THIS MONTH IN THE GARDEN (June 2015) with Derek Cox

I shall always remember April of this year for three things. One, it was Vi’s birthday and I almost forgot it. Two, the weather was so fine and sunny that most things, including weeds, came into growth so early that the flowers and new growth looked marvellous. Three, was for the three degrees of frost on the last night of April, which caused much of the new growth and flowers to turn brown. Since then I have pruned off all of the dead growth and I am pleased to say that everything has once more produced a new lot of growth. A number of my perennials were cut back by the frost to ground level, but now I see even my Alstoemeria’s have grown to be twelve inches (30cm) tall and are now showing flower buds. However, most of my perennials are toughies that will, even in flower stand a few degrees of frost. Bergenia’s (Elephants Ears) were in full flower during late April their pink flowers seemed to be impervious to the frost. This perennial will grow in most soils, even those that have seen no fertiliser for many years.
Erysimum Walbertons fragrant sunshine. close upI must admit that Erysimum ‘Walburtons Fragrant Sunrise’ is one of my favourite perennials, its bright golden flowers open during early May and are still in flower. The common name for this evergreen perennial is Wallflower, which I first saw growing in the old fashioned mauve form in my grandfather’s garden. Erysimum’s are short lived perennials, so as soon as the flowers have faded, cut the flower heads off and new shoots will appear. As soon as the shoots are firm enough a number of these can be removed and used as cuttings, which if inserted in pots containing half and half Perlite and multipurpose compost that is kept moist, but not wet and out of full sunlight, will root and be ready to pot on within six weeks.
For a number of years I have grown the annual Lunaria annua, which most will knowLunaria Annua Alba Variegata under its common name of Honesty whose pinky-mauve flowers are followed by flattened disk-shaped seed pods. This has now proved so invasive that I decided to get rid of it. However, last year my friend and fellow broadcaster Josie Hutchinson gave me a plant of Lunaria annua ‘Alba Variegata’, an outstanding form whose green leaves have a broad white margin that not only complement the flowers, but also look outstanding when planted in front of plants with dark foliage.
Ants have always been troublesome in my garden and this year even during April they invaded a small trough containing a number of South African Delosperma hybrids. These have succulent leaves and bright daisy-like flowers that will only open in sunlight. This trough is stood in full sun and as a consequence the trough and compost warms up quickly so it is a haven for ants. I flooded the trough and even resorted to ant killer, but they still persisted, so during mid-May I took the plants out of the trough and emptied the compost into one of my borders where the blackbirds soon found the eggs. The Delosperma plants had their roots shaken out and have now been replanted in another trough.
The majority of my Rhododendrons are at their best during May and June and although many people only think of Rhododendrons as large shrubs, but in their native habitat they may be seen as small trees, or even prostrate ground cover shrubs. I have three prostrate forms in my rockery my favourite being Rhododendron nakahari ‘Mariko’, which forms a tight, evergreen carpet whose upward facing orange-red flowers appear during late May and June. All Rhododendrons need acid soils, mine thrive in a sandy loam of PH6.5, which is just below neutral, but they will not grow in soils with a high lime content.
My ‘Rocket’ first early potatoes, which I planted in my cold greenhouse in 50 litre black tree tubs during mid-March are now ready for my wife to use for cooking, they have a superb flavour, which just goes to show that it is well worth growing your own vegetables.