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Plants in the Garden: Fun with a Sand Bed!

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Started by: Tim Ingram

Go to latest contribution by Tim Ingram, 11 June 2013, 08:51. Go to bottom of this page.

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Contribution from Tim Ingram 29 April 2012, 11:13top / bottom of page

By late April/early May a lot more plants begin to flower, including several androsaces. The most striking, for the size of its flowers, is studiosorum 'Salmon's Variety'. Rhodanthemum 'African Eye's', like other members of the genus, is long flowering and valuable on the bed. The most successful daphne's so far have been forms of x hendersonii, and in particular 'Blackthorn Rose', which is the largest flowered of this group and has wonderful dark foliage to offset the flowers. Finally I have never considered aubrieta as a choice genus but A. glabrescens (MESE 536), from Parham Bungalow Plants, is a delightful little plant, and a wonderful colour. I also have A. canescens growing on the sand bed but so far this has not flowered and is a disappointment.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 13 May 2012, 18:48top / bottom of page

The sand bed as it now looks in May with quite a few plants coming in to flower. Edraianthus serpyllifolius 'Major', from Blackthorn, looked full of excitement in bud, opening to these wonderful opulent deep blue-violet flowers. This genus is superb on the sand bed, neat in habit and extremely striking in flower. A few of the smaller phloxes (douglasii forms) have been slow but very colourful - this one, probably the most vivid of all, is 'Ochsenblut'.

Androsace studiosorum 'Salmon's Variety' is looking very fine now, with the exceptionally long flowering Polygala calcarea in the background. Along with these are a couple of Boraginaceae, a particularly favourite family of mine. Lithodora oleifolia has previously not grown so well but has taken to the sand bed. The other is Omphalodes nitida, given to me by a friend and new to me, but a very beautiful china-blue flower, like a small and refined form of cappadocica. Definitely a plant worth propagating!

Finally not in the sand bed but in a pot, and because it is entirely irresistable, Gentiana verna. These are several different seedlings showing quite a lot of variation. The spring gentian needs much richer fare than the sand bed to do well, some growers swearing by well rotted manure at the base of a trough or pot. So here they are planted in good John Innes with appreciably more 6mm grit towards the top of the pot, and the aim is to get a good crop of seed from the plants, to be sown in the autumn.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 28 May 2012, 13:46top / bottom of page

Summer has come with a vengeance, as is its wont in the south-east of England. We have had enough years of drought to learn which plants to grow and the real star in the garden now is Yucca whipplei, an extraordinary and distinct species from the western US (sometimes segregated into its own genus of Hesperoyucca, which it certainly deserves). This started producing a flowering spike about a month ago, on a seed grown plant of about eight years old, and now the astonishing floral spectacle is beginning to really display! Yuccas are pollinated by specific moths in Nature and so this will not set seed unless hand pollinated. The plant is growing in deep gritty sand and had no protection through the last two pretty severe winters, when temperatures dropped to -14C on one occasion, so given perfect drainage it is probably much hardier than generally realised.

Below it there is a nice planting of Triteleia ixioides, appropriately another North American, which seeds freely and always looks wonderful in early summer. Thymus 'Peter Davis', named for the renowned botanist who studied the flora of Turkey, is probably the best thyme we grow but so free flowering that we have trouble to get good cutting material. And from Greece the very growable Astragalus angustifolius, which encourages me to try others of these beautiful peas, as attractive in leaf often as they are in flower, but generally not easy.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 28 May 2012, 14:02top / bottom of page

Penstemon rupicola (a selection from Aberconwy - 'Conwy Rose') is flowering nicely on the sand bed, next to Onosma echioides (from Edrom). I have always found onosmas short lived but in Rosemary Powis' front garden at Old Wive's Lees O. albo-roseum has made a fine clump, and I never forget some stunning species growing in Jack Elliott's garden, Coldham. In both cases they were hot raised beds, so I look forward to seeing how they do in a sand bed. Hypericum cerastoides is a more easy going alpine, but a very good one. There are quite a number of nice small species in the genus, very suitable for dry gardens like ours. And finally the South African Delosperma basuticum. This grows in one of the most inhospitable places in the garden, outside a beech hedge in the driest of narrow borders alongside the road. It's great to see it flowering like this where little else but cyclamen and a few early bulbs have ever really got established. Curiously we still have to weed along here quite often; weeds find their place come what may.

Contribution from Cliff Booker 31 May 2012, 06:28top / bottom of page

I'm enjoying your wonderful contributions as much as ever, Tim. Many thanks for taking the time and trouble to compile and post them.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 31 May 2012, 19:00top / bottom of page

Thanks Cliff - it's very good of you to say so. I greatly enjoy posting them too, but like the exhibitor it's always nice to get a pat on the back! I would love to hear of others experiences too, especially with all those plants we can't grow down in the south very well.

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