June 25, 2010
The joy of climbers is that they present their flowers at, or just above, eye level, allowing you to inspect individuals, then inviting you to turn your gaze skywards – always a hopeful gesture. I have just been admiring the velvety pink flowers of the clematis ‘Mme Julia Correvon’ (see the entry for 31 July 2009) then, a little further on, noticed that those of the vigorous rambler ‘Wedding Day’ are just beginning to open.
Wedding Day is a vigorous rambler, covered in clusters of single white flowers in early summer
There’s a host of roughly similar ramblers that produce great clusters of single white flowers – ‘Bobbie James’, ‘Seagull’, ‘Rambling Rector’ (actually, I think two out of these may actually be one and the same thing) – but what distinguishes ‘Wedding Day’ is the buds, which are a delectable creamy yellow.
Mine is now covering one side of my old apple tree (which manages to fruit regardless of the competition). Some of the flowers are already fully open, but its peak is yet to come. Even so, the flowering is brief – but spectacular.
June 22, 2010
Some plants I have learnt to love only relatively recently, a case in point being this poplar. Its distinguishing feature is its leaves, which are not variegated in the conventional way – with an edging of white, cream or yellow – but liberally spattered over their entire upper surface with cream spots and blotches.
The leaves of Populus x candicans 'Aurora' are extravagantly splashed with white and cream
Previously I thought they gave the tree a diseased appearance. But having come across an avenue of strictly pollarded specimens in the Haddonstone show garden (www.haddonstone.com) in nearby East Haddon, I now think they are rather pretty.
The pair I acquired only recently have been giving me cause for concern, in that the young leaves are plain green. It is only as they are expanding that they are starting to show their characteristic markings. They repay study, as no two are exactly alike.
Pollarding – a technique that involves ruthlessly cutting back the crown every year (or every other year) – is entirely appropriate therefore. It makes sure that all the leaves are at, or just above, eye level.
June 21, 2010
It’s around this time of year that apple trees – and also pears sometimes – shed some of their fruits, a phenomenon known as the June drop. It’s as though the trees know how much fruit they can bear, so spontaneously shed the excess.
Hence it’s nothing to worry about – but it doesn’t reduce the possible need for further fruit thinning. This is particularly advisable for those varieties that are prone to crop heavily, indeed to the point of exhaustion, leading them to take time out the following year, when there may be a very small crop or no crop at all – biennial bearing.
The simplest way round biennial bearing is to thin the blossom before the fruits even start to form. But now is a good time to look at all fruit trees anyway, just to see how the fruits are developing. If they are looking crowded, thin them. You may need to reduce the crop by up to half or even more. Fruits should be well spaced on the branches so that each can swell to the desired size without competition from its neighbours.
It's a good idea to thin fruits in early summer - you get a better crop in the long run
Apart from producing bigger, more succulent fruit, fruit thinning avoids crowded fruits rubbing up against each other, which will lead to rotting where they touch and prevent even ripening. You can also shorten the new growth the tree has put on since blossom time to expose the developing fruits to the sun.
June 15, 2010
David Austin’s aim in breeding the race of so-called ‘English’ roses was to unite the robust growth habit and repeat flowering of the modern types with the flower shapes of the old. Unfortunately, Constance Spry, one of the first of this group, does not repeat flower. However, it is undoubtedly one of the most sumptuous of all roses, especially when – as in my garden – it is trained as a climber.
The pink flowers of Constance Spry are among the largest of any rose
I say ‘trained’. Loosely tied to a fence would be more accurate – the arching stems lend themselves to this relaxed treatment. At the moment, the buds are just starting to open into old-fashioned teacup-like flowers, a full 10cm across, clear pink and with one of the richest scents in the garden.
The fact that the display lasts a mere two weeks can be forgiven, considering the freedom with which the flowers are produced (it is rather like Albertine in that respect, also flowering now). Another downside is that the leaves are already showing signs of blackspot. At the moment, that’s not too serious a problem – but I may get busy with the secateurs once the flowers have faded.
June 10, 2010
I’ve been intending to blog about choisyas (commonly known as Mexican orange blossom) for a while. They’re not among my favourite shrubs, most making uncompromisingly solid lumps of green (or, in the case of Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’ bright yellow), but there are a couple I’m fond of.
A newcomer is a hybrid, ‘White Dazzler’. I have a small specimen of this that I’ve recently repotted (it will stay in its pot until I decide where to plant it). It is similar to ‘Aztec Pearl’ – also a hybrid, and one of its parents, and the one I usually recommend – but the narrow leaves are a lighter green. Apart from its white flowers (finished now), it has a hidden appeal – the leaves are scented.
The Mexican orange blossom flowers profusely in late spring
This unusual characteristic has been inherited from C. dumosa, its other parent. To appreciate this to the full, plant the shrub by the side of a path so you can brush its leaves as you walk past to release its sweet fragrance. There may well be a second (though lesser) flush of flowers in late summer/autumn.
Overall, ‘Aztec Pearl’ is probably the more elegant plant, being a darker green. But ‘White Dazzler’ is a worthwhile addition to any garden.
June 7, 2010
Last November, I was writing in disparaging terms about the yellow-leaved tree Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’.
Its parent species is a different matter entirely, and the fine specimen in my village square is currently in flower. (It’s possibly a hybrid – you never know.) The flowers, hanging down in pendulous white racemes, are similar to those of a wisteria or laburnum (to which the Robinia is related) and the whole tree has an open, elegant, airy appearance, which somehow ‘Frisia’ never quite achieves – and I don’t recall ever seeing this in flower.
The flowers of the robinia are very similar to a wisteria's
It is, however, a large tree. If space is at a premium, it’s worth considering as an alternative the pink-flowered Robinia hispida, a shrub that tops at around 3 metres. Bluebell Nurseries (bluebellnursery.com) recommend training it against a sunny wall, a lovely idea.
June 3, 2010
After a busy day spent mostly in the car, I was looking forward to some down-time in the garden. However, I was dismayed to spot the lily beetle (Lilioceris lilii) on my Stargazer lilies (now growing strongly in a large clay pot).
The lily beetle is easily identified - a beautiful creature but a serious pest
This is one of the worst pests known to gardeners. Unchecked, it will rapidly strip any lily of its leaves (and also fritillary, if it lights on any). It is, however, a handsome thing, a slim brilliant scarlet beetle. With a tough outer skeleton, it’s probably impervious to most chemical sprays. The best way of control is actually the simplest – pick them off between finger and thumb and squash them.
This is the first year I’ve seen them in my garden – hitherto, this has largely been a pest of southern England. But – like the berberis sawfly – it seems to be marching northwards.
May 24, 2010
There are certain plants that it is all too easy to take for granted, and Kerria japonica is one of them. With its scruffy flowers of rather too strong a yellow, it doesn’t live up to the desired oriental elegance promised by its graceful habit.
Kerria japonica has bright yellow pompon flowers
It’s a suckering shrub, but, with its thin, gently arching stems, is never invasive – and it is remarkably tolerant of neglect. I mention it now, not just because it is flowering in my own garden but because I have spotted in a neighbour’s garden the slightly more desirable single form. And on a walk through the village yesterday evening I came across the even nicer variegated one – a very desirable plant. I have made a mental note to beg some cuttings in July.