This Month in the Garden December 2017/January 2018

Let me first of all mention BBC Radio Leicester who on November the 8th celebrated its 50th birthday. Radio Leicester was the first local radio station to be opened in the UK.
At that time the station organisers , Maurice Ennals and Ken Warburton, thought it would be a good idea to introduce a gardening program, so the late Geoff Amos was asked if he could do a quarter of an hour during the first Saturday. Geoff jumped at the chance and the program was so popular it went to half an hour. Geoff thought it would be a good idea to get gardeners to phone in with questions and as a consequence Radio Leicester became the first radio station in the whole of the country to have a live phone-in programme.
Geoff decided he would like a panel of gardening experts to help out with some of the questions and at that time, some 49 years ago I had designed a 60 x 20 feet (18 x 6m) Japanese garden for the Abbey Park show in Leicester. As I stood in the marquee giving advice about the garden and the plants used in it, Geoff Amos came into the tent with what looked like a small suitcase, this was a reel-to-reel tape recorder. He said “I like your garden and you seem to know your stuff, how would you like to give advice on BBC Radio Leicester’s ‘Down to Earth’ radio programme?”.
Now 49 years on, I still turn up to give advice and enjoy meeting gardeners throughout the county on a Sunday from 12.05pm until 1.00pm. Just tune in to 104.9 fm and enjoy a really good ‘Down to Earth’ gardening program.
This year I have found the growth of most plants has been exceptional and it is not only the branches and stems which have been longer, but many of my tree leaves have been larger and sappier. This has caused the autumn foliage of many trees and shrubs to be not only so colourful, but the leaves have turned brown and started to fall very quickly. Even the large tree of Crataegus x lavalleri ‘Carrieri’ at the rear of my garden, whose glossy leaves usually start to turn brown and fall during December, have this year turned brown during the second week in November. The hardy Fuchsia ‘Mrs Popple’ still has a lovely show of red and purple flowers and leaves that are still green. This year, due to a frost free spring there has been a very good set of fruit and berries.
When Vi and myself visited my daughter Louise and her hubby James, we saw a mini standard of Cotoneaster x suicicus ‘Juliette’, pictured here, that was massed with orange-red berries. This makes a very attractive miniature weeping evergreen tree whose small green leaves have a broad creamy margin.
Having lost their leaves, many of our native trees can look dismal in a winter’s landscape. However, many of the trees which originate from cold or temperate parts of Asia and North America have attractive trunks and new branches. The Himalayan birch, Betula utilis, has provided us with a number of forms with almost white trunks, there is a tree of this growing in the grass behind the bus shelter, close to the old Police station on Melton road. I also have a tree of this in my garden together with the form ‘China Rose’ whose young bark is a pinkish-bronze colour. Many of the Japanese maple trees have green trunks that have brilliant white stripes running down them. One of the most outstanding is Acer davidi and this has been hybridised with the North American Acer pensylvanicum to create one of the finessed small trees for any garden as its trunk is a pink shade with white lines, but one of its most outstanding attractions is its current years branches that during November suddenly turn a bright red and this colour lasts until the new growth starts during the following spring.
A fox or squirrel has, for the last few weeks, been chewing holes in the side of my shed so now I need to get five or six 10 feet (3m) long planks to replace the ones chewed.
This leaves me with wishing you a happy Christmas and a trouble free New Year. Derek.