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The Original Garden Visitor's Guide

Sue's Garden - April Jottings

Welcome back everyone.  How did you get on in March?  Was it warm enough for you to venture out into your garden? The weather is certainly starting to get warmer down here in Sussex, but the nights are still very cold.  I think that I shall wait a little while longer before daring to plant out any bedding plants.

I have an Acer (Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’) in a pot, and it had been in the same pot for a number of years and had started to become somewhat root bound.  I had already decided that placing it into a larger pot wasn’t an option because I can lift and move the existing pot and if I pot up into a larger pot, I am going to struggle to move it.  I also like the pot it is currently in. So, to keep it in its existing pot, I had to get it out and root prune it. Root pruning is a tried and tested technique and one used in Japanese temple gardens for centuries. The getting it out of the pot sounds easier than in practice.  It took me about half an hour to extricate it from its comfy home...phew!  Once out of the pot, I laid the plant on it’s side and with my pruning saw (you can use a sharp knife if you prefer) I sliced off a portion from the bottom, I then uprighted the Acer and by turning I sliced off sections of the Acers roots.  Once you have done that, tease out the rest of the roots before repotting.  Replace the broken crocks at the base of the pot and put fresh compost (John Innes No.2) or a mixture of ericaceous compost and good general compost in the base and around the sides.  Water in. One happy Acer.

Sue's Photo for April

Grevillea johnsonii
Grevillea johnsonii
Allium triquetrum
Allium triquetrum

This month I want to talk about a plant, which is similar to Allium ursinum or Ramson’s or bear’s garlic or wild garlic and it is the Allium triquetrum or three cornered leek. 

This plant has naturalised around Britain and is in abundance down here in West Sussex. 

It is incredibly invasive and causes a lot of problems in the gardens here.

The only way I have found to get rid of it is to either dig up clumps of the bulbs and get rid of including the soil, because some of the bulbs are tiny and hard to see. 

What you don’t want to do is leave any bulbs behind, because of course, they will grow, or you could try and isolate clumps and treat systemically with a good weedkiller.

If you can’t get at them to dig them up, cut them off at the base and keep doing that to weaken the bulb.

Right, that’s the work done and now on to my ‘Plant of the Month’.

I think, just because it is so unusual I am going to pick this plant as my favourite plant of the month, the Colletia paradoxa.  Have a look at this spiky little number.  You certainly wouldn’t want to stumble into this one. It has the most exquisite little flowers which are scented and loved by early-flying bees as a source of nectar.  It certainly packs a punch in terms of its looks!!

During March I managed to visit two gardens. Highdown Gardens, Highdown Rise, Littlehampton Road, Goring by Sea in West Sussex.  Beautiful chalk gardens on Downland countryside created by Sir Frederick Stern.  It is free to visit.  There is a lovely cafe where you can get a bite to eat and something to drink. As well as the Colletia paradoxa (mentioned above in my favourite plant section) I saw Hellebores in profusion and they looked stunning the day we visited Highdown.   A beautiful cheery sight on a cold day.

Last of all, I couldn’t believe how absolutely stunning this plant was...what a sight for sore eyes.  We saw this just as we were leaving...Clianthus puniceus or Lobster Claw plant. Another unusual plant we found, was Berberis gagnepainii var. Lanceifolia ‘Fernspray’. I asked friends to help me identify it. 

There are many rare and unusual trees and plants at Highdown. Highdown is a great place to put on your list of gardens to visit.

Highdown Gardens

Colletia paradoxa

Colletia paradoxa

Clianthus puniceus

Clianthus puniceus

Berberis gagnepainii 'Fernspray'

Berberis gagnepainii 'Fernspray'

Hellebore Heaven

Hellebore Heaven

RHS Wisley

Narcissus bulbocodium
Butterfly in the Glasshouse

Butterfly in the Glasshouse

Cornus

Cornus beauties

Cornus beauties

Prunus himalaica

Prunus himalaica

Wisley – I visited Wisley on a cold, overcast day, but Wisley is always a place guaranteed to lift your spirits, especially if you go into the Alpine House.  Exquisite miniatures...heaven!!  Have a look at this Narcissus bulbocodium.    An inspiring place to go and get ideas for your own alpine garden.

Wisley had ‘Butterflies in the Glasshouse’.  Beautiful butterflies gracing us with their presence amongst the tropical plants.  I believe this to be an event Wisley hold each year.  Wisley’s glasshouse is a wonderful place to visit, especially on a cold day!  So much to see and there is definitely something to pique  everyone’s interests.

I had hoped to take photographs of Magnolias in flower, but sadly, the frosts had got to most of those blooms.

My favourite views throughout the day were the drifts of Cornus.  These certainly bring the winter garden to life.  See the photographs which show the fiery colours of those Cornus.  They are truly magnificent.

On the day we visited, the footpath which runs directly between the house and the rectangular expanse of water was closed, so you could only go straight up and along the one footpath and this in turn took you past the area where Wisley have planted great arcs of Crocus.  These were up and just about to burst open to reveal themselves.  Simply stunning.

I think that trees look just as beautiful in the winter as at any other time of the year.  The deciduous trees reveal their sinewy beauty when the leaves have fallen.  One of my favourite trees is the Prunus himalaica which really stands out in the winter garden.  Take a look at the photograph...look at those gorgeous coppery shades of the bark.

Wisley is stunning at this time of year.  So many bulbs, plants, shrubs and trees to see and admire.

In April I will be visiting some of the lovely gardens in Cornwall and I look forward to telling you all about them in my next jottings.

Happy gardening and garden visiting.

Sue