Desert Island Plants - The Experts Set Sail

This is a follow up post to last week's fun and very successful Desert Island meme posed by Shirl plus my response. If you haven't visited her desert island already, do pop over and follow Mr Linky to see what we all came up with.

Whilst I was researching links for yesterday's post, my search for Graham Stuart Thomas revealed he'd chosen his desert island plants for a series of articles Mary Keen wrote for The Telegraph in 2002. It seems he had just as much trouble as we did in deciding and he had the luxury of choosing eight! His selection naturally errs towards the herbaceous border and is particularly rich in winter interest: Alchemilla mollis, Crocus tommasinianus, Hedychium coccineum 'Tara', Hemerocallis 'Marion Vaughan', Jasmine nudiflorum, Mahonia x media 'Underway', Rhododendron x 'Nobleanum Venustum' and Rosa 'Souvenir de St Annes'.

Do follow the link to the original article as Mary Keen is a lively writer. She also managed to buttonhole Christopher Lloyd and Beth Chatto, so you can follow the links to see their selections and what they had to say about how difficult the choice was. Note there isn't a duplicate selection amongst three of our greatest gardeners. I can also reveal February's edition of Gardeners' World magazine also follows a similar theme - 10 of their regular experts list their top 10 to give us 100 Best Garden Plants. I'm particularly intrigued by James' selection - it's completely different to his desert island pick from last year - only one plant is in both lists, Persicaria polymorpha and not a Sanguisorba* in either of them! There's also an extensive tour of his garden in the magazine - well worth a look at even if you're already a regular visitor over at Blackpitts.

* = James got rather animated about them at last year's Gardeners' World Live.

I've also been planning a fun meme for a while which I hope you'd like to join - check back here on February 2nd when all will be revealed ;)


  1. I've just found your blog through Shirl's blog and great to see that even the professionals have had to go through this challenge too... it's wasn't as easy as I'd imagined... we used to live near to Bristol - so know Wiltshire reasonably well - now set up home in Northern Brittany... I await the plant challenge you have in mind for February... Miranda

  2. Fantasic VP!! Thanks so much for adding this. I've no time to read through the links properly right now but I'll definitely be back this evening! I love the plantings of Beth and Christo :-D

    I have been absolutely thrilled at the unexpected response this challenge has had - I guess it was a lot in the timing too :-D

    Ah... you have me curious now. I'll be back come Feb 2nd :-D

  3. It is interesting to see what the famous gardening folk take to their desert islands.

    2nd February - intriguing, I'll be back


  4. Hey there VP, I have a question. Do you know anyone that plantes by the lunar phase? Have you tried it? If so do you think it holds any truth?

    I would really like to grow extra this year as I have a few people to barter with and they will accept veggies. So I must increase the out put from my garden

  5. Thanks for that. Really interesting to see what they picked. One of my favourite gardening books is :
    Dear Friend and Gardener: Letters on Life and Gardening
    by Beth Chatto and Christopher Lloyd. This months Gardener's World magz has a selection of top 10 plants by different gardeing writers.

  6. It's interesting that the experts didn't agree on the same plants. I noticed there wasn't a lot of repetition in the choices posted in response to Shirl's challenge either. No wonder I'm constantly adding to my "plant wish" list, after reading so many glowing recommendations of plants from different gardeners.

    Your article yesterday on the tagging in public gardens was very interesting. I appreciate having a visible (and accurate!) tag in gardens like these to identify plants I'm not familiar with, but I wouldn't want that in my own garden. I've found that taking photos and recording them on my blog or in a notebook has helped as much as anything.

  7. Thanks for the links. Can't wait to see what the experts thing. See you on the beach.

  8. Hi VP, so many wonderful links here, I did check out James' previous choices and the comments too. So many wonderful plants for me to research on a cold rainy day.

  9. I had a quick peek at Mary Keen's articles - will return to them later for a proper read. I see that you have showers in Chippenham and that you have been up to your annual spring cleaning again VP :) Have made a mental note of the 2nd February. I am trying to guess what you might be up to.

  10. I'm dead chuffed to see that I share a desert island plant with Beth Chatto ;)

  11. I'll look forward to your upcoming meme! It was interesting to see what the experts chose as their must-have plants.

  12. Thanks for writing this, VP. It will be interesting to read what they have to say.

    I will definitely check back!

  13. I never seem to get it together to do any of these things, so I appreciate being given a heads up. Ok, feb 2nd. I will look for that.
    I enjoyed the link you showed here!

  14. Hi Miranda welcome! And it's a small world :) I do hope you can join me for my meme...

    Shirl - well it was a great idea, so well done you!

    Karen - I was quite surprised with GST's choices.

    SOL - I don't know of anyone who's into that way of planting, though I do keep meaning to give it a go myself. Trouble is, I'm just glad to get stuff sown and planted as and when without having to think about whether it's the right day too!

    Hermes - I love that book too! I had to go and buy Christopher Lloyd's Gardener Cook afterwards as they kept on writing about what they'd had to eat so much

    Rose - I suppose seeing there's 1,000's of plants to choose from, we're likely to be diverse in our choices when there's just 3 to have. I certainly think photographs are TWTG with garden tagging, GBBD helps me in going round my garden regularly too.

    Deb - oooh we get to meet at last ;)

    Frances - it's just the right thing to do for winter isn't it? Like you, my garden wish lists's expanded quite a bit...

    Anna - still spring cleaning :(

    Juliet - what good taste you have!

    Nancy - I'm really glad to have found those articles, even if it was by accident. It made a nice rounding off to Shirl's meme. I look forward to you joining me next week :)

    Jan - see you soon!

    Philip - do come on over. I must come and have a look over at yours too...


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