I've started posting the newest entry at the top now! (previous months the newest was at the bottom each time
February 26th: Red Hot! or not?
I've got a bit of passion for Red Hot Pokers, Kniphofia and now is the time divide them, provide you have a coldframe or greenhouse to keep the plant in whilst they root up. I also have success with dividing them in mid summer but this might affect the flowering of late varieties.
By judicious choice of varieties and species you can have pokers in flower from May to January!
More about these striking flowers later in the year!
February 25th: Helenium Time! (again)
Janet's been potting around 100 Helenium Dark Beauty (Dunkle Pracht) today
February 22nd: Helenium Time! (again)
It's always lovely when we can bring a Helenium back onto our list.
At last I have enough Helenium Potter's Wheel to pot some up to sell this year.
February 21st: Helenium Time!
Now is the time I start propagating my Heleniums by digging up and dividing clumps. I like to divide mine every 2 or 3 years and I divide down to a single rosette or a small group of rosettes.
Late winter is the time late bloomers like Heleniums are starting grow root again and autumn is too soon after flowering.
I trim the roots back as this encourages even quicker root growth.
I keep the plants under cloches for a few weeks; a lucky few get space in the greenhouse but this mainly to stop them getting too wet after an initial watering.
February 20th: Pure brilliant white
I love pure white flowers and among the border phlox there are several to admire. There are a lot of varieties with hints of pink or pink eyes but fewer that are snow white.
David is one of the earliest ones and the pink flower tube doesn't impinge on the purity of the flower
White Admiral is very late flowering and has very full flowers with over lapping petals...
... whereas Mount Fuji (equally late to flower) has more starry flowers on pointed heads
February 19th: Day Lily Dormancy
I often get asked about the difference between evergreen, semi-evergreen and winter dormant day lilies. Some people say that evergreen are less hardy but I've never noticed any difference in winter toughness between the types.
It seems to me that the key difference is in early winter treatment in the UK.
Most winters all day lilies will lose their leaves. The top growth of winter dormant types naturally dies off and should be cleared away to avoid becoming a home for pests. Dormant types will be back in leaf by February - some of ours are already 1 foot tall.
Evergreen and semi-evergreen types (and in the UK the distinction between the two isn't really evident) will try and retain some leaves. In a hard or normal winter these leaves will be killed by frost and become mushy and could cause the crowns of the plants to rot. In mild winters (like the last 2 or 3 here) they retain some leaves but these get tatty and disfigured and never look healthy even in the spring. So on the whole it's best to cut evergreen and semi-evergreen types back to just above the ground in early winter.
Rajah is a dormant type and already well into fresh, healthy growth.
February 18th: Gathering in the phlox
Yesterday I noticed just how far through were our phlox plants in our stock beds. Time to dig, lift and separate!
Usually the clumps can be pulled or snapped into pieces but sometimes an old screwdriver is handy to lever them apart.
The very old woody bit are best discarded. After you've finished replace all the old soil and bit of phlox root into the hole - the roots usually grow again taking a couple of years to make a flowering plant
The fresh growth is well through - don't leave it too long to lift and divide
A portion will make a few plants to pot up. Shake or wash off the old soil
We potted up: Maude Stella Dagley...
... Glow (original German name: Glut)
... and Charlotte
February 17th: Up close and personal
One of the joys of digital photography is the ability to get real close close-up of plants and insects.
Here are a few I took last year with my macro lens.
Lychnis coronaria covering it's modesty?
Geranium Rozanne completely the opposite!
Syphrus sp. hoverfly can't get enough of a Helenium cone
Golden lauchpad for a fly
Solitary bee stocking up on pollen from a verbascum
50 shades of green on Miscanthus Caberet
February 16th: Day Lily Double Trouble?
Day Lilies (Hemerocallis) come in a very wide of flower shapes and colours and there are some double-flowered ones too.
These fall into two distinct types. Firstly the "true" doubles that have "hose-in-hose" flowers that is a set of petals inside another set. These occurred naturally in the wild in China and have been cultivated for over a hundred years in gardens. Unfortunately, (for day lily fanatics that is), they are sterile and can't be used to breed new colours and sizes. Hemerocallis fulva Flore Plene (1) is a good example of this type.
The second type of double, sometimes called "popcorn doubles" is not truly double but has the appearance of an extra set of petals in the centre of the flower. These extra bits aren't really petals but are formed by thickening of the stamens.
Why is this distinction important? Well, firstly the popcorn doubles are fertile there are lots more varieties to choose from. But more importantly they are somewhat unreliable. To produce the thickened parts they need warm, humid nights which the British climate doesn't always supply. Some are more reliable than others. "Firecracker" (2) is better than most.