Friday 15th May 2020

This week Friday Group was given another virtual tour around a fellow member’s garden. Such a treat – great design, beautifully planted and clearly much loved. It featured a change of level at the rear of the garden, a lawn with a meandering path, a summer house, a greenhouse, a pond, roses and many cottage garden plants.  Evergreens provided form and structure.
Here are some of the highlights:
Acacia 
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The glorious Mimosa tree in full flower showing off masses of fragrant yellow flowers. Native to Australia, it flowers from February to May.  Now, that’s a long-running show.
Acer palmatum ‘Inaba-shidare’
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Deciduous. A wonderful Japanese Maple with feathery, filigree, purple/burgundy foliage which turns bright crimson in the autumn.  An excellent specimen tree.
Betula utilis jacquemontii ‘Grayswood Ghost’ A.G.M.
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The multi-stemmed Himalayan Silver Birch has glossy green leaves which turn yellow in the autumn months.  It is particularly known for its stunning ghostly-white peeling bark.  So tactile! Deciduous; it grows best in full sun or part shade.
Phillyrea latifolia
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The Green Olive tree, planted and grown here as a hedge.  With its tight, lush, evergreen foliage, it’s a terrific plant; according to its owner, it only needs trimming once a year. Hardy and highly recommended. 
Pinus sylvestris ‘Nana’
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The Dwarf Scots Pine is an evergreen conifer which can apparently live for up to 1,000 years. Sadly, we have yet to breed gardeners who can do the same. A fantastic, slow-growing, compact tree, suitable for sites where low maintenance is a priority.  Its distinctive flaking bark is orange/red-brown in colour, whilst the foliage is glaucous- blue/green. Needs full sun.
Jobs for the week:
Dead heading
Essential to encourage longer flowering in plants such as geums and other herbaceous perennials and annuals
Stake hardy annuals as necessary
Ammi majus and Cornflowers grow very tall and will do better with a little support.  As we all do.  Wire twist ties covered with brown paper are good for this job.
When growing hardy annuals, cut the emerging central flower out
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This will encourage a bushy plant with more side shoots. If your neighbours ask what you’re doing you say (and here, repeat after me), “Oh, this? Just removing the apical dominance.”  Then waft indoors, modestly but confidently.
Above: the hardy annual Corn cockle – Agrostemma ‘Alba’. Note the fabulous markings, which look like embroidery.
Feeding and watering
Difficult to be precise when there are so many plants which have different needs – but this is where getting to know your individual darlings will pay off. Succulents don’t like too much water – yet roses can’t get enough. Generally speaking, use pelleted chicken manure to establish plants when planting them. About a small handful in a large planting hole, mixed in with good soil and compost. Feeding can be with Maxicrop Seaweed Concentrate (diluted), every couple of weeks. Roses love Uncle Tom’s Tonic, as does Uncle Tom.
Plan and plant up summer pots and troughs
Be daring.  How about Angelica with Aeoniums? Then you can move on to the ‘B’ section. Thinks about some new colour combinations (not talking underwear here). Oranges and purples?
Now is a good time to prune evergreens
For example – Griselinia, Pittosporum, Holly etc. We have now passed the magic date of 15th May when, hopefully, the danger of frost is over. (No liability accepted.) Feed and water the evergreens afterwards. Rosemary can be cut back too – but don’t cut into the old wood.  Prune it hard back to above where a couple of leaves are growing.  Use the opportunity to take some tip cuttings: cut under a leaf joint, giving a tip about 5 cms long. Take off the bottom leaves and insert into a small pot of gritty compost.
Continue to harden off half-hardy annuals, some of which can start to be planted out now
Keep a watchful eye on the temperature.  Don’t plant out the half-hardies which notoriously HATE the cold, like Rhodochitons, Mina Lobata and Morning Glory. Basically, you have to be like an over-anxious parent and hover over your seedlings day and night, being careful not to let them get too cold, too wet, too hot, too dry or too leggy. Exhausting. But this is why gin was invented.
Start a new project – how about a Rose Meadow?  
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At Garden House roses are being planted along with Verbena bonariensis, Gaura lindheimeri, Orlaya grandiflora, Helichrysum, and annual grasses.  One of the roses is Rosa ‘For Your Eyes Only’ (see below). A stunner. The charity Perennial have advice on Rose Meadows and Peter Beales roses are always a good bet.
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Sow biennials now
Much cheaper than buying the plants themselves.  Foxgloves, Wallflowers and Verbascums can be started off now to flower next year.
Take note of any gaps in planting 
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Plan to fill them with suitable plants next year. Aquilegia ‘Black Barlow’ (above) is a good filler for what used to be called the ‘June gap’ – but which is now the ‘May gap’.  Perennial Dutch Irises are stylish – and you can never have too many Alliums.
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Harden off and plant out tomato plants
They can go into large containers to grow into big, sturdy plants. Place them near a sunny wall for maximum warmth, sun and protection. Water well, but don’t over-water. They love being fed too. See advice on being an over-anxious parent above. Now is the time to bring that home-made watering can into use (The plastic milk carton.) Keep a note of the date of last feeding on the carton itself.
Watch out for slugs and snails
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Some plants are a magnet for them.  Hostas are a particular delicacy, as are all your carefully sown salad crops. Use grit to discourage the slimy blighters. Be like Scar in The Lion King and “Be Prepared”.
The Chelsea Chop
If you can’t give yourself a haircut, for goodness sake do at least cut back your bushy herbaceous perennials. Things like Sedums, Geraniums, Heleniums, Asters and Phlox. Seems a tad scary, but this will prevent them from flopping and exposing their bare middles. ‘Nuff said. It will also encourage more flowers and sturdier growth.  I wish a haircut could do as much for me.
Lay in enormous supplies of gincake and chocolate. With the amount of weight this blogger has put on over Lockdown, no wonder it’s called bulk buying.
And………. rest!

Have a break.  Once you have completed your Latin For Horticulture homework, maybe move on to Japanese?  That’s what’s happening at Garden House. Check the labels.

For some, this Lockdown has clearly gone on for far too long.
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Sayonara