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Plants in the Garden: March

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Started by: Tim Ingram

Go to latest contribution by Tim Ingram, 28 March 2013, 10:52. Go to bottom of this page.

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Contribution from Tim Ingram 10 March 2013, 10:09top / bottom of page

Although I haven't shown it, the garden has a nice structure, brought out by this picture of the box spiral and yellow pittosporum behind, and the boundary overlooking the Weald of Kent is cleverly made with an undulating yew hedge, echoing the hedges on the hillside below. The last two pictures show very contrasting clumps of snowdrops derived from Martyn Rix's collections. The first has beautifully glaucous leaves, and looks to me like a form of the spring G. reginae-olgae. The second is the real speciality of the garden, a wonderful broad leaved form of elwesii - the flowers are mostly over but have a deep-green mark on the inner tepals; they may not be as showy as many modern selections, but their great interest is that they are wild forms, growing extremely well in a Kentish garden. The plant shown seems to rarely set seed and produce seedling, but around the garden are similar forms, with smaller leaves and more prominent flowers. The feature I find interesting is that broad arching leaf, as the forms of elwesii I grow are all more upright, albeit with showier flowers. Amongst the snowdrops there are a few very interesting seedlings, notably with strong, rigid and upright flowering stems, and some with lovely glaucous foliage. It will be fascinating to watch these more closely over the next few years.

(Knowle Hill Farm is open for the National Gardens Scheme and although it has relatively few alpines it is a plantslady's garden that is a great delight to be shown around).

Contribution from Paul Lewis 25 March 2013, 21:47top / bottom of page
Looking great Tim!

Hello Tim

Really enjoying the pictures of the plants in your garden that are braving this particularly cold March (heading in the direction of being the coldest March for 50 years).

That bright orange Crocus is stunning. I like the Iris reticulata 'Clairette' as well, we have a few of these on our raised bed, which I got from Pottertons. With the wet and frequently cold weather, the bulbs on our raised bed have taken a bit of a battering this year compared to last spring. With the lack of sunshine hours, the Crocus in particular have only opened once or twice!! I look forward to more photos. Paul

Contribution from Susan Read 26 March 2013, 16:33top / bottom of page

Hellebores are certainly doing well in my garden this year. A few days ago they were desiccated by the cold wind but have recovered in spite of the still low temperatures.

How can one get Iris reticulata to flower before the leaves obscure them? Or is it to do with the late season?

Surprisingly Erysimum has not been entirely defeated but C. cneorum next to it has lost a lot of shoots.

Contribution from Susan Read 26 March 2013, 16:59top / bottom of page

Finally a saxifrage, usually much earlier to flower. I have had this for at least 20 years probably from a group (?Oxford) raffle. It came complete with a label, long lost....something like 'White Hills'. (I have put another picture on the N Wales comment thread) Does anyone recognise it? ...I am sure it must be common, most raffle prizes are.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 26 March 2013, 17:55top / bottom of page

Susan - the saxifrage is most likely apiculata 'Alba', which is a good doer in the garden and can make big cushions. 'Whitehill' is a silver sax. cross.

Contribution from Susan Read 27 March 2013, 17:26top / bottom of page

Thanks Tim, I am pleased it may have a descriptive name rather than being a 'mere' cultivar. Have added a picture to show the leaves since I found it confusing that they are what I would call dark green. The silvery tips are less obvious in reality and appear to be hairs. It is just possible that it could have a superior provenance, considering the Oxford group at the time!

Contribution from Tim Ingram 28 March 2013, 10:52top / bottom of page

What a difference a day makes! On Tuesday the temperatures hovered around freezing, the wind chill made it seem well below, and the sun refrained from the slightest appearance. Yesterday, a still, sunny, ideal spring day, the temperature between 10 and 15C depending on the spot chosen to work. Our front garden is the warmest and most sheltered, and also where many of the alpines are grown in sand and gravel beds. Slowly these plantings are being extended with silver and grey leaved shrubs, grasses, pinks and a few unusual perennials like Eryngium proteiflorum and Mathiesella bupleuroides, both rather unique umbellifers from Mexico. Despite the freezing weather we have had I am quite surprised to see plants like Convolvulus cneorum and the Eryngium looking unharmed. The reason must be that they were protected from the worst of the wind, but also although it has seemed cold, absolute temperatures have not dropped much bwelow freezing (the lowest we have recorded since Christmas is -6C). the last two years were considerably colder, dropping well below -10C for extended periods,and caused severe damage in the garden.

A couple of New Zealand plants, Coprosma 'Fire Burst' and Euphorbia glauca (quite an outlier from the well known Mediterranean species) have also overwintered well. The Euphorbia is a curious plant, the only species native to New Zealand (and the Chatham Islands) and restricted to just a few coastal sites where it is in serious decline. As a garden plant though it is very attractive and is nicely profiled by O2 Landscapes ( as an indigenous plant for New Zealand gardens. There must be some satisfaction, at least amongst gardeners, when a relatively rare plant like this is maintained and distributed in cultivation.

It is interesting to contrast E. glauca with the Mediterranean E. rigida, a plant of much hotter and drier situations. This can be superb when well grown, very early flowering and distinguished by floral bracts which often colour strong orange to red as they age, and look good right into summer. It needs the poorest and sandiest of soil to give of its best, or is excellent in a large clay pot, when it can colour wonderfully.

Two more 'silvers' in this part of the garden are a new form of French lavender, L steochas 'Silver Anouk', which has the whitest-silver foliage of any lavender I know - a very striking plant but vulnerable in cold wet winters. The second is Helichrysum ambiguum, in effect a more robust form of the curry plant, H. italicum, but without the scent (this latter seems to divide gardeners, most tending to dislike it - personally I find that it spices the garden up!). Both of these, along with the euphorbias, convolvulus, phlomis, and other plants in this part of the garden, should only get better through our generally hot and dry summers (and these do occur despite what people say), even if they are vulnerable to extremes of winter cold. Fortunately most are easy to propagate and replace if necessary.

The sand bed itself, around which much of this revolves, is slowly coming to life having removed the winter cover in early March. A small plant of Morisia monanthos, ideally adapted to sand with its succulent leaves, is flowering and the Rusty Back Fern, Asplenium ceterach, displays in the low spring sunshine how it gets its name.

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