Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Some bits I missed.

Next year I hope to be a bit more specific in what I write about, but for now I want to show one or two plants that I have missed out previously but are still amongst my favourites. Winter has now set in, after quite a wet spell we are now down to freezing or near freezing temperatures with the odd burst of sunshine but mainly dry.

Angelica 'Ebony'

Angelica hybrid
Originally I grew Angelica archangelica which is a wonderful if somewhat invasive (seed) architectural plant. Over the years several cultivars have been added including Angelica 'Ebony' which still attracts attention in show gardens at such as Chelsea and to my mind is the best, only growing to about 3' but producing really dark foliage, stems and flowers. The self-seeded hybrid above has the vigour of the species but has dark stems, green leaves and whiter flowers and as such is quite desirable. Generally a biennial, although too many seedlings are produced they can easily be uprooted or moved during the first year.  
Chaerophyllum hirsutum roseum
Another umbel bearing plant and fellow member of the Apiaceae which I really rate is Chaerophyllum hirsutum roseum, its light green feathery foliage is one of the first to emerge in the herbaceous border, this followed by the powdery pink flower-heads made it a favourite plant of Graham Stuart Thomas.
Spring flowering clematis
Clematis macropetalla and Clematis 'Beauty of Worcester' are two spring flowering clematis which look good together.
Aquilegia chrysantha
Aquilegia chrysantha - one of the American species used to develop long-spurred hybrids. Easy to grow from seed but generally short-lived with me.

Iris chrysographes 'Black Gold'
Iris chrysographes 'Black Gold' is a very reliable plant which comes true from seed and looks really well with the silver leafed Brunnera as a foil.

Agastache 'Apricot Sprite'
Agastaches generally do not do well on this shaded site, and apart from the odd self-seed do best as annuals. The exception was this beautifully coloured Agastache 'Apricot Sprite', it did well in its first year but overwintered to give a much stronger plant.

Time to go and finish potting up the last of the tulip bulbs soon, last year I left it till Christmas with absolutely no ill effects whatsoever.

Friday, 8 November 2013


In amongst the deluges we have had the first  proper frost a couple of nights ago, it had rained and then frozen, covering exposed surfaces with ice. As I sit here I can see the blackbirds starting to take the berries of the big "Chinese Hybrid" cotoneaster and the Mahonia japonica coming into flower, another reminder of the approaching winter. Mahonias belong to one of the most useful of families the Berberidaceae which contains many plants which are both tough and beautiful ranging from the berberis genus stereotypes to the more exotic but tenacious epimediums. 

Mahonia japonica
This statuesque shrub flowers through the winter months, the delicately scented yellow flowers are unfortunately often eaten by blue-tits which I think go for the nectar. Will stand very hard pruning if it gets out of hand, but do it straight after flowering, although you may miss the black berries that form it will ensure flowers for the next year.

Mahonia japonica 'Hivernant'
Mahonia japonica 'Hivernant' is a more delicate looking cultivar which flowers later than the species, both will tolerate dry shade once established.

Mahonia aquifolium
Flowering in late spring Mahonia aquifolium, the Oregon Grape also has scented flowers and the typical yellow flowers of the mahonias but carried in clusters rather than the racemes of Mahonia japonica. A useful shrub for ground-cover, again in inhospitable areas, the leaves tend to go tatty which really means that they look better if cut down every year loosing the beautiful black berries which makes it a matter of personal preference.
Mahonias can be propagated in a variety of ways, by cold sown seed, layering, suckers or by half-ripe cuttings with heat. Do not ever hand-weed close to the big ones without gloves, the spines on the fallen dead leaves are excruciatingly sharp.