Jenny Matthews – Plants for Problem Places
Jenny Matthews from Moorland Cottage Plants gave us a very useful and interesting talk on plants for problem places at our July meeting, illustrating it with actual plants rather than photos.
Her garden has opened for the NGS from 2000 when it was just ½ acre. It has now expanded to encompass 4 acres and in 2016 was selected for the RHS Partner Garden Scheme. Situated just on the treeline at 700’ on the NE slope of the Preseli Hills with very high rainfall, weather conditions subject to extremes, and a heavy clay soil, she described it as ‘gardening on the edge’!
Jenny explained how when she and her husband first moved there, she learnt from bitter experience that the plants she was accustomed to growing in her previous home in a more climatically benevolent part of the UK didn’t survive more than one winter. She quickly adapted and worked out which plants would ‘do’ and which wouldn’t.
All her plants are propagated by herself and as she has only one small greenhouse, they have to stay outside all year, so are genuinely hardy. She doesn’t use pesticides or fungicides (other than Roseclear if there is a bad infestation), no mollusc control and uses nematodes for controlling vine weevils.
Problem places can mean the general area in which a garden is located as well as a variety of conditions within a garden itself.
Coastal and exposed estuaries – salt is the main killer as it dehydrated plants. Plants that are adapted to this are often small leaved and tussocky. Hydrangeas also survive but are smaller than those in other locations. Quickthorn and Blackthorn are suitable trees for coastal locations with Sorbus and Birch doing better slightly inland. Other examples of plants are black elder and potentillas.
Cold, exposed, windy, inland – the weather can be unpredictable so protective hedges are advisable. Use native, dense and twiggy hedging plants such as Hawthorn and Blackthorn, although the latters suckering habit can be a problem. Fatsias can survive down to -15’ if suitably sheltered. Beech, Hornbeam, Dogwood, Gorse, Physocarpus, hardy Fuchsias and Hydrangeas are all good but make sure to choose the right variety for that location. If it is windy go for shorter plants.
Problem conditions within a garden. Some of the plants listed are the genus names rather than the specific variety, so check which varieties are suited to the relevant conditions:
Dry Shade – plants are generally less luxuriant than those that grow in other areas.
Saxifrage stolonifera – copes with dense shade
Ferns eg Polystichum polyblepharum, and Blechnum penna-marina
Variegated Ground Elder
Astilbes eg Willie Buchanan and Bronze Elegance
Persicaria virginiana (variegated)
Hydrangeas – ‘Early Summer Bloom Star’ has red stems if in part shade
‘Oregon Pride’ – black stems
‘Sabrina’ – leaves start v dark green/black before opening
Chelanopsis – long flowering
Mukdenia rosii – spring flowering, autumn colour
Ferns – Japanese Painted
Fuchsias – ‘Genii – small
Magellanica ‘Versicolor’ – tall
Vancouveria – similar to Epimediums
Sunny, no extremes of sun/mosture, ordinary soil
Physocarpus – ‘Diabolo D’Or’
Crocosmis – ‘Krakatoa’ – dark leaved with apricot flowers
Sidalcea – ‘Elsie Hugh’
Variegated Golden Rod – shorter form
Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Rose Glow’
Mollinias – ‘moorhexe’
Dry Conditions – plants need to reduce moisture loss either from sun or wind so are often low growing, silvery leaved and hairy, and have smaller leaves.
Sedums – low growing varieties eg ‘Thundercloud’
White Rosebay Willowherb
Lysmachia – ‘Clethroides’
Astilbes – ‘Visions in Red’
‘Visions in White’
‘Beauty of Ernst’
Rodgersia – ‘Buckland Beauty’
Filipendula (Meadow sweet)
Bog Iris – ‘Gerald Derby’
Lobelia syphalitica x cardinalis
Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Orangefield’
Ty’r Maes, Ffarmers, Carmarthenshire, SA19 8JP
Club members John and Helen have their garden opening for the NGS this Sunday, August 6 th – do come and support them if you can ………….
A 4 acre garden with splendid views. Herbaceous and shrub beds – formal design, exuberantly informal planting, full of cottage garden favourites and many unusual plants. Burgeoning arboretum (200+ types of tree); wildlife and lily ponds, pergola, gazebos, post and rope arcade covered in climbers. Gloriously colourful; spring (rhododendrons, azaleas, azaleas, primulas, 1000’s bulbs); late summer (tapestry of annuals/perennials).
Craft, produce, books and jewellery stalls!
Sunday 6 August (1 – 6pm). Admission £3.50, children free. Home-made teas.
Visitors also welcome by arrangement April to September please request teas when booking.
John & Helen Brooks
01558 650541 email@example.com
August Meeting – Member’s Social
Plans are advancing well for our social evening on August 16th. This is a members only event when we can relax in each other’s company and share dishes made from something we have grown in our gardens this year (our club ‘growing challenge’ for this year). If anyone hasn’t had an email regarding the finer details for the evening then please give Julian a ring on 01558 685119.
It is hoped that we will hold it at Gelli Uchaf unless the weather is unkind and it rains all day, in which case we will contact everyone by lunch time by email, and relocate to the Coronation Hall in Pumsaint. Car shares are being organised and, so far, no-one will need to walk up from the village!
Again please get in touch if you haven’t been contacted about this.
Caterpillars and Brassicas
Anyone growing brassicas will have their own way of dealing with caterpillars. My preferred way is to try to squish the eggs. It’s worth knowing that the eggs will hatch within 3 to 7 days of being laid, and will only get laid on dry days, when the butterflies can fly. So you need to check leaves quite regularly. The Large White’s eggs are laid in big rafts, underneath leaves, the Small and Green-veined White eggs are laid singly, usually on the underside of leaves. If you miss the eggs, look out for tiny holes appearing on the leaves from the caterpillars, and squish the tiny caterpillars. The Large White’s caterpillars are easy to find, but the Small/Green veined whites are harder to spot, because they usually are green and rest along the veins of the leaf, but often bore into the heart of the plant to feed. There are usually 2 or 3 generations of adults per year, so you can’t really relax your guard until late September.
Small White Caterpillars at various stages of maturity
Germinating Late Sown Seeds
Another tip from the excellent Hitchmough book, ‘Sowing Beauty’, is the percentage germination rates of different seeds, with once or twice weekly watering. For many plants this is less than 10%. This is really enlightening if anyone’s trying to get late sown seed to germinate well in dry conditions….like fennel for example….you may need to water it very frequently especially in the evening, so that the seed stays damp for a long period…water in the morning on a hot day, and the surface compost and seed may well dry out in just a few hours, and once the germination process has been initiated by moisture, there’s then a chance that the seed will fail, before it ever gets a decent root formed.