Friday 1st April 2022

Snowy Mespilus living up to its name

Well, guess what? April Fool’s Day, and it did indeed snow! Some couldn’t believe their eyes, tails, paws or whiskers –

And then, the next minute, the sun came out and lit up the Great White Cherry –

We do love the dear old British weather

Plant ident.

Prunus spinosa

Blackthorn. The hedgerows are frothing with it right now. Ebullient, uplifting, its appearance announces that spring has sprung. The branches are often decorated by lichen which thrives on its nutrient-rich bark. Sometimes mistaken for Hawthorn (which flowers later, in May), the Blackthorn’s white blossoms flower on bare wood before the leaves emerge. Fleeting, but gorgeous, and followed later by Sloe berries, used to make Sloe gin. A strange name for a drink which disappears so fast.

Lunaria ‘Corfu Blue’

Honesty. Stunning blue/purple flowers which are almost irridescent. Seems to be virtually perennial. Continues to please over a long period, as the papery seed cases, which form later, are beautifully decorative.

Another sought-after variety is Lunaria ‘Chedglow’, with outstanding deep chocolate/burgundy foliage, dark lilac flowers and magenta stems. A stunner.

As well as being a caterpillar plant food, Lunaria is good for attracting bees, butterflies and moths. It has nectar /pollen rich flowers. Ht. 0.9 cms

Euphorbia myrsinites

A semi-prostrate perennial, with close-set leaves spiralling from base to tip. Flowers with the usual panache of Euphorbias, having vivid, acid green/yellow bracts. Quirky and architectural. Needs full sun and good drainage. Ideal for a dry/gravel garden. Beware the milky sap which can be toxic.

Pachyphragma macrophyllum

Single, pure white flowers appear in a domed form from late winter. This attractive plant is described as having a slow, dense, creeping habit (we know people like that). Pelham Plants say that it is one of the most underrated, shady, evergreen groundcover plants they grow. If it’s recommended by them, then it’s worth getting five of them immediately. Ht. 30 cms

Epimedium ex ‘Spine Tingler’

Raised from seed taken from the strong and reliable E. ‘Spine Tingler’. Copes with dry shade once established, and therefore invaluable, although it prefers a moist, well-drained soil. A low-growing, evergreen perennial with lance-shaped leaves which emerge bronze-red in colour. Sprays of long-spurred, pale lemon flowers dance over the leaves in April/May. Cut back in late winter, before the new flower stems emerge. Pelham Plants comment? “Should be interesting.” Watch this space. Ht. to 50 cms

Anemone nemorosa

Commonly known as Windflower, it’s a spring showstopper. Go into mature woodland anytime now to enjoy carpets of these beautiful wild flowers. They grow in deciduous woods and flower before the leaf canopy develops overhead and reduces the light. Star-shaped petals surround golden-yellow anthers, and green leaves offset the beetroot-coloured stems. Wood Anemones are ancient-woodland-indicator plants, signifying that the area is a rare and special habitat. Legend suggests they were named for the Anemoi, the four Greek gods of the wind, who used the flowers as harbingers of spring.

It’s a busy time in the garden right now. Seed-sowing, potting-on, planning pots for later, cutting back, feeding, planting, making plant supports, cosseting and caring for the precious compost heap. It’s all going on.

Jobs for the week

Cut back Jasmine on arch

Before it engulfs everything in its path.

Plant Gladioli corms

These are Acidanthera, or Gladiolus murielae. Graceful late summer gems, which have wonderful, white, starry-shaped flowers with purple central markings. The elongated leaves are sword-shaped. Lovely in borders and in pots, they also make an excellent cut flower. Scented. Plant in trays in the greenhouse to get them going – they’ll respond well to a little warmth. Nerine bulbs can also be planted now.

Feed Auriculas and Pelargoniums

We’re talking organic liquid seaweed or, alternatively, worm leachate – the liquid which drains off from a bin full of worms. Liquid gold. Dilute in water in a ratio of 1:10. Plants love it.

Sow seeds

There’s all sorts going in today

Dahlia ‘Bishop’s Children’, Tithonia, Orlaya grandiflora, Heliotrope ‘Marine’, Rudbeckia and Nicotiana. It’s going to look beautiful. Hold off for another week or so on quick-growers like Cosmos, Tagetes and Zinnias, or you’ll be swamped by seedlings all jostling for your attention.

And as she sows, it snows

Cripes! What the hecky decky is that? Oh – Amaranthus Tricolor ‘Splendens Perfecta’? Obvs.

Plant new Jasmine in pot. Make a support for it

Cut back Salvias, Lavenders etc

This job is largely centred on the herb beds. All sorts of Mediterranean plants can be cut back, Salvias, Lavenders, Phlomis, Ballota and Artemisia amongst others – although watch out for cold spells. (Like now!) Count back to 2 shoots from the ground and prune at this point. Sounds harsh, but they need a firm hand to prevent them from becoming spindly and leggy. This will keep them nice and bushy. Unless you’ve killed them.

Well, it’s no good telling us that now. We’ve just cut them all back!

Take cuttings from the prunings or use the herbs in your next culinary cook-up.

We ache for Cake Break

Thirsts and appetites slaked! Thanks to a ripping raspberry, blueberry and lime drizzle cake and a marvellously, marbled marble cake. That’s Friday Group for you!

Plant out spent indoor Hyacinth bulbs and Lunaria

These look well spent

There are no short-cuts when it comes to adding extra va-va-va-voom to the garden

Hang on, where’s she going?

Ah. Taking a short-cut to the plants

Some are more risk averse, thank goodness, and have read the G/H Health and Safety Manual (951 pages).

Alpine sinks

Weed, tidy, re-grit surfaces. Plant Thrift and Alpine Crocus. Take cuttings from alpines and place immediately into plastic bags to prevent them drying out before planting them.

Sempervivums and Succulents

These can be used in alpine troughs to great effect too. Add some slates and grit to top it all off and you have a display fit for Chelsea.

Pruning

Cut back Phygelius and hardy Fuchsias to about 10 cms from the ground. Again, watch out for extended cold spells – you may need to throw some horticultural fleece over the newly-shorn shrubs just for safety’s sake. Use the cuttings to propagate new plants. Waste not, want not.

Feed plants after pruning. Pelleted chicken manure is just fine.

Cut back the stems of established Cornus before the new leaves come through. Either cut all stems hard back, or take out one third of the stems every year. Propagate new plants from the prunings, or use them to weave decorative edgings on obelisks, wigwams or in borders. Or, let the inner florist in you run amok –

Oh, I say.

We may have had four seasons in one day, but here at Garden House you can always find sunshine in a pot.