Friday 5th March 2021

Marching onwards into March

That’s one helluva lot of Hellebores

Plant ident.

Straight to it – this week we looked at small seasonal delights. Best planted in groups for maximum impact in the garden, although a couple of flowers brought into the house will provide huge enjoyment.

Iris reticulata ‘Pauline’

A beauty; a dwarf Iris with slender, green, erect leaves. Scented, velvety dark purple flowers appear in early spring. A perfect little perennial for pots and rockeries. Propagate by dividing the bulbs between late summer and autumn. Such a pleasure to see in the garden now.

Muscari macrocarpum ‘Golden Fragrance’

Another scented, reliably perennial bulbous plant. This particular cultivar is bi-coloured – the flowers emerge pale violet/purple, then gradually turn a soft golden yellow. The scent is said to be reminiscent of Gardenias. Very attractive and unusual. Likes sun and fertile well-drained soil. Divide clumps in the autumn.

Crocus ‘Jeanne d’Arc’

A must. Add to the (long) list of Garden House ‘musts’. Big, bold and beautiful, this white, goblet-shaped Dutch Crocus has lovely bright yellow stamens and is very attractive to wildlife. Especially bumblebees. Plant the corms in any well-drained soil in full sun and they will put on a fabulous display in early spring.

Viola odorata

Sweet violet. And it really is! A pretty little perennial which is best in dappled shade. If your estate stretches to having a woodland, plant it there. Small, strongly-scented, violet flowers will spread to form a ground-covering carpet. Pick individual flowers and put them in tiny green vases next to your bed. Change your name to Vita Sackville-West too, if you are so inclined.

Leucojum vernum

The Spring Snowflake. This one likes full sun but moist conditions. Highdown Gardens in Worthing is a good place to see them, where they grow at the edge of a pond in damp soil. White, nodding, bell-shaped flowers, with green markings on their tips, are held over upright stems. They are taller than Snowdrops – growing to about 30 cms. Again, best planted in clumps or, more poetically, ‘in bold drifts’.

Topic for the Week

Summer Containers

Full disclosure of our plans for our own pots of delight. Homework involved a measure of glueing and sticking, so we were prepared to come to share and discuss our ideas. Additionally, to think about where and when we might source our plant material: whether by sowing seeds, taking and growing on cuttings, ordering plugs or, failing all that, by purchasing a ready-made pot from the garden centre and saying three Hail Marys.

Break-out groups endeavoured to keep to the horticultural theme, rather than share Netflix suggestions and recent good reads. It was tough, but so are we… Here are some results from Project Concept Containers:

Cosmos with Nigella, Cornflower and Nemesia

Salvia ‘Amistad’ with Argyranthemum frutescens ‘Grandaisy Pink Halo’, Verbena rigida ‘Santos Purple’ and Erigeron karvinskianus

Osteospermum with white vanilla-scented Nemesia and Sutera cordata

Cosmos ‘Purity’ with Nicotiana ‘Lime Green’, Gaura lindheimeri ‘The Bride’ and Plectranthus ‘Nico’

Gaura lindheimeri (above) and Plectranthus ‘Nico’ (below)

Good places to buy and order from: Ebay; B and Q; Notcutts online; Supermarket seeds; Homebase; Miranda’s at Florence Road Market, Brighton; Pelham Plants; Staverton Nursery; Garden Sage Nursery, Hassocks; Bolney Nursery (good for pots); Marchant’s Hardy Plants

Seeds: Chiltern Seeds; Just Seeds; Sarah Raven Seeds; Higgledy Garden Seeds; Seedy Sunday in Brighton

Friday Group Question Time

A host of horticultural questions and some quickfire answers.

Q. How do you know when a shrub should be pruned?

A. First, know your shrub. The general rule of thumb is, if a shrub flowers before midsummer’s day, then prune it straight after flowering. This gives it time to make the growth needed for next year. If it flowers after midsummer’s day, then prune the shrub the following spring.

If it only flowers on midsummer’s day, then get rid of it.

Q. Will Echium pinnata plants seed around?

A. Yes. (This from Friday Group’s very own Queen of Echiums.)

Q. A Tree Mallow has been hit by frost. Will it regrow?

A. Cut it back and see what happens. Lavatera maritima plants can get quite woody over time and are not known for being particularly long-lived. Take cuttings as a precaution.

Jobs for the Week

Take cuttings of tender perennials

By purchasing just one plant, several cuttings can be taken and grown on in warmth. Things like Argyranthemums, Marguerites, Plectranthus and Salvias if started off now, will quickly grow and be ready for planting out in May. Nemesia and Sutera are two examples of annuals which can also be propagated from cuttings. It’s a financial no-brainer.

Continue to sow seeds

Stand by your germination stations! Take it slowly, easy does it. You don’t want to be swamped by too many seedlings at once and have nowhere to put them. Cosmos, for instance, can be started later than many other seeds – they’ll grow very quickly.

Check Camellias

Camellias need an acid or ericaceous soil with a pH of 5.5 – 6.5. They will benefit from a dollop of composted bracken or leaf mould at this time of year – or you can always add some ericaceous compost. Ideally, they should be watered with rainwater, as it is slightly acidic. Tap water can contain too much calcium – especially in hard water areas.

Plant Strawberries

Maybe in containers? This will help to protect them from the depredations of woodlice, who are partial to a strawberry or two. Grow early, mid-season and late Strawberries for maximum yum.

Meanwhile, somebody is waiting patiently for lockdown to come to an end… and for Friday Group to return to the garden. Looking quite meditative. Almost catatonic.

But this old waiting game is such a tiring business

While we’re zooming, he’s snoozing

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