My Garden This Weekend – 2/2/14

Galanthus 'Selborne Greentips'

Galanthus ‘Selborne Greentips’

This weekend has been excellent from a horticultural perspective.  Saturday was spent at the AGS Snowdrop Conference in Stratford which I shall probably bore you about later in

Galanthus 'Ding Dong'

Galanthus ‘Ding Dong’

the week.  Needless to say I came away with some new purchases: Galanthus ‘Selborne Greentips’, Galanthus ‘Ding Dong’, Eranthis grunling and Eranthis schwefelglanz.  I am a novice when it comes to snowdrops and claim no level of understanding let alone expertise so I followed the advice of a couple of better informed attendees and bought some of the cheaper offerings and ones that looked clearly different to each other to me.

Having been enthused at the conference it was great to wake on Sunday to a blue sky and sun shining; finally an opportunity to get out in the garden.  However, as the ground is so sodden what could be done was quite limited.  I cut back the leaves on the evergreen epimediums so that the flowers which should be emerging in the next few weeks can be seen.  I have been caught out before now by leaving this too late and then trying to cut the leaves back without destroying the flowers.  I knew I had acquired quite a few epimediums over the last year or so but a count up totalled 7 different varieties.  I now need to do some research through my records to work out which one is which and sort out some labels. I also took the opportunity to cut down the various grasses which really have seen better days.


It was cheering to see that all the borders had bulbs pushing through the ground and in the Spring Border adjacent to the Patio the first snowdrops were flowering.  These are everyday snowdops, Galanthus nivalis.  The original bulbs came from the bank opposite my parents’ old house and have been slowly increasing over the last few years.  I have been dividing the clumps and spreading them around the garden; hopefully in a few years they will start looking quite impressive.

Iris histrioides 'Lady Beatrix Stanley'

Iris histrioides ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley’

Interestingly, some of the bulbs on the outside staging aren’t that far behind the frost-free greenhouse.  Iris histrioides ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley’ will probably have unfurled its vivid blue petals by the end of this week if the sun shines, only one week behind the pot in the greenhouse.

Talking of the greenhouse, which some of you thought was very tidy in my last post,  it has been tidied further.  I have been planning to take out  the potting bench for some time especially since I have a potting area in the garage which is the right height and gives me easy access to the compost etc which I can now keep in the dry.  I am planning to replace the bench with some more staging but having dragged the bench out and relocated it in the garage I found the extra floor  space in the greenhouse quite wonderful.  The tiny greenhouse feels so much bigger and I can now access the plants on the staging in the far corners which were previously hard to get to.  Plus I do believe  that they are now getting better light. So the jury is out on the extra staging.  I need to make a decision soon as it was one of the things I had asked for my birthday which is a month today.


Finally, I have been fascinated by the Christmas Rose that is growing in the garden.  It was planted probably four or five years ago and has slowly established and has flowered for the last three years. This year the plant has been in flower for several weeks but the flowers have been face down flat on the ground and I have been able to lift them; it was as if they had clamped themselves to the soil.  Today, I noticed that they were starting to lift themselves up and you can now just about see the flower properly.  I haven’t seen them behave like this before even when covered in snow so it will be interesting to see what the plant does next year.

According to Bob Brown, of Cotswold Garden Flowers, being able to grow Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger) makes me a witch as in his view they are impossible to establish or even grow successfully in pots – a debate at last week’s HPS group meeting – and you have to be a witch or a warlock to succeed.  I always knew I had something special!!

Opps! More Hellebores

One of the most frustrating things at this time of year is that I only get the weekends to garden as it’s too dark when I get home from work during the week.  So when the weekend is wet and cold like this weekend I find myself pacing around and staring out the window trying to convince myself that I really do want to garden in the pouring rain.

Just to add to my frustration today I have mysteriously hurt my left hand.  I have no idea how, it just started to hurt whenever I moved my thumb which makes it tricky to lift or hold anything with any weight.  So what to do?  Well I had a quick walk around the garden before the rain got too heavy.  It was nice to see a Helleborus niger (Christmas rose) in flower although a bit late for Christmas.  I have to say that I’m not that keen on these plants as the flower stems seem to be quite lax meaning the flower droops down to the ground even more than you would expect from a Hellebore. I much prefer Hellebores  with a more upright habit even if the flowers do hang down.  My favourite at the moment is the yellow/red one in the top photograph.  I am pleased to see it flowering since I unceremoniously moved the plant at the end of last Spring and then I read that Hellebores didn’t respond well to being moved.  It seems that as with many gardening ‘rules’ its not really the case.

But a walk round the garden was not sufficient to alleviate my fidgety need to be outside so the next idea was a trip to the local nursery.  I frequently seem to visit nurseries and garden centres in the rain as if the weather is Ok I’m gardening – another downside of working full-time I suppose.  I did visit this nursery last weekend when it was 2C and icy underfoot.  My reason was that I want a tree for the back garden and I have been thinking about it quite a bit over the winter and had drawn up a shortlist of possibilities.  So why not on a cold crisp day have a look to see if my local nursery had any of the trees on my wish list.  Sure enough they did and I came away with a shorter shortlist.

So this morning I went to buy my tree as an early birthday present to myself.  Of course no self-respecting gardener comes away from a nursery with just one plant and I found myself with a Cotinus and two Hellebores (above and below).  The Cotinus wasn’t an impulse buy as I had planned to get one for a specific corner which can get a little dry and where I needed a dark leaf to offset the surrounding plants.  However, the hellebores were definitely an impulse  buy.  They aren’t named varieties which is fine by me, I just liked the flowers.  I now need to decide where to put them.  I have a couple of ideas but being forgetful I am going to wait to see if there are actually dormant perennials in the gaps I have identified before digging  up something accidentally again!


Harbingers of Spring and Victims of Winter

A pretty Pulmonaria bloom

A pretty Pulmonaria bloom

At last a pleasant couple of hours in the garden.  I really struggle at this time of year as with the short days I only get weekends to garden and then I have to do the weekly household chores first so gardening time is very precious.

I set off with the intention of preparing the ground to move a shrub which is driving me mad.  It is in direct view of the living room window and is just wrong for the spot.  I know where I want to move it to but of course this means moving other plants and so on.  I should have done all this in the Autumn but time ran away and we had an early fall of snow.  I decided that regardless of the timing I was going to get on with it so the first plant to be moved was a Helleborus foetidus (Stinking Hellebore).  It has been moved up the garden to a woodland area I have been creating around a Prunus tree.  It looks so much better in its new home which is a bonus.  I hope it doesn’t sulk too long.

Of course instead of completing the job I became distracted with what was coming up in the garden, clearing leaves etc from around bulbs, cutting back old flower stems.  I then decided that the spring bulbs would look much better against a mulch of compost.  I discovered a Pulmonaria in flower and some Christmas Roses slowly unfurling. I was thrilled to see evidence that I haven’t lost my Eranthis which was a relief as everyone else seem to have been enjoying their flowers for a few weeks.  Primulas are also beginning to reappear as are my Lobeilia Cardinalis and Delphiniums so I have applied a judicious amount of slug pellets.  I often do this as if I believe that it gives the plants a real chance to get going rather than battling with the slugs later on in the year.  It seems to work as my hostas are generally untouched.

Eranthis beginning to appear

I was particularly thrilled to discover a big fat red bud on my Tree Peony.  I bought the plant last year at the Malvern Spring Show, planted it and then discovered it had died back.  I thought I had neglected it and to be honest I was incredibly upset as the plant was not cheap and I was annoyed at my stupidity.  However, I am an optiminst at heart and so I carefully potted up the sad looking stick and tucked it into a corner of the patio.  It got covered with snow and was frosted but today there are distinct signs that I didn’t fail to look after it and all will be well.

Oh dear!!

Less promising is my Phormium much admired by Anna at Green Tapestry though she may change her mind now! It has been outside for some years and survived the snow last year and this but then we had two days of extremely cold and driving winds and I think this was just too much for it.  I am hoping that it will re-shoot so when the cold weather is on the wane I will cut back the damaged growth and see what happens.  Also my new Pittosporum is  looking incredibly sorry for itself so this too may be a casualty.

Oh well you can’t win them all I suppose and loses can lead to new space and new opportunities.