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May 2012

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New pot plants, sea holly and pruning mature rhododendrons

 After the earliest of seasons in which we had magnolias, azaleas and pieris flowering during Feburary, what will we have for summer? To this end, I bought up. For deep shade I planted a feature pot with Hosta ‘White Feather', a most unusual variety with cream-coloured leaves and green veins. The label says to plant in sun but, to me, it will scorch, hence a shady spot. Another plant for pot culture is Heuchera ‘Delta Dawn', its leaves striped with pale yellow and the other colours remind me of faded Victorian bricks, perhaps some black grass also planted in a pot will give a good foliage contrast.


 I have planted the pink lily-of-the-valley under a Photinia ‘Red Robin' many years ago, what a great combination. Its white-flowered cousin, a thug running everywhere, has been nearly culled, but a ‘must' is the variegated form, what a pretty plant, a little shy to flower and it never runs.

 One of my favourite plants which thrives in gravel is eryngium or sea holly, the poorer the soil the better, and its thistle-like flowers in shades of silver to deep blue during summer. I interplant it with dieramas and helianthemums, and interplant it between large boulders which give a structural contrast. Another plant which dislikes good soil is the perennial purple wallflower, and these are grown now in the poorest gritty soil where they thrive, a hard prune now will induce plenty of young growth which can be used as cutting material. A pretty white form of valerian has also seeded here, a great plant for bad soil which flowers for months.

 A standard fuchsia that lived in an enormous pot for 25 years died, and purple-leaved banana is now the pot's centre piece, its leaves over a metre long. For foliage contrast, I planted saw-toothed grey-green Melianthus major and surrounded it with crimson-leaved trailing begonias.

 With so many mature rhododendrons here and many of them getting leggy, I have been cutting some of them back hard. ‘Elizabeth' and ‘Pink Pearl' have started re-growing well after last year's chop. This year ‘Lady Alice Fitzwilliam' and mixed large hybrids are getting the same treatment. I always give them a mulch of compost with a little slow release fertilizer added to speed recovery.

 To allow a new paved path to the old orchard, Escallonia bifida and Skimmia ‘Rubella' will both re-grow from a big chop. I was delighted to find hidden clumps of hostas and daffodills, which have been divided and replanted on the paths edge. The area had been planted with cordon apple trees which had not produced due to lack of light.

 There are so many small jobs to be completed. Primulas, pulmonarias and violas need dividing, and cutting back the foliage, I pull the plants apart discarding the center piece and replanting the young growth at 20 cm apart. I must also check Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer' for signs of bud blast disease that would destroy next year's flowering if the affected sooty black buds are not removed and burnt. Helleborus needs dead-heading, their seedlings need either hoeing out or transplanting into rows to grow on. Young growth on wisteria, clematis and climbing roses needs tying in. Exochorda, or pearl bush, needs cutting back after flowering!



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