Garden Diary 2018

A busy and challenging year passed at the Garden. It will be interesting to observe how plants will perform this year as a result of the stress of last summer’s heatwave. Plants for sale coped to a great extent, the deep trays proved invaluable, retaining water long enough to keep most plants from expiring although there were some casualties in the plunge beds. By the end of the season 52 jobs had been ticked off the work plan, far more than can be mentioned here. 55 new plants had been purchased or donated filling spaces in the beds e.g Aconitum, Asclepias, Ballota, Bergenia, Blechnum, Campanula, Carex, Catananche, Crocosmia, Delphinium, Doronicum, Erodium, Geranium, Geum, Helenium, Hemerocallis, Ipheion, Iris, Kirengeshoma, Kniphofia, Lathyrus, Lychnis, Mathiasella, Melanoselinum, Omphalodes, Penstemon, Polemonium, Polystichum, Rosa, Salvia, Trillium, Tricyrtis, and Veronica. Amongst those, several cultivars of some were purchased. One unknown New Zealand plant was donated.

The purpose of Jan Vaughan’s visit was to persuade us to introduce more plants in the Conservation Scheme to the Garden; we already have Rodgersia podophyllum ‘Instow’ in the scheme. Erika, Group Chairman attended the Conservation Scheme meeting and produced a list of plants for the Friday Group to discuss. As a result, various group members opted to trial a plant or two and three were introduced to the Garden, how they perform will be reported on in a future edition.

Jobs completed

Long Border - Courtyard Side

Practically all of this border has been renovated and although a gap or two remain to fill, it performs well with a quick hoe each week. Trillium and Paris quadrifolia continue to be the star attractions early on with the delicate and intricate flowers of Epimedium following close behind. The Hostas bulked up quickly after the mass propagation two seasons ago. Eryngiums were especially good, well suited to hot conditions which seemed to enhance the colours and textures. Unfortunately another Clematis had to be removed, Clematis alpina ‘Pamela Jackman’, a large very old plant had declined over past years. No new growth emerged and on removal the few remaining roots were rotten. This is the third Clematis to expire in the same circumstances in that border which is a concern, alpina types do not suffer from wilt. Weeds were removed from the top of the wall. Maybe we should have more nest boxes spaced on the wall.

The Ferns enjoy cosseting from Erica; other than that they are given an occasional watering on a Friday. Although predominantly in the shade, the brick wall absorbed and retained heat and the surrounding air must have been very dry during the continuous hot conditions. By late summer they looked amazing and were attracting much interest, in fact we ran out of Ferns to sell. If any members have young Fern plants to donate for the plant sales please let Erica know.

Ferns evolved millions of years ago long before humans, therefore they had plenty of time to adapt to all the climate changes which have occured since. They really deserve to be more popular. The Fern bed needs a special mention. Looking through an old document in our Group records Jenny Young’s Notebook of 1989-1993 lists all the plants in the garden for that period. A note on the front states ‘Grasses and Ferns were acquired in 1989; Purchase prices given for Ferns were from £1.50 - £5 each. Many of the ferns in the bed are large mature specimens. Checking the fern varieties listed in Jennys notes, many are still in the bed so it's highly likely they are from the original planting and will reach their 30th anniversary in 2019.

Middle Beds

Phloxes were not suited to the heat but we never know what weather conditions will be in 2019 so their day will come. Geraniums, are guaranteed to flower non stop whatever the weather. New Grasses now in their second season exhibited good examples of the wide variety of textures and forms. In late summer Verbena bonariensis comes into its own around the bed edge. Penstemons with their long flowering season are popular with visitors, plenty of cuttings are raised to be ready in time to sell. We plan to extend this area of planting. Campanulas flower early in the opposite end of the bed but as many in this family prefer shaded conditions, a decision was made to reduce the variety and use the vacated space for more plants in the Penstemon family. The Lily bed on the list for renovation, will be a major job owing to its size and number of plants which require removing and splitting. Small inroads are made each year but it seems to have little impact. Despite Jill becoming despondent with the bed it provides much of interest and many colourful blooms. Dianthus did well but other plants in the same bed had a short season and a few were lost. Yellow Figwort, not seen in recent years appeared as a self sown plant from the centre of a Scabious and produced copious quantities of seed.

Iris, Erika and Mary made good progress with clearance of the Ranunculaceae bed near the Bothy, as mentioned earlier it’s currently under renovation, almost half the bed has been emptied, two double pink peonies were removed to sell. Continuous forking over of the bed will be needed for some time as a flush of Aquilegia seedlings will crop up. It is hoped to finish clearing all but the Acanthus before restructuring and applying leaf mould. The Troughs are in need of emptying and replanting but will have to wait for another time. Working to keep the garden attractive for the weekend openings and sorting plants to sell takes up much time over the season. There is insufficient space to report on all the work done or to mention each person by name but everyone of the group deserve thanks for all the hard work completed during the last year.

Long Border - Sundial Side

The Hawthorn hedge on the coppice side of the wall was spreading over into the garden so was pruned early. Barbara propagated Rudbeckia, Symphyotrichum (Aster) and other plants in the daisy family. Visitors always ask for them once they flower in abundance in late summer. The difficulty is keeping the pots well watered for the season. The many pots were placed under the shade of the Clematis armandii which had the desired effect.

A small team resumed work clearing Allium seedlings from the Iris bed below, removing the remaining Crocosmia plants, which were heavily infested. Later Carol purchased a selection of Iris originally raised by Brian Dodsworth a renowned Iris breeder who resided in East Bridgford. A few West Coast hybrids were also purchased as they have performed well in the garden. Simon Dodsworth runs a Nursery selling Iris varieties raised by his father; a number of these were awarded the Dykes Medal, dating back to 1927; this is one of the highest awards for Iris. Simon is due to give a talk at our November 2019 meeting. The Iris were planted in the summer and the area netted for protection to deter squirrels and birds.

Jed’s cutting from the original Salvia’ Hot Lips’ was planted; by late summer it had grown well producing a succession of variable two tone flowers. Further Salvia plants will be sourced as they are well suited to the conditions. Further along, one of the everlasting peas was removed, there were two of the same pink variety, a white flowered one has taken its place

Maintenance and Admin Projects completed

New tools were purchased including a new four way adapter for the water tap. Old tools were taken by Brenda for a Charity which sends on to Africa.

The top surface was scraped off all paths in preparation for resurfacing and although gravel was available, the tamping machine had left the site and ground staff did not offer help so no further progress was made.

The Black Hole (the storage shed) was given a complete makeover, much was disposed of after a thorough sort out, racks and various other storage items acquired via Erica were installed. With electric lights in both sections even Dee maybe prepared to enter now. Photo (by Erika Lax) right of Carol and Mike assembling shelves

The plunge bed by the Potting Shed is to be used for newly potted plants and will be clearly labelled as such. There is concern that some plants in this category get mixed with others and inadvertently end up on the sales tables prematurely before they have chance to establish a root system.

Photographing new plants and those in flower to add to the Gallery is another recurring task.

Away from the garden, work still goes on maintaining the database of plants, producing new labels, publicity work and other admin tasks. Each year, three of the group visit on two different midweek days to check plants against the database. It’s easier to spot errors or identify plants are all present and correct. Derek and Iris visit on their own to have free access to the paths to apply weed killer and treat pots for vine weevil larvae.

Display Bed

The enormous Penstemon ‘King George V’ plant, smothering everything else in the vicinity and still flowering in February was severely pruned and moved into the centre of the Penstemon bed. Before long it was soon breaking into growth, it will be interesting to see if it reaches its former proportions. With King George banished, the bed continued to put on a long colourful display despite one or two plants struggling to cope with the drought. A huge amount of leaf mould obtained from within the Park was incorporated in the soil before the bed was planted up. It is thought mycorrhizal fungi were present and this symbiosis in the soil structure is considered beneficial and contributes to the robustness of the plants.