The Sunday Gardener's Blog

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  1. There are two good reasons for overwintering plants. Firstly, for some tender plants it is a necessity and I have in mind here, especially in more exposed gardens, Tree ferns, Canna lily, and some varieties of Agapanthus.  The other reason is to nurture through the winter plants which would usually be treated as annual bedding and thrown away. 

    Commonly called Geraniums, Pelargonium will survive a winter under glass. In cold areas they are best in an unheated porch or conservatory, in milder areas they will be fine in the greenhouse.  Geraniums need light, little water and cutting back will encourage the plant to bush out more in the spring as often over the summer Geraniums can become leggy. I keep about a dozen in the conservatory and 90% survive the winter. Once it warms up they can be planted back out into containers for a summer display.  Fuchsia can be overwintered in the same way; cut back and brought into a frost free enviroment and kept on the dry side dormant until around March time.


    Nepeta tender bedding overwintering in greenhouse

    The second image above  is a variety of Nepeta which is commonly found trailing in hanging baskets and is very happy in the greenhouse over winter.

    Why bother? As a gardener I would rather recycle plants. In common with many gardeners I am becoming aware of the many road miles undertaken to stock garden centres now that small nurseries are so rare. We cannot turn the clock back to times past when garden centres grew a lot of their own plants, but we can recycle more of our own.

    And another fear which has recently been flagged up is that many of the plants we buy from garden centres, even those sold as bee friendly, are, perversely, covered in pesticides. If this concerns or interests you the Independent's article is a good starting point with the recommendation gardeners try and grow more of their own to avoid contaminated plants from garden centres. It rather looks as if winter may come early this year be ready to bring plants under cover.

    More advice on how to overwinter plants

  2. By the meteorologist calender Autumn started 1st September but we gardeners tend to think of Autumn as starting later in the year, perhaps early October onwards. However we date it, the season of Autumn in so far as it is marked by the turning of leaves is definitely early this year.


    Autumn Beech Hedge


    This early onset of Autumn was noticed by the head gardener  at Churchill College at Cambridge University where the Boston Ivy started changing into Autumn colour about a month early.

    Here on the ground, digital cameras come in so helpful. The image above is of the Beech Hedge starting to change colour and was taken 17.10.2016 . Looking out the window today, only 09.09.2017 and the hedge is changing colour. Autumn is a lovely season and there is so much fantastic colour, but it is sad to see summer slip away so early. The consolation is those lovely Autumn walks to enjoy.

    Autumn Walks




  3. Agapanthus in flower


    Finally I have persuaded the Agapanthus to flower. You may think so what, especially if you garden in one of the more sheltered parts of the country. Agapanthus are a real sun loving plant originating as they do from South Africa. This means in many parts of the UK its a bit of a struggle, especially where light levels are lower, higher rainfall and colder and I am blessed with all of these.

    In less than ideal conditions it can be very tough to get Agapanthus to flower in the borders; it can take years. Restricting their growth in containers may speed up the process although restrict the ultimate size of the plant. I dug up my Agapanthus out of the borders 2 years ago, and this year after 2 years in containers, 3 out of 4 are flowering. Image left is the proof taken today, along with some other images Agapanthus at their best.


    It's all a question of conditions. Below is an image of Tresco in the Scilly Isles, where the climate is hugely better. Visting Tresco I saw for myself Agapanthus growing in abundance, and wild; a beautiful sight in a natural landscape setting.
    Tresco Island Agapanthus growing wild



  4. Nymphaea common name water lily pale yellow

    Nymphaea, common name 'Water Lily' is one of the most beautiful pond plants and not difficult to grow. Like so many pond plants  it needs to be planted in sterile compost and in a basket to contain the plant, soil and roots. Water lilies are deciduous, and require full sun. 

    Many Lilies are fully hardy although there are some tender varieties which makes it is important to check when buying a named variety.  There are many which are scented including the aptly name Nymphaea Odorata, the fragrant water lily.

    Perhaps the most important point when planting lilies into a pond is to plant to the correct depth, which varies from variety to variety, from around  30cms - 90cms. This means you need to select a lily which can achieve the correct planting depth in your pond. If your pond is releatively shallow you will need to select a lily which will thrive planted at a lesser depth. The depth is measures from the top of the basket to the water surface. Plant directories give the recommended depth for different types of lilies.

    Lilies also need to be divided regularly as they are vigorous and grow to a good size. You can generally tell when the lily is due, or overdue for dividing, as the leaves start to bunch and don't lie flat on the pond surface, image center left.  If left the leaves will become more congested and flowering will reduce.   


    Congested leaves on water lily
    Nymphaea common name water lily pink

    Below are some illustrations of a lily which we left way too long before dividing and it was hard work. 

    The lily was huge under the water surface, like an iceberg or small floating island. It had signficantly outgrown it's basket as can be seen from the image where the basket is just a small part of the plant.

    Dividing it was difficult it was heavy, and had to be manhandled to the side of the pond and pieces hacked off it with a saw until small enough to lift out.

    It was then possible to separate out some roots and leaves, disgarding  the rhizome which was massive and very woody. It's a  good idea to keep the new plants wet in a tug or bucket until you are ready to replant. The new plants were re planted and have quickly established themselves; the rest is disguarded. Had the plant be devided more regularly, the job would have been much easier.

    Water lilies like so many pond plants are vigorous and dividing will check their growth.

    Water lilies grow very large This is just one plant lifted out of the water
    Water lily out grown the basket container Separate out new plants