This Month in the Garden – May 2015

Magnolia x soulangiana ‘Alexandrina’
Magnolia x soulangiana ‘Alexandrina’

The Chaenomeles x hybridus .Hollandia’ that some 40 years ago I trained out on a trellis on the East facing wall of my house is now in full bloom, thousands of red flowers, which have a boss of yellow stamens creating a vertical carpet of colour. Chaenomeles are not natural climbers and need to have their branches tied out onto a trellis and then pruned after flowering to maintain them close to the wall. In the past Chaenomeles were always referred to as Japonicas and although they have beautiful flowers, the branches also have a number of thorns on them, so do wear gloves when training, or pruning them.
During April a potted group of Narcissus ‘Velocity’ came into flower. This is an ideal daffodil for growing in containers as when in full flower it is only 12 inches (30cm) tall. ‘Velocity’ has flowers with deep yellow petals and narrow orange-red trumpets. If kept moist and out of full sun the flowers last into May.
Last month I mentioned how fond I am of Saxifrages and how useful they are as rockery plants. Well, some forty years ago I purchased two large blocks of tuffa from the then Harry Fowkes garden centre on the Fosse Way. This garden Centre, like so many of the nurseries and garden centres of my youth have turned into housing estates. Tuffa is a volcanic limestone, which has small holes running throughout it and this makes it ideal to ream out small planting holes into which you can plant alpine plant plugs. Forty years ago I planted one of my tuffa blocks with Saxifrages and now they have grown so well that it is difficult to see the original tuffa. The other block of tuffa was placed on gravel scree in half shade and now moss seems to be overtaking the plants. This means I need to move this block into full sun and then eliminate the moss.

Yellow Saxifrage covering the Volcanic rocks
Yellow Saxifrage covering the Volcanic rocks

Whilst on the subject of moss, algae and lichen, I had my paving slabs and terrace cleaned by a professional pressure washer, so now my paving is brown instead of being a dirty black. To help prevent the paving from once more turning black I purchased a bottle of Green Off, which according to its instructions will kill algae, lichen and moss without being harmful to animals and plants. I have sprayed the paving and now await the results.
This year Magnolia’s seem to have escaped damage by late spring frosts, my own two Magnolia’s look magnificent, but looking down the road into a front garden in Oxford Street I can see a superb specimen of Magnolia x soulangiana ‘Alexandrina’ that is covered with large white flowers that have a pink stripe near the base of each petal.
I have five different Pleione’s growing in pots in my cold greenhouse and by far the easiest of these to grow is Pleione formosana whose pink flowers have a orange and dark pink spotted beard on the lower petal. I tried growing this outdoors for two years in a bed next to my greenhouse, but it has not appeared this year. Pleione’s are terrestrial orchids and although many of you will not believe it, there are quite a number of terrestrial orchids, which are native to both this country and throughout the temperate parts of the world, in fact I have eleven growing in various places in my garden.

Pleione formosana
Pleione formosana

During mid April in my cold greenhouse I sowed my runner bean seed in cell trays. ‘St George’ and ‘Firestorm’ took nine days to germinate and after potting them first into 9cm pots during late April and then into 1 litre pots during the first week in May, by which time I needed to cane and tie them up. During mid-May they will be planted each to 50 litre black tree tubs and 6 feet (1.8m) canes inserted. My ‘Rocket’ potatoes are now 12 inches (30cm) above the top of the tubs in which they are growing and at this rate we should be having new potatoes by the first week in June.