Yesterday we spent an hour in the afternoon bird watching, well we were doing the national survey which thousands of others were also taking part in over the weekend. Got off to a slow start, however by the end of the hour we had logged twelve different species. Mind you where had the less common visitors gone, no sign of the Gold Crest, Bull Finch, Tree Creeper, Woodpecker, or even the more regular visitors , the Wren and Siskin. Resisted the temptation to cheat though.
A welcome call from Garden Centre (Ben Reid) this morning informing us that the tubers of Begonia Flamboyant had just arrived, a few more of these will top up our stock of this favourite red Begonia which we seem to favour over most others.
Checking some pictures of our borders in the back garden has confirmed that the use of some ornamental grasses would enhance the overall effect.
Nothing wrong with brightly coloured flowers, but the use of grasses can tone things down in a pleasing manner. One top notch beauty, Stipa Gigantea is sensational.
I confess we did try this one before but unfortunately placed it in a position which was just too shady. Stipa Gigantea is one of the tallest of the ornamental grasses, I think more graceful than the Pampas Grass. It has narrow evergreen leaves, the flower stems are held high above this from June till August and indeed hold on to their flower stem throughout Autumn, it is best to cut back the flower stems in Winter, don’t cut back the foliage though.
The oat like panicles of flowers are gold when fully ripe and the common name for the plant golden oats describes the plant accurately. The full height of the plant is about seven feet, fully hardy, but do plant in a position where it will get full sun for the best part of the day. Likes moderately fertile but well drained soil, in fact the plant will not survive the winter if placed where it will get water logged.
The Royal Horticultural Society has given this plant their prestigious award of garden merit.
Caryopteris Kew Blue
Pondering over a bare spot at the front of the mixed border in the back garden, decision was made to plant Caryopteris.
I am surprised that in the past we have always turned this one down as an option. Hardy to minus 15 degrees Celsius and grows well in a sunny position.
Plant in moderately fertile well drained soil, if your soil is on the heavy side, add a fair quantity of grit to give improved drainage.
Here in Aberdeen planting against a south facing wall would be beneficial, giving added protection from frost in Winter and also giving maximum sun in the summer.
Caryopteris is a deciduous shrub which requires hard pruning in Spring. One which is known to perform well is Caryopteris Clandonensis Kew Blue, beautiful dark blue flowers in late Summer with grey/green aromatic leaves. This lovely shrub grows to a height of only three feet, making it ideal for that sunny position near the front of the border.
The gardening calendar, so full can make us a little impatient at this time of year when mother nature has been encouraged to rest.
For myself one of the more exciting times of the year has to be very late winter when the shoots of dormant herbaceous plants are starting to pop through the soil, buds on the deciduous shrubs are swelling, the flowers of Ribes in sheltered spots have already opened, early Daffodils and other Spring bulbs are in flower, just fantastic.
Another great moment which is now only a few weeks off has to be when the Snowdrops come in to bloom, lifting our spirits and reminding us that Spring is not too far off. Galanthus (Snowdrops) love a woodland setting, however we are not all fortunate enough to have such an area for planting, and we can be reluctant to use our precious border space for flowering bulbs which will only be seen for several weeks of the year.
Do not despair an ideal spot for your winter gems is in your herbaceous border, planted between those dormant perennial plants. Come late Spring and Summer the foliage of your perennials will provide the required shade that snowdrops need.
The common variety G Nivalis has the simple charm loved by many. A double flowering form with green edged petals of this one is also available, G Nivalis Flore Pleno. Another which has also become a firm favourite is Sam Arnott rounded petals and sweetly scented this one multiplies and has proven to flower very well.
An important consideration when purchasing snowdrops is to never buy the dried bulbs, they usually prove to be unwilling to come out of dormancy. Buy them in the green, you will see tubs of these in the Garden Centres from early February till mid March. When planting, separate them, plant individually about five inches deep and two inches apart, your bulbs will quickly multiply and give a fantastic show.