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Margaret's Blog







Laburnum is often referred to as the Golden Rain tree, or sometimes people call it a weeping willow (which of course it's not, but its racemes of golden flowers give that illusion).
Whatever its name, it is a most wonderful tree that can grow in the most exposed garden.
If you can remember it in flower last year, you'll recall it was absolutely magnificent, one of the best years ever. There is a specimen one near Dripsey bridge, which was breathtaking last year.
Laburnum is very easy to grow but needs lots of feeding. It loves well drained soil and a sunny position.
Where to grow this lovely tree? Laburnum are great at an entrance, or better still, make an arched entrance of laburnum. A bower or walkway of Laburnum would be stunning in any garden.

This beautiful tree is one of the most feared of the poison plants (and produces the most searches of all of them) but in reality, it does not deserve its harmful reputation.

Many people who remove it from the garden, leave other more dangerous plants in place.
All parts of the tree are poisonous: roots, bark, wood, leaves, flower-buds, petals, and seedpods. The harmful part of the plant is the seedpods which are mistaken by children for peapods, usually after they have been shown how to eat fresh raw peas straight from the plant in the vegetable garden.
I have never heard of any dangerous incidents with Laburnum, but we must advise people that it is poisonous (as are loads of other common plants!). Laburnum vossii is the most typical variety offered for sale and this doesn't set as many seeds. ‘Vossii’ is by far the best variety of laburnum, producing a lavish display of extremely long clusters of yellow flowers. The poisonous seeds are not as abundant as on other varieties, and if removed it can ensure good flowering the following year. It can be easily trained on an overhead structure and looks good planted with Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’ and Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple.

People are often unnecessarily put off the Laburnum because of the fear of the poisonous seeds (never ever had any animal or any of our children eat the seeds, they would need to be on stilts or a trampoline to collect them!) which is a shame as this tree came through the recent hard winters unscathed, copes well with wind, and is great for bees.

felsenbirne-ballerina-essbare-felsenbirne-m009780 w_0

Wonderful in Spring summer and Autumn ,whats not to like about this tree.The  value of Amelanchier is easily discovered in spring, with the appearance of its abundant racemes of five-petalled, star-shaped, white or pink-blushed flowers. These are followed by edible, spherical berries that are purple-maroon to black and similar to those of Sorbus, which ripen in June and are edible when cooked. This tree is at its best in autumn, when it turns into a mass of fiery red foliage, which becomes a real talking point!

Amelanchier comprises single or multi-stemmed, deciduous trees and shrubs. 

Originally found in moist woodland and alongside streams and riverbanks, Amelanchier is native to regions of Europe. A. lamarckii Award of Garden Merit (AGM) is one of the most commonly grown species and has become naturalised throughout Europe. It has an upright habit and can form either a shrub or small tree with brilliantly white flowers that are followed by plump berries. The elliptic, often coppery, dark green leaves turn to superb oranges and reds in the autumn.

Ballerina can be planted as a small specimen tree on its own, or would add spring and summer to a mixed border. It is also often planted as a feature in a border or underplanted with flowers. It is best to plant in fertile, well drained soil in sun or partial shade.

Many of the species will provide striking interest, such as A. 'Ballerina' AGM featuring 15cm-long, arching, white flowers that last for a very long time

Amelanchier is fully hardy and prefers a deep, moist, humus-rich soil in sun or partial shade. With the exception of A. asiatica and A. alnifolia, which are lime-tolerant, plants prefer an acid to neutral soil.Best planted in groups of 3 and underplanted with azaleas, rhododendrons, bluebells, and other woodland planting.

Any pruning should be done during winter or late spring, when any misplaced or crossing shoots should be removed to maintain a healthy and balanced framework. Seeds can be sown fresh in the autumn or stored and sown in the spring time.



Sarcococca Christmas Box

One of the best shade tolerant shrubs for planting under trees and in similar situations. Sarcococca species originate in China and the Himalayas and are related to the common box, buxus. They are slow-growing plants that spread by suckering shoots gradually forming low-growing mounds of evergreen foliage. The dark green leaves are slightly rippled and the small insignificant flowers produce a rich scent. They also grow well in shade but will also grow in full sun if the roots are kept consistently moist.

I find Sarcococca grows very well in sunshine , as long as you mulch your plants well during winter and this will keep your plants in good condition even in a very dry smell like last year. Its best to plant a group of these plants together, preferably close to patios and front doors I love using green and white in gardens, particularly in those awkward shady corners, or under the dappled light from overhanging trees. Reliable evergreens are always the basis of my planting and if I had to pick just one dwarf evergreen shrub it would always be Sarcococca confusa, the Christmas box.  This lovely little shrub forms a dense clump of suckering stems reaching 60-80cm (2 – 2.5 feet) in height.  The small, shining evergreen leaves are deep holly green and are gently waved, catching the light from all directions.

 Sarcococca confusa never gets too tall, never needs pruning (although it’s great for cutting for floral decoration). It grows on clay and chalk and is excellent in shade.  In mid to late winter tiny white flowers appear in the leaf axils, they may not be showy, but they will fill the garden with their powerful sweet fragrance. 

So that’s two dwarf shrubs put together to create a wonderful planting solution, so what shall we add? You can’t go wrong with one of the new Hellebores winter bells.  It flowers for about 6 months and I just love the dark green architectural foliage. The flower stems quickly rise to produce elegant nodding cups of pure white, with a hint of green, clustered beneath a ruff of small green leaves.  Hellebores are long-term perennials that will delight year after year

I like to plant sarcococca with another of my favourite evergreens: Euonymus fortunei ‘Silver Queen’.  This had deep green leaves, variegated with sage and irregularly edged with creamy white.  Where it catches direct sun the leaf margins may flush pink in winter.  It has a compact, spreading habit and makes excellent ground cover. If you plant it against a wall or fence it will make an excellent short climber, up to 3 metres (10 feet) or so.  This is another low maintenance shrub that works hard to earn its keep.

Acorus Gramineus Ogon


Acorus 'ogon' is the most wonderful evergreen grass, that shines like sunshine in winter. Sometimes known as Slender sweet flag 'Ogon', they are moisture-loving perennials forming tufts of linear or sword-shaped leaves, with insignificant spike-like flowers borne near the tips of central leaf-like stems.
It can grow in shade and can tolerate wet boggy conditions so it is ideal for a damp shady area of your garden. It's bright cheerful appearance gives any garden a cheerful apearance all winter and it stays evergreen even in cold wet conditions 

Perfect for container planting either on its own or mixed with plants, best planted in groups of 3 or 5 to give a good effect,it's a lovely plant for poolside planting and it will even grow as a marginal planting enjoying its feet in water. Acorus has a lovely flowing effect which adds movement to any garden

Species 'Ogon' is a compact deciduous grass-like perennial forming a clump to 30cm tall, with narrow, bright yellow leaves, lightly striped with yellowish-green

Acorus can be propagated by splitting the clump at this time of year, a great plant to give to your gardening friends.

Plants that look stunning with Acorus :
Berried Skimmia 
Leocothoe scarletta
Choisya astec pearl
Spring flowering bulbs 

Care of Acorus:
This is a plant that is virtually maintenance free. Just feed once a year with slow release feeding. At times, your acorus may get tired looking, especially in hot weather. Simply cut it to ground level and give it a seaweed feed, Maxicrop is the one I use - this will bring back lush new growth to it.


What gardener hasn't wished that a plant grew somewhere else? Plants in pots are easy to move around. Light up a dark corner with pots of white, pink, or yellow flowering shade lovers. Some plants with a short blooming period, such as lilies or foxglove, look magnificent in containers and grow well in those temporary quarters. Transplant them to the garden when they're finished blooming. Of course, if you are about to move your household, containers allow you to take the garden with you!

For people who have poor, waterlogged soil, pots are a way of creating a garden without utilizing the original soil. For people with bad backs, planting in containers is a brilliant and far easier alternative - especially with all the lightweight pots on the market right now! These pots are so easy to move from A to B. Of course, putting pots on wheels is another super easy and efficient way of moving pots around your garden.

Pots, tubs, and half barrels overflowing with flowers add appeal to any garden, but container gardens can serve a practical purpose too. Gardening in containers is ideal for those with little or no garden space. In addition to growing flowers, gardeners limited to a balcony, small yard, or only a patch of sun on their driveway can produce a wide variety of vegetable crops in containers. Basil, chives, thyme, and other herbs also are quite happy growing in pots, which can be set in a convenient spot right outside the kitchen door. Container plants also add versatility to gardens large and small. They lend instant color, provide a focal point in the garden, or tie in the architecture of the house to the garden. Place them on the ground or on a pedestal, mount them on a windowsill, or hang them from your porch. A pair of matching containers on either side of the front walk serves as a welcoming decoration, while containers on a deck or patio can add color and ambiance to such outdoor sitting areas. You can use single large containers for outdoor decoration, but also consider arranging groups of pots, both small and large, on stairways, terraces, or anywhere in the garden.
Vegetables and fruit trees can be grown in large pots, as can a large tree, so the possibilities are truly endless!

Margaret's tip: The best compost for containers is Westland John Innes multi purpose compost, which contains soil in it that acts as a buffer and great for growing healthy plants. Slow-release fertilizer is the best to use as it gives off food for a full 6 months!


This method is the same for all forced bulbs, apart from the alternative ways mentioned below:


To have hyacinths in flower for the Christmas period make sure you buy bulbs labelled 'prepared'

You may wish to wear gloves when handling the bulbs as hyacinths can cause skin irritation

The simplest compost to choose is bulb fibre, especially if the container has no drainage holes. Alternatively, John Innes Multi-purpose compost can be used, provided it has a good, open texture and is moisture-retentive but free-draining. It is not necessary to use a fertiliser-rich growing medium or to feed the bulbs after planting

Wet the fibre or compost first and place a layer in the bottom of the bowl or pot

Set the bulbs on the fibre or compost. They can be close together, but not touching each other or the sides of the container

Fill around the bulbs with more fibre or compost, leaving about 1cm (½in) between the compost surface and the container rim to aid watering

The tops of the bulbs should just be showing at the surface


Forcing Bulbs


Bulbs may be forced into early growth for indoor display in winter.

Keep in a dark place at temperatures above freezing but no higher than 45 degrees F, for at least 10 weeks to allow roots to develop.

When shoots are about 1 inch long, increase light and temperature gradually.

Water carefully, avoiding wetting the shoots or waterlogging the soil.

After flowering, forced hyacinths may be planted in the garden and they will flower again in subsequent years.


Growing hyacinths in bulb vases


This is an alternative method for growing hyacinths. The bulb should be slightly smaller in diameter than the vase so that it sits snugly in the vase. Fill the glass with water to the neck and then place the bulb in the top. The water level should be just below the bottom of the bulb. The plant can then be treated in the same way as potted hyacinth.



Margaret's tip

Just as your hyacinths are beginning to flower ,you can add a personal touch by adding a few stems of variegated holly , some pine cones and contorted hazel.






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