Foliage Follow-Up – December 2014

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I have found it much easier to come up with shots for the Foliage Follow Up post this month than the Garden Blogger Bloom Day post.  I love foliage and I think it really comes into its own at this time of year. A favourite since childhood is Stachys byzantina, or as we called it when I was little, Lambs Ear.

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Sticking to the grey tones there is Pulmonaria which has been self seeding around the garden for some years.  I’m not that keen on the flowers but the leaves are a lovely foil to spring bulbs and you often get different variation.  I am sure I heard someone say that if you cut the leaves back, as you would a geranium, after flowering you got a better plant so I might give this a go.

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The everyday Digitalis purpurea has also started to self-seed around the garden and I think it has quite a structural presence in the garden.

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I like Bergenias which I know isn’t a view shared by all gardeners.  I think their glossy foliage is excellent at this time of year especially those varieties which colour up for Autumn.  They are one of those plants that just get on with it and then when everything else has given up for the year you notice them.

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One more self-sower is the Arum italicum ‘Marmoratum’.  They do produce flowers but it is the foliage and the seedheads in the Autumn.

For more foliage posts from around the world visit Pam over at Digging

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – December 2014

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At this time of year any flower is a welcome addition to the garden although many of them you really have to seek out.  Viburnum rhytidophyllum (above) surprised me this weekend with its flowers which are just opening.  This poor plant has suffered from my indecision and is in its third location in the garden, I blame my son’s workshop.  This is the first time it has flowered since 2010 and although it was relocated this year I think its new location is much better for it and is similar to the location it was originally bought for.  Hopefully the flowers are a sign it is happy and as I have no intention on relocating the shrub it should get a chance to thrive now.

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Cyclamen are bringing most of the colour highlights to the garden at the moment.  I bought a batch of the above cyclamen which were being sold as winter bedding to brighten up a bare patch created my removing the dead Acer.  I don’t know what variety of Cyclamen they are as they weren’t labelled but they have been flowering for well over a month now and there are lots more buds to come.  Although they were sold as winter bedding I won’t discard them come the spring as they may flower again next year. I did the same with some other bedding cyclamen below last winter and they are smothered in flowers.

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I don’t think they are hedrifolium or coum as they seem to be much larger plants so if anyone has any ideas I would love to know.  Of course if we have a very hard winter then I am sure they won’t survive but for a couple of pounds they are value for money.

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I always have some primroses flowering at this time of year although the slugs seem to be very good at getting to the flowers before me.

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Primrose ‘Jack in the Green’ has been again been flowering for month possibly since October and probably due to the mild Autumn we have had it seems to have an endless supply for flower buds.  It is such a pretty plant with the white flower surrounded by a green ruff of small leaves at the top of the stem.

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And here we have signs of another primrose about to put on a small but perfect show.

For more Garden Blogger Bloom Day posts visit Carol over at May Dreams.

 

Book Review: The Plant Lover’s Guide to Snowdrops

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“Oh no” was my reaction when a review copy of Naomi Slade’s The Plant Lover’s Guide to Snowdrop‘ dropped through the letterbox from Timberpress, “Not another snowdrop book”. For indeed they seem to be coming out thick and fast over the last couple of years following up on the real renaissance in galanthomania.

The book is part of the new series of Plant Lover’s Guides from Timberpress – other titles to date include Salvias, Dahlias and Sedums.  I do like the idea of this series which will make an interesting and informative collection on the gardener’s bookshelf and no doubt is hoping to be a 21st century follow on from the very successful Plant Expert series by Dr D G Hessayon.

Naomi wisely does not claim to be a galanthophile, I say wisely because as a well-respected galanthophile said to me once the term has to be earned not just adopted because you like snowdrops. Her interest in snowdrops has grown over the years and as she states whenever she found out something interesting she wrote it down.  Small bits of interesting information are sprinkled throughout the book as highlights just as the profiles of various galanthophiles from both sides of the Atlantic.  One of my minor quibbles with the book is the omission of some notable galanthophiles including Margaret Owen, who sadly died a few months ago, even in the description of Galanthus ‘Godfrey Owen’, which Margaret named after her late husband, there is no reference to her which I think is a real oversight given her legendary reputation in the snowdrop world.

The book starts with how to incorporate snowdrops into your garden whether you have the benefit of a bit of woodland, live in the suburbs or indeed only have a balcony.  There is an exploration of what plants make good companions and the various approaches to planting snowdrops in your space.  We then go on to explore the history of snowdrops, the various breeding programmes over the years and the peculiar condition that is galanthomania.

Naomi takes time to explain the various terms used in describing snowdrops – oh yes galanthophiles have their own terms for petals etc and how you can identify the different species partly from their different leaves.  I have to admit I get particularly irritated when photographs in articles on snowdrops omit the leaves since these are so important to identification and helped me to make sense of this confusing world when it was pointed out to me, so I was glad Naomi spent time explaining this with diagrams.

Then we have a section featuring a selection of snowdrops that the reader might like to consider.  This is no small undertaking as there will always be someone who thinks you should have included this or that variety rather than the ones you have chosen.  Naomi has included a nice range which demonstrate the variety available – there are species, some with green markings, some yellow markings, some double etc and this helps the novice understand that there really is a difference between snowdrops; well most of them!

The book concludes with a selection of snowdrop gardens and events on both sides of the Atlantic and elsewhere.  Personally I think there are some significant omission in the UK event selection as none of the society snowdrop events have been included and I believe one of the two mentioned isn’t going ahead this year – it’s a tricky thing to include an events list as it looses its currency so quickly.

Overall I think there is just about space in the current offering of snowdrop books for The Plant Lover’s Guide to Snowdrops.  It is well written, informative particularly for someone who, like me, has a curiosity about this small but revered plant.

 

My Garden This Weekend – 7/12/14

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It seems a while since I have done a ‘My Garden this Weekend’ post  partly due to bad weather but also due to other demands on my time.  However, this weekend I had the luxury of a weekend with no plans and despite the weather being changeable with sudden showers I still managed to steal a few hours both days to potter.

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I think my favourite activity in the garden is pottering.  I have tasks that really need doing and also things I would like to do and finding a balance is often a challenge.  However the rain which made some areas of the garden difficult to work in meant my choices were restricted to working in areas close to the house were the ground was firm under foot and so a combination of tasks and plans were achieved.

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Picking up dead leaves and pulling up weeds is so satisfying; from a jumbled mess signs of spring are uncovered and left on show to cheer you through the cold grey days.  I was particularly delighted to see that my one remaining Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger) has at least three flower buds emerging. I planted 3 or 4 some years back and I am thrilled that one has established tucked in between a rhododendron and box pyramid. Last year there were two flowers so to see an extra one emerging is very rewarding.

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There are swelling buds on the rhododendrons and one of the camellias.  Strangely the second camellia which is planted alongside only has a couple of buds which look quite under developed.  This will be its second year in this location and it was moved here as it was very weak looking in its original location.  The plant has put on growth so maybe its new location is better but the leaves still look a little chlorotic so I might try giving it a feed in the spring.

Another plant showing yellowing leaves is the Sarcococca.  It seems to dislike being planted by the black bamboo in the front garden and its dark green leaves have become more yellow.  Although it is covered in berries from last year’s flowers there is a lack of new young leaves and not too many obvious flowers.  I wonder if the soil is just to damp for it.  So I have dug it up and potted it up in a large pot with the hope that this be a better environment for it and it will recover.  If it does then it will have a winter home adjacent to the front door so we can benefit from the scent of the flowers.

2014_12060020There is evidence of all sorts of bulbs pushing their leaves up through the ground and in one case, Galanthus ‘Ding  Dong’ is even showing signs of flowering soon.  I frequently come across bulbs, particularly snowdrop, which seem to have pushed themselves up onto the surface of the soil and I have no idea why.  I haven’t dug them up and they haven’t been disturbed by anything else but there they are lying on the edge of the border, ready for me to dutiful replant them – very strange.

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A couple of Hippeastrum bulbs arrived this week; purchased on a whim having read an article in The Garden magazine.  Strangely the information sheet that came with them advised that the bases and roots should be immersed in lukewarm water for a few hours before planting.  I suspect this is to rehydrate the roots but it’s not advice I have come across before.  I dutiful followed the advice and we shall see how they do compared to the very cheap one I bought at the local supermarket that came wrapped in some dry compost.

I finished off by tidying the patio borders where again lots of snowdrops are starting to appear.  I tied in the winter jasmine which has been flowering for weeks and cut back the clematis which occupies the same bit of wall.  I have decided that the clematis and jasmine are not a good combination so the clematis will come out in the spring and will be trained up the house wall which I think will be a preferable location and it should flower better.

What could be better to sit down on a Sunday evening having spent some hours outside on a cool bright winter’s day and to look out at a border all neat and tidy and ready for Spring.