Tag Archives: Gardening

October plant of the month – Abutilon

How to grow Abutilon

Abutilon

Tropical-looking Abutilon flowers in October

Our mild climate makes it possible to grow semi-hardy plants outside and be rewarded with some pretty exotic looking plants late in the season. In October there are plants either popping up as autumn bulbs or surprising us with long flowering displays. Abutilon are long-flowering Brazilian medal-winners in an autumn planting scheme. They belong to the genus of mallow plants, (Malvaceae) with an exotic look and bright colours, often golds, pinks and reds.

Abutilon ‘Victory’

Abutilon ‘Victory’ is a trailing variety, reaching up to 2m high. It’s happy outside as long it’s protected from frosts below 5 degrees. I haven’t lost one yet and as I garden on the edge of Dartmoor don’t worry about it being tender.

It’s semi-evergreen, losing leaves as new ones push through. Let it stand free as a trailing shrub, or tie it like a short climber. A wall can provide shelter from frost and support, but it might starve the roots from moisture and that’s no good for this tropical, greedy-feeder. Make sure you keep it well watered and fed.

As the days shorten you want to keep the flowering going for as long as possible, so think about the passage of the sun through your garden and position it for as many hours of sunshine as you can.

Prune if you must in late spring, when you can also take softwood cuttings for back-up plants in case we get a really hard winter that catches us all out.

I enjoy the colour this plant brings to the garden. I dot them where the colours can be seen at head height to appreciate the contrast between the gold and red flowers. They work well on the terraces so visitors experience them at different heights. I think there’s a lot to be said for looking at the detail of October plants. The big sweeping drifts of summer colour may be gone but there is still plenty to enjoy in the garden.

Nick Haworth, Head Gardener

September plant of the month – Actaea

How to grow Actaea

The Actaea pictured is ‘Black negligee’; a thigh-high plant with frilly-flowered spikes of tiny white-to-pink flowers. It earns its name from the dark, deeply bisected leaves that suggest a lace pattern around the edges.

Actaea simplex 'Black Negligee' a spike of white flowers above black foliage

Actaea is a valuable September plant in the border.

Actaeas are perennial, and a good choice for herbaceous borders. Plant them in good garden soil and mulch or feed at least once a year. They are forgiving plants as they don’t mind wet soil and they aren’t fussy about acid or alkaline. Try to give them some shelter and they will grow to a couple of feet wide and over a metre tall. If all you can offer them is an exposed, windswept site with poor soil – don’t bother. They may be forgiving, but there is a limit to their generosity!

September flowers with plenty of early morning and evening scent

They flower in September, so plant yours somewhere where you can loiter in early morning to enjoy the sweet, exotic fragrance. Maybe you will enjoy your ‘Black Negligee’ while you garden in your pyjamas!

Actaea spread by extending their rhizomes – flat fingers of rooty bulbs. They are not invasive and the rhizomes are handy as you will like as not want to divide them to create more plants in early spring. It’s easier than growing them from seed.

If you have enough room plant a few to form a dark wall of foliage, under spires of flowers that can reach waist height with a scent that will catch on the breeze and attract pollinating insects.

There are plenty of varieties to choose from; almost all have the dark foliage that I prefer. Actaea is a favourite of mine as the leaves are a perfect backdrop to pretty much any brightly coloured flower whilst the flowering spikes are worth attention in their own right. I have planted them in our long borders, fronted by bright pink dahlias, yellow fennel and a variety of other “hot” and purple flowers.

Nick Haworth – Head Gardener

Link

It’s always interesting when journalists spend time in the garden with us. A couple of weeks ago on an extremely wet day our head gardener, Nick Haworth gave a guided tour to the aptly named Bracken Jelier of Real Places publications and local photographer, Mike Kinsey.

Bracken’s online article has now been published. It includes some great photos from Mike and also some taken by our photographer, John Richmond, the following day when the sun came out!

The article also includes gardening views and advice from Nick, so if you love what we do and want to know more about how we do it, please click here and take a look.

Nick Haworth seated in tool shed. Photo by Mike Kinsey, courtesy of Real Places

For the gardening tool enthusiasts amongst you, the photos of Nick were taken in the gardeners’ shed, well out of the way of the driving rain.  It’s the lovely old stone building that runs parallel with the walled garden. Future blog posts will include items on gardening equipment…

http://digital.real-places.com/westdevon/p/7

How to create a wild flower meadow

National Meadows Day – Advice from the Head Gardener

As July 2 is National Meadows Day, this month’s advice is to help you make a meadow. Whether you have a few feet or a few acres, the principle is the same and wildlife will benefit. The pleasure of seeing the right plants in a natural environment, providing colour and movement from spring until late summer can be achieved just by fiddling about with the right patch of scruffy lawn.

If you have been to see the garden lately you will know the meadow is full of orchids and butterflies. In spite of the cold start and the damp June, the weather has been really good for wild flowers.

Wild flowers in the meadow at The Garden House, under the silver birch trees

Soil conditions and aspect

You’ll need poor soil and lots of light; an open position is ideal, for sun all day and plenty of weather.  Buy seed, not plants.  But no grass seed; grass will find your meadow anyhow and it bullies wild flowers, so if you’re seeding a grassed area, include Yellow Rattle. It’s a pretty little parasitic plant that reduces the vigour of grass. Avoid annuals, (cornflowers, poppies etc.) because they need regularly disturbed soil. Depending on the size of your meadow, you might need a few packets or to buy seed mix by weight.

Prepare the ground by removing everything, or cutting grass as low as you can and raking great ugly patches into it. Seed wants to touch soil. Sow the seed as per instructions.  It’s a good idea to add sand to the seed mix so you’ll see where you throw it and be able to spread it more evenly.

Maintenance for your meadow

Mow (or scythe or strim) just once in late summer and leave the hay in heaps to drop seed before clearing it. Don’t feed or fertilise, but keep the soil poor and the grass miserable. Meadows aren’t high maintenance; they just need the right maintenance. In future years you can augment your meadow with plug plants and bulbs. Plants will naturalise if happy. Our meadow now has too many orchids to count, they’ve been hybridising at a rate of knots. Visit soon before they go over and get down low to appreciate them close-up. It’s glorious.

Nick Haworth, Head Gardener

PS. To find out more about National Meadows Day, read here at the Magnificent Meadows website.

Come and see us at the Tavistock Garden Festival

We’re bringing our garden to the Tavistock Garden Festival at the end of May. The festival is the perfect time of year for gardeners to browse through the plant stalls in the Pannier Market and invest in one or two (or more!) new plans for the season.

We’ll be showcasing a variety of the unusual and special varieties of plants that make our garden unique. You’ll be able to get planting advice and helpful hints from us too. The plants on display at the Festival will be a taster of what is thriving in our 10 acre garden, just ten minutes away from Tavistock at Buckland Monachorum.

If you can’t visit the Festival, you can always call in at our plant centre. It’s free to enter and is open every day.