Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Bindweed, ground elder and late summer flowers.Does my bum look big in this? Mites and nodules.

Hello Everyone, This is a quick post  just to  keep things going. Look out for a bumper issue next time when  hopefully time there will be time  to prepare a  fuller read. Don't forget  new posts are announced on twitter at @pwhorticulture

Does my bum look big in this? 

Not so much  beyond the pale but more between  the pales. A very rosy looking Golden Delicious apple has squashed itself between the palings of my garden fence. 

Bondage in the orchard. 
The flowering  shoots of this espaliered apple  developed their fruit inside a squirrel proof  bird feeder.



There can't be many gardeners in the UK ( and maybe around the world)  who don't recognize these roots. They are of course the roots of  Bindweed,  Calystegia  sepium. They strike  fear into the heart of any serious gardener. They  grow very deep and they are packed with stored  energy which  means  even very small pieces of root have  sufficient   reserves to  push up a new shoot from  even deep buried fragments. They always look  uncannily white and ready washed  when they come out of the ground  and  look  temptingly like an ingredient for a crunchy stir fry.  Not sure if they are toxic so I am not going to try it.
It is difficult to eradicate  but with patience and persistence it can be got rid of  but you need to be sure it is not  going to be  running  back into the garden  under your neighbour's  fence.  Nor  is a wall necessarily  a good defence as the roots will make their  way under or through  a stone wall though a brick wall with footings can be considered  secure. If the ground is  otherwise clear of  any  plants you want to keep let  the bindweed  grow a good cover of leaves across the ground and then before it flowers spray it with Glyphosate ( Glyphosate  is the active ingredient in Roundup but there are other  brands  to be found.)   Glyphosate is a translocated herbicide which means it is moved around the plant  to kill all parts of the plant  so the greater the leaf area the more herbicide  you get into  the plants system and the greater will be its effect. You are wasting your time  if you spray the first few leaves that appear. Always remember that  this weed killer is just as happy killing your favourite plants as it is  killing the weeds so take great care when spraying. Using a low pressure on you sprayer will  give you a  bigger  droplet size and help avoid  spray drift  but you should not spray on windy days.
If you  are very vigilant  and  persistent you can wear it down by  removing  every new shoot that appears  and the plant will eventually run out of energy and die  but such is its store of energy  that  this can take years  and you might run out of energy before it does. Chickens might have the required stamina - a friend  moved his large chicken run  around his garden over  period of a few years and killed,  by  pecking attrition, every bit of bindweed, ground elder  and creeping thistle in his garden.    

Bindweed is at it worse when it is established among herbaceous plants and shrubs. Training it up canes gives you a chance to keep it  clear of the plants you want  to keep and allows a good  leaf coverage to build up before you spray. When it comes to spraying  cover the plants around  the canes with polythene sheet   and  beware of run off from the bsheet.  

More often than not, Ground Elder, another  extremely pernicious  weed, gets mentioned in the same  breath as bindweed. It is one of the  terrible trio of weeds ,  Bindweed, Ground elder  and Horses tail. (Equisteum)  . Everyone is keen to tell you  Ground Elder was brought into the UK  by the Romans  ( So that  is what the Romans ever did for us. Hmm? ) and was used as a salad  and cooking herb  by monks. It is also often said to be a cure for gout as  its scientific name  implies. Aegopodium podagaria. Aegopodium = goat's foot from Greek aix, goat and pous,  foot. Podagaria = used to treat gout or arthritis. More of this sometimes desirable plant below........

 Bretforton Manor

  A few years ago  I was involved with  the early stage development of the gardens  at Bretforton Manor
One of the most awkward parts of the garden was this yew covered walkway which leads to the back gate and to  the private gate to the church. It was gloomy and the  ground was dry and shady. Very little would grow there so I decided  to take a bit of a risk and plant the variegated  selection of the  grow anywhere Ground Elder. It was a  risk taken with some understanding that  not too much could go wrong. There were  thick stone walls on both sides and at the far gate end and a  thick  yew hedge  where you enter the walkway so the  ground elder could not escape into the garden proper. I went back to visit the garden recently and I was  very pleased that my experiment had worked.  Congratulations have to go to  the owners  for letting me  plant such a rampant spreader in the first place and  to Jon Heath , the  head gardener  for managing this so well and  stopping the plain leaved  Ground Elder  from  taking any hold.  One way to keep the plain leaves at bay is to make sure  that the flower heads are not allowed to seed  because seedlings may well  come up  plain green. Also any shoots reverting  to green  need to be dug out as soon as they appear. Because the  plain leaves  have  more green in the leaves than the variegated  type  they will be more vigorous and  start  to overwhelm the 'ornamental' type.


 ''It's late September and I really should be getting back to school......................''

I love  late September in the  garden. Things are far from  over  and the flowers that are  still showing off  seem to have their  colours enriched by the  low sun. There is no great  mystery  in getting a good display  in early autumn. The picture below was taken in  the last week of September in north Gloucestershire  and none of the plants are difficult to grow. This is quite a deep border, the front to back dimension of a border is important if you want  to get a meaningful interplay of  height and shape between plants. This is  just a small part of a longer border  but  the same effect can be had  in a border of  lesser  proportions  by just using fewer  plants of the individual  varieties. The plants   from left to right are, at the back Datisca cannabina .I know I bore you to death with my regular references to this plant  but it is only because I love it so much,  a few  late flowers of Hemerocallis,  a  Sedum (but I cant remember
which), Echinacea purpurea,  more grassy Day Lily foliage at the front ( It is always  worth  considering the effect of the  foliage a plant provides because  most often it  is on show for far longer than the flowers), The blue is Aster amellus 'Monch' and in front of it is Crocosmia 'George Davison '.  Some stray Verbena bonariensis seedlings, Miscanthus  gracillimus and Heuchera  'Plum Pudding' complete the  arrangement.   

Another  late September  arrangement  now in its second year  is made up of  Miscanthus 'Flamingo',- the near grass,  Euphorbia myrsinites,  the foreground grey,  Ajuga 'Black Scallop' -  dark foliage in foreground, Portugal Laurel as  repeated evergreen structure midway throught the border. The Heuchera is Cherry Cola.

 In this  new woodland  garden we took care to make sure the spikes  of  toxic ( but who in their right mind is going to eat them) berries were not knocked about. Very often the  wind  and other vegetation conspire to bend and break  the stems or dislodge the berries and spoil the very dramatic affect that  can be achieved  if  they can be kept whole.

The   pinky ,purple , silvery grey  leaves of the Japanese Painted  Fern ( Athyrium nipponicum 'Pictum')  make an unlikely  companion to the  red berries of Arum italicum subsp. italicum 'Marmoratum'. I am surprised  the   marbled  leaves have not yet started to show through, whennthey do they  provide some of the best winter ground cover available. The grey stone ball is a piece of sculpture by David Harber  and is one of three in this part of the woodland garden. 

Another late season treat  is this Tricyrtis ( Toad Lily)

Rust free Hollyhock.
I am not sure where this fits in  botanically with the plants we all know as Hollyhock but it has the same effect  as  the more flamboyant varieties but is much later in flower. Unlike the traditional hollyhocks it  does not  have the rust problem.  In the case of  normal  Hollyhocks the  effect of the rust can be minimised not by treating it with chemicals but by growing your  Hollyhocks  towards the back of a border so the diseased leaves are never seen  but the towering flower spikes are. This variety flowers much later than most  and is flowering now in the first week of October. It has slightly double flowers  but  its true value lies in its  slightly  dirty pink colour -very  Farrow and Ball. Perhaps the colour  could be  called  Flamingo's Breath. That is a joke, ( after Farrow and Ball's Moles Breath) for those who thought I might be going all unduly arty.
I have this  growing against a purple smoke bush  which  sets it off perfectly. It rises to  a couple of metres  and is  rust free.      
 Alcea 'Parkfrieden' from   Special Plants


Name that plant 1. 
Presuming you don't know what  the plant below is and I asked you  to guess  its name  what would you say?
It has been flowering for several weeks through September, it is herbaceous, has survived the last few very cold winters ( That is UK Midlands very cold and please no sniggers from Canadians or Greenlanders. ), it forms a gradually  spreading  clump  and has very narrow  leaves on stems some  75 to 90 cms high. 
Would you say Lobelia? Well you should  because it is Lobelia laxifolia  var. angustifolia. It has survived several years on my very ordinary soil  in a site neither  protected nor a particularly exposed.  It is one of the most exotic  looking hardy plants in my garden.  It is from Mexico.

Name that plant 2.
Here is another one that is so atypical that if you  don't know it you are unlikely  to be able to guess from its shape and colour. It is an Echinacea, honest, It is a variety  called Southern Belle,which doesn't bode well for its hardiness but I am going to give it a try. It is not so much the flower shape that appeals to  but its bright lipstick colour. I have no idea what I am going to pair it with but maybe that is the point and it will just  stand on its own as a very bright  show-off.  

Greenhouse red spider mite ( Then again it might not)

The warn dry weather we have had in the UK  during the summer  has encouraged  Red Spider Mite to  establish itself outdoors on  plants you would not usually see affected. This is Leycesteria  formosa showing the  typical speckled  leaf effect caused by the minute mite sucking sap from below. A fine webbing can usually be seen on the underneath  of the leaf and helps  to  further confirm an infestation. You will need to  look carefully  unless it is a severe case  when  the whole plant can be enveloped and distorted by dense webbing which  can eventually kill  even large plants  such as Dahlias


Has bean...

I was digging out my French beans and I noticed these  nodules on their  roots. These are  a common feature of  leguminous plants ( What was known as the Leguminosae  family is now the  Fabaceae)  but are also found in other  genera, Alnus ( Alder) is a  a well  known one. There is a symbiotic relationship between a bacteria and the plant whereby, very simply,  the plant  provides nutrition to the bacteria and the bacteria provides  nitrogen to the plant. The bacteria in the nodules  fix nitrogen from the atmosphere ( In a good soil there is plenty of air between the soil particles.) This is particularly useful for the plant  where it is growing in a nitrogen poor soil.  You might have noticed how clover   in your lawn stays green  even when  the rest of it is looking undernourished, it is because  clover, ( a  member of the Fabaceae)    has these  nodules helping it to get its nitrogen.  as a side  note , you might  have  noticed  that your  clover leaves  close up at night. This is called nastic movement and  happens in a quite a lot of plants, some  movements are quite dramatic. I hope to take a look at  nastic movement in a bit more detail in a future post.

Tidying up.
I like  tidying up  in the garden  because it gives you a chance to get close  up to your  plants and  you see them in more detail then when just  enjoying them from afar. I was pulling off  the seed heads of Stipa arundinacea ( In know it now has a new name  but I haven't caught up with it yet.). They have a  soft  feel but are  slightly  spiky as well and a great armful  weighs nothing. They were still looking good but these were  flopping over  the path and they are prolific self seeders and I can do without  any more seedlings. I found the touch and the colour  of the  pink and sere  tinged stems  both visually and tactilely ( is there such a word?) very stimulating.
The pictures  don't really capture the sensations   of touch and texture  but if you have  pulled these out and bundled them up the pictures  will jog a memory.  

Knotting  the  fluffy stems means you can get more in the barrow but also  makes  for a sculptural effect. (Would have been better on a plain background. Ed.)

This is a picture of Euphorbia rigida showing a very fancy foliage arrangement to which some people  immediately shout Fibonacci!  I was going to explain why  but it takes a bit of maths and good deal of explanation and I have run out of time so look out for it in the next issue.  



This is not gardening but it caught my  eye  when I was waiting for my wife to finish her  judging duties at  a local show. 
 On a day out at Moreton Show I came across Dan Quartermain thatching a dog kennel to demonstrate his skills. It is obvious still a very traditional craft but  small improvements  such as stainless steel wire and screws and nails  make the  thatch  more long lasting. 
He is thatching this  dog house with straw rather than reed.Traditionally thatching would have been carried out with whatever  material was local to the  area and long ago  this  was very often grass. Now reeds  get transported across the world to satisfy  demand.  

Judging by the seed heads this is barley straw. The wire is  twisted with a ' wire twister' - I am sure it has a more  interesting  name really -  which pulls the  strips of wood holding the  straw tight and holds it secure.  
That's all folks Au revoir.