This Month in the Garden – March 2018 with Derek Cox

First let me say how pleased I am to be able once more to use my right arm after dislocating it on New Year’s Eve. During the first week in February the Royal Infirmary gave me the all clear, not only to drive, but also to carry out work in my garden. Between November and the first week in February I had counted 14 night frosts, but as 4 degrees Celsius was the hardest, many of my winter flowering shrubs and perennials were not affected.
As I walk around the garden I am amazed to see Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’ in flower, see picture right, which although being native to the Balearic Isles in the Mediterranean, not only withstood the frosts, but started to flower during the first week in January and as I write this it is still in flower. You will find this Clematis listed in books as only suitable for a sheltered spot in the garden, but mine is growing on a trellis and over an arch at the rear of my garden exposed to the East and is now 10-years-old.
I have mentioned before about the numerous polyanthus that I grow in my garden, but while we were shopping at Gambles the butchers, next to Syston brook, I spotted some brilliant Polyanthus outside Scott and Cathie’s, the greengrocers next door. One of these was an outstanding orange-red with a bright yellow centre, so I bought six of these and planted them in the two small troughs on my terrace where they look outstanding. I must admit that they were planted very quickly, not because of the weather, but due to the strong scent of the thousands of small white flowers on the metre diameter Sarcoccoca hookeriana ‘Purple Stem’ that grows in the border at the side of my terrace. If I stand by this for a long time it upsets my asthma, but as this shrub is a magnet for bees, I would not be without it.
Recently Caroline (miss Muddy Knees), who helps me with weeding, forked over my bog garden and I told her to take out all but one of ‘Bowles Golden Grass’, which although its bright yellow foliage is a brilliant addition to the garden, it has one fault – this being that it does seed around the garden, often in amongst other perennials. Now, as the surface of the bog garden has been forked over, the local cats have now decided to use it as a toilet!
This year my Hamamelis (witch hazel shrubs) came into flower about three weeks later than the previous year. ‘Barmstedt Gold’, pictured here, is still my most outstanding forming a 7 feet (2m) tall shrub, which at present is a mass of golden flowers. Odd though it may seem, ‘Westerstede’, which is a stronger grower, usually flowers during late February and March, but this year it is in flower a month earlier. In my rockeries, many of my Saxifrages are now in flower and many of these have attractive evergreen silver foliage.
Last year I grew ‘Jazzy’ as an early potato and found it not comparable with the earlies that I have grown in previous years. This year I shall go back to ‘Swift’ as a first early and ‘Charlotte’ as my second early. More about these next month as I prepare them for growing in 50 litre black tree tubs.