Plants of The Month

If you wish find a nursery which supplies any of the plants listed, try searching here

https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants/search-form

July

Look out, it’s Hydrangea month and I’m a bit obsessive. So I will build a gallery of the various different types as they come into their glory. We have acid soil so are lucky to have a full range of colours. Hydrangea breeders are busy souls and the selection of new cultivars that are launched each year is mind-boggling.


There is some dispute about the derivation of the name Hydrangea. I had always thought that the hydra meant water-needing, but other say that the seedpod has a similar shape to the Hydra – a Greek water vessel, or looks like the head of the mythical monster the Hydra. Who knows!

Hydrangeas occur naturally in East Asia – Tibet, China, Japan, Phillippines, Java, Sumatra, and in North America and the western coastal regions of Central and South American in temperate growing conditions So they are very happy in our climate.

The true flowers are tiny and the delicate and showy parts of the sterile flowers are in fact sepals. Hydrangeas are unusual in that the colour of their flowers can change – particularly the mopheads and lace caps. The colour depends on several factors

  • soil acidity, an acid pH of 6.5 and below is sufficient to allow blue flowers. The lower the pH, the more intense the blue
  • aluminium. The plant must be able to absorb aluminium to establish blue flowers. Blue flowers contain 10 times more aluminium than pink flowers. Aluminium can only be absorbed from soils if they are acid.
  • but it’s not a hard fast rule eg Hydrangea serrata Preziosa remains bubble-gum pink in acid soils

Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’

This is a Oak-leafed Hydrangea from North America, easily recognised by its boldly lobed leaves and superb, long lasting double flowers. As autumn approaches these leaves change from green to crimson and then burgundy. A superb, fully hardy, specimen.

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Ayesha’

This distinctive cultivar from Japan. The cup-shaped sepals make it look a little like lilac and it’s slightly scented (unusual for Hydrangeas) It has this pale lilac colour in the garden but cuttings we’ve taken are pink (should have used an ericaceous compost) but beautiful nonetheless.

Hydrangea Serrata ‘Kurohima’

This delicate beauty is also from the mountains of Japan. A little more tricky to cultivate but we love the contrast with the muscular macrophylla types.

Hydrangea serrata ‘Preziosa’

Now this serrata is a different kettle of fish. Robust, showy, prolific flowering with sepals changing from pale pink through bubblegum and candy floss pink to dark red as they age. A truly gorgeous plant.

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Rotschwanz’

This is one of the lacecap Teller hybrids bred in Switzerland. We give it some shade and it rewards us with this startlingly red colour.

Hydrangea paniculata Vasterival

This beauty, with its enormous propeller sterile flowers, was first isolated in 2012 in Vasterival, the garden of Princess Greta Sturdza, in Varengeville sur Mer, Normandy. These flowers can reach 3.5 inches across.

June

Plants

June is the month of roses. Until recently I have never really considered roses in the garden. I think that this stems from my grandfather’s obsession with hybrid tea roses , planted in a thorn-dense rose bed, where my football inevitably ended up, irretrievable! How things change. Driven by Jenny’s obsession and ably assisted by David Austin and Peter Beale, we now have 50 or more at Highfields Farm, and they have been fabulous this year (at least until the recent storm shattered a few). Here are some examples-

Rosa ‘I am Macmillan” to commemorate the nurses
Rosa ‘Ghislaine de feligone – sumptuous and very floriferous
Rosa ‘Highgrove’ – rich and velvety
Rosa ‘Kew Gardens” – doesn’t stop flowering
Rosa ‘Lady of Shallot’ – flowers endlessly. We use it to form a hedge. Squirrels eat the buds!
Virtual Garden Tours

Guin Vaughn introduces us to her garden at Trengrove House

Melanie Molyneux introduces us to her garden at Rockfield Park

Sarah Clay introduces us to her garden at Wyndcliffe Court

Arne Maynard’s latest Allt y Bela posting

May

Virtual Garden Tours

Highfield Farm

A quick look at some of the shrubs in the “Collection” area

High Glanau

Hilary Gerrish of High Glanau was, of course, unable to open her beautiful garden for the NGS this month so has published a collection of virtual tours and photographs on her Instagram page. Here’s the connection –

Nant y Bedd

Similarly, Members Sue and Ian Mabberley’s magical garden up in the Black Mountains, Nant y Bedd, has been included in the NGS Vitual tour series. Here is the link

Sue has also posted her advice on compost making
https://ngs.org.uk/how-to-make-the-perfect-compost-with-nant-y-bedd-powys/?fbclid=IwAR1INnnH4bcjHFGb7G-oeaRl1ye5FK1Lp8Ferh68Txl3wdVGUDmkozO_HXg


Allt-y-bela

Arne Maynard has published a magical series of walks through his magnificent garden at Ally-y-bela on Instagram. Here is the first as a gateway to the series. Tap on ‘Arnemaynardgardendesign’ in top left corner for the complete series.
https://www.instagram.com/tv/B-wbaQyJEOR/?igshid=oxv11oegrxvy

April

Virtual Garden tours

Some short films of gardens in our County

Woodlands Farm

Highfields Farm

View this post on Instagram

A walk through Charlie's Garden. Thanks Roger

A post shared by Jenny LLoyd (@jenny.plants) on

May

Pauline’s Picks

The weather has been glorious & we have spent hours outside. Everything is growing well. 
This cold snap this week has meant the potatoes needed covering at night. We have planted 16 varieties of potatoes this year as we went to a potato seed fair this year in the Forest of Dean. It will be interesting to see what the different ones taste like, and see the different colours; one variety is purple! Our local garden centre also sells loose seed potatoes so we have 5 or 6 of each (a row).
The yellow phlomis is from a cutting from my niece’s wedding 19 years ago. It brings back lots of happy memories of the day.
Time to go & open tunnel.

Plants

Rhodotypos scandens

Rhodotypos scandens

This plant is sometimes called jet bead because it forms shiny black berries after flowering, but it appears to flower all year. The simple flowers have four white petals and conspicuous stamens and the leaves are deeply pleated with serrated edges. There is only one plant in this genus but it’s a really good performer. Originally from China and Japan, it will grow in sun and partial shade and is independent of soil type. It grows to 4-5ft and is hardy to -15C (H5).

Euphorbias

Euphorbia characins ‘Black Pearl’
Euphorbia griffithii, Unknown, Euphorbia amygdaloides purpurea
Euphorbia x pasteurii

This is the ‘spurge’ family, really diverse in size, form, colour and includes plants like Poinsettias and others which look like cacti and succulents. They are found all over the world in tropical and temperate settings. The name spurge comes from the mediaeval practice of using certain varieties of Euphorbia as purgatives and laxatives. BUT DO NOT TRY THIS! The milky sap or latex of the common garden varieties ( which evolved to deter vegetarians – grazing animals I mean!) is a strong irritant and can cause serious inflammation. So wear gloves when pruning, splitting or transplanting.

The range available to the gardener is immense. The RHS lists over 1600 varieties. There are varieties which will grow in pots, in full sun, in dry gardens, in woodland, in dry shade and even in bog gardens. We love them and our collection is ever growing. Some examples are shown here.

The Euphorbia x pasteurii is an interesting plant. Ours is now 7ft high and covered with highly scented flowers which fill the air with a honey perfume. It is a E. mellifera x E.stygiana, looks tropical and is very robust. Laid low and beaten up by snow two years ago, I cut off the damaged branches and the plant quickly broke into new growth. If anything it is a bit of a thug but I love it.

Epimediums

Epimedium ‘Lemon Zest’, Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’, Epimedium ‘Spine Tingler’, Epimedium ‘Pink Elf”
En masse with a Euphorbia and winter weary Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’

Epimediums are commonly known as barronwort, bishop’s hats, fairy wings or horny goat weed. Most varieties originated in China and Japan but there has been an extensive programme of propagation, so the varieties available to the gardener is ever growing and increasingly bewildering. Nevertheless, these are magical little plants and, as they originated on the forest floor, they do well in moist shade where they will form a gorgeous haze of colour from their multiple flower heads. Their new leaves are usually bronze or copper coloured, sometimes decoratively veined, and will turn red in autumn. Flower colour will range from white through yellow, orange, pink to purple.

They are fully hardy(H5 down to -20C) and some varieties can reach 0.5m. These are delicate beauties for the woodland garden and shaded borders.

Pauline’s Daily Pick

Pauline Faraday, a Member who gardens in Glascoed, is picking collections of flowers from her garden to share with us.

26 April

Another glorious week in the garden. Mind you we now need some rain but not too much. Days seem to be busy. 
A lady in the village is making laundry bags & face masks & I have managed to find her lots of material which is suitable to use. She is using the chapel hall so she has lots of space to work.
We are very lucky to have the outdoor space. Of course we miss seeing the grandchildren running round the paddock but hopefully later in the summer they will be able to come over. I’m hoping it won’t be too long before we can go to Scotland.
It is so hard for friends & family who have relatives abroad. It is a bonus to have FaceTime etc.
Lovely cowslips out & I can see the early purple orchids coming up. Lots of things seem to be early this year. The bluebells look good as well.

14 April

A lovely quiet Easter. The insect bites have caused a bit of a problem. They were probably very hungry & thirsty with this dry weather. Everything is growing so fast. The apple & pear blossom is plentiful so hopefully lots of fruit later in the year.
Lovely asparagus to eat.

9-10 April

Happy Easter to everyone. Hoping you all have a quiet & peaceful weekend.
2 types of flowers today as I didn’t do one yesterday. 
We have been so busy outside that we are tired when we come in. The birds are happily singing & the robin is coming to the fat balls that are about 2 feet from Michael’s head. We don’t normally grow tulips but have a few this year. I’m meant to be clearing & cleaning back patio but it is 21° and sunny.
The primroses are lovely & luckily the rabbits aren’t eating them
Have a lovely quiet Easter everyone. 
We have had our weekly shop from Sarah so we are set up for a week.

8 April

Today we have daffodils & narcissi as with the warmth they are gradually going. We have been picking for about 6 weeks. These last ones have lots of scent & several have come from Scotland. The parks department in Edinburgh has a nursery shop where they sell plants & bulbs etc to raise extra funds & use up extra plants grown; we have found the quality of bulbs and plants to be excellent. Hopefully we will get to Edinburgh again soon

Daffodils and Narcissi

7 April

Hellebores

March

Illicium simonsii

A bit of a rarity this one. This is one of the Star Anises ( a poisonous one), and like everything else, it is flowering early this year. We bought it from Bleddyn and Sue Wynn-Jones up at Crug Farm Plants outside Caernarvon. These two intrepid plant hunters have introduced over 4000 new cultivars into the UK from their 25 years of visits to China, Taiwan Korea, Vietnam, Philippines, the Himalayas and recently South America. This place is a Mecca for we plantaholics.

The Illicium family first appeared over 100 million years ago (when Dinosaurs roamed the Usk valley – well perhaps!) and they are now found in North America, the Caribbean and Asia. Bleddyn collected our particular aromatic cultivar in Szechuan, China from a 3,000m (10,000ft) elevation. It has remained hardy in our garden over several winters now. It prefers acid soil and reasonable light.

We have another, Illicium griffithii, which has red flowers and will be featured later.

Read about this lovely couple in a recent Country Living article. https://www.crug-farm.co.uk/content/uploads/CrugFarmPlants_Aug17final.pdf

Sophora microphylla Sun King

This beautiful small tree is from New Zealand and a member of the pea family. It is widely available, evergreen, easy to grow, hardy to-10C (H4), indifferent to soil pH and a delight on a bright March day. It prefers full sun and will grow to 2-3 metres.

Wasabia japonica

If you have ever had the good fortune to visit Japan, you will recognise the dining ritual of having fresh wasabi rhizome grated for you, and you’ll know that it tastes fundamentally different from the tubes of green stuff you buy in the UK – a little less fiery and much more complex in its flavour, and you have to eat it fresh! If you haven’t had it grated for you, you’ve never eaten wasabi. Our tubes of ‘Western Wasabi’, in fact, contains little or no actual wasabi – it is mostly horseradish, mustard and green colouring.

In order to reclaim this fabulous condiment, we have been growing our own. It takes a few years to get the thickened stem/rhizome, but on the way it produces lots of these beautiful clusters of white flowers. It is only hardy to -5C. We could fleece them, but we prefer to grow in the greenhouse. You can eat the leaves and flowers in salad or fry them tempura-style.

For the impatient amongst us, you can buy fresh wasabi rhizome from Jon Old at The Wasabi Company https://www.thewasabicompany.co.uk

Ribes sanguine ‘Elkington’s White’

This flowering currant was recently introduced and is still quite a rare variety. It produces very showy, pendent clusters of pure white flowers in spring. After these have faded, rounded, blue-black fruits form, creating further interest. This deciduous shrub has thornless stems, and can be used as an informal, flowering hedge, as well as adding interest to the shrub border early in the year. The rich green leaves have a hairy, white reverse and are slightly aromatic.

Ribes sanguineum was originally found in USA and this lovely new introduction is fully hardy to -15C (H6), will grow in sun or partial shade and is unfussy about soil type. It can reach 6ft but prune regularly to establish the desired look and to improve flowering on strong healthy growth. 

Prunus x subhirtella Autumnalis Rosea

This is winter-flowering, ‘rosebud’ cherry. It has been in flower since Late November but is now coming into its own. It is an elegant, small, spreading deciduous tree with these semi-double, pink-blush flowers emerging from pink buds. Expect it slowly to reach 4-5 metres in time. It is robustly hardy to -20C (H6). The leaves progress from bronze in spring, to green in summer and gold in autumn. Looks good underplanted with Cyclamen coums.

Cyclamen coum pallidum

This delicate beauty hails from the Black Sea and Caucasus mountains, from Bulgaria through northern Turkey to the Crimea. This Cyclamen has reflexed, twisted, almost circular petals. It flowers through winter into spring and is fully hardy to -15C (H5). Naturalise in semi-shade under trees and amongst ferns, but keep separate from its rather more vigorous autumn-flowering cousin, Cyclamen hederifolium which can overwhelm this delicate soul.

Corylopsis pauciflora

The Buttercup Witch Hazel is indeed a member of the Hamamelis family and native of Japan and Taiwan . It is a deciduous spreading shrub, growing to 1.5 m tall by 2.5 m wide. It produces masses of primrose yellow flowers with a Cowslip-like perfume, in pendent racemes on bare stems in early spring, followed by leaves opening bronze and turning to rich green. It is happy in partial shade and hardy to -15C (H5). If you have the space, this is a must-have plant for early spring colour.

February

Sarcococca hookeriana Purple Stem

Plant this Himalayan sweet box near your door and be rewarded with its deep, sweet perfume throughout those dog days of winter. It is a low growing, gently suckering, evergreen, native to China, North India and Nepal.  We particularly like this variety for its finer leaves and dark purple stems which perfectly compliment the light pink, perfumed flowers followed by black berries. It can grow up to 3-4ft and we clip ours after flowering into a loose hedge. It is hardy down to -15C (H5) and prefers light shade.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’

These hybrid Witch-hazels are a cross between the Chinese (H. mollis) and Japanaese (H. japonica) varieties and are must for the winter garden, underplanted with Hellebores, snowdrops and aconites. We have them in a variety of colours – red, yellow and orange, and they have a light fragrance. They provide excellent, exotic cut flowers. They prefer acid soils in light shade. They are fully hardy to -15C (H5) and grow slowly to 3- 4m, often forming an attractive shuttlecock form. Prune to shape in late winter, after flowering.

Helleborus x hybridus  ‘Double Ellen White’

These hybrid Lenten Roses are not roses but are part of the buttercup family. They are semi-evergreen, extremely hardy (H7), prefer light shade and are a delight in the winter garden as their flowers are outward facing. They grow to 0.5m and will flower for 3 months. Grow them below deciduous shrubs amongst early bulbs. One boon, rabbits leave them alone. This variety has numerous gorgeous loose double flowers. 

Salix gracilistyla ‘Mount Aso’

This Japanese Pink Pussy Willow is a bushy deciduous shrub with a profusion of fuzzy, rose pink catkins, which are even more beautiful when touched with light frost. It prefers sun and will grow to a height of 2m. Typically upright in form, ours is pleasingly more spreading. It is hardy to -15C (H5). Prune to shape after the catkins fade (April). The leaves have slivery grey reverse. 

Out of interest, Mount Aso is Japan’s largest active volcano and one of the largest in the world. Last eruption 2016. It is at the centre of the westernmost of the main islands, Kyushu. It is surrounded by hot springs. So, if you have the good fortune to be close by on a pilgrimage to Nagasaki or sampling the delights and canals full of sacred Lotus Blossoms of Fukuoka, why not try a visit to an onsen, a thermal spring bath. All your gardening aches will dissolve away.

Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’

Nepalese paper plant from the Himalayas. This is a semi-evergreen shrub with tight clusters of sweetly scented pink flowers which can be a little capricious in its early stages, but persevere because its intense perfume is heavenly. She is hardy to -10C (H4) but give her some protection. Will grow to 2m in an upright habit and prune to shape immediately after flowering. We adore this plant.

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