Thursday 29 September 2016

A classic cottage garden beauty ...

Gerry Daly

Published 06/09/2015 | 03:30

Satin flower can be sown as late as May
Satin flower can be sown as late as May

Satin flower provides superb brightly-coloured late flowers, and if it gets some nice sunny days, it will flower for a few more weeks. The flowers are large, flat and open, offering maximum colour as they face up towards the sunlight.

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The common name of satin flower is well-earned as the flower petals have a satin-like sheen that adds to their cheery brightness.

The satin flower comes from California where it shoots up in spring and flowers in early summer.

This flower used to be called godetia but was amalgamated with clarkia. The name clarkia was given to the plant to honour William Clark, who was one of the leaders of the Corps of Discovery epic journey into the then largely unknown north-western United States in 1804. Clark was the botanist and naturalist on the expedition and he found and named scores of American plants, birds and mammals.

The wild plants can be quite tall, to over two metres, but centuries of breeding has resulted in the knee-high plants that are grown in gardens. There are a couple of related species that are tall, with flowers nicely spaced out along the stems, and with flowers that are more cross-shaped. The colours are mostly pink, salmon,  purple and lilac.

Clarkia is an annual, that is, grown from seeds, flowering once and then withering away. So it has to be re-sown each year, but it is very easy to grow, simply sown where it is to flower, or in pots.

The seeds can be sown in September in mild localities near the coast, or sow in spring in any area. Make more than one sowing to keep the flowering going.

It can be sown as late as May and it  will flower in late summer and early autumn.

It was a popular cottage garden flower as the seeds can be collected. Choose a piece of ground in full sunshine, in gaps between more permanent plants if there are spaces. The soil should be good but not very rich or the plants just grow lots of leaves and few flowers.

Seeds sown in September can be covered with garden fleece or a cloche to protect them from harsh winter weather. Satin flower can also be used as a very pretty greenhouse flower. Simply sow a few seeds in a pot of compost and allow the seedlings to grow and flower next year. The plants might need support.

... and how to heal a split

Q. “My plum tree split apart about four weeks ago while carrying a good lot of plums. I propped up the branch with a stepladder as a temporary fix but I’m wondering what to do now? Can I tie the two split branches together and would the damage heal?”

JP Rooney, Dublin

A. It is a waste of time to try getting the branches to knit and the most damaged branch must be cut away. Shorten some of the remaining long shoots and, in future, shorten long new growths in August to

one-third to reduce the leverage of wind on long branches. Also, thin out a heavy crop in June to reduce the load and then prop up if necessary. Avoid too much feeding because this makes the branches vigorous, but soft.

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