June 1st, 2017
Several years ago I wrote in this column about a new venture. We have an area under some elderly silver birch trees that was in need of a bit of TLC, a bit more interest. So we decided to try and establish it as a meadow.
May 1st, 2017
If you travel round the ring road towards QMC and take the slip round that takes you down to the Dunkirk roundabout, on the island straight in front of you, you will see a large, striking group of Euphorbia characias wulfenii. Or, to use its common name, a spurge! Euphorbia is big family, large and small, shrubby and deciduous. They can add fabulous acid green contrast as well as structure to the clear bright reds and yellows and glorious chaos of the spring garden.
They are not always that huge. E. ’Fens Ruby’ is tiny but still makes its presence felt with its pretty bright, deep red leaves . It can be a bit invasive once it gets established, but it is easily dug up. Be careful though when handling as all Euphorbias exude a milky sap when wounded which can give you a nasty rash.
April 1st, 2017
The violets and primroses have been wonderful this year. I guess it’s because they prefer damp conditions – and they have certainly had that in recent months!
We brought some of the gorgeous, pale yellow native primroses to Charnwood when we moved up from the Isle of Wight in 1987. They have thrived; I can’t recall where I planted the original small clump, but they have happily and gently seeded themselves around and so pop up all over the garden. You can help them along a bit if you want more; they can be gently lifted and divided into smaller clumps after they have flowered. Bear in mind they are a woodland plant, so prefer a fairly cool spot, not a dry bed in full sun. If you plant some at the top of a grassy bank, they will seed themselves downwards and look fabulous in a few years.
March 1st, 2017
March to me is pruning month, the time to get out those secateurs and into the garden for a good old sort and tidy. Time spent now in the garden always pays off and prevents more work later on when things have grown and gone a bit wild.
So to clematis. Now don’t panic and please keep reading. It’s not as hard as some make out and the worst you can do is cut off potential flower buds for this year and, if that is the worst thing you do this year, it’s not that bad is it?
If you are planting new clematis, or did so last autumn, plant deep, give a good mulch and prune to a decent bud about 30cm (1 foot) from the ground. That way you will set it up to grow good, strong roots and many flowering stems. Keep it well watered and tie it in regularly.
Clematis fall into 3 groups:
February 11th, 2017
Snowdrops are so lovely, and so welcome this time of year. When time and energy allows we have very gently been increasing our coverage here by lifting and dividing a clump or two at this time of year and establishing them in another part of the garden. This is usually called ‘planting in the green’, meaning while they are still in leaf and it is the accepted way of planting snowdrops. A small clump can be divided into several smaller ones and will cover a wide area. This has the advantage of you being able to see clearly where the best spot is; for example you don’t want to put them on top of other emerging spring bulbs. In all honesty it is probably not the absolute best method for the plant, as it is a bit brutal to dig them up at this stage.
December 29th, 2016
I’ve said this before on these pages, but will say it again - holly, or Ilex to give it its grown up name, is a much, underrated shrub. It can brighten up a dull corner under trees on or the dark side of the house, you can prune it (carefully, with gloves!), cut lovely branches now to decorate the house and let it get on with growing with little or no work from you. Birds like the berries too and we get little seedlings dotted around the garden here that presumably come from beak or feathery bum. If I spot them before Peter gets out with the strimmer, I pot them up, grow them on a bit so they can stand the wear and tear of living in our garden with rabbits and large dog, and then plant them along the back of the garden, they are not very fussy about soil. A couple have now made decent sized plants, admittedly after several years.
November 1st, 2016
November can be a pretty dull and depressing month can’t it? Darker nights, colder, often wetter weather and all winter in front of us. So here are a few suggestions to make you and your garden more cheery when the sun isn’t shining:
• Plant up a pot of scented plants right by your door. Pansies and violas have a lovely perfume – I much prefer the little violas best but each to their own. Other scented plants in winter include the winter flowering Virburnums – V. x bonantense Charles Lamont has an AGM and has pretty pink, scented flowers from October through to March. If you prefer an evergreen shrub, Saraccoca confusa, sometimes called winter box, has fluffy white flowers and an amazing, all pervading scent. Finally Lonicera × purpusii 'Winter Beauty' is a lovely member of the honeysuckle family;
October 1st, 2016
Not to boast (well, perhaps a bit) but we have a luxuriant, productive fig tree by our front door. The harvest this year was bountiful and is still going on. A fresh, ripe fig with some creamy yoghurt and honey is The Best Breakfast Ever. Not to be at all competitive, but I have several pals in the village who, quite frankly, don’t step up to the mark when it comes to the Good Fig Grower badge. So I thought I’d try and find out why mine is so good and theirs isn’t. I’d like to say it is down to expertise and horticultural exellence but I can’t honestly say I’ve done much to deserve such a proud specimen of a fig tree. Apart from planting it next to a sheltered, sunny wall. And talking to it in an encouraging kind of way.
August 19th, 2016
One really good plant for late summer colour is Salvia. This is the same family as the sage we use in cooking, but it is a vast genus. I’m not so keen on the dumpy little bedding ones that you see in bright colours, often set out in more formal planting schemes. I’m talking about the perennial salvias. Many are tender, originating in Mexico, so need to be given frost free shelter over the winter. I have a gorgeous red flowered one, its flowers look like they are made out of velvet. I keep it in a pot so I can pop it in the greenhouse, it has survived and thrived like that for a couple of years but I think I may have to pot it on this year.
July 24th, 2016
Many years ago I bought a small pot of a pretty little blue plant called Pratia pedunculata. A member of the campanula family, it has that gorgeous soft sky blue you seldom find in flowers. This one is very low growing, only around one or two centimetres (less than an inch in old money). I I bought it to soften the edge of a pond.
The aforementioned pond is now well gone, but while I wasn’t paying attention the little monkey of a plant crept slowly but determinedly towards the grass. Incidentally I now longer use the term ‘lawn’ to describe the bits Peter does on the ride on mower. It is full of weeds and moss but it is green and it mows so does the same job without throwing endless chemicals at it. But I digress….