This Month in the Garden, August 2021, with Derek Cox

On a recent stay in the Leicester General Hospital I was in a ward with four other elderly gentlemen and two of these recognised me from being on BBC Radio Leicester ‘Down to Earth’ gardening programme, or Central TV ‘Gardening Time’.
One man told me the information I had given him about growing potatoes had resulted in him having the best crops of spuds he had ever had. Another gentleman, who was more able, stood against one of the windows admiring two trees that were growing in the lawn. He said, ‘As you are a so called expert, can you tell me what the two trees are as I would like one in my garden?’ I wandered over and told him they were Acer platanoides ‘Crimson King’.
The trees in question were around 15 feet (4.5m) tall and had spectacular crimson-purple foliage. This is a deciduous tree similar to our native sycamore, which in some ways it resembles, but one outstanding way in which it differs is that during April the naked branches produce a mass of pale yellow flowers and these help bees and other pollinating insects to a spring feast. Incidentally, the common name for this tree is ‘The red leaf Norway maple’. I must mention this tree will attain 40 plus feet (12.5m) in height and almost two thirds its height in width, so it is not a tree for the smaller garden.
On arrival home I was so pleased to see that my gardening lady Caroline and my wife had kept all of my container plants watered. You may think if it rains a lot that containers do not need watering, all of those whose foliage overlaps the edge of a container will shed rain and prevent it getting into the compost in which the plant is growing.
During late June, Caroline took a photograph of Tropaeolum polyphyllum, which is a perennial nasturtium with small grey-green leaves and bright yellow flowers. This plant is over 50 years old and was planted at the base of my house east facing wall as a small but very thick rhizome (root). Now, every year it flowers so freely, but it has never produced any seed.
Many people will associate Orchids with tropical climates, but there are many hardy terrestrial (earth growing) Orchids that are native to the UK. These do not have the spectacular flowers of tropical Orchids, but add interest to my garden. Dachtylorhiza fuchsia is one of the easiest to grow. It is perennial, has green spotted purple foliage, has 12 inch (30cm) shoots that are topped by nine inch (20cm) spires made up of small, pale lilac flowers whose bottom lip is striped with purple. I grow one 30 year old clump in a shaded sandy loam and another in my sunny bog garden.
I must mention a plant that my son bought me for father’s day. This is a Calamondin orange (Citrus x microcarpa) which as its Latin name suggests has very small fruit. This came as a 12 inch (30cm) tall evergreen shrub with four tiny oranges already on it. There was also a recipe with it telling us how to use the fruit in soups and other meals. Vi said no thanks to the recipe, but the plant which originates from tropical Africa will stay in my conservatory where its white, fragrant flowers will be most welcome.