It may be a grey January day, but at Garden House, there is always something to put a smile on your face. And, inevitably, the skies clear and the sun comes out.
We tackled a photo plant ident. at Friday Group today – all images of plants looking good in winter gardens now. Briefly, these were: Iris unguicularis; Viola odorata; Sarcococca hookeriana; Osmanthus x burkwoodii; Viburnum x bodnantense; Lonicera fragrantissima; Mahonia x intermedia ‘Winter Sun’; Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’; Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’; Daphne bholua. Seek them out in a nursery or garden near you. Inhale deeply when you find them; they all have wonderful fragrances.
Having studied, considered and discussed, we moved on to the practical plant ident. for the week. Bridge brought in stems, leaves and flowers for our delectation. Starting with:
Brutally thorny, the purple stems of this brambly thing look as if they have been white-washed. Its common name is ‘ghost bramble’, and it does indeed have the aura of an apparition in the low, evening light of a winter garden. Lovely, ferny leaves decorate the stems – there is a golden variety which is particularly pleasing. Will cope with sun or partial shade and can be propagated from hardwood cuttings in the winter. Has a tendency to spread, as it will root where its growing tips touch the soil. Bridge advises cutting the whole lot to the ground in April. Attractive and easy to grow, but keep your secateurs handy alongside a pair of heavy-duty, protective gloves.
Cyclamen coum Album
These hardy perennials, with kidney-shaped leaves, flower from winter through to spring. This variety has a wonderful wash of magenta at the base of the white petals. If grown in fertile and well-drained soil, and left undisturbed, they will naturalise and spread; their seeds are actually carried by ants! Look out for the ‘Pewter Leaf’ group, with attractive silvery leaves and pink/ magenta flowers. Stunning in clumps under trees and at the edges of woodland.
Like the Bond villain of the same name, this evergreen plant is a tough cookie. But there the similarity ends, because libertias are good and desirable individuals. Adding verticality to planting schemes, the upright green/gold leaves turn golden orange in the winter and enliven borders and pots. They love a sunny, well-drained position. Good on chalk and in seaside gardens, their small, white flowers, borne in summer, are not particularly remarkable. Old and dead leaves need combing through and removing in the spring. Propagate by division.
Kerria japonica ‘Golden Guinea’
Belonging to the Rosaceae family, Kerria japonica is an easy, deciduous shrub which grows to around 1.5 m. Over the winter months, the stunning green stems of this shrub shine when lit by the sun. By mid-spring, single golden-yellow flowers have opened – they have five petals, like roses. The foliage is slightly toothed and is a vivid, fresh spring green. After flowering, kerrias should be cut to the base to encourage strong growth. Useful in borders when there are gaps to be filled.
Jobs for the week:
Divide up the libertias. They need potting on and placing on the heated bench in the greenhouse.
Check over and tidy up the pelargoniums. Currently under protection for their own good
Divide clumps of Viola odorata in the top garden; pot up divisions
Remove bulbs of elephant garlic where too prolific
And weed beds
Make paper pots from newspaper
Here’s some she made earlier
Caught on camera reading the newspaper – demonstrating how easy it is for a gardener to get distracted
Pot on cuttings of Muehlenbeckia complexa and stipas.
Muehlenbeckias are as mad-looking as their names. Scrambly things which can climb, twine and grow as a mound. Will grow anywhere. Stipas are a genus of grasses, good in gardens generally and especially used in prairie-style plantings.
Prune Rosa ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’
It’s going to look a lot better for it
Feed hellebores and camellias with pelleted chicken manure. Cut the old leaves off hellebores throughout the garden in order to reduce the risk of fungal disease and to better appreciate the flowers
Found one. Behind the Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’
Take hardwood cuttings of roses
Hardwood cuttings can be taken from many plants at this time of year (black elder, philadelphus, weigela, roses, dogwoods) and are easy to do. Rose cuttings should be around 25 – 30 cms long. Find a dormant bud towards the bottom and make a straight cut below it. Then locate another bud at the top end of the cutting and cut diagonally above it. Push the bottom end into a pot of gritty compost (or into a trench in an out of the way part of the garden). 2/3 of the cutting should be below the soil. Water, label, then wait for the magic to happen.
Have they labelled them?
Ta dah! By summer, they should be well-rooted
Sow leeks, chillies and sweet peas; place on hot bench in greenhouse to encourage germination
It looks snug in there
Then label and …..relax
Plant agapanthus bulbs; try to imagine them in the heat of summer
Prune and feed roses in the top garden
not forgetting to feed the gardeners
Quite literally, pots of work completed