Sunday, 20 April 2014

They have enough nerve

I'm afraid there's no denyin'
I'm just a dandylion
(The Wizard of Oz 1939)

My garden is currently in the grip of its annual dandelion invasion.  Every year about this time I look out across the garden and I wonder if I do actually own the national collection of dandelions, I certainly feel like I am cornering the market on them.
I feel a touch of guilt when I am cursing the dandelions as unwanted, as I see them scattered amongst the daisies I wonder why the daisies are welcome, nay encourage to spread at will, yet the dandelion I do not feel so happy with.  I am aware this is at best double standards.
I see them mixed in with these Spanish bluebells, a plant I also discourage, yet it is the dandelion that annoys me more.  I do dig up lots of Spanish bluebells as I work to the theory that there are plenty more where they came from.  I would say the difference is that no matter what I do there are always plenty of dandelions, so you might think it was this abundance that makes me dislike them; but I grow Nigella and teasels and they seed everywhere too yet I do not get so grumpy with them.
Dandelions dot throughout the Wild Garden, along with the nettles and the thistles and here I get less worried, it is in the main garden that I realise I do not want them.  At the same time I realise that if I did not let them grow in the Wild Garden I would have fewer in the main garden, choices choices.  It is, yet again, a case of a rod for my own back.
I mow them when they are in the lawns, I hope that this helps keep them somewhat in control.  I also pull their flowers off as I pass by, its sort of cruelly satisfying.  I also know, there will be plenty more where they came from, I am just trying to limit the amount of seed heads.  For they have great nerve and confidence, they stride confidently around the garden looking like the own the place.  I am fairly sure that the collective noun for dandelions is a confidence of dandelions.
Yet they have great beauty, the shine in the sun and wildlife loves them.  I feel almost even more guilty as I write this.  Except they are rampant, they seed everywhere, everywhere!  Just when you think you have finished weeding you see one, popping its head out from the centre of clump of plants, they wedge themselves into the side of plants so they are hard to dig out without damaging the host plant.  They are, in fact, the champion weed-player of hide and seek and yes, I do hold this against them.
In reality the dandelion has even quite a cool name, Taraxacum officinale, a word with an x in it is usually quite cool.  The dandelion has well known diuretic properties, it is commonly known as 'wet the bed'.  It is a prolific spreader, no matter how beautiful the seedheads are, every seed, yes every seed that hits the grown will become another plant, I am sure this must be true.  It doesn't even need fertilising, no, the devil will produce seed asexually, that is how wicked it is.

The name 'dandelion' derives from the french 'dente de lion', lion's tooth from the shape of its leaves.  The root of the dandelion can also be roasted to create coffee.   I have tried dandelion coffee, it was not the best thing I have ever tried.
So we can admire the dandelion's beauty, but be also aware of its invasive nature.  It is definite that if you give it an inch it will take over your garden, it will ruin your lawn whether you want it to or not and even if, like me, you are not really bothered about a perfect lawn, it will still be a sufficient nuisance for the occasional curse.
and don't forget, just when you think you have weeded every last one of them out of your border one will suddenly appear, its like the villain in every good horror film just when you thought it was all over, it rarely is as there are legions of sequels to come.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

A problem shared

Dear (insert name of favourite problem page)

My Magnolia 'Fairy Blush' is poorly, it has been declining pretty much from day 1 of planting which was two years ago.  At first I thought it was just sulking, many plants sulk after being planted and I had no reason to believe that Fairy Blush was not just having a teenage moment and refusing to get out of bed.
But then the leaves started to get that yellow look, yes, that yellow look that means all is not well. Following the yellow look came the brown dying leaf look, this is never a good look.
But I hear you cry, you claim to have acid soil, why does it look so poorly when your soil should make it happy?
I thought the same,  I thought the same.  My only conclusion is that the specific area where I planted it is not as acid as some other parts of the garden.  What am I to do?
best wishes
Worried of Leicester

Dear Worried of Leicester

You have answered your own problem, you know you have other areas of the your garden that has more acid soil, so move the plant, yes, move it, its looks like it might not last where it is so what's to lose?
You have written as if you think the shrub is dying, so if it dies as a result of moving it you have lost nothing.  If you move it and it improves then all will be well.  It might be worth after moving it giving it a good feed, just to set it off on the right path.

Good luck!

Yours exasperated with answering self-evident problems
Aunty Jean 

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Wood wandering

The other day I went to a plant fair at Evenley Wood in Northamptonshire, it is about an hour's drive so not too bad to get to.  To be honest, whilst I enjoy a good plant fair, that was really just an excuse as I had wanted to visit for a while now.
The plant fair was good, I bought a Daphne mezereum, which I had been after for quite a while.  I had one at my previous home and whilst I found they could  be a bit tricky to settle in, once happy they are a great shrub.  I also bought an Asarum eurpaeum, which I was not actively seeking but it jumped into the bag and demanded to be taken home, honest.
After the purchasing was complete and the plants stored in the car, it was time to wander around the wood.  There was a choice of walks, a 30 minute or an hour or so, we chose 30 minutes (no need to overdo things).
It was a very enjoyable walk, the Magnolias were huge and wonderful.  It is always good to see a Magnolia freed from the constraints of the front garden and reaching for the sky.  There was also some good underplanting, I particularly liked these hyacinths, which might not have had the most attractive label in the world, but at least I know which ones they are.  I cannot abide hyacinths in the house, I find the smell overwhelming, but outside I find them rather wonderful and the scent is dispersed enough to make it attractive.
There were some rather good camellias too, this one I particularly liked, Camellia transnokoensis, it is of course now on the list.
There were a lot of streams running through the wood, love how this one is lined by marsh marigolds.
We found the naughty corner, where plants who have transgressed in some way are imprisoned and shown as an example to other plants lest they fall off the path of righteousness.
Or of course they might just have a bad rabbit/deer (insert name of plant destroying mammal) problem.

There were also some clumps of trilliums, I love trilliums and they were setting some at the plant fair, but I decided that for me it was quicker to just bury £10 in the ground as it would grow just as well.  I have never managed to provide them with what they need  to make them thrive.
There were swathes of these Narcissus cyclamineus.  These are beautiful small narcissus that spread by seed.  These are also on the list.
But probably what was most breathtaking of all was this stream of blue Scilla siberica, well I think that is what they were anyway.  Everyone who walked up to them stopped and gasped, they were just amazing.  Yes, a stream of thousands of blue scilla is also on the list (what do you mean I haven't the space?).
There was the obligatory stop for tea and cake following our walk.  This is a very important part of this sort of day as important discussions have to take place.  Not only discussing the quality and choice of cake, but also discussing what we have seen, what we liked, what we thought was the best thing to do about growing trilliums because whilst pithily I might say bury the money in the ground, I do want to grow them.  I also do not want to waste money, so the decision was made, there was one way I could try again to grow them but not at huge expense - seed.  Oh yes, seed will be sought.

Let us be clear, tea is a vital part of gardening, it fuels the thought processes.  When stopping for a tea break when weeding this will be the moment that a solution to a problem becomes apparent, it is the time when you suddenly know that you do have to move that plant from over there to over here.  Tea fuels it all.  The combination of this wander around a rather good wood plus tea meant various ideas were created and stored, it was a good day for inspiration.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A long recovery

I bought this Magnolia loebneri 'Leonard Messel' six years ago on the way back from the Isle of Man.  It was a bargain buy as it was reduced to only £25.  It was a large specimen and worth every penny.  It was love at first sight and I had to have it.  Had I have been in my own car it would have been impossible, my car was tiny and this plant was not, however I was travelling in a camper van at the time so there was room for it to fit in the back.  Except it did have to share the space in the back as there was also a motorbike in the van at the time (not mine I hasten to add).  This meant that it was very hard to get the Magnolia into the van as the doorway was blocked by the very heavy bike.  With no ramp to get the bike in and out it was not possible to take it out of the van.  So there was a comedy moment of taking out a van window and loading the plant through it.  The Magnolia thankfully survived this indignity very well.  It duly arrived home and I planted it out a few days later.  The plant was so heavy I hurt my back quite badly lugging it down the garden.  This plant was already sowing the seeds to become a saga.
That first year the Magnolia finished blooming but struggled after planting as it was a dry year.  I kept it watered but it was not hugely happy.  The next year it was apparent it had died back quite a bit.  I pruned off the dead wood and the Magnolia sulkily produced a flower or two.  It was about halved in size at this point.

Another year passed, it was growing a bit, but it was still not thriving, there was further die-back and I began to seriously wonder if it would survive.  I kept it well watered and hoped and hoped that it would become happy again.
The last couple of years have been far less dry.  Whilst there are downsides to so much rain the upside is that some plants are much happier.  I think the combination of getting enough rain and also just maturing a few more years, the Magnolia this year has turned a corner and is suddenly looking amazing.
It is joy on a stick.
Now I am full of confidence that every year it will bloom and bloom and be as wonderful as I had hoped the first day I saw it.