Gladioli are not planted until the end of spring because their corms are not winter hardy. Gladiolus communis byzantinus, however is an exception, because its natural habitat differs from most of the other gladioli species. The plant’s name is based on its sword shaped leaves, the Latin word for sword is ‘gladius’.
The plant produces violet red flowers arranged closely together along the upper part of the flower stem. The flower stem grows up to 2 feet tall. The plant likes a position in full sun, the only other requirement is a well drained soil since they are unable to tolerate excess water. Its early flowering period makes this species a must for all gardens.
Nectaroscordium siculum (Honey Lily) is another bulbous perennial in full flower now. A native of France and Italy it produces stout stems up to 3 feet tall in June. It produces numerous bell shaped flowers which hang down from the top of the stem. The flowers are cream in colour with purple stripes on the inside. It will grow in any moderately fertile, well drained soil in full sun or partial shade. The plant can be grown in a wild garden or herbaceous border. After the flowers fade seed pods are produced on the tip of the stems which may self-seed if conditions are right.
Shrubs of the week
Crinodendron hookerianum (Lantern Tree) is an evergreen shrub or small tree from Chile. The plant is grown for its dark green foliage and flowers. In May and June it produces bell or lantern shaped red flowers. Grow in fertile, moist but well drained, humus rich acid soil in partial shade or full sun with the roots kept cool and shaded. Shelter from cold drying winds, the young growth and flower buds may be damaged by hard frost. The plant can be pruned after flowering to remove dead or damaged growth. The lower side branches can be removed to raise the foliage up from the ground and provide space underneath to grow bulbs or small shrubs. There are only two species of crinodendron: Crinodendron hookerianum produces red flowers while Crinodendron patagua produces white flowers in late summer and prefers drier conditions.
Tamarix, a native of the Mediterranean, is a hardy deciduous shrub which thrives even when fully exposed to harsh salt winds, is in flower now. Grown for its attractive foliage which consists of needle like leaves and the pink plume of small flowers produced along the stems. In coastal areas the plant can be used as a hedge or windbreak. In an inland garden the plant must the plant must be sheltered from cold drying winds. Prune after flowering to prevent the plant becoming top heavy unstable and prevent it from swarming its neighbours. It can be trained easily into a standard by removing the side shoots until the desired height is reached, pinch out the growing tips to produce a bushy head top. Grow in full sun in well drained soil in coastal areas, inland gardens may need to grow it in a damper soil.
Jobs for the week
In the greenhouse prune the vine to allow one bunch of grapes to develop on each stem. Cut the stem at two leaves beyond the bunch of grapes. As the grapes develop thin out the grapes in each bunch using a scissors. This will allow better circulation of air between the grapes and avoid mildew.
Now is the time to demonstrate your skills at planting up your hanging baskets. Use a top quality compost and mix in some slow release fertiliser pellets. Moss is the traditional liner for wire baskets, but now it is possible to use commercially produced green liners. Use plenty of plants, nothing looks worse than a basket with only a few plants in it.
The plants for hanging baskets can be divided into three types. Accent plants in the centre to give the arrangement height, plants like geraniums, fuchsias and double begonias. Filler plants like summer bedding plants to fill up the arrangement, you can pick plants with the same colour theme if you wish. Trailing plants to fall over the sides, plants like variegated ivy, trailing fuchsias or even trailing cherry tomatoes.