This Month in the Garden March 2021 with Derek Cox

It is no surprise to see how my three Hamamelis (Witch Hazels) put on such a glorious show of flowers during the snow and frost of mid February. I grow Hamamelis ‘Pallida’ which has yellow flowers and ‘Barmstedt Gold’, pictured above, with deep golden flowers; both open their flowers during January and will flower until March. The other variety I grow is ‘Westerstede’ and this flowers two weeks later than the others and is a more vigorous upright shrub that is ideal to plant at the rear of a border.

All three are hybrids between a Japanese and Chinese Hamamelis and for the last 40 years have always produced a glorious display of colour.

There are numerous other varieties of Hamamelis some with even orange or red flowers, but I prefer the yellow ones as they stand out even in the dullest spots in the garden. Whereas the orange, or red flowering varieties, unless viewed close to, will need a light background.

During hard frosts the petals curl inwards and as the frost lifts the petals once more display their colour. Here I would point out the name witch hazel has nothing to do with the Chinese and Japanese Hamamelis, but is derived from the American Hamamelis virginiana which was introduced to this country in 1736 and is the source of the commercial medical witch hazel.

I prune all of my Hamamelis as soon as the flowers have faded as by doing this I manage to keep them neat and compact.

Rhododendron ‘Boskoop Ostara’, pictured below, produces its shocking pink flowers during March and although grown in an almost neutral sandy loam this has also produced a mass of flowers every year. Here I must say that if a frost is forecast I always throw a thick net curtain over the plant as the flowers, although South facing, do get scorched by hard frost. ‘Ostara’ being a strong grower is also pruned immediately after flowering by pruning the previous year’s growth by two thirds.

The red flowering Chaenomeles (japonica) that grows on my East facing house wall is now in full flower and is a 10 feet x 7 feet (3m x 2.1m) sheet of brilliance. The only problem I find with training this out onto a wall, or fence is the amount of pruning that is necessary to keep it close to my house wall.

While visiting my friend in New Street Queniborough I saw a house opposite that had a beautifully espalier trained Pyracantha against a house wall. This three tiered espalier must be over 10 feet long by 7 feet high, (3m x 2.1m) and has a dense 18 inch (45cm) mass of evergreen foliage along the length of each tier. How I wish a person of similar ability would come along to Syston station on a Sunday to help train out the 6 Pyracantha’s we are trying to train out onto the wall at the rear of one border.

As I write this my daffodils ‘Tete a Tete’ are in flower and many others are in bud, I do love my daffs almost as much as my snowdrops.

During the second week in February I decided to move two container grown plants into my cold greenhouse. Abelia ‘Lady Peach’ is one of my all time favourite container grown shrubs, it forms a dense mound of evergreen yellow and deep peach coloured leaves for most of the year and during October and November it also produces small white, fragrant flowers.

The other container grown shrub is the Mexican Salvia ‘Hot Lips, which I have already pruned back by half its previous year’s growth. ‘Hot Lips’ has white flowers with a bright red lower petal. I fear if we get even more frosts they would suffer with die back.