Tuesday 20 February 2018

Plant workout

Marie Staunton

Make your garden work hard for you by choosing flowers that fulfil more than one role, says Marie Staunton

Plants that double job are the type that I love to grow in my garden. I have yet to be converted to roses that have no scent -- as far as I'm concerned, roses take a lot of looking after and if they have no perfume, then I can't justify making room for them.

It sounds as if I'm cutting my nose off to spite my face, but that's the way it has to be. Space is limited and plants that provide a few interesting features over the course of the year get my vote.

I planted two half standard iceberg roses last year and they flowered into November. The scent is subtle and the flowers just keep on coming.

Hardworking plants like these deserve a bit of pampering. What you get in return makes it well worth the effort.

The tree heather is an interesting plant; it does particularly well in acid soil and it doesn't mind a seaside location, either. Erica lusitanica is lime tolerant, so consider it instead of the Erica arborea if your soil is on the limey side.

Both of these tree heathers are hardy and will thrive in full sun. They have the added advantage of scented flowers plus evergreen foliage, which makes them a worthy addition to any garden.

They can grow up to 3m in an ideal location, so place them to the back of a mixed shrub border or use them as a screening plant.

If you have a nice bit of space, I can highly recommend Cornus 'Eddie's White Wonder'. This is a tree with the most beautiful white flowers in spring, and it finishes off the growing season in the autumn with a change of leaf colour from green to a beautiful crimson red.

This is what you call an excellent multi-tasker with good seasonal interest, so it deserves a home in anyone's garden, provided you have the space to accommodate it. With a height of around 7m and a spread of 4m, it's not going to suit everyone, but it is a very beautiful sight in full flower.

At this time of the year, roses can suffer with black spot. So, be vigilant. If you are spraying at regular intervals and disposing of the infected leaves properly, this will go a long way to controlling the unsightly black marks on the leaves.

Sometimes, the young stems can be affected badly and wither away. Always disinfect your secateurs and, during the winter, if the plant is badly affected you can wash it down using a diluted mix of Jeyes Fluid.

Pay particular attention to the support, or stake, as this can also harbour the spores, which like nothing better than to overwinter, ready to attack again in the growing season.

Mildew is another problem associated with roses and it thrives when the rose is planted up against a wall in a sheltered position. So, if this is where you want to grow a climbing rose, then choose one that is resistant or you will be driven mad trying to keep the mildew at bay.

The best advice is to keep it well watered. Hosing it down well can also help with this particular problem.

So you see why I'm reluctant to grow roses that don't have a scent.

If, like me, you are constantly moving plants around the garden, don't be fooled by the amount of rain you think they might be getting because any newly planted shrubs are affected by wind and can dry out very quickly.

Established plants are well able to cope with drying winds, but continue to check the others for signs of wilt or you might just lose them altogether.

It's laughable really that I'm even talking about plants drying out at the moment, but they are an investment and an expensive one at that.

I have to say that the old deckchair in the polytunnel was an inspired idea, and I can monitor the blackbird as it sneaks in and out helping itself to my lovely strawberries.

And there I was last year blaming the poor old hens for that particular crime.

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