Monday, 21 January 2013

Got that wrong!

More than a skittering!

Didn't really expect this as we thought we had missed the main snow belt. Only a few inches though, so compared with other parts of the country pretty minor stuff. Makes the garden look better!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Evergreen Colour

Just a skittering of snow.
In our little enclave at the foot of the Pennines we seem to have escaped the worst of the snow, temperatures are around freezing but so far nothing dramatic. The birds have kept up a daily assault on the feeding station and, although we have had the female for a while, I actually saw the male Greater Spotted Woodpecker for the first time a couple of days ago, they both come for the fat-balls.  

The odd primrose is showing a solitary flower but, as you would expect, other than the winter-flowering shrubs, the only other colour is to be found in the evergreens.  

Elaeagnus ebbingei 'Limelight'
A member of the Elaeagnaceae family the Eleagnus are a genus of both hardy deciduous and evergreen shrubs with generally insignificant flowers which gets its name from the Greek: elaia-olive tree and agnos-willow like.The evergreen Elaeagnus ebbingei 'Limelight' is used as a stand alone shrub and also for hedging. It is a mainstay for commercial landscapers, being cheap to buy and relatively trouble free. Propagation is from fresh seed, semi-hardwood or hardwood cuttings or by layering or suckers.

Euonymus fortunei 'Harlequin'

Yes that is the well known thug
Houttuynia cordata 'Chameleon' creeping in to where it isn't wanted!

Euonymus japonicus 'Bravo'

Euonymus japonicus Aureopictus 'Luna' 
 A member of the Celastraceae Family possibly from the Greek: Euonyme, mother of the Furies. Euonymus is a genus of small variegated shrubs that prefer a sunny or only very lightly shaded position but are basically tolerant of most soils. Depending on variety they grow from around 1' to 4' and provide all year round colour. Any new growth which reverts to green must be removed. This genus is another mainstay of the commercial landscaper. Propagation can be from cold sown seed or cuttings taken from mature current year's growth in late summer.

Ilex aquifolium 'Gold Flash'

The Holly or Ilex is the only genus in the family Aquifoliaceae, the name Ilex is thought to have originated from the old Latin for the Evergreen or Holm Oak. This genus includes both evergreen and deciduous shrubs and trees and is spread worldwide although we are more familiar with the traditional Christmas holly tree. Ilex aquifolium is tolerant of most soils and positions although it does not like to have its feet wet. It is generally dioecious, having separate male and female plants, although some self-fertile cultivars exist. Taking semi-hardwood cuttings seems to be the best method of propagation although like most plants they can be grown from seed but this is only if one has plenty of patience.

This is just a small selection of evergreen plants, basically ones that I grow. There are many others not least the heathers and conifers which were so popular 30 years ago but are now out of fashion. There is a move to re-establish interest but to be quite honest I have never been a fan of either so with the exception of a couple of small conifer specimens in pots and mature larch and cedar, whose shedding needles I curse every year, they are missing from my garden.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

New Year Resolution

       After the terrible weather of 2012, as a gardener, I am fervently hoping for something better in 2013. The best guess so far, on searching those sites which still predict our weather patterns, the Met. Office having now stopped doing this in embarrassment, is that we will have a drier than average January followed by a damp February, although the overall picture is that of a drier year to come, as if it could be anything else. 

January garden looking like a bomb-site after being neglected due to the weather, half of it was under water at times.
      Looking out over a sodden garden in the murky twilight, which substitutes for daylight at this time of the year, makes the splashes of colour from the winter flowering shrubs truly worthwhile.

Viburnum bodnantse
       First of the stalwarts is Viburnum bodnantse - developed at Bodnant Gardens in North Wales the perfume from the delicate pink flowers, born on bare branches, can pervade quite a sizeable area, particularly if there is any warmth in the day. The older stems of the framework can be very coarse which rather detracts from the overall although the deeply veined deciduous leaves can be quite attractive especially as the young ones can be a striking deep red before turning to green. Prune back after flowering to generate new wood. Popular cultivar Viburnum bodnantse 'Dawn' is an improved version.

Mahonia japonica

        A great all-rounder which will tolerate quite shady and dry conditions is Mahonia japonica. Flowering through the winter months this shrub is invaluable although, unfortunately, the small birds eat most of the flowers on mine, I think they go for the nectar. This mahonia will stand very hard pruning if it gets out of hand but don't leave it too late or you will lose flowers in the following year. Do not hand weed within 10' of it without wearing stout gloves, the spines on the dried leaves are vicious. Scented.

Hamamelis mollis
           Known as Witch Hazel this is a beautiful architectural deciduous winter flowering shrub, which looks better as a free standing specimen in grass but only in a large scheme as the foliage is not that interesting for the greater part of the growing season although the autumn colour is pleasing for a short time. Prune to shape immediately after flowering.

Lonicera fragrantissima
      Another classic beauty is the Winter Flowering Honeysuckle. The clusters of tiny white flowers exude a stunning fragrance. Like many winter flowering plants the rest of the year it is not too exciting and, unlike the more traditional trailing plant we are used to, has a very lax, semi-evergreen, shrubby habit which can be kept under control by judicious pruning after flowering although it does well grown against a fence, wall or other support. Hails from China.

       As long as we can experience colour and fragrance in the garden at this time of the year, it seems to make the advent of spring seem closer. I planted the last of the tulip bulbs in tubs on the second, it will be interesting to see what happens as a lot of research has shown that with tulips the later the better. A late planting is meant to provide less vulnerability to disease plus sturdier plants because they do not tend to go leggy.