This Month in the Garden – March 2018

March is the month to get going again in the garden; the time for real gardening; to be growing things again. This can mean both sowing and planting. If you are starting plants from seed many things will do best by starting them off under glass, in a greenhouse or cold frame or on a window sill and may be in a heated propagator …

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Acers – Care and Cultivation of Acer Palmatum

The speaker at our February meeting was one of our own members, Joanna Baxter, who gave us a fully illustrated and beautifully presented talk on the cultivation and care of Acer Palmatum. There are 128 species of Acers, or maples, divided into 700 cultivars. Acer Palmatum is just one of these species and cultivation has resulted in over 1,000 different cultivars.

Joanna’s talk was the story of a love affair which began while away with her newly married husband but was centred on a little scarlet plant that attracted her with deep fascination. She couldn’t resist buying it and it marked the beginning of a collection of 103 acers of which 98 are cultivars of acer palmatum. Joanna’s garden is now entirely devoted to trees and shrubs.

Joanna demonstrated to us very convincingly the fascination of acer palmatum ( referred to from now on as ’acers’). They come in a fascinating variety of trees and shrubs which range enormously in size, shape and colour. Their distinguishing feature is the nature of their leaves which have between five and nine lobes separated in a way which resembles fingers spreading from the palm of a hand; hence ‘palmatum’.  They are  beautiful, shapely and strikingly colourful plants. The colour not only varies between cultivars but one cultivar may change colour three or four times a year. The leaves on some varieties may at time be bi-coloured and colour variations extend to flowers and fruit. The fruit form like little helicopters.

Acers make excellent companions to other plants but if you are looking for a combination of particular colours this will not be consistent throughout the year. Leave the acer space because their shallow but fibrous and spreading root pattern doesn’t like competition. Epimedium make a good companion plant.

Colour depends not just on the cultivar but on the position, soil and moisture level in which they are grown.  The conditions which suit most acers are acid or neutral soil in dappled shade without full or prolonged exposure to sunlight but there are exceptions to this. Green varieties are more sun tolerant although red varieties need some sun. They can be grown in the ground or in pots so that even those with alkaline soil can enjoy the beauty of acers by growing them in pots. Ensure the pot is widest at the open end or you will never be able to get the plant out without breaking the pot.

Acers are widely available but the cheapest plants may well be poor specimens and wrongly labelled. Look out for a strong growing and well-balanced structure. Get the best plant you can afford, get the right plant for the right place and see that it is labelled. Aluminium labels are best.

Joanna then dealt with the care and cultivation of acers and again stressed the importance of the right location. Moisture level is also important . Acers need to be kept moist and never allowed to dry out but they don’t want to be waterlogged. Plants in the ground won’t need feeding but mulching with bark is beneficial.

After two or three years plants will need some pruning. Prune in winter and before there is any danger of the sap starting to rise. Removing dead or damaged wood and cut out any crossing or interfering branches and thin straggly growth. Use sharp bypass secateurs (not guillotine) and don’t overprune.

The care and cultivation of pot-grown plants is very much the same as in the ground apart from the use of a little long lasting fertiliser. If you grow pot plants on soil rather than  a hard surface use a saucer to prevent the plant putting roots into the soil. Joanna recommended this soil recipe; 1/3 good quality multi-purpose compost, 1/3 ericaceous compost, 1/3 John Innes compost – No 3 for ground plants and No 1 or 2 for pot plants. One pound or more of horticultural grit or sharp sand or a good handful of vermiculite or perlite.

Acers may have some problems, chief or which is leaf scorch which can come from wind. sun or frost. Frost can be the most damaging but recovery in time is likely so don’t despair too soon. Try to plant in situations protected from frost. Watch out for black and green aphids and treat with diluted washing-up water. Verticillium wilt can be a real problem. Cut out dead wood but a badly infected plant should be removed.
A small selection of photos:

Click for more photos from Flickr

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 20 march when nursery owner and Chelsea exhibitor Annie Godfrey will give a talk entitled “Good in Bed” (Annie is a specialist in herbaceous plants)

Jeremy Arthern

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This Month in the Garden – February 2018

February is a month for preparation; preparing for the new gardening year that lies ahead. Writing this in mid January, I had been working in the garden for the first time this year cutting out the old leaves on the hellebores when I noticed the first signs of white on the snowdrop buds and then streaks of yellow on the winter aconites. Things are beginning to move and it is time to get going. Once again, Spring excites us with a sense of anticipation … Continue reading

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My Garden – 2018

At  our first meeting of the year we were welcomed into the garden of Kathy and Paul Fricker.  They have lived in Biddenham since 1991 and their gardens, both back and front, have evolved since that time.  The changes to the front garden have been very dramatic.  The line of conifers which enveloped their front garden and had grown to almost 15 feet were taken down and transported away by lorry and have given way to a lovely combination of lavenders and David Austin Roses. Charlotte is yellow, Grace is apricot and Winchester Cathedral is white …


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This Month in the Garden – December 2017

What can a gardener do most profitably in these winter months when you can’t do very much in the beds or borders or in the greenhouse? One thing not to do is walk on the lawn when there is a frost because it damages the turf and leaves a yellowing mark that takes some time to grow out. Garden designers often say that you should try to see there is some way of reaching the bottom of the garden without going on the grass and it is also something to bear in mind when you position a bird feeder …
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Paxton Pits – A Community Nature Reserve by Trevor Gunton

The subject of our meeting on 21 November was Paxton Pits, a community Nature Reserve, and our speaker was Trevor Gunton who was a founder member of the Friends of Paxton Pits. The Paxton Pits Friends are the largest nature reserve Friends group in the country with 2,200 members and they are the main financial supporters of the reserve, having contributed over £43,000 to a number of projects in recent years.

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This Month in the Garden – November 2017

The craze for instant gardening programmes like Ground Force seems to have passed and the real nature of gardening which needs a long-term view is increasingly recognised. November, particularly, is a month for planning for the future rather than being taken up by the demands of the present. There is still plenty of work to do outdoors though.

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Seasonal Hanging Baskets Demonstration by Lamorna Thomas

At our meeting on 17th October our speaker, Lamorna Thomas, gave a practical demonstration on seasonal hanging baskets. Lamorna runs a garden design and maintenance business and works as a ‘Garden Angel’ giving advice at  Scotsdale’s Garden Centre. Lamorna‘s demonstration centred around the creation of  a winter hanging basket but she made it clear that her comments and advice could apply equally to baskets for other seasons and containers on the ground.
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This Month in the Garden – October 2017

I love those still, warm, sunny September days which conjure up thoughts of mist and mellow fruitfulness, with a feeling of summer but also a hint of nostalgia from the knowledge that time has moved on and autumn and then winter and the dark nights will soon be with us. So far though, as I write this in mid –September, we haven’t had any of those treasured days. The weather has been cold and wet and it feels as if we have already moved into Autumn if not quite winter. As you read this, though, at the beginning of October we have to accept that we really are in Autumn …
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Walled Kitchen Gardens by David Hargreaves

Our meetings resumed in September after the August break with a talk by David Hargreaves on Walled Kitchen Gardens and their Structures. David is an engineer and surveyor specialising in historic buildings. Walled gardens have a long history stretching back to Roman times and the emperor Tiberias had one to grow cucumbers, which he had been advised by his doctor to eat daily. The great times of the British walled garden are , however, associated with country estates in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries …

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