This Month in the Garden – March 2020 with Derek Cox

Recently Vi and I were talking about what we did during the summer school holidays in the late 1930’s. Then there were no televisions and in the village we lived many houses had no electricity so the battery wireless sets were only switched on to listen to either the news, or certain programs. Then, as no-one had a mobile phone, children had to make their own entertainment. We not only made up our own games, but during July and August we would go into the field’s blackberrying. We knew which hedgerows produced the best blackberries for our mothers’ to make blackberry jam, blackberry and apple pies and blackberry vinegar. However, all of our native blackberry brambles produced their fruit on their previous year’s growth and were very spiny, so we all went home with scratched hands and arms so the Vaseline was produced to rub on the scratches. Now there is no need as there are a number of named varieties that are spine free. One that immediately caught my eye in Pomona Fruits catalogue (www.PomonaFruits,co,uk) has the name ‘Ruben’ which was my grandfathers name, This is a unique blackberry as it listed as primocane, which means that it fruits on its current years new growth and as a consequence it can even be planted in a large container on a terrace. It also drops its spines by the time the fruit is ready to pick and here I must say the berries are almost twice the size of most other blackberries. Blackberries, especially when grown in containers should be fed every two weeks between April and August with tomato fertilizer and watered daily during very dry spells. As I mentioned in my last article I do love snowdrops and now have around 30 different varieties in my garden, three of these have double flowers, one being a double flowered form of our native snowdrop, which like our native snowdrop is easy to grow and readily available. Two of these are named after Shakespeare characters ‘Cordelier’ and ‘Desdemona’, both have completely double flowers and as a consequence produce no seed and are slow to increase, so are more expensive and not so readily available. On the eleventh of last February, together with fellow members of the Garden Media Guild we were invited to Belvoir Castle to view the numerous drifts of our native snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) that grew beneath the trees in the gardens. Most had single flowers, but occasionally we came across a double flowered form and all, despite a few inches of snow put on a glorious display that was enjoyed by everyone. You will notice that I have used the common name for snowdrop as when we were shopping in Wilko’s where, together with other places throughout Syston I was asked why I used all these long Latin names for plants when common ones are so well known. Common names even in this country vary from South to North and throughout the world one plant can have numerous names. Latin is used throughout the world as a given name, but here I would point out that Forsythia and Rhododendron are Latin names which everyone uses, this because they have now common names. A winter garden need not be devoid of colour as even during early February I had 11 shrubs, two climbers and a number of perennials and alpines in flower. On a visit to Church View Nursery in Barkby to buy some bird food I came across numerous Polyanthus in flower that although very eye catching my garden already has numerous Polyanthus in its borders. I did however buy another £11.00 worth of bird seed which in my three bird feeders seems to only last a week, I think the birds talk to each other and say come along to Cox’s cafe where the food is good.