Light and shade of horticulture

I have at last brought my planted pots and containers from my previous home to my new one and, as they were filled with plants that can tolerate shade, they are now sitting in a row along the shady side return of my house pleasantly screening an unattractive breeze-block wall.

The outdoor tap is sited close by so it will be simple to give them a good drink should this Summer turn out to be as dry as the last one.

Plants in containers never really get much rainwater even in wet weather, particularly if, like these ones, they are dense evergreens which deflect the water, so it’s always wise to hand-water them regularly. In Chelsea, London, there are rows and rows of gardens filled with containers of box, bay and lavender that die off and are replaced every year in Summer presumably because their owners have gone off on holiday expecting the rain to sustain these plants: it never does.

My containers are home to plants such as camellia, osmanthus, nandina and crinodendron and they make a pleasing display with a variety of leaf textures and colours. The osmanthus is losing the last of its scented blooms, but the interest continues with the red flowers of the crinodendron and the new bronze-red foliage of the nandina. I’ve been feeding them with a little fish, blood and bone to give them some extra vigour during the flowering season.

The lilacs and the clematis in the garden continue to flower beautifully- as do the dandelions. I have never seen so many in a garden. They are for the most part in the lawn, but many are appearing in all the new beds and borders I recently cut out and seem to go from bloom to seedhead in the wink of an eye; no amount of deadheading is going to stop them from spreading further. I must get myself a lawn feed with an added weedkiller to deal with those amongst the grass, but I will have to attack the ones in the beds with a fork and try to get their entire tap roots out intact otherwise they will simply begin to grow again.

Sadly, one plant that will never grow again is the skimmia that once stood in the very centre of my garden and almost entirely blocking the view of the river. I finally decided to get rid of it and ripped it from the ground. It was a large, yellow and very sickly specimen and because it wasn’t particularly healthy it came out with one gentle tug- many of the roots had simply rotted off. These plants are acid-loving (ericaceous) and when they turn yellow (chloritic) it is a sign that they haven’t been getting the nutrients they require; rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias are all similar in that they need acidic soil in which to thrive.

The skimmia has a new position on the bonfire and the view from the house to the river is now uninterrupted and splendid.