This Month in the Garden April 2017 by Derek Cox

This year BBC Radio Leicester celebrates its 50th anniversary and consequently it is the longest serving of all BBC local radio stations.
During this time it has been a privilege for me to be able to work as a garden advisor for 49 years on BBC Radio Leicester’s ‘Down to Earth’ gardening program.
49 years ago during August myself and members of Goscote Nurseries staff had built a large Japanese garden with a tea house, contemplatory garden and stream that were planted mainly with Japanese shrubs, herbaceous and waterside plants. At that time the late Geoff Amos came to me with a large tape recorder and asked if I would like to talk for a few minutes about the plants we had used. Afterwards he said, ‘You seem to know your stuff, how would you like to become a member of BBC Radio Leicester’s ‘Down to Earth’ gardening panel? At that time I did not know there was a BBC radio station in Leicester, but thought I would give it a go. 49 years later and I am still giving advice on ‘Down to Earth’ so the BBC newspaper has decided to do an article about myself and John Smith who together are probably the oldest and longest serving of all local radio gardeners.
To top it all they wanted a photograph of us both and as I am useless at photography I asked our lovely Syston Town News editor if she could take a picture of me in the garden. Fiona is magic with a camera and to prove it you can see the photograph she has produced, left. Incidentally if you are wondering what the shrub is in the container in this photo, it is Viburnum tinus ‘Laura Roza’, which has 103 flowering stems on it.
On the 15th March the border on the Builder Base side of the car park at Syston railway station was as Wordsworth would say, ‘A cloud of golden daffodils’. Trevor invited the railway people along to look at the Syston in Bloom panels achievements in turning part of the station car park from a tip into two attractive borders and flower boxes, which have given the station a new lease of life. The three representatives from the railway were very impressed and thought the station outstanding and congratulated the Syston in Bloom committee for the work they had put into its development.
During the third week of March my forty year old Rhododendron ‘Boskoop Ostara’ was in full bloom and covered with rosy-pink flowers.
This is now four feet (1.2m) in diameter and when it first came out, due to a slightly taller bushy conifer growing in front of it, we could not see most of the flowers from out of our kitchen window. So as late March and early April is the time to give conifers their first trim I went out and cut the conifer back by about nine inches (22cm) and this allows us to now see all of the flowers. Incidentally when trimming conifers always trim back to where there are still green leaves, many conifers will not regrow out of old wood.
The 37 Saxifrage species and cultivars that I grow in gravel screes, rockery, trough and sinks now look gorgeous. Most are absolutely covered with either white, yellow, apricot, pink, or red flowers so it is difficult to see the foliage and as all are evergreen, even without their flowers many have attractive silvery foliage.
The runner beans and climbing French beans that I planted in cell trays in my greenhouse have now immerged and at their first true leaf I shall pot the cell grown plants first into 9cm plant pots and three weeks later into one litre plant pots where I shall use 18 inch (45cm) flower sticks to enable them to start climbing. These will stop in my greenhouse until they are planted into 50 litre black tree tubs, three to a tree tub during May.
I have five different forms of our native violet growing in my garden and the first to open during late February was a deep purple, two weeks later the royal blue form open and this was followed by lavender, mauve and white. All but for the white self seed around the garden and in some places i.e. my rockery they become weeds.
As I write this I have just had delivered from Thompson and Morgan five tubers of Begonia ‘Daffadowndilly’, which I ordered as they have different flowers to other begonias looking more like orange, trumpet shaped daffodils.