May is usually known for its exuberance in flowers and colour. Foliage is often overlooked but don’t under estimate it! This month the freshly emerged leaves are at their best as they have not had the exposure to the ravages of the weather. Foliage is very important especially in smaller gardens as this can create great impact whereas flowers can be fleeting. As I walk around the Plant Centre and the Arboretum or my own garden at home I am always amazed by the vibrancy of newly emerged foliage. So, I thought, why not talk about this month it would be so easy to talk about things in flower but let’s look at the background and revel in it.
A really beautiful suckering shrub which will tolerate a wide range of situations from full sun to dappled shade. The new growth emerges with a reddish/ bronze tinge which gradually fades to lemony-green. These finely cut pinnate leaves are topped with small white panicles of flowers in summer. It is ideal for borders and great on banks due to its suckering habit.
Matteuccia struthiopteris- Shuttlecock Fern
Foliage does not have to be coloured to be dramatic as with the leaves of this beautiful fern. I absolutely love this plant, it looks amazing in a semi-shaded position especially when lit from behind. It does however need a moist soil which does not dry out, but digging in lots of leaf mould or compost will help to combat this. It will sucker and move about in the garden often finding the damper areas. It looks great when combined with other dramatic foliage such as Gunnera or the bronze leaved Astilbes.
Sorbus aria ‘Lutescens’- Whitebeam
The newly emerged foliage of this handsome tree is a striking silver in colour and it makes a great addition to any garden. The felted/ hairy leaves will darken slightly as the year progresses but it always has a silver tinge. It will tolerate most soils (except very wet) and is good in full sun.
Philadelphus coronarius ‘Aureus’
Ideally suited to a shaded spot in the garden (where it will show up) and which has a moist soil that does not dry out. It can suffer in too hot and sunny sites as the leaves can get dried out along the edges. The highly scented flowers appear in May/June and these look great against the bright lemon yellow leaves. A real must for anyone with a north facing wall it’s just fantastic!
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Tom Thumb’
A wonderful evergreen shrub that has dark maroon purple mature foliage. In the spring the new growth is bright green which contrasts against the mature leaves. As the new growth ages it gradually turns maroon. These changes in foliage colour give this plant quite a lot of interest throughout the year. It likes a sheltered site and fertile well drained soil but is ideal for the smaller garden as it only gets to about 4ft in height and spread. It naturally forms a rounded shrub therefore the need to prune it is limited making this a great shrub for low maintenance gardens.
Physocarpus ‘Lady in Red and P. ‘Dart’s Gold’
A plant that seems to be under the radar for most people and should be more widely grown. It produces attractive palmate leaves which vary in colour depending on the variety. ‘Lady in Red’ has a distinct ruby red flush to the new growth followed by small white flowers in clusters during the summer. As the foliage ages it darkens to a deep mahogany red. ‘Dart’s Gold’ has lovely golden yellow foliage which needs some protection from full sun which can burn it. This means that it is ideal for shady borders and especially good for north facing ones. Small clusters of white flowers are also produced during the summer.
Jobs for May.
Pruning– Shrubs that have flowered already this year such as Forsythia and Chaenomeles (Japonica) can now be pruned to encourage new growth. This in turn will mean lots of flowers for next year as they will flower on the growth that is produced from pruning now.
Bindweed– Now we have had some warm weather bindweed is now stretching away and climbing through everything in the garden. To try and eradicate it you need to stick a bamboo cane near to each of the twining stems and unravel them from the plant it is climbing up. Then twine it around the cane. Now you can spray it with a glyphoshate based weed killer. This way you don’t risk spraying the plant you want in the garden and have every chance of getting the spray to work on the bindweed. However you may need to do this a few times.
Tuesday 9th May – Climbers and Wall Shrubs – Come and listen to Martin talk about these fascinating plants. He will have tips and ideas on plants for all aspects and soil types. Call 01206 299224 and book your place. Tickets £15.00 (RHS Members £13.00). Talk includes tea/coffee on arrival and entry into the garden.
Sunday 14th May – Garden Open in aid of St. Elizabeth Hospice. 2-5pm. Cream Teas.
Spring Woodland Beauties
Spring has certainly sprung, what a glorious few weeks we have had of late. Everything is bursting open and rushing into flower. I love the excitement of this time of year, it’s so lovely to walk around the garden and see what’s newly out every few days. It really makes all the hard graft worth it. My favourite place at the moment is the shade structure with all of its interesting woodland perennials. This is the best time for woodlanders, they are at their height of interest as they make the most of the early spring sunshine before the canopy of leaves overhead develops and blocks out the light.
One of my favourite groups of plants are the Epimediums. These form dense clumps of evergreen foliage from which thin delicate flower spikes appear in April in an array of colours. Epimediums like shady spots under trees and will tolerate some dryness as long as they have a good humus rich soil. One of the easiest to grow is Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’ (pictured) which produces golden yellow flowers and makes dense clumps. Epimedium x rubrum is a more delicate form and produces rosy red flowers but still makes good clumps in time.
Another spring favourite are the Wood Anemones. All of the Anemones, nemorosa forms do well in dappled shade with a good humus rich soil that has some moisture. Of these my favourites are Anemone nemorosa ‘Robinsoniana’ (pictured) with its silvery-lilac single flowers. While Anemone nemorosa ‘Alba Plena’ has lovely double white flowers. If you don’t have a woodland setting in your garden then you can grow these beauties in a north facing site which stays cool all day.
Polygonatum x hybridum or ‘Solomon’s Seal’ (pictured) is an old favourite for the shady area producing long arching sprays of foliage. Delicate tubular white/cream flowers appear in April. These flowers are often edged with green. Like a lot of woodland plants these do prefer a good humus rich soil which can retain some moisture and, with time, these can form quite dense clumps. The highly variegated form known as Polygonatum x hybridum striatum make a striking plant when the foliage is fresh.
Now those of you who know me know that I am a bit of a perennial geranium fanatic! Now is the time to start thinking of these wonderful plants that flower for months on end. These will tolerate a wide range of sites but this month we are looking at plants for the woodland or shady border so why not find room for one of the following.
Geranium phaeum ‘Langthorn’s Blue’; (pictured) a beautiful plant that will tolerate full sun or dappled shade. It will flower for months and certainly is worth a place in the shady border. Its beautiful deep mauve/blue flowers with overlapping petals appear in April and it will keep flowering until June. Bees love it, especially the small bumble bees. It does tend to seed about which is one of the things I love about it and it cross-breeds with all other geraniums freely so the seedlings that come from it are often different colours.
Geranium phaeum ‘Album’; this really shows up in the shady spots in my garden at home and becomes almost translucent towards dusk giving it a ghostly appearance.
Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Bevans Variety’; a tough hardy evergreen mat-forming perennial geranium. This plant loves shade and even quite dry areas. I grow this under several trees in my garden at home and they thrive, in fact they can be a bit of a thug. There are several varieties but ‘Bevans’ is my favourite with its ‘Barbie’ pink flowers and strong scented leaves. It flowers only the once each year but makes up for it with a mass of flowers for about 6 weeks.
Finally something completely different, a nettle! Yes, you heard me, but this is a beautiful one. Lamium orvala is a large clump forming dead nettle that produces striking pink flowers with delicate veining. Loved by many insects but especially bees. This likes dappled shade and some humus rich fertile soil with some moisture but once acclimatised to your garden will actually tolerate quite dry conditions. It forms dense clumps and can be cut back hard after flowering to encourage a second flush of flowers.
Jobs for April.
Bird Boxes – If you have not got around to putting up your bird boxes now is an ideal time to be thinking of getting it done. The birds are looking for places to raise the next generation. Make sure you site them away from where predators can reach them and out of full sun.
Watering – When watering newly planted plants it is always better to water well rather than little and often. Give plants a really good soak so that the water gets to the bottom of the root system. This can be done by leaving your hose on a trickle for 5-10 minutes per plant (especially trees) so that the water percolates down into the root zone. This will then reduce the risk of the plant surface rooting and therefore drying out and maybe dying if you go away for the weekend or longer.
Happy Gardening PCM, Matt
Sunday 9th April– Garden open in aid of the National Garden Scheme 2-5pm.
Thursday 13th and Friday 14th April– Easter Trail come and see what you can find in the garden!
Sunday 23rd April– Garden open in aid of the Red Cross
Tuesday 25th April– Where To Start Sorting Out Your Garden Talk – make sure you book your place on this informative talk by Penelope Walker.
Musings of a Plant Centre Manager:
Acid Lovers Take Centre Stage
Looking around the Plant Centre and Garden you can see that the momentum of spring has started. Buds are starting to swell and break and all sorts of plants are coming into flower. This is true of a lot of the acid loving (ericaceous) plants which tend to produce early spring flowers.
Camellias are a favourite of mine with their myriad of colours and flower shapes. The single flowered forms are the first to open followed by the double and bi-coloured forms later in the month. Camellias produce their waxy looking flowers over several weeks and so will still be going into April or May, especially if we have cooler temperatures without frosts.
Below: Camellia ‘Alba Simplex’
Below: Camellia ‘Donation’
Camellias should be planted in a west facing position as this helps to reduce the risk of frost damage to the flowers when they open. Damage is caused by the sun warming the flowers up too quickly causing the frost on the flowers to melt fast burning the petals. In a west facing site the sun takes longer to get to that position and therefore the flowers have de-frosted more slowly and therefore no burning occurs keeping them perfect.
Below: Camellia ‘Adolphe Audusson’
Another lovely acid loving plant in flower during the next month and into April is Stachyurus praecox. This elegant shrub gets quite big with time (up to 8ft or 2.4m) and needs a dappled shady spot in the garden. At this time of the year it produces slender drooping racemes (flower spikes) of pale sulphur yellow and cream which have a very light fragrance. These appear on the bare branches and so look stunning. The leaves will appear just after the flowers fade in April.
Below: Stachyurus praecox
Pieris are a good group in the acid family to get to know. Being evergreen, like the Camellias, and producing masses of lantern-like flowers even on young plants. Pieris are ideal for growing in pots and, as long as they are grown in shade, they can grow in almost any garden. The flowers can vary in colour from ivory-white to bright vivid pinks. The new foliage that is produced each year starts off a wonderful flame red and fades to green with age. All in all another plant that has a good amount of interest for a long time during the year, well worth a try.
Below: Pieris ‘Passion’
The other plant I must mention this month is again one of my favourites for the woodland garden or shady spot; Corylopsis sinensis. Corylopsis sinensis is another shrub which produces flowers on bare stems at this time of the year. Although this will grow in most soils compared to the others and so does need to be planted in a specifically acid compost. The bright conspicuous sulphur yellow flowers hang down from the branches in bunches and have a slightly spicy scent. This gets to roughly 6ft (1.80m) tall and produces rounded slightly serrated leaves which look very much like Hornbeam. It can be slow to get established but boy is it worth the wait when it flowers!
Below: Corylopsis sinensis
When I plant an acid loving plant in a pot I always use a mix of ericaceous compost (specific compost for these acid loving plants) and some John Innes No2 or 3. This is because I have found over the years that if you just use ericaceous compost, the pot can retain too much water causing poor plant establishment and die back. Mixing the two types of compost together allows the best of both worlds I have found, allowing you to have the correct acidic compost for the plant with the benefits of the John Innes, which are better drainage and better nutrient retention, which in turn gets the plants established well.
Jobs for March.
Seed sowing– now is the time for lots of things to be sown ready for the coming year such as Mangetout and Sugar Snap peas, Lettuce and of course flowers such as Cosmos and Cornflowers. When sowing your seed just sieve over enough compost for the seeds to disappear so that they do not get buried too deep. This will ensure good germination. Always read the seed packet first as some seeds do not want to be covered!!
Seed potatoes– Get these chitted (placed in somewhere frost free in an old egg box is best, with the end of the tuber with the most eyes in it facing upwards) these will start to produce shoots from each eye and then when they are 2 centimetres in length get them planted out in the garden, or try growing them in pots or sacks. It’s a great way to get children interested in vegetables.
Happy gardening! PCM, Matt.
Spring Open Weekend 25th and 26th March. 10am-5pm.
Musings of a Plant Centre Manager:
Early Spring Gems.
The cold weather has held things back so much this season. Snowdrops (Galanthus) are only just starting to peek out from their sword shaped leaves. I really like this time of the year when these little gems start to appear. It means that warmer days are not far off! There are so many beautiful forms to choose from. I can see why some people pay hundreds of pounds for the odd and unusual.
Galanthus ‘Richard Ayres’ is one of the varieties that we have for sale in the Plant Centre this year. Galanthus ‘Richard Ayres’ is a variety I have wanted for my own garden as it has longer outer petals than the more traditional Galanthus nivalis ‘Flore Plena’ (double snowdrop) and a darker green marking on the inner petals. There is also a green mark towards the throat of the flower.
Above: Double Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis ‘Flore Plena’).
We also have a yellow form too, this is Galanthus ‘Primrose Warburg’ which has a distinctive yellow ovary and markings on the inner petals. The yellow forms are always a little slow to bulk up but well worth the wait when they flower.
Galanthus look fantastic when under planted around trees such as Betula utilis var. jacquemontii ‘Grayswood Ghost’. This Betula is one of the white stemmed Himalayan Birches. Alternatively consider planting Galanthus under Prunus serrula, the mahogany barked cherry. They also combine well with other small bulbs. Winter Aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) and dwarf Iris, such as Iris reticulata, are some of my personal favourites.
Left: Helleborus ‘Lily’
Evergreen clump forming Helleborus are a welcome site too. Helleborus prefer dappled shady spots beneath trees. If you want to try growing these beautiful harbingers of spring then all you need is some good leaf mould or planting compost dug in the area. There are many varieties to choose from and the range of colours expands every year.
Here are a few that you might like to try: Helleborus ‘Painted Bunting’ which is a real stunner with delicately tinted off-white single flowers. Beautiful mauve-pink staining gets darker towards the centre of the flower. If you prefer a more ‘blousy’ flower then maybe one of the double forms would appeal; Helleborus ‘Lily’ is a lovely form which has mauve-pink petals with darker veining and flowers profusely in my garden. While the peachy-cream flowers of Helleborus ‘Sparkle’ are always showy and they contrast nicely with the thick, leathery, grey-green, evergreen leaves.
Left: Helleborus ‘Painted Bunting’
Jobs for February.
Planting Snowdrops– It is always best to plant Snowdrops ‘In the Green’ which means when they are actively growing. They should be planted at the same depth they were grown in the ground or pot which is usually double the depth of the bulb. It is best to plant them in informal groups so that they look more natural. I always plant mine in small clumps of 3 bulbs and mass them together, planting about 10cm (3-4 inches) apart. You can buy these at The Plant Centre in pots or in bags of bare root bulbs.
If you have already got some established clumps of snowdrops that do not flower very well then it is time to dig them up and separate them out. Replant them as above and they should flower better next year.
Tree Planting – when planting trees make sure that you add some of the mycorrhizal fungi to the root system. This will attach itself to the new roots as they are produced andhelp the plant absorb more nutrients. Trees planted with this establish faster and they grow away quicker.
Happy gardening! PCM, Matt.
25th-26th March 2017.
Come and enjoy the growing season with our wide range of plants, sundries and gift ideas.
Activities and timings will be advised nearer the Weekend.
Welcome to Plant Centre Manager’s (PCM) first blog. ‘Musings of a Plant Centre Manager’ is a new gardening blog and will be posted monthly. PCM will focus on which plants are looking good now as well as jobs to do. PCM welcomes any feedback and indeed any views on plants and gardens.
For many, a new year allows a fresh start and yet it is easy for thoughts of the garden to be cast aside. However, there is still plenty to do to which will also help burn off a few of those Christmas calories! Now is also a good time to blow the cobwebs away and visit the Plant Centre. There is fantastic range of plants for winter interest available.
Our first gardening thoughts are usually on colour. The bright winter stems of Cornus look wonderful in these cool cloudy days. However, scents should not be underestimated and PCM particularly likes the sweetly scented winter flowering Viburnums. Right now, Viburnum ‘Charles Lamont’ and ‘Deben’ are budding up nicely. Or try Viburnum farreri for an earlier flowering specimen.
Viburnums are surprisingly hardy shrubs and ideal if you have an exposed garden. They are easy to look after and tolerate pruning (after flowering) so can be grown in all gardens. Viburnums are one of those plants that always encourages PCM out into the garden, even on bitter days, to have a good sniff of that shampoo scent.
Plant Above: Viburnum farreri
If you like your scents a bit more spicy then you cannot beat the scent of some Hamamelis (witch hazels). Hamamelis generally flower from December to February, depending on their location. If planted in a more sheltered site, Hamamelis start to unveil their bright delicate spidery flowers from December onwards. However in a more exposed position flowering may be delayed until January. A lot of people think that Hamamelis are difficult to grow. However, as long as the plants have a good fertile soil which is neutral to slightly acidic then they perform really well.
Plants Above: Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Pallida'(AGM) and H. × intermedia ‘Jelena'(AGM).
Hamamelis make fantastic container plants for the shady patio or terrace. Be careful not to allow them dry out in July and August when the flowers are forming. PCM always prunes containerised Hamamelis in spring (March/April). Reduce this year’s growth by a third and remember to prune to an outward facing bud. Correct pruning will encourage side shoots and keep the plant from producing crossing branches. You can have a plant of 1.20m (4ft) covered in flowers for a good month or two if pruned correctly every season.
There are so many varieties of Hamamelis to choose from but PCM’s favourites are ‘Pallida’ with wonderful rich scent and spidery sulphur yellow flowers; ‘Jelena’ with rusty orange-red flowers which have long delicate petals and ‘Vesna’ which is a bit of a mixture of the two having yellowish-orange tinged flowers and a slightly more upright habit.
Jobs for January:
Tree Pruning– now most of the trees have shed their leaves you can see their structure. PCM always has a good look at the trees in his garden. Look out for any rubbing branches that could be removed. Consider the general outline of the tree and prune lightly. PCM has got carried away before so remember to keep stepping back to assess! Some trees bleed sap if they are pruned too late in the season such as Acers and Betulas. PCM always prunes these trees as close to Christmas as possible. This gives them time to heal before the big rush of sap that they have in spring. Always use sharp tools and sterilise them between plants.
Shrub and Bush Rose pruning – these can now be pruned to reduce wind rock (plants being rocked out of their root system by wind). Shortening the stems back to half of this year’s growth can reduce this risk significantly.
Dead Leaves– rake and sweep these up and put them in a separate area to your compost to make leaf mould. When this is composted (next year) it will create a great additive to your compost and makes good mulch for those woodland plants.
Snowdrop and Garden Walk.
Thursday February 9th 2017.
£15.00 per person (RHS members £13.00).
Join Rupert for a tour of the garden, please wear stout outdoor shoes as paths can be slippery.
Happy gardening and all the best for 2017.
Matthew Tanton Brown, Plant Centre Manager
Sunday 10 July – Following the sighting of an adult Barn Owl swooping towards our Owl Box on the edge of the garden David kindly came out to check. Three female Barn Owl chicks were recorded, ringed (GV30747/48/49) and measured, aged between 48 and 55 days old and in good condition with an average weight of 378grams. David was particularly pleased there were 3 as most Barn Owls this season are only rearing one or two chicks.
Thank you to the Marlin Owners Club for choosing to stop at The Place for Plants for a pitstop it was fantastic to see all the cars in the car park and to meet the owners.