Rebecca Govier: ‘These thistle-like plants look best with soft textures’

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ONE OF my favourite Sunday treats is homemade cake in the sheltered, south-facing walled garden of Smeaton Nursery Gardens, in East Linton (

If the weather is mixed, taking tea in their converted propagation house, which feels more like an orangery, feels quite special.

Look out for the short woodland walk around the lake, which you pass on the right as you drive out of the estate – potentially great Easter egg-hunting terrain.

And if you are planning new planting, here are some ideas for combinations that work well.

Perennial performers:

Dianthus ‘Gran’s Favourite’ and Stan Green’s from Growforth (; this ‘pink’ is a compact evergreen perennial with clove-scented white blooms laced with pink-mauve edging. Pinks can be difficult to incorporate comfortably in a balanced planting design, thanks to their mass of show-stopping flowers. They are best planted in troughs or at the front of low borders with plants of a similar habit – like Campanula carpatica f. alba ‘Weisse Clips’ and Stachys byzantina ‘Big Ears’

Eryngium x zabelii ‘Jos Eijking’ – sea holly – is a perfect plant for those blessed with moist but well-draining soil. Considered a star performer by Debbie McIsaac of Maclaren Nurseries (www.maclarensnurseries), it flowers from mid spring to late summer. These bold, thistle-like plants are best partnered with soft textures like the ferny foliage of yarrow.

Polemonium ‘Lambrook Mauve’, the Jacob’s ladder chosen by Gavin McNaughton (, is a relatively new cultivar that offers delicate mauve flowers from April to August. Neat-growing, it doesn’t seed or suffer from mildew (unlike the common Jacob’s ladder). Furthermore, ‘Lambrook Mauve’ flourishes in any soil and in sun or part shade.

• Rebecca Govier, garden designer (0781 750 5571;;