This Month in the Garden with Derek Cox

It must be 25 years ago since I planted a three feet (90cm) tall plant of Sophora ‘Sun King’, which by 2010 had grown into a small evergreen tree. However, the hard frosts during the winter of 2010 split the trunk and by the spring the top two thirds of the plant was dead. I sawed the trunk back to within three feet (90cm) of the ground and by midsummer it had produced a number of strong young branches. Now the same plant is seven feet (2.1m) tall and this year its branches have numerous golden flowers hanging from them.
Observed from my kitchen window, my neighbours garden has a larger evergreen shrub of Photinia ‘Red Robin’, whose reddish-bronze new leaves are forming a superb backdrop to ‘Sun King’. Also close by is a five feet (1.4m) tall evergreen shrub of Pieris japonica ‘Carnaval’ that has cream variegated foliage, but its new growth is a brilliant red, the three together form an outstanding feature.
In the border at the rear of my pseudo Japanese garden there is an old shrub of Pieris ‘Forest Flame’, which although over forty-years-old, is slow growing and now still only forms a shrub some five feet (1.4m) in diameter. This has the most outstanding foliage of the seven Pieris that grow in my garden, its creamy-yellow variegated leaves are larger the ‘Carnaval’ and the new leaves are a brilliant red. Pieris produce sprays of white lily of the valley-like flowers mainly during April and early May. I would point out that Pieris resent soils with a high lime content and although many garden books will tell you they will only grow in acid soils, all of mine thrive in sandy loam, which is PH6.5 on the acid side of neutral.
I have mentioned my neighbours Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’ that will form a large evergreen shrub, but it can be pruned with secateurs a number of times throughout the growing season and each time you prune it the new leaves will appear reddish-bronze, that is until it stops growing in October. You can even grow this as a hedge and to its advantage it will grow in most garden soils.
I have two variegated forms of Photinia, ‘Pink Marble’ whose large laurel-like green leaves when dormant are marbled with white, but when growing the new leaves are a striking reddish-pink. ‘Pink Crisp’ is a shrub you would either like, or dislike as its laurel-like leaves are striped and splashed with cream and green, but its new leaves are a vivid pink, splashed and striped with cream and green. Incidentally, the Syston in Bloom committee have planted a shrub of ‘Pink Marble’ in each of the large round containers in the border close to the slope up to the platform at Syston station.
Cornus canadensis ‘Flora Plene’ is not a shrub, but an herbaceous perennial that is often recommended for light sandy loams. Many years ago when I purchased this, I did plant it in a border containing sandy loam and it romped away, so I chopped the clump in half and planted part of it on the edge of my bog garden. It loves the edge of my bog garden where it produces a multitude of pure white double flowers. The common name for this plant is ‘Blood Root’ and this is due to the fact that when a root is broken, the sap that leaks out is almost blood red.
In the past I have mentioned Arum italicum ‘Marmoratum’ whose large spear shaped leaves are variegated with silvery cream. This has dull creamy-green flowers that are followed by upright spires of orange berries, which the blackbirds love and as a consequence they drop the seed all over my garden so that new plants appear here, there and everywhere. This year I came across the best seedling that has appeared in my garden, its foliage is much larger and better variegated than others that have appeared.
For some reason I cannot resist purchasing brilliant, newly introduced daffodils and the variety ‘Paricutin’ which I purchased last year from Walkers Bulbs in Lincolnshire has the most lovely flowers whose outer petals are yellow and complement the orange flared trumpet in its centre.These are at present growing in a container until I can find space to plant them in the garden.