THIS MONTH IN THE GARDEN (June 2014) with Derek Cox

This year, due to the mild weather, our native weeds have excelled themselves, so much so that even during the first week in March I had to start weeding my borders. Even during the first week in April most of our roadside verges were ablaze with the brilliant yellow of dandelions, which if they were difficult to grow and never set seed, would be amongst the most desired garden plants. Daisies also form carpets of white flowers, often found as weeds in lawns. However, these, unlike dandelions, have over the years been improved on, so much so, that now we have fully double, pompom-like flowers in shades of pink and red. During Easter, my daughter and her husband took us to Trentham Gardens in Staffordshire. We never got around to looking at the gardens as their very large garden centre kept me intrigued for a couple of hours. In the garden center, I came across a number of plants that I had never seen before and finished buying some of them. Erysimum ‘Walbertons Fragrant Sunshine’ is a superb golden perennial wallflower that has a lovely fragrance. Over the years, I have grown a number of shrubby Hebe’s, which originate from New Zealand, some are hardy and others are not frost hardy in the midlands. In the garden centre, I came across Hebe ‘Heartbreaker’ (pictured above), which is a low growing evergreen shrub whose narrow leaves are edged with cream, but what caught my attention was the brilliant pink, new growth. I have planted ‘Heartbreaker at the edge of my gravel scree in well-drained soil, but have the feeling a hard winter will see its demise. I now wonder if this is why it is called ‘Heartbreaker’.
In the garden centre, I also came across Lonicera japonica ‘Princess Kate’, which is an evergreen honeysuckle whose leaves are edged with yellow and on impulse; I purchased one to plant in a shady spot on a fence to cover a trellis. In two weeks, ‘Princess Kate’ had grown 12 inches (30cm). I do hope that it is not as invasive as Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’, which twenty years ago I had to dig out, it, was so rampant and had the habit of producing branches that trailed along the ground, then it would grow up into shrubs nearby. In front of ‘Princess Kate’, I have planted two evergreen ferns that will tolerate shade, also the dwarf shrubby Euonymus fortunei ‘Harlequin’ (pictured below) whose almost white foliage would scorch in full sun. Euonymous fortunei Harlequin Davidia involucrata has the common name of ‘Handkerchief tree’ and when in flower you can see how it gets its name as each tiny flower has two very large white bracts, which hang along the branches like handkerchiefs. This slow growing tree is very uncommon in the Midlands and my tree, which is now fifty year old, took 15 years to produce its first flowers during May. This year, due to the mild weather my tree had over 200 handkerchief- like bracts. Last year I mentioned a brilliant red hollyhock in my Brother Ron’s garden and thought it might be worth introducing. However, although strong growing and flowering well, it suffers as do most hollyhocks, with hollyhock rust, which causes the leaves to become covered with rusty spots. I have drenched the hollyhocks with fungicide and although the young leaves are free of rust for a time, they eventually get rust. My ‘St George’ runner beans, which I planted three to a fifty litre black tree tub in my cold greenhouse have now grown 6 feet (1.8m) up their canes and are in full flower, so I do hope to be picking my own beans by the second week in June.