The strangest things happen in gardens

By Richard Wright

Friday, January 17, 2014


The strangest things happen in gardens

Doreen Bayton’s Brugmansia candida sunset.

GARDENING ONE of the many rewards of this column, apart from keeping me out of the pub on the night before a 'school’ day while I write it, is the eclectic selection of letters, e-mails and photographs I receive.

My apologies if I don’t respond to every one but I do my best and there has been a right old selection.

Two pines in Sally Woodbridge’s garden are anything but lonesome.

"I know newsprint is chocker with nature articles but perhaps readers might like to hear about the extraordinary things currently going on in my garden where two bushes are passionately in love with each other," she told me.

"For a long time, I expected one to oust the other but they positively flourish together, as you can see, and obviously have no intention of parting."

It just gets better in Sally’s Queens Close garden in Freshwater, where, she says, a 4ft 2in grass snake takes advantage of the foliage to stretch out in the sun.

"A neighbour asked me if the state of affairs is because my garden is Chinese and sort of encourages such things?

"Whatever, my garden is now 28 years old and still amazes me!"

If I didn’t know better, and if this picture had been sent post-Christmas, it could be believed the cupressus’s spruced-up top-knot had been planted there.

Strange sprouting has been going on in Patricia Eldridge’s greenhouse too.

Patricia, from Adelaide Grove, East Cowes, is a real succulent and cacti enthusiast but was surprised to see a cotyledon appear.

She hadn’t knowingly planted it but it was undoubtedly brought in with something else.

Although it is something of an ugly duckling of the succulent world, this cotyledon has a certain something.

For the past four years, it has sprouted ever upward in Patricia’s greenhouse.

The leaves are thick and rubbery, as one might expect, and the flower spikes reach right to the roof.

Like all of its kind, it requires not too much TLC, apart from a position which gives at least half-a-day of full sun, which is great for keeping pests at bay.

Succulents appreciate a good watering but also being allowed to dry out in between and an occasional liquid fertiliser feed too.

"I think you can understand the fascination of succulents (cacti included)," said Patricia.

Outside in her front garden she has the yucca I featured a few weeks ago.

As mentioned, it is 40 years old but not 40ft tall as I described.

"Not being Jack, I can’t say how tall the 'beanstalk’ is but at least the picture puts the story straight," said Patricia.

Doreen Bayton’s not one to blow her own trumpet — well she wouldn’t have wind enough for all these!

She sent me a photograph of her magnificent Brugman-sia candida sunset and there seems precious little sign of the sun going down on this one.

Doreen, who has grown Brugmansia for a good many years, had 36 flowers in spring and in the summer it peaked at 258 trumpets — not that she was counting.

She has now, sensibly, brought it into her greenhouse at her Dodnor Lane home, where it had blooms on Christmas Day and shows no sign of stopping even now.

Did she have any special secrets to such prodigious success?

"No, not really. I gave it plenty of water when it dried out in the summer and lots of proprietary liquid feed," said Doreen.

"My friends said I must have given it too much."

She is now planning to add one of the new hybrids to her garden — which has blooms of different colours on the same plant.

Brugmansia are fast growers that need a largish space and a big container. Many cultivated species and hybrids grow at high elevations in the Andes, so (like fuchsias) they do not like warm nighttime temperatures. They will regenerate if left outside in frost but containers should be wrapped to prevent the soil freezing and if planted in the garden a good, thick, mulch is recommended.

We must get a cold snap soon, mustn’t we?

In preparation, wrap outdoor containers of plants that cannot be brought inside with bubble wrap or even several layers of polythene will do.

Also, if there is frost, resist the urge to tread on the lawn. Grass turns crystalline and its structure becomes very fragile.

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