Friday 11th March 2022

There’s an element of euphoria about the Euphorbias, and it’s only the second week in March.

And the bulbs in bowls are beaut.

A quick cup of coffee before we move on to the plant ident. In a distracted moment, someone thought this was a milk container… Which actually, it once was – but no more

At Garden House, they’re always banging on about the importance of labelling. And for good reason.

Plant ident.

This week we concentrated on early bulbs. Starting with –

Narcissus Grand Soleil d’Or

There are many different species of Narcissus (Daffodil) and this one is a golden gem, bursting with energy and the promise of spring. It’s a tazetta (or indoor) Daffodil. It can actually be grown outdoors in a sheltered position, but tazetta bulbs are a popular choice for indoor forcing, where they will flower much earlier. The petite, bi-coloured flowers are produced in quantity – from 3 to 20 on each stem – and have a rich sweet scent. A flash of sunshine on a cold, cloudy day.

Narcissus ‘Avalanche’

Another tazetta Daffodil – and this one comes with an A.G.M. Vigorous and very fragrant, it is capable of producing 10-15 flowers per stem. An old-fashioned variety with white petals that frame a small yellow cup. Enjoy it as a forced indoor performance, although it is said to be resistant to deer when grown outside.

Narcissus ‘Rip van Winkle’

This little marvel looks a bit as if it’s been asleep for 20 years and woken up looking extremely dishevelled. Rather like its namesake. Mad, but delightful.

Leucojum vernum

The Spring Snowflake appears in late winter/early spring and is often mistaken for a Snowdrop. Which it ain’t. Each stem carries one flower which hangs downwards like a little lantern. Little dots of yellowy-green seem to have been hand painted on the base of its tepals, and the flowers nod above long, glossy-green leaves. Delicately scented. Grows on most soils, but likes them damp and well-drained. Will naturalise well and looks great when grown in large drifts. Deer and rabbit resistant. Apparently. A.G.M.

Hyacinth ‘Woodstock’

Indoor Hyacinths can be replanted outside once they have finished flowering. Remove the flower heads, but not the leaves, plant in the ground and feed. They will have a looser, wilder appearance when they flower again in the following year, but will still look gorgeous and smell wonderful.

Pushkinia

Scilla

Iris reticulata

Such a joy. Their stripes, splashes and splodges provide well defined landing strips for bees heading for the nectar/pollen rich flowers. So many varieties, you are spoiled for choice.

Galanthus elwesii ‘Mount Everest’

Snowdrops are the latest passion at Garden House. They seem to have gone from zero to hero in the space of a year or so, and the collection is gradually growing. Last count? 16 cultivars. Only another 2,484 to go. This one is a large flowering Snowdrop with pure white flowers and strap-like upright leaves.

Muscari

The Grape Hyacinth. These blue beauties are perhaps the ones we are most familiar with.

Wonder what the collective name is for a group of Muscari? A bunch of Grape Hyacinths?

And here’s a rather weird and wonderful looking cultivar. But do keep it under your hat, or there’ll be another collection underway before we know it.

Any questions? Yes! What’s the difference between a bulb, a corm and a tuber?

Bulbs

A bulb is an underground food storage organ; a true bulb, such as an Onion, Tulip, Allium or Garlic, consists of fleshy layers of scales which are leaves in their embryonic form, storing food for the developing plant and protecting the stem and flower at the centre of the bulb. They often have papery skins, called ‘tunics’. Bulbous plants can spread by seed and also by producing offsets (bulblets) to reproduce themselves; these form around the edge of the mother bulb’s basal plate. The original mother bulb doesn’t die, but nourishes them as they grow.

Corms

A corm is an enlarged, modified stem in which food for the plant is stored. It has a basal plate, tunic and growing point. If you cut one in half, it’s a solid mass rather than having concentric rings of leaves (as in a bulb). Examples of plants grown from corms are Crocosmia, Gladiolus, Crocus, Freesia and Muscari. Plants can spread by seed and also by forming cormlets, which grow one on top of the other, rather like a string of beads. The mother corm eventually dies, to be replaced by the growing cormlets.

Tubers

These are enlarged structures used as storage organs for nutrients in some plants. Usually short and thickened, they generally grow below the soil and provide energy and nutrients for growth and are high in starch. Potatoes are a great example of stem tubers, and Dahlias are an example of root tubers. The big advantage of Potatoes, of course, is that they can be made into chips. And Dahlias can’t.

Jobs for the week

Potting on

Pot on Sweet Pea seedlings from their deep root trainers into 1 litre pots. One module of seedlings per pot. You know the rules. Lathyrus ‘Mollie Rilstone’ and Lathyrus sativus var. azureus amongst others got the removal treatment. Water and label every pot.

Prick out Chasmanthium latifolium seedlings

And others. There will be lots. Remember to fill pots/modules to the tops of the rims and then strike off any excess compost. Plant well-rooted seedlings deep enough for their seed leaves to rest on the surface of the soil.

Prepare beds for cut flowers

Empty the raised beds of any remaining plants, weed and add compost. Rake over. Lay out a grid and plant hardy annuals 30 cms apart: Larkspur, Ammi majus, Orlayas and Eschscholzia.

What a good grid

12.00 noon. Cake stop.

We made short work of that task

Work in top greenhouse

Pot on succulents into terracotta pots. Use a sharp mix of 50% horticultural grit and 50% compost. Also do some propagation by leaf cuttings, placing one leaf upright (in the aforementioned compost mix) in a small module. Cut back pelargoniums.

Plant Roses in pots

Remove those which have been heeled-in on a temporary basis and plant in large pots.

Happy in her work

Seed sowing

First, make up some compost suitable for seed sowing. The recipe is as follows: 25% leaf mould, 25% coarse sand, 50% sieved garden soil. Mix together, then riddle through the middle of a garden sieve.

Here they are, riddling like anything

In a perfect world, bake this delicious mix in an oven to kill off any weed seeds. Thankfully, it’s not a perfect world. And, anyway, nobody knew how long the baking time should be. Two weeks was one helpful suggestion. Could be overkill.

Sow seeds of Dahlia ‘Bishop’s Children’, Malope trifida and Achillea on a pot filled with damp seed compost. Finish with a light layer of grit. Label.

Cut back Grasses

Time to give the deciduous Grasses (e.g. Calamagrostis, Miscanthus and Pennisetum macrourum) a haircut. And we’re looking for a flat-top style, please. You’ll need a lot of trugs for all that hair, I mean herbage

It can all go into the compost

The evergreen Grasses merely need a comb through to remove dead thatch.

Planting

Vincas, Snowdrops and Primroses to go in, as well as some creamy-flowering Comfrey.

Meanwhile, in a peaceful corner of the garden, the Camellias quietly get on with looking gorgeous.

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