During April and early May a very small amount of rain fell, so the soil in my garden, like so many other gardens in this area, became very dry and as a consequence, the flowers on plants during this time were very short lived. Among the worst affected were my Rhododendrons, whose flowers lasted only one week before collapsing. However Rhododendron ‘Hydon Dawn’ produced a superb display of rich pink flowers and these lasted for over three weeks. The reason for this was not variety, but the fact that during late April, one of the two 50 gallon water butts that caught the water off my garage was overflowing. The tap on one of the butts had a short length of hosepipe attached to it at the bottom of the butt and the end of this was placed close to this Rhododendron. To stop the butt overflowing I turned the tap on, then forgot about it so 50 gallons of rainwater thoroughly soaked the area where ‘Hydon Dawn’ and its deeper pink companion ‘Hydon Hunter ‘grew.
If I mention the word Convolvulus, most people will immediately think of bindweed, or bell bind, which although having attractive flowers can be a very troublesome weed whose roots travel through the soil to enable climbing shoots to pop up everywhere. Not all Convolvulus are troublesome weeds as I grow Convolvulus cneorum which is a low growing, evergreen Southern Mediterranean shrub, pictured left, with attractive silvery foliage and throughout the summer it produces a multitude of white, open trumpet shaped flowers with a pink stripe down the outside of each petal. This attractive shrub requires a well drained soil in a bright position. During the evening the flowers close up, but reopen the following day.
I have mentioned in my previous articles that I grow eleven different terrestrial orchids and in my sandy loam I find the easiest to grow is Dachtylorriza fuchsii and its hybrids between Dachtylorriza maculata, these even produce the odd seedling in containers and borders in my garden. From late May into June Dachtylorriza fuchsii produces 12/18 inch (30/45cm) spires of small flowers that are splashed and spotted with pink. Even out of flower the foliage looks attractive as the narrow green leaves are spotted with purple. I also have three North American hybrid Cypripedium’s growing closely together in a border and of these ‘Emil’ is an outstanding slipper Orchid whose yellow, open topped bowl shaped flower has a deep purple-red upstanding petal at its rear and a curling purple-red petal down either side. This prefers a moist, but not wet soil into which I work a quantity of old pine leaves. All of my terrestrial Orchids are hardy to minus 15 cel, so there is no need to coddle them during the winter.
During mid-May Lunaria annus ‘Albo Variegata’ produces a very colourful 18 inch (45cm) splash of colour in the garden. I grow this in half shade where its creamy-white nettle shaped leaves look outstanding. An added attraction is the pink flowers that stand out against the background of creamy-white leaves. The common name for the green leaf species is ‘Honesty’, both this, and the variegated form produce flat round seed heads. I would point out that Lunaria is an annual, which will self seed in the garden.
By the second week in May my ‘Jazzy; potatoes had grown 18 inches (45cm) above the top of the 50 litre black tree tubs in which they were planted and by this time the tubs had been filled with compost to within one inch (25mm) of the top of each tub. By then they had got beyond my ability to drag them back into the greenhouse each night so I decided to stand the three tubs outside in front of an evergreen Honeysuckle and then cover them each night with horticultural fleece. In two weeks time I am going to empty one of the tubs to see if the potatoes come up to expectations.