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March 30, 2013

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s this week The big gardening storie

Andy Tryner

Spalding flower parade to be last ever?

The 40-year-old show falls victim to investment cuts Ian Hodgson

“I hope the parade can remain an annual event” John Hayes, MP for South Holland

Editor at large

A

FLOWER parade, which has uniquely celebrated tulips and the advent of spring since 1959, may stop after this year’s event. The Spalding Flower parade, will be curtailed after main sponsors Lincolnshire County Council and South Holland District Council couldn’t justify the £80,000 they invested each year to help run the £200,000 event. In its heyday, the parade attracted crowds of more than 100,000, but attendances fell over the years to 40,000 in 2012.

“It’s very sad it’s come to an end,” said Parade Manager, Kathleen Codd. “But, when the councils stepped in to underwrite costs a few years ago they said this would be the final year unless alternative funding was found, which unfortunately didn’t materialise. Health and safety provision and flowers had become too expensive.” The parade of floats which all innovatively interpret an annual theme, take 2½ to 3 days to build, using 1.4 million tulip flower heads harvested in Norfolk. Each

uses an average of 100,000 heads, attached by hand. Historically, the tulip heads were all obtained from local bulb fields, but are now sourced elsewhere. “We’re going out with a flourish,” said Kathleen. ”This year’s theme is ‘Let’s celebrate!’ We’ve a 20m (65.5ft) Chinese dragon on a double float and a premier UK Chinese dragon dancing team. We have a strong entry celebrating St Patrick’s day, an Irish band, and fireworks from Spalding Energy. We’ve already crowned our last flower queen.”

Moves are afoot to try and secure a flower event of some kind, with local MP John Hayes, Minister of State for Energy, trying to elicit local support. “The flower parade is part of our local cultural heritage and engages our community. It helped shape our view of the area. I hope it can remain an annual event, but at the moment I don’t know what shape that will take.” • Spalding flower parade is on May 4 at 2pm. Info: www. spalding-flower-parade.org.uk or phone 01673 828764

Eden asks government to help fund new

Eden Project

4 Garden News / March 30 2013

Despite announcing redundancies for 15 per cent of staff (GN Feb 5), cashchallenged Eden Project – which is trying to save £2 million from its cost base – is still pressing ahead with an ambitious £13m project. ‘How2’ is a skills development, training

and demonstration centre focusing on training people in the design and manufacture of low carbon, or green technologies, processes and services. Run in association with Cornwall College, the project, with its proposed educational waveform building of recycled

materials and associated parking, will cover 4.3 ha (10 acres). The project received planning permission in December. The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership is believed to have supported the loan from


Clare Foggett

Jackie Whittaker

Ian Hodgson

Melissa Mabbitt

Clare’s 50m (165ft) garden is home to veg and flowers. She studied horticulture at Pershore College.

Jackie grows fruit, veg and ornamentals in her small town garden. She has a degree in horticulture.

Ian is a Kew-trained horticulturist and garden designer, who previously worked for the RHS.

Melissa used to be a gardener at the National Trust’s Bodnant Garden and has RHS qualifications.

Northern arboretum has makeover

A MEMORIAL garden commemorating an infamous and bloody battle between the Scots and the English 500 years ago is to be built in the grounds of Selkirk’s Victoria Halls. The town supplied many of the men who fought in the invading army of James IV King of Scotland against Henry VIII, in one of the murderous battles of the period. 14,000 men perished, including King James. The Flodden 500 Selkirk memorial garden itself has not been without controversy. Last

Victoria Halls

November, Lady Judy Steel, Chair of the organising committee, stood down. She cited among her reasons a lack of choice about the garden’s design when the committee rejected internationally renowned garden designer, Kim Wilkie.

Wilkie, it is reported, had agreed to provide his services for free. The committee’s remaining members commissioned Galashiels-based James Landscaping to the project. The 300m2 (3,250sq ft) garden will have seating, with Flodden 500 insignia picked out in turf. Interpretation panels and a memorial plaque cover the surrounding boundary wall. Planting features native Scottish plants in either blue or red. A decision is due by May 10, with opening for September 7.

Too cold for greenflies

EU decision on ‘bee’ pesticide goes to appeal

It’s not just gardeners being held up by unseasonably cold weather. It appears that greenfly are too, according to forecasts by an industry watchdog. The HGCA service, led by Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire, predicts aphids will start flying two to four weeks later than normal, due to average temperatures being between 10-20C ( 50-68F) lower than normal. Other insects will also be affected. “The cold weather will probably delay the emergence of all insects from overwintering stages, be it adults, larvae, pupae or eggs,” observes Andrew Salisbury, an RHS entomologist. “For many species it’s a combination of day length and temperature that stimulates them to become active. Early bees and butterflies become active on any day that is warm enough, but others probably require several warm days before coming active.”

The stalemate on neonicotinoid pesticides (see GN March 23) will go to appeal. Toni Borg, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy hopes to have a ban by July. “The health of our bees is of paramount importance. We have a duty to take proportionate, yet decisive action to protect them wherever appropriate,” he said. At the meeting, the UK will submit crucial new information from field trials, one of the reasons why it abstained from the vote.

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the Government’s Exceptional Regional Growth Fund, for ‘helping with economic shocks and opportunities’. The funding, reported to be £5-7m, has to be matched from other sources and the project delivered before April 2014.

Battle’s 500th anniversary garden

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project

improve footpaths and make our landscape even more attractive to wildlife.” The Yorkshire Arboretum is open from 10am-4pm from March 1–November 10. For more details tel: 01653 648598; visit www.yorkshirearboretum.org

Scottish Borders Council

A mysterious 300-year-old manuscript illustrating a variety of fruit – which lay forgotten in a famous Oxford library – is the subject of an investigative book. The Tradescants’ Orchard by Barrie Juniper and Hanneke Grootenboer proposes the 66 illustrations, many also containing birds, frogs, butterflies and caterpillars and strange jottings, could be associated with famous gardeners John Tradescant and his son. It may even be the first illustrated plant catalogue! Tradescant the elder was Head Gardener at Hatfield House and in 1630 became Keeper of His Majesty’s Gardens, Vines and Silkworms. Produced in facsimile, the book will be published on April 26, available for £30. Tel: 01767 604968; visit www.bodleianbookshop.co.uk

The Yorkshire Arboretum has many rarities

Harry Kingman

New book delves into historic fruit riddle

An under-appreciated arboretum in the grounds of Castle Howard, north Yorkshire, has been renamed and given a fresh identity. The Yorkshire Arboretum, previously the Castle Howard Arboretum, has strong links to Kew Gardens and contains many rare and unusual trees, some from famous planthunters such as Sir Joseph Hooker and Frank Kingdon-Ward. First opened in 1999, the 48ha (120 acre) site contains woodland, lakes, wildflower meadows, vistas, glades and ponds for wildlife. “We are planning significant investments in the arboretum and its facilities over the next three years to enable us to make this beautiful place even more attractive to visitors,” said the Director, Dr John Grimshaw. “We’ll be fundraising to extend our visitor centre,

March 30 2013 / Garden News 5


Sizzling planting schemes combine with cool, tranquil ponds in this Cheshire haven Melissa Mabbitt Garden writer

C

ool water is the main feature of Wendy and Howard Platt’s garden near Warrington, with fiery herbaceous planting counterbalancing the

Before 8 Garden News / March 30 2013

serene pools to make this a garden of opposites. Yet it’s one that connects seamlessly. Wendy has been instrumental in the design of the garden since she and her husband took over Laskey Farm 17 years ago. The one-acre garden has been in Howard’s family for four generations, and the couple have continued a passion for horticulture started by Howard’s father. Wendy said: “My father-in-law was a very keen gardener, very inspirational and a great bloke. My interest in gardening was borne out of necessity because when you take on a place like this you have to carry on with it. But the more I did, the more I learned

Gardeners Wendy and Ho ward Platt Address Laskey Farm, The lwall, Warrington, Cheshire WA 4 2TF Been in the garden 17 yea rs Size 1 acre Soil Very fre e-draining Open for NGS Saturday Au 11am to 5pm. Also by app gust 17 and Sunday August 18, ointment June 17 to Augus t9 and the more and more drawn in and engaged it made me.” Very much still a working farm when the couple moved in, they gradually redeveloped the site, converting yards into garden and transforming the huge lawn into flower borders. Wendy explained: “It’s such a big flat space, the challenge has been creating different areas. If the gardens are on one level it’s difficult to create a journey. Because we had a huge swathe of lawn we kept chipping away at it – adding more features to create more interest.” The highlight of the garden is the complex of pools, interlinked by a flowing rill. Havens for

wildlife and ornamental fish, the waterways are planted with statement marginal plants such as gunnera, bullrushes and marsh marigold. The plants are sunk into the ponds in pots to keep them happy. The water garden is Howard’s creation, who built the first ponds seven years ago. They also made several additions to the design more recently. Wendy explained: “We incorporated new parts and the rill. We used to have problems with the water turning green, but now the new parts act as a water purification system. “The water goes through a reed filtration system, filtering through gravel beds and plant roots.

Photos: Neil Hepworth

Fire and water...


GARDEN OF THE WEEK

Garden highlights

Colours are used to full effect. Monarda ‘Gardenview Scarlet’ raises the temperature between achillea ‘Summer Pastels’ and leucanthemum ‘White Knight’

Warm colours such as the red foliage of this heuchera complement the reclaimed brick used in the hard landscaping and farm buildings.

Where they buy their plants ● Marbury Hall Nurseries, The Old Walled Gardens, Marbury, Northwich, Cheshire CW9 6AT, tel: 01606 74168, www. marburynursery.co.uk

The winding rill is both functional and beautiful. It unites the different parts of the water garden and aids filtration

Because we keep fish in the ponds there is a lot of nutrient to remove, but the water in the main pond is now absolutely crystal clear,” she added. One pond is even a haven for 28 rescued terrapins. Enclosed

by a low wall, the area is also planted with carnivorous plants that attract flies to supplement their diet. Wendy says the water garden is normally the centre of attention on NGS open days and children particularly love the

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terrapins. “People are fascinated by the ponds – there seems to be something mesmerising about water,” she explained. The tranquil water is offset by the sizzlingly-hot planting schemes designed and planted

● Grasslands Nurseries, Free Green Lane, Lower Peover, Knutsford, Cheshire WA16 9QY, tel: 01565 722836, www.shrubsdirect.com ● Bluebell Cottage Gardens Nursery, Lodge Lane, Dutton, near Warrington, Cheshire WA4 4HP, tel: 01928 713718, www.bluebellcottage.co.uk

TURN FOR MORE IDEAS March 30 2013 / Garden News 9


Early an emon es Sprin g bulb

Fu ll su n/pa rtial sh ade Fertile, we ll-drained soil Fu lly ha rdy He ight 10-25cm (4-9in) Sp rin g flo we rin g

Bring sparkle to your spring beds Early anemones will carpet a border with their charming blooms Jackie Whittaker Garden writer

A

s the soil slowly starts to warm up, delicate blooms of spring-flowering anemones seem to appear almost overnight. Given the right conditions and room to spread,

Recommends

Primroses

Match brightly-coloured Anemone coronaria with primroses or irises in complementary shades.

14 Garden News / March 30 2013

these early-season flowers will carpet a bed, border or shady bank with their ferny foliage and simple, charming blooms. The most popular species of spring-flowering anemones are Anemone nemorosa, the wood anemone, and A. blanda, sometimes called the windflower. Both are easy-going perennials

that grow from creeping underground rhizomes, in the case of Anemone nemorosa, or small dark tubers (A. blanda). Anemone nemorosa is a familiar woodland native, which makes the most of early season light every February to break dormancy and produce its starry, cup-shaped blooms in white, flushed with pink.

Planting partners for early anemones

Crocus

Combine the lovely delicate lilac daisies of Anemone blanda with matching purple crocuses or violas.

Pulmonaria

Grow elegant Anemone nemorosa among other woodlanders such as pulmonaria or hellebores.

Bluebells will dangle prettily above a carpet of anemones

As well as our native species, there are well over 40 different varieties of Anemone nemorosa, with flowers varying in size and colour from palest pink and blue to soft cream and pure white. Many have prominent yellow stamens while others have colourful eyes or double petals. For pure white double flowers, Anemone nemorosa ‘Vestal’ is hard to beat, while ‘Robinsoniana’ is an old variety prized for its clear lilac flowers and sturdy growth. Anemone nemorosa thrives in fertile, woodland soil, deep in leaf litter, so will appreciate similar soil conditions in the garden. The ideal spot is in the dappled shade cast by deciduous trees and shrubs. This gives them enough warmth and light to flower while protecting them from the worst of early spring weather.


PLANT OF THE WEEK Anemones weave in handsomely with a contrasting saxifrage

Expert tips

Brian Ellis Avondale Nursery

We specialise in Anemone nemorosa and hold a National Plant Collection of them. They’ll do well in light or heavy ground as long as there’s lots of leaf litter. Growing them in the shade cast by deciduous trees or shrubs is ideal. If you’re buying potted plants now, I’d recommend keeping them in their pots while they flower then planting them out later in the year when they’re dormant. I don’t think it’s worth buying Anemone nemorosa as dried rhizomes. It’s a bit like buying snowdrop bulbs, they’re very often dried up and just don’t grow. Anemone nemorosa will spread to form a carpet of flowers, but can be slow to multiply. If you want to increase them dig up an established clump, breaking off small pieces

Recommends

Anemone blanda AGM

of rhizome from the parent and replant with a little fresh compost or leaf mould to get them to spread more quickly. You could pot up small divisions in a mix of compost and leaf mould and replant larger pieces in the ground. To keep Anemone nemorosa looking good all they need is top-dressing with mulch in winter to mimic woodland conditions. Don’t feed them as they’ll produce too much foliage at the expense of flowers. • Avondale Nursery, at Russell’s Nursery, Mill Hill, Baginton, near Coventry CV5 6AG, tel: 07979 093096 or visit www.avondalenursery. co.uk No mail order available.

6 of the best early-flowering anemones

Anemone blanda ‘White Splendour’ AGM

A compact species producing flowers in shades of lilac, pink and white from early February to April. Height 15cm (6in).

Anemone blanda rosea ‘Radar’ AGM

Has pure white flowers up to 4cm (2in) wide from early to late spring. Height 15cm (6in).

Brighten up the border with vivid magenta flowers with white centres. Height 15cm (6in).

Pale pink anemones shine in shade

Large bowl-shaped flowers in shades of red, purple, blue and white appear from March to April. Height 25cm (10in).

Anemone blanda is so good it holds an RHS Award of Garden Merit. Brighten up borders in spring with Anemone blanda ‘White Splendour’ – its large, white flowers have prominent yellow stamens – or ‘Radar’, which produces vivid magenta flowers with white centres. Plant the tubers in large drifts or groups in early autumn.

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Anemone coronaria St Bridgid Group

Avondale

Anemone coronaria De Caen Group

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Thinkstock

As the surrounding trees and shrubs produce their foliage, anemone flowers naturally reach their end and plants recede back underground to spend the rest of the year dormant. The wood anemone’s close relative is Anemone blanda, identified by its small daisy-like flowers in blue, purple, white or pink. This spreading tuberous perennial likes similar growing conditions to Anemone nemorosa but also copes well in warmer, sunnier spots such as at the front of a border or even in a container. Flowers appear in early March and last well into May, carpeting the ground with their bright, clear-coloured flowers and fresh ferny foliage.

Anemone nemorosa ‘Leeds’ Variety’

Vividly coloured double and semidouble flowers with black centres appear from March to May. Ideal for cutting. Height 30cm (1ft).

Vigorous wood anemone variety with large, white flowers and soft yellow stamens. Height 20cm (8in).

An early anemone much loved by flower arrangers is Anemone coronaria. Unlike its woodland relative, this anemone prefers light sandy soil and full sun. It’s another tuberous perennial but the flowers are bright and showy

rather than delicate and dainty. Most popular of the Anemone coronaria hybrids are the De Caen and St Bridgid Group. Both have large, velvety-looking blooms in jewel-bright shades of purple, pink, red and occasionally white.

CORRECTION

In last week’s Plant of the Week on rhododendrons, the website address for Millais Nurseries was incorrect. Visit www.rhododendrons.co.uk for a brilliant range of rhododendrons or tel: 01252 792698.

March 30 2013 / Garden News 15


This week at

The Devon-based TV presenter and author who really knows her plants!

Glebe Cottage

Carol Klein says treat Pulsatilla vulgaris mean and you’ll be rewarded

M

ost of the soil in the garden here at Glebe Cottage is heavy clay, well-nourished and well-worked over the last 30-plus years. It may sound ironic, but occasionally it’s just too rich and too luscious for some of the plants we want to grow. But there’s one place where those plants that thrive on neglect and demand poor, well-drained soil in full sun, love to live. It’s our great big raised bed that runs at right angles from the terrace, about 4m (13ft 4in) across at the north and tapering slightly with a rounded southern side about 1.2m (4ft) tall. Its outer walls (it’s about 6m/20ft long) are built from local stone.

Pulsatilla thrive in my huge raised bed

“The seed heads are as beautiful as the flowers”

I made it 31 years ago. I know because I was heavily pregnant with Alice at the time and couldn’t even see some of the stones I was carrying! The first two or three feet were filled with rubble then it was topped up with soil mixed with equal parts of grit to provide a home for all our ‘toughies’. Pulsatilla vulgaris has Two days after rich, deep purple flowers Alice was born, we had flash floods. I remember coming down piles of rocks, not to mention the stairs very early on a beautiful all the plants I’d just planted, in June day, putting my bare foot an unseemly heap. It was soon down on the kitchen floor at the rebuilt in between feeds and bottom of the stairs and it going cuddles with our daughters. splash. The whole cottage was A few years ago we planted under water! out all our spare pulsatilla plants Outside, a huge torrent had at the end of it. They may not be run through the garden from the open for Easter this year (their hill to the north. On its way, it common name is pasque flower took out the far end of my new – Easter flower), but soon we’ll wall depositing tons of soil and

16 Garden News / March 30 2013

enjoy their beautifully backlit presence both early and late in the day. If you have the chance to see them this way, perhaps by planting them on the top of a wall, so much the better. The flowers of Pulsatilla vulgaris are fleeting, quiet and hardly noticeable in dull weather, bending their heads, each tiny hair on the outside of their petals imbued with droplets of water. When the sun begins to shine, the flowers turn their faces towards it, so many stars of rich, deep purple, each lit by a boss of golden stamens with a tufted purple stigma at its heart. The seed heads complete the furry, fluffy cycle. They are

elegant in the extreme, turning from purple to white as they age, each long tendril covered in fine fluff. When the seeds are ripe, each takes off on its own parachute, the breeze catches the tiny hairs and lifts the precious package, transporting it to pastures new. At their glistening best, lit by the spring sunshine, the seed heads are easily as beautiful as the flowers. Reginald Farrer, one of the greatest alpine growers of all time, suggests that the Romans carried Pulsatilla vulgaris to England, perhaps unknowingly, by importing seed in lime mortar or stone, and that many of the places where it has


Mo n d

ay

CAROL KLEIN

My gardening diary Wine-red flowers of Pulsatilla vulgaris rubra

Monday

Dug up crocosmias and discarded all but the best corms. They are settled back in with lashings of good compost, planted in waves.

What’s looking good now Ribes laurifolium is an extra special spring plant

Tuesday

We have a few eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’. Their bulbs are hefty and will benefit from being potted on.

sturdy and very silvery. A regime of rich soil and overfeeding will make leaves, flowers and seed heads unnaturally tall and weak. Treat it mean, even if you have to build it a raised bed!

TURN FOR CAROL’S PATIO POT ADVICE

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Thursday

Found some more agapanthus in pots so pulled out the rest of last year’s stems and tried to extricate them from their pots to plant them out.

e sd a y

Friday

W ed n

Nigella sativa is an outstanding annual. Sowed it thinly with calendula ‘Indian Prince’ in large plastic pots.

Saturday

Potted some already rooted pieces of Viola cornuta, took a few cuttings and layered a few others by chucking soil over the stems. I want lots!

Sunday

We clean up the garden in stages. It’s had its first cut back, now it’s time for some finesse! Went over the beds removing moss and stray stems so final mulching can go ahead – very satisfying!

ay

Jonathan Buckley

naturalised are the sites of former Roman earthworks. Although it will survive on richer, more fertile soil, it won’t be itself. Any plant grown under conditions different from those it is used to will undergo a personality change. The charm of pulsatilla is that its growth is compact and

planted at the top of a wall to hang down, but it can look awkward as though it has been misbehaving and has just been told off. In Wendy’s garden it looks poised cascading down the sloping banks – in its perfect setting, perhaps as it was growing when E.H. Wilson found it in China early in the 20th century. Green flowers always have a contrary attraction and at this time of year are particularly noticeable against the dark brown of the soil.

Saturd

Alamy

A

T WENDY Perry’s lovely garden, Bosvigo Plants in Truro, where we have just filmed, are several fine plants of Ribes laurifolium. I have never seen it grown better. We all know how useful flowering currants can be in the garden early in the year, but Ribes laurifolium is extraspecial. Pendulous racemes of green flowers smother the woody growth during February and March. The Rosemoor form has exceptionally good flowers. It’s a low, scrambling shrub and can be trained up a fence or

Tu esd a

Sowed leeks. I copy Gary and Peter, veg gardeners at RHS Rosemoor. They get brilliant results by filling big pots almost to the brim, firming, sowing thinly and sieving the finest layer of soil to just cover the seed.

y

Wednesday

March 30 2013 / Garden News 17


In your flower garden

IT’S ALSO TIME TO... pot on overwintering cuttings unwr ap tender exotics clean baskets and pots ready for planting

Performance subject to Standard seeds. growing conditions. Origin EU rules and UK. Sow by 2015. standards.

gardeners Go online at for garden and tips, ers. www.great magazines or call 0844 .co.uk/seed 848 8872 quoti s ng ref GNCS OFFER CLOSES October 31 2013 Don’t miss our essent ial weekly written by advice

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Plant out Flowers A S O N D

Sweet Pea ‘Pain

22 Garden News / March 30 2013

ted Lady • A hardy annua l, it can be sown ‘ (grandiflora) • Dates from where it is to 1730s, small flower • Heavily perfum flowered grandiflora climber ed and weath er tolerant Sow outdoors

Cold, dull weather can cause sweet pea seedlings to grow very leggy, but pinching them out will soon rescue the situation. Removing, or pinching out, the growing tip of most plants stimulates plant hormones to produce side shoots so that plants bush out rather than just grow taller. Pinching out sweet pea seedlings will produce sturdy plants with lots of flowering potential. Use your finger and thumbnail or some fine snips to remove the growing tips without damaging the seedling.

Sow indoors

Pinch out seedlings

roll tubes filled with seedsowing compost. Sow two or three seeds per module, water well and leave to germinate. Once the seedlings emerge, thin out any weak growers to give the rest room to develop.

J

S

WEET pea seed can be sown in succession to provide a long season of scent, colour and height. Sow your free ‘Painted Lady’ seed now into deep modules, Rootrainers, or recycled toilet

Height 180cm Growing Instru spread 45cm (6’) ctions: Sow indoor Well drained (18”) s for soil pot of compo surest results, 1.5cm (½”) st. or cool window Water well and place in deep, 5 seeds per 12cm (5”) a usually appear sill. A temperature of 15˚Ccold frame, greenhouse in 12-21 days. (60˚F) is ideal. when two Keep moist. Seedlings pairs Pinch of leaves have Gradually accusto formed to encourout the growing tip m plants to age bushy planting out 30cm (1’) apart. outside conditions (avoid growth. Or sow outdoo Support with frosts), before rs into finely preparfor ease, where they are tall canes or netting. to flower, 1.5cm ed soil which seeds togeth (½”) deep has already er every 30cm been watere then be (1’). Remov d. Sow 2 transpl e weaker seedling, which the following anted. Seeds sown in autum can year. Pick bloom n generally flower s regular ly to prolong floweri earlier ng season. Mr. F’s Tips: Seedlings are best protect bird damag ed against e with sowings should a few short twigs. Autum n be over winter frost free conditi ed in cool but ons.

Sow your free seed and care for young plants

Get

Succeed with sweet peas!

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Sweet Pea ‘Painted Lad Very old, y’ intensely frag

Get ready to plant out

rant climber

Now’s the time to get the supports where sweet peas are to grow ready, before spring gets really busy and the season runs away with us! Improve the soil first if necessary. Sweet peas always do best in fertile, well-cultivated ground and ideally, their site should be prepared either in autumn, which is the best time if your soil is heavy, or early spring. But there’s still time to dig in some well-rotted manure or garden compost as long as you give it a couple of weeks to settle. Then put up their supports: a rustic wigwam or metal obelisk are good ornamental options for sweet peas you’re growing decoratively, or if you’re getting serious about it this year, rows of bamboo canes for cordon growing. Space each cane roughly 20cm (8in) apart in rows and they’ll be ready and waiting for when you come to plant out in April.


WHAT TO DO

this week Tackle slugs

Protect juicy new shoots from pests Prevent slug and snail damage by employing anti-slug measures now. Sprinkle slug pellets around plants that are particularly susceptible, such as lupins and hostas, or use a biological control such as nematodes. Barriers can be created with crushed shells, copper rings or coffee grounds, or sink some jam jars into the ground ready for making ‘slug pub’ beer traps.

Divide polyanthus and primulas

Lift and divide plants to make more now Big clumps of primulas and polyanthus can be lifted and divided in spring to give you new plants. The ideal time to do it is when the flowers are starting to go over. After you’ve lifted the clump, look at it to see how many divisions you might be able to make. As long as each division has roots and leaves they’ll establish well.

Step by step

Splitting polyanthus

1

Get a fork beneath the clump and gently lever it from the border, then use a hand fork, knife or spade to split it into individual sections.

2

Replant the sections into well worked soil – add some leaf mould or compost if possible – and water. Water in dry weather until they’re established.

Repot cacti and succulents

Improve the growth of these tough plants A great indoor job for a cold and rainy day – and so far we’ve had a few this spring – is to repot your cacti or succulents. These tough characters tend to get a little neglected because they are so easy to grow, but with a little extra attention you may be rewarded with a surprising growth spurt or even flowers. They should be repotted when the roots start to show through the drainage holes, or about every three years to refresh the compost. Take care when handling spiky cacti – they can have vicious hooked barbs. Use a folded tea towel wrapped around the body of the plant to gently ease it out of its pot. The new pot should be about a finger’s width larger all the way around. Good drainage is key so use a mix of 50 per cent loam-based compost with 50 per cent horticultural grit or Perlite. A handful of horticultural sand in the mix will also help drainage. Cacti don’t like lime, so to be safe you could use ericaceous compost. Re-pot the plant to its original depth and firm in the new compost. Cover the surface with a little gravel or small decorative stones – they look good and help drainage too.

Tidy evergreen grasses

Make room for new stems The tall oaty seed heads of Stipa gigantea have provided some valuable height and interest through autumn and winter. But now they’re looking a bit bedraggled it’s time to prune them out to make room for this year’s flower stems to develop. These old stems are tough and straw-like, so use sharp secateurs to cut them away as close to the base of the plant as possible. Once all the stems have gone, comb through the leaves with a garden fork or rake to remove dead foliage and any debris lodged within the clump.

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TURN OVER FOR GREENHOUSE TIPS March 30 2013 / Garden News 23


Start with a spring clean

E

ven the smartest patio is likely to be looking a bit worse for wear after the winter we’ve just had. Rain, snow and low temperatures are a recipe for disaster when it comes to keeping patio slabs clean. Moss, mould and often deep-rooted weeds can quickly build up in the mortar joints, and slabs rapidly develop a slippery green covering of algae, which looks grubby and can be lethal to walk on! So start your make-over with a bit of elbow grease. Whether you have paving slabs or

Step by step

1

Use a stiff yard broom to sweep the worst of the debris off the patio.

28 Garden News / March 30 2013

block paving, clearing and cleaning all the hard surfaces first will transform a patio. Use a stiff yard broom to sweep loose moss and debris off the surface. If your knees are up to it, get down to ground level with an old knife or specially designed weeding tool and prise out stubborn weeds and moss, then use a pressure washer with added detergent to blast off slime and algae. Over time it’s inevitable that one or two paving slabs work themselves loose, crack or even break up completely. Don’t ignore these

– not only will they make the rest of the patio look tatty but you’re also likely to trip over them. Any whole, loose slabs should be lifted and relaid while broken ones should be replaced. If you’re not confident mixing up your own mortar, you can buy bags of readymixed mortar from most DIY stores and builders merchants and you can use this to refill or repoint any empty joints too. It’s a quick and easy job which will make a real difference to how your patio looks.

Easy steps to a cleaner patio

2

Prise out stubborn weeds and moss from cracks with a knife or weeding tool.

3

Hire, borrow, or buy a pressure washer to get rid of stubborn mould and algae.

4

Use a mortar mix or kilndried sand to refill and repoint joints in slabs or blocks.


PATIO SPECIAL

Tools for the job Geoff Hodge tests the best products for a clean patio ER BEST CHEMICAL CLEAN

Don’t spoil the show! It’s not just the patio paving that will benefit from a spring clean. Make sure that surrounding fences, trellis and gates aren’t spoiling the show. Take advantage of a dry sunny day to give all your garden timber a coat of wood preservative to freshen it up and help it last longer. Use a wire brush to remove any moss or algae first and fix any loose panels or posts. Timber preservative doesn’t just come in brown these days, so grab a colour chart and use your imagination to add a new shade or two to the garden. While you’re cleaning and painting,

don’t forget your garden furniture. Whether it has been crammed in the shed all winter or been out in the elements, it will certainly benefit from a wash and brush up now. Use hot soapy water with some added soda crystals or biological washing powder to get mould and dirt off plastic furniture. Use the same on wooden furniture then go over it with wire wool or sandpaper before finishing with furniture oil or a coloured preservative that is specially formulated for use on outdoor furniture.

Transform with furniture Garden furniture designs have come a long way since the simple white plastic chair and folding picnic table. These days, you can find pretty much any

style, from the traditional to the futuristic. One benefit of new designs is that materials have been developed that look like wood or rattan but

are actually resin, UPVC or aluminium, which means they can be left outside all year round – a vital asset if you’re short of garden storage space.

This stylish garden bench with built-in storage under the seat is a great option for a small patio. The wood-effect resin construction makes it maintenance-free too! Keter from £109, www.keter.co.uk

For a small patio or even a balcony, opt for a folding bistro set to make the most of your space. This set could easily double-up as a breakfast set for the kitchen. Wilkinsons £80, www.wilko.com

Complement a cottage garden with a simple but stylish set of furniture. Folding legs makes storage straightforward. Wilkinsons £175, www.wilko.com

Eat outside in style with a contemporary dining furniture set. Praslin six-seater dining set with hardwood table and rattan effect chairs. B&Q £599, www.diy.com

TURN OVER FOR MORE GREAT PATIO IDEAS Subscribe now! Go to www.greatmagazines.co.uk/gn

Lithofin MN Outdoor Cleaner £12.30 This chlorinebased cleaner performed best in my test. It dissolves and removes stubborn stains as well as dealing with algae and lichens. You have to apply it with a brush, leave for up to 10 hours and rinse. The guide price is for 1-litre, which covers 5-10 sq m (612sq yd), £1.23-£2.46 per sq m. Supplier information: Casdron Enterprises, 01962 732126, www.lithofin-uk.co.uk

H BEST STANDARD BRUS Gardman Patio & Block Paving Brush £12.99 A good quality longhandled brush for removing stains, dirt, moss and algae. The coated steel 152cm (60in) long handle has a comfortable plastic grip. It is robust, durable but reasonably heavy. Stainless steel wire bristles set in a plastic block are easy to change, replacement brush heads are available. Supplier information: 01406 372237, www.gardman.co.uk

LE BRUSH BEST INTERCHANGEAB Fiskars QuikFit Paving Brush £17.99 Part of the QuikFit range of interchangeable tools, so you need to buy a shaft too. The shafts are coated aluminium, very light, and have soft plastic grips at the top and middle so they’re very comfortable to use. Tough steel wire bristles set in a FyberComp plastic block. The curved slab blade was excellent at removing difficult weeds and other debris. Long Shaft (1.56m) £19.99, Medium Shaft (84.5cm) £14.99. Supplier information: 0115 927 7335, www.fiskars.com

March 30 2013 / Garden News 29


Add some accessories

T

he prettier your patio, the more you’ll want to use it, so add some carefully chosen accessories to make the most of the space. If you have an electricity and water supply on the patio, you could add a water feature. Whether you favour something tall and striking in stainless steel, a traditional pedestal fountain or a simple bubble feature, adding the sound of water will create ambience as well as a focal point.

If you’re faced with an expanse of bare wall or fence on your patio, dress it with pots, trellis and accessories. Add a trellis panel to train a colourful clematis or summer climber up, or hang a garden mirror on the wall to reflect light around the patio and give the illusion of more space. Hanging baskets, windowboxes and wallmounted planters will all help you to add colour and soften the look of a wall.

Plant a colourful climber and fix a trellis panel to the wall to train it up

Wilkinson

Use a mirror to break up an expanse of bare wall and to make the patio look bigger

Harrod Horticultural

30 Garden News / March 30 2013

Gardman

Even the smallest patio can accommodate a simple water feature

Ebert Sankey

Make a feature of fences by hanging specially designed planters along its length


PATIO SPECIAL

Patio growing Transform your patio with plants. Plan your patio planting and you can have colour from early spring all the way through to the first frosts. At this time of year, hanging baskets, pots and planters can be packed with violas, primroses, tulips and daffodils that will provide colour and scent for weeks. Keep deadheading and the violas and primroses will keep flowering for weeks. Once spring bulbs are past their best, ease them out of their pots and heel them in to the garden to die down before lifting and drying them for next year. Replace the spring bulbs with late-spring flowering sweet williams, alstroemeria or freesias for a succession of colour. Lots of summer bedding plants seem tailor-made for growing on the patio. Trailing begonias in windowboxes and baskets are flamboyant, often scented and amazingly weather-proof. Traditional fuchsias, pelargoniums and petunias always look good and are longlasting. Even exotic-looking succulents such as sedums, echeveria and crassula can be used to add an exotic and contemporary edge to the patio. In reality, any plant will grow in a pot as long as it’s fed and watered correctly. They key is to make sure the patio isn’t too hot for whatever you’re growing. The summer sun reflecting off paving can create a furnace atmosphere at times that many trees and shrubs in particular won’t appreciate. So if you have potted specimens such as acers, hydrangeas, fatsia, hostas, bay or box, make sure they have the summer shade they need. Don’t restrict patio plants to flowers and foliage. Lots of fruit and veg will thrive in pots on a sunny patio, and it makes harvesting so much easier when they’re right outside the kitchen door!

Welcome spring with primroses and daffs

Plant up a simple spring basket

Harrod Horticultural

A tiered pot stand makes the most of every inch of space on the patio

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Use colourful containers and complementary plants

Suttons seeds

Lots of fruit and veg will thrive in pots on a sunny patio

Grow trailing varieties of tomatoes or strawberries in hanging baskets, climbing beans up an obelisk in a pot and dwarf varieties of squash and courgettes in bags and planters. Stand a pot of fragrant herbs such as rosemary, thyme and sage by your patio chair or even by the barbecue so you throw the odd sprig onto the coals! And don’t forget cut-and-come-again salad leaves, which are easy to sow and grow in pots all summer.

March 30 2013 / Garden News 31


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34 Garden News / March 30 2013

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March 30 2013 / Garden News 35


On your fruit & veg plot

VEG CHECKLIST...

So w lettuce, chilliesli,, cauliflower, brocco , Broad beans, turnips ot, onions, leeks, beetro summer cabbage, carrots Pl an t Jerusalem artichoke, shallots, garlic, onions, early r potatoes, cauliflowe ’s Ha rvest rhubarb, lamb le, lettuce, leeks, ka sprouting broccoli

Grow something different! Clare, Jackie and Melissa are giving some curious veg a try

Melissa gives oca a go

Clare tries an unusual salad leaf

• For more unusual plants to grow this year, turn to page 43 for our Homegrown Revolution special, in association with Suttons and James Wong. 36 Garden News / March 30 2013

Step by step

1

Fill a 15cm (6in) pot to about halfway, consolidating it as you go to remove any air pockets in the compost. A multi-purpose compost is ideal.

Suttons

This unusual salad leaf caught my eye in the Kings Seeds catalogue last year. Namenia is an oriental leaf veg that produces rosettes of crunchy leaves that can be added raw to salads or used in stir fries. If you only cut a few leaves from each plant, they’ll carry on growing like a cut-andcome-again crop. Sow it straight into finelyraked soil from March onwards, as long as the soil isn’t freezing or temperatures aren’t too cold. You can also sow it indoors for a winter greenhouse or polytunnel crop.

Oxalis tuberosa tubers are also known as oca or New Zealand yams (though they come from South America). They’re an important root vegetable in their Andean home and can be eaten raw or cooked. Raw, they have a tangy lemon flavour and are great in salads. Roasted or boiled, they are very much like fresh new potatoes. The pretty leaves, which look like clover, can also be eaten raw added to salads and are said to taste like Bramley apples. They are not widely available in garden centres, but can be bought as tubers from Thompson & Morgan or as potted plants later in the year from Suttons. They need a long growing season to produce the heaviest crop, so start tubers off early. They are frost tender so keep them on a windowsill or in the greenhouse protected by horticultural fleece. Plant individual tubers in 15cm (6in) wide pots and you will have spreading, bushy plants by May. Plant them out into the veg plot about 90cm (3ft) apart (they grow into quite large plants) when all risk of frost has passed.

How to start oca tubers into growth

2

Lie a tuber sideways on the surface of the soil and cover it with about 8cm (3in) of compost. Plant up pots for more plants and water in well.

3

Place the pots in a frostfree place and cover with horticultural fleece for some added protection. Thick shoots will appear in about six weeks.


Mr. F’s Tips: Tomatoes growing in a greenhou require plenty se of ventilation and water. Feed regularly once flo

WHAT TO DO

Spread 45cm (18”) Growing Instruct Warm, well drained ions: For greenhouse soil crops you need for starting sow indoors, a warm kitchen windowsill is these seeds. pot Sow of compost. 0.5cm (¼”) deep, thinly all Water well and in a place A temperature of 15-20°C (60-68°F in a warm position. usually appear ) is ideal. Keep in 7-14 moist. Seedlings days. Transplan 10-15cm (4-6”) t to individual tall. pots when out April to May, Grow on in cooler, but not cold condition to s. Plant Provide support, large pots, growing bags or greenhouse border. pinch out side growing tip after shoots regularly and pinch out 5-6 the For outdoor crops trusses have set. delay indoor sowing Gradually accustom plants to outside until March or April. before planting conditions out 45cm (18”) apart, when frosts (avoid frosts), Harvest from August onwards. are over. A S O N D Harvest

‘Red Cherry’ • Heavy crops of sweet, juicy cherry tomatoe • Indeterminate s or cordon (needs support) • Grow outdoor s or in a greenho use Tomato

Step by step

Plant out F M A M J J

Despite some of my colleagues turning their noses up at asparagus peas, I’m having a go at growing this unusual legume this year. The secret to a tasty crop is apparently to harvest and cook the odd-looking pods when they’re still young and fresh, so I’ll see if I can stick to that rule! If all else fails, they’ll still provide a very decorative addition to the veg plot as they also produce very pretty, deep red pea flowers.

Sow indoors

Suttons

Jackie’s sowing seed of asparagus peas

Unless you have a heated greenhouse to grow plants on, there’s not much point starting tomatoes off much earlier than mid-March. Sown now, they’ll need much less in the way of molly-coddling, while you wait for temperatures to warm up. Sow the seed thinly on damp compost, cover with a thin layer of compost or Perlite and keep them somewhere warm such as a propagator or windowsill to germinate. A temperature of 20C (68F) is ideal, but slightly warmer or cooler is fine. As soon as they germinate (normally seven to 14 days), make sure the seedlings have light and if you’re taking them out of a propagator, make sure they are no cooler than 12C (55F) or growth will be checked by the sudden change in temperature. Prick out and transplant the seedlings into individual pots once the first true leaves start to appear between the two seed leaves, transplanting them deeply so roots grow from the buried stem. Grow them on, potting up if necessary, until they’re ready for planting out or moving into their final pots.

J

Sow your free tomato ‘Red Cherry’ seeds

this week

2013 SEED COLLECTION

RRP

£1.99

Tomato ‘Red Cherry’

Very sweet and

early cropping

Sow tomato seed now

Step by step

Sow asparagus peas

1

Fill a 9cm (3in) pot or small tray with seed sowing or multi-purpose compost, then tamp it down to leave 1cm to 2cm (½-¾in) at the top. Spread the seed thinly across the surface, using a dibber or pencil to space them out if necessary.

1

Fill a small pot with seedsowing compost and sow seed evenly across the surface, making sure they’re well spaced out.

2

Cover the seed with a thin layer of more compost, or Vermiculite if you prefer, then water and put into a heated propagator or on a warm windowsill to germinate. Water when necessary to keep the compost just moist.

Uncover peach trees

But keep frost protection handy Leaf and flower buds on peach, apricot and nectarine trees are all developing now. If you’ve had your trees covered over autumn and winter to protect buds against peach leaf curl, start removing that protection during the day so that bees have a better chance of finding the developing blossom. But cover the trees overnight with hessian or fleece to stop the buds being nipped by spring frost.

Weed around fruit trees

2

Cover the seed with 2cm (1in) of compost, water then put a clear plastic bag over the pot. Stand the pot somewhere warm.

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Apply a mulch and fertiliser as well Grass and other weeds can build up around the base of fruit trees, especially if they are grown within circles cut into the lawn. Give the base a thorough weed and apply a fertiliser and mulch. Sprinkle fertiliser over the root zone of the tree, which is just outside the canopy. Use a balanced general fertiliser for pears, cherries, plums and peaches and a nitrogen-rich fertiliser for apples. Then apply a layer of mulch (compost or leaf mould are good options) around the tree.

TURN PAGE FOR MEDWYN’S ADVICE March 30 2013 / Garden News 37


Nigel Colborn

Author, blogger and broadcaster, as well as a judge at RHS shows

the problem solver

Our man in the know answers your gardening questions every week

Can I slow chitting spuds? Q Q A

I usually plant my potatoes in mid-April. I stored my ‘Sarpo Mira’ seed potatoes in a cool, dark, dry place when they arrived in January, but they’ve already started chitting. If I knock existing shoots off, will they re-grow? Peter Bould, Bromsgrove.

A

Mid-April is fine for planting maincrop potatoes, but if yours already have shoots there’s no need to wait that long. Planting in late March gives them a longer growing period and may result in a better yield. Early-emerging shoots might need protection with fleece when overnight frost is forecast. Don’t worry if you knock off any extending stems because there should be plenty of eyes or short shoots on each tuber. However, I don’t think you need to remove shoots on purpose. Your tubers might look a bit odd

at planting time, but it’s almost impossible to stop a potato from growing. The shoots will green-up when they’ve been left in daylight for a while, so don’t worry if they look pale and drawn now. It really is important to store early-delivered seed potatoes in the cold – though it must be frostfree. Darkness doesn’t prevent sprouting, but cool temperatures help to slow it down. Don’t worry about knocking shoots off - more will grow

Q

What’s this mystery plant?

I believe the plant in my picture is a geranium but can you tell me which species? Albert Taylor, Manchester.

Your plant is indeed a hardy geranium or cranesbill, more specifically Geranium oxonianum – a cross between two wild natives: G. endresii, a native of the Pyrenees and G. versicolor, from Eastern Europe. The best of these crosses include the vigorous, spreading geranium ‘Claridge Druce’ with rosy-pink, veined flowers and the shorter, silvery-pink-flowered ‘A T Johnson’. Your plant is a form known as G. oxonianum thurstonianum. Its narrow petals make the plant interesting but less showy than the more typical cranesbill. A number of named varieties have these narrow petals including ‘Southcombe Star’ and ‘Southcombe Double’.

Q

I am told that white strawberries taste good. What do you think of them? Edwina Grant, Chester, by email.

A

D. T. Brown are offering a ‘Whiteberry’ (£6.95 for 5 runners), which is a strawberry in every respect other than its colour. White strawberries have also been called ‘Pine Berry’, ‘Snow White’ and ‘Anablanca’. They’re said to have a

Recommends

mouthwatering, pineapple flavour. You might think such freaks are new. However, research reveals that they’re developed from a variety grown during the mid-1700s. If this freaky white thing has retained the delicious taste of the old-world strawberry, it’s worth growing, regardless of colour. And think how posh it might be to serve desserts garnished with snow-white strawberries!

Unusual soft fruit

Tomatoes in my greenhouse and potatoes grown outside became infected with blight last year. Do sulphur candles help keep greenhouse plants blight-free? Chris Geary, by email.

A

Suttons

Blueberry ‘Pinkberry’

Glossy pink fruits, spring flowers and autumn colour.

Raspberry ‘Glen Coe’

High yields of deep purple raspberries full of flavour.

D T Brown

T&M

54 Garden News / March 30 2013

T&M

Greenhouse tomatoes seldom suffer from blight because they’re protected from rain that carries the spores. But if your greenhouse was infected by last year’s exceptional conditions, clean the surfaces down as much as possible to help remove pests and some fungal spores. A sulphur candle lit before you introduce plants will also help to destroy insect pests, though it won’t have much effect on blight. Change greenhouse It’s never a bad idea to change soil every few years greenhouse soil that’s been used for a few years. Remove as much as you can and replace with clean top soil or growing medium. During the growing season, the best way to protect tomatoes is by stopping rain splashing on to the leaves. If you have to use rain water, direct it on to the soil rather than the foliage or use rain water on less sensitive crops and tap water just for the toms. Ventilation must be good, but watch for rain coming through the roof vents.

Raspberry ‘Allgold’

Large, yellow, well-flavoured fruits in autumn.

Alpine strawberry ‘Leo Alba’ Everbearing white, intenselyflavoured little strawberries.


QUICK QUESTIONS

LEARN FROM THE BEST

Q

I found a beautiful, bright sky blue bird’s egg on the lawn with black dots at the large end. What could have laid it? Mrs G Pemberley, by email. It’s probably the egg of a song thrush, which has been dropped before the mother got back to her nest. If you keep it, the Song thrush eg gs contents will go bad in time unless the egg is drained. But don’t worry about the thrush – she’ll lay plenty more before the breeding season ends.

A

A

The problem was probably caused by last year’s excessively wet weather. Many crocus species grown and loved in British gardens come from southern Europe, so are accustomed to dry summers and need sharp drainage.

Your crocuses probably suffered from partial rotting or root damage, especially if the soil was waterlogged for a long period through autumn and winter. Your C. tommasinianus have done well because they’re less fussy about damp ground. All you can do is hope for a drier summer and autumn this year. With good drainage and a sunny site, the surviving corms will recover and multiply to produce more flowers next year. If you plant any Mediterranean bulbs next autumn, put a handful of sharp grit into the hole.

Q

Last year, I buried the end of a downhanging stem from my neighbour’s springflowering Clematis macropetala in good soil at the base of a fence. How will I know if it has rooted and what do I do next? Mr S Household, Bradford.

A

Sometimes stem tips can be surprisingly slow to root, but you’ll know when it has because shoots will grow up from the ground where the stem is buried. If you give the stem the gentlest of tugs and it feels firm in the ground, it probably has developing roots. Tie any young stems gently to the fence and when it’s growing strongly from the new base, snip the mother stem.

Once rooted, snip the mother stem

Thinkstock

Q

We had a brilliant show of botanical crocuses last year, but this year, all the clumps have leaves, but only half the usual flowers. Only Crocus tommasinianus is doing well and growing like a weed in our lawn. Jack Burroughs, Nottingham.

DeJager

Crocus tommasinianus is a reliable variety

Q A

My water butt has a split in the bottom spreading from the tap towards the middle. Can I buy anything to seal the split? Hannah Harris, Portishead, Bristol. Your water butt obviously split as a result of ice expanding. You might be able to seal a small leak, but the vessel has been seriously weakened and is unlikely to be strong enough to withstand the heavy weight and high pressure of such a large volume of water. I think you need to shell out for a replacement butt. 

Q A

We’ve had frogs spawning in our pond and at first there were lots of tadpoles, but they are now disappearing. Why? Mrs G Harrison, West Byfleet, Surrey. Tadpoles have plenty of predators and the most likely are newts, which eat both frog spawn and tadpoles. Dragonfly nymphs, larger water beetles and birds can be troublesome, too. I’ve seen a blackbird return time after time to catch tadpoles loitering near the edge of a pond.

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I’ve been told that it’s important to pollinate peaches both inside a greenhouse and outside. If this is true, how do I do it? Mr G Shenstone, by email. It does no harm outside if bees are scarce and is always advisable in a greenhouse. My father used a soft, camel-hair paintbrush and ‘tickled’ the centres of the blossoms on his wall-trained, greenhouse peach tree. He always got brilliant results.

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The cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’ I bought last year hasn’t grown much. I know pruning’s necessary to produce the best stem colours, but should I delay until it gets a bit bigger? Christine Ahronson, Norfolk.

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Of all the shrubs grown for colourful winter stems, Cornus sanguinea is probably the finest. Hard pruning is essential, but just give your young plant some corrective treatment this year. Pruning time is now, so remove crossing stems and any that aren’t growing upwards or outwards. In future years, aim to prune a third of all stems back to within a couple of buds of the base, but leave the rest untouched. Each year, in early spring, remove the oldest third of the stems, leaving the remaining ones untouched.

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Can you recommend pelargonium varieties with good flowers and scented leaves? Martin Flinders, Edinburgh. The so-called Unique varieties have aromatic foliage – though ts lan housep Repot perennial the fragrance varies a bit – and d an x re nia go Be including ferns, decorative flowers. My personal e good-qualit y spider plants. Us favourites are the vivid, wine-pink id ra af be n’t do d an potting compost ‘Paton’s Unique’, brooding red ‘Scarlet ing rm mp-fo to split mature, clu Unique’ and tall-growing, mauveain dr ts po e th kinds. Make sure flowered ‘Purple Unique’. Look out, too, nt y of ple e’s er th d an well for the exquisitely cut-leaved, pinks to room for the root flowered ‘Lara Starshine’. expand.

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A great crop of leeks and parsnips

The allotment beds were finally cleared in a window of good weather

Hidden parsnips are a bonus GILL LOCKHART Oundle

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pportunities to get to the allotment have always fallen on rainy, unpredictable or freezing days. I did manage, however, to get a window of non-threatening cloud to clear out the parsnip bed before they started growing again. What a haul! Loads more hiding in there than expected but they’re all nicely roasted off and in the freezer now. Leeks were next and suitably souped. Soil turned over, chicken manure spread around and raked in, job done!

Armed will a packet of ‘Harlequin’ F1 carrots seeds, ‘Rainbow Mixed’ radishes and a seed tape of spring onion ‘Ishikura’, I thought at least there is something in the ground, and covered them with a cold frame. Two hours later there was a blizzard! Colour cheered me up, though, in the shape of masses of crocuses. This has inspired me to grow some in my purple border next year. Better news in the greenhouse. I purchased a second propagator because my 10-year-old one has damage to its lid. I now have lots of tomatoes – ‘Tigerella’, ‘Sweet

Millions’ and ‘Gardener’s Delight’plus ‘Sweet Romano’ peppers on the way. Once they’re up, I’ll sit them on the windowsill because the unheated greenhouse is still too cold at this stage in their young life. Leeks and garlic are doing well in the greenhouse. Onions waiting to be planted out and marigolds for companion planting are growing away. I’ve got packets and packets of seeds all waiting for their turn in the greenhouse. Beans, squashes and courgettes are next. Mangetout are going straight in the ground after I experimented

last year with one batch raised indoors and another sown direct. The outdoor sown ones did just as well. After a bit of advice, I have revised the crop rotation to a more formal threeyear plan. It will be transitional in some areas this year, so that all the brassicas end up under one lot of netting. I researched crop rotation for the roots, brassicas and fruits (legumes) and finally it clicked.

Not a weed in sight! DEREK BROOKS Manchester

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Crocuses edging the rose beds are at their best

60 Garden News / March 30 2013

hen the weather was decent at the beginning of the month I managed to finish all the digging and manuring on the allotment and some weeding that needed doing. There’s not a weed in sight now, but I know they will appear again when the weather warms up in spring.  Since those jobs were done, most of my work has been

confined to the greenhouses. I finished taking plenty of chrysanthemum cuttings and all the boxes of stools have been put outside. All the January-rooted chrysanths have been potted up and transferred to the cooler greenhouse. I am still taking dahlia cuttings, but I have almost got enough of those now. The first batch of these have rooted and been potted up. I will be taking cuttings from my overwintered basket plants:


Plants are confused!

READERS’ GARDENS Hellebores are flowering but not enjoying the weather

DAVID SIMPSON Cheltenham

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Photos: David Simpson

Photos: Gill Lockhart

Leeks and garlic growing well in the greenhouse

ooking back at photos of the garden 12 months ago, it is interesting to see just how far behind everything is. A year ago the garden was a blaze of colour with narcissus and muscari enjoying the warm March sunshine. This year many buds are still tightly closed and more cold weather is on the way. One day last week it was -4C (25F) overnight, 8C (46F) during the day and 22C (70F) in the greenhouse. No wonder the plants are confused! I did manage to scarify and cut the front lawn, which has improved its appearance although I still need to aerate the compacted clay soil beneath. I had also removed the netting from the pond, but put it straight back when I saw the heron circling overhead! The fleece is back over the Trachelospermum jasminoides and newly-sown ‘Amsterdam

Forcing’ carrot seeds just in case. The last few parsnips have been lifted and, although they are oddly-shaped and slightly cankered, they’re delicious. Toughing out the cold and wet are pretty and reliable chionodoxa ‘Pink Giant’. Hellebores are not enjoying the conditions. They would normally be turning their heads up to the sun in March, but this year they’re just sitting there sulking, heads drooped. On a brighter note, it’s all go in the greenhouse with both the propagators full of cuttings and The last parsnips were misshapen, but delicious

I made my plan into a memorable slogan for if I forget to take the plan to the plot: ‘Where your fruits were, your roots are now. Where your brassicas once grew, your fruits will come through. And your brassicas will shoot on last year’s roots.’ Simple!

pots. They are not growing as fast as I would like, though. The shallots have filled their three 9cm (3½in) pots and been potted up into 12.5cm (5in) pots.  I have also sown my parsnips. I grow these in tubes made from builder’s damp-proof material filled with sieved compost. They will be kept in the greenhouse until they grow a bit. I have some tulips growing in pots in the greenhouse which are looking promising. Outside, some of the containers are looking good. My rose beds are edged with golden-yellow crocuses and they are at their best now.

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Tulips are looking promising

The first batch of dahlia cuttings to be potted up

Photos: Derek Brooks

surfinias, calibrachoa, verbena, bacopa and diascia. I have sown the majority of my flower seeds and my propagator has been full to capacity to cope with them all. They are sown in batches from January until March and the first ones are ready for pricking out. This will be one of my main jobs throughout April. I have finished re-potting all my pot plants. The compost I remove from the pots has more fertiliser mixed with it and I use it for growing potatoes in bags. Also in the greenhouse, the tomato seedlings have been pricked out into individual small

seedlings while the warming bench is full of dahlia tubers, including two new additions – ‘Twyning’s Smartie’ and ‘Arabian Night’ – which should produce lots of cuttings in a week or two. Autumn-sown sweet peas have been pinched out twice and have produced strong, bushy plants and the little tree peony in my front border has eight flower buds this year (double last year’s total). After falling off a ladder and hurting myself while pruning an apple tree in January, I finally got round to buying an extended pruner. I’m using spare compost bins for forcing rhubarb and an old washing up bowl for raising foul smelling, but pretty, nectaroscordum bulblets. The nest box is causing a turf war between great and blue tits, and the tail-less magpie has acquired a mate and started to build a scruffy nest in the hawthorn tree.

March 30 2013 / Garden News 61


Garden News 30th March