Foliage Follow Up – March 2015 – Geranium palmatum

2015_03150012

This month I have decided to focus on one particular plant for the foliage follow up as I keep showing the same old plants month in, month out.  My chosen plant is Geranium palmatum which I personally think is a wonderful foliage plant before the electric pink flowers appear.  Read any description of the plant and you will see it is frost hardy and short lived.  I have a number of these plants grown from seed several years ago and they have come through the last two winters unscathed although admittedly the winters have been mild.  I think the lowest temperature we have had is -4C.  However, we have had some real frosts which have left the Melianthus major leaves scorched but the most the Geranium palmatum has suffered is some of the older leaves going a blotchy red colour.

2015_03150013

I like the leaves as they have a nice ferny texture to them and quite different to other geraniums.  They are called palmatum I think due to the palm leaf shapes.  You will also see how fresh and glossy the leaves are even in March and they stay like this all year.  The only maintenance is to remove the older leaves as they fade.

2015_03150011

And look at this wonderful fresh new shoots forming in the middle.  As you can see Geranium palmatum grows from a central stem, like Geranium madrense, so cannot be divided like many other Geraniums.  I think the only way of propagating it is by seed and I plan to collect some seed this year as an insurance policy in case we have a hard winter this year.  But….2015_03150007what really fascinated me where the shiny red leaflets clustered around the leaf stems.  So vibrant and attractive and I don’t remember having spotted them before.  I only noticed them when I was cutting back dead leaves and weeding around the plant and became completely fascinated by them. They remind me of onion skins, the ones just under the dry outer skins, almost silk like. Its amazing what you discover when you really look at your plants.

For more Foliage Follow Up posts visit Pam over at Digging

 

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – March 2015

Euphorbia characias 'White Swan'

Euphorbia characias ‘White Swan’

I am really pleased with the garden at the moment; it looks so pretty with the pinks, purples and yellows dotted around the borders. Acting as a gentle foil to the bulbs is the Euphorbia characias ‘White Swan’ which is also flowering now.

2015_03140002

A lot of the colour is coming from the growing number of primulas in the garden.  I really like the Barnhaven Primroses which are meant to be identifable by the yellow eye in the middle of the flower.  None of the ones in this post were sold as Barnhaven Primroses but I think they have become so easy to get now that they are quite prevalent.  I like the pink streaking on the one above.

2015_03140004

This one seems to be the reverse of the one above and I am hoping that it will establish and bulk up.  I have recently sown a couple of packets of Barnhaven Primrose seeds so maybe in a year or two I will have a really gaudy spring garden!

2015_03140001

I particularly like this soft blue primula which is a nice compliment to the narcissus.

2015_03140005

2015_03140007 2015_03140023

Then there are the hellebores which are also growing in number.  I seem to acquire three or four every year and I have noticed that the yellow ones seem to open much earlier than the others with the dark purples opening last.

2015_03140010 2015_03140015 2015_03140019 2015_03140009 2015_031400282015_03140030

and finally we have a couple of early flowering narcissus – Tete a Tete and a mysterious shortish one, although taller than Tete a Tete

Narcissus Tete a Tete2015_03140025

Not bad for mid March I think, definitely better than last year.

For more Spring Garden Bloggers Bloom Day posts pop over to Carols at May Dream Gardens

 

 

Greenhouse Review – March 2015

2015_03080022

I have been meaning to join in with Peonies and Posies monthly meme on the greenhouse for a while but I keep forgetting.  Luckily I spotted a post elsewhere which has reminded me so here I am.  My greenhouse is tiny, a mere tiddler compared with P & P’s gorgeous greenhouse – not that I am jealous at all! I did do a monthly greenhouse post back in 2012 and you can read the first one here to find out a bit more about my greenhouse.

Essentially it is a small 6′ x 4′ greenhouse with power to it.  It has been through a number of guises since 2012 as I have floundered around in my gardening interests, trying this and that, and have almost come back to where I started.  I don’t grow tomatoes in the greenhouse any more. Well to be honest I don’t grow any edibles at the moment, that might change in time but as of today there are no plans to. Last year I went a little off piste and invested in a sand plunge as I thought I wanted to grow and show alpines but it has become quickly clear to me that for a number of reasons, not least time, this is not something I want or can to do at the moment. I am looking for a way to reinvent the plunge and I am thinking making it into a heated prop bench might be interesting.2015_03080024

So the pots of bulbs are being moved out into the garden and I am looking for places for them to thrive.  That is with the exception of the tender bulbs particularly South Africa ones which I have a weakness for at the moment.  I don’t know if that will last as I seem to be experimenting with all sorts of plants at the moment.  Due to the bulbs my succulent collection, which I was quite proud of, was overwintered in the garage which was fine for a while but somehow, when I moved them back to the greenhouse, I think they caught a chill or I over watered them but the result was I have lost about half of the plants. It is a pity but it frees up some space for  new plants.  I don’t think I will be replacing them with succulents but again we shall see.

2015_03080025

You will also have noticed my shameful collection of pelargoniums which were also overwintered in the garage.  They need re-potting into fresh compost and regular feeding from now through the season.  Again I have lost a few.

All this dithering and being distracted with this and that, has resulted in the losses and I think the tiny greenhouse really brings into focus the scatter gun approach I have had over the last few years to gardening.  However, I am moving forward in a positive way knowing much more what I am really interested in and what makes me happy which can only be a good thing.

As you will have spotted I have been sowing seeds of various annuals and also some perennials.  Spending a couple of hours sowing the seeds made me very happy and it feels like I have come home.

2015_03080023

You can see how well used the greenhouse is.  The bit of space you can see on the floor is actually normally occupied by a Bottlebrush plant, grown from seed, which I am toying with planting out this year as it is just getting too big to be overwintered in the greenhouse and I think the plant needs to get its roots down into the soil.

I also have two 3 tier cold frames which are full at the moment with overwintering perennial seedlings, and more pots which I am hoping to spot some seeds germinating in soon. My goal this year is to do a better job of growing on seedlings which is my weakness.

Thank to Julie for hosting this meme which is meant to be posted around the 11th of the month.

In A Vase on Monday – Fresh Spring

2015_03080027

I have wanted to join in with Cathy’s weekly meme – In a Vase on Monday – for a while.

However, firstly it means posting on a Monday and I post my weekend review on a Sunday/Monday so that’s a clash. I am also hopeless at flower arranging resorting every time to the ‘plonking’ approach so it is a little daunting joining in such a meme.

But I am so pleased with all the spring flowers in the garden that I wanted to bring some in and share them. I have lots of these tiny daffodils flowering, I seem to remember they are Tete a Tete.  They were planted in pots last year and when I emptied the pots I spread the bulbs around the garden and they are really rewarding me this year.  After the large inherited daffodils they are the first to flower in the garden and are making it glow. The problem though was what to put them in.  I have lots of large vases but nothing small and dainty – it’s not really me but I have this small Chinese pot which I bought in my teens and I decided it might just do.

2015_03080030

I added some fresh young Aquilegia leaves and a few cyclamen leaves to act as a framework and to support the flowers.

I am quite pleased with the effect and I have put the creation in my bedroom so the fresh spring flowers cheer me each morning.

Next week I hope to find something small enough to show off some of the lovely primulas I have.

For more Monday vases ramble over to Cathy’s

 

My Garden This Weekend – 8th March 2015

2015_03080009

 

What a wonderful weekend it has been.  Saturday was bright and sunny and warm enough for gardening in a T-shirt and for sitting and contemplating with a cuppa.  Luckily I bothered to check the weather forecast for a change and focussed all my energies on outside gardening jobs leaving Sunday for seed sowing and potting up which can be done under cover.

2015_03080007

I have dug out the cane domes and placed them over the new peonies that were planted over the last few weeks.  This will help me remember where they are until they put in an appearance and I also think the domes are rather charming.  I have added an Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’ to the border, you can just see it in the top left corner.  I had been looking for one having seen it in ‘The Layered Garden’ but having secured one at the local HPS group I started to wonder why I had been attracted to the plant.  It is rather a strange combination with yellow streaks on the foliage and pinky new growth – it was christened the ‘ugly plant’.  However, when I planted it out I was won over again as it works very well with the pink hellebores so maybe my first instinct was right – I knew where I wanted to plant it before I bought it.

2015_03080008

I am pleased with this bit of border now especially when the sun lights up the hellebores.  This border is ‘done’ for the time being while I wait to see how the plants fill out and then the plan is to try to add a little late summer colour.

2015_03080016

I’m thrilled that the Hepatica noblis are flowering although I have to admit that they were only bought last month – the test will be to see if they reappearing next year.  I have bought a couple more and I am planting them over the other side of the garden so hopefully at least one group will establish.  However, I also have some hepatica seeds germinating in the cold frame which were sown as fresh seeds last April.

2015_03080015I got myself in a bit of a pickle the other week when I finally got round to doing a soil test and discovered my soil was alkaline, which wasn’t great given I had just bought two small rhododendrons.  I have been dithering around about them and decided to plant them up in pots and display them by the shed.  Once they have flowered and it gets warmer in this part of the garden I will move them into the shadier part of the garden and make sure they are watered well so they produce buds for next year.

I haven’t been very good at using pots in the garden for some years now.  I used to be really good at baskets and summer bedding in pots but I seem to have lost the knack and I do actually prefer the more mono planted pots but with several grouped together.  So the plan is to do more of this to create seasonal displays.

Finally I found enough energy to remove an unnamed and unloved shrub growing near the compost bins which has never really done much and had got battered when the tree surgeons were throwing the large willow logs around.  It came out fairly easily which was perhaps part of its problem.

I had come up with a scheme for this small area the other week when I was having a tea break – its to the right of the bench.  After adding lots of green waste compost I planted white Digitalis, Epimedium perralchicum ‘Wisley’, some lily of the valley, and a Polypodium cambricum ‘Oakleyae’.  I also replanted some self-sown Pulmonaria.  There is a gap left in the middle of the planting for a Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ which is growing elsewhere but has needed a new home; I just need to wait for it to put in an appearance so I know where it is.

 

2015_03080018

It’s only a small area but it is a start to the style of planting I am trying to adopt with lots of texture and contrast and hopefully not much soil showing once the plants get going.  I plan to add some white honesty next year so I will need to remember to show honesty and white digitalis on an annual basis although I may get lucky and they might start to self sow.

2015_03080021

Sunday was grey and damp so I used the time to sort out the greenhouse.  The pots of bulbs which have finished flowering were moved out to the cold frames – I am regretting, a little, getting the plunge staging (not in the photo) as I haven’t enjoyed the pots of bulbs this winter and I want to plant them out in the garden.  I am toying with getting some sort of warming cable system for them to create a propagation unit but I am waiting to see how I get on this season before I invest more funds in something I might change my mind about.  There is a sorry tale associated with the empty space but I will share that later in the week when I join in the monthly greenhouse meme.

However, I am happy to say that my seed sowing mojo has returned with gusto and I have sowed quite a few packets today.  I found myself really enjoying the process.  I had forgotten how much I love that sense of anticipation. I also potted up a dozen aquilegia and dianthus and 3 primrose digitalis; some of them might even be good enough in a few weeks to sell at the local HPS group – wouldn’t that be good.

 

 

 

The Future of Plant Hunting?

Crug Farm exhibit - Chelsea 2014  All the plants were grown from seed collected by them in the wild

Crug Farm exhibit – Chelsea 2014
All the plants were grown from seed collected by them in the wild

I started to write this blog post by saying that politics and policy have little impact on my gardening world but as soon as I wrote those words I realised what a nonsense they are.  Of course politics and policy have an impact.  You only have to look at the rhetoric you encounter when you mention peat and using it in the garden to realise that even when we potter in our gardens we can’t escape Whitehall, the EU or campaign groups.

In fact horticulture seems to have featured a lot in the News recently with the controversial Garden Bridge in London and Boris Johnson’s controversial ping-pong approach to funding and the reduction of funding for Kew Gardens, one of the most revered botanical gardens in the world.  Last year there was concern about proposed EU legislation that had the potential to reduce the range of seed available to gardeners by insisting that any plant distributors wanted to sell seed  had to have the seed registered, at no small cost.  This would obviously significantly impact on the growing number of small seed distributors in this country and it seems that the vehemence of the UK and Dutch gardening world may be stopped or delayed this legislation coming into force.

 

This week I learnt about the The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilisation (Nagoya Protocol).  At my local HPS meeting Bob Brown of Cotswold Garden Flowers was telling us about the protocol which has arisen out of the  UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which all countries, except the US, have signed up to, ratified in the UK in 1994 (I’m not 100% sure if it is indeed all countries). The Convention was drawn up to protect biodiversity and to ensure sustainable use of genetic resources.  Under it the native plants (or animals, insects, etc – for the purposes of this post I will use the term plants) of a country are that country’s property, the country has sovereign rights, and this means that any commercial benefits deriving from them are the property of that country. You can see the logic behind this if you consider the possible financial gains from the production of a native plant should it be discovered to have some amazing medicinal use. The Convention has been hard to enforce and so the Protocol has been agreed with the legislation coming into force in the UK in October 2014.  Under the Protocol you need to have the country’s government’s permission to sell/benefit from the use of that country’s plants.
When you start to really think about this the ramifications have the potential to be hugely significant to a mere amateur gardener such as myself.  In recent years I have bought wild collected seeds from an Eastern European seed collector and I have bought plants from a number of nursery men/plant hunters which have presumably be grown from wild collected seed.  The UK’s floral diversity can be directly attributable to centuries of plant collectors exploring the world, our native flora has been diluted for so long it is hard to say what is actually a native UK plant.
Chatting on twitter with some plant hunters and a representative of Plant Heritage it seems that the consequences of the Protocol in the UK are not yet clear.  There are useful summaries on the RHS website and on the Plant Heritage blog.  Current expectation is that the enforcement of the protocol will be dealt with by the National Measurements Office (I didn’t know we had such a body) and it is expected that there will be a light touch.  However, it is possible that if you plan to sell non-native plants you will need to be able to show that they were available commercially prior to October 2014 and if not you will need to have, or be able to refer to, the documentation and records to show that the plant’s native government gave permission for the plant material to be collected.
For me this seems to herald a curtailing in the not too distant future of the tradition of plant hunting which some of us gardeners follow vicariously savouring the results with those special acquisitions. It also means that some overseas suppliers may have to curtail their export of native plant seed outside their country if they are relying on collecting it in the wild.  As to the impact on the various seed exchanges which include wild collected seed – well the jury is well and truly out on that one.
During my twitter conversation it was even muted that as the Protocol stipulates that you cannot share information about the native plants then this could be interpreted to mean that anyone delivering a talk on a plant hunting trip would be in breach of the protocol.  How on earth would anyone police such a rule, it seems completely unenforceable to me!?
It will be interesting to watch the horticultural world to see if there are indeed the repercussions that some are worried about. If there are then we may find that the diversity of plants we have access to stops – would this be such a bad thing, I really don’t know but it makes for an interesting conversation when you get some passionate plants people together.