8th March and our first official opening of the year – for The National Gardens Scheme. Everything in the garden is lovely – and, more importantly, not under snow as it was last year.
But, before we welcome guests in, there’s time to look at what is in flower in the garden and to do a plant ident. Useful if you get asked a tricky question by a knowledgeable visitor.
All this and so much more – daffodils, Clematis armandii, Pulmonaria officinalis, Chaenomeles japonica (Japanese quince), burgundy and purple hyacinths, Ribes speciosa (flowering currant)……the list goes on and on.
Artist at work
Back in the Garden Room, there were several plants to be identified.
A perennial violet, growing from underground rhizomes; it has heart-shaped leaves and five-petalled flowers in late winter/early spring which are scented, and either white or violet in colour. Deadheading prolongs the flowering period. Grows best on the edges of woodland in leaf litter or in a shady place in the garden because, like the British, it needs winter sun but can’t cope with the fierce heat of summer. These plants are “stoloniferous”, which means that they spread via above-ground shoots called “stolons”. They were especially popular in the Victorian period and over the years their scent has been widely used in the manufacture of perfumes.
Muscari armeniacum ‘Big Smile’
Grape hyacinths are delightful, perennial, bulbous plants which flower in spring. There are many different types – often, but not always, blue in colour – and they form spikes of small bell-shaped flowers. They flourish in hot, dry conditions. Plant in early autumn and don’t feed – they are easy to grow, provided the soil is well-drained. An unusual form is Muscari macrocarpum ‘Golden Fragrance’, which is golden yellow in colour with a contrasting splash of purple on the upper flowers. Good in rockeries or containers, it has, as the name implies, a lovely scent. Maybe of bananas?
Commonly known as spurge, this is the biggest genus of plants in the world. They are very diverse in character, varying from the Christmas poinsettia to cacti, shrubs and trees. Their milky sap is poisonous and an irritant to skin , so care must be taken in handling them. There are a large number of excellent euphorbias useful for planting in the garden – they are drought tolerant, easy to manage and provide long periods of interest. Don’t be without one, but keep your gardening gloves on.
Here is a small selection, starting with –
This perennial is the myrtle spurge, and is a succulent form of the species. The glaucous blue-green leaves grow in a spiral around trailing stems and lime-green bracts form in the spring. Good in dry conditions such as rockeries.
Euphorbia mellifera – aka honey spurge
This magnificent creature makes an impressive statement in the garden, growing to around 2 x 2 metres. It is an evergreen, with bright green leaves which have a pale vein running down the centre. Tiny flowers emerge in late spring which, although not particularly beautiful in themselves, do smell deliciously of honey. Fact.
Euphorbia characias ssp wulfenii
Another no-brainer. An erect, branching shrub, apparently much loved by Gertrude Jekyll, this is another good architectural plant. Cut back stems to the base once they have flowered, as this will encourage the growth of new shoots. Nowadays there are many different garden cultivars available, such as ‘Black Pearl’, ‘John Tomlinson’ and ‘Lambrook Gold’. A good place to see them (apart from Garden House, of course) is at Beth Chatto’s garden in Essex.
Enthusiastically recommended as worth growing as a long-lasting foliage plant in the garden and also as an annual cut flower. It is actually a short-lived perennial, but is probably best grown as an annual from seed every year. Fabulous chartreuse bracts.
Jobs for the week:
- In the greenhouse – tidy and sort out plants. Cut remaining salad.
- Pot the antirrhinums on into larger pots. They may need a tiny amount of feed….
Antirienumm, Auntie Rynum, Anteriori…… Honestly, it would be easier to write ‘Snapdragon’ on the labels.
- Prick out leek seedlings into paper pots.
Leave in greenhouse to get established – later the whole pot can be planted out into the raised beds. Ecologically friendly, environmentally friendly, altogether – just friendly.
More pots, please!
- Make a seasonal wreath for the entrance gate.
Use willow, Prunus spinosa (we know it as blackthorn or sloe) and forage decorative ornamentation from winter/early spring flowers.
- Cut back the pelargoniums which have been overwintering in the Summer House. Reduce plants by two-thirds and pot on in fresh compost.
- Cut back ferns in the bed under the apple tree outside the Garden Room.
- Plant out white hyacinths.
- Exterminate the celandine.
And good luck with that. Use a Dalek if necessary.
Oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling celandine…..
Thou are lost and gone forever…….
Oh blast! There’s another one. Bring in the Dalek.
- Weed the plants in pots at the back of the garden. Re-pot with new compost as necessary. They are heading for the recently refurbished bed (with the new path going through it).
- Plant dianthus in front of the new vegetable (raised) beds. Weed and add compost to the raised beds
That girl gets everywhere…..
- Sow seeds in the potting shed. Use 3-inch pots. Cover seeds lightly with compost or vermiculite. Place in propagator.
This hardy type is normally seen taming the compost heap.
Look, clean hands and everything.
Plants lined up ready for sale
And ready to sell
It’s all very tempting
Now for the Garden Inspection.
It’s a serious business
Let’s hope everything’s up to scratch
Those cakes definitely are.
And £700.00 was raised for charities supported by the N.G.S.