Melanie Dool’s gardening column in association with Orchardstown Garden Centre
REGARDLESS of our experience in gardening, we all need a reminder now and then on what to do and when, and I will continue to give a nudge or ‘heads up’ in plenty of time so there need not be a panic attack.
It is a quiet time in the garden but, it is not asleep and some plants can surprise you by being cheerful amid the duller conditions that we have been experiencing. I walked around the garden on one of those rarer beautiful warm sunny days and noticed a number of plants that, despite the recent frost, rain and storm, looked fresh and bright with flowers and I will mention a few of them now.
This highly desirable evergreen plant is sold either as a pot plant in florists but also in mild coastal counties as a small tree which has yellow flowers and attractive foliage. The official name is Acacia and there are a number of common names but Mimosa and Wattle are the most popular. They are easy to grow and can be kept as a large shrub up to 4m (12’) if desired where the foliage will become more intense but do give them a good position and avoid a heavy soil and exposed position.
You might be surprised to know there are over 1,200 Acacia species and the small selection available in Ireland includes some of the best types. Acacia Baileyana has blue tinged foliage and freely produced yellow flowers in winter and spring. A.b ‘Purpurea’ is similar but with deep purple young foliage. A.dealbata has fern-like silvery-green foliage with fragrant flowers from late winter to early spring. A.longifolia has long willow-like foliage with 5cm (2”) flowers. A.pravissima has unusual blue triangular leaflets and clusters of yellows flowers in early spring. All the four species mentioned are very different from each other and give an elegant structure and feature in the garden.
This plant comes from a smaller family of about 50 species of usually fragrant shrubs.
Some are native to Europe and easy to grow but, for the highly fragrant non native types you must give it your best position, which is a good, rich moisture retentive but free draining soil in a reasonable sheltered position. I do not think it is much to ask for such a beautiful plant such as Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’.
Thinking of this plant group brings me back to when we used to grow and sell over 35 types of these beautiful plants but now, due to rationalisation and other reasons, we list only eight. It is a pity that many very worthwhile plants across the whole range have gone by the wayside in favour of mass produced instant visually pleasing plants. There are two viburnums that are flowering now and both cannot be more different. Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Charles Lamont’ is a hardy upright shrub with clusters of richly fragrant flowers from late October until the end of March. Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’ is one of the most popular evergreen shrubs with dark glossy green foliage from which numerous carmine-buds opens to pink tinged white flowers from October until April.
There are a few other plants that I might have included but I have omitted for one reason or other and that includes Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ which is outstanding now with its
grey-green catkins about 20cm (8”) long but now can get an ugly blotched leaf spot which leaves the plant looking sick. If you want to see one, we have one near our roadside front gate. We decided long ago to write, praise and otherwise promote those plants that do well in the garden without the need for chemicals to keep healthy.
TIP OF THE WEEK
Bamboo canes are very useful around the garden but, they are no good for holding up annual climbing plants that need supports such as sweet peas and a number of vegetables.
There are a number of natural plants that are suitable as supports and have side branches too and these include willow, birch and hazel. At this time of year we cut enough branches for our needs and let them dry out a bit under an open shed until needed from May onwards.
I am gathering seeds in preparation for the coming season with the first sowing scheduled to begin towards the end of the month with tomatoes, peppers and aubergines.