mahonia is a feast for the eyes, with so many shapes and textures, then in December, panicles of citrus blossom. It smells greattt too! Buy now.
51. Helleborus ‘Double Ellen Series’
Hellebores love it cold, but which one to choose? Well, I am a sucker for the waterlily-like double flowered forms I must say. A robust, somewhat leathery (in a good way!) border plant which is untroubled by most pests. Top tip- cut the foliage off to see more of the blooms! Reserve yours today.
52. Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’
Most people think Clematis are all round and blue, but that’s sooo not the case! ‘Freckles’ is evergreen, semi-rampant and draped with winter flowers. They say there’s a fragrance, but it’s not quite hyacinth levels, I have to tell you! Worth it though.
I hope this guide has inspired you for your garden endeavours in 2021! Make sure to bookmark this page to refer back to it later in the year, and let me know your favourite plants from this selection in the comments below!
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook. You can also listen to The Plant Based Podcast with Michael and co-host Ellen-Mary on iTunes, Spotify and Google.