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May 2003

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One of my favourite times of the year

One of my favourite times of the year - I get great pleasure walking around the garden in the early morning. Thank heaven the spring seems a little later in coming than previous years when young buds of acer and pieris were frosted. My efforts in enlarging groups of Corydalis flexuosa have worked. Their ferny foliage and intense blue flowers are set off by Azalea lutea. The related Corydalis cheilanthifolia is another good little doer, its yellow flowers and bronze-green foliage is super with the black grass Ophiopogon ‘Nigrescens'. Other forms of corydalis are Corydalis ambigua in colours of blue and purple, and Corydalis solida is a tough little plant with flowers of white to purple. All these die down after flowering and should be labelled to avoid damage. I have discovered their dislike of being too dry during summer. So watering is essential in order to bulk up the plants.

I lost a Coronilla glauca last March - a bit of old age and cold east winds. Will I replant another, it is a good flowering plant its yellow flowers coming often over Christmas and for the following weeks, or do I let Abutilon ‘Ashford Red' take over? Under old apple trees I planted Viola cornuta, one colour per tree. This tufted perennial has flowered for weeks and comes in many colours - a true cottage garden plant which associates well with aquilegias, pulmonarias and London pride.

A small treasure in ferns is Adiantum venustum - a creeping maidenhair fern from the Himalayas, similar to the previous with pink tips.

My fern ditch has filled in with self-sown sporelings. Large leaved rhododendrons contrast their foliage against Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea' which I keep pruned in a windy site. It is underplanted with the yellow-leaved Valeriana phu ‘Aurea', a new plant Woodwardia radicans ‘Purpurea', which appears hardy, its striking red-tipped fronds fade with age. A small treasure in ferns is Adiantum venustum - a creeping maidenhair fern from the Himalayas, similar to the previous with pink tips. I do find it fickle but it enjoys semi-shade.

I lost an Acer palmatum due to winter wet, and because the white-flowered Escallonia bifida will fill the gap the only new planting was a drift of trilliums. With established shrubs such as magnolias and virburnums their skirt takes up large spaces. I know their roots restrict some plants but I have found a few which will tolerate these sites. Yellow-flowered uvularia, a North American plant is ideal, like a dwarf Solomon's seal. Tiarella produces lots of green-yellow flowers over handsome foliage which takes on a bronze sheen in winter. Purple-flowered soldanella is temperamental often disappearing days after planting, but perseverance does reward as I now have a good clump of its bells under a white camellia.

The blue poppy, Meconopsis ‘Slieve Donard', was divided a few weeks ago, a large drift is now backed by my favourite rhododendron, the scented ‘Lady Alice Fitzwilliam'. Some bluebells invade and I have treated them with Roundup. My arboretum like its trees, is growing by the metre. I could not resist Styrax japonicus ‘Pink Chimes' with its lovely drooping bells. If you are planting one, have it near a path, where you can enjoy its flowers in years to come.

 

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