I grow two different kinds of roses in fifteen litre pots, which in turn, are stood on upturned pots inside an Alibaba type ornamental pot. The two roses were given to me some 25 years ago at Chelsea flower show, and although I have forgotten their names, they are ground cover roses that were supposed to be immune to blackspot. They did seem to be free of blackspot for about five years, then they became infected, so now I have to spray them with a systemic fungicide during April and July. I repot both roses every other year and I do this during March, just as the plants are starting to grow. I take the plants out of the pots and shake out all of the compost, and then I prune a number of the roots back by one third of their length. The roses are repotted in fifty per cent John Innes number three compost and fifty percent multipurpose compost, this is thoroughly mixed together with a dessert spoonful of slow release multipurpose fertilizer. The plants are kept well watered during the growing season and a supplementary feed of rose fertilizer is added to the water once a fortnight from May until September. Both roses stand on a patio in half shade, one produces single pink flowers and the other double pink flowers from June until late October. The dry weather during September seemed to curtail the growth, but during the first week in October, as soon as it rained, the plants produced a new lot of growth, and are now covered in flowers. I must point out that I now never grow shrubs or any other perennial plants straight into compost in Alibaba pots. These have a narrow neck; this makes it impossible to get plants out without resorting, as I did some years ago, to using an old bread saw, which cut the root ball to the size of the top opening of the pot.
In my garden, there are two birch trees and neither is native to the British Isles. Betula utilis var jacquemontii is a beautiful birch that originates from the Eastern Himalayas. This birch has pure white bark, which unlike our native silver birch, sheds its old bark every year leaving the trunk pristine white. The other birch is Betula albosinensis ‘China Ruby’, which some years ago I purchased as ‘China Rose’. This unusual birch has brownish-pink old bark, but as the old bark is shed, the new bark is a ruby-pink. You may guess where it originates from by its name. Both birches will grow into medium sized trees and as with all birches, if, and when they need pruning, do it from November until late January. If you prune birches when they are in leaf, or even when the sap is rising during February, they will bleed sweet sap, which will not only make the trunk and branches sticky, but also attract wasps, ants and other insects.
Last year I wrote about Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Soft Curls’, which produces large, evergreen rosettes of spine free leaves. I grow this on my terrace in a 15-litre pot in half-and-half John lnnes no.3 compost and multipurpose compost. During the summer, it is watered almost daily and once a fortnight is fed with tomato fertilizer; consequently, it has grown to almost twice its original size and now from the centre of its four rosettes there are spires of soft yellow flowers. Last year it produced no berries, but I am hoping that it will fruit this year to enable me to sow the seed just to see what emerges.
This year my Nerine bowdenii ‘Mark Fenwick’ has, during October, produced eighteen flower stems, each stem being topped with between seven and nine pink, open trumpet shaped flowers and these often last for four weeks. The problem this year is, that due to my letting Itea ilicifolia grow out over three feet, 1m, from the fence, the Nerine’s, which are planted two feet, 960cm, from the fence have had to lean forward towards the sun, so the 18 inch, 45cm stems are now only 12 inches, 30cm from the ground.
Once more it is squirrel time in my garden, this is due to my neighbours walnut tree bearing numerous walnuts, I do not mind it eating the nuts, but the darned thing will keep burying them in my garden. This year I must have dug up 40 walnut trees and these have a deep tap root so even when young it is a spade job.