Friday 12th June 2020

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There may be a lockdown, but we at Friday Group are able to enjoy virtual tours of members’ gardens. This week, a beautiful garden in Hove hoved into view, featuring a  cleverly designed space, thoughtfully planted and nurtured, with trees, shrubs, grasses, topiary and a pond area. Although the owner felt it was largely a spring garden, it was clear that the wide range of plants and shrubs used provided year-round interest and colour. Structural, well-balanced and proportioned, each area of the garden linked to the next. Surely another candidate for inclusion in the National Garden Scheme?
Highlights were: two Jasmines planted right outside the kitchen door, so their fragrance can be enjoyed; pots of plants arranged on the patio; large box globes atop box hedging; Photinia ‘Red Robin’; Deutzia; Acer; Ferns; Choisya ternata; a white Wisteria; blue Hibiscus; Fatsia japonica; Tamarisk; Cotoneaster….. The owner selected five plants as particular favourites:
Lavatera x clementii ‘Barnsley Baby’
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A compact version of the Mallow ‘Barnsley’, an attractive pink/white patio shrub. Undemanding and very free-flowering; excellent in a sunny border or in a pot. Deciduous.
Stipa gigantea
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Perhaps the owner’s favourite plant – Golden Oats, or Giant Feather Grass. It glows when lit by the sun. Can reach 2 metres in height, but its arching stems and fountain-like growth make it almost translucent. Very architectural and lasts into early winter.
Rosa foetida
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The Austrian Briar Rose  – a glorious species Rose. Its introduction to Europe from Persia was an important moment in the cultivation of roses as there were no native yellow European roses.
Phormium tenax ‘Variegatum’
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The New Zealand Flax. Cream variegated leaves. Exotic, luxuriant, explosive. Apparently they do best on clay soils, but this one looks very happy. Architectural Plants claim that this plant is irresistible, even to the most vehement of Variegataphobes.
Melianthus major
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The Honey bush. A stunning, architectural plant with serrated edges on its large blue/green leaves. A massively structural presence – looks good with exotics. Loves a hot, sunny site. Needs protection from winter wet/cold (a greenhouse or cover with a dry winter mulch) but will survive in mild areas. Puts on a lot of growth in the autumn. Its leaves smell of peanut butter – who knew?
Pests, Diseases and Disorders
Box hedge. Dish of the day on the box moth caterpillar’s menu.
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We spent some time discussing the many challenges faced by the poor gardener and the various possible solutions available. Crying and swearing appeared to be common but ineffective responses. Identification is, as always, key.  To this end, Garden House came up with a so-called…
‘Fun Quiz’
…although what’s funny about mealy bug is debatable.
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This area of horticulture requires years of specialist research and expertise to master – and is somewhat difficult to summarise in a couple of paragraphs. Especially when there are over 500 different types of aphid alone. It’s important to look carefully at the damage, identify the problem and to think hard about what kind of action is needed (if any). Use reference books, the internet and resources such as the R.H.S. and knowledgeable gardening friends.
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Pests are a pest. There are so many. Deer, rabbits, moles, insects, birds, badgers, foxes, weevils, snails, slugs. Never mind keen five-year-old footballers. The box moth caterpillar has become one of the latest demons to torture growers (see photo at start of this section). Are plants being eaten, sucked, chewed, pecked, trampled, bored into, or slimed on? Try physical barriers, traps, grit/pellets, noise deterrents, organic sprays, nets, cloches, biological controls, companion planting, picking the darned things off by hand. Or, as a last resort, and do please check Health and Safety advice on this, flame throwers. Brutal but effective.
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Perhaps the plant is diseased (but not yet deceased). Many diseases are plant specific. For example, blight hits tomatoes in particular, mostly when the weather is warm and wet. Improving airflow, removing lower leaves and watering at the base can help. As can ensuring that plants are well grown, tough, and healthy. Other solutions may range from squirting with something noxious, squirting with something not noxious (organic pesticides or a mix of soap, oil and water), introducing biological controls, cutting off and removing damaged areas, watering, feeding and adding appropriate nutrients. Adopting good garden practices, like cleaning garden tools between each job, can prevent the spread of viruses. Buy disease resistant plants whenever possible.
Disorders may be caused by drought, flooding, wind, erratic watering, lack of nutrients and Acts of God. Fervent prayer is an option. And there are always other interesting hobbies to consider, like golf and embroidery.
Jobs for the week:
Divide Irises after flowering
Continue to sow half-hardy annuals like Zinnias, Sunflowers and Cosmos

Stake / support plants as necessary (it’s often necessary)

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Sow poppies such as Papaver ‘Ladybird’ and ‘Lauren’s Grape’ direct into the soil – scatter the seed. Thin out as they germinate

Deadhead perennials and annuals

Remove Honesty from the garden and dry out the seed heads

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Hang them upside down; the dried seed heads will be useful in flower arrangements. Leave one choice plant in the garden to collect seed from (e.g. ‘Chedglow’)

Remember the motto: Feeding Friday. Give a dilute organic liquid seaweed feed to shrubs/plants/pots

Plant Gladioli

Take pipings (cuttings) from Dianthus; sow seeds of biennials

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(Pipings are in the three pots at rear. Biennial seeds in front.) Taking pipings is easy to do and a cheap way to increase your stock. Alternatively, you can buy Dianthus plants – ‘The Plantsman’s Preference’ nursery is a good source. Chiltern Seeds are good for biennials.

Cut back Pulmonarias now, removing old leaves. Also Oriental Poppies

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Feed and water. Keep the seed heads to use as decorations later in the year

Cuttings of Lavender, Helianthemum, Rosemary, Sage etc. can be taken now.

Keep going

Continue to sow Lettuce; plant out Leeks after Broad Beans have finished; plant out Runner beans

Tend your tomatoes tenderly

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Think Helicopter Parenting. They need attention! Tie-in, pinch out, feed and water.

Buy relaxing foam bath; apply expensive hand cream; download whale music; breathe in aromatherapeutic (?) scents. Zone out.

Next week? Friday Group is off to Zoom around another garden plus we’ll be thinking about liquid assets: the collection, storage and use of water.

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