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May 2007

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Herb garden, Japanese inspiration, Myosotidium and spurges in variety

I am usually busy in the herb garden this month, repotting thirty two containers, dividing the various varieties of mint, trimming box hedges and generally making the area presentable.  However, I redesigned the whole section in February, removing all the containers and forming four new raised beds, so no more work is needed there at the moment. Unfortunately, now that the herb garden is more presentable it makes the small adjoining patio look rather like a jungle, so I am about to take drastic measures.

In the autumn of last year I went on the Irish Garden tour to Japan to visit gardens. I enjoyed every minute of it and came back with many new ideas. It was fascinating to see how effective their gardens were with the emphasis on form, shape and texture, rather than colour. I am about to give the patio a Japanese flavour. The plant content is not a problem, as I have a Japanese umbrella pine, Sciadoptys verticilata, a Dissectum maple and a dwarf pine that all need better homes, as well as numerous ferns and bamboos. I shall include some aspidistras, normally a house plant, but I have found that they thrive here outside in sheltered positions. My greatest problem, as always, is not to over-plant and to lose the feeling of space.

May is the best month of the year in the garden with the rhododendrons, azaleas, and primulas in full flower. Amidst all that, one of my most striking plants to flower in May is the Chatham Island forget-me-not, Myosotidium hortensia. It is a perennial with large fleshy glossy leaves and stems with clusters of forget-me-not blue flowers. It needs well-drained moist soil in light dappled shade. Shelter from cold winds and protection from slugs are both essential factors for survival. It propagates easily from seeds collected as soon as they are ripe.

Many species of the euphorbia family,  or spurges, are at their best now. They vary from the rockery plant Euphorbia myrsinites with its blue-grey foliage and lime green flowers to the tall elegant shrubby honey spurge, Euphorbia mellifera, that can reach three metres and is a native of Madeira. There are euphorbias suitable for all conditions. Some are succulents that thrive in hot arid areas, such as the cactus-like Euphorbia ferox and the candelabra spurge, Euphorbia canariensis, the former hardy and the latter doubtfully hardy in mild areas.

May is the best month of the year in the garden with the rhododendrons, azaleas, and primulas in full flower.

The poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, comes from Mexico and is the well known Christmas pot plant. Here in the bog garden the most striking forms are Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow', and Euphorbia palustris. In the woodland Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea' is very effective, but Euphorbia amygdaloides  var. robbiae has proved to be very invasive. All forms have milky sap that can cause severe skin irritation.

 

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