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21 July 2018 - 12:01pm

Malvern and wisteria

We visited the Malvern Spring Festival again last month. I know Chelsea is seen as the best of the best for good reason, but we now much prefer the space, freshness and lack of celebrity of Malvern. Two of the show gardens appealed – Billy’s Cave with the little goats was really different – a quote from the blurb: ‘The garden is designed to evoke a slow pace smallholding in rural Portugal, where a goat herder spotted an opportunity within the boundaries of his land. A cave, complete with natural spring alongside an old olive tree has become part of the area’s character’. The other, my favourite, was the Dew Pond. In the words of the designer: ‘… this garden makes a small step change to counter the effects of global warming…. Dew ponds are rooted in our agricultural heritage and provide a rich habitat for wildlife that can be enjoyed relaxing on the deck…’ It had a lovely, natural feel : my kind of garden. As part of the naturalistic planting there was a huge swathe of Ragged Robin. Feeling inspired I bought 3 plants for our little damp meadow. The label states: ‘Lychnis ‘Ragged Robin’ hardy perennial. Easy to grow, long flowered gorgeous’. So my kind of plant too! They make me smile every time I pass them to the front gate. Lychnis is a huge family and I bet most of you have at least one in your garden. Lychnis coronaria has felty grey leaves and vivid pink flowers, it loves it here in a sunny border. One of it’s coloquial names is ‘Bridget in her bravery’, I wonder who Bridget was and what she did that was so fearless? Lychnis chalcedonia has the coveted AGM, it’s common name is Maltese Cross. This lovely, easy plant has bright red flowers. As a family they tend to be short lived, but gently seed around so you are never without them. The wisteria has been fabulous this year. We have 3 in the garden here at Charnwood, including a gorgeous pale lilac one that Peter has trained into a small tree, around 1.5 metres tall so takes up very little room. They are very vigorous, woody climbers so need a fairly brutal pruning regime if you don’t have unlimited space and/or a massive tree to grow one into. Once you have established a framework that suits you, prune hard back to 2 or 3 buds around February then give it a feed: sulphate of potash is good to encourage flowers to form. You can then do a summer prune to keep it under control. Often overlooked is the scent, when in full flower the fragrance is just lovely. If you are planning to buy one, make sure it has been grafted. It will cost you a lot more but if you get a cheaper seedling it can take over 20 years to flower. Don’t forget the Tollerton Garden Club plant stall at the Village event, I have bought some lovely, well grown plants from there over the years, definitely worth a look!