Sue's March Jottings
Welcome back everyone. How have you fared through February? Did you stay in the warm or perhaps ventured out into your garden, or maybe visited a garden or two? I did a bit of weeding in my garden, picked out some more debris from amongst the shrubs and the pots. I then decided I would like to do some pruning and tidying up of my topiary, but we had a cold snap with severe frosts down in Sussex, so I have put that job back a few weeks. Topiary gives great structure to a garden and keeping it in shape is honestly one of the most therapeutic of garden activities. You feel like an artist or sculptor, the process really is one of creating a piece of living art. You can do the trimming, stand back and admire your work. It always feels like a job well done and gives great satisfaction.
Do you have topiary in your garden? If so and the severe frosts, like the ones just experienced in some parts of the UK, have caused damage to any new lush growth resulting from our (previously) mild winter, so it appears wilted or blackened, don’t worry. I would just leave that damage for the moment, don’t prune or cut it out until frosts are well and truly over and then a quick snip will tidy it up and you will be surprised how quickly the new growth will begin to appear.
Now in my February jottings I said that I was I going to talk about two more weeds this month and they are Dandelion or Taraxacum officinale and Groundsel or Senecio vulgaris.
Dandelion is a perennial weed which has a deep taproot with a rosette of leaves and a bright yellow flowerhead. They look very pretty when in flower, but do not let them go to seed. Before you know it you will have many new plants, which will in turn create more problem weeds. Dandelions are very difficult to dig up and what you don’t want to end up with is a tiny piece of taproot left in the soil as this will grow and produce another plant. So you can either treat with a systemic weedkiller or persevere and make sure you get all of the tap root out.
Groundsel is an annual or ephemeral (comes and goes). It can be a very prolific weed indeed. Try not to let it release seeds as one plant can produce a 1000 seeds and possibly flower in any month. The good thing is it is very easy to pull up and eradicate. It has tiny yellow flowers and I think looks attractive. Hoe off seedlings or pull them up.
Now how about brightening up the garden with some Primulas to add a splash of colour? At the moment many garden centres will have some great offers to take advantage of. My advice is to buy multiples and cram them in a pot with good drainage and good compost. Then simply place your pot where you are most likely to enjoy the colours. If you haven’t already done so, it is time to refresh the tops of your old pots that have come through the winter; you really cannot put it off any longer! So scrape off the old compost and put some lovely new compost on the top. You can then top the surface with some attractive gravel or pebbles, or some small slate pieces. The garden centres will sell all of these. Purple slate will look attractive with similarly toned plants.
One final job for this month…..prune coloured-stemmed dogwoods (Cornus sp) hard back to their base to create a nice low framework. This hard pruning will encourage vigorous growth and ensure you have stunning stem colour for your next winter’s display.
Right, that’s the work done and now on to my ‘Plant of the Month’.
My favourite plant this month just has to be a witch hazel called Hamamelis X intermedia ‘Pallida’. I saw this at Kew Gardens just a few days ago and what a stunner. Wisps of yellow like shredded coconut! See the photos on the left. Mmm!
My visits – Well, I have been most fortunate in February by being able to visit Kew, Hampton Court and Chiswick House. To say I have been inspired would be an understatement. Even in winter, there is so much to see and be absorbed by.
The Camellias at Chiswick House were a delight to see. Their vibrant reds and muted pinks didn’t fail to lift the spirits. As usual, the Camellias are impeccably well looked after and the care devoted to them is evident in their willingness to bloom and impress. I was fortunate enough to attend a private viewing and to have a tour of the potting shed and see how the Camellias are propagated.
Kew Gardens was as beautiful as ever. This is a feast for all the senses. The day I visited, it was bathed in beautiful sunlight with a crisp cold feel – perfect! The daffodils were looking fantastic, great carpets of them, it really lifted the spirits.
Kew currently has an orchid show on in the Princess of Wales Conservatory (until Sunday 6th March). Orchids are absolutely stunning plants and so diverse! They really take your breath away.
Hampton Court was a very special visit. I haven’t been there for years, so it was a delight to be able to visit. Again, the weather was spectacular, gorgeous sunshine with crisp cold air.
If you like topiary, you won’t be disappointed because at Hampton Court it is a feast for the eyes. Here you will see perfectly formed yew trees, bay and box, some of them hundreds of years old. The attention to detail is incredible. Many hours and much dedication has been spent in maintaining this masterpiece.
Happy gardening and garden visiting
Hamamelis X intermedia ‘Pallida’
Camellia japonica ‘Alba Plena’
(believed to be ‘Sacco Vera’)