This Month in the Garden (May 2021) with Derek Cox

By computer I manage to keep in touch with nurserymen and keen plants men and women not only in the UK, but also throughout the world. As a consequence I receive information about new or interesting plants. During the second week in April, on my Facebook page, I received a photograph from Crug Farm Plants, Caernarfon, Gwynedd.

Illicium simonsii.
picture courtesy of Robert Vernon

This showed Illicium simmonsii, pictured left, which is a medium sized shrub with large green leaves with creamy-white flowers in the upper leaf axils. I was so impressed by the photo that I asked if it was available in the UK. Two days later a box arrived by post from my friend Robert Vernon who owns Bluebell Arboretum and nursery, Annwell, Lane, Smisby. Email sales@ bluebellnursery.co.uk. The box contained a young plant of this delightful Illicium, which Robert wrote to say he grew in woodland conditions in their arboretum.
Here I must say, having been around Bluebell arboretum, that it is well worth a visit to see the numerous tree and shrub species that are grown there. Robert and his wife are expert plant people who can give both advice on which to grow and the aftercare.

RobiniaX fraseri ‘Red Robin’ picture Syston Town News

On the other side of my fence my neighbour has a superb shrub of Robinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’ whose red new leaves stand out above the fence. This just goes to show how you can often use a neighbours tree, or shrub as a background for plants in your own garden. I use it as a background for the yellow foliage of Ceanothus ‘Pershore Zanzibar.
I also grow ‘Red Robin’ in one of my borders where it forms a shrub eight feet (2.7m) high, it can however be pruned (not clipped) to keep it much smaller. Robinia x fraseri ‘Pink Marble’ is in my mind a far superior shrub for the smaller garden. It has green marbled white evergreen leaves, but its most outstanding feature is its new growth which is a shocking pink. A plant of this can be seen in a large, round concrete container in the border at Syston station.
On a visit to Goscote nurseries, Syston Road, Cossington I came across Robinia x fraseri ‘Chico’ which is so different from both of the others I have written about. It is a real dwarf form with small green leaves and red new growth and leaves. This should be an ideal shrub to grow in a container on a patio, or even a balcony.
During the early autumn of last year I planted a group of Lunaria annua ‘Albo Variegata’ in the station side border of Syston station and during April these looked lovely. This is an annual whose green leaves are variegated with white and these contrast greatly with its heads of purple flowers. This plant has round, flat seed pods that give the plant its Latin name of moon like.
Some years ago I planted a single container grown ‘Brazen Hussy’ Celandine. This is a low growing perennial with shiny copper foliage and contrasting bright golden flowers.
What I did not realise was how quickly this would spread, it seeds itself everywhere, even in cracks in my paving, but I am loath to dig them out as they put on such a bright display during early spring.
During the first week in April I set five ‘Charlotte’ seed potatoes in six inches (15cm) of compost in a 50 litre black tree tub. A fortnight later I set another five in a tub and the last five will go in during the first week in May. All are earthed up as they grow. I do this to try and stagger the time between each tub that is cropped and Vi loves ‘Charlotte’ so I am not planting any other varieties.
During the third week in April I sow my runner bean ‘St George’ in my heated propagator in cell trays and these will be potted up into 9cm pots as soon as they have attained their first true leaves.