Monday, 30 September 2013

Garden thugs?

We are currently enjoying a week of good, generally sunny weather with temperatures exceeding 15°C. As there are few new flowers in the garden at the moment I thought it might be an idea to reflect on the garden "thugs" and how they can be used.  

Ranunculus ficaria syn. Ficaria grandiflora (Lesser Celandine)

 When is a weed not a weed? - when it is a Celandine!  I don't care how invasive it is, I rip out handfuls every year and I know it can be a real pest in some areas, and certainly loves my damp conditions, but this British native rates as a true harbinger of spring, its yellow flowers light up even the gloomiest of days in the early part of the year. It grows from bulbils so is too easily spread by cultivation, if you must kill it glyphosate works well in open ground but it is not easy to eradicate from lawns.

Myosotis sylvatica
 Forget-me-nots. The one most common in this area where it grows like a weed seeding itself everywhere is most likely Myosotis sylvatica. A neighbour always insisted that his mother-in-law, who lived with them, had insisted that they planted myosotis, in his words even after her death she came back to haunt him every year. 
Alchemilla mollis
  Often classed as a low growing cottage garden plant but thought of as a pest by many, Alchemilla mollis seeds itself all over the place and can become a weed. Easy to grow almost anywhere but tends to prefer partial shade and will tolerate dry conditions. This plant seems to polarise opinion amongst gardeners more than any other I know, most of my acquaintances hate it, yet it has a fan base including Graham Stuart Thomas and Anne Wareham.
The dew or rain collects on the leaves which led to it being named after the alchemist or healer to whom the collected morning dew would be a constituent part of a remedy.
Houttuynia cordata 'Chameleon'
Whatever you do never, never, ever let this plant loose outside a container. Everyone's favourite waterside 'thug', you either love it or loath it, far too easy to grow, very difficult to get rid of. I can say no more! The thick white roots have a most unpleasant sweet smell which stays with you for hours after grubbing them out, it has taken me three years and I still have the odd shoot to deal with. Best treated like mint! Monotypic. Apomictic.

Lysimachia ciliata 'Firecracker'
  A beautiful 'thug', will go rampant in good conditions and I have yet to find bad ones for it!  It forms a thick, almost impenetrable root mat so you remove a good 3" of soil when you dig it out, which you will inevitably have to do to keep it in check.

Silene 'Purple Prince'
This plant was introduced by Plant World Seeds several years ago and has striking pink flowers against dark leaves. I found that the leaves burn easily with moisture and that the leaf stems are particularly brittle. The big problem is the amount of seed it sets, most of which is of the native species Silene dioica. I could have included the likes of foxgloves or Meconopsis cambrica as thugs because of their propensity to seed around but have generally stuck, other than possibly Myosotis, to those plants which have invasive root systems, but this Silene or campion is something else. Although the seedlings, or if you turn your back for two minutes, established plants are shallow rooted and easy to remove they are not only in large numbers but have the knack of seeding themselves into the crowns of your other herbaceous perennials. On the plus side it flowers for months and and makes a lovely splash of colour.
Hieracium aurantiacum.
Known as the Hawkweeds there are many members of this genus. They are spread worldwide and several species are classed as noxious weeds and even banned in some countries.
Hieracium aurantiacum is a British native that will grow in fairly dry conditions, 12" stems rise from neat grey/green rosettes in mid-summer. Commonly known as Fox and Cubs due to its habit of spreading by over-ground runners it can be invasive, although I don't have much of a problem here.  

Hypericum calycinum

 Known as St John's Wort or Rose of Sharon, which is confusing as several other plants share the same common name, this plant is derided as a weed by many but, as mentioned in a recent blog, is a very versatile plant that can be used as ground cover or as a stand alone shrub which can be used about anywhere.

Other than the dreaded Houttuynia I grow all the above but use them where others fear to tread so they fill a useful role particularly in dry shady areas where conditions by their very nature control growth and keep them in check. For example I have just planted some narcissus out under trees in newly recovered bare soil, I deliberately left some self-sown seedlings of Myosotis to develop elsewhere which I have now lifted and planted with the narcissus rather than throw them out as weeds. 

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Woodland in autumn

The weather is quite mixed sunny spells intermingled with drizzle and the odd heavy downpour of rain. Temperatures at best are between 10 and 15°C and the feeling is distinctly autumnal.

This is the "woodland" end of the garden which finishes in an extremely high privet hedge and is under the shade of a silver birch, a weeping birch, a larch (whose needle drop is the bane of my life for about a month) and a massive horse chestnut which means at certain times of the year you are safer working under it in a hard-hat. Along with the hostas, Chelone and anemones, colour is also being provided by the plants below.

Gentiana asclepiadea
Gentiana asclepiadea AGM (Willow Gentian) is quite happy away from the base of the trees.

Hypericum calycinum
 Hypericum calycinum, sometimes know as 'Rose of Sharon' which is a name shared by several other plants, is displaying all its stages at once, the yellow flowers, developing and ripe fruits. Ideal for woodland this plant will tolerate quite severe dry shade. Regarded by some as a weed it is quite invasive and does seed itself around with abandon but is fairly easy to remove. I personally wouldn't be without it, how can something so versatile and beautiful be discarded. Performs best if cut right back every spring.   

Strobilanthes wallichii
A handy plant for the woodland, although not really notable, it does have the benefit of being late to flower. Once known as Strobilanthes atropurpurea I have read that it is shrubby and is also known as the Kandali Plant which features in an Indian festival where it only flowers every twelve years? (Wikipedia). It remains firmly herbaceous here but that was the name on the packet so who am I to argue!

Actaea racemosa 'Brunette'
Back in the main border Actaea racemosa 'Brunette'  syn.Cimicifuga racemosa 'Brunette', the Black Cohosh is a beautiful late flowered plant with wonderful contrast and a delicate but strong perfume which can be detected from a good 10ft away. A great plant for attracting bees and other insects.

Anemonopsis macrophylla
Still in flower so I have an excuse to include a picture of my favourite flower which I should have included earlier in the year. This beautiful woodlander is quite rare and found in the wild in a very limited area of Japan. Needs moisture but in a well drained position in partial shade to give of its best. Unfortunately the flowers are reluctant to show themselves as they hang downward. Monotypic.
Anemonopsis macrophylla
taken at the beginning of August.
More badger news, this time a newly planted berberis has been ripped up not once but twice as it obviously was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Friday, 6 September 2013

That autumn feeling.

New Lilies page and the Meconopsis page has been updated.

 Today heralds a change to wetter weather after what could become a fondly remembered and much deserved summer, autumn is upon us, the night temperatures have dropped and the days are drawing in rapidly. 

In the garden the pinks and purples are predominant along with, in my case, swathes of green.

Members of the Buddlejaceae, named after the Reverend Buddle, buddleias are king of the 'grow virtually anywhere' shrubs, in the wild they are often found growing out of cracks in cliff faces. Very adaptable, mainly scented and as everyone knows they are very attractive to both butterflies and bees. There are now concerns from the green brigade that the buddleia is becoming a weed......worse things could happen!

Buddleja davidii 'Black Night' - almost black flowers.
 Buddleja davidii 'Nanho Purple'
This cultivar has a very sprawling habit, growing horizontally rather than holding the flowers vertically. 

Buddleja davidii 'Pink Delight' 
This has a graceful form with soft pink flowers and silvery foliage, a definite favourite.

Buddleja davidii 'Royal Red'
  Buddleja 'Lochinch'.
This is the result of a cross between B. davidii and B. fallowiana and is a highly scented shrub with bright orange eyes to the flowers and silver foliage which lasts well in mild winters but suffers a lot of damage when it gets really cold.

 A white seedling with orange eyes which seeded itself in the garden wall.

Buddleja x weyeriana 'Sungold'
Most of those pictured are in "Buddleia Alley" down the path at the side of the house creating a tunnel of scent. Buddleias are very vigorous and need pruning back hard in the spring to stimulate growth and also to make sure they flower at roughly head height where you can enjoy them. I normally cut them back by about a half after flowering which not only tidies them up but cuts down on the possibility of wind damage during the winter. Pruning is then completed in spring.

Eupatorium purpureum subsp. maculatum 'Atropurpureum' ( Joe Pye Weed)
  A member of the Compositae this is an autumn flowering herbaceous perennial which grows up to 2 meters in the season and then produces flowers which bring in the butterflies and bees from miles around, it also has a pleasant scent. A truly useful plant, it grows in shady damp conditions with me and never fails to impress. I have read that it has now been awarded an AGM. Propagation is by cuttings of young shoots with some bottom heat in spring, or by division in spring or autumn.

Anemone tomentosa 'Robustissima'
  This is the easiest, most adaptable and earliest of the Japanese anemones, flowering in early July through to October. It can be a bit of a 'thug' but is worth it for the beautiful colour, large blooms and long flowering season. Many woodland anemones will tolerate quite deep shade when established. Generally Japanese anemones can be grown from seed in March, or division of the roots in spring which tends to be the preferred method. Incidentally 'Japanese' is a bit of a misnomer as they are believed to have originated in China. Heights for this group vary from around 1'-3' and the white form 'alba' is also an excellent plant.  
Chelone obliqua - (Pink turtlehead)

  This North American member of the  Scrophulariaceae has proved to be a long lived and reliable plant, its pink 'snap dragons' don't come out until very late summer and provide autumn colour over a long flowering period in cool weather. Propagation is by seeds cold sown in spring, by cuttings June/July or by division in August and September.

I have ordered most of my tulip and narcissus bulbs and can't wait to get them potted up or planted out ready for spring.