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May 2013

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May 2013

After all that bad weather, I am now taking stock of plant losses. The most vulnerable group of plants in my garden are bulbs and corms. To date all nine species of cyclamen have survived well where planted under trees, such as beech, hornbeam, cedars and pines. Even under the wettest spell on record these areas have  remained relatively dry - helped by copious additions of organic matter and lime which have helped to keep the soil open and porous. Cyclamen coum was not as good as in previous years.

Luckily snowdrops, winter aconites and scillas tolerate damp conditions well in the open and there was a superb display. All these do well on heavier limy loams, like mine, as do daffodils and the lovely Fritillaria meleagris while camassias prefer even heavier moist soils. In contrast, drier areas are required for crocuses, lilies and the drooping bell-flowered Fritillaria pynenaicum, which is very intolerant of heavy soil.

I have a large collection of anemones in the woodland areas in drifts also showing no ill-effects.The Greek anemone, Anemone blanda, in better, lighter soils in more sun but all the numerous cultivars of Anemone nemorosa, Anemone appenina and Anemone ranunculoides do well in shade, in areas of heavy soils, when well enriched with organic matter. The wood anemone, Anemone nemorosa ‘Lucys Wood', is particularly good as is a lovely un-named lilac double-flowered sort, and the equally good cultivar 'Vestal'.

A raised bed contains choice dwarf narcissus cultivars and species, in specially made light free draining soil. This also contains dwarf Trillium nivale, T. rivale, T. ovatum and T. erectus and all these have come through the winter well as have several species of anemonella and hepatica. Nearby in the woodland areas, all my erythronium species and hybrids have come through well.

Hellebores grow very well in heavier soils and flower from January and together with pulmonorias thrive in partial shade. The cultivar ‘Blue Ensign' is especially good and compact. Even in the worst weather, we can have very colourful winter gardens based on the early bulbous snowdrops, aconites, crocus, scillas with the more exotic Hellebores.

After the wet spell finally stopped, it became cold and everything was delayed. March and April are normally one of the best times to lift, divide and rejuvenate many herbaceous plants including phlox, geranium, aconitum, campanulas, salvia and delphiniums. Older woodier parts of the clumps are discarded and the more vigorous outer parts re-planted. I incorporate plenty of organic matter in the new holes especially with delphiniums.

The very exotic blue poppy or meconopsis cultivars can be divided when new shoots appear above ground and will flower well the same year in June. These must be divided regularly every two or three years to maintain vigour and must be replanted in acid, well enriched loamy soils in dappled shade. Woodland plants like epimediums and ferns should be pruned back to the base.


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