Hope you are all well. I’m writing this from the comfort of my living room as Storm Doris rages across the UK. Luckily there is no damage to the greenhouses but our rotary washing line has snapped in two.
In Welsh February is sometimes known as “Y Mis Bach” meaning little month or short month, so maybe it’s not a coincidence that February’s flower is the primrose, a short little thing that brings a lot of cheer. Our primroses aren’t flowering yet, but I do have Bergenia, Daffs, Crocuses the purple Daphne in flower. The Dutch Iris leaves are at least two feet high as are the flag irises. The Japanese Maple and weeping cherry tree has tiny buds forming. Last year’s tulips in pots are magically regrowing and are a few inches high already.
I’m afraid I’m behind in my seed planting, all because of Valentine’s Day, no I wasn’t treated to a romantic break at a luxury Parisian hotel. I spent it at hospital having my tumour removed as part of my final cancer treatment, now although I am allowed in the garden I’m not allowed to lift anything heavier than a cup for 4 weeks and then nothing heavier than a bag of sugar for a further 12 weeks. I’m determined my blog is not going to have to be renamed A Year Not Allowed in the Greenhouse, so again I will be recruiting Mark to do the jobs for me.
The following is a list of things to be done by the end of the month:
- Sow tomato and herb seeds.
- Plant the Gladioli bulbs that I have been delivered early.
- Send someone up the garden centre for aubergine seeds.
- Sow the seed potatoes that have chitted themselves in my food cupboard
- Plant up the Camellia my Auntie Mary gave me as a get well gift.
- Plant up my Christmas Flowering shrub collection
In the large greenhouse a clump of daffodils have shot up in one of the borders, they look very pretty but I’m not sure how the bulbs have got in there, I’m going to let them flower then when the leaves die back Mark will dig up the bulbs and plant them elsewhere in the garden. On the shelf there is a Spider plant that’s looking unhealthy I think the frosty weather got to it, however they are quite tough plants so I think if mum cuts off the dead bits it may still grow. Additionally there is an Ivy that we had for Christmas that is growing well in the basket it came in, soon it can be transplanted to our west facing wall. I love native Ivy for its scented flowers and shiny black berries, but I love it more when it’s being pollinated by bees, wasps, butterflies and hover-flies as the whole wall sounds like it’s being electrified. It’s a great place too for spiders to hunt in, and often at the base where the Ivy is at its thickest both the wren and the blackbirds dart in and out looking for tasty bugs.
In the small greenhouse I’m still waiting for my seeds to germinate, again due frosty weather and me being over keen to get things growing I may have sown them to early. The aloes are starting to respond to the longer days and do not appear to be as dark a green as they were last month. However, part of the money tree has broken off and the leaves have turned a bit yellow. We cut out all the dead bits so I’m hoping it just a phase and it will pick up again.
Soon it will be St David’s Day, (1st March) and this is usually the start of spring for me. Growing up in St David’s we would celebrate the day in the way youngsters down there still do; girls dressing in traditional Welsh Woman’s costume of a skirt, thick shawl and black bonnet, and boys with thick shorts/trousers shirts and flat caps, then with morning lessons cut short to attend a celebration day mass at the Cathedral, each child or adult would have either a fresh daffodil or piece of leek attached to their lapel. After the service we would walk the half mile back from the cold cathedral to school for a warming bowl of Cawl, (Thick root vegetables, potatoes and meat broth) bread and cheese, followed by Hot Welsh Cakes. Perfect. From then on adult conversations would change from the hardships of winter to early potatoes and lambing. I moved from St David’s in my 20s but went back to visit just before my operation I went to St Non’s healing well which is reputed to have sprung up on the day St David was born. There was a beautiful clump of snowdrops on the
path down to the well and I was so tempted to pick some I love flowers in the wild.
My nieces have informed me that they are having a potato growing competition at home. They are trying the Albert Bartlett variety, but they told me they spent ages with daddy looking at the different ones in the shops. I told them I would be growing Charlottes as they make a delicious potato salad. I will let you know what their results are, the girls are pretty competitive so I’m sure there will be a lot of stories along the way.
The final gardening thing that I have done this month is to send off for sone free tree seeds from the Woodland Trust. They recently sent an email explaining they would like volunteers to take part in growing, monitoring and reporting on five different species and I was lucky enough to be able to take part. The seeds come in their own plug of compost with detailed instructions on how to germinate them and bring the saplings on. I did think carefully about whether or not I have room for five more trees as we already have a weeping cherry, a standard cherry, a Japanese maple,a Canadian maple, plus two dwarf apples and a dwarf pear, and a yet to fruit plum tree. I also have many shrubs including the four new ones, but in the end I decided I will use them to make a new native hedge between us and next door, it will take a few years for them to reach maturity and it will be a long term project to look forward to.
Until next month,
Love Amanda xx
‘Locked in the tower’ for a decade, and almost forgotten, ‘Perfume Princess’ is set to knock its wicked step mother, Daphne odora, from the throne to reign as the world’s most scented shrub.
Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’ has taken more than 10 years to develop and, at one stage, was almost discarded. Having secured limited stocks we are pleased to offer one of the strongest-growing daphne available to gardeners, and customers are already snapping it up! Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’ was raised by plant breeder, Mark Jury. The aim was to combine the tough, strong growth habit of Daphne bholua types with the heady fragrance and flowering performance of Daphne odora varieties.
However, Mark found the seed set extremely low, and almost gave up on the project. Finally, he found 6 ripened seeds, yet only one of these went on to germinate. Mark persisted with the offspring but with his focus switching to magnolia breeding, this young daphne plant was left forgotten in a corner of the nursery.
The plant secretly flourished, but it wasn’t until Mark rediscovered it and set it out in the garden that it really came into its own. ‘Perfume Princess’ was a true breeding success, and demonstrated both the characteristics that Mark had hoped for; compact, shrubby foliage growth and heavy flowering. Plants reach a manageable 90-120cm and produce flowers between each leaf, double the size of those on usual odora varieties. Scent is improved too, with flowers offering an alluring fragrance with citrus undertones.
Michael Perry says; “This is one of the most important shrub introductions for many years; this unique hybrid has brought daphne to a new level. ‘Perfume Princess’ produces tough plants, and each stem is literally dripping with potent blooms through spring. No wonder they often call daphne the most fragrant shrub in the world!”
Top 10 Evergreen Shrubs
Evergreen shrubs provide permanent structure in the garden and all-year-round interest. Some have beautiful flower displays or are highly scented in winter when little else is growing, and some have variegated or colourful foliage which is a perfect foil for summer perennials and a feature in itself during the winter. Grow evergreen shrubs as stand-alone specimens, as part of a mixed border or as hedging.
There are plenty of evergreen shrubs to choose from but if you need some inspiration take a look at our pick of top ten for an easy and reliable display.
Daphne – extremely fragrant spring flowers
Daphne plants are well loved for their small but incredibly fragrant flowers which appear in winter and early spring, when little else in the garden is growing. There are both plain-leaved and variegated varieties available, such as Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’, which has a rounded compact habit and attractive glossy, yellow-edged leaves. Daphne is fairly slow-growing making it a superb small evergreen shrub for the garden. Grow Daphne in sunny or partially-shaded mixed borders, woodland gardens and rock gardens. Daphne laureola and Daphne pontica are excellent for difficult, heavily shaded areas of the garden.
Box – perfect for hedges and topiary
Box (Buxus) is a compact and versatile evergreen shrub. Box plants are superb for clipping into a small, formal hedge which can be used to edge vegetable or flower beds, or try creating your own elaborate box parterre! Being tolerant of deep shade, it’s great for awkward sunless spots or for growing beneath tall trees. Box can also be used for topiary, either in the ground or grown in patio containers. Grow box in a well-drained soil in partial or full shade. Keep the soil moist if growing box in full sun to prevent the leaves from scorching. Other similar shrubs which can be grown to the same effect include Lonicera nitida, Taxus baccata ‘Semperaurea’ or Ilex crenata.
Fatsia – attractive to bees
Fatsia japonica is a versatile shrub with large, glossy hand-shaped leaves borne on stout, upright stems. This exotic-looking shrub is surprisingly hardy and copes well with coastal conditions and tricky shady areas of the garden. Large stems of creamy white flowers, arranged in spherical umbels are produced in the autumn, which are attractive to bees and a great source of late season nectar. Fatsia plants are very architectural and can be grown in borders or large patio containers as an eye-catching feature.
Lavender – highly fragrant, very hardy
A well-loved shrub grown for its fragrant summer flowers and scented silver-green foliage. Flowering in shades of purple, lilac or pink, this hardy shrub is so versatile; from edging to hedging and borders to patio containers – every garden should have lavender! The flowers are highly attractive to bees and butterflies and thanks to their Mediterranean origins, lavender plants have good drought tolerance, coping well with light, sandy soils. Use the silvery foliage as a contrast to dark foliage plants and try cutting some lavender flowers for a vase indoors, or to sprinkle on top of cakes!
Aucuba – one of the toughest shrubs
One of the toughest shrubs out there! Aucubas are popular evergreen shrubs valued for their tolerance of full shade, dry soils, pollution and salty coastal conditions. Although plain-leaved varieties are available, the speckled yellow cultivars are the most popular and give rise to the common name ‘Spotted Laurel’. The leaves are generally quite large, to 20cm (8″) long, leathery and glossy in appearance making them useful for achieving a tropical look in the garden. Female plants will produce bright red berries in autumn if a male pollination partner is planted nearby. Grow Aucuba as specimen plants, for hedges or in difficult heavily-shaded corners of the garden. They will even grow well in large patio containers making a fine contrast or foil to other foliage plants and flowers.
Camellia – elegant shrubs with early flowers
A classic spring-flowering shrub originating from the woodlands of Asia. Camellias are popular for their glossy deep green foliage and abundance of large, showy flowers early in the year. Camellia flowers can be single or double and come in a wide range of colours from pink to red, through to yellow or white. Although naturally large shrubs, dwarf varieties are available and Camellias tolerate hard pruning well so can easily be controlled if outgrowing their allotted space. They are elegant shrubs, ideal for mixed planting schemes or as specimen shrubs in borders and woodland gardens where they will receive partial or dappled shade. They require an acid soil so if your soil is neutral or alkaline grow Camellias in large patio containers filled with a mixture of ericaceous compost and a soil-based compost such as John Innes No. 3.
Euonymus – versatile and low-maintenance
Euonymus fortunei is a versatile, low-maintenance, evergreen shrub with a multitude of uses and a tolerance of poor soils, coastal conditions and shade. Thanks to its prostrate habit this Euonymus plant can be grown as an evergreen ground cover or trained to climb a wall – it tolerates north-facing walls well. They can also be grown as hedges or free standing shrubs in garden borders and patio containers. With a variety of foliage colours available from green to variegated white or gold, Euonymus is fantastic for adding winter colour to the garden.
Mahonia – late winter and spring flowers
Mahonia plants have an architectural form and glossy, spiny leaves, similar to holly. They are valued for their late winter and spring flowers which are bright yellow and highly fragrant. Mahonia flowers are borne on long, elegant racemes or in clusters at the tips of branches, creating a distinctive and striking display when much of the garden is still dormant. They are also a fantastic early source of pollen and nectar for bees. Coping well with coastal conditions, clay soils and heavy shade Mahonia makes an unbeatable, low-maintenance addition to shrub borders and woodland gardens. Some species and cultivars have a low-growing habit and can be used as groundcover.
Photinia – great as hedging or in large containers
Photinias are tough, versatile shrubs, the most popular variety being Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’, whose glossy leaves are bright red when young, gradually changing to bronze-green through to deep green. Photinias light up shrub borders in the spring and make a good foil for summer-flowering plants. Grow Photinias in sunny borders, as specimen shrubs in large patio containers, or as hedging, for which Photinia x fraseri is ideal.
Holly – the classic evergreen shrub
A well-known evergreen shrub, with glossy, dark green leaves, which can be either spiny or smooth. Although best known for its classic dark green leaves and red berries at Christmas, there are many variegated forms of Holly which make outstanding specimen plants in the garden or planted as part of a mixed border. Holly plants also make a fantastic dense hedge, for which Ilex aquifolium and Ilex x altaclerensis are the best species to use. The spring flowers are highly attractive to bees and are followed by red or yellow berries on female holly bushes, if a male pollination partner is planted nearby. The berries are a good winter food source for birds. Tolerant of coastal conditions and partial shade, this tough shrub deserves a place in every garden.