Cold Snaps, Snowdrops, Greenhouse?

After a very mild December, winter finally made an appearance in January with much colder weather, and frosty nights. Some of the plants that were getting ahead of themselves are having a reminder what season it is!

Plants to be considering for your garden this time of year include Hellebores, Camellia, Edgeworthia, Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’, ‘Deben’, and ‘Charles Lamont’, Hamamelis (witch hazels), Jasminum nudiflorum (winter jasmine), the brightly coloured stems of Cornus (dogwoods), as well as the must have snowdrops. One can never have enough snowdrops – they herald the start of a brand new gardening season. I think they look best when planted en masse. In my parent’s garden, as a kid, we had such a planting in the corner of the garden next to a giant Rhododendron and beneath a small Sambucus tree. They could be seen from the patio window and were simply a delight.

Although the garden isn’t used so much at this time of year it is the perfect time to get any hard landscaping work done, whether it be replacing that wonky fence post, or something grander like an attractive new patio area in preparation for those distant summer barbeques! Maybe put up a greenhouse so you can grow something a little more exotic or at the least some home grown tomatoes! Seems a long way away just now!

Indoors our most popular plants for this time of year are the highly scented Hyacinths and the ever so colourful Cyclamen which from white to pinks to red, many with glorious marbled foliage which would make them a fine choice even without any flowers! As the orchid festival at Kew Gardens gets underway soon, we’ll be having a good selection of orchids to choose from too! Something unusual? Try an air plant or Tillandsia. They don’t grow in a pot of soil like most plants and require a spray of warm water once in a while… they are not everyone’s cup of tea but they have proved very popular recently…

Time for a cup of tea now….til next time!

Tips on Growing a Giant Sunflower

Top Tips for a Giant Sunflower!

  • Sounds obvious, but choose a very sunny position for your sunflower to grow.
  • In winter or early spring dig over the area where your sunflower will grow and mix in lots of well rotted horse manure.
  • Choose a variety that is known for tall sunflowers, such as ‘Russian Giant’ or ‘Giraffe’.
  • Choose the largest seeds from the packet, although I often sow all of them, and select the strongest seedlings for growing in the prime position. Can give the other seedlings away or plant elsewhere in the garden.
  • Sow your seeds in a pot inside on a window sill or in a heated greenhouse. You can sow maybe 6-12 seeds in a 6 inch pot filled with good quality seed compost.
  • Don’t let the compost dry out while the seeds germinate but by the same token don’t drown the pot either or the seeds or seedlings will rot.
  • When the seedlings are at least 2 inches tall you can separate them or prick them out. If the weather is warm they can go straight to their permanent growing location or if it is cold still plant one on it’s own in a 6 inch pot. Again use a good quality compost.
  • Support. Your sunflower will fall over if you do not give it some support so you need to support it with a bamboo cane. When they are very small in a pot you can use a split cane. Use garden twine to very carefully tie your sunflower stem to the cane. Don’t pull the knot tight as you will break the stem, so make it secure but not so loose that the plant flops around. Tie the knot on the cane not on the stem of the plant. Obviously if you intend to grow a monster you may need to choose some very canes or even joing a couple securely together. You will be tying lots of new knots as the sunflower gets taller! World record attempts have even had scaffolding around them!
  • Slug and snails. When you plant your young sunflowers, slugs and snails will eat them overnight if you don’t protect them. I am not mad on using slug pellets but they are the best method of stopping them.
  • Weeding – weed away any competing weeds and make sure that every one else that does gardening in the garden knows not to weed up your sunflowers. It happened to me once! I talk from experience.
  • Watering and feeding. Obviously you want to grow a huge sunflower, so you need to make sure it never runs out of water, and is fed well with a good fertiliser such as Growmore or Tomorite. I’d suggest once a week, or at least once every two weeks.

Edgeworthia chrysantha

Fabulous plant for February. Related to Daphne, it has richly scented flowers that open creamy yellow. Leaves follow the flowers.  Ideal shrub for a winter garden. Grows slowly. Could take 10 years to double in size, so good if space is a restriction also. See one growing at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Take the path from the Palm House lake to wards the order beds and you will find it half way along on your right underplanted with Cyclamen coum and Helleborus. Go to the back of the same bed to see a stunning Lapageria rosea (Chilean Bell Flower).