In the Garden – May 10, 2012

A fortnightly series first published in the Weekend Gardener and reproduced here with their permission.

Sasanqua camellias do not have to be white - pink Elfin Rose

Sasanqua camellias do not have to be white – pink Elfin Rose

We are grateful that we live in such a mild climate where we don’t have to put our garden to bed for winter. Instead we can have plants flowering all year round and continue active gardening, even in the coldest months. At this time, the autumn flowering sasanqua camellias are in full flight. One of my particular favourites is pretty “Elfin Rose”. Too often, people get hooked on white sasanquas but strawberry pink is very cheering on a grey day. “Elfin Rose” also has a long flowering season and wonderful forest green, fine foliage. By contrast, our “Mine No Yuki” looks magnificent for a week, or until we get some heavy rain which turns the pristine white blooms to a disappointing brown mush.

We have vireyas in flower all the time. If you have plenty, there are always some blooming because these rhododendrons don’t have a set flowering season. However, they don’t tolerate more than a degree or two of frost, so you need protected sites. We also have bromeliads in bloom looking wonderfully exotic while the late autumn bulbs continue to delight. Somewhat to our surprise, the first snowdrops appeared in mid April. Maybe our disappointing summer means winter will bypass us this year? The impatiens, which are fully perennial in our woodland area, will continue in flower until the worst of the winter chill cuts them back. While we wouldn’t mind being a degree or two warmer overall, it seems churlish to complain about the colder seasons here.

Bromeliad in flower now

Bromeliad in flower now

Top tasks:
1) The winter and spring bulbs are well on the move and many are through the ground. We need to ensure that they don’t get completely smothered by a build up of autumn leaves and to keep an eye out for marauding slugs and snails.
2) Sadly, it is time to put the outdoor furniture away for the season. It lasts a lot longer if we don’t leave out to the elements when we are not using it.
3) Continue the autumn clean up round on scruffy perennials. We make hot compost so we can put seeding plants through the compost heap but it is not to be recommended if your compost never gets hot enough to kill the seeds and any mildew or blight.