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The Original Garden Visitor's Guide

Sue's Garden - May Jottings

Welcome back everyone. How did you get on in April? It has certainly been warm enough to get out into the garden recently and at the moment feels like summer, however the weather at the beginning of May here in West Sussex (and in fact over much of the UK) was a little cold and damp and so I have held off from planting out any bedding as yet, but I will certainly make a start in the next week or so. I am always a little cautious at this time of year as even a slight fall in temperatures can damage young new growth.

So what jobs should we be doing in the garden at this time of year? Well mainly I have been weeding, feeding and watering. I have a lot of pots and containers, which will, of course, dry out a lot quicker than a border. As we have had dry weather for over a week now and a few very warm days, I need to start watering them on a regular basis. The pots will also need regular feeding, as nutrients tend to leach out more easily from pots and containers than from the natural soil and this can be exacerbated by regular watering. There are many good feeds available from your local garden centre and I always use a multi-purpose one which contains N, P & K (Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium) to give the plants the best possible start.

Sue's Photo for May

Trebah - Ferns
Trebah - Ferns
Caerhays - Magnolia 'Tropicana'.
Caerhays - Magnolia 'Tropicana'.

The weeds, as well as the ornamental plants, are really taking off now, so it is important we keep on top of these, either by hoeing or digging them out. The tiny ones are best hoed but anything bigger, i.e. dandelions with a tap root should really be dug out.
Right, now that the work is done, let's move on to my 'Plant of the Month'.

During April, I travelled to Cornwall to visit gardens. One of the gardens I visited was at Caerhays Castle. Caerhays holds the NCCPG (Plant Heritage) National Collection of Magnolias and there are over 450 in the grounds. My favourite Magnolia on the day was Magnolia 'Tropicana' (Magnolia acuminata 'Fertile Myrtle' x Magnolia sprengeri 'Diva'). The flowers are a beautiful blend of lime greens and cream...perfect. Have a look at the photograph. As Cornwall is full of amazing plants, this month I am choosing two 'Plants of the Month' ...probably greedy of me I know, but I just have to tell you about Acer tegmentosum. It's a very unusual Asian maple, with lime green bark streaked with white...visually, a truly stunning tree. I have this on my list of 'must have' plants and the hybrid to go for is called 'White Tigress'.

Trebah - Helford Estuary
Trebah - Helford Estuary

So, I have already mentioned Caerhays Castle...such a beautiful place to visit and if you love Magnolias, you must make this one of your 2017 spring garden visits. As well as Magnolias you will see masses of Rhododendrons and Azaleas.There are four woodland walks which lead you amongst these beauties and of course, you will see many mature trees there as well. Lots of lovely walking, exploring and discovering. It really is a gem; I promise you will not be disappointed.

The other gardens I visited on my Cornish trip were Trebah, Trelissick, Trewithen, Glendurgan and Burncoose nursery and garden.

Burncoose Nursery is part of the Caerhays Estate.  They claim to be the 'UKs largest specialist mail order supplier of trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, including many rare varieties'. I don't doubt it, as I saw for myself the wonderful array of plants for sale and the rare plants which are available to buy.  On my last day in Cornwall, I took some time out to walk through the Burncoose woodland garden.  Growing within this lush garden are many mature specimens of the trees and shrubs which they sell in the nursery.  If you are in the area, please visit the nursery.  You can also order one of their catalogues online www.burncoose.co.uk.

Caerhays - Acer tegmentosum
Caerhays - Acer tegmentosum

Trebah & Trelissick

Trebah - Canary Island Aeoniums

Trelissick - lush borders

Trelissick - stunning views

Trelissick - Japanese Cedar

Trebah is a privately owned, 26 acre, sub-tropical paradise garden.  Of all the gardens I visited, I fell in love with this one and it is definitely one of my favourite gardens.  Round every corner and down every footpath there is something which is guaranteed to take your breath away. There are ancient Rhododendrons, Magnolias and Camellias to see and marvel at.  Lower down in the garden, there are magnificent Tree ferns over 100 years old and at this time of year they are in full frond, just like a parasol, creating dappled shade over other low growing ferns, plants and mosses.  This damp shady part of the garden is situated towards the bottom of a valley which eventually spills out onto the shoreline of the Helford Estuary, whilst at the top of the garden, closer to the garden entrance, the plants are bathed in warmth and sunshine and it is here that sub-tropical plants like the Canary Island Aeoniums thrive.

Trelissick is under the ownership of the National Trust and as well as having fine collections of Magnolias, Camellias, Rhododendrons and Hydrangeas has some astonishing trees too, including a gigantic multi-stemmed Japanese cedar on the main lawn. Unlike some Cornish gardens, which are at their best in spring, Trelissick has plants of interest throughout the year and includes some exotic borders which really come into their own in late summer. From the garden (and even the car park!) there are some amazing views towards the Cornish coast and the Fal Estuary.

Unlike Trelissick, Trewithen is a privately owned garden and a beautiful, tranquil place too. As with many of the great gardens, Trewithen was created during the time of the great plant hunter expeditions of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Stretch your legs to take in the magnificent trees and shrubs. There are some 18 champion trees at Trewithen, so these in themselves are worth having a look at. There is a collection of exotic ferns for those of you who love that 'primeval prehistoric look' (which I do) and you will also see some very rare shrubs throughout the grounds. Trewithen have a project underway to re-introduce the red squirrel back to its natural habitat in Cornwall. I couldn't see them when I visited as I think they were having their 40 winks!

The final garden I visited during my stay in Cornwall was Glendurgan - a National Trust property situated not far from Falmouth. It includes a cherry laurel maze and a wild valley garden which is incredibly beautiful and leads to the picturesque fishing village of Durgan. Native and exotic trees and shrubs thrive in this garden due to its sheltered location and the warm, moist air provided by the Gulf Stream. A truly idyllic garden, bursting with plants - Magnolias, Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Camellias, bluebells and wild garlic, to name but a few.

Later this month I am heading to Hampshire and Dorset and in my next jottings I will be writing (amongst other things) about Compton Acres in Bournemouth and Exbury Gardens which is situated just a stone's throw from Southampton water.

Happy gardening and garden visiting, Sue.

Trewithen Azaleas
Trewithen Azaleas