Posts Tagged ‘snowdrops’

Woodwardia radicans on the Fibrex stand last spring

Just a quick post to remind you all about the RHS Spring Show in London next week. The show runs for 2 days, Tuesday 15th and Wednesday 16th February and if you’re in London (or nearby), do make time to go and visit. Unlike Chelsea and Hampton Court, this is a small exhibition, filling the 2 RHS halls in Victoria with some of the UK’s best nurseries. Although busy, it happily lacks the crush of some other RHS shows and many nursery owners are on hand to give out great advice and sell some gorgeous plants. It’s a really enjoyable event.

Snowdrops on Avon Bulbs Stand

As you enter the show, you are greeted by a delightful aroma, followed by the sight of spring in it’s many forms throughout the hall. Snowdrops and Hellebores abound and there are many more lesser-known bulbs, perennials, ferns, shrubs and trees which will catch your eye. This year I’ve pre-ordered some fantastic plants from Crug Farm and Fibrex nurseries and can’t wait to collect them from the show next week. Hopefully see you there!

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This time last year I went on a study day at Great Dixter in E.Sussex. It was one of the most enjoyable things I did all year. The next course ‘Preparing Your Border for Spring and Summer-The Practicalities’ is on March 28th.

Head Gardener Fergus Garrett (above) leads the courses which usually run from 10 -4.30, with lunch included and a 10% discount is offered on plants bought in the nursery. On this particular course ‘Fergus will show you how to cut down, split and replant perennials, thin out self-sowers, pruning, composts and working in the rain without ruining the structure of your soil. Essential winter maintenance work will be covered on this very practical orientated day.’ Sounds wonderful and you will learn a lot.

In the meantime, the gardens are open for 2 weekends for a viewing on ‘winter structure and winter interest including snowdrops, crocuses, hellebores and much more’ on Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th February 2011 and Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th March 2011

The course that I attended last year in January was on successional planting-how to have interest in your garden all year round. Here are the highlights of the day for me.

Great Dixter in January

Had a wonderful day at Great Dixter in January 2010. I attended (with friend Lucy, and 8 other gardeners) a day course run by Head Gardener Fergus Garrett on successional planting . The morning was spent  (by a toasty open log fire) listening to an indepth talk on the borders at Dixter, illustrated by 200 slides of wonderful plant combinations-for example; Blue Amiable tulips with Mellow Yellow aquilegias- a riot of colour or Petunia ‘Purple Wave’ and Colchicums in flower together-rich and luscious.

Choosing good plants was another area he talked about. For example, when choosing a blue Geranium, varieties which have a long flowering season (up to 3 months) such as; ‘Russell Pritchard, ‘Mavis Simpson’ and ‘Jolly Bee’ are a much better option than ‘Johnson’s Blue’ which only flowers for 3 weeks.

Lucy enjoying all the expertise that Fergus had to offer

Or making sure that Hellenium ‘Moorheim Beauty’ is deadheaded after it has flowered in July so that come September you will have a second wave of flowers. He stressed avoiding competing  combinations so that plants can live together. For example, a Mahonia looks great in winter, but in summer Clematis triternata rubra-marginata is used to cover it to add more colour to the border. A different clematis, such as ‘Bill Mackenzie’ might overwhelm the Mahonia being more vigorous and having a longer flowering season. Fergus Garrett is passionate about his plants, and all that Great Dixter stands for and the talk was enjoyable,  informative and truly inspiring. Always approachable, Fergus welcomed and answered all questions with enthusiasm before we proceeded to lunch.

Galanthus “S.Arnott” in front of Arum italicum “Pictum”

All work is carried out on boards so as not to compact the soil or to disturb plants

After a jovial group meal in the lovingly preserved house, we were then shown around the garden by Fergus. As we walked he showed us areas where another layer of planting could be added, and described the borders in terms of a series of compartments that all have their own planting combinations.

Cyclmen providing winter interest under a tree and spreading all the way to the back of the border

He showed us areas where Cyclamen were not only planted in waves under shrubs and trees, but also going right to the back of borders, using their leaves to maximum decorative effect now even though their flowers would be obscured by other planting later on in the year.

The long border, full of structure , still with plenty of winter interest.Grasses soon to cut down to make way for spring bulbs to be seen.
The long border still providing plenty of interest in winter
Gorgeous Daphniphyllum macropodum adding colour and texture to the garden. The pink was really arresting.
Effective yet unobstrusive means by which plants are staked at Great Dixter

We spent a couple of hours exploring the borders and absorbing much information, then the day was finished off with a welcome cup of tea/coffee and time to wander around the nursery and to buy some plants.

Lucy and I found this to be a thoroughly enjoyable day, going away with tons to think about and a heap of useful information inside our heads, in the notes we had taken throughout the day and in the form of a slide list in which all the plants Fergus had talked about were detailed.

Different course are held throughout the year and all the proceeds go to maintaining and developing the gardens in the experimental and joyous fashion of Christopher Lloyd and Fergus Garrett. Book now!!

Great Dixter, Northiam, Rye, E.Sussex TN31 6PH


tel 01797 252878

p.s. You can also read about my 4 days volunteering at Great Dixter earlier on this year (2011). A wonderful experience.

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I’m just about to order Snowdrops for this year, but there is a sizeable debate as to whether to plant Snowdrops (Galanthus) as bulbs in autumn or ‘in the green’ (when the plants are growing) in winter. I’ve always planted mine ‘in the green’ at this time of year as this seems to be the more successful route, but some true galanthophiles say they have more success from bulbs. I think I will try some bulbs next autumn, but the key may be to buying bulbs from reputable suppliers so that they have not become too dried out and are still viable.

If you already have Snowdrops in your garden, you can divide them once they have flowered in February and they will soon clump up again over the next few years. However, if you have space to fill, then order now, so that bulbs will arrive in February at the right time to plant in your garden.

Galanthus 'S.Arnott'

Galanthus nivalis is probably the most commonly grown in gardens, but there are many other varieties to choose from too such as G. ‘S.Arnott’ which reaches about 9 inches, has lovely large, rounded flowers and a delicate scent. The nursey at Great Dixter in Sussex offers several varieties, including Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’, G. ‘Washfield Colesbourne’ and G. ‘S.Arnott’ and prices range from £3-£5 per plant. If you’re into collecting snowdrops, Harveys Nursery in Suffolk sells more than 70 varieties which cost anything from £4 to £35 per bulb! For larger quantities , Jacques Amand have fewer varieties to choose from but at very good prices and this is who I shall be oredering the bulk of my Snowdrops from this year.

If you’re uncertain as to which Snowdrops to plant , then put the RHS spring show dates into your diary. The show takes place in London at the RHS halls in Victoria on February 15th and 16th with ‘some of the UK’s best nurseries showing a spectacular array of spring flowering plants to tempt gardeners’. Not to be missed!

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