Friday 18th SEPTEMBER 2020

We started our session this week by thinking about plants we love, together with a wish list of things we’d like to learn. Featured were: old Roses and Pelargoniums, zingy yellow Rudbeckias and purple Asters, Grasses of all sorts, Geraniums, Cottage Garden plants. Also: propagating, pruning, planning and design, continuous development and learning, extending the season, gardening in pots, plantings for dry gardens, annual tasks, perennial plants…

Garden House is always looking ahead to the next Big Thing. Spring bulbs are currently high on the list. Hence the digital display board showing ideas for future planting schemes –

Perhaps not a digital display board

Two new Japanese gold standard additions were introduced:

We really dig them

Plant Ident.

This week it was all about weeds. What is a weed? Now, here we could go all philosophical and say it’s a wild and lovely plant, not in quite the right place. But, basically, they are plants that we humans don’t like or want in our gardens. Out they must go. They may be highly invasive, poisonous, stingy, pernicious, prickly, or – heaven forfend – inferior to cultivated varieties.

Where do they come from? Perhaps from next door; dropped by birds or other wildlife; in plants you have bought or been given; blown in on the wind; brought in on boots and shoes; carried on dirty tools. The message is clear: be vigilant at all times. Body searches may be necessary. But there may be court cases.

So, what to look for? Here are a few for starters:

Euphorbia peplus

This annual weed is from the Spurge family, and is also known as Common or Petty Spurge. Euphorbias are generally highly desirable garden plants, but this isn’t one of them! Will seed itself around unless controlled, but can be removed fairly easily if pulled gently. Like all Euphorbias, it has a toxic, milky-white sap which is a skin irritant, so wear gloves. Make sure you get all the root out.

Calystegia sepium

Hedge bindweed. Lovely! Such a pretty flower. White and innocent. Don’t be fooled. It’s a perennial weed and devious in the extreme. This stuff is horrific once you get it in your border. It will make itself quite at home there and grow ten times better than anything else. Can climb with ease (see picture below) and does so vigorously, entirely without the aid of a safety net. Climbs anti-clockwise – check it out! Pull long skeins of it out by the roots – fast. Will re-grow from any smidgeon of root left behind.

Good luck

Oxalis corniculata

What a pretty name – and its common name is even more charming: ‘Sleeping Beauty’. Also known as Creeping Woodsorrel. The clue is in the ‘Creeping’ part of the name. Tenacious, persistent, annoying, stubborn. Like many a teenager, in fact. It’s a perennial pest, growing from miniature bulbils and also spread further by its tiny seeds. An utter joy for the weary gardener, it’s virtually impossible to shift. Worse still if you are of the organic persuasion. Dig out by hand, ensuring you remove every morsel of root/bulbil/stem. Or resort to the flame-thrower. Or explosives. Cake can be useful as a sedative.

Senecio vulgaris

Groundsel is an ephemeral weed with branching stems holding clusters of yellow flowers which turn into white, fluffy seed heads. Catch those seed heads before they drift off in a romantic fashion. Better still, pull out groundsel before it flowers. Make sure you are not pulling out a rare specimen of something else in the Asteraceae family which you’ve been trying to grow for the last five years. Just saying. By the way, ephemeral weeds are even better than annual weeds in that they germinate, grow, flower and set seed several times in one growing season. Just think, millions of seeds per year. Marvellous.

Veronica chamaedrys

Germander Speedwell is really quite inoffensive as far as weeds go. Easy to remove, it has small, pretty blue flowers. Perennial and a member of the plantain family.

Anchusa officinalis

Alkanet or Common Bugloss is an upright perennial weed with lance-shaped hairy leaves. Related to Borage, Myosotis and Pulmonaria, a perennial weed with attractive blue flowers and a tap root which is heading for the centre of the earth. Try to get the whole of it out, or it will re-grow. Tough stuff this weed business.

Jobs for the week

Another new piece of kit. Very exciting. What could it be?

A paddling pool?

Certainly not! It’s a holding pool for plants recently dug up and divided and awaiting their new home in the garden.

Tasks this week involved removing/dividing geraniums from the border adjacent to the lawn and taking cuttings of tender perennials.

Dig up and divide geraniums

Try to dig up a large clump. Cut the foliage hard back before placing the plant in the holding pool. Green waste can go into green trugs for the compost heap.

Attention to detail is everything

Everyone’s bent on doing a good job

Take cuttings of tender perennials

A tender perennial (usually herbaceous) is one which will generally not survive the cold winter months unless given protection. Left outside, it will likely die. Taking cuttings of plants which fall into this category both insures against loss and increases stock for the following year. Plants on today’s propagation list: Salvia ‘Nachtvlinder’, Salvia confertiflora, Salvia ‘Amistad’, Linaria ‘Peachy’, Plectranthus argentatus and Plectranthus ciliatus.

Remove a few non-flowering stems from the plant in question and place immediately into a damp plastic bag. The stems should be soft and ‘flippy-floppy’ (technical term), not woody. Fill a 3 cm pot with potting compost, then strike off any excess. Cut beneath a leaf joint with clean, sharp snips or a knife, making a cutting of about 4 cms. Remove any large leaves to reduce transpiration and all lower leaves to prevent rotting.

Plectranthus argentatus cutting

Cover with vermiculite or horticultural grit and water lightly. Label. Place in a warm spot (a greenhouse or window sill) until they have rooted as in the photo below

Then they can be potted on into 7 cm pots.

All work will be scrutinised

That cat will never find out who we are now that we’re wearing masks.

Over winter, the rooted cuttings can be kept in a cold frame or cold greenhouse to keep them frost free and out of the rain and wind. Like us, they are averse to freezing conditions.

Sow seeds in Jiffy 7s

These are little compressed pellets of compost which swell when submerged in water. So, they went for a swim in the not-a-paddling-pool. Nicely plumped, they were then ready for seeds to be planted.

The propagation adventure continues

More next week!

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