First of all, a few more photos of our morning at West Dean a couple of weeks ago. The gardens certainly brought out the creative photographers amongst us.
Back to this week. Despite being so cold, it really felt like spring was on its way in the garden today with the first Iris reticulata popping up and buds appearing on some of the trees and shrubs.
We started the day with an exercise to see whether we could determine from the size and appearance of seeds whether they are hardy or half-hardy annuals and whether they require heat to germinate.
To recap, the seeds of hardy annuals (HA) can be sown in situ during the autumn or spring and can usually withstand frosts and low temperatures. However, sometimes it may be necessary to cover them with a cloche or horticultural fleece if particularly freezing temperatures are forecast. (It is thought that it is better to sow hardy annuals in the autumn as you end up with bigger and stronger plants which are more disease-resistant).
Examples of hardy annuals are:
Calendula officianalis – pot marigold
Nigella damascena – love-in-a-mist
Half hardy annuals (HHA) meanwhile, need to be sown and grown under glass and may only be planted outside when the risk of frost has passed – usually mid-May in the south of the country but later perhaps further north. Some HHA benefit from being sown in a heated greenhouse and covered with a thin layer of vermiculite. As a rule, the smaller the seeds, the more likely they are to need heat to germinate.
Exampls of half hardy annuals are:
Nicotiana sylvestris – flowering tobacco
Tagetes – French marigold
Cobaea scandens – cup and saucer vine
Our Plant I.D. this week was based on trees. It is often difficult to identify them at this time of year when the branches are bare and so it was useful to take a look at a few common species found in our gardens, parks and countryside:
Fagus sylvatica – common beech
This large deciduous tree has a broad, spreading crown. It’s leaves are yellow-green in spring and turn to a rich-russet brown in the autumn. It isn’t ideal for a small town garden as it can reach up to 12m high and 8m across.
Sambucus nigra – common elder
This large bushy shrub or small tree (up to 6m high) produces small fragrant cream flowers in early summer, followed by small black berries which are a good source of food for birds.
Betula pendula – silver birch
This medium sized deciduous tree has attractive drooping twigs and striking white bark which becomes blackened at the base. It produces catkins in spring and its leaves turn yellow in autumn. It is possible to maintain the pale colour of the bark by washing it with warm water and a soft brush or cloth.
Alnus glutinosa – common alder
This attractive decidous tree is not one for the small garden as it can reach 25m in height. It has a conical shape in its early years and produces purple-grey buds and catkins which can be easily spotted in winter.
Aesculus hippocastanum – horse chestnut
This broadleaf deciduous tree is a common site in our parks. When the leaf stalks fall from the twigs in autumn, they leave a scar shaped like an inverted horse shoe with nail holes. The tree’s conkers used to be gound up and given to horses to cure them of coughs and this association may explain their name.
This week’s jobs:
- Moving the crab apple tree from the Winter Bed to the new Vinca Bed and generally tidying up around it.
- Sorting out Little Dixter and planting new hebes and polyanthus for the display.
- Potting on echinaceas.
- Tidying up the Winter Bed.
- Checking which containers in the garden need top-dressing and rearranging. Also giving them a general tidy-up.
- Sorting out the seeds in the potting shed, dividing them into categories of HA, HHA, salads, veg, etc.
- Tidying the Top Garden.
- Pruning the willow tree.
- Tidying up the green house and doing some potting on.
Lots of tidying today……..
And lastly, it was Bridge’s birthday this week and so we all raised a glass and ate cake to celebrate!