Posts Tagged ‘Evergreens’
Posted by editor on Friday, 9 November 2012
The word evergreen can still conjure up the image of an overgrown old-fashioned shrubbery, often under trees, and composed of plants such as laurel and privet. Yet it is really important to appreciate the value and aesthetic appeal of evergreens – especially as they add a richness of texture and hue that deciduous plants cannot copy.
Evergreens bring winter cheer that will keep you going until spring comes, and no garden design is complete without at least some carefully placed evergreens to give structure and depth.
Shades of green are not all that the leaves of evergreens have to offer, a large number have foliage that is bronze, a copper colour or red at the tip – for example Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’. Other evergreens are grey or grey-green, for example Helianthemums and Hebes. Eleagnus macrophylla has a silvery underside with a green above (which incidently enables the plant to cope with coastal conditions).
Leaf shape can provide architectural brilliance. Plants such as Fatsia japonica, Laurus nobils and the beautiful Magnolia grandiflora all have distinctive leaf shapes.
Lonicera nitida, Pittosporum tenuifolium, Griselinia and Prunus laurocerasus ‘Otto Luyken’ among others make fantastic evergreen hedges. Box (Buxus sempervirens) not only makes a fine low hedge, but can also be clipped into topiary shapes that highlight and decorate the garden all year round.
Some evergreens, such as Mahonia aquifolium and Magnolia grandiflora give a fine display of winter flowers, and many have colourful fruits, such as the evergreen Cotoneasters.
Some of the many uses of evergreens…
- In beds and mixed borders
- As focal points
- Against walls and fences
- Ground cover
- Hedges and windbreaks
Evergreens for a particular purpose:
- Hedges: Escallonia; Euonymus japonicus; Ilex aquifolium; Viburnum tinus; Lonicera nitida
- Windbreaks: Quercus ilex; Abies delavayi; Chamaecyparis lawsoniana; Prunus laurocerasus; Drimys winteri
- Ground cover: Hebe albicans; Junperus x media ‘Pfitzeriana’; Sarcococca; Viburnum davidii; Mahonia aquifolium
- Shade: Aucuba japonica; Nandina domestica; Pileostgia vibunoides; Daphne laureola; Choisya ternate
- Costal sites: Arbutus; Cistus; Phillyrea; Olearia; Eucalyptus
Not quite fifty shades of green, but near enough!
Posted by editor on Sunday, 22 April 2012
April is magical time as plants emerge from their winter dormancy, some producing a beautiful show of flowers.
One such, and a favourite of ours, is Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Fröhnleiten’ - with its thin, wiry flowering stems that uncurl from the base of the dormant plant and produce small, deep yellow flowers. As the flowers begin to fade the emerging foliage has bright, coppery red shading between conspicuous green veins, creating an impressive effect. This Epimedium grows in a wide range of conditions and will tolerate shade beneath trees making it an effective groundcover plant. It is evergreen, but in late winter the previous season’s foliage should be cut back so the emerging flowers can be seen to their full glory.
Common name: Barrenwort, bishop’s mitre – you will soon see why – the emerging leaves look just like a bishops hat!
Family: Berberidaceae – this is the same family as Berberis and Mahonia, and one way of recognising plants in this family is the yellow pith in the centre of their stems.
Epimediums are clump-forming rhizomatous perennial that like moist, fertile soil and thrive in partial shade. They are fully hardy.
They are found in two main areas of the northern hemisphere – the Mediterranean, where four species grow in light woodland and shady, rocky places, and temperate eastern Asia, where they grow in similar situations to the western group but require more shade and moisture (33 species come from China, four from Japan and one from Kashmir).
In spring the fresh green foliage is often tinged with pink, bronze or red. In summer the leaves are deep green, turning to rich tints of yellow, red and bronze in autumn. Small saucer- to cup-shaped flowers are borne from spring to early summer in various colours including yellow, white, pink, red and purple.
The name Epimedium, first used by the Greek herbalist Dioscorides in the first century AD, derives from epi, upon, and Media, the country of Medes, south west of the Caspian Sea.
Even though it was named by a herbalist and appears in several herbals, Epimedium was not widely used in the west. The Oriental species have been used medicinally for centuries – even in modern Chinese herbalism several species are still used to treat ailments including paralysis of the legs and high blood pressure, while in Japan they are used to treat hypertension.
E. x perralchicum is a robust, evergreen hybrid with glossy, deep green leaves which are an attractive bronze when young. Bright yellow flowers up to 2cm (3/4in) across are produced in spring, showing above the foliage for some time before leaf growth tends to cover them up. It tolerates dry soils in sun or semi-shade (producing fewer flowers under these conditions). On moister soil it will tolerate more sun.
‘Fröhnleiten’ is a German cultivar selected by Heinz Klose and has bigger flowers.
- For the best display of foliage and flowers clip back the old leaves in late winter or early spring before the flower spikes have formed. Where frosts are prolonged or severe provide a deep winter mulch to protect the rhizomes close to the surface.
- Mulch and feed regularly.
- Divide and replant tight clumps every three to five years to ensure good foliage and flower displays.
- Vine weevils are the worst pest, attacking the roots in particular. Slugs, snails and rabbits will also feed on the young growth.
- Propagate by division in autumn when roots can establish quickly and the foliage is tougher and less prone to damage. Young leaves are brittle and easily snap off.
Marchants Hardy Plants in Laughton has a great selection of Epimedium varieties – it is also an exceptional nursery and garden, do visit…
Marchants Hardy Plants, 2 Marchants Cottages, Mill Lane, Laughton, E. Sussex BN8 6AJ
Below are nursery-owner and plantsman Graham Gough’s personal descriptions – take your pick, they’re all great!
- E. ‘Amber Queen’ – a cracking E. flavum hybrid, the main body of the large flower being amber coloured with hints of pink, pale yellow and white. 40cm.
- E. grandiflorum ‘La Rocaille’ – ivory white suffused with palest celadon green, long spurred flowers. 35cm.
- E. g. ‘Lilac-Pink Form’ – a form with small leaves and pert, spidery lilac-pink flowers.
- E. g. ‘Lilafee’ – dark tinted new leaves act as a harmonious foil to the dainty violet-purple flowers. 25cm.
- E. g. ‘Rose Queen’ – inappropriately named, the large spurred flowers of this strong growing form are actually a fine crimson-purple. 25cm.
- E. g. ‘White Queen’ – a large flowered pure white form, yet to bettered. This, the true plant, is said to becoming rare. 30cm.
- E. membranaceum – a beautiful Chinese species with burnished spiny margined foliage and insect like, long spurred pale yellow flowers for months. Evergreen. 30cm.
- E. x oemeiense ‘Myriad Years’ – a naturally occurring hybrid in the wild (E. acuminatum x E.fangii) with handsome foliage and extraordinary, huge pale grey-pink and purple-spurred flowers. Requires a sheltered spot. 45cm.
- E. ogisui – introduced in the 1990’s from the flora rich province of Sichuan, China, this beautiful large white flowered species remains uncommon and is further enhanced by the bronze tinted new foliage. 25cm.
- E. x perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’ – airy racemes of unspurred lemon yellow flowers in spring. The handsome evergreen leaves remain unblemished throughout winter, making it an altogether classy garden plant. 35cm.
- E. sp. Yunnan – a refined and incredibly free flowering soft yellow, long spurred species from China with noticeably pale foliage. Patiently awaits a name.
- E. versicolor sulphureum – evergreen foliage, copper and crimson tinted in winter, which should be removed in February to enjoy the clean yellow flowers in spring. 40cms.
- E. versicolor x versicolor – subtly contrasted flesh pink and amber-yellow flowers, a perfect match for the young copper coloured foliage. 30cm.
Posted by editor on Tuesday, 14 February 2012
We are all eagerly awaiting the first herbaceous perennials of the year and the Pulmonarias always come up trumps! Pulmonaria rubra AGM (Award of Garden Merit) is always the first to flower, and needs to be observed at close quarters to see how lovely it is.
Pulmonarias are members of the borage family, (Boraginaceae). Along with their cousins, comfrey, borage, brunnera, forget-me-nots and anchusa, pulmonarias have hairy leaves and small funnel-shaped flowers. The common name is lungwort – The name Pulmonaria comes from the Latin ‘pulmo’, the lung. The plant was considered to be an effective remedy for diseases of the lung because the spotted leaves were supposed to resemble diseased lungs.
Pulmonarias are evergreen perennials and thrive in humus-rich, moist but not waterlogged soil and do well in full or partial shade, which is an added bonus. They make brilliant ground cover plants in woodland or at the front of a border and the bees love them! They are very hardy. Height & spread of up to 40cm (16in) x 90cm (36in)
The leaves are hairy and often spotted with white or silver. The leaves that develop after flowering have the best markings. Flowers can be pink, red, violet, purple, blue or white. They are funnel-shaped, 5-10mm (0.25 – 0.5in) across with 5 petals.
- ‘Redstart’ has coral-red flowers and is often the first Pulmonaria to flower in midwinter. ‘Barfield Pink’ has pink and white striped flowers and grows up to a height of 30cm (12in).
- P. r. var. albocorollata syn. alba has white flowers and ‘David Ward’ has white-variegated, sage-green leaves with cream margins and coral-red flowers. Both reach a height of 30cm (12in).
- ‘Bowles’s Red’, developed by Edward Bowles, has coral-red flowers and leaves faintly spotted pale green. It grows to 30cm (12in) and is similar to ‘Redstart. Remove old leaves after flowering and divide every 3 – 5 years.
To propagate Pulmonarias, divide plants in autumn or after flowering or take root cuttings in mid-winter. Powdery mildew may be a problem in dry conditions and slugs and snails may damage new growth – but don’t let this put you off, they are super-useful plants to have in the garden!
Posted by editor on Thursday, 10 November 2011
Dry shade is one of the most difficult parts of the garden – here at the Garden House we are always being asked for advice on plants that will tolerate this situation.
All the plants that we are recommending come with the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM); that means that they have been tried and tested and have come out well thriving in dry shade conditions.
They will all need lots of watering in their first season to settle them in and you can also help by mulching well with compost and manure or bark chippings. You can even plant through cardboard – water well first to make it more flexible and then using a knife, cut holes in the cardboard for planting through. Cover with bark mulch to weigh the cardboard down and to make it look more attractive.
Our favourite dry shade plants:
Brunnera macrophylla – a member of the borage and comfrey family, it is a really good weed suppressant. It has rather rough, heart-shaped leaves above tough, slowly spreading roots – the effect is rather like a rough-textured hosta, but unlike hostas doesn’t get eaten by slugs and snails! Known as the perennial forget-me-not, it produces very dainty pale blue flowers. The silver form called ‘Jack Frost’ really lights up a shady corner and is lovely cultivar. Height 45cm (18in)
Dryopteris filix-mas - I’m always surprised that this plant is tolerant of dry, shady conditions. If like me you have problems remembering what fern goes where, the clue is in the name DRYopteris! It is known as the shuttlecock fern and once established, its finely dissected widely splayed fronds make a really good contrast to broader foliage. You have to wait for a while for it to reach maturity but it is worth the wait. Two favourite AGM cultivars are ‘Cristata’ and ‘Grandiceps Wills’ – both have crests at the tips of their fronds and of their leaf divisions. Height 1m (39in)
Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ – the poor old Euonymus always seems to get a bad press – maybe because it is often used in places where it doesn’t get looked after very well. It is a great winter plant and when the cold gets to it the small dark leaves, edged in gold, develop a lovely pink tinge. It can be pruned hard in spring and clipped to shape, or if left will also climb walls. It also looks good in containers in a shady position. Height 50cm (20in)
Epimedium x perralchicum – evergreen epimediums, commonly known as bishop’s mitre, are good in dry shade, this one makes a dense clump. This form was found at Wisley, RHS gardens in the 1930s. It is in the same family as Berberis and Mahonia, and has the same yellow roots as these two cousins. In spring sprays of very dainty, dancing, pale yellow flowers cover the foliage. It makes a good weed-smothering hardy perennial cover which is attractive all year. Height 40cm (16in)
Narcissus ‘Jack Snipe’ – now is bulb planting time and some of the small narcissi are brilliant in dry shade. ‘Jack Snipe’ has strong stems and small flowers and look great gown in clumps, add plenty of compost before planting to give them a good start.
Geranium macrorrhizum ‘White-Ness’ – this is a lovely cultivar of the hardy geranium. It has a very interesting aroma, also has rather good autumn colour – and it is sometimes evergreen here in Brighton! It flowers May and June when it’s white flowers light up the shade, it’s a really good form. Height 30cm (12in)
Lamium maculatum ‘Ghost’ – such lovely plant, its green-edged silvery foliage really catches the eye so ideal for dry shade. This is a very vigorous growing form. Height 30cm (12in)
Iris foetidissima – the ‘stinking iris’ is a great perennial for tough situations (fear not, it only smells when you crush the leaves!). The heavy-duty long grass-like evergreen foliage is a good feature, and although the flowers are not terribly exciting I love the orange fruits, held in fat pods, that appear in autumn and last for ages. Height 45cm (18in)
Vinca minor ‘Argenteovariegata’ - I love Vinca, its windmill-like flowers are very delicate and it comes in so many different colours and forms. Great for suppressing weeds as it forms a very dense carpet. If you cut it back in March with shears it will produce lots of flowers on the side shoots. It often tends to get neglected but with care it will produce some lovely pale purple flowers in spring, and the leaves are evergreen. Height 10cm (4in) NOTE: Vinca major is best left to larger gardens as it can be quite invasive!
Posted by editor on Monday, 14 February 2011
We enjoyed fine weather and great company on our Garden House visit to Anglesey Abbey last Saturday. “Just to say thank you for a wonderful day out, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Your organisation and hospitality is matchless. I am so glad I was able to come along!” Vicky D.
We love Angie B’s sketches of the winter garden, and Mandy D. wrote the following piece:
As winter slowly turns to spring no plant lover should miss the chance to visit the glorious winter display at Anglesey Abbey. Situated not far from Cambridge (not on the Island of Anglesey as most of my friends thought!) this National Trust property and gardens boasts one of the most beautiful and varied winter gardens I have ever seen.
A short walk from the Visitors Centre leads you to the start of the winter garden walk which, even if you did not notice the signs, can be found by following the intoxicating smell of the Sweet Box (Sarcococca), that line the first part of the walkway.
And that’s not all – for those Galanthophiles amongst you (snowdrop lovers to the rest of us!), the Abbey gardens boast over 200 varieties of snowdrop (Galanthus), some labelled and therefore identifiable along the main path and many others in gentle drifts that meander through the woodlands and other areas. My favourite was Galanthus plicatus ‘Hobsons Choice’ (wondered why I picked that one) and another variety named after Anglesey Abbey itself.
And finally, for stunning shrubs and trees, nothing can beat their display of Cornus – reds, greens and yellows – and the glade of Himalayan Birch (Betula utilis ‘jacquemontii’), with its ghostly white bark and statuesque structure, making all who came across them pause, reflect and for some, stay until the sun went down…
If you add to this a lovely sunny day, good company and even a rainbow on our return, it was the perfect day. Thanks weather fairy…
Anglesey Abbey: Quy Road, Lode, Cambridge CB25 9EJ / Tel. 01223 810080
Posted by editor on Thursday, 2 December 2010
When did we last have snow in early December?! Last year it was January, the year before, April – this is becoming a regular if rather unpredictable occurrence!
On the plus side, it’s a great insulator, and it melts to provide much needed water to dry plants in the winter. However, heavy snow and ice build up can cause devastating damage in the garden if limbs and trunks bend or break. Even hardy plants and tough evergreens can also be damaged by prolonged spells of severe cold when soil becomes frozen.
To protect (I know too late this time, but worth remembering!):
- Tie up plants: Before the snow, use plant netting to tie up the branches of your conifers and soft shrubs, to prevent them from being misshapen or broken by snow. Tie them in a cone shape, to deflect snow off to the sides.
- Move containers: Put planters and containers under a shed or porch during snow and ice storms to keep freezing water from expanding and breaking containers.
- Prevent your pond freezing over: Place a rubber ball in any outdoor ponds to prevent them icing over completely, then remove to allow oxygen into the water.
Post heavy snow:
- Look after your garden birds: Don’t forget to put out extra food out, clearing snow and ice off bird-tables – and most important, fresh water – if possible de-ice your bird-baths and top up with fresh water.
- Take care clearing paths: Be careful not to pile snow on your plants when clearing paths as it will then need to be removed and might do damage you can’t prevent.
- Avoid Salt: Salt can damage lawns and plants when it runs off your driveway. If your plants have been exposed to salt, water and rinse them well as soon as temperatures are above freezing. Next time, use sand or clay-based kitty litter instead of salt.
- Take care with damaged trees: Tender branches (particularly conifers) may become broken or weighed down with heavy snow. Broken branches should be pruned away immediately to prevent injury and disease. Ragged tears are very susceptible to infection, so remove damaged wood using clean cuts.
- Remove snow from roofs (if you can safely): Remove the piles of snow that may cascade down onto your shrubs from the roof above. If your shrubs are right in the danger zone under a steep roof, you may want to protect them with a temporary wooden frame.
- Keep off grass: Snow covered grass is fragile, easily uprooted, and susceptible to fungal diseases under the snow. Avoid walking on snow-covered grass as it will damage the turf beneath and leave unsightly marks on the lawn.
Try to save damaged plants:
The extent of the damage often won’t be clear until spring, when you find out if your plant is able to spring back into shape. Wait for spring to do any staking or reshaping of bent plants, since winter branches are extremely brittle. In the spring they’ll be much more supple.
- Cut back frosted growth in spring to a healthy, new bud, to prevent further die back and encourage plants to produce fresh, new shoots.
- Feed damaged plants with a balanced fertiliser (one with equal amounts of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium) to encourage strong, healthy growth.
- Dig up small, tender plants and take them into the greenhouse. Many will quickly produce new growth and recover, provided they are not subjected to prolonged periods of heavy frost, wet or cold.
- Newly planted specimens will often lift themselves proud of the soil surface if there is a hard frost straight after planting. Check them regularly and re-firm the ground around them to ensure their roots are always in contact with the soil.
Finally – just enjoy the sheer beauty of your snowy gardenscape – take some photos and make a note in your September diary to have your own Christmas cards printed!
Posted by editor on Tuesday, 30 November 2010
“If Dixter always remains loved and retains its own identity, everything else will fall into place.” Christopher Lloyd, January 2006
The incredible spirit of this wonderful garden still lives on and is a testament to the words of the great horticulturalist Christopher Lloyd who lived and gardened at Great Dixter all his life, leaving the estate to The Great Dixter Trust on his death in 2006.
Great Dixter is a Tudor house bought in 1910 by Nathaniel Lloyd, father of Christopher and author of books on brickwork and topiary, and was restored by Edwin Lutyens. Nathaniel designed the framework of the garden and it was initially planted by Daisy Lloyd, Christopher’s mother, who taught Christopher how to garden.
The house is surrounded by the now world-famous garden that was Christopher Lloyd’s lifelong passion; his influence since the war on amateur gardeners in this country can scarcely be overestimated. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of plants, together with a love of form and colour – and together with his great strength of trying something new Great Dixter was always evolving, always fresh.
In 1996 he became bored with his rose garden, which had been designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and established for more than 70 years, he simply uprooted it. The replacement, a brazen kaleidoscope of sub-tropical plants, sent shock waves through the gardening world.
It is the most inspirational garden, clearly loved and still gardened by Fergus Garrett who was Christopher Lloyd’s head gardener, and who continues as the garden’s creative head.
Yesterday on a cold November day the late autumn structure was astonishing – the yew hedges and topiary, grasses, trees and shrubs looking beautiful in the low November light.
The fires burning in the grates were welcoming – doubtless the timber in the great hall could tell a thousand stories, Christopher Lloyd was alive today I think he would have been delighted to see his extraordinary home filled with people having fun and enjoying the spirit of Great Dixter.
For a great read try: Colour for Adventurous Gardeners; The Well-Tempered Garden; or Cuttings (a collection of writings for the Guardian) – all by Christopher Lloyd.
See the website www.greatdixter.co.uk for events, opening times, and admission costs and location (if you sign up for their newsletter, you’ll be first to hear what’s upcoming!)…
Christopher Lloyd – “The right time to do a job is when you are in the mood to do it.” What wise words!
Posted by editor on Friday, 2 April 2010
“Dig it up and throw it away” was the title of a talk given by the much-admired gardener Helen Dillon at last Sunday’s Hardy Plant Society (Sussex Group) meeting.
Drawing on over thirty-five years’ experience in her Dublin garden, Helen amused the audience greatly with her tales of plants that simply wouldn’t behave as she wanted or perform as she wished! “Love, nurture, let go” is her philosophy.
Her illustrated talk encompassed many aspects of gardening that ring true for us all. She is a most impressive plantswoman, yet she also completely understands the issues, angst and frustrations we experience in our own gardens.
Helen’s ideas could be considered a little left field (we love that!). Refreshingly she’s all for rethinking the expected, happy to make room for new ideas…
- Having grown tired of the huge box balls cornering her borders, Helen boldly sliced off the tops like boiled eggs and scooped out the centres – creating box bowls instead.
- Helen uses dustbins to great effect – filled with tulips, cannas and verbenas, or runner beans!
- She ties her plant labels to the looped ends of wire coat-hangers – a great idea, we loved that one.
Helen talked of some of her favourite plants – Bengal Crimson Rose (R. chinensis var. sanguinea), Isoplexis sceptrum (a spectacular evergreen shrub, native to Madeira), Bergenia purpurascens (“the only plant I ever stole” she told us) – amongst many many others.
We’re currently re-reading Helen Dillon’s GARDEN Book (ISBN: 978-0-7112-2710-1). It’s so typically Helen, a book divided into thoughts rather than chapters – Sitting in the garden, Why did it die?, Plants worth searching for, Hiding the neighbours, Scent, Burglar-proof plants – and so on. Delightful.
NOTE: At The Garden House we are great fans of The Hardy Plant Society – it exists to inform and encourage the novice gardener, stimulate and enlighten the more knowledgeable, and entertain and enthuse all gardeners bonded by a love for, and an interest in, hardy perennial plants. If you are interested in finding out more visit www.hardy-plant.org.uk/
Posted by editor on Saturday, 13 March 2010
In winter and early spring whilst you’re holding your breath waiting for some signs of new growth, it is all to easy to get impatient and despair.
Yet we love this time of year – the garden is laid bare, and the skeletal structure of trees, shrubs and plant supports take on a beauty of their own – occasionally dusted with frost or dripping with rain. Instead of bemoaning the late start, look closely and review how your garden looks now. Even take a few photos as a reminder – does it need more evergreen shrubs to give winter structure, some Cornus sanguinea or Salix for bright winter stems, should you have left the tall grasses standing, not just for the insects and birds, but also for height and drama?
Good structural plants include clipped box (Buxus sempervirens) used for low hedging, clipped cones or spheres. Also Sedum, Euphorbias, Phormium and Fatsia Japonica. The white bark of Betula Utilis var. Jacquemontii (Himalayan birch) looks spectacular, great for uplighting in winter.
Look too at the small details that give your garden its early season personality. Maybe bird-feeders made by local artisans, pieces of carved stone lined up against a wall, or mosaic paving stones giving a flash of colour? At The Garden House we cut bright red Cornus branches and use them to edge the vegetable garden, and small pots of bulbs are lined up on little tables.
Take this opportunity to tidy up scrappy fences, fix trellises that have suffered the previous season, oil or stain outdoor furniture or sheds.
Now is the time to think about creating some dynamic new plant supports, using hazel, birch or willow – it’s easier to get them into place now well before a burst of growth makes it hard to get onto the borders. Join our Creative Plant Staking workshop on Friday 16 April – check this website’s Diary for details.
All too soon this elegant buff-coloured bareness will be overtaken by lush green growth – so enjoy it while you can!
Posted by editor on Wednesday, 10 March 2010
“Rushes are round, sedges have edges, and grasses are glorious”. So said expert grower Monica Lewis at last Saturday’s Garden House workshop!
Enthusiastic and hugely knowledgeable, Monica talked the group through the seemingly endless and largely irresistible variations. So, why grasses?
Grasses are versatile, an almost essential component in any modern planting scheme. They rustle delicately in the wind (the larger the leaf the more noise they make) and change colour according to season, light levels, sun and shade, rain or frost. They can be used as hedging, as low-level edging for pathways or beds – they can be planted as ribbons through beds to give visual continuity, or used to create a stunning backdrop for contrasting perennial planting. Some are evergreen, some deciduous. Many grow well in containers.
There are also annual grasses, easily grown from seed, which mix beautifully with hardy annuals in the cutting garden.
The last ten years has seen grasses return to fashion in a big way. Naturalistic prairie-style planting – developed in Germany, Holland (think Piet Oudolf) and North America – sees blocks of tall grasses and statuesque perennials mingled together to form flowing borders of late-flowering colour.
To see this style of planting at close-hand, visit the stunning 6-acre Sussex Prairie garden near Henfield, Sussex (featured on this website 24.11.2009). Here the large borders, planted by owners Paul and Pauline McBride, combine perennials with huge drifts of ornamental grasses, including varieties of Miscanthus, Panicums, Molinias, Sporobolis and Penisetum. For open days check www.sussexprairies.co.uk
Monica Lucas talks about ‘cool growers’ and ‘warm growers’. Cool growers flower in late spring and early summer (propagate in spring and autumn), whilst warm growers flower in summer and autumn, keeping most of their dried flowers all winter until broken down by the weather (propagate in spring and early summer).
In general grasses need a free-draining moisture-retentive soil – and whilst there are always exceptions to the ‘rules’, and many other options, Monica suggests the following:
- Koeleria glauca
- Melica ciliata
Grasses for clay:
- Calamagrostis x acutiflora cvs.
- Deschampsia caespitose cvs.
- Elymus glaucus
- Phalaris arundinaria cvs.
- Briza media
- Calamagrostis acutiflora Karl Foerster
- Calamagrostis brachytricha
- Carex (most cultivars)
- Deschampsia caespitose cvs.
- Hackenochloa macra cvs.
- Milium effusem aureum
- Miscanthus sinensis purpureus
- Molinia caerulea (all cultivars)
- Stipa arundinaria
Key learnings from the workshop:
- For long term container planting, use ½ John Innes soil-based potting compost No2, ½ soil-less compost, a good deal of ½” grit for drainage, and a controlled release fertilizer (such as Osmacote).
- Don’t over-feed (they won’t flower well) – grasses prefer a low-nitrogen soil – so go easy on the chicken pellets or manure, in preference use well-rotted garden compost.
- If you like a plant, but are unsure if it will grow on your soil, buy three and plant them in various locations in the garden. Wherever they grow best, transfer the others – they will have found their home!
- Propagation involves digging out the plant and setting to (carefully!) with a variety of knives, saws, or even an axe, to cut the root ball into small sections ready to pot up for a few weeks before planting out.
- Use a wide-toothed comb to ‘preen’ (not ‘prune’) evergreen grasses – combing out the dead stalks to clear space for new growth.
When pressed Monica told us her personal favourite is Miscanthus Nepalensis – common name: Himalayan fairy grass!
Posted by editor on Saturday, 27 February 2010
Having been on a visit to RHS Wisley last week with The Garden House I decided it was so amazing that I visited again this week, this time with my father (who is nearly 90) in tow.
RHS Wisley has such a wealth of information and this time – only a week later , there were different things to see and new plants emerging , despite the dreadful weather!
The alpines were certainly one of the stars of the show and they are a group of plants that I for one tend to forget about – an alpine is mainly grown between the tree line and the line of permanent snow and the conditions they have adapted to are many; altitude, cold, wind, free draining soil, poor soil and also a short growing season.
It is because of these conditions that they tend to be low growing and have leaves that have adapted to reduce moisture loss, so consequently the leaves are often small, rolled up, hairy or succulent. Some are evergreens which reduces the amount of growth they have to make each season.
Alpines are associated with rockeries, this is an attempt to recreate their natural environment but Wisley have them growing in the alpine houses , this is so they keep dry. They really dislike poorly drained soil and damp conditions.
RHS Wisley also has a wonderful educational value – the labelling is fantastic and seeing so many young children really enjoying themselves in the glasshouse was very hopeful – budding horticulturalists!
Do pay Wisley a visit – anytime of year there is so much to see – whatever your age!
Posted by editor on Thursday, 21 January 2010
Sarcococca – common name, Christmas box or sweet box
What a plant – this evergreen shrub has so much going for it – it is evergreen, fragrant, graceful, good in shade, suitable for both containers or to grow in the garden border. It has one of the strongest scents in the winter garden and if planted on mass can be quite overpowering in a rather lovely sort of way!
The plant originates from western and central China, and is hardy, tolerating temperatures of -15C. It is happy in most soils, from acid to alkaline but does need a good feed to do well. It is ideal for leafy woodland. It will even tolerate deep shade although will cope in full sun as well, it becomes more open and lax in the shade. They will be fine in dry shade as well, even coping under conifers!
There are a variety of species to choose from, each bringing something special to the garden.
Sarcoccoca confusa is a neat evergreen bush that grows to about 1.2m high, and as much across. The white tassel-like flowers are arranged along the stem and these are followed by black berries, another added bonus.
Sarcococca ruscifolia is similar but has thicker dark green leaves and produces red berries. This is a real beauty.
But best of all in my opinion is Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyma. Definitely worth learning the name! It has a suckering habit but is not invasive. It has narrow medium green leaves with reddish stems; its flowers are larger than the others, with pink on the backs of the petals, and has a fantastic scent. The cultivar ‘Purple Stem’ has particularly fine purples stems and leafstalks, and even the leaf midribs are flushed with purple.
Definitely a desert island plant for me!