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October / November 2012

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Plant on a mound, preparing tender plants and tropaeolums

This year's motto is: plant on a mound, whether it be a shrub or vegetables and achieve good drainage. At Lakemount, we are on free-draining soil, but not this year. As early as July, acers were changing their leaf colour and tilias were dropping their foliage. Hydrangea flowers were rotting on the stems as were dieramas, dianthus and campanula. Thankfully, I do not grow many roses but Rosa ‘Knockout' varieties have come through and flowered since last June without spraying or deadheading. 

tropaelolum

If we grow single and small-flowered varieties, these will tolerate the conditions better. Avoid silver and grey foliage plants as they dislike the wet. An example is Cytisus battandierii which I have grown for 30 years. During June the flowers rotted on the plant with no scent of pineapple. In August the plant became defoliated due to weather - what next?

A few weeks ago I scarified the lawn and applied a little fertilizer, and a few applications of sulphate of iron will keep a good green colour till spring. Our plant house flowered well this season with plenty of fuchsias, clivias, pelargoniums and climbers, and lapagerias, tibouchina and scented jasmine clothed the walls. I have taken to planting some large-flowered varieties of fuchsia as wall plants, trained with one upright stem and the lateral branches well spread out, and their drooping bell flowers are still budding. By December the watering will be stopped, the plants will stay on the dry side and a protection of fleece will be draped over tender plants.

Tropaeolums are a group of plants which thrive here. The flame creeper, Tropaeolum speciosum, would scramble to four metres high. Last winter it remained evergreen in sheltered areas and flowered till December with bright red flowers followed by deep blue-purple berries. Tropaeolum tricolorum is less vigorous, its red flowers carrying a dark blotch. This is hardy but needs a little TLC. Both grow through mature shrubs or scrambles over hedges.

A variety I cannot grow is Tropaeolum polyphyllum, a yellow flowered form, this thrives in dry high alkaline soil, my miserable specimen tells me: right plant, right place. I am removing all of the seedlings of herbaceous plants from the beds - campanulas, crocosmias and achillea been the most invasive. Oenothera, verbena and helianthemums are being thinned out in the gravel area. Both alstroemerias and phlox have outgrown their space and need to be reduced, and one of the alstroemerias has reverted to the wild yellow, so great care will be taken to remove all roots of this for the fourth time!

 

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