Friday 8th May 2020

The wonderful Paulownia tomentosum at Garden House
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Run out of things to do in Lockdown?  Given up on learning the banjo?  Mandarin homework too difficult?  Turned out yet another rubbish watercolour?  Take heart, my friends. There are Garden House tasks to accomplish, should you choose to accept them.  But first, the all important –
Plant Ident.
This week we were given a virtual tour round the beautiful garden of one of our very own Friday Group members. And it was simply lovely. Design, planting, atmosphere – it had it all. One area was selected for particular study –

Erodium pelargoniiflorum 

The Pelargonium-flowered storksbill, native to the Pyrenees and belonging to the Geraniaceae family.

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Perennial, although a bit on the tender side. Looks like a geranium and is a lovely thing; its white flowers have maroon markings. Lax habit. Likes sun, but not wet, and prefers a neutral / alkaline soil. Good for pollinators. Self-seeds gently or can be propagated by basal cuttings from April – September. Add it to your list. 

Epimedium x versicolor ‘Sulphureum’ AGM

Bishop’s Hat or Barrenwort.  Belongs to the Berberidaceae (Barberry) family.  Native to Europe and Asia.

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A vigorous, rhizomatous perennial which has bright yellow flowers held upright in an open spray.  They are more easily seen if the leaves are removed in late winter. The leaves are the plant’s best feature – beautifully shaped and opening light green with red tints. Really tough, good ground cover and will tolerate dry shade. Propagate by division after flowering or in the autumn.

Athyrium pictum ‘Silver Falls’      

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The Painted Lady Fern, native to eastern Asia, belonging to the Cliff Fern family (Woodsiaceae).  A deciduous fern with creeping rhizomes. Grey-green fronds have purple-red midribs, and are heavily overlaid with silver and a central, purplish flush that develops. More silvery than Athyrium pictum (the Japanese Painted Fern) and keeps its colour for longer. Likes a shady sheltered site. Propagate by division in spring

Aquilegia formosa  

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Aka, the Crimson, Red or Western Columbine is a form of Granny’s Bonnet. Part of the Ranunculaceae family and native to North America. The name ‘formosa’ means beautiful and this lovely plant is certainly that.  Best raised from seed, its red and yellow flowers give a pop of colour in the border, and have a light, airy quality.  A short-lived perennial. Likes sun or part shade.

Thalictrum delavayi album   

Another great plant from the Ranunculaceae family, Chinese Meadow Rue is a favourite in this garden.

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Not in flower yet, but its foliage is attractive, with deeply divided pale green leaves. Beautiful, airy white flowers create a frothy haze in the summer border. Can reach up to 2 metres in height, so needs support. Likes a rich, fertile soil in part or full shade and not too dry.  Seed heads look good and it also makes a striking cut flower. Herbaceous, so dies down in the winter. Can divide in the spring or autumn if required.

Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’ 

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Related to the edible buckwheat, Persicaria is from the Polygonaceae family. A dramatic and vigorous plant (estate agent’s jargon for “it’s a thug”) which grows to the owner’s height in her garden, but is kept in check.  Exotic purple-crimson foliage is the main attraction as the white flowers are nondescript.  Cut back in late autumn when the plant dies back.  Grow anywhere, but good in light shade; propagate by cuttings or division.

Saxifraga x urbium AGM       

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Known from the 17th century as London Pride, this is part of the Saxifragaceae family. Bishop Walsham How (1823–1897) wrote a poem to the flower rebuking it for having the sin of pride. When told the flower had the name because Londoners were proud of it he wrote another poem apologising to it! A song by Noël Coward, celebrated London Pride and the plant became very popular in World War II.  Much loved in this garden, it forms a mat which provides great ground cover, with a mass of small pale pink rosette flowers.  A beautiful cut flower. Grows anywhere, even deep shade.  Easy to propagate by offsets.

Jobs for the week:
Finish removing flowered tulips bulbs from pots
… and also from the borders if required. You can let the foliage die down naturally and keep the bulbs somewhere cool, airy and dry until next year.
Start to cut back Euphorbias
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As they go over, cut their flowering stems back to the base of the plant. Remember to take care as you do this job as the sap is toxic and an irritant to the skin, so full protective armour is required, including goggles. In keeping with the times, let’s call it P.P.E.
Plant up summer containers
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At Garden House, drought tolerant plants like Pelargoniums, Argyranthemums and Acidanthera murielae are being used as far as possible. Trailers such as Helichrysum and Plectranthus (above) are invaluable.
Feeding plants
At this time of year, regular feeding makes a huge difference to their performance. A dilution of Maxicrop organic seaweed extract is ideal.  Why not adopt the idea of using an empty, plastic milk carton and punch some small holes in the lid. This creates a magnificent, if somewhat utilitarian, watering can with a fine rose spray. For free. We like that.
Feed your Roses
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Uncle Tom’s Tonic is good. (Although my own Uncle Tom’s tonic was called whiskey.)
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Rosa ‘Cecile Brunner’ demonstrating the floriferous results of skilful pruning earlier in the year.
Continue to harden off half-hardy annuals and tender perennials
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Take them out in the day and back into the greenhouse/cold frame/under the bed at night. The 15th May isn’t far away, if that’s the date when you normally begin to plant out your tender lovelies.
If your seedlings are becoming etiolated…
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Etiolated = long and leggy, like these Cosmos. As a rule, because they aren’t getting enough light. Try to get them outside during the day, or at least turn them around by 90 degrees each day to ensure they get as much light as possible. (It’s a time-consuming business, this gardening lark.)

When you plant them out, fill a module tray full pf compost and strike off the excess.  Ensure that you plant each seedling deeply. Coil the long root and stem all into the planting hole in a single cell. This is better than having an unstable long-stemmed seedling. Charles Dowding, the No-Dig guru, has some good You-Tube videos on this subject.

Spray SB Plant Invigorator on seedlings (including veg.) 
Reduce Dahlias to five stems
This will encourage bigger and better flowers.  First take your Dahlia.
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Take off all but five stems
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To increase your stock, pot up the cuttings; trim the stem just below a leaf joint
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Chrysanthemum cuttings can also be taken now.
Other plants looking good at Garden House
Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’: a tough, long-flowering self seeder. Essential.
Anchusa azurea ‘Loddon Royalist’. Bluer than blue Alkanet.
Tulbaghia ‘Purple Eye’. The delicate, slender-leaved ‘Society Garlic’. Gorgeous.
The Cynara Cardunculus is magnificent…
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But just take a look at that Wisteria alba!
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Perfection!