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Plants in the Garden: Winter 2013

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Started by: Tim Ingram

Go to latest contribution by Tim Ingram, 20 January 2014, 19:06. Go to bottom of this page.

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Contribution from Tim Ingram 10 December 2013, 14:26top / bottom of page

What does a nurseryman do in the winter, apart from renovating greenhouses, cutting firewood, weeding and tidying the garden and perusing seedlists and sowing seed? Something more immediate is lifting and dividing snowdrops. There is clearly a big interest in these plants from the multiplicity of snowdrop days throughout February, of snowdrop gardens open at the same time, and the remarkable displays that have been held at the RHS Shows in London over the years by various nurseries. The value that is put on these plants is rather unique compared to many other bulbs, but also limited only to certain gardeners who perhaps place a higher value on plants in general than most people. So can we generate interest in snowdrops in our local neck of the woods amongst people who don't have that same overiding interest? This bears similarities to stimulating interest in alpines too - many gardeners pass these by. Because we are trying to grow and sell both in what seems a declining market we are going to try and display and sell snowdrops at our local 'Best of Faversham' market, a new enterprise set up in the town to encourage more local shopping and produce. How will this go? Well we will have to wait and see - we are opening our garden for the National Gardens Scheme in February and for our local Garden Groups, plus some visitors from over the Channel. The snowdrops are being lifted; some well established cultivars that have not been multiplied before potted up and replanted for stock; labels being written and records kept; and fingers crossed that next February will see good weather and plenty of visitors. There are several other fine collections of snowdrops in gardens around Kent, some of which I have described earlier on this website. So at the risk of using the AGS website for personal advertising our garden is open on Sunday 16th February 2014, and the Kent Hardy Plant Society Snowdrop and Hellebore Day at Goodnestone Garden near Canterbury, the following Sunday 23rd February. There is a lot more in both gardens than just snowdrops, but for the nurseryman anyway snowdrops keep the winter fires burning.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 10 December 2013, 16:34top / bottom of page

The first picture above is of snowdrops naturalising under apple trees in our garden, and the last of snowdrops in a local woodland a few miles from us which make a wonderful display in February and explain why it is so easy to become a galanthophile!

Old established clumps in the garden, like the following G. 'Lady Beatrix Stanley' which hasn't been touched for many years, become highly congested and difficult to divide. Those who have propagated hardy perennials (such as hostas) will know taking time and care is the only way. With this clump as much soil as possible was washed off initially making it easier to see the large 'ball' of bulbs. 

Of course it would have been much wiser to have done this in the summer whilst the bulbs are dormant, but time is always at a premium then. Gently separating the clump under water gradually enables individual bulbs to be teased apart without too much damage to the roots. The resulting bulbs can then be graded into larger and smaller for potting or replanting. With a vigorous and reliable cultivar like this (which is also common and not so easy to sell) there is the opportunity to replant extensive drifts in the garden and create a much more striking show.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 10 December 2013, 16:56top / bottom of page

Galanthus 'Lady Beatrix Stanley' is in fact a good and distinctive double which stands out because the inner tepal markings are very small simple green dots. The result is a flower that appears rather 'whiter' than many snowdrops, and thus a valuable garden plant despite the multiplicity of other cultivars. For those new to growing these plants older forms such as this are most likely to appeal to the gardener without too deep a pocket. Unfortunately once the collector's bug has bitten there is little to do apart from allowing the garden to become a display of more and more cultivars through the short days of winter. After growing snowdrops for fifteen years or more we probably have over a hundred different forms - and for many gardeners this is just a beginning! They don't grow in isolation though, and presage a wonderful range of late winter and spring flowering woodland plants which make the garden a complete delight from February right through to early summer.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 24 December 2013, 11:44top / bottom of page
'The best laid plans of mice and men'

In 1987 the famous gale caused a lot of damage to our garden and nursery. The recent winds in the south-east have wreaked similar havoc on the garden, even though not so strong. A set back for our efforts of 2013. Christmas Day will see us doing a lot of clearing in the garden and working out repairs to the greenhouse.

'The best laid plans of mice and men'

One of the downsides of having a mature garden.

Contribution from John Good 24 December 2013, 11:51top / bottom of page

Sorry to see the damage you have suffered, Tim, we have had furious gales and torrential rain but so far no serious damage - fingers firmly crossed. 

Contribution from Martin Rogerson 24 December 2013, 17:36top / bottom of page

Hi Tim, don't envy you the job of cleaning that lot up, at least no one got in the way. Chill out tomorrow and think of it as a keep fit exercise after tomorrow's excesses.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 24 December 2013, 18:53top / bottom of page

Thanks John and Martin. We will just take it steady - the winter normally provides plenty of time for tidying the garden and getting ready for spring; just a little more to do than usual!

Contribution from Tim Ingram 26 December 2013, 13:52top / bottom of page

With some elbow grease and a little help from the neighbour's friends and a chainsaw the cedar has been cleared up and they can get back into their drive! The greenhouse has been eased back into shape with the gentle persuasion from clamps and a car-jack. Hopefully we won't get another gale like this for the next 30 years or so!

Contribution from John Richards 06 January 2014, 10:16top / bottom of page

I like your optimism Tim! I join in with the others with both sympathy and admiration at the way you have just got on with things! But I suspect you (and we) will be getting a lot more of this in months and years to come. However, with most of the weather this year coming from the south and west, we have escaped almost all of this in the NE so far, and are enjoying a very mild winter up to now. Its an even worse wind that blows no-one any good!

Contribution from Tim Ingram 07 January 2014, 09:37top / bottom of page

At times a garden can seem like a rod for one's own back - hence in part my optimism! Fortunately it has the most wonderful compensations. This is the continuing clearing up after the gale with Eucalyptus subcrenulata gradually being converted into piles of prunings for shredding and firewood.

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