With the new year upon us, thoughts begin to turn to the coming of spring. This month our horticulturists have chosen plants they are looking forward to planting this year – and some they may not be!
Plants to find a place for:
Erysimum (Perennial Wallflower): This is a plant that starts flowering in spring and with just a little care will go on flowering throughout summer and into autumn. There are a number of different varieties available. These include ‘Bowles Mauve’, a variety with greyish coloured leaves and spikes of purple flowers; ‘Fragrant Sunshine’, which has dark green leaves and bright yellow, fragrant flowers; and ‘Apricot Delight’, with mid-green leaves and orange flowers. Erysimum is a versatile plant that can be planted in the garden or in containers, and is very hardy too.
Osteospermum (Cape Daisy): This is a plant that comes in various different flower colours and is excellent at providing summer colour. They can be planted in the garden but really come into their own when planted in containers. Given a sunny position, and with a little care, this plant will reward you with masses of flowers. For those of you who do want to plant an Osteospermum in the garden you may be better planting a hardy variety such as ‘Stardust’. These are varieties that are hardy will come back each year in milder areas of the Highlands.
Yakushimanum (usually abbreviated to Yak) Rhododendrons: This is a group of Rhododendrons that are particularly suitable for growing in gardens as they never grow taller than approximately 1 metre, and will grow equally well in the garden or in containers. They come in many different flower colours and are ideal for adding a splash of colour to the garden in the spring. They are also evergreen and provide an ideal backdrop to plants that will flower later on in the year.
Japanese Maple: Whether planted in the ground or grown in a container on the patio, they give structure and height, interesting leaf shapes and intense leaf colour in the autumn. Generally undemanding, they will tolerate many different positions in the garden; the one thing they dislike is an open windy spot with too much wind “burning” or scorching the leaves, especially the finely cut forms, so always try and find a sheltered location for whichever variety you choose. They make ideal container plants, favouring ericaceous compost, a 50/50 mix of John Innes ericaceous and multi-purpose ericaceous compost will suit them fine. Grown in a container you can position them to suit your garden layout. Particularly fine varieties are Acer palmatum “Bloodgood” which is a fine deep red almost purple, colouring to bright crimson as autumn approaches, and Acer palmatum “Osakazuki” which has a rich green colour to its leaves for most of the summer turning to an intense crimson before the leaves fall.
Plants to think twice about:
Kilmarnock Willow. Whilst this is a popular plant, it is maybe not the best choice for everybody. Unfortunately it is particularly prone to attack from both pests and diseases, and whilst it grows well despite this, it does end up spoiling the desired effect. It also requires regular pruning to prevent it from trailing along the ground. As an alternative try a weeping form of Cotoneaster instead. This is an evergreen plant (except in the harshest of winters), is relatively pest and disease free, and has red berries in the autumn thus providing food for wild birds. These berries are not poisonous to humans.
Hosta. This is a plant that has become so popular that whenever someone is looking for something to plant in the shade they will automatically think of a Hosta. This is unfortunate for a couple of reasons. Whilst there are varieties of Hosta that grow well in the shade, many varieties do not and prefer being planted in a sunny position. They are also prone to attack from slugs and snails. As an alternative, plant a Heuchera. This is a plant that comes in different leaf colours. The leaves also appear earlier than Hosta and disappear later. They are also relatively pest and disease free.
Leylandii: Whilst it is a fast growing plant that will provide a hedge or screen quickly, unless it is regularly maintained it can easily get out hand. This results in the horror stories that you may have seen in the media. It will also grow very wide and takes a lot of moisture out of the soil making it difficult to plant other plants next to it. It is also prone to developing brown patches. Unfortunately it does not quickly recover from this. An alternative to the Leylandii is Thuja plicata (Western Red Cedar). This is also a conifer and to the untrained eye looks a lot like Leylandii. But it is slower growing and this, in time, results in a much better looking hedge. This also results in it needing less maintenance. It also doesn’t dry out the soil as much making it easier to establish other plants next to it.
Marguerite (Argyranthemum): This is held in high esteem for its colour and long flowering period, however it isn’t without its faults. In this part of the world it isn’t reliably hardy and will suffer through the winter months. It dislikes wet conditions and also if allowed to dry out when grown in a container can be difficult to revive. Why not focus instead on another member of the Aster or daisy family, Rudbeckias. These hardy herbaceous perennials flower their socks off through the summer into autumn and as winter approaches disappear underground to appear again the following year.
They don’t require support or staking and in terms of maintenance nothing could be simpler, at the end of the summer cut all the previous seasons’ growth down close to ground level. Rudbeckia fulgida “Goldsturm” which has been awarded the RHS award of garden merit indicating its worthiness as a garden plant has golden yellow flower heads with conical, black centres.