SEPTEMBER 2020 | Late summer

SEPTEMBER 2020 | Late summer

Trees silhouetted against blue sky

Plant of the month|

Trees for small gardens|

Below is my garden’s Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) with it’s crinkled, dark and interesting leaves that make for strong impact in a green space.  I have trained it to go along the fence for some seven years or so now and not without difficulty as it is programmed to reach for the sky and grow directly upwards.  I am not taken with the very dark, dense tree that would be the natural growing habit of the Loquat left to it’s own devices – I find it rather oppressive.  So I struggle to retain the beauty of the leaves in a way I like much better. But it does make a relatively small garden tree and this might suit you.  Because it is so very dense it does need pruning several times a year.  I used Eriobotrya when designing gardens, always wall-trained like my own, and my clients were always delighted with it.

The Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) wants to head for the sky.
The Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) wants to head for the sky.

I’ve mentioned this plant before in the blog and I mention it again because this spring I want to take a cutting – I’ll probably do both a semi-ripe cutting and air layering which is what is recommended, after flowering, in the southern hemisphere where it is widely grown.  It survives very well in the more temperate areas of the UK however mine doesn’t flower and certainly doesn’t fruit so the cutting will be a thing of chance.  But I shall have a go because I am reminded my plant was originally a cutting given to me and it was raised in London.

Swell your garden stock

Beautiful Callicarpa with lilac berries
Beautiful Callicarpa

With autumn approaching I am increasing my garden stock; saving seed, taking cuttings, dividing and potting up. After disliking it for years I now admire Callicarpa very much and have raised seven from the original. Two I gave away but I now have five for the garden – have I really got space for five however much I like the shrub? I need to calculate the space they will need once fully grown and then make my decision.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pineapple Lily (Eucomis) is happy enough in a pot but I want to increase my stock because I only get the single flower.
The Pineapple Lily (Eucomis comosa) is happy enough in a pot but I want to increase my stock because I only get the single flower.

Fleeces for the garden?

Heard on BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today programme – an enterprising shepherd in Cumbria is marketing woollen fleeces to gardeners on the basis that they might well be able to rescue the wool industry. Apparently fleeces fetch less than it costs to sheer the sheep.

One of my clients with a large garden each year bought in a large amount of mulch from a farm in Penrith and that contained some sheep wool. This sustained his well stocked garden and I think he came across the farm when on holiday.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000m0pv

I am relieved to report that my garden clearance is complete. The clippings – an unsuitably refined term for the bulky tangle of brambles, nettles, long grass and weeds that filled three builders bags to overflowing have been taken to the dump which, having been closed to the public for months had the biggest mountain of assorted rubbish I’ve ever seen there – taller than a five storey building.

A neighbour who is also a professional gardener took pity on me and strimmed my lawn. Great joy to suddenly find the lawn one day looking neat and tidy when I wasn’t expecting it and not having had to do it myself. Having disposed of the results of my garden’s almost return to nature I was then able to start some ordinary gardening as in mowing the grass and digging weeds out of the flower beds. In a month or two there will be pruning to do.

After repeated deluging I think I've done enough to save the Viburnums
After repeated deluging I think I’ve done enough to save the Viburnums

My next-door neighbours have lost two trees to drought and I now see one of my Viburnum opulus, the size of a small tree, which had a few patches of dead brown leaves is now more dead and brown than green – remedial pruning is called for and quickly plus a great deal of watering. I see several examples of spreading dead brown patches in street trees too and, sadly, this is the second year I am noticing this. In England, other than when they are establishing in early life and possibly not even then, we are not accustomed to watering trees. I think we might be advised to start. Please, please, please take note of brown patches on trees and start watering them.

Oh joy! I have just come in from the garden where I found it a long-forgotten pleasure to simply potter and stare for an hour or so after drenching the two Viburnums – caught in time to save them I think. The pottering and staring is how I seem to generate ideas of what to do next in the garden and is a totally different experience to the hard work of clearance.

Maggie Shirran has sent a picture of a friend's magnificent border.
Maggie Shirran has sent a picture of a friend’s magnificent border.

Lavandula l’Avance Purple

In my post of August 2019 I linked readers to an interesting article in the Telegraph which focused on different types of lavender for those who like something unusual. I came across Lavandula l’Avance Purple, said to be the darkest purple colour ever produced, and immediately sent for seeds. When they arrived the accompanying info said a period of pre-chilling was needed. I put the seeds away until I had time to deal with this and then forgot about them.

L'Avance purple seedlings. Three weeks chilling plus two in the world and still really tiny.
L’Avance purple seedlings. Three weeks chilling plus two in the world and still really tiny.

I set the first batch of seeds to chill on 17 July last. I used the domestic refrigerator and consequently didn’t fancy putting them into compost first which some people recommend. I used dampened paper towel rolled up with the spread out seeds inside and wrapped up in two polythene bags. The recommended chill time was 21 days.

I have now sown all of the seeds in the above and two further batches and there are still a few to sprout. I like to check the seeds every couple of days and plant those that I find have already sprouted. It has been a very slow but satisfying process because at least three-quarters of the 50 seeds in the packet have sprouted and I think this counts as my first success with propagating lavender from seed. I have had occasional minor successes with lavender cuttings but, if I can keep the plants which are still really tiny over the winter, with luck I could have a really good lavender crop. Watch this space.

At the Allotment

Sweet corn, courgettes and leeks growing well with just planted spring cabbages
Sweet corn, courgettes and leeks growing well with just planted spring cabbages

Pruned the plum tree which this year produced about 15 lbs of fruit and also the cherry tree which produced 7 cherries. I have also had my hands full with a cooking apple crop of around 30lbs. The freezer is bulging!

Two types of cabbage plantlets ready to go into the ground as soon as it stopped raining made a battleground for me and the Cabbage White.
Two types of cabbage plantlets ready to go into the ground as soon as it stopped raining made a battleground for me and the Cabbage White.

Latest allotment problem seems to be the full-scale attack of the Cabbage White butterfly on the brassicas. It can, and does, reduce a brassica plant to a skeleton and this year seems to be a particularly bad one. I am just about to plant out my newly grown cabbages for the spring crop and I am fending off the pest with garlic spray to mask the smell. All cabbages will have to be netted from now on which will also keep the birds away.  The Cabbage White is quite a pretty and unmistakable little butterfly – as you may imagine it is white with small black markings on the wings – the markings are slightly different for males and females.

Cabbage White shotholes. Interestingly some years ago I gave up trying to grow Rocket because of shothole damage which I had thought was done by a different pest. I now discover Rocket is another target of the Cabbage White
Cabbage White shotholes. Interestingly some years ago I gave up trying to grow Rocket because of shothole damage which I had thought was done by a different pest. I now discover Rocket is another target of the Cabbage White

I had the group of little cabbage plants pictured above on my outside window sill at home and I noticed a Cabbage White encircling them. A couple of days earlier I had spied some familiar shot holes. Shooed it away but after a while it was back. This happened several times until finally I recognised the determination of our little friend and brought the plants inside. The Cabbage White came in through the open windows and continued its cabbage quest. Had to keep the window closed!

Although they seem to be around in droves I haven’t been able to get a picture of the Cabbage White but the visitations to my little cabbage plantlets have resulted in a sighting of it’s caterpillars – they are fat, green and healthy and full of my cabbages. This is the fourth I have removed from the leaves.

Cabbage White caterpillar
Cabbage White caterpillar

Another view of the allotment plot

 

Happy gardening to all, bye for now from Rosanna.

 

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