Grey and drizzly makes us grizzly. But, cheer up, it’s Friday, and time for another Friday Group session at Garden House.
Plans are afoot to create a new path through the bed behind the hedge at Garden House; this will make weeding easier and offer a new way to experience the garden in that area. At this point, however, you have to use your imagination –
Plants which help us get through the dark days, which are somehow even more appreciated and vivid as a result.
The snowdrop. In French, it is the “perce-neige”. Such a lovely thing, especially when seen in drifts near woodland. It needs good drainage to flourish and a soil which doesn’t dry out in the summer, but can do well even on thin chalk soils. Snowdrops probably do best in dappled shade. It’s best to plant them “in the green” – that is, after flowering, and just as the foliage starts to die back. (The foliage can be allowed to die back naturally.) Snowdrops will self-seed and spread where happy, or can be increased by division. There are many hundreds of snowdrop cultivars now available, some of them very expensive, and much sought after by keen ‘galanthophiles’.
These winter/spring flowering perennials prefer a gritty and poor-to-reasonably fertile soil. There are a wide variety of types and colours available these days, but the early-flowering Crocus tommasinianus remains very popular. It thrives best in partial shade and is easy to naturalise as it will self-seed. Attractive to bees and other insects. The large autumn crocus, Crocus speciosus, flowers much later in the year, and is equally delightful.
Crocuses can be enjoyed indoors too –
Easiest to buy crocus bulbs as they are coming into flower; put them into little glass forcing vases so that their roots reach down into the water. A group of them will make a lovely display – and your neighbours green with envy at your horticultural prowess.
Iris reticulata are dwarf bulbous perennials. Three large spreading petals alternate with three erect smaller petals. ‘Pixie’ is a wonderful violet-blue and each of the “fall” petals is flecked with golden yellow and white. In the garden, bulbs should be planted in well-drained soil in the autumn, about 8 -10 cms deep and 7- 10 cms apart. In pots, they are frequently planted much closer together. Often used in winter/spring container plantings and in rock gardens, they need plenty of sun.
Iris reticulata ‘George’
The oyster shell grit used here shows off the lovely blooms – and discourages interested parties
Like you two
It’s not hard to discern that this little plant with its ruffled green bib is part of the buttercup family. Known as the winter aconite, its golden-yellow glow is a cheery sight in winter. In the wild, aconites grow largely in deciduous woodlands and en masse they can light up an otherwise dull area. Cultivation is very similar to that of snowdrops – and, again, they do well on chalky soil. They will self-seed, or the seed can be collected and immediately sown in pots, or they can be transplanted “in the green”.
This variety is actually part of the Eranthis hyemalis Cilicica Group
Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’
Twisted or corkscrew hazel is the mainstay of many a flower arranger’s vase in their winter/spring displays, and also provides a spectacular shape in the garden at this time of year, especially when seen against a sparkling blue sky. Also known as Harry Lauder’s walking stick, it is a hardy, deciduous shrub/small tree with attractive, yellow, male catkins in the early spring, followed by edible nuts. It requires little in the way of pruning, just enough to keep it in shape and not too bushy, and will grow in all types of soil, provided it doesn’t dry out.
Bridge is a great fan of this deciduous shrub/small tree. Known also as the cornelian cherry, it is currently bearing small clusters of long-lasting, bright yellow flowers. They open on bare wood in late winter, and are later followed by tart, edible, glossy red fruits which have the appearance of cherries. Cornus mas has ovate leaves which provide good colour in the autumn, when they turn reddish-purple. An excellent alternative to witchhazel for those who don’t have acidic soils. Can be propagated by hardwood cuttings at this time of year.
Jobs in the garden
Display crocuses in forcing jars
Tidy “Little Dixter”
Empty out the urns and prepare them for planting
Use a mix of compost and pelleted chicken manure. Eventually the urns will be planted up with these libertias
Prune apple trees
Be careful out there
Prune Cornus mas
That pruning saw looks dangerous. I hope she’s not about to take the whole tree down
Prune Rosa Cecile Brunner
Pruning roses is a science and art form in itself, but there are general rules. Always use good, clean, sharp secateurs; ensure cuts are cleanly made; all cuts should be made at an angle, above a node and away from the bud; remove dead and diseased wood; remove wood/stems which rub against others; maintain an open, airy centre to the plant; prune hard when first planting. One can always consult a reputable website for expert advice on particular roses: the R.H.S., David Austin Roses and Classic Roses (Peter Beales) are three such. Basically, be brave and don’t be intimidated!
Weed tulip tree bed. Cut back plants as necessary
For example, curry plants should be cut back to new growth, whilst grasses can be cut hard back.
I don’t mean to frighten you, but there are bears in these woods….
Sow seeds in the paper pots made last week
And water anything in the greenhouse that seems too dry
Cut back Rosa banksia ‘Lutea’
…and cut back Rosa glauca
That’s all very well, but have you seen these thorns?
Oh, well. Nothing ventured, nothing gained
Prick out honesty seedlings
That’s honesty, honestly.
Effortlessly elegant and hard-working
Just like Friday Group