Star plants that shine in early spring

Star plants that shine in early spring

Camellias are one of the star plants in the garden at this time of the year.

Many flowering plants lack lustre after flowering but the camellias dark glossy foliage always looks well. In summer they produce fat buds which nestle among the green leaves for several months before opening out to produce flowers which range in colour from white to pink to red. The camellia originated in China and Japan where they were cultivated thousands of years ago. In the 1930’s the English gardener Williams produced a number of new hybrids which were hardier and more free flowering. There are many varieties of Camellia x williamsii available.

Camellias are easily grown in open ground or in pots. They like a neutral or acid soil. If your soil is limy grow them in containers in a lime free compost. They love warm wet summers and cold dry winters. Plant camellias in spring in dapple shade because early morning sun will turn the petals brown especially in sun, an ideal location would be on the west side of a wall. Camellias may be pruned in spring after flowering to keep the plant bushy and restrict its size. When planting camellias add a generous supply of humus and peat. Do not plant too deeply, the base of the stem should be slightly higher than the surrounding ground. A good layer of mulch on top of the soil will retain moisture and protect the shallow roots. Water a new plant thoroughly, once a week, during its first year. Camellias may lose their flower buds in very dry summers. Camellias are not heavy feeders, so fertilisers should be used sparingly. We grow camellia japonica ‘Alba’ (white flower), camellia japonica ‘Lady Clare’ (red flower), camellia x williamsii ‘Donation’ (pink flower), camellia x williamsii ‘Golden Spangles’ has variegated foliage with a pink flower.

Camellias can suffer from scale insects which cling onto the bottom of the leaves. In addition to sucking the sap, they secrete honeydew on the leaf surface that becomes colonised by black sooty mould. Protect by washing them off or use a chemical insecticide spray.

Jobs for the week

It is now time to look after your lawn. One of the biggest problems with lawns in our climate is the growth of moss. Moss grows in shady parts of the lawn which do not receive sun over the winter months. Treat your lawn with a three in one lawn weed, feeder and mosskiller fertiliser. A 20kg bag will cover 300 square metres of lawn. Apply at the rate of 68 grams per square metre, a few days after cutting the grass and do not cut the grass again for at least 4 days after application. This mixture contains ferrous sulphate (sulphate of iron) which kills the moss and broad-leaved weeds, it gives a dark green colour to the grass. The mixture can be applied by hand but it is easier and more accurate to use a fertiliser spreader. The moss can also be killer by spraying a solution of ferrous sulphate on it. Dissolve a one pound jam-jar pot of sulphate of iron in two gallons of water and spray onto the moss using a watering can with a fine hose. When the moss is dead, after a few days, scarify the lawn by vigorously raking the lawn with a wire rake. This is hard work – if your lawn is large hire out a mechanically powered scarifier from your local plant hire firm.

This removes all the dead moss and brown thatch so that air can enter the surface of the lawn to produce a dense, healthy sward of grass. An established, well-tended lawn provides a year-round green background, offering contrast to colourful flowers.

Pot up tuberous begonias now. Place the tubers in a pot of potting compost, with the hollow or concave side upwards. Place in a warm place and water sparingly until the new shoots emerge.

I’ve had a few question in recent weeks about rose pruning. Hybrid tea roses can be pruned back hard now to within 8 inches of the ground. Floribundas are not pruned as hard, cut back the stems to about one-third of their length. Cut out all dead and weak thin stems completely. Cut all roses above a bud or young shoot that is facing outwards.

After pruning spray the ground with a dilute solution of Jeyes Fluid, mixing a cap-full of Jeyes fluid with a gallon of water to kill the spores of blackspot in the ground. It is important to spray before the new growth emerges because the spray will kill the young growth.

Now is the last chance to prune roses, dogwoods and cotinus.

It is also a good time to prune any late flowering clematis that you may have.

Prune them down to the ground just above some low buds, even if they have already started to shoot, this will help ensure a colourful display come summer.

Last week I was delighted to have Tom Giltenan in the garden to prune my apple trees, he did a wonderful job as can be seen in the photo.

Garden Club Notices

Maigue Flower Club monthly meeting takes place on Wednesday 2nd March at the Woodlands Hotel starting at 8:00pm. I will be giving a talk about Gardening on the night.