Friday 22nd January 2021

It’s starting

Stand by your flower beds

Plant ident.

Astelia chathamica ‘Silver Spear’

Fearsomely spear-like, this is (big breath…) a clump-forming, evergreen, rhizotomous perennial. From New Zealand, and, surprisingly, a plant which likes the shade and moist but well-drained soil. The sword-like silvered leaves have a strong architectural presence and look good planted in a container; stunning if planted with white Cyclamen now.

Arum italicum ‘Marmoratum’

A summer dormant plant, and very striking in the garden now, showing off its lovely, deep green leaves with creamy-white marbling. The leaves are glossy and arrow-shaped. Pale green spathes appear in the spring, followed by bright red berries in the autumn. Has a tendency to be invasive, so needs watching. Remove any clumps that revert to the plain green form. Grows best in shade, and likes a heavy, moist soil – looks good in a woodland situation. Plant with Snowdrops?


Another spear-shaped leaf. A real roughty-toughty plant which needs to be grown in full sun and well-drained soil. Very pointy. Very sharp. Do take care. A great winter feature as it looks properly glamorous in the garden now, when lit by sunshine. Drought tolerant, requires little in the way of maintenance, it throws up a long spike covered in panicles of creamy white flowers. There are several different species, some plain green and others with variegated foliage.

Brachyglottis ‘Sunshine’

Yet another plant which has had a sneaky name change. (Used to be Senecio ‘Sunshine’). Brachyglottis sounds more like a throat problem. A small, spreading, ever-grey shrub with contrasting felted silvery undersides. Tolerates drought and coastal conditions, so is often found in seaside plantings. Lovely ovate leaves, but sadly the flowers don’t get too many Brownie points – dull yellow and daisy-like, they somehow seem a mismatch to the foliage.

Euonymous fortunei ‘Silver Queen’

OK, you may see this everywhere, and therefore be somewhat immune to its charms. Look again. An excellent winter plant that can do everything. It can be grown up a wall, used as ground cover or grown as a hedge. Oh look, there’s one here! (Needs a trim, but most of us do) –

It can be encouraged to grow tall or will cope with being pruned back hard. Often used in formal plantings and as topiary, but can fit equally well into a more relaxed planting scheme. A terrific skeleton shrub, evergreen, with white margins to its leaves, the tips of which blush pink in very cold weather. Like so –

Lovely with Snowdrops and white Narcissi. Everyone needs one of these. Or more. A.G.M.

Time for Trees

The name of Barcham Nursey’s wonderful book on tree species available for supply and planting in the U.K., but also the focus of the Lesson for Today. Liz McCullough’s handout provided a succinct overview of points to consider when thinking about buying a tree. So useful to have a starting point!

Space available, site, aspect and specific location, proportions (height, spread and relationship to the rest of the garden), soil type, seasons of interest and decorative value, purpose, deciduous or evergreen, proximity to buildings / pavements / neighbours. Basically, will it be the right plant in the right place?

Possibly not

Liz suggested drawing a scale plan of the garden/location and plotting the size of the tree at maturity, not forgetting the shade thrown by its canopy.

The RHS has an extensive list of trees suitable for smaller gardens, focusing on height, spread, form, flowers, fruits, bark, blossom/foliage in spring and summer, autumn colour, winter interest. There are also recommendations for containers, the top six being: Japanese maple, Olive, Bay, Pinus pumila ‘Glauca’, Sophora microphylla, Apple or Pear (grown as an espalier, cordon or fan)

In break-out groups, we considered suitable trees for specific sites. Vivacious discussions ensued, and we came up with the following suggestions:

A school or community garden – Family Apple tree

A wildlife garden – Hawthorn (Cratageus x lavalleei ‘Carrierei’)

A street tree – Ginkgo biloba

A front garden – Prunus serrullata ‘Pink Perfection’ or ‘Little Pink Perfection’

A celebration tree – Sorbus commixta ‘Olympic Flame’

A container – a Crab Apple – ‘Evereste’ may be too big, so perhaps the deep pink Malus toringo ‘Aros’.

Jobs for the week

Education, education, education

Use this period to look carefully at tree outlines, bark, twigs, berries, catkins and buds. Before long you will find you’ve become an expert on dendrology. Imagine that. ‘Oh, the tree over there? It’s a Horsechestnut. Aesculus hippocastanum, if you will. A large, deciduous synoecious tree….’ So impressive. Although you may lose all your friends.

Plant Eranthis hyemalis

Winter Aconites are one of the earliest flowering delights and a joy to behold in the winter as they shine out in the border. (Hyemalis means winter-flowering.) Part of the Buttercup family, they have bright, sunny yellow flowers surrounded with a ruff of green. They thrive in damp, chalky woodland, flowering before the tree canopy develops to shade the soil below. Give them some leaf mould or well-rotted compost in the spring to keep the tubers happy. Also good in pots/boxes for display now.

Plant Snowdrops

Order quantities of Snowdrops ‘in the green’ (with roots, in leaf, and possibly also in flower) and plant them immediately in groups of 3 – 5. Easier to establish than just the stored bulbs alone. New bulbs (offsets) will grow as the clump gets established, and can eventually be lifted, split into small groups and re-planted. Snowdrops will also spread by seed

Plant Sweet peas

Root trainers are ideal as they encourage a long root run. Broad beans will benefit from this too.

Room for 32 in this little lot. Carefully monitored by the snoozing feline, top right.

These even come with their own lid. Wonderful stuff.

Prune hybrid tea and shrub roses now

Collect seed catalogues

For a future cutting and pasting session. We’ll be planning designs and a sowing calendar for ‘pretties’ and ‘infill’ plantings in our own gardens

Check the veg. plot

Harvest. Enjoy.

Some splendidly frondy Florence Fennel

So, no vegging out. Time moves on. Izzy wizzy, let’s get bizzy and help make the magic happen!

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