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East Bergholt Place, Suffolk

It has been one of the driest summers for a while and the gardens are all looking a bit parched. However this has been a bumper year for certain insects and there are some great plants out there if you want to attract an array of different creatures into your garden.

We hear on the news often that bees are in decline and I have seen a lot fewer butterflies this year than I have for a long time. I have always been fascinated by insects and just love to have them flitting about the garden. Some, of course, are not welcome but everything has its place and so I have decided that this autumn I am going to re-think some areas of my garden and try and make them more insect friendly. With this in mind I have decided to look and some of the plants that you could grow in your garden to attract insects and hopefully keep them visiting for years to come. 

 

Echinacea ‘Tanz Mellow’

 

Like all ‘cone flowers’ this beautiful form prefers full sun in any fertile well drained soil. As the flowers age, the cone in the centre develops as each individual flower opens. This is a great source of nectar and pollen for many insects including butterflies, bumble bees and hoverflies. It is a compact growing form only reaching about 1ft in height and spread, and so is ideal for the front of a border or in a more open spot where winds can damage taller perennials. If you have not got a garden then it is just as happy in a container as long as it has good drainage.

 

Agastache ‘Kudos Mandarin’

 

Attractive to bees, this lovely herbaceous perennial needs full sun and well drained soil to perform well. Plant it near a pathway so that when you rub past, it releases a lovely minted scent from its foliage, some people dislike this smell but I love it. If dead headed regularly it will flower all summer encouraging all sorts of different beasties!

Passiflora caerulea – ‘Passion Flower’

This vigorous climber needs good drainage and is much hardier than people realise. If we do get a cold winter, like we had this year, put some fleece over the bare stems and this will reduce the risk of it being cut back too hard. However if it does get cut back a little, then this is actually quite beneficial as it often makes the plant a lot bushier and therefore it has many more flowers.

If you have a sunny wall then this plant is a real winner.

What I love about this tropical looking flower is the scent, which is generally underrated but is quite strong, and I think smells like sugary germolene! The honey bees seem to love it as well as they are busy collecting the sticky nectar that it produces (see pictures).

 

 

Angelica gigas

 

Stunningly architectural, this herbaceous plant makes a real show when in flower. The large umbel shaped flower heads can be as big as 6-8 inches across and are made up of many individual flowers. The leaves are very attractive in their own right and unlike the normal angelica they have a bronze tinge when young and they are slightly more finely cut. The flowers are very attractive to insects especially bees and wasps. 

 

Rudbeckia ‘Cappuccino’

 

Another member of the daisy family that produces a cone like structure in the centre of the flower. This type of flower is ideal for insects as the large flat petals are an ideal ‘landing pad’ for them. Like most Rudbeckias it likes full sun and fertile well drained soil. This variety can be a bit tender in cold wet winters and so it might be useful to add some extra grit to the planting hole. Of medium height it is a useful plant for late summer colour. 

 

 

Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’

 

Single flowered Dahlias are very good for insects as they have the central boss of stamens which allow them to forage for pollen and nectar. The ‘Bishop series’ are a good group to start with but other good ones are D. ‘Twynings After Eight’, D. merkii and D. ‘Verrones Obsidian’.

Like the Rudbeckias the Dahlia has big open flat flowers which are ideal for insects. These wonderful flowers start to flower from late May, and will go on until the first frosts in October, or even November if dead headed often. There is a resurgence in their popularity and there is one to suit every one’s taste, be it bi-coloured, pompon, cactus, or dinner plate!! 

 

Sedum spectabile ‘Iceberg’ 

 

Probably one of the most well-known insect attracting plants are these, the ‘Ice plants’ (Sedums). Like a lot of good insect-beneficial plants these have a mass of small flowers born in clusters or umbels from late summer through to autumn. They are high in nectar and pollen and very popular with insects such as butterflies and honey bees. Because they have swollen leaves that contain water they are ideal plants for warm, sunny and well drained spots. They also make good container plants for hot sunny patios and terraces.

 

 

Jobs for August:

 

Climbing Roses – these have now produced their first flush of flowers and so it is an ideal time to dead head them. Tie in any new growth as it appears and give them a good feed with a high potash food such as ‘Toprose’. Once applied, water well to let the fertilizer start to work.

 

Rambling Roses – there are a few of these lovely shrubs that repeat flower but most have finished now and will need all of the old flowers cut off. Like the climbing roses above, tie in new growths as they appear and feed well, any of the flowered shoots can be cut back to 2-4 buds which encourages new growth which can then be pruned to encourage flowers next spring. 

 

Shrub Roses – when pruning these lovely plants always cut back to an outward facing bud to keep the plant in good shape, and to encourage new flowers in just over a month’s time, feed well as above and keep them well-watered.

Dry Loving Plants

It’s dry, very dry, and with that in mind this month we are looking at plants that will tolerate such conditions. Although they will tolerate such places it does not mean that they will not need watering to help get them established. These plants will gradually acclimatise to the conditions and will need less watering as they mature. 

 Agapanthus ‘Midnight Star’

 This is a beautiful deep blue flowered form of Agapanthus that is not too tall. Flowers are produced on strong upright stems  from July into August. Agapanthus are great plants for areas of the garden where you may get rabbits as they are toxic and rabbits don’t like them.

All Agapanthus love a sunny spot be it in a pot or in the ground. There are so many to choose from but two of my other favourites are A. ‘Torbay’, which flowers reliably every year with clear blue flowers, and A. ‘Twister’; a relatively new form which has bi-coloured flowers of blue and white.

 Sedum spathulifolium ‘Purpureum’

This is a great little alpine plant that loves it warm and dry. Grown for its purple-grey foliage which has a silvery bloom, Sedum spathulifolium ‘Purpureum’ forms dense clumps which are sometimes topped by yellow flowers when mature. Ideal for rock gardens and alpine troughs.

 

 Verbena ‘Lollipop’

 

Shorter than the more well-known Verbena bonariensis and therefore more suited to areas where there is more exposure. Just like V. bonariensis, V. ‘Lollipop’ produces well branched shoots that are topped by clusters of purple flowers which bees and butterflies love. This will need watering regularly in the first year to get it established but acclimatises well in drier areas of the garden. Can also look great in containers.

 

 

 Crinum powellii ‘Alba’

 

Large long glossy leaves appear from tall swollen bulbs in late spring, followed by tall elegant flower spikes which terminate in large dramatic pure white flowers. These flowers have a light fragrance. Bulbs must be planted in well-drained soil with half to two thirds of the bulb above the soil, this will ensure that the bulb flowers well each year.

 

 Sempervivums

‘House Leeks’

If you are looking for low maintenance and something for year round display then you cannot beat the Sempervivums. These drought tolerant beauties are great for containers or crevices in walls where they will form these little neat rosettes. If you are lucky then they will produce little spikes of pink flowers in summer. You often see these grown on house roofs as they need little soil to live. They are supposed to ward off Witches if you do have them on the roof!

 

 

 Geranium ‘Red Admiral’

 

Magenta red flowers are produced in great numbers throughout the summer, above dense clumps of foliage. If it becomes too leggy and looks tired just cut it back hard to about 2 inches above the ground. It will soon produce new foliage and flowers, rejuvenating it for another striking show for several months.

 

 Eryngium ‘Pens Blue’

‘Sea Holly’

Silvery-blue pin-cushion like flower clusters are produced from early summer above glaucous blue, slightly spiny leaves. It only reaches 2ft tall and this makes it ideal for planting in the middle or front of borders. Good insect plant. There are lots of varieties of these drought tolerant plants about these days, and some of my other favourites are E. varifolium ‘Miss Marble’ which has variegated foliage and very spiky flower stalks, E. planum ‘Blue Hobbit’ which is a good blue and compact and E. planum ‘Jade Frost’ which has unusual variegated foliage which is pink tinged at the start of the year.

 

 

 Albizia julibrissin f. rosea

‘Silk Tree’

An unusual tree which thrives in sheltered warm sites and can make quite a statement. The branches can be quite spreading and large leaves made up of multiple pinnate leaflets give it a tropical look which is enhanced even more when the fluffy pink and white flowers appear in July. This plant will tolerate some dryness but does need water to keep it happy but I just had to include it whilst it was flowering!

 

Jobs for July.

Flowered Herbaceous Perennials – a lot of early spring flowering herbaceous perennials have flowered and are now running to seed such as Geranium phaeum or Salvias. These can be ‘Hampton Hacked’ now. This means that they can be cut down to about 1-2 inches above the ground removing all flower stems and in the case of Geraniums all of the leaves as well. This encourages them to come back looking fresh and green and in most cases will encourage new flowers to be produced giving you more colour later in the year. 

 

Wisteria- July is the month to think about shortening back all of the excess growth that Wisteria may have produced. Tie in the growth you want to keep to cover the support and then trim any unwanted growth back to 4-6 buds. This encourages the plant to produce flowering spurs which will increase the show that your plant gives you over the coming years. These cut back shoots should be trimmed again in March to 2 buds, whilst the plant is dormant, creating a neat framework of branches. 

 

Mulch- if you are watering madly, like me, in your garden you may be thinking “How can I make this water last a bit longer?”. Well, mulch might be an answer. Once you have watered your beds and borders an application of mulch can help reduce the evaporation of the water allowing the plants to stay a bit wetter for longer. We have heard of the risk of hosepipe bans in the near future if we do not get any rain and so mulching will help to keep the garden going until the rain arrives. 

Strulch is a mulch that is made up of composted straw and comes in large sacks which are lightweight and easy to transport. If this is not something that you can get hold of then your own home-made garden compost will do just as well. You need to apply a mulch of at least 2 inches deep to help reduce the water lost by evaporation from the garden. Make sure that the mulch does not touch the stems of the plants you are mulching as it can be acid and burn some plants.

 

Happy gardening

PCM Matt

Colourful Climbers

We are almost half way through the year now, where did that go? Winter seems a distant memory but some things are still showing signs of the damage the cold winds caused, none more so than climbers who were cut back by the cold and are now just starting to come into their own.

This month I have decided to concentrate on these lovely plants as often people forget they can grow climbers almost anywhere in the garden. Perhaps this is up an existing building, tree or large shrub, along wires or up the more traditional trellis. There are so many to choose from but here are a few of my favourites for June.

 

Clematis ‘Abelene’

One of the many plants that has been bred by Raymond Everson, this plant is ideal for growing in containers or along walls and fences. It likes to have its roots in the shade like all Clematis and its flowers in the light. Being a lovely pink with a darker bar the flower lends itself to being planted in many different spots be it east or west facing.

I find that C. ‘Abelene’ will ‘wash out’ if in too much sun and that it performs really well in a north facing spot. It stays pretty perfect on that aspect in fact.

Other good Clematis for a north wall would include Hyde Hall (white), Ice Blue (pale blue/white) and ‘Samaritan Joe’ (white with a purple edge).

Clematis ‘Abelene’

Clematis ‘Parisienne’

From the same breeder as C. ‘Abelene’ and a great choice for a container as it only gets to about 1.2m (4ft) tall and flowers for ages!

I have been lucky enough to get a second flush of flowers from my one by cutting it back once the first flush has faded. It then produces new growth and flowers later in the year.

Growing Tip – Make sure it is well fed after cutting back and that will encourage those later flowers.

It seems to tolerate all aspects but does well in my west facing position. Other good forms that do well with more sun would be C.  ‘Rebecca’ (red), ‘Fleuri’ (deep purple) and ‘Sacha’ (deep blue).

Clematis ‘Parisienne’

 

Clematis ‘Josephine’

Yet another Clematis hybrid from Raymond Everson, C. ‘Josephine’ has large flowers with a huge central cluster of smaller petals which often continue to open even when the main petals have fallen.

There are several double forms and all can be grown in full sun or semi-shade in containers or directly in the ground. They range in heights from 1.8m – 3m (6-10ft). The doubles will often flower again later in the year if correctly pruned but because the plant has put so much energy into the flowers the second flush are usually single, which I prefer!

Other good doubles are ‘Charmaine’ (deep red) and ‘Diamantina’ (deep blue).

 

Clematis ‘Josephine’

Lonicera periclymenum ‘Scentsation’ (Honeysuckle)

If you like scent in the garden then a honeysuckle is a must.

One of the best is this relatively new variety which produces white flowers which fade to a lovely cream as they age. It is highly fragrant and quite vigorous. It gets to 3-4.5m (10-15ft) but can be kept smaller if need be.

Like all honeysuckles it prefers semi-shade and some moisture. The worst place for one of these is south facing as I find it is too dry in this part of the world, which causes them to become stiff and slow in growth, they often get mildew when they are too dry. If in a cooler spot I find that they grow stronger and the perfume stays for longer in the day.

 

Lonicera periclymenum ‘Scentsation’

Rosa ‘Alberic Barbier’

June is a good time for roses in the garden, this year they are a little late due to the cold winter but I have noticed that they are covered in flower buds so I think it’s going to be a bumper year for flowers.

This plant is a rambler but, unlike most ramblers, it will flower on and off throughout the summer.

The flowers are double with a light traditional rose scent, they have a hint of lemon in the centre of each flower with the outer petals fading to white. It reminds me of large scoops of vanilla ice cream!

I grow mine on chains which are secured to posts so that it forms a swag and they are covered each year in hundreds of flowers. Simply gorgeous. I replace one or two of the main stems each year and prune any side growth form the main stems back to two or three buds in early spring which encourages masses of flowers, it’s such a simple way to grow them with stunning results.

 

Rosa ‘Alberic Barbier’

 

 

Actinidia kolomikta

If flowers are not your thing then how about this handsome climber which likes a sheltered site out of the wind. West facing would be ideal but as long as it’s sheltered you can grow it almost anywhere.

The leaves start off green but some will gradually colour at the tips with a whitish pink tinge giving it one of its common names ‘The cats tongue in the milk plant’.

It does produce small pink flowers in summer which are pendulous and hide away in the foliage. It will tolerate most soils as long as they are moisture retentive and well drained. It is quite vigorous and can get up to 4.5m (15ft) tall.

 

Actinidia kolomikta

 

 

Ampelopsis brevipedunculata ‘Elegans’

A great climber for a semi-shady spot that produces lovely multi-coloured foliage. It produces flowers but they are small and insignificant. The new growth is tinged with a beautiful champagne pink which gradually fades to white as the leaves age. These variegated leaves can get damaged if in full sun.

It works well at the back of a border where it can enhance other foliage textures and shapes, or grow it through evergreen shrubs such as conifers or Pittosporums to create good foliage contrasts. It is relatively slow to get established but once it does you can get up to 1.2m (4ft) of growth each year as long as it has good fertile, humus rich soil.

 

 

 

Amplelopsis brevipendunculata ‘Elegans’

Jobs for June:

Hanging Baskets – Now the risk of frosts have finished you can safely put out your hanging baskets and plant up your tubs for summer colour. Water first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening so that the soil remains damp during the heat of the day, but never water during the heat of the day as this can increase the risk of damage to flowers and leaves. Dead head regularly to keep the plants flowering and feed often as there are a lot of plants in a small area competing for nutrients and water, as this stops them getting hungry and sick looking.

 

Old Seeds – If you wonder what to do with old seeds left over from last year or the year before don’t just throw them away. What I do is gather together what are out of date and then sift through them. Things such as Parsnips, Cucumbers, Courgette and Tomato seeds I simply throw out as often these do not have good germination when old. Old flower seeds I stick together in one large container (Margarine tub), taking them out of the packet and mixing them together, this I then liberally sprinkle in empty patches in the garden and then I wait and see what germinates. You can get some amazing combinations as it is surprising what is still viable, as long as you remember where you sowed them and don’t weed them out!

For old veg seeds such as Lettuce, Beetroot, Chard, Rocket, herbs, Peas, Mustard and Cress I do the same as above, mix them together in a tub and then sow them into a half or full seed tray. Cover them up as normal and then when they have germinated and grown to about 2-3 inches in height I cut the tops off with a pair of sharp scissors and use the tops as salad in sandwiches etc .You can create your own flavour mixes and get some great gourmet sarnies without having to buy this kind of thing from the supermarket. All its cost you is a little time and some compost. When all is cut back you can compost the roots and start again with more left over seeds. Sometimes if you are careful where you cut them they will re-grow for another crop of leaves! Have a go, it’s fun tasting your experiments!!

Happy gardening,
PCM Matt

May Flowers!

A little sun and everyone is out in their gardens getting things pruned, cut back, planted and dead headed. May is always one of the most colourful of months with so much going on and so many things to look at. Here are a few of my favourites that I rely on in my garden.

 

Pulsatilla vulgaris. -Pasque Flower

A fantastic alpines that really packs a punch when planted in a container or the front of a well-drained border. It is easy to grow and needs little attention once established.

I love its silvery sheened leaves that unfurl a bit like a fern and then the big fat flower buds that emerge. The straight specie is the most beautiful purple but if that does not float your boat, then there are also white and red forms.

It loves the sun but can tolerate a bit of shade. My ones grow in a large alpine bowl and all I do each year is cut them back when they have died down. If we have a dry spell then I might occasionally water the pot and I feed it a couple of times a year with a good general fertilizer but that’s it.

 

 

Brunnera macrophylla

I adore this plant and love its tough, rough ‘I will grow’ attitude! This plant will grow almost anywhere in the garden and some say it can be a bit invasive but I love the way that it seeds about in the most unexpected places and these are often sites were others would not dare to grow!

It will tolerate quite dense shade but can also grow in dry shady spots where others struggle. The rough leaves make great ground cover and the bright forget-me-not like flowers shine up well against them.

Tough and reliable, if you are new to gardening then it’s a real star.

 

Kerria japonica ‘Pleniflora’

A common spring flowering shrub that is ideal for a sunny or shady spot in the garden. It is a tough reliable shrub growing up to 2m (6-8ft). It does sucker about but this can be easily reduced to stop it taking over an area.

The bold double flowers stand out if planted in the shade while in the sun they have a slightly orange tinge. I find that it does well in drier areas and it is ideal for growing on banks or towards the back of a border along a hedge or fence where the soil can also be well-drained.

You should remove several of the older stems in mature shrubs from time to time to encourage new healthy shoots which will flower well.

 

 

Malus ‘Evereste’  (Crab Apple)

A superb crab apple which has interest throughout the year. From the end of April until early May it has beautiful deep pink tinged buds that open up to pure white flowers which have a light fresh scent.

These are followed in autumn by small spherical fruits that are orange and red striped. It is a good tree for any garden as it does not get too tall or wide. The leaves turn a nice shade of yellow in autumn too. It’ll be happiest with good fertile and well-drained soil.

 

 

Cornus ‘Eddies White Wonder’

This beautiful shrub or small tree is always a show stopper during May. The flower petals are actually bracts.

It likes a cool root run and hates drying out in mid-summer and needs a good fertile but well-drained soil. Growing it in semi-shade helps to reduce the risk of the bracts being damaged by the sun which can dry out the edges and cause brown tips.

I have it growing in a pot which it does not seem to mind and seems to flower readily every year. As mentioned it hates to dry out and so growing in a pot can be risky but as long as it’s happy why not?

I have far too many plants in pots in the garden but unfortunately working in a Plant Centre there are just so many things that you cannot live without and so pots are the only answer as my garden is full to bursting!!

There are lots of Cornus that flower during May and early June. Other favourites are C. kousa var chinensis which has masses of white flowers, C. kousa ‘China Girl’ who’s bracts fade to pink as they age, Cornus ‘Norman Hadden’ which is a statuesque tree that is simply smothered in flowers which are followed by strawberry-like fruits and C. capitata which is similar but has more pointed leaves and needs more shelter from cold winds.

 

 

Hippocrepis eremurus

A semi-evergreen shrub that always performs well in any soil. It flowers its socks off each year. It is a bit of a strange plant in that it has a lax habit and so will need some support.

It grows very similarly to Coronilla but does not have the light primrose scent that Coronilla has. They are closely related and like a similar sight that is warm and sheltered out of the cold winter winds that we can get in this part of the world.

The golden yellow pea-shaped flowers are produced in masses and it flowers for about six weeks or so from May into June but can be as early as late April in a sheltered position. I have seen this grown as a wall shrub fanned out against the wall or up an obelisk as a centre piece to a planting scheme.

 

 

Clematis montana var. rubens

If climbing plants are your thing then Clematis montana and all its different forms is something that you must have at least one of in your garden.

Planting Tip: This is a vigorous climber that is ideal for growing through larger shrubs or trees to give them more interest in May or for growing over or up a building be it a shed, garage or just a pergola!

I have C. montana var. rubens growing along chains with my rambling roses and it does very well. It has its roots in the shade of a large shrub and its flowers in the sun like all Clematis prefer.

It is a rampant grower and so can be pruned to shape if needs be which promotes more side growths and therefore more flower production. They flower for about 4 weeks but are covered in masses of white or pink flowers depending on which one you grow.

I like C. var. rubens as it has very dark foliage which contrasts nicely with the pink flowers. Other good forms are C. ‘Marjorie’ with its semi-double flowers with pointed petals in a metallic pink colour, C. ‘Elizabeth’ with its subtle faded single pink flowers and C. var. grandiflora with single pure white flowers.

 

Jobs for May:

Dead Head Daffodils – Now that the Daffodils and Narcissus have faded it is time to remove the spent flower heads. Don’t cut back the whole flowering stalk just nip off the old flower and seed pod at the top of the stalk. This will allow all of the goodness in the flower stalk to be absorbed back into the bulb for next year. Allow the leaves to die back naturally, don’t cut the foliage off or tie them in a knot as this will reduce the plant being able to build itself back up to flower again next year. If you want to give them a hand and make sure that they will flower again next year then give them a good liquid feed once a week until the foliage starts to die back with something like a seaweed based feed, this will help to build the bulb up to flowering size again.

 

Split Daffodils – If you have had clumps of Daffodils and Narcissus that that have not flowered this year (gone blind) then now is the time to dig them up separate the bulbs out and replant in groups of 3 to 5. This will allow the bulbs to grow to flowering size in the next year or so and you should have flowers in about two years-time. Feeding as above once split will help this.

Events:

Sunday 13th May – Garden Open in aid of St Elizabeth Hospice 2-5pm. One of the best months to visit the garden and have a stroll around and enjoy it at its most colourful and raise money for a very worthy charity.

Sunday 3rd June – Garden Open in aid of St Marys Church East Bergholt 11am-5pm. This event is in partnership with several other gardens open within the village. Home-made teas available.

 

Happy gardening,
PCM Matt

Tough Plants for Cold Gardens

The cold spring continued far longer than welcomed but it wasn’t all doom and gloom for gardens as has meant that some plants have flowered for longer than expected. For example some of the early flowering Daphne’s, Snowdrops and Aconites. As we have had some very cold temperatures there is also the chance that there will be less pest attack this spring. One can only hope! Lots of plants are starting to grow and just need the sun and some warmth to encourage them along. With this in mind I am looking at some of the stalwarts that flower whatever the weather.

Leucojum ‘Gravetye Giant’

A stunning and elegant spring bulb that produces pure white nodding flowers which are delicately tipped with green. It is ideal for any position in the garden as long as it is not too dry or too windy as it can get flattened in an exposed site. I find that it does well in a semi-shaded spot where its flowers really stand out. Like all bulbs allow the foliage to die down naturally so that all of the goodness goes back into the bulb for next year.

Above: Leucojum ‘Gravetye Giant’

Corydalis solida ‘Beth Evans’

A great bulbous perennial that has pale grey-green ferny foliage and dainty rose pink flowers with a white stripe appear in April. It will grow in any soil as long as it is well drained and makes a great addition to a rock garden, mixed border or as a stand-alone plant in a container. As the flowers age they fade to a lovely pale pink.

Above: Corydalis solida ‘Beth Evans’

Ribes ‘White Icicle’

One of my favourite early spring flowering shrubs that is as tough as old boots. It can grow almost anywhere from quite dense shade to full sun and in a variety of soils from quite dry to quite moist. It needs a bit of time to get going but when it does it rewards you with masses of pure white cascading flower spikes that have green calyx’s. It is tolerant of an open position and unlike some winter shrubs seems to revel in the colder frosty gardens.

Pruning Tip – To encourage it to produce more side shoots and therefore more flower trusses for next year, prune it a couple of times during the growing season and that will stop it becoming a bit straggly.

Above: Ribes ‘White Icicle’

Oemleria cerasiformis – Oregon Plum

This unusual shrub is ideal for a woodland setting or a north facing position as it does prefer some shade. It flowers on almost bare stems and produces drooping catkins that have white scented flowers. The light, fresh scent is reminiscent of almonds. It is a suckering shrub and grows to about 2m (6ft) tall eventually. The leaves are oval and elliptic in shape a good bright green. My one at home flowers for about 4-6 weeks depending on the season and I grow a late flowering Clematis vitcella ‘Alba Luxurians’ through mine so that I have a similar colour in that part of the garden later in the year.

Above: Oemleria cerasiformis –Oregon Plum

Forsythia intermedia ‘Lynwood’

A familiar spring shrub in many gardens but one that is often overlooked at this time of the year for it shear brilliance. It is popular because it will tolerate a huge range of aspects and soils, growing almost anywhere which makes it so invaluable. Tough and durable even if neglected it can be cut back hard to regenerate it and within a year or two will be back to its best. Ideal at the back of the border or as a hedge and for the novice gardener.

Above: Forsythia intermedia ‘Lynwood’

Trachystemon orientalis

A shade loving, early spring flowering tough herbaceous perennial. This plant will grow in quite dry soils I find at home. It can be a bit invasive but well worth a try if you have a shady spot where things struggle. Short 60cm (1ft) tall flower spikes of reflexed cornflower blue flowers appear in late March into April, followed by large, rough textured leaves that persist into early winter. It will tolerate quite dense shade and is ideal along the base of hedges and under trees. Very good for insects.

Can you spot the bee?

Above: Trachystemon orientalis

Jobs to do in April:

Frost damaged plants – looking around the local gardens the winter does seem to have caused some damage to certain types of plants, especially the less hardy forms. It may not be until May that the true extent of what has been caught will be seen. With plants that have been damaged wait until there is some regeneration of growth before cutting them back, just in case we do get a late frost which will damage cut back plants further. If it has not been cut back the frost will work on the old damaged growth and therefore protect the newer shoots lower down. As soon as the new growth has reached a few inches in height the damaged shoots can be cut back.

Events:

Sunday 29th April – Garden Open in aid of the National Garden Scheme. 2-5pm.
Sunday 13th May – Garden Open in aid of St Elizabeth Hospice. 2-5pm.

What a dramatic week we have just had; snow drifts, roads blocked and biting easterly winds. Now we have the thaw is setting in (hopefully) we can look forward to warmer spring days and plants of interest unfurling their leaves and producing intricate flowers. This month we look at six favourites for March with my top tips for planting for each plant. Don’t forget we have our Spring Open Weekend March 24th and 25th so hopefully the garden will be looking great and we’ll have a full range of activities and plants in stock.

 

1) Coronilla glauca ‘Citrina’

    

This has to be one of my favourite spring flowering shrubs. It is a slightly lax habit and therefore often needs support. The photographed Coronilla g. ‘Citrina’ is growing through a 1.2m (4ft) obelisk. This helps to stop it flopping across the ground. It looks great tied in along a low wall and I have even seen it planted at the base of some old rambling roses to hide their old stems to good effect.

 

The primrose scented, pale lemon, pea-like flowers are produced from March until June and then again from September until November. Although my one has been in flower for most of the year.

Planting Tip – They like a well-drained soil and sheltered site, out of the cold winter winds, which can chill exposed foliage. Like Cistus it dislikes being cut back too hard, so I prune mine back to the last leaf along the stem which then encourages the plant to produce new shoots from further back in older wood. It seems to work for me!

 

2) Iris unguicularis – ‘Algerian Iris’

Iris unguicularis is a tough little plant, nothing seems to prevent it from growing. It likes a well-drained site and is ideal planted at the base of a wall in very shallow soil. Throughout the late autumn through to the spring it produces delicate pale blue flowers which have a bright yellow stripe.

 

The flowers appear in flushes during mild weather conditions but March is when it reaches its peak. It has a close relation which it is often mixed up with called Iris lazica, this has slightly shorter leaves and a darker blue flower.

Planting Tip – I find that both forms grow well at the bases of light canopied trees such as Birch or Rowan.

 

3) Lathyrus vernus ‘Alboroseus’

Lathyrus vernus ‘Alboroseus’ is very early flowered perennial pea. It produces delicate nodding flowers during late March. These flowers are pale pink in colour and have a darker pink stain towards the base of the petals.

 

Is this is too pale for you? Lathyrus vernus, the straight specie, has deep maroon-purple flowers which look great in full sun at the front of a border.

Planting Tip – Only growing to 15cm (6 inches) in height, this is a great plant for the front of borders especially those in dappled shade.

4) Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ is beautiful plant and you can expect deep cerise pink buds to appear in bunches above the foliage this month. These buds open out to pale pink flowers with the deep pink stain on the back of each petal and to top it off, each leaf has a fine gold rim. This highly fragrant plant makes a great addition to any garden. It’s a slow growing evergreen that only produces about 15cm (6 inches) of growth each year.

Planting Tip – Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ prefers dappled shade and a cool root run that does not dry out in summer. With age it can become a bit bare at the base and so I suggest that you under plant it with a shade loving clump forming perennial such as a Campanula or Geranium.

 

5) Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’ (AGM) – ‘Daffodil’


There are so many Daffodils to choose from at this time of the year so I thought I’d mention one variety that is an absolute must in any garden. N. ‘Ice Follies’ is an old favourite having been bred in 1953 and been popular ever since. Like most Narcissus, this is deer and rabbit proof and the flowers have a light fragrance. ‘Ice Follies’ are quite tall, growing up to 40cm and will clump up quite quickly.

Planting Tip – Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’ will clump up quickly so it’s a great choice for creating a ‘natural’ look especially in a new garden.

6) Akebia quinata cream form – ‘Chocolate Vine’


In sheltered spots this climbing plant is evergreen but in a more exposed position it is often semi-evergreen. In March through to April hanging bunches of scented flowers appear. These have cream petals with maroon-purple stamens and stigma. The scent is lovely being a sweet almond and honey with a hint of chocolate. The leaves have 5 lobes and it is quite vigorous in growth. It can grow 3m (10 feet) in a season!

Planting Tip – I cut mine hard back each year so that I can see the flowers when they appear. When training it against a wall you need to get the growth as horizontal as possible which helps to slow the plant down and encourages more flowers. The normal specie Akebia quinata has flowers that are completely maroon-purple and are very conspicuous, especially if grown against a pale wall.

 

Jobs for March:

Moving Plants – if you have to move a plant because it is in the wrong position then now is the time to do it. If you make sure that you leave a good root ball at the base of the plant then you should get good establishment. If you move the plant during March then you have the whole of the growing season for it to root in to its new position. Make sure that you plant it to the same depth as it was planted before, any deeper and there is the likelihood that it will rot off and too shallow means that the roots will dry out and be less likely to grow away well. Make sure that the plant is fed and watered well for the whole of the growing season.

Seed Sowing – March is probably the busiest month in the seed sowing calendar. There are so many things to choose from. Quite a few will need heat to germinate well such as Tomatoes, Begonias and Cucumbers. If you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse then this is made easier but if not then a good lit windowsill will work just as well, just remember to turn your plants once a day so that they grow nice and straight.

 

Events:

Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th March Spring Open Weekend. Come and see our range of lovely plants in the Plant Centre or browse the garden sundries and gifts in the shop. Why not have a stroll around the beautiful garden and then pop into the Café and have a coffee and indulge yourself with one of our delicious cakes, some of which are gluten free. We look forward to seeing you.

Happy Gardening.
PCM Matt.

Late Winter Wonders

Spring is just around the corner, one more cold and wintery month to go. There are lots of lovely plants to look out for at this time of the year some of which have been in flower for a few weeks now. Snowdrops and Iris reticulata’s are just coming out in my garden. While winter aconites are now appearing in the woods locally and Hellebores are  starting to push up their fresh green flower shoots in a wide array of colours. There is nothing like getting outside on a bright crisp morning and enjoying these beautiful plants. With all that in mind here are a few of my favourites for February.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’ – Witch Hazel

If you want something to encourage you to get out and in the cold months of the year then you must plant a Hamamelis in your garden. These have wonderful spidery flowers which gradually unfurl over a day or so. When fully expanded several varieties produce a sweet spicy scent. H. ‘Jelena’ is one of my favourites as it has a lovely mixture of colours on the petals. They are a rich coppery burnt orange in the centre and gradually fade to a zesty orange-peel colour towards the tips of each petal.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’

The scent is light and sweet. Like all Witch Hazels they prefer a soil that does not dry out in the summer. If you want lots of flowers then nip the tips of the new growth out when they have grown to about 30cm (1ft) long as this encourages side shoot development and therefore more flower bud development. There are lots of different varieties to choose from some of my favourites include H. x intermedia ‘Diane’ with its deep burgundy red flowers, H. x intermedia ‘Aphrodite’ with deep cinnamon-orange flowers, H. x intermedia ‘Pallida’ with lemon yellow flowers and a very good scent and finally H. x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’ which has sulphur yellow flowers and flowers later than most.

Chimonanthus praecox ‘Luteus’ – Wintersweet

If I had to choose my favourite plant, Chimonanthus praecox ‘Luteus’ would definitely be in my top 10. I can’t imagine my garden without this at this time of the year. It is an absolute stunner. The straight species C. praecox has greyish- yellow flowers with a deep maroon centre.  Whereas C. ‘Luteus’ has sulphur yellow flowers with a very pale stain or sometimes no stain at all. The scent is incredible as it drifts through the garden on a still crisp winter’s morning.

Chimonanthus praecox ‘Luteus’

 

Unlike some shrubs the scent lingers all day too. Grow this on a north wall in a walled garden where scent cannot escape simply delicious. My one has been in flower since the New Year and will continue to flower until the end of February. They respond well to pruning and produce lots of side shoots which will bare flowers the following year if pruned regularly. They are tough and hardy and do well in colder spots in the garden too.

Helleborus orientalis – Lentern Rose

It always amazes me just how tough these early herbaceous perennials are. They push up out of the ground when all else is still only just starting to think of growth. Hellebores produce an array of different coloured, single or double flowers which the early bees adore. These plants love a humus rich soil with lots of leaf mould. They will grow in full sun but prefer to be in semi-shade. Nowadays there are lots of named forms and groups which produce flowers with central spotting, swollen nectary’s (as in the picture below), or with fancy coloured petal markings.

Helleborus orientalis ‘Double Yellow’

Helleborus with large nectaries

 

I personally like the older forms which tend to breed with one another and create lots of seedlings which in a few years will flower, that’s the exciting bit seeing that new plant flower for the first time and discovering whether it’s a stunner or not!

Sarcococca hookeriana ‘Purple Stem’ – Christmas Box

If you want a good dense reasonably short growing evergreen then you cannot beat Sarcocca hookeriana ‘Purple Stem’. There are quite a few species and cultivars of these now to choose from. S. ‘Purple Stem’ is a suckering shrub that will get to roughly 1m (3′) tall and 1.2m (4′) wide. It produces clumps of pink tinged white flowers that have almost no petals and long stamens. They release a sweet soapy scent which smells better outside than in (in my book). Like all of this genus they prefer full shade as they tend to go yellow in full sun.

Sarcococca hookeriana ‘Purple Stem’

Daphne bholua ‘Jaqueline Postill’

Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’

If fragrance is something you search for in the garden then why not try a Daphne. D. bholua is a tall growing specie which can get to 2m (6′) tall. This evergreen (or semi-evergreen in cold winters) prefers full sun to semi-shade in fertile, humus rich soils that are well drained. The scent is incredible and carries through the garden on the slightest breeze.

I am lucky enough to have one in my garden at home which flowers usually from late January until mid to late February depending on the weather. There are other good varieties to look out for such as D. bholua ‘Spring Beauty’ which has a slightly darker mauve flower in bud and D. bholua ‘Gurka’ which is often deciduous in winter.

Iris reticulata ‘George’

Along with Snowdrops (Galanthus), Iris reticulata are often out in flower in early February. They thrive in well-drained soil that has good fertility in full sun or part shade. They are a good subject for growing in pots and make excellent companions with alpines in troughs and rock gardens. There are many different cultivars which range in colour from pure white to deepest purple. Some to look out for include I. reticulata ‘Pauline’ which has rich royal blue flowers with golden markings on the lower petals. Also I. r. ‘Natasha’ which is pure white with orange markings and I. r. ‘Katherine Hodgkin’ which has a mixture of pale green and blue flowers with yellow markings.

Iris ‘George’

Jobs for February

Snowdrops – now is the time to split up those dense clumps that have stopped flowering or that are too congested. Dig up the clump, separate out into smaller clumps, and then replant to the same depth as they were in the ground. I tend to plant my clumps of Snowdrops in groups of 5 bulbs as I feel this looks more natural than one here and there.

Potatoes – if you want to grow your own delicious potatoes or have always wanted to, then now is the time to have a go. Some of my favourites include ‘Juliette’ which is a main crop variety. The tubers it produces are beautifully waxy when you eat them and make great new potatoes with salad in the warmer months to come. The best potato salad I have made was made with these! ‘Charlotte’ is a good second early potato which reliably crops and is nice tasting. ‘International Kidney’ is better known as ‘Jersey Royals’ and is often the first to crop if you get them planted under protection now. Grow in pots or potato planters with a good compost. I find that a minimum size of 10 litre pot works well, any smaller and the yields tend to be small.

Events:

Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th March is our Spring Open Weekend. Come and see our range of lovely plants in the Plant Centre or browse the garden sundries and gifts in the shop. Why not have a stroll around the beautiful garden and then pop into the Café and have a coffee and indulge yourself with one of our delicious cakes some of which are gluten free. We look forward to seeing you.

Happy gardening.
PCM Matt.

Ever Present Evergreens

Happy New Year to all, let’s hope that this year is as good for growth as the year just past. I don’t think I can remember a year where so much growth was produced. Things that I planted out early on in the year really established well and so with that in mind I will try and do the same this year.

This month I am looking at some of the background plants in the garden – the evergreens. At this time of the year the structural plants of the garden are more noticeable i.e. hedges and specimens. Evergreens are often underrated for what they add to the garden but at this time of the year they play their part especially when covered in frost or a light dusting of snow.

Taxus baccata – ‘Yew’


Probably one of the most versatile evergreens that you can use for hedging or topiary as in the picture. It can grow in almost any position being tolerant of both sun and part shade. It will also grow on a wide range of soil types (except the very wettest of soils). It creates a very dense hedge which is strong and more vigorous than people think. This allows you to be able to cut it into quite intricate shapes which can look fantastic, especially with the setting sun behind. You can be as daring as you wish with what you decide to create be it a peacock, mushroom, fish or crane!

Fatsia japonica ‘Spiders Web’


This reasonably new variety is great for a shady spot in the garden where it will show off all year! The leaves are covered in little white dots which join together to form larger white patches between the veins which gives it that ghostly appearance. Like the straight green form it creates a tropical effect. Looks great in an ornate pot in a shady courtyard or on a north facing wall.

Pittosporum ‘Warnham Gold’

This is one of my favourites of the Pittosporums as it’s a bit odd! In the spring and summer it is a plain green colour but as the nights get longer and the days get cooler it starts to transform into the most beautiful shade of lemon. The leaves contrast really well against the shiny black stems and twigs during the winter. Like all Pittosporums it does not like a cold wind so it needs a sheltered site but this does not mean it needs to be hidden away. It makes a lovely statement plant when planted amongst other shrubs. And unlike a lot of this group of plants it will tolerate some shade. It will need pruning from time to time to keep it under control as it will get large up to 3m (10ft) or so. If you do need to prune it then never cut into old wood where there are no leaves as it does not re-grow, always leave at least one pair of leaves on a stem to encourage new growth.

Correa alba – Australian Fuchsia

Not really a background plant but I just had to put this into the mix this month as again it’s one of my favourites for this time of the year. This lovely evergreen flowers from October through until April in most years but needs a sheltered spot in a south facing position with good drainage. The silver grey scaly foliage is very rounded and looks great against the long tubular white or slightly green flowers. If we get snow you will need to keep an eye on this shrub as it is quite brittle and can break. There are several good forms of this plant such as C. backhousiana which gets to a similar height 1.2-1.5m (4-5ft) and has brown tinged tubular flowers and C. ‘Marion’s Marvel’ which has two tone tubular flowers of pink and green.

Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’

A slow growing bushy evergreen with golden splashed holly-like foliage. Although it looks like holly the leaves are not as prickly. This will tolerate all sorts of conditions in the garden being able to grow in full sun or shade and in any soil type except the wettest of soils therefore making it a very versatile plant. On mature plants flowers will be produced in late summer which are pure white and fragrant. Its eye-catching foliage makes it ideal for a mixed border or as a stand-alone specimen. Being quite tough it also does well in cooler spots of the garden where frost can be a problem.

Camellia hiemalis ‘Kanjiro’

Another plant that has been performing for a while now, in fact the autumn flowering Camellias have been in bloom since the end of October! This one will get to 2m (6-8ft) and thrives in a semi-shade in a good humus rich acidic soil. ‘Kanijiro’ is one of the longest flowered forms and will keep flowering through until end of February. If you are lucky enough to have a conservatory or a nice cool porch you could plant it in a pot and bring it in for this time of the year and enjoy its sweet lightly fragrant flowers. Other good autumn and winter flowering Camellias include C. sasanqua ‘Hugh Evans’ with its scented slightly curled pale pink flowers or C. sasanqua ‘Rainbow’ with its scented white flowers which are suffused with pink.

Clematis ‘Wisley Cream’

This is one of those plants that look as if it will perish as soon as the frost arrives but it is one of the toughest little evergreens around. It is best planted in fertile humus rich soil that is well drained but moisture retentive. Like all Clematis it likes a cool root run, so will benefit from having its roots shaded at all times whether that be by gravel, slates or just good under-planting. The delicate nodding creamy-green flowers appear throughout the late autumn and winter and contrast nicely with the deep green leaves. On milder days it has a very light almond fragrance but you do need a good sense of smell to detect it! Grow it through other climbers such as climbing roses or through trellis where it will make quite a show. I have it growing through an old climbing rose and some ivy (Hedera helix) and it looks great. C. ‘Freckles’ with its deep maroon blotches is another variant if you want a bit more colour which works well over a pergola so that you can look up into those drooping flowers!

Jobs for January.

Tidy your borders – With spring on the way now is the time to start looking at the borders in the garden. Cut down the remains of last year’s herbaceous perennials, have any outgrown there space? Do they need lifting and splitting? Or did they not perform as you would like? These are questions that you may find yourself asking at this time of the year. You can, as long as it’s not too wet or frosty, get all of these jobs under way this month.

Lift and split those that are congested or have grown into other plants. This will encourage healthy new growth and often more flowers and will give you more plants to play with. I always use an old pruning saw to divide my herbaceous perennials as this gives you a nice clean cut. Dig up the clump that has got too big with a fork or spade trying to reduce the risk of tearing the clump and place it on a flat surface. Then using the saw cut it into as many pieces as you see fit, as long as you have some root and a growing point visible on each section. Then when you have divided it up seal the edges with some yellow sulphur or last years old rooting powder! This reduces the risk of the cut edges rotting.

Then all you have to do is replant it to the same depth as it was in the border and it should grow away with added vigour this year. Anything extra can be potted up and given away to friends and relations. For the plants that did not perform, either be ruthless and dig them out and try something else or give them another year to establish and feed and care for them and see what happens.

Events:

Snowdrop and Garden Walk. Tuesday 6th February 2018. 10.30am
Our annual early tour of the garden with Rupert Eley the owner. Come and see the garden before it is generally open and listen to Rupert’s vast knowledge of all things Horticultural. Rupert will guide you around the garden and tell you some of its history and look at the plants that are at their best this season.
Tickets £19 (RHS members £15) – ticket includes tea/coffee and cake on arrival. Booking advised for this ever popular event. Please wear stout shoes or boots as the garden is slippery at this time of the year.

Happy gardening,
PCM Matt

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Well the home grown trees are cut and ready for sale, Holly and Mistletoe gathered and Wreaths made so the nursery is looking very festive. We have decorated the shop and put together a lovely display of gifts too. I really enjoy the run up to Christmas and all that glitter that goes with it. With this in mind I am looking at the plants that you can use for decoration in this month’s blog. Don’t forget also that you can still book on to Sara’s Wreath Making Course, further details here. Perhaps you can bring along cuttings from some of the plants we look at in this blog.

 

Cotoneaster ‘Cornubia’ – A very Christmassy plant which is covered in red berries which the birds, especially Thrushes, adore. It is evergreen but can lose a few leaves if we get a very cold winter. It is ideal for any soil as long as it does not sit wet during the winter and makes a handsome tree. It can be pruned to keep it under control or grown as a hedge. It makes quite a dramatic plant when grown against a wall where it can be trained to encourage flower and berry production. The berries last well when cut to be added to wreaths and it looks great added to table decorations.

Above: Cotoneaster ‘Cornubia’

 

Hedera helix – AKA: Ivy. A beautiful native plant that really comes into its own at this time of the year. The lovely flower spikes have just finished and the berries are now swelling and are ideal to use in arrangements. I have some water pipes that are exposed in our kitchen and I always dress these with Ivy and Holly and some other evergreens and then hang baubles or orange segments from them, it looks great and is very simple to do. Ivy is a very useful plant in the garden as it will grow almost anywhere and is very good in those difficult areas such as dry shade. It can be used as ground cover or to grow up a very dark wall. This also creates good nesting sites for secretive birds such as Wrens.

 

Above: Hedera helix

 

Skimmia japonica ‘Female’ – An evergreen shrub that is female. If you want berries you will need to get a male form as well such as Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’. The latter also has handsome flower spikes in March and beautiful pink buds throughout the winter.

These prefer a slightly acid soil and like to be grown in the shade so are ideal for that difficult dark corner on the patio or courtyard where they need to be grown in pots. This variety produces large fat shiny red berries that are generally too big for birds to swallow. They are very useful to add to wreaths and last for quite a while in arrangements.

 

Above: Skimmia japonica ‘Female’

 

Cedrus deodara-Deodar Cedar– A very large statuesque tree that produces tiered open branches that weep slightly. Branches are covered in light glossy needles. This Cedar is not a tree for a small garden but it does make a bold statement if you have some space to grow it. Because of its lax habit on the new growth it is a good foliage for putting around the base of an arrangement or for draping over picture frames or along the mantelpiece.

It combines well with Holly and Ivy and can be used in making garlands for draping over the banisters or around doorways.

 

Above: Cedrus deodara-Deodar Cedar

 

Ilex ‘Nellie Stevens’-  AKA ‘Holly’. You cannot talk foliage for Christmas without mentioning Holly. This is not a form of our native holly but it is as good. I. ‘Nellie Stevens’ is hermaphrodite and so, unlike the native holly, you do not need separate male and female plants for berries.

Like all hollies it is easy to grow and will tolerate all sorts of aspects and soil types. The only thing it dislikes is very wet soil. This plant is ideal for a wildlife garden or for that area of the garden where access is difficult. They are easily pruned to keep under control and grow very well in pots if you want to make a statement either side of a doorway. They need little attention except the odd watering to get it established.

 

 

Above: Ilex ‘Nellie Stevens’

 

Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’- AKA: Tassel Bush. Ideal for a shady wall or woodland garden. This lovely evergreen shrub produces long silvery-green catkins which can be up to 15cm (6”) in length. These appear now but will unfurl to release their pollen in early spring.

These long catkins can be used in wreaths and other Christmas decorations and last very well. It is a large growing shrub but is quite slow and so takes a while to establish. It is quite an eye catcher when the catkins are fully extended and will tolerate a cold position which makes it ideal for a north facing wall.

 

Above: Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’

 
Picea abies – Norway Spruce or ‘Christmas Tree’. The traditional tree that we decorate with baubles and other festive paraphernalia. There is something about the smell that this tree releases (that lovely resinous fresh smell) in the house that just says Christmas.

If you buy one with roots then you can keep it from year to year as long as you look after it. For a cut tree it is essential that you sit it in a container that you can keep topped up with water as they lose a surprising amount over the Christmas period and will drop their needles if allowed to dry out. The ready-made metal tree stands with 3 or 4 feet are very useful and have a water reservoir built in. The screws in the neck help to keep the tree steady when screwed in to the trunk. Which is useful if you have a dog or cat that like to tree climb!!

 

Above: Picea abies

 

 

Jobs for December:

 

Terracotta Pots– Now we are getting frosts at night it is a good idea to make sure that your terracotta pots are lifted off the ground with pot feet. This reduces the risk of the pots cracking and flaking.

 

Fruit Pruning– Apples and Pears have dropped their leaves and so now you can see the outline of the branches. When it is not frosty you can prune them to encourage more fruit next year and remove anything that is diseased or rubbing. Try to get a nice even shaped tree with plenty of air movement around the branches which will help to reduce disease attack next year. Always cut to an outward facing bud to ensure you reduce the risk of rubbing branches.

Happy Christmas to all our customers and all those who have visited the garden over the past year. Thank you for your custom and we look forward to seeing you around the Plant Centre next year.
Happy Gardening, PCM Matt

Well it’s still mild and no real sign of winter on the way as yet, but if you listen to old tales, then we are in for a hard winter. This is on account of there being lots of lovely berries about. So while it’s not too bad out there why not venture out and see what takes your fancy? But if that’s a bit too energetic then here are a few plants that I think should not be missed.

 

Callicarpa bodineri ‘Profusion’- the Beauty Berry.  
A really good shrub for its exquisite purple berries which last well into the New Year. It is quite big getting to about 1.8m x 1.8m (6 x 6ft). However, with a bit of pruning this can be kept under control. Pruning Callicarpa encourages more side growth development and therefore more berries with time. It likes good fertile soils which are not too dry and has quite good autumn colours.

Above: Callicarpa bodineri ‘Profusion’

 

Berberis ‘Georgei
A large growing member of the Barberry family, Berberis ‘Georgei’ produces long racemes of yellow flowers in spring. Later, the flowers (which bees seem to like) are followed by juicy dangling clusters of red fruits in autumn (as in the picture). Deciduous and spiny it is ideal for banks and drier areas and will tolerate some exposure.

Above: Berberis ‘Georgei’

 

Euonymus myrianthus
Euonymus myrianthus is very large shrub or small tree which has evergreen, long, mid green leaves. In spring it produces clusters of insignificant flowers which are followed by stunning orange and pink tinged seed capsules. These capsules contain pale cream seeds surrounded in a bright orange coating. It prefers to grow in partial shade but will tolerate full sun. The fruit casings hang on for most of the winter even once the seeds have been shed.

Above: Euonymus myrianthus

 

Pyracantha ‘Saphyr Juane’ – Firethorn.
One of the many forms of Firethorn which are often used for hedging and covering walls and fences. The saphyr series are known to be resistant to scab and fireblight which some of the older forms can get. Masses of pure white flowers are produced in spring followed by abundant fruits (this one is yellow but the others in the series are red or orange). If you are into feeding your garden birds then a Pyracantha is a must as several of the Thrushes love the berries. Although if you prefer to keep your berries then know that the yellow tend to be the last to be eaten which means you have longer to enjoy them!

Above: Pyracantha ‘Saphyr Juane’

 

Malus hupehensis – Crab apple
A species of crab apple that gets up to 9m (30ft) and produces a lovely rounded habit. Pure white flowers are produced in abundance in spring which are followed by small cherry-like fruits. Fruit turn bright scarlet as they mature. The fruits last well into winter before they fall as they are pretty hard and need time to ripen.

Above: Malus hupehensis

 

Malus ‘Comtesse de Paris’ – Crab Apple.
A beautiful yellow fruited crab apple that has oval fruits with a tapered base. These last on the plant up to Christmas or the middle of December if we have a lot of frosty weather. The flowers of this are pink tinged especially in bud and then they open out to almost pure white. Attractive to the bees and a good pollinator tree for dessert and cooking apples when in flower, it makes a good small tree for the garden getting to about 5.5m (18ft) but this can be reduced with good pruning. Certainly a popular one in the Plant Centre!

Above: Malus ‘Comtesse de Paris’

 

Cornus ‘Norman Hadden’ – Flowering Dogwood
C. ‘Norman Hadden’ is an unusual fruited plant for this time of the year with these round fleshy hanging Lychee-like fruits. These are edible but don’t really taste of anything! A tall shrub or small tree getting up to 6m (20ft) and liking a cool moist root zone that is well drained and does not dry out in mid-summer. Masses of white bracts (flowers) are produced in June above rich green foliage. It will grow in full sun or dappled shade but does not want to be too exposed.

Above: Cornus ‘Norman Haddon’ fruit

 

Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’ –Rowan
A very good tree that has a very nice habit being quite upright when young but as it ages and produces berries the branches slowly relax forming a nice goblet shape. Masses of white flowers appear in the spring followed by berries that often start off a green-pink and fade to a lovely pale lemon, often with a few spots. The autumn colour is pretty good too! Turning rusty browns and oranges. Good on any soil as long as it does not sit wet in winter and dry out badly in summer.

Above: Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’

 

 

Jobs for November:

Bonfires – When we are cleaning up the garden some of us have a bonfire to get rid of the rubbish we have created. Before lighting this please check for Hedgehogs as they find these irresistible at this time of the year as they are now looking for places to hibernate for the winter. As it has been very mild of late they are still out and about so this could be more of a problem this year. Why not replace your bonfire with a snug hedgehog house in a quiet part of the garden?
Bare Root Fruit and Hedging – November is traditionally the time to start thinking about getting fruit trees planted as the soil is still warm to enable establishment before the cold of the winter. Bare root hedging is also ideal for planting from mid-November onwards as long as the ground is not solid with frost. It’s always a good idea to get this done earlier rather than later when there are plenty of plants available.

Happy Gardening,
PCM Matt

Magical Autumn Colour

October is one of my favourite months of the year. This month dramatic colours are painted across the landscape on many deciduous trees and shrubs. This is the final fling for many plants before they go to sleep for the winter. These colours can be enhanced by the soil that the plant is growing in. For instance Betula (birch) trees in the garden here turn the most wonderful hues of yellow with a tinge of orange as we are lucky enough to have acidic soil. Whereas at home, my birch trees turn lemon and butter yellows as I have a neutral soil. This can be put to great effect with plants such as Acers as their colours can be dramatically different on acid or alkaline soils.

The autumn colours have started early this year probably due to the reasonably dry summer and the very cool week at the beginning of September. Hopefully this means that we are in for a nice prolonged splash of colour (as long as we get no wind). There are so many things that could be included in this month’s blog that I have had real trouble trying to decide what to mention. I hope you like my final selection and if you have any comments, please feel free to contact me.

Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Lane Roberts’– A magnificent tree for autumn colour which is often mistaken for an Acer. The easy way to know the difference is by the leaves. The middle ‘finger’ of the palmate leaf is always longer than the rest on a Liquidambar. Whereas Acers ‘fingers’ are always the same length.

Above: Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Lane Roberts’

This lovely plant prefers deep fertile soils that are moist but well drained. They do not like to dry out in summer. On acidic soils it turns scarlet and mahogany colours whereas on neutral or slightly limy soils it tends to turn more orange and yellow. This is a big tree but there are some smaller forms such as Liquidambar orientalis and Liquidambar ‘Gumball’ both of which have good autumn colours.

Above: L. s. ‘Lane Roberts’

 

Sorbus ‘Pink Pearl’ – A very good tree for medium sized gardens which produces masses of shiny pale pink berries in autumn and winter. Like a lot of Sorbus (Rowans) it has very good autumn colour as well, turning rusty browns and deep reds. Good on any soil except wet, and forming an open and airy tree it creates dappled shade and therefore enables things to be planted right underneath it without problem. Other good Rowans for autumn colour include S. ‘Joseph Rock’, S. torminalis, S. ‘Olympic Flame’ (which is also known as ‘Dodong’) and S. ‘Autumn Spire’.

Above: Sorbus ‘Pink Pearl’

 

Gingko biloba (Maidenhair Tree) – This relic from the age of the dinosaurs is fascinating. It produces two lobed leaves in the spring which are a light green in colour and slightly droop to resemble a maiden’s hair. In autumn it turns a rich butter yellow which really stands out against the other autumn tones. These are big trees in general but there are some shorter varieties.

Above and right: Gingko biloba

Acer rubrum– probably one of the best of all the autumn colour trees there is. A. rubrum will become a large tree but can be pruned to shape to keep it under control. Like the Liquidambar it can be manipulated by soil type and therefore you can see it in different gardens in many shades over the autumn. On acid soils its turns scarlet and deep red and on less acidic soils; orange, scarlet and flame reds.

There are a number of named forms which have very good colour during the autumn such as Acer rubrum ‘October Glory’ which turns brilliant red.

Above: Acer Rubrum

 

 

Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ – If some of the plants I have mentioned are too big for your garden then what about this lovely form of Japanese Maple? A. palmatum ‘Bloodgood has deep burgundy leaves through the summer which turn the most amazing scarlet in autumn. It gets to around 3m (10ft) tall with time but must have acid soil to grow in. This does not need to be a  problem as it can be grown in a container easily and so you can enjoy this colour transformation anywhere as long as you have dappled shade to protect it from the strong sunshine in summer.

Above: Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’

 

Cotinus coggygria–  A beautiful shrub for the garden that has stunning autumn colour in September and October. Continus coggygria is suitable for growing in a slightly more exposed position where it colours well. It can get quite large up to 10.5m (12ft) or more but can be grown in a container quite easily. The photographed A. p. ‘Bloodgood’ has grown in a pot in an east facing position. There are several good forms that colour well during the autumn such as C. ’Grace’ with its large leaves and brilliant red colour, C. ‘Flame’ which turns orange and yellow with a touch of red and C. ‘Royal Purple’ which can turn bright scarlet if we have some cooler frosty weather.

Above: Cotinus coggygria

 

Parrotia persica (Persian Ironwood) – related to Hamamelis (Witch Hazel) this plant is large growing, easily getting to 18m (60ft). Parrotia persica prefers a slightly acidic soil which helps enhance the autumn colours. You may think that this plant is too big for you to grow at home, well, no it is not. The P. persica in the photographs is growing in a large pot at my home. It is about 3.5m (12ft) tall and 0.5m (5ft) wide and, at the moment, is looking spectacular. It has a beautiful array of colours from lemon yellow through to orange, red and burgundy.  I feed it from time to time and keep it well watered with rain water where possible in hot weather. I think that if you like a plant why not try it, there are no boundaries to how you grow them.

Above: Parrotia persica

 

 

Jobs for October:
Planting Bulbs – October is the best month for bulb planting as the soil is still warm to promote root growth and has some moisture from the recent rains (although we could always do with more). Ideally plant the bulb double its depth (as a minimum) as this helps to ensure that the flower stalks stand up in the early spring gales that we often get.

There are bulbs for every situation whether it be containers, baskets, naturalising in grassland, planting in bedding schemes or just planting in borders. Make sure that you store them in a cool dry place, if you don’t have time to plant them straight away, which is frost and rodent free.
Events – Autumn Open Weekend Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th October – come and see our new range of trees for this autumn. We have a tour of the garden with Rupert Eley on each day over the weekend starting at 11.00am (booking advisable). We also have an advice centre set up in the first tunnel of the Plant Centre for all of your gardening questions. The Café will be serving Coffee, Tea and Cakes all weekend so pop along and have a great time.

Happy gardening,
PCM Matt

Early Autumn Colour and Late Summer Flowers

It is now meteorological autumn but as I wander around the nursery and garden, I still see some lovely plants that will give a final burst of colour before we rely solely on the autumn colours. Blasts of yellow, orange, red and burgundy to name a few. Some of these plants have been in flower for a month or two now but will keep on until the first frosts.

The garden at The Place for Plants is well known for its spring colour from Rhododendrons to Camellias and Magnolias. However over the past few years we have been planting a more varied selection of plants to increase colour for summer. Some of those include Hydrangeas, Roses and Clematis. This months blog will look at these and other plants to consider for extending that late summer colour.

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Ayesha’ (on acid soil)

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Ayesha’– my favourite Hydrangea of them all with its lilac flowers which have a slightly upturned raised edge to each petal. On acid soil (like in the garden at The Place for Plants) it is the most beautiful blue with a slightly washed out centre. However on chalky soils it turns the a delicate pink often with a blue eye (as seen in the picture below). H. ‘Ayesha’ has quite showy blooms and is a good plant for semi-shade. Any soil is fine as long as there is some moisture retention. It makes quite a large plant growing up to 1.8m (6ft) tall.
Like all hydrangeas you can grow it in a pot which will restrict its growth. This makes it much more manageable for all gardens, as long as they have some shade. If you don’t have acid soil then planting it in a pot with a mixture of ericaceous compost and John Innes Number 3 will give you the blue flowers you want.

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Ayesha’ (on chalk soil)

Euonymus alatus– one of the ‘American spindles’ that is part of the National Collection that we have here in The Place for Plants garden. This plant is ideal for the smaller garden and is great for a slightly more exposed position which will encourage it to turn into its brilliant reds and burgundies when the weather starts to cool at night. E. alatus start to turn at this time of the year and will be in colour for a month or so. These are often the precursor to the glories of the other plants that make autumn so spectacular. It likes a good soil which is well drained.

Euonymus alatus

Euonymus bungeanus ‘Dart’s Pride’– Another member of the National Collection although E. ‘Dart’s Pride’ is taller than E.alatus. This plant has the most beautiful autumn colour, turning with translucent yellows and pinks. The fruits are creamy-green in colour and almost insignificant compared to the autumn colour. It is a difficult plant to obtain so I like to wander around the garden at this time of the year to watch it change over the coming month.

Euonymus bungeanus ‘Dart’s Pride’

Clematis ‘Bill Mackenzie’– A lovely species climber that produces thick lemon-peel like flowers throughout the autumn right through until the first frosts. It is a vigorous plant climbing up to 6m (20ft) in height and is ideal for a slightly exposed position. Clematis ‘Bill Mackenzie’ will grow in any soil as long as it is moist and fertile. It combines well with rambling roses and looks great when grown through larger specimen shrubs such as conifers or hollies.

Clematis ‘Bill Mackenzie’

Verbena bonariensis– A stalwart of the herbaceous and mixed border! Verbena bonariensis is a must for any gardener who wants colour for about 6 months of the year; it just goes on and on. The beautiful open airy habit allows it to be placed in the front or the back of a border and the delicate pale mauve flowers combine nicely with many other plants. Verbena bonariensis likes a warm sunny spot that is free draining and will seed itself everywhere if allowed to. Although I find that it does not like to grow in disturbed soil as this often prevents the seedlings getting established.

Verbena bonariensis

Jobs for September:
The great autumn clean up – this will be an on-going job for the next month or three as autumn approaches. Now is an ideal time to make a leaf mould clamp. First, find an area of the garden where it can be placed and simply knock four posts into the ground. Then put some chicken wire around these to make a fenced in area. Any leaves that you rake up can then be placed in here and in a year or two’s time they will have made the wonder stuff that is leaf mould. This black gold, as organic gardeners often call it, is ideal for adding structure to your soil. Use it as a mulch around woodland plants and this will increase the water holding capacity of your soil and its micro-organism activity as well as improving the structure.

Happy gardening,

PCM, Matt.

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