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August 2008

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Woodland plants, planting trilliums and the May gap

In marked contrast to 2007, March and April of 2008 were cold and windy, with strong desiccating winds for several days. Even so my woodland garden gave perhaps its best performance ever, especially after the 50mm rainfall which was needed badly in March. The main feature of the woodland is the carpet of blue omphalodes which bloom from the end of March and has still impact at the end of May in dappled woodland.

All the narcissus species and cultivars, particularly ‘February Gold', Narcissus moschatus, Narcissus minor, ‘Fairy Gold' and ‘Jenny' gave a great display for March and April. ‘Jenny' is perhaps the longest flowering of all, till the end of April. The lower temperatures in April lengthened the flowering display of all species of erythronium, Cyclamen repandum and various anemones which kept their display till well into April.

The trillium species were magnificent from late March to May and it is worthwhile to take extra preparation for planting these, with at least two buckets of old composted farmyard manure well incorporated in the planting holes, 40 to 50 cm deep for the larger growing species. I replant these in February, or after flowering when the leaves die down from late June to September. All these woodland plants benefit from lots of organic matter mulching in the autumn and winter period.

Magnolias particularly the smaller kinds, and those more exposed, were badly scorched by frost and cold dry winds during April but later flowers of mature plants escaped un-harmed and continued to flower till early May. The rapid change to sunny hot conditions during the first week of May hastened the decline of the woodland flora but in contrast brought a great burst of colour to Prunus avium ‘Plena', Cornus nuttallii and Malus hupehensis and, of course, apple trees in different varieties most of which flowered almost simultaneously this year. These all provide a lovely predominantly white backdrop along with beech and oak to the grey limestone rock garden in late April and mid-May. When the tree canopy closes in, it spells the beginning of the end of the woodland floral display till the autumn when Cyclamen hederifolium will flower.

All these woodland plants benefit from lots of organic matter mulching in the autumn and winter period.

The period of late May is often a quieter period in the garden before the huge number of plants that flower from June onwards. However, Camassia, Aquilegia alpina and asphodelus in particular provide a powerful display of blue and white spikes at this period. The double-flowered Meconopsis cambrica, unlike the species, does not become a nuisance in its yellow and orange colour variations. Fragrant plants at this time also thriving in my garden are Choisya ternata, Myrtus lechleriana and the dwarf Daphne cneorum ‘Eximia'.

Of course, being on a limy soil in a dry area, I do not cultivate any rhododendrons, azaleas or camelias which are such a feature of lime-free gardens during April and May. Pests are not normally a problem in my garden but I was surprised to see several recently planted Euonymus hamiltonianus very badly infested with green fly during the very dry conditions of May and an insecticide had to be used.  





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