By Heather Russell – from her garden in Bolam, Northumberland.
Not only has the recent mild weather encouraged some rather precocious growth it has seen me finding lots to cut back, tidy up and generally enjoy being outside.
Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ is covered in fragrant pink flowers and a twig I picked earlier is scenting the whole room as I write. I originally couldn’t quite believe that something so ‘exotic’ was as hardy as the books said, so about 8yrs ago I planted a tiny specimen in a sunny, sheltered spot. Now it is a 6ft tall columnar, open shrub and smothered in blossom each year. Initially I was a little surprised by its habit but was advised not to clip it. Ignoring the advice I did t very grateful to Joan Barber for bringing a selection of flowering twigs from her garden for the Plant of the Month table one January. We all like to see examples of what members grow, particularly in the winter months so please bring in anything of interest – labelled is good.
I admit that I rant on about grasses, but they have given me SO much pleasure this last year, and for such a long season. I have only just removed the Stipa gigantea stems, but the bleached clumps of Miscanthus form clouds of light-capturing foliage still, bringing the garden to life. Some are shedding leaves a little untidily, but not M. Transmorrisonensis. This bears silky flags of flowers over fine leaves, making a very elegant, tall clump and one I can recommend. Unfortunately, the woody base takes a strong man with an axe to divide, but I will endeavour to persuade one such in order to have some for later this year. Miscanthus are ‘warm season’ grasses, only getting going once the season warms up, but last well into winter as a result.
Normally I would have left alone the grasses in my new ‘Dream’ garden until late February but as it requires more gravel and bulbs are already showing, I have started trimming them back in readiness. Using my serrated herbaceous suffice and I may do that another year, but at least, this way I get to discover the weeds hiding under their skirts. The worst weed is a common or unwanted grass. Once it has grown into the clump it is very difficult to remove, although each has a leaf distinctive in colour and form, the roots will be hopelessly entangled.
This new area has been work free for almost a year, so I cannot grumble about a few hours bent double over the grasses even though my body did.