April 2022

Stephen says:

Let’s talk car parks made beautiful.

In 2011 the vast area of the car park was  divided into 2 sections by the Hornbeam Walkway. This 72 metre long avenue consists of a path flanked by 3.3m wide perennial borders and these in turn are edged with 32 pleached hornbeams either side. The focal point at the end of the walk is a timber framed summer house which is a perfect place to sit and take in the colourful corridor of perennials in the borders. The planting here is on the diagonal to maximise the number of plants, with planting being done in 3 tiers from the tallest at the back to shorter plants at the front. Many of the plants are repeated in the traditional border at the front of the shop but Agapanthus and Salvia Uliginosa were added to the Walkway.

Hornbeams were chosen as the lighter leaf texture had a little more finesse than those of the lime. Each March, before the perennials start to burst into growth, the hornbeams are trimmed to keep their shape and the borders are cut back. The debris is then raked off and composted. This Walkway has to have made the Aston Pottery car park into one of the prettiest places to park, especially when the Bank and Annual borders are also in flower.

In 2012 David Cameron and Aung Sang Suu Kyi officially opened the Walkway.

Behind the scenes

April is seed sowing time though this is done with careful planning. In early April those plants with the smallest, dust like seeds are the first to be sown, such as Rudbeckia, Antirrhinum, Heliotropium, Alonsoa and Clarkia. These tiny seeds are thinly broadcast onto seed trays of gritty compost. They need the extra growing time in order to be a strong 3 – 4 inch plant by the first week in June, when the annual border is planted out.

In all we grow 38 different groups of annuals in a number of different varieties to add further interest, colour and texture. Our favourites are:

  • Acroclinium
  • Adonis
  • Agastache
  • Ageratum x 2 varieties
  • Alonsoa x 2 varieties
  • Amaranthus x 3 varieties
  • Ammi majus
  • Antirrhinum x 3 varieties
  • Asclepia x 2 varieties
  • Aster
  • Calendula x 3 varieties
  • Callistephus x 7 varieties
  • Celosia
  • Chrysanthemum x 2 varieties
  • Clarkia x 3 varieties
  • Cleome x 3 varieties
  • Cosmos x 10 varieties
  • Diascia
  • Digitalis x 4 varieties
  • Erysium x 3 varieties
  • Godetia
  • Helianthus x 17 varieties
  • Heliopsis
  • Heliotropium
  • Mattholia
  • Nicotiana x 2 varieties
  • Ricinus x 6 varieties
  • Rudbeckia x 8 varieties
  • Salvia x 5 varieties
  • Solonostemon x 2 varieties
  • Tagetes x 5 varieties
  • Tithonia x 4 varieties
  • Zinnia x 15 varieties

Plant of the month

The Imperial Fritillaries (Fritillaria imperialis) in the Hornbeam walk are standing proud and it is a joy to see the 200 or so Foxtail Lillies (Eremurus) bursting out of the ground, building their strength for their amazing display at the beginning of June.

Garden Tips

Be strong and do not rush into sowing all your seeds too early. Other than those mentioned above, hold back from sowing annuals until the end of April otherwise you will end up with pot bound and “leggy” plants that will not grown on well. A little patience will be well rewarded.


Our gardening team is very small.

Stephen is head gardener, when he is not making pottery, making cakes, serving in the café or helping in the shop.

Nicky, a volunteer, does one day per week.

More help would be very welcome. Would you like to volunteer too, either on a regular basis or for one of our big plant-outs?

You will be reward by being surrounded with wonderful people and plants, along with a cuppa and some fabulous cake and lunch if you do a full day.


Contact Stephen Baughan via email at: info@astonpottery.co.uk