Monthly Archives: September 2013
Time for another whinge.
Some years ago I thought it would be nice to plant an evergreen or semi-evergreen clematis to help clothe a boring fence throughout the year, and so I chose Clematis cirrhosa balearica. It looked good on the label and it fitted the requirements, so in it went, and for a few seasons I was happy with its somewhat sparse but nonetheless attractive display of nodding cream bells in early Spring, and its airy tracery of foliage year round.
However, make no mistake about this, it’s a thug; a delicate, ferny-foliaged thug.
Year by year, that airy tracery became a solid mass of smothering stems to the point that it was threatening to overwhelm all its fence-mates in spite of my attempts to restrain it, so I made the tough decision to have it out, but that was when I made an unpleasant discovery: without my realising it, it had been stealthily layering itself all along the fence, insinuating itself into the rootballs of a climbing rose, a variegated euonymus and another clematis, and would now be well nigh impossible to remove without mangling the plants I wished to keep.
I considered attacking it with glyphosate, but it would be awkward to avoid the many plants that surround it, so I’m left with my only real option being a spade and/or fork and dogged persistence. Heigh ho! Still, Bob Flowerdew on GQT said just the other week that all undesired plants can eventually be defeated by constantly removing the top growth – I hope he’s right!
So I would add self-layerers to my list of “Plants I Should Leave At The Garden Centre”. They’re fine if you have a lot of space to fill, but I do not, and it’s a lesson I really ought to learn if I know what’s good for me!
I can’t resist another picture:
Alstroemeria “Cahors” in all its glory.
We’re two thirds of the way through September and my alstroemerias seemingly have no inclination to slow down yet. All five varieties (Spitfire, Sirius, Sedna, Cahors and Uranus) are flowering like it was mid-July and are still throwing up new flower stems from the base. They have also proven to be tremendously resilient in the rain, refusing either to be flattened or to have their blooms spoilt.
I never tested their worthiness as cut flowers, but given how long the blooms last on the plant, I can only assume that they would pass that test with ease!
They’ve needed nothing in the way of special care, just routine weekly feeding and appropriate watering for containerised plants (I grew them in containers for their first year just to see how they performed) and they’ve rewarded me with a succession of beautiful flowers on largely pest and disease-free plants.
What more could I ask?!
Many years ago I grew diascias and wasn’t hugely taken with them, but this year I spotted something advertised as “Sundiascia”, a supposed improvement on diascias in terms of both flowering and hardiness, so I thought I’d give them a whirl.
As yet I cannot vouch for the hardiness – that will be tested pretty soon! – but the flowering has been marvellous, and they’ve proven to be a valuable addition to my very small garden.
I bought them as plugs in Spring (12 plants, 4 each of 3 different colours: rose, orange and pale pink), potted them up in 9cm pots of multipurpose compost and kept them protected from frost until June when I planted them into their final positions in 12″ pots, 3 plants to a pot, placed in the sunniest spot in the garden. They were fed weekly (Miracle Gro for the first couple of weeks, then tomato food) and watered liberally, especially in the hottest weather.
They were a little slow to start flowering, as were most plants this year, but by the heatwave in July they were in full flow and have only lately begun to run out of steam, providing a solid 2.5 – 3 months of colour.
This is the rose variety:
Their continuous blooming without need of deadheading is a great attribute (the flowers are shaped in such a way that they can only be pollinated by a particular bee that doesn’t exist here, so they cannot set seed), although I found their habit a little less appealing – compact they are not! They grow to about 12″ high, then start to sprawl, so I wouldn’t recommend them for a formal bedding scheme, but if tidy mounds are not required, they definitely look good rambling through one another in a tapestry of colour.
I’ve taken lots of cuttings over the summer and they strike very easily, so I will be bringing some of those indoors to overwinter as insurance in case the parent plants are not as hardy as promised.
All in all, I would say they were an excellent buy. Given a sunny spot and reasonable care they perform very well over a long period, so a big thumbs up for the Sundiascia from my corner of Hampshire!
I’m beginning to wonder if some of my cuttings are destined to do anything more than make a few roots.
So far, I only have 1 out of 7 that is shooting; the others are either trying to make flowers, or doing nothing at all.
The successful cutting:
So I don’t know what to make of it, to be honest.
All the cuttings I took appeared to be the same age and at the same stage of development, and none of them were showing any signs of being about to flower, so how I’ve ended up with a bunch of flowerers and do-nothing-ers I have no idea.
Still, at least I do have one viable cutting, so that’s better than none! I won’t ditch the rest of them for the time being as I’m curious to see whether anything will come of them. I think maybe I”ll pot them all on in the next couple of days because there can’t be much goodness left in the rooting media by now.
The seedling is still slowly growing:
It looks a bit washed out in that photo, but in real life it looks fine and healthy, so I’m very happy with that for the moment.
I’ve been meaning to try the “Chelsea Chop” for some time but never quite got around to it until this year.
The Chelsea Chop involves cutting down certain herbaceous perennials by a third to a half in late spring (round about Chelsea Flower Show time, hence the name) in order to improve their habit, and delay or stagger flowering. It’s particularly recommended for taller specimens that are prone to flopping (phlox, for example) and for late summer flowering plants in general.
I thought it could do no harm, so I tried it on the following:
lysimachia (punctata and ephemerum)
aster frikartii Monch
In a way, it was a difficult year to assess the effect because summer was so late in happening that lots of flowering plants came into bloom much later than normal anyway, but of the species I tried the most notable success was probably the nepeta.
I love nepeta. but usually by early July it is an unruly mess flopping all over the place and generally getting in the way. This year, having hacked it back by half at the end of May, it has grown into a much tidier mound without losing a significant amount of flower power, so I will definitely be giving it a spring haircut from now on!
The lysimachia I treated a little differently, pruning down only half the stems in each clump to see if flowering would go on for longer, but I don’t think it made much difference to be honest.
The aster I chopped to try and produce a less straggly plant, but it doesn’t seem to have worked at all and I’ve still had to put in some canes and string for support.
Most interesting to me was the phlox since that is the example very often given as the perfect subject for Chelsea Chopping.
I tried it on a clump of “Prospero”, pruning half the stems down to half their original height and leaving the other half for comparison. Contrary to my expectation, the stems that were left alone seemed to grow stronger than the chopped ones and had much bigger and better flowers on them. They also flowered at almost the same time, so there wasn’t even the advantage of extending the flowering period.
All in all, rather mixed, though as I say, the lateness of the seasons this year may have played a bigger part than I realise – I might give it a whirl next year just to see if I get the same results.
We all make mistakes.
My main one in gardening seems to be a cavalier disregard for the words “self-seeding”. As the owner of a very small patch I really ought to recoil instantly in horror and run the other way when I hear that term, but too often I seem to cultivate a selective deafness, hearing only things like “great cut flower!” “wonderful perfume!” “blooms for months!” and the like, and before I know it, I’m reaching for my purse intent on saddling myself with yet another plant I’ll never be rid of.
The bane of my existence in recent times has been a euphorbia. I don’t recall which one it is, so I can’t name it and shame it, but I know that I grew it because some tv gardener or other was waxing lyrical about it one day, and I fell for it, even though they said it would self-seed (probably in the list of advantages!).
So I bought a packet of seed, grew it, was briefly charmed by its properties as a cut flower, then got bored of it and decided to be rid, but no…not a hope! I must have carelessly missed a flower head when I was dead-heading and allowed some seed to set because it must be three or four years since I yanked the wretched things out, and I’m still pulling up seedlings by the handful, many of them nowhere near where the original plants were! It pops up in my gravel, in the borders, between paving stones, everywhere. I never allow it to grow, so where this never-ending supply of seedlings is coming from I haven’t a clue. I’m beginning to think the only way I’ll get shot of it is to move!
I’m also beginning to think I’ll never be rid of Cerinthe purpurascens, another plant I grew because the tv gardeners were all infatuated with it a while ago (tv gardeners, I might add, who probably have massive gardens that can more than accommodate a bit of self-seeding!). I wasn’t greatly impressed by the plant to be honest – rather weedy habit, didn’t flower for long enough – but I’ve been even less impressed by its manners, popping up here and there in my gravel long after it’s outstayed any welcome it had.
I’d like to think that I’ve learnt my lesson, but it’s probably only a matter of time before another silver-tongued horticulturist persuades me that x or y is THE plant to have, and that self-seeding is one of its many virtues…(!)