This month in the garden

During the winter months the colour black, on it’s own can look vary funereal, but when grown amongst other plants with gold, cream or silver foliage the contrast can be quite startling. In my garden, I grow Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Tom Thumb’ a low growing, evergreen New Zealand shrub whose green young foliage, during late summer, an unusual glossy purple-black. What makes ‘Tom Thumb’ look outstanding is the fact I planted this close to a low growing standard Euonymus fortunei ‘Sunshine’, which has gold variegated leaves. In front of ‘Tom Thumb’ there is a close pruned evergreen shrub of the cream variegated Abelia x grandiflora ‘Confetti’. Ophiopogon planiscapis ‘Nigrescens’ is a prostrate perennial with almost black, grass like evergreen leaves and lilac-purple flowers in late spring. My wife thinks this is a dull looking perennial, but when planted together with the prostrate evergreen, yellow variegated shrub Vinca minor ‘Variegata’ together they will form a dense carpet of black and yellow. As I have found it to be too tender to grow outdoors in Leicestershire, I grow the evergreen Coprosma ‘Pacific Night’ in a twenty five-litre black tree container, this enables me to take it into my cold greenhouse to over winter. ‘Pacific Night’ has shining green young foliage, which during the summer turns black, but in my greenhouse the shining black looks quite attractive. From black let me turn to white, as during February and March my snowdrops are at their best. I grow thirty different snowdrops, but if asked to pick just one, I would chose Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’ as this is strong, reliable and puts on a lovely display of white flowers no matter what the weather is. Our native snowdrop Galanthus nivalis is also a very reliable plant and is far better for planting in lawns, or in wild flower gardens. Last October I received a parcel from Canny Gardens in which there was a polystyrene box containing a tray of 60 Primrose ‘FI Bonneli’ hybrid plugs. I immediately transplanted these into 5cm cell trays to grow into plants large enough to plant out in the garden. As the weather was not conducive for me to plant them out, during January I decided to pot them up into 9cm pots. In the meantime, I gave one of the cell trays containing 15 Primroses to my brother Ron. During the first week in February, I went along to see Ron and his wife Joyce and to my surprise, found he had during January, planted out his Primroses and they were in full flower. Those in pots in my greenhouse were only just starting to open, as I already have a number of primroses in my garden I have now given some to Sue Gamble to plant in the wild life garden at St Peter and Paul school in Upper Church Street. I always start to plant my first early potatoes during the second week in March, these I plant in 25/50 litre black plastic tree containers containing a mixture of half-and-half John Innes no3 compost and multipurpose compost. This year I used ‘Swift’ as my first early as this variety, when grown in the greenhouse for four weeks and then taken outdoors during fine weather, will produce a crop of new potatoes within ten weeks. When planting potatoes in containers only half fill the container place three potatoes on the compost and then only just cover them with more of the prepared compost. Then, as the potatoes grow gradually fill around the growing stems, the stems will then root into the compost and consequently, give you a much larger crop of potatoes. On Saturday 9th March, the Alpine Garden Society will hold its spring show at Burleigh Community College, Thorpe Hill, Loughborough. I go to this show every year and always come away with a few plants. Last year I purchase a pot of Narcissus bulbocodium conspicuum var tenuifolius, what a large name for such a little beauty, which I planted in a well-drained scree where, during the first week in February it produced a single yellow, flared petticoat like flower on only a three-inch, 75mm, stem.