Before we start though, some pictures from the week. I have been amazed how well these snakes head fritillaries, Fritillaria Meleagris have done this year. They are in soil drier than they would like and after the baking they had last summer, I thought, I would have lost them and yet they are flourishing. Sycamore seedlings are germinating with abundance. Although they are definitely, wrong plant wrong place, in the vegetable garden. I still feel guilty about pulling trees up, when we are supposed to be planting more. Particularly, when I can be pulling up about 100 in a day! Leaves, I was supposed to of finished sweeping leaves at Christmas, but no, just when you have forgotten all about leaf sweeping the Beech, Fagus and Hornbeam, Carpinus are dropping their leaves as they start to open this years growth.
Gardening enjoys an everlasting appeal once you are hooked, because of the curious things you discover whilst you garden. This week I have been pondering why it is some Delphiniums are more attractive to slugs than others. Even when they are planted only feet apart in the same garden. If someone could identify the gene in the none tasty variety and then modify the rest of the Delphiniums we would all be able to grow them and have our own Chelsea recreation without the planet harming and very attractive blue pellet rings around each plant.
I also observed this week a similar proclivity for particular plants in a group of Lupins. In more than one garden where there are clumps of Lupins and some of them manage to stay completely free of the American Aphid which has ravaged a neighbouring Lupin. There Aphids have spread around the country since being introduced to this country in 1981 and they are not kept in check by Ladybirds or other usual Aphid predators so vigilance and a lot of squishing is required which can be hard to not damage the soft fleshy shoots of the Lupin and spraying with something either damages the planet or needs doing regularly if using an organic alternative. One practical solution I am trying currently is to remove some of the foliage to open up the centre of the plant so the new shoots coming up are more exposed to the air and light. Hopefully making this a less attractive site for the aphids.
I would love to grow Delphiniums, Lupins, Ligularia and Hostas but I don’t, because they are too hard to protect by organic methods.* Although the wool slug pellets are proving quite effective so far this year.* Even when I had a healthy frog population and a visiting Hedgehog I still lost my Ligularia ‘Britt Marie Crawford’ so I tend to stick to more robust alternatives like Rodgersia aesculifolia.
Viburnums, a varied genus which gets get too little notice, Some of my favourites may have finished flowering now, such as Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ but even its deeply ridged leaves are a pretty green. Yet this genus has plenty more to offer for the rest of the year with over 150 different plants there is sure to be something that takes your fancy and so much more on offer than the Viburnum tinus so beloved of new housing develpoments and car parks.. Coming into flower now are the likes of burkwoodii and carlesii both with fabulous scent as well as very pretty flowers that start varying shades of pink in bud opening to white. Viburnum macrocephalum, can grow into a small tree full of Hydrangea like flowers that start green and open out to pure white. Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’ not only has beautiful white flowers gracing its stems but a wonderful tiered and spreading growing habit which makes it a vert fine structural addition to the garden as well as its flowers. There are native viburnum too in V. opulus or the Guelder rose. This can often be found amongst mixed native hedge rows but should be used more it has big blousy white flowers in June and then the most amazing firery red autumn foliage complimented by bright red berries. Be careful if you want the berries as Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’ is sterile and so does not produce any. Watch out now for attacks of Viburnum beetle, particularly on species such as opulus and tinus. Spraying is really the only answer to break the cycle of attack but do it either first thing in the morning or late at night when the bees are not active.
Edging the lawn, seems to rank as one of the most boring jobs on the planet for most people I meet and yet, it can be one of those jobs, which is far less effort, than the actual mowing of the lawn and has a much bigger impact on the overall look of the garden. So go on steal the glory and finish the job. Your borders will thank you and so will your gardener. The worst job in the world is trying to get the grass out of an established border once it has crept in and got its feet amongst the roots of your treasured possessions. There is no way back apart from emptying everything out and starting again. So be warned ten minutes going round the edge with the shears is absolutely worth it. It has the added benefit of ensuring you notice all of your borders as you will be bending down to look at them. It is amazing what you can spot.
The best solution is to act quickly and prune away the affected shoots. Good tidying up in the Autumn is an effective deterrent as the fungus can overwinter in fallen leaves round the base of the plant ready to pounce the following year.
Yet whilst they are having their moment of glory, it feels wrong to ignore them, so here we are but please, if you want purple foliage grow a Cotinus or a Corylus and if you want evergreen glossy leaves grow a Viburnum tinus or Davidii there is no excuse to settle for a Berberis instead. on that grumpy note and with a promise of either many tulips or a look at Tenerife’s Flora I will leave you to Happy Days in the Garden x