Plants in the Garden: February
Started by: Tim IngramGo to latest contribution by Tim Ingram, 25 February 2013, 11:36. Go to bottom of this page.
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Tim, the garden is looking super. Fatsia 'Spider's Web' is very striking - there are some "plain" Fatsia in nearby gardens- I wonder if 'Spider's Web' would "do" up here in Aberdeen?
Iris Ney asked the same about growing it in parts of Germany Maggi. It is so slow that it would make an ideal container plant, easy to protect in colder weather. They are not cheap so I think best treated like this unless you are sure a garden is mild enough for them.
Something of the appeal of snowdrops! The largest two flowers are 'Bertram Anderson' and 'Gerard Parker'; the yellow 'Wendy's Gold'; the doubles 'Hippolyta' and 'Lady Beatrix Stanley'; and the Pagoda-like flower, a seedling from 'Trym'.
Trying the Fatsia as a container plant seems a good idea and a safer option - thanks Tim.
Snowdrops really are magical plants and it's no surprise that they fascinate more and more. Many gardeners find the addiction to growing them extraordinary but as you slowly learn more about them, their origins, and especially meet other gardeners who are entranced by them, they become increasingly valuable in the garden. John Finch, who lives near to us in Kent, has a great knowledge of them and those who grow them, and has a really nice collection in his town garden, which I was privileged to visit today. What I found especially interesting was to see the great variation in these plants, from the latest much heralded G. woronowii 'Elizabeth Harrison', originating in Scotland and distributed by Ian Christie, to an extraordinary 'spiky' called 'Fuzz', that many gardeners would be hard pushed to call beautiful, but is certainly rather fascinating in showing the variation that has arisen within the genus. 'Ding Dong' from Avon Bulbs has notably long outer tepals and quite delicate and refined flowers which stand out, and I was struck by the sturdy plant of 'Rodmarton Rigel' pictured. This hardly even begins to describe the variety of plants John grows, or his great knowledge of them, and there was a special section in the garden devoted to plants from the Continent, most of which will hardly be known to even keen snowdrop growers in the UK.
The snowdrops are grown with hellebores and cyclamen (including the unusual form pictured) and a very fine collection of Hart's Tongue ferns. In the spring there is such a rich diversity of plants that captivate the gardener that many must regard winter as very quiet by comparison, but this great variation (to the discriminating eye) in snowdrops can create almost as much interest in a very different way.
Plants have their moment in the garden just as they do at the Shows, and snowdrops wait for that warm sunny day in mid-February when they can open fully and show themselves off. Fifteen years ago we only had drifts of nivalis in the garden and then the Secretary of our Alpine Group, Rosemary Powis, gave me four or five well known varieties such as 'S. Arnott' and 'Viridapice', and that curious fascination which has gripped gardeners for a century or more began to grow. These are a further selection and, as Christopher Lloyd might have said - which camp do you find yourself in; the galanthophilistines or the galanthophiles? Or somewhere in between.
The first upstanding variety came from Graham Gough and I have lost the name. However, one of our German visitors pointed out that it looked very like 'Cicely Hall', an Irish variety that was grown and distributed from Washfield Nursery, so it may well be a seedling from this. The second is a fine old variety, 'Ketton', introduced originally by E. A. Bowles (and nicely discussed in the Snowdrop Book). The third 'Gerard Parker', I have shown before but make no apologies for another picture of what is one the finest snowdrops in the garden. And the forth, a plant that came as 'caucasicus' Late form from Kath Dryden, which must be about the tallest snowdrop we have in the garden.
Over the years since Rosemary first gave me those snowdrops I have planted many more named varieties, but at the same time had many losses (possibly 20 or 30% of those that were planted). That is the nature of gardening with snowdrops, and most of the plants that I show are those that have established well. Talking to other growers one often finds that their experiences can be very different with certain varieties, and like for every garden and gardener certain plants flourish and others not. This one though, 'S. Arnott' must be one of the most loved and reliable of all snowdrops. The second picture shows 'Armine' which I particularly like for its quite distinctive markings, and it is another neat and tidy plant. 'Anglesey Abbey' is extraordinary for being a nivalis but with glossy green leaves and often flowers where the inner tepals have lost their green markings and come to resemble the outers (so called 'poculiform'). Relatively few snowdrop varieties set good seed, but where they do nice variable drifts of seedlings can develop, and in the long run these are likely to be the most reliable source of good new garden plants. More and more I am planting seed in the garden from such varieties to see how they may develop in years to come. The final picture shows snowdrops (nivalis) at their best, en masse, planted with hellebores and Ohiopogon.
Living not far from Elizabeth Strangman and Washfield Nursery it is no surprise that we grow many hellebores. Much of the hybridising that Liz did was from established plants in the garden, not so easy as crossing within a greenhouse under more controlled conditions, but valuable because she used tried and tested parent plants under garden conditions. A good red was one aim - this one was selected from seedlings that we have grown and probably much better reds have been selected since, but many hellebores can revert to rather dingy pinks which don't have that glow to the tepals. The fame of Washfield's breeding programme spread to Hadlow College where Kemal Mehdi set up a similar programme (an excellent teaching tool ) aiming for plants like this picotee form with dark nectaries. The third picture shows a similar plant grown from seed from Jim Archibald, and having all these genetic attributes in plants in the garden starts to give the wonderful range of possibilities that have arisen within hellebores in recent years. The 'doubles', which are liked by some and not so much by others, but as far as nurserymen are concerned have been the 'bee's knees' for some time, can be very striking plants - and because they retain all of their sexual parts are easy to cross and raise new plants, though you usually have to wait three years before flowering and large batches of seedlings take up plenty of room.
Probably relatively few gardeners grow species hellebores, which is a shame because they retain that wild nature which breeding can lose. Helleborus torquatus is a particularly sombre and overlooked species which must have provided much of the genes found in dark and black flowered hybrids, and perhaps also some of their less vigorous nature in the garden; torquatus is not always an easy plant and slow to make progress in the garden. It is also very variable and these three examples show how; the third one is a particularly meek little plant that only shows its true fascination when you turn up the flowers, like is true of many hellebores.
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