This Month in The Garden, October 2012 with Derek Cox

Our Picture above shows small cuttings of the Acers Derek talks about in this months report, they are L-R: Crataegifolium ‘Vietchii’, Campestre ‘Carnival’, ‘Silver Cardinal’, Buergerianum ‘Goshiki Kaede’. 

During the last fifty years I have planted fifteen trees mainly to give height and structure to the garden and a number of these now help to screen the numerous houses, which are being built in the field at the rear. I have been very careful in my selection of trees most being chosen for their habit and foliage, rather than just for their flowers. After all, the flowers of most trees will usually only give a brilliant display of colour for three weeks, whereas a trees habit will last its lifetime and its foliage from spring until leaf drop.

Eight of the trees are small, or medium sized Acers (maples) and four of these have attractive variegated foliage. Acer ‘Silver Cardinal’ is one of the most flamboyant of small-variegated trees; its young leaves are variegated with red and as the leaves develop, the red fades to a silvery-cream. This tree has one other attraction, this being its branches, which are red when young and as they mature turn green, striped with white. Having told you how attractive it is, I would now point out the occasional branch will suddenly die back and will need to be pruned out. This year, due to the constant wet summer, ‘Silver Cardinal’ has put on three feet, 90cm of growth and there is no die back. When I mention the word maple, many people immediately associate the word with the Japanese maple Acer palmatum, but the common sycamore is a maple, as is our native field maple. I grow a variegated form of the field maple, which is Acer campestre ‘Cardinal’ whose leaves are richly variegated with creamy-white, at its best it is outstanding, but like many variegated plants it does have the occasional branch that reverts to green and needs to be removed as soon as it is seen. Acer crataegifolium has hawthorn-like leaves and although native to Japan, I have found it very hardy. For the last ten years, I have grown the variegated form named ‘Veitchii’, which has pink and white variegated leaves. The fourth of my variegated maple tree is native to Eastern China, this is Acer buergerianum ‘Goshiki Kaede’, which was purchased some fifteen years ago in Holland as a small potted plant and now forms a half standard tree over 10 feet, 3m tall. This maple has foliage that can be green variegated with white, or even pure white. I have planted this facing due west to prevent the foliage from suffering with sun scorch. All four have butter yellow, or orange autumn foliage.

During early September, on a visit to Dobbies Garden Centre at Mancetter, I came across pre-packed bulbs of 50 Iris reticulata. As the winter before last killed all of my Iris reticulata I purchased a pack and have now planted these in five groups of ten in sunny spots around the garden. Iris reticulata grows six to nine inches, 15/22cm with typical Iris flowers of blue, or purple with yellow, or orange beards. They resent wet waterlogged clay, but in my sandy loam soon form a tight clump. All who have read my column will know of my affection for Clematis, which I grow on trellis, pergola, and archways and even through large shrubs and trees. Last winter a plant of Clematis ‘Dr Ruppel’ died, but during early September, I came across a replacement at one of our local supermarkets at a knock down price. I purchased one and this was up potted into a one-litre pot, it will stay in my cold greenhouse until the end of March next year. Only three weeks earlier Thompson and Morgan forwarded me two plants of Clematis ‘Dancing Smile’, which has double soft pink flowers resembling a Dahlia. I have up potted both and they will stand in the greenhouse until the following year.

Although the hailstorm on the 28th June shredded the leaves of my ‘St George‘ runner beans, my constant attention to watering and feeding has resulted in a magnificent crop of tender beans. However, I cannot say the same for my container grown potatoes, which have only produced half the crop they have done in previous years.