Gardening Society - November 2017 Report

Twelve Months of Colour                                          Neil Lovesey

Goodness! That was worth turning out for. This was my comment to Neil at the end of his talk – and everyone in the room smiled and nodded.

It was an icy, cold night but there was a good audience as Neil had spoken to us on two occasions before and he is both an entertaining and informative speaker. He owns and runs a plant nursery in Dorset – Pickett Lane Nursery, and all his propagating is from seed or by vegetative means, he does not sell micro – propagated plants. His programme for propagating was quite astonishing and he achieves about 50,000 plants per year by working on ten varieties per day from August to Christmas Eve and then potting up ten varieties per day from Christmas to Easter.

He told us that for success, gardening requires planning, patience, vision and most of all, understanding. When choosing what to plant, think about soil conditions, local climate, plant habit (tall, short, floppy, needing support, spreading, evergreen, woody), colour, shape, texture and form (bush, column, arching). The plant that you desperately want, unfortunately, may not fit the situation.

From a plant’s point of view, there are ten seasons and you need to know these if you want twelve months of colour.

Here are the ten seasons with the name of a plant that is in flower or looking good at about that time.

Late winter. Snowdrops, Garrya elliptica.

Early spring. Hellebores, Crocus, Anemone blanda.

Late spring. Forsythia.

Early summer. Astrantia.

Mid-summer. Penstemon, Cistus creticus, Centaurea, Hemerocallis.

Late summer. Echinacea purpurea, Leucanthemum.

Early autumn. Rudbeckia, grasses.

Mid-autumn. Tricyrtis formosana.

Late autumn. Heuchera for colourful leaves.

Early winter. Clematis ‘Freckles’

This list has just a few examples that you can use to get twelve months of colour in your garden. Some of them, such as Penstemon, Leucanthemum and grasses, have many varieties for you to choose from and there are so many varieties of daffodils and tulips that you can span several seasons.

For best results, good soil is needed. You must be aware of what kind of soil you have so that you can work out what you need to do to improve it. Perfect soil has the growing medium (chalk around here), nutrients, sufficient moisture retention and air. To get sufficient moisture retention and air, lots of organic matter is needed. Spread well-rotted manure or compost made from rotted plant material to a depth of 3 inches or 7.5cm both in Autumn and Spring. With luck, worms will take it down into the soil. Avoid walking on the soil as that crushes the air spaces.

After all of this useful information, Neil gave us lots of isolated tips that help planning for a colourful garden. Here are some of them.

About a third of all your garden plants should be evergreen. Take photographs of beds and other areas about six times each year so that you can see where changes are needed.

When taking cuttings, leave only about four leaves and two nodes. There is a balance to strike between leaving enough leaf area for the plant to photosynthesize and grow roots and reducing the leaf area to cut down loss of water.

Do the Chelsea Chop! At about the time of the Chelsea Flower Show, cut down some stems of a plant by about a third of their height. They will grow again, probably with two stems in place of one, and these will flower later than uncut stems. This extends the flowering season and makes a more bushy plant. If you cut some stems at the front then those at the back will flower first and those at the front will flower later, hiding the spent stems at the back. Sedum Spectabile and Phlox varieties particularly improve with this treatment.

Poppies can be spectacular but disappear underground when they are dormant. To fill the space they leave when this happens, plant some bulbs beside them to flower when they are gone.

If you want to disguise something – like the shed next door – plant a climber that has white flowers. Our eyes are drawn to the flowers as white stands out so well.

Our meeting on Thursday, 22nd February 2018, 7.15 for 7.30pm in the Reading Room, is an illustrated talk by Tina Crossley about ‘Fundamentals of Garden Design’. Tina has spoken to us before, about ‘Horatio’s Garden’ at Salisbury District Hospital. In her new role she advises customers about garden design in her work at the John Lewis Longstock Park Plant Nursery. If you are new in the area or have a new interest in gardening then you are most welcome as a visitor or new member. There is a convenient free carpark beside the Reading Room at SP1 3LL.

Dorothy Richards