This Month in the Garden (March 2015) with Derek Cox

During February Dave Andrews, who presents Radio Leicester’s ‘Down to Earth gardening program, asked Josie Hutchinson and myself to go along to Stoneywell, the newly opened National Trust property at Ulverscroft. Stoneywell is a small, granite built house, which is set back into a large rock outcrop, but it was about the four acre gardens we were interested in. The gardens are not laid out formally, but they are a plant person’s paradise, especially as it has acid soil and grows 340 varieties of Rhododendrons to perfection. A large Hamamelis mollis dominated a bed at the side of the house, its brilliant yellow flowers adding light to a winter’s garden. The gardens would be well worth a visit during April and May just to see the Rhododendrons in flower, also from August until November the heathers and the fiery autumn colour of the Japanese maples should be outstanding. As the house and car park are small you will need to book an appointment to be allowed in. Here I must admit the three Hamamelis I grow in my garden do not seem to be as colourful as the one at Stoneywell, could it be that the air is so much clearer at Ulverscroft?
As our old tarmac driveway was crumbling we decided to have it taken up and a new driveway laid in a buff coloured fibre-reinforced concrete, which has been inlaid to appear like random sized paving. There is a gravel scree on one side of the driveway and as this was previously covered with grey gravel, it looked dirty alongside the driveway, so I had Goscote Nurseries deliver me 10 bags of 25 kilo bags of buff seashore pebbles, which I have now spread over the top of the grey gravel and this has given a fresh look to the scree. Now I need a number of new alpines, but I shall wait and go to the Alpine Garden Society show, which is to be held on the 8th of March at Charnwood College, Thorpe Hill, Loughborough, LE11 4SQ.
My Helleborus hybrids flower from February until April and although they are evergreen during their first winter, I cut all of the foliage down to ground level during January, not only to remove any leaves with leaf spotting fungus, but this also allows us to see a more impressive show of flowers. ‘Walburtons Rosemary’ is still the finest pink Hellebor, which unlike most Helleborus that hang their heads when in flower ‘Walburtons Rosemary’, as shown in our picture below, presents its flowers outward facing.

Polyanthus Orange Fire
Polyanthus Orange Fire

My polyanthus are in full flower so they brighten up the winter landscape, but the birds will insist on pulling the petals off and this ruins the display. The same applies to my snowdrops that were having their flowers cut neatly off their stems, this got me baffled, that is until I saw a young squirrel biting the heads off. This little devil also digs the daffodils out of my containers, which I keep in a border close to my greenhouse and when they start to flower the containers are brought down and stood on a raised bed wall for us to admire them. I do have a squirrel trap, but now I do not have the heart to kill them and as it is illegal to transport native animals and release them elsewhere I seem to be stuck with it. Any ideas how to stop squirrels?
My ‘Rocket’ first early potato, which I purchased during early February from the local Wilko store were set up in my garage using large cell trays to allow them to chit. During frosty nights I covered them with horticultural fleece and by late February they were chitting nicely. These will be planted in fifty litre black tree tubs during mid March and stood in my greenhouse. If you grow ‘Rocket’ this way in tubs you can almost guarantee a crop of new potatoes within ten weeks.
Derek.