Saturday, 15 December 2012

Plant ident 5/12/2012 - Bulbs

From top left to right:

1. Galanthus
2. Crocosmia (this is technically a corm - a 'bulbo-tuber' - a modified plant stem rather than a modified leaf in the case of a 'bulb' and a modified root in the case of a 'root'. A corm that has been buried deep in the ground can be brought out of dormancy if brought closer to the surface and having easier access to light)
3. Fritallaria 
4. Narcissus (distinctive by their onion layered wrappings which are fleshy leaves that protect the embryo
5. Veratrum (aka False Hellebore)
6. Paris polyphylla (they don't like to be moved, but in this case it was necessary and was from the Walled Garden, it is likely it will sulk for a while now)
7. Tulipa
8. Allium (Elephant Garlic)
9. Iris

10. Tulipa
11. Hyacinth
12. Gladioli corms - (these are similar to Crocosmia, but one way of telling them apart is that the bulbs tend to sit adjacent to each other rather than on top of each other).
13. Muscari
14. Tulipa (species ones tend to be smaller than cultivated types - these ones are turkestanica)
15. Dahlia tubers
16. This amazing artichoke head like bulb is a Lilium, with layers that are almost translucent yellow.
17. Allium (Christophii)

Friday, 14 December 2012

Alleviating congestion

Wednesday 5th & Thursday 6th
Weather: On Wednesday hard frost, indecisive weather, brief moments of very wet snow/ sleet. Then a magnificient sunset. On Thursday frosty and overcast most of the day, then it rained as we were finishing.

We worked en masse on a big stock bed in the Peacock Garden both days. Certain things had started to take over too much. This meant carving spaces into it. I dug out plants like Senecio tanguticus (which has small jerusalem artichoke like tubers), Eupatorium fortunei 'Pink Elegance', Verbascum, Mysotis (forget-me-nots), Oenothera biennis, various bulbs (tulips and snowdrops) and Myrrhis odoratus (Sweet Cicely). We saved all of the strongest plants and we executed the work as methodically, precisely and cleanly as possible, cleaning the boards & paths as we went and sorting the plants in different crates. The frost actually helped make the clay more dry and crumbly & easier to work with. As Christopher Lloyd says the wet can easily make it too much of a 'mimsy mire'.

Roots of the Eupatorium fortunei 'Pink Elegance'

Here is a view of almost the same spot about three months ago:

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Winter chores

Monday 3rd December
Not so cold today around 10 degrees. Very still initially then the wind picked up quite strongly at times. Overcast mainly but beautiful light and sunset in the distance later on. Days are very short now, it's around 7.30am now before it starts to get light and it starts getting dark about 4pm.

We cleared the pots of surplus stock stored near the farm complex, weeding the tops and throwing out anything dead.

Tues 4th
Weather: Cold but sunny most of the day which if anything gave an illusion of warmth.

Leaf raking - Graham with his handy leaf/ litter picking tool that he customised (he bent the metal at the bottom so it would pick better)

We raked leaves from the meadow as the oak trees shed their last.

We looked at what bulbs we had left to integrate into planting. In a section of the Barn Garden we thinned out some Lagurus ovatus (bunny tail grass) and topped up the bed with a drift of species tulip 'Batalini Bright Gem' (bright little yellow ones).

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Dixter's Black Gold

Friday 30th
Weather: There was a proper ground frost and the moon was still even out this morning.

The surface of the zinc water tank frozen over

The nursery keeps a close eye on the weather though and had prepared for this the night before, so the frames were well covered with hessian.

We spent the day making loam, I have written about this in past posts:
Humus & loam  and Loam making

But here are more photos and details about the process:

Soil spaded & raked in a rectangular pile as smooth as possible after it has been 'chipped off' the compost mound.

The soil being rotovated, it is kept raked so that the mound stays as even as possible for the rotovator to be able to break it down properly.

After it is put through an A frame sieve, it is spaded into a the hopper of the soil steriliser called Terra Force. It is an old but very effective piece of machinery. The soil comes out the other side and is hot and steamy, and you have to move it out of the way like you are stirring a witches cauldron, but only to the last moment, so that the steam can do its thing and help to burn off any diseases like Phytophphora. 

Monday, 3 December 2012

A sea of snapdragons

Thursday 29th
Weather: Mainly sunny but very cold, temperatures starting to drop below 0 °C at night.

We potted on hundreds of Antirrhinum majus today of the 'Bella Red and Bronze series'. And cleared the Begonia House (the hot glasshouse) of any rotten or dead leaves.

Sunday, 2 December 2012


Wednesday 28th
Weather: A dry relief, even sunny most of the time

It was a straightforward lifting out of the plants day which included Agastache 'Black Adder' from the Blue Garden which was stunning earlier this year, with its bright blue flowers smothered with butterflies and bees, Salvia leucantha in the Long Border and Peacock Garden, Agastache 'Apricot Sprite' also from the latter and a tree dahlia 'Excelsior' in the Exotic Garden. This was done all in good time too, as a deep frost came a couple of days after. Agastache is hardy, but we took it out because they don't like the wet and this is a bit of a risk with a heavy clay soil.

The gate above was something that we had to dismantle, it is unusual in that it is in different pieces and fits together like a jigsaw, held in place by a huge weight and dowling like sticks.

Protecting the Gunnera

On Thursday we protected the crowns of our Gunnera manicata by cutting their leaves off, turning them upside over themselves and pinning these down with their own stalks.

Laurie from Vermont

Laurie is from Vermont and has been volunteering at Dixter the last three or four weeks. She was a chef and restauranteur, but has a taste for plants and soil now. It has been said that food and gardening is closely connected. It has been great gardening, cooking and eating with her. She is now in the next part of her adventures with her husband Paul, where they will be touring around Britain in the next two months. You can read her own blog here at

Spring in the Solar

Tuesday 27th
Weather: Cold, wet and overcast

We worked on the Solar Garden bed today, which is in the front of the house. It is the meatiest and biggest bit of area dedicated to bedding. We dug out all the Helichrysum, keeping a few back, Erigeron annuus - the fleabane daisy - keeping ones with good basal growth, Tagetes cinnabar & Tagetes patula (used to blend edges around the patch of Semiarundinaria fastuosa that is there). And cut down the Rudbeckia speciosa, Rudbeckia triloba, Anemone hupehensis japonica down to 6 inches. As the bamboo is rhizomic we had to take out any new shoots that had overstrayed. Then we roughly pruned the Beupleurum fruticosa shrub, done in the cloud style (we will be doing this properly in spring before it flowers, and will be halving the size of it, but have done some preliminary pruning to prevent it from wind rock). We then planted around 200 Tulipa 'Daydream'. We may plant some Antirrhinums of the Bella Bronze and Red series amongst them, but are still contemplating this.  

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Plant ident 29/11/2012 - Evergreens

From left to right (unless otherwise stated):
1. Fatsia japonica
2. Hedera helix 'Buttercup'
3. Fatshedera
4. Ilex koehneana
5. Taxus baccata
6. Mahonia lomariifolia (yellow early flowerer one, near the terrace)

(Left to right, clockwise)
7. Prunus laurocerasus magnolifolia
8. Prunus laurocerasus'Castlewellan'
9. Hedera 'Gloire de Morenga'
10. Magnolia grandiflora

11. Quercus ilex (Holm oak)
12. Osmanthus delayavi
13. Sarcococca confusa
14. Euonymous 'Silver Queen'
15. Escallonia bifida

16. Eupatorium ligustrinum
17. Euonymous fortunei 'Blandy'
18. Pittosporum tobira
19. Beupleurum fruticosum (last two)

20. Eucryphia x nymansensis (Rosaceae family)
21. Trochodendron aralioides
22. Sarcococca hookeriana var. dygna
23. Olearia solandri aka 'Coastal Daisy Bush' (This huge shrub that is almost like a tree can be found in the Barn Garden)

Plant ident 21/11/2012

1. Agapanthus
2. Clerodendron bungei (this time identified by just the leaf and previously by flower as well).
3. Fuschia magellanica aurea
4. Prunus lusitanica (is in carpark by nursery - common shrub)
5. Aucuba salicifolia 'February Star'
6. Cyrtomium falcatum (japanesed holly leaves fern)

7. Polystichum (shiny one is Polyblepharum)
8. Blechnum chilense
9. Osmunda regalis
10. Blechnum penna-marina

Plant ident 07/11/2012 - Seedheads and bedding plants

1. Thalictrum 'Elin' - aka Meadow rue, light purpley pink flower
2. Achillea millefolium
3. Anemone hupehensis japonica 
4. Actaea racemosa - white spikes of scented flowers
5. Rosa setipoda

6. Nicotiana mutabilis (annual)

7. Aster × frikartii ‘Mönch’
8. Lunaria annua
9. Hypericum 'Rowallane'

10. Iris foetidissima
11. Viburnum compactum opulus
12. Ilex × meserveae 'Blue Angel'
13. Eryngium serbicum

14. Allium tuberosum (garlic chive)
15. Scabious 'Ace of Spades' (aka Scabiosa atropurpurea, Pincushion Flower; deep dark purple with white flecks)
16. Cotoneaster horizontalis - stunning red leaves that has been getting richer & more prominent as the season moves on and is a highlight of the garden at the moment. Scoffs at the thought that this might just be some mere carpark or drainpipe plant. 
17. Celastrus orbiculatus - native to China and Japan

18. Foeniculum vulgare (fennel)

19. Ilex koehneana
20. Oenothera biennis

21. Lychnis coronaria

22. Corokia virgata

23. Verbascum olympicum
24. Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Mellow Yellow’

25. Antirrhinum Bella Red series
26. Campanula patula

27. Hesperis matronalis

28. Digitalis 'Sutton's Apricot'

29. Erysimum cheiri 'Vulcan

Plant ident 24/10/2012

1. Hedychium tara - ginger lily plant, has spikes of orange flowers and is heavily scented.

2. Ulmus (a suckering one found down the track)

3. Lonicera nitida 'Baggesen's Gold'

4. Artemisa lactiflora

5. Glycyrrhiza glabra aka liquorice plant, has great seedheads that break down into pea like pots (they are pea family - Fabaceae). It is a herbaceous perennial and has beautiful flowers too.

6. Platanus orientalis - aka Oriental Plane, it has leaves similar to an acer but has little leaflets threaded through its petioles.

7. Dahlia imperialis - tree dahlia

8. Lavatera arborea variegata - variegated mallow that grows freely on one of our compost heaps

9. Arundo donax

Plant ident 17/10/2012

1. Cercis 'Forest Pansy'

2. Phalaris arundinacea 'Feesey's Form'

3. Begonia grandis subsp. evansiana

4. Parthenocissus 'Henryana'

5. Helichrysum splendidum

6. Selinum wallichianum

7. Prunus laurocerasus 'Otto Luyken' (smaller form)

8. Phygelius capensis

9. Kirengoshoma koreana

10. Viburnum davidii 

This plant ident is based on a particular walk in the High Garden.

Plant ident 10/10/2012 - Salvias

Salvia confertiflora - red spikes of velvety flowers, grows better on older wood, so best to not cut back so much an established plant to maximise flowering potential for the following year. It's a tender perennial and needs to be stored in a warm greenhouse. It is one of the plants that Beth Chatto describes as paint the skies.

Salvia uliginosa - the flowers on this bog sage seems to grow even brighter on gloomy days.

Salvia leucantha aka mexican bush sage has velvety purple flowers. In California I saw it casually in grown in peoples front gardens like the British lavender, even my uncles who's not a big plants person has a bit tatty bush of it full of flowers and attracts hummingbirds. But in Britain it is a bit pitiful, as it's usually not hot enough for them. At Dixter only now are they starting to show small spikes of flowers. It has green narrow lance shaped leaves and is the closest to the common sage that I have seen. It can grow up to 1.5 metres high and 1 metre wide. It is a herbaceous perennial and is not frost hardy. Can be propagated by semi hardwood cuttings.

S. 'Indigo Spires'
Grows from the base and is better when it has new growth opposite to confertiflora, as it can get woody at the base and not produce such good plants.

S. 'Cerro Potosi'

S. 'Forest Fire'

S. microphylla 'Hot Lips'

S. guarantica 'Blue Enigma' 

S. involucrata 'Bethellii'

S. nemerosa 'Caradonna'- small bright flowered indigo can be found in the Long Border.

S. mexicana var. minor the photo below doesn't give it justice but it has great grey blue green foliage and hardly needs supporting. Although it is only starting to flower now, it is hopeful. It has lime green bracts that offsets bright dark blue flowers. It is lost here, but in the right setting maybe the Exotic Garden it may really come into its own.

S. 'Mulberry Jam'

Plant ident 02/10/2012

1. Asplenium scolopendrium - the 'Hart Tongue' fern is commonly found in the wild and usually grow in drifts under woods, amongst rocks and streams. It likes moisture and shade.

2. Astelia chathamica - a good grass to know as it likes deep dry shade. It has a silvery sheen.

3. Pleioblastis variegatus - a dwarf bamboo that grows up to 7ft tall

4. Cotoneaster horizontalis 

5. x Fatshedera x lizei aka Tree Ivy
6. Leptospermum lanigerum - a hardy shrub and has what is called a 'columnar' form. It grows up to 3m tall and 1m wide and is quite compact. It also does well in heavy shade.

7. This conifer like plant is actually a hebe! Otherwise known as Hebe cupressoides 'Broughton Dome'.

8. Begonia grandis evansiana - it is frost hardy, has red undersides and is tuberous. It is also a perennial.

9. Euonymous europaeus - the common hedgerow spindle tree is one of my personal favourites.

Looking very resplendent at Dixter - this is the most I have seen it flowered yet. There's a beautiful red variety at the Royal Pavilion gardens where I did a work placement last year.