Friday, 17 February 2017

winter flowering shrubs and winter gardening

The Systems Administrator spent the morning cutting the hedge and the pile of debris waiting to be sorted and shredded is mounting, but I left it for another day.  Instead I spent a happy hour pulling goose grass seedlings out of the ditch bed.  It seemed like, and probably was, a gardening indulgence, but the snowdrops are out and looking good now, and I wanted to be able to admire the effect without the distracting presence of hundreds of bright little green weeds, each just waiting its chance to grow into a sprawling burr producing machine.  And it was very nice down in the bottom part of the garden.  Part of the point of having a garden is to be in it as well as to toil on it, even if being in it takes the form of some very light hand weeding.  Though weeding among the snowdrops is better exercise than you might think, because you have to be so careful not to put a foot down on a clump of bulbs that it ends up like a solo variant of Twister.

Both the Daphne bholua are out.  I have the white form and the pinky-mauve 'Jacqueline Postill'. The latter is the more vigorous grower.  The white one makes a much smaller shrub, maybe six feet tall but not much more than a couple of feet across, while 'Jacqueline Postill' is taller and is suckering into a thicket.  She seems pretty robust, while her white flowered neighbour is leaning on her as if it were not entirely root firm.  I hope this is not a bad sign of things to come, but the white one has been wonky for years.  My garden records show that 'Jacqueline Postill' was planted in 2005 and the white one in 2008, so they can be reasonably long lived if you can persuade them to settle.  The scent is wonderful, heavy and sweet, and by late morning had attracted some foraging bees.

There are clusters of small, dark red flowers like witch hazel on the Persian ironwood, Parrotia persica.  Since I have got my plant spreadsheet open I can tell you that this is coming up to its twentieth anniversary.  It has made a multi-stemmed tree, more upright than many I've seen in gardens I've visited, but maybe it will spread more with age.  I am not great at estimating heights and didn't think about trying when I was in the garden, but it must be fifteen or twenty feet high. The autumn leaf colour is splendid and is one of the reasons why you would plant a Parrotia.  The bark is not yet flaking in the beautiful way that mature trees do.  It is one of the least demanding trees I have met.  No pruning required, no litter of twigs to tidy up.  Just plant it somewhere where it will have room to spread and leave it to get on with it for a few decades.  It would like a nice fertile soil that doesn't dry out, and some shelter from the wind.  Tucked against the corner of the wood and close to the ditch ours seems happy enough, but I wouldn't rate its chances in the front garden.

Viburnum x bodnantense 'Charles Lamont' has been producing its scented pink flowers for weeks. Months.  It is a good value winter shrub if you can give it what it wants, which is much the same as the Parrotia.  I tried one on the sandy soil of the front garden and it very slowly dwindled and died. I like to think I would know better now.

Then I turned my attentions to pruning the roses, carefully because my safety glasses have not yet arrived.  A solitary rose bush is actually fairly unlikely to catch you in the eye as the twigs generally come straight at you.  If you don't wear glasses normally then I suppose you could step straight into a cut end, but I have never had one sneak in behind my spectacles.  A bed of roses growing within touching distance of each other gets trickier since you can have shoots coming at you from all angles.  I did not poke myself in the eye but I shall be glad when the glasses arrive.

Meanwhile the spring fell out of my heavy duty secateurs as I was working over a patch of Pachysandra, a shade tolerant evergreen ground cover that after a slow start is spreading well.  I conducted a fingertip search as well as I could without squashing it, but couldn't find the lost spring.  Thank goodness for Amazon Prime, which will have a replacement plus spare with me by one o'clock tomorrow.  I'll keep an eye out for the original and it may yet turn up, but until then I won't be without the number sevens.

By the time it got too dark to continue safely the lawn was a sea of rose prunings and I haven't nearly finished yet.  When the wind does turn to the east it is going to be a jolly long bonfire.

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