Wednesday 8 July 2020

Messing about in ...

Ensata - a Japanese water iris in second flush
I was glad for Monday’s sunshine as I had job looming that is no fun in drizzle and the cooler temperatures we have had of late. And, I was hoping to complete the job yesterday but the drizzle drove me back to the warmth of the computer screen

I'm pretty sure this is nothing special - common Flag Iris
On Saturday, the deep purple shades of Iris Ensata had drawn my attention to the water garden – a somewhat exalted title for the area around the pond. With greater attention on the more decorative part of the garden, I have sought to improve this area in recent years. I have turned, what had been, a small pool into an area for growing plants that ‘like their feet in the water’, as gardeners liket o say. I was pleased to witness how well the Japanese Ensata had settled in

Incarcerated Yellow Flag about to be put on marginal shelf
However, on closer inspection, I could see that its immediate neighbour was about to take over – some plants are like that that. What I had thought to be another variety of Japanese Water Iris turned out to be the more common Yellow Flag – a pretty yellow, but something of a ‘thug’ in horticultural parlance

Pretty thugs
By a thug, we tend to mean a plant that spreads and crowds out its companions. Another example, in my book, is the Japanese Anemone (nothing against Japan here). Codger has a good named variety (RHS Award, I think) but it gets everywhere, and I now regard it as something of a nuisance. I cannot remember planting the Yellow Flag but, suspecting future problems, I took action and dug it out. It was a job for a mud lark and the roots were enormous. Not so much messing about in boats but, rather, messing about in mud

Tamed rhizomes being containerised
As an experiment, two sections have been potted up and reintroduced – but I shall keep a wary eye on them. I have used two ordinary plastic pots, not aquatic baskets from which they would easily break free and re-establish dominion

Pretty primulas
The disturbance to the wet area meant that I took the opportunity to remove and divide the various primulas growing there – they obviously like these muddy conditions. Should you be interested, you may benefit as I now have available a good range of primula plants. These are potted up and ready to go to good homes. On top of actually doing, the job I have spent some time updating the plant list so readers can tell what is available at the moment. Simply click ‘Plants for you’ (top right) and you get a list as up to date as I can make it. I have included photographs, too. Please let me know if you would like anything on the list

Plants out - and looking for a new home
Water lilies
I whilst I was wading in the water and playing mud pies I also got around to tidying up those smaller water lilies that sit on the marginal shelf. Perhaps I should explain. Some water lilies require shallow conditions so having a shelf does well for them. I also put chunks of the dreaded Yellow Flag in a strong container and added her/him to the mix – see photo

The upshot of all this splashing about it that we have available now:
  • Some healthy young water lilies
  • A range of primulas – candelabra types
  • Yellow flag iris
  • Also, from previous exertions, the lovely blue bearded iris

Repotting a water lily - lovely job
Three sorts of wetness
Before leaving this topic, I think it may be helpful to explain that plants requiring wet conditions can be, very roughly split into three types. Aquatic plants are those that like to stand in water. Then there are those that prefer damp, but not water-logged, conditions. In my case, I grow Siberian iris, Ligularia, Persicaria and Hostas in what you might call a bog garden. Astilbes and Lobelia Cardinalis would also be candidates for this list. Thirdly, there is an in-between category where the soil is waterlogged or semi-waterlogged – I find a small amount of drainage is necessary so conditions are not stagnant – just the conditions that have benefitted the irises and primulas. There categories are hardly watertight (!) – you need to experiment. As I often say, I have experience but that does not make me an expert

I would wish to add that many plants are quite versatile - primulas, for example. Please do not think you must have a water/bog garden for them to do well. However, they will not tolerate dry conditions. Adding lots of organic matter will help give them the degree of moistness they require. The RHS website is an excellent source of information if you wish to find out about the conditions that different plants require. I intend to plant out some primulas that I have potted up on the edge of the bog garden to see how well they will do there. There was too much rain to do it today

Culinary Department
I sense you have had enough of mud and mire, so to matters culinary. I have previously mentioned that I am in the process of scaling back vegetables in favour of flowering plants. To a lesser extent, that also affects other edibles

Thinking this through, I have been surprised how much fruit you can get from a single plant. Produce does not usually get weighed in Codger’s garden but, as a matter of interest here is the output from a single redcurrant bush (photo right). The scales read 1.2 kg (2lb 10oz) – I think the variety is Jonkheer van Tets (the Dutch again!). By a silly mistake I ended up with two redcurrant bushes – that will become one redcurrant and one blackcurrant this autumn

Gooseberries, a Codger favourite
Once again, our gooseberries look good this year. They certainly taste as good as ever. We have the one bush – it produces a good crop most years, though quite old now. Yes, I have a liking for stewed fruit

The humble gherkin
During the early lockdown seed shortage I could not get cucumber seed so settled for a couple of packets of gherkin seed. Do you know, I think they taste better?

A bit of research throws up a peculiar British preoccupation with the long, thin version of the cucumber. Remember that nonsense about EU regs and straight cucumbers? Most nations seem pretty happy with the chubby gherkin in its multitudinous forms

Result of exhaustive research
This photograph (left) shows the result of my exhaustive search for information on this topic. You will notice that the skin needs to be removed - but they are fine without being pickled (and fine if they are). And they actually taste of more than just water which is reckoned to be 95% of the content. Long live the gherkin!

Hanging out somewhere in Tipton
Hanging baskets
As we bring today's post to a close, allow me to remind you that we have a few hanging baskets available

At the moment you have a choice - Busy Lizzie or Lobelia in several colours

As usual get in touch if you are interested in these - or about any other the plants looking for good homes and gardens

Until Friday ...

… best wishes from Garden Codger

We went to press on Monday having just heard about the homecall of Edwin Orton, founder of BCM. Since then Wes Erpen, the BCM Chief Executive has written about Edwin here

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