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August 2013

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Notebook East Barry Murphy

Yellow Banksian rose, peacock anemone and shaded-out daffodils

In spring, the long run of very dessicating easterly and north-easterly winds scorched several of my trillium and Cyclamen repandum plants and subsequent performance. The very early Erythronium hendersonii failed to open the flower heads under these cold windy conditions. Later flowering species were however fine. Like most gardens my woodland garden did not peak till early May - a full three weeks later than normal.

The cool growing conditions however prolonged the flowering period of many earlier genera, such as snowdrops and daffodils, trilliums, erythronium, scillas, pulmonoria, hellebores and primroses. There was also a magnificent display of magnolias and cherries and the wonderful Malus hupehensis.

Camassias and the lovely double form of Ranunculus aconitifolius thrive in damper semi-shady conditions and blooms for ages. The very small pompom white heads are held aloft on 80cm stems and do not need support, a great bonus. This plant should be more widely planted as it is so reliable and trouble-free. The lovely Rosa banksia 'Lutea' flowered profusely with small double yellow flowers against shiny healthy foliage. This climber could be used to a greater extent in many gardens to cover pergolas and arches as it is thorn free, and looks well the year round.

Rock areas perked up with drier conditions. The early purple orchids, pleiones, choice muscari, bellevalia and Scilla pratensis and fairy foxgloves gave shades of pink and blue. The peacock anemone, Anemone pavonina, is another plant that should be better known. It is great in pots and grows very satisfactorily in the rock garden as well, with its dramatic scarlet and black centred flowers growing to 20 to 30cm high. It has proved reliably winter hardy. Trillium grandiflorum, the latest trillium to flower, was superb with its large 8 cm glistening white flowers. These need to be planted in clumps of 3 to 5 corms in semi-shade for maximum impact, but it is very easy to grow and should be more widely grown. Give plenty of leaf mound with decomposed farmyard manure, if you can get it.

Lack of flowering in bulbs can be attributed to low light levels and this often happens when in the case of daffodils under trees. Over the years as trees grow and the canopy enlarges, light levels become unavoidably reduced, and flowering becomes less and less, and finally stops. This happened in my woodland area with the small early varieties Narcissus 'February Gold' and 'Jenny'. Last year I moved all non-flowering clumps to open holding beds in early April and left them in situ till foliage died down in June.

Even after this short period, the result this year was dramatic and flowering recovered in over half of the plants. These are essentially bulbs for open conditions, or light dappled shade and good moisture. Some of the early hybrids can tolerate more dappled shade and can join snowdrops and aconites which are best in semi-shade of deciduous trees and shrubs.


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