End of month view April 2016

April view-1.jpg

Three months ago we arrived back from seven weeks in Australia thinking that in large measure we’d put winter behind us while we were away. It seems to have been an exceptionally long haul into better weather and though the days are longer and the light brighter, the temperatures are no higher than they’ve been through most of the winter.

My main gripe is that I’ve been looking at too much bare soil for too long. Having no lawn is a factor, but not one I intend to change, but looking at other contributor’s end of month views I reckon I need to work on bringing my spring display forward by a month or more. For reasons that I don’t really understand, tulips, daffodils and crocuses lack longevity in our garden. I see no point in planting more of them. Bluebells, snowdrops, muscari, Camassia, Chionodoxa, wood anemone and Erythronium ‘Pagoda’ are doing well so it makes sense to work with them and close relatives. I need to get good populations going where they will be undisturbed while they are dormant. Snowdrops in particular I am forever accidentally digging up. I bought a new Muscari recently called ‘Blue Spike’ which is still flowering long after the others have finished.

Two other plants that I want more of are primroses and honesty. Primroses are one of my favourite wildflowers and they will grow almost anywhere. I intend collecting seed from the ones I have and growing lots to put in every empty corner I can find. Honesty I am growing for the first time this year, at least since childhood. I am growing ‘Corfu Blue’, that I grew from Special Plants seed last year and I just love the colour. With luck it will set seed and I shall have masses of it. There’s a really good maroon coloured one by the roadside near here that I shall also try and get some seed from.


Lunaria ‘Corfu Blue’ and Muscari ‘Blue Spike’

There are a few other plants that are doing well now. Epimedium ‘Fröhnleiten’ is great for leaves and flowers at this time of year. My craftier half presses the whole flower spikes in her microwave flower press and uses them on cards. The honesty is proving a winner too, but individual flowers in that instance.

Trachystemon orientalis is a plant I have had for some years but it has very much benefitted from the brutal haircut I gave to the Camellia under which it grows. Then there is this white flowered thing, given to me by a gardening friend, with a name that just wont take root in my memory. I’ll have to ask her yet again.


Epimedium ‘Frohnleiten’ and Trachystemon orientalis

I haven’t done well with the newer, snazzy Epimediums that have come along in large numbers in recent years. I am inclined to blame slugs for browsing the emerging shots. The truth is that as with so many failures, I am not at all sure what I am doing wrong. Epimedium pinnatum colchicum is doing so well on the other hand that having given away a large chunk of it, I still put a square meter or more of it through the shredder today. In its place will go the lovely Chrysoplenium davidianum that I couldn’t resist on Crûg’s stand at the Cornwall Garden Society spring show. The Disporum I bought at the same time isn’t out of its pot yet and the slugs have mauled it.


The white thing and Chrysoplenium davidianum


Like many people, I am fond of Salvias. I am having problems with them though. The sub-shrub types, like ‘Hot Lips’, grow extremely well and flower for several months. They get too big for where they are put in a season or at most two but when it comes to cutting them back there are usually no low shoots to cut to and they won’t break from bare stems. I suppose I need to treat them as annuals and take cuttings every year. The herbaceous types are generally fine if the slugs can be kept at bay.

This is my contribution to The Patient Gardener’s End of Month meme, to be found here.


Mid month muse


Astelia ‘Red Devil’

Years ago, there was an Astelia at RHS Rosemoor called ‘Alpine Ruby’. It was very nice, I wanted one. At the time I worked on a nursery and looking for sources of supply, there was one, in Northern Ireland. There still is. Around the same time a new variety called ‘Red Devil’ was launched and I bought liners to grow on for nursery sales. One found its way home with me and I planted it in the front garden. I have long been a fan of Astelia chathamica, usually sold as ‘Silver Spear’. Unlike Phormiums, which get dull as they age, it retains its silvery brightness  and it doesn’t keep on getting relentlessly taller like Phormiums do. Mine has topped out at around three feet and I don’t do much more to it than remove old dead leaves. ‘Red Devil’ is presumably a selection of A. nervosa and I did grow the form ‘Westland’ until a few years ago. I think it was removed to make way for a polytunnel, which I couldn’t claim to be more attractive, but basically it was rather dull. It’s a shame, I’ve seen it growing in the wild around Arthur’s Pass in New Zealand and there it looked superb. Anyhow, when I came back from my allotment this morning, I noticed how good Astelia ‘Red Devil’ was looking, so I took its picture. Looking back at the pictures of ‘Alpine Ruby’, I have to admit it has a stronger colour, but I am more than content with ‘Red Devil’.



Lysichiton camtschatcensis

Lysichiton camtschatcensis is a plant we used to have growing at the side of our pond, until I filled the pond in to make a bog garden. It’s in flower now, though coming to its end. It is probably less invasive than its American cousin, L. americanus, but nevertheless I have a carpet of seedlings coming up around it. The leaves get huge, though to begin with the spadixes (that can’t be the plural of spadix) have the show to themselves.  I don’t find they smell much. The worst thing about it is its name; I’ll save my Paeonia mlokosewitschii story for another day.



Erythronium ‘Pagoda’

Erythronium is a bulb I’m very fond of, as are many of the people I follow on Twitter; they’re everywhere. ‘Pagoda’ is popping up all over the place, I suppose I must have split clumps and spread them around. I’m fairly sure I’ve planted others over the years but none seem to survive. I bought some pots of growing plants at a nursery a few weeks back and the slugs have hit them hard. Perhaps that’s why all I have is Pagoda.



Fuchsia perscandens

Fuchsia perscandens is not a showy plant. Until last sunday I thought it was a low, sprawly shrub getting to 3 feet or so. Then I went to Tregrehan and saw their 10-12 feet tall bushes! We planted ours on the soil bank between us and a neighbour, then later I put a fence up marooning it on his side. No chance of it getting very big, his idea of pruning is to shear everything off at three feet. Fuchisas, Pieris and Philadelphus all get the same treatment. The fuchsia is growing through the fence; I should take some cuttings before he uproots it.



Camellias ‘Adorable’ and ‘Bob Hope’

And finally a couple of Camellias before the season comes to a close. ‘Adorable’ was raised in Australia, ‘Bob Hope’ in California. Both seem very happy in Cornwall. The deep red of ‘Bob Hope’ carries off a certain amount of damage rather better than ‘Adorable’, but I love them both.