To mark International Women’s Day last week, we talked about influential women in horticulture, both past and present who have shaped the way we garden today:
Gertrude Jekyll – 1843-1932
Gertrude Jeykll is well know for her collaborations with Sir Edwin Lutyens with whom she created 100 gardens or designs, many of which survive to this day, for example the walled garden at Lindisfarne Castle. She created over 400 gardens in the UK and US and liked the effects of “drifts” of colours in vast herbaceous borders, planted in a very natural way. She contributed over 400 articles to The Garden, Country Life and other publications.
Vita Sackville West – 1892-1962
Vita Sackville West is probably most famous for her garden at Sissinghurst which she created with her husband Harold. She was a poet, novelist and journalist as well as prolific diarist and letter-writer. Her open marriage to Harold and consequent relationship with the novelist Virgina Woolf was portrayed sensitively in Vita and Harold’s son Nigel’s 1973 book Portrait of a Marriage. Vita wrote a longstanding column in The Observer (1946-1961).
Famous for her gravel garden constructed from a car park at her garden in Essex, Beth Chatto is an inspiration for gardeners the world over. Her mantra has always been ‘right plant, right place’ – in other words, instead of fighting against the conditions you have in your garden, go with them and choose plants which will thrive in those conditions, however difficult.
Well-known for presenting on BBC Gardeners World, Carol Klein has written many instructive and beautifully-photographed books on several aspects of gardening. Her down-to-earth approach and enthusiasm has led her to become one of the most popular gardeners on our screens today.
Alys Fowler has been a presenter on BBC Gardeners World and writes a regular column for the Saturday Guardian. She is known for her promotion of eco-friendly and thrifty gardening and for creating a garden where vegetables grow happily amongst the flowers and fruit trees.
Even though the weather is still bitterly cold and snowy, our thoughts turned to weeds which we should be looking out for already. Lots of weeds to follow – the less glamorous side of gardening….
Hairy bittercress – Cardamine hirsuta
This plant spreads prolifically on bare soil, the surface of containers and pathways. The seeds can be introduced unwittingly into gardens from plants bought at garden centres and nurseries, spread by an explosive mechanism up to 1m away and further if carried on the wind. It has a short life cycle and will produce many generations in a season.
Common daisy – Bellis perennis
This evergreen perennial forms rosettes of dark green spoon-shaped leaves and pink-tinged, yellow-centred white daisy flowers in late spring/early summer. It is a particular problem if growing on prized lawns or bowling greens. We agree that it’s actually quite pretty and not such a problem in our more ‘natural’-growing lawns!
Red deadnettle – Lamium purpureum
This plant is in the mint family and has a long growing season from February sometimes through to November. Bees love it and in Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire it was traditionally known as ‘bumblebee flower’. The ‘dead-nettle’ alludes to its lack of sting. Its aromatic leaves are heart-shaped, hairy and have toothed edges and sometimes the leaves may be tinged purple towards the top of the plant near the flowers.
Broadleaf plantain – Plantago major
This medicinal plant is sometimes used to heal wounds and soothe insect bites. They are unsightly weeds that appear in compacted and neglected lawns. Their leaves are lance-shaped with thick stems and spiky clusters of tiny green flowers in late summer. The best way of preventing their spread is by keeping the lawn well-aerated and healthy.
Speedwell – Veronica filiformis
This attractive, long-stemmed blue-flowered perennial has the ability to root quickly and can soon take a hold on lawns and in borders allowed to go unchecked. It is spread by lawn clippings on the compost heap and by stem sections cut by the lawn mower.
Ground elder – Aegopodium podagraria
This fast-growing, very invasive weed will crowd out less vigorous plants in the border. It is easily-spread from stem fragments brought in from other gardens in manure or compost or on the tread of boots. Great diligence is required to stop its spread from other gardens by this last method – always clean your boots after gardening! Acanthus plants have been known to smother it but it is very difficult to get rid of once it has taken hold. Some gardeners put Mypex membrane down to smother it but this may take ages to take effect.
Petty spurge – Euphorbia peplus
This garden native is an annual which is most prolific from April to May. When damaged, the stems exude a milky sap which can be an irritant to skin. The seeds spread explosively when ripe and the plants are thought to be poisonous to cattle and horses.
Cleaver/sticky willie – Galium aparine
This hedgerow plant is usually spread to gardens on the fur of animals or the clothing of passers-by. One plant can produce 300-400 seeds which are easily spread and can remain in the soil for up to six years. Its sprawling stems have whorls of slender leaves and its green-white flowers are produced from May – August. The stems, leaves and seeds have stiff hooked hairs.
Creeping buttercup – Ranunculus repens
This grows very close to the ground and prefers damp soil where it will grow strongly and root deeply. It will grow on lawns, bare soil patches and in borders and its presence often indicates the need to improve soil struture and improve drainage. It has spreading runners and glossy yellow leaves.
Groundsel – Senecio vulgaris
This annual weed is ephemeral and will produce many generations in a season. The flowers are self-fertilised, the seeds germinating at once and then widely dispursing on the wind. The plant has a variable habit and leaf shape, depending on whether the land it is growing on is frequently disturbed – the more often the disturbance, the more variable the form. It has diuretic properties and has been used as a medicinal plant in the past.
Dandelion – Taraxacum officinalis
This perennial is a persistant problem in lawns. However, it does have medicinal properties and is an early source of pollen and nectar for insects. It spreads prolifically by seed and regenerates from broken tap roots. Over 200 microspecies have been identified in the British Isles with 28 different different species being found on the South Downs alone.
Chickweed – Stellaria media
This common annual produces several sets of seeds throughout the season and can become a real probem if its spread is not checked. Although it will tolerate many different growing conditions, it does prefer rich soil and so may be an indicator of soil fertility. It has bright green pointed oval leaves and tiny, white, star-shaped flowers which are most noticeable in spring and autumn. The seeds can spread in compost and manure and also on muddy boots. They have been known to be viable after 25 years and will soon germinate if brought to the surface by cultivation.
Hedge bindweed – Calystegia sepium
This is a common sight winding its way around garden canes and stems, choking the plant in the process. It has quite pretty white trumpet-shaped flowers and the main problem is its underground creeping rhizomes which are extremely difficult to remove – each broken rhizome will regenerate into a new plant. The best way to eradicate this plant is by regular digging out and hoeing, taking care not to break the stems and roots as you go. However, it will take a good few years to eliminate it entirely from your garden.
The main points to take away from this both in the garden here and in our own gardens are that we must be careful what we throw on the compost heap and also what we transport on our muddy boots….
Enough of weeds!
Jobs this week:
- Removing the willow and birch supports from the bed underneath the hawthorn tree and then tidying up around it.
- Cutting down the cornus stems on the Winter Bed so that they grow upright at the same rate for next winter. It is hoped that this will produce more striking stems for our winter display.
- Cutting off the rosehips on the rambler in the apple tree.
- Pruning Rosa ‘Frances E. Lester’.
- Pruning the miscanthus and tidying around the loganberry by the greenhouse.
- Weaving additional tunnel supports for the edible peas.
- Finishing weaving the main tunnel for the sweet peas.
- Digging over the veg bed, removing any leftover tulips (growing from last year) to the Winter Bed and improving the soil.
- Taking out the supports from Rosa ‘Charles de Mills’ and pruning it right down to the ground.
- Planting out aquilegias, scabious and (potted) hyacinths (from the house).
- Planting waterlilies and Butomus umbellatus (Flowering rush) by the pond and pruning the hydrangeas.