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January/February 2013

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Weedy arum, early camellia, nandina and grevillea


Already the garden is waking up for 2013. Late autumn-flowering plants lasted well - last flowers of schizostylis, nerines and alstroemerias were all picked for vases in the house around Christmas. I divided many plants before topdressing the gravel paths - epimediums, Pacific coast Iris, restio-relative rhodocoma and small herbaceous geraniums. I grew Arum italicum until it became a nuisance, and I resorted to painting Roundup on it. Its seedlings will re-emerge for a number of years and will need taking out. Euphorbia ‘Lambrook Gold' has grey-green foliage, the leaves holding rain drops like jewels, its yellow flowers are ready to burst as are those of the winter iris, Iris unguicularis, which thrives in poor soil.


Planted against a north-facing wall, Camellia reticulata has semi-double flowers, and, being out of the morning sun, they last for weeks. Immediately after flowering its outward facing growth is removed to keep it close to the wall.


After flowering, four metre high camellias will be cut to within 30cm of the ground. These have outgrown their site and will take three years to flower but I have no option. This allows space for re-planting of groundcover plants. Bergenias, Dryopteris wallicheana, sidalceas and Maianthemum racemosum will be divided to fill the empty areas.


Removing a mature chamaecyparis last December has let lots of morning sun to the greenhouse. I have removed the major portion of the stump and more importantly dumped the masses of dead foliage from the conifer as the new plants dislike it. Plenty of old manure and topsoil will give a good start. Mature Griselinia ‘Bantry Bay' and pieris will conceal the greenhouse. The tallest plant will be a Michelia, related to magnolia, an evergreen with masses of white flowers in late spring.


I am tempted to edge this area with a low hedge of Nandina domestica ‘Firepower', a great little shrub at this time of year with red-tinged leaves and berries growing to 65 cm high. I hate pruning the weeping silver pear, Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula', with its many thorns. I wonder if it's worth its space but what can I replace it with? Perhaps Itea ilicifolia, with its glossy holly-like leaves and an attractive weeping habit, superb in late summer and early autumn with its long flowering tassels.


Having lost all my grevilleas due to frost, I have started collecting them again. I have planted them in a dry sunny border with grit added. Grevillea ‘Tamborina' seems a little hardier flowering red during winter and spring. I have topped up the protection on tree ferns with old fronds and bubble wrap. Other tender plants restios, cannas and some agapanthus that are evergreen will also get the same treatment with straw added.


Containerised plants of beschorneria, succulents and melianthus are safely in the greenhouse and protected by a double layer of fleece, watering will start them into growth in March. A recently planted clianthus against a south-facing wall has a wigwam of bamboo intertwined with fern fronds, I must not forget to apply slug killer to this and all hostas before they re-emerge. Thanks to a wood burning stove, I am topdressing herbaceous plants with the wood ash every morning - it acts as a mulch with the bonus of adding potash to the soil.



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