Leicester University Botanic Gardens is well worth a visit, entrance is free and you can park free of charge on Glebe Road, which is the first road on the left before you come to the Leicester racecourse roundabout. On a recent visit to the Botanic Gardens we saw not only an amazing display of statues, but also numerous trees, shrubs, perennials, alpines and water plants. There is also a tropical and separate Cactus and Succulent greenhouse. I had better add the café, which serves tea, coffee, snacks and cakes.
Against one of the large, old houses, there was a large, untrimmed shrub of Itea ilicifolia, Itea Ilicifolia2and this was covered with long greenish-white catkins. I grow this shrub, see picture left, trained out on a south-facing fence, where I prune it during early April to form a seven feet wide by seven feet tall, 2.1m x 2.1m evergreen wall. Pruning every second year has to be drastic to keep the shrub only two feet, 60cm out from the fence. Although my foliage looks superior to that of the Botanic Garden, I have fewer catkins.
During August one of the most outstanding shrubs in the Botanic Gardens is a very large plant of Cotinus coggygria, Cotinus coggygria, Golden Spiritwhich was covered in fluffy off-white seed heads, hence the common name of ‘Smoke Bush’. I grow two varieties of this shrub, Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ whose purple foliage is amongst the finest of all purple leaf shrubs, unfortunately its pale purple seed heads are lost against the purple foliage. Cotinus coggygria ‘Golden Spirit’, pictured right, has yellow foliage and pale yellow seed heads. All of the Cotinus have good autumn foliage.
The Botanic Gardens has a large collection of Fuchsia’s, which are planted in formal beds and these will produce a magnificent show of colour into late October. Amongst the hundreds of Fuchsia’s, there were a number of large flowered forms, which I felt would need winter protection in a greenhouse. I grow that very hardy Fuchsia ‘Mrs Popple’, which I first planted over thirty years ago, on a number of occasions it has been cut down to ground level by very hard frosts, but it has always regrown to produce arching branches that are hung with red and purple flowers from July until November. I also grow Fuchsia michrophylla, which being a native to Mexico is often listed as not being hardy, but for many years it has survived in my South facing border, and during last winter its small deep green leaves remained on the plant throughout the winter. F. michrophylla has small rose-red flowers, but you need to be close to the plant to see them.
Most people will recognize Oregano as a herb, which is useful in cooking, but I class myself as a useless cook, consequently I only grow the ornamental forms of this herb. The botanical name for Oregano is Origanum and I grow two species, laevigatum ‘Hopleys’ whose strong stems reach out two feet, 60cm, and although the foliage is fragrant, it is the mass of pinkish-purple flowers that add colour to the garden from late July until late September. Origanum amamum is very low growing and consequently, is suitable for growing in a rockery, scree, or trough. It has attractive pinkish-purple flowers, but like all plants that are native to the Southern Mediterranean and Turkey, it does require very good drainage and sunshine.
Begonia's double redMy double red Begonia’s look a picture, see right, filling a border with their colour. I cannot say the same for my French Marigolds, which this year have produced growth, but very few flowers. I gave the Marigolds plenty of potash to see if it would help them to flower, it did make the plants look stronger, but still few flowers, so I now put it down to a poor batch of seed.
Incidentally, the two professional judges were very impressed with the gardens they had to judge in the Syston in Bloom ‘Front Garden Competition’, but on their journey around Syston they also saw a number of outstanding gardens and wondered why these were not in the competition.
Next year, if your garden or baskets look good, then enter the competition; after all, it is your display, which will help Syston to go for gold in next years East Midlands in Bloom.