Monday 24 October 2011

24.10. Confused plants

The British weird and unusual weather continues, we had a few days with well below 10 degrees during daytime, but now we are back to almost 20 degrees. It has been nice and sunny for many days lately and I can’t remember last time we had any substantial amount of rain so I have had to water my garden quite often the last month.

As a result of this bewildering weather, some of the plants in my garden are thoroughly confused. Here is a photo of my Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle', a lovely type of hydrangea with bright white flowers. Grown in the sun the flowers can be as big as dinner plates, often a problem to the quite thin and weak branches. I moved my plant into a semi-shade position as I didn’t like having to stake each of the branches to support the flowers. The result was better than I could have imagined; I now get many more flowers, but around half the size, and no need for unsightly staking and wires. The hydrangea flowers from April-May and onwards in my garden, and the flower I found today, looking as splendid as any produced in the spring, is definitely flowering out of turn!

And here is another false starter! This is a lily, an oriental lily called Mona Lisa. It usually flowers in May-June and it is not supposed to emerge until March-April, certainly not until after there is no risk of frost. I have no idea how to keep this bud alive over winter, piling bark on top of it is just going to make it grow a bit more to get out to the daylight, so I might just as well leave it to it and hope for the best. I have 4 more lilies of the same type in this bed so I hope they are not all going to come up now, it is OCTOBER….it’s 5 months too early!! I have around 170 lilies in total in my garden. Are they all just as confused and on their way to emerge??

My revamp of the garden is slowly taking place; all the plants I had in pots are now in the ground. It looks unusually empty on my cutting shelve where I normally keep all my pots waiting to be planted. Many of the plants in my garden are evergreen and therefore look the same all year round, but the rest will slowly die down over the next 6-8 weeks, depending on what kind of winter we get. And that is anybody’s guess :-) The winter here in London can be so different from year to year; I actually lived here for 6 years before I saw the first snowflake! The last few years it seems like someone is making up for that….we have had really harsh winters 3 years in a row, and statistically we are now due a mild winter again. I wouldn’t mind a winter without the temperature ever going below 5 degrees, suits me just fine. The only drawback I can think of with a winter like that is all the aphids we get in the garden in the early spring, which can be a bit of a nuisance. A cold winter kills off a lot of pests and although we don’t really start from scratch in terms of pests after the winter, at least the pest population is a lot smaller in the early spring. With a mild winter it will be full on from the start, which means more work to keep them at bay.

Here is a closer view of the new area in the garden, with the new path going down on the right side. I still haven’t got gravel for the path yet, and no bark either, but it will come later. I thought I had prepared so many plants for this revamp of my garden, many more than I needed, but this flowerbed became bigger than I thought so I actually need more plants. The area on the left side, between the two stepping stones, has no plants yet and being quite shady most of the year this area will require a bit thoughtful selection of plants. I got some evergreen plants in mind, and I could always put some more lilies in between, they do well even with semi-shade and one can never have too many lilies!

This is a new area, in the bottom-right corner of the garden under the tall conifer. In the area only covered by bark I have planted 150 crocus bulbs in 2 different shades of blue, around 70 Arisaema amurense tubers, and 75 anemones in shades of purple, blue and white. The idea was that when the crocuses were finished flowering, the anemones and the aresaemas would take over and continue flowering for most of the summer and autumn. I have never grown anemones before, and when I opened the bag with anemones my first thought was that the bulbs looked like sheep droppings! Don’t know what sheep droppings looks like? Well, I suppose I can best describe it as small, black stones…It said in the attached description to soak the anemones in water for 24 hours before planting, so I duly did that, and after soaking the anemones looked like…hmmm, slightly bigger sheep droppings! Each of the bulbs had swelled up a tad, but they were still hard, black and looked nothing like a bulb. I took them outside to start planting, and realised I wasn’t really sure which way up or down! The droppings, sorry, the bulbs had a tiny tuft of something looking like roots on one side, so I assumed that was where the roots would be coming out. When you plant bulbs it is very important to plant them the right way up; root part down and growing tip up, as it would be very difficult for a bulb to grow the roots all the way down if that bit ended up on top, and likewise, get the stalk up around the bulb and growing the right way if the ‘nose’ was facing down. So I went inside to get my reading glasses and carefully looked at each anemone bulb to get the tiny root tuft facing down when I placed them in the ground. The crocuses, arisaemas and anemones are placed in small groups of 4-6 closely together and will look splendid when they emerge. Or, so I thought! That same evening I entered ‘anemones’ on my plant list on my computer, and went on the Internet to check the name of this particular type. And that’s when I discovered that anemones are not bulbs, they are tubers. Hmm…does that actually make any difference, you might ask? Well, it does, because bulbs have their roots facing down, but tubers have their roots facing UP!! The root tuft you can see on the tubers is actually not roots, but the beginning of the new shoots, and now all my 75 anemone tubers are facing the wrong way. Ugh! I can’t do anything about this now, I would make a total mess out of the carefully laid out groups I spent a whole afternoon making if I start looking for the anemones now. I just have to wait and see what comes up next spring, and hope some of them at least eventually will find their way up in the sunshine. If nothing comes up, at least I can put some new ones in next autumn, now that I know how to do it!

Oh well, someone once said ‘You are not stretching yourself as a gardener if you are not occasionally killing plants.’ Perhaps true; I learn something new all the time :-) That’s it for tonight, more next time, take care.

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