Kent Alpine Gardener's Diary
This entry: 09 December 2014 by Tim Ingram
'We have no climate, but only weather'.
'We have no climate, but only weather'
(C. H. Spurgeon)
Sometimes in a garden you do need to get the bit between your teeth. These pictures were taken in late December 2013 after the Christmas gales brought down quite a few trees, including a massive Eucalyptus.
In fact what you can't see is that one huge trunk remained looming ominously at 45° over the snowdrops and hellebores below...
This was wedged so firmly that there was no chance of it coming down even with further quite strong winds after Christmas, so visitors to see the snowdrops last February must have passed beneath it with varying degrees of concern. Cutting it down was more of a challenge and we were very grateful for the advice and help from our neighbour and his chainsaw!
This part of the garden has since required great expenditure of energy and effort to clear and make ready for new planting - starting back in January...
... and now more recently this autumn with the part time help of a student who is studying at Hadlow College. In fact what looks like wilderness can be quite quickly cleared with concerted effort.
Compare these two photographs with the two I showed at the beginning (taken from similar positions) ...
Though there is still a lot more clearing to do the prospect of the established early spring garden coming into flower, and replanting the new tidied areas, is encouraging. I hope this will continue to be of interest in these entries during 2015.
The eucalyptus was part of the garden we have devoted specifically to plants of the S. Hemisphere, so the aim will be to renew this theme, especially with shrubs and groundcover. The collections of these plants at Wakehurst Place and Nymans (which in particular has a fine variety of Chilean species) provide some good suggestions, though our soil is a more fertile and neutral loam. Would the Proteaceous Embothrium coccineum and Lomatia ferruginea thrive? There is now good protection from larger trees to give a better chance with these plants so long as we don't get another very cold winter too soon (we rarely drop below around -10°C). Here are a few possibilities from a visit to Nymans and to Hyde Hall in Essex earlier in the year...
(Berberis x lologensis. Both parents - B. darwinii and B. linearifolia - of this hybrid already grow in this part of the garden and can be rather glorious in flower in a rather utilitarian genus).
(Or what about the ultimately small tree, Berberis valdiviana? This is quite some plant).
The plants at Nymans are especially interesting and include these two, Rhapithamnus spinosus and Weinmannia trichosperma. I wonder if anyone has experience of growing them? The literature indicates that they are relatively tender, but they are probably so rarely grown that proper experience in a larger range of gardens will not be available.
With these we will no doubt plant hebes and olearias from New Zealand (and these genera also occur in S. America); grevilleas - a magnificent plant of 'Canberra Gem' grew down here for 15 or more years, only succumbing to the really harsh winter several years back - and some of the herbaceous flora of South Africa. The scope is considerable and the Plantfinder nearly a thousand pages!
At the same time major operations in the garden like this have still to allow for the general maintainance of other areas, as well as the nursery, and the winter provides the best opportunity to prepare, given reasonable weather. The bed in the foreground of the second picture below contains choice species such as Paeonia tenuifolia, Pulsatilla halleri and Adonis vernalis, and makes spring a colourful and exciting time in the garden.
The snowdrops really do provide a good incentive to work on the garden through winter, and it is good to see the new shoots appearing now. We don't grow many earlier flowering forms, apart from G. reginae-olgae, but several forms of G. elwesii are flowering a month or more earlier than last year, and typically early forms - the plant I show opening this entry (G. elwesii Hiemalis Group - a form ex. Avon Bulbs) are nice to see. Quite an exciting list of early flowering selections of snowdrops is being put together on the Scottish Rock Garden Forum, including several fine plants from N. American gardeners.
What will 2015 bring? This year has been probably the wettest we have recorded with close on 40" of rain (our long term average is around 27"), and also one of the mildest. Several years back was one of the coldest with temperature minimums dropping to about -15°C, but not snowiest. Over the longer term we have had severe gales at irregular intervals and summer high temperatures getting up to 40°C with serious dry spells. The plants on the whole are more tolerant of the weather than the gardener.
These two pictures are respectively male and female plants of the Tasmanian Mountain Pepper, Drimys lanceolata, growing at Hyde Hall in Essex.
(I may use this entry as an aide memoire and come back to it with other possible plants to use in the area of the garden described above, and will give further information about the plantings in future entries of this Diary)