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Geoff agreed to talk to the Group at short notice when the previously booked speaker withdrew.
He gave a brief resume of his career writing for garden magazines and working for the RHS which included writing eight books and carrying out product testing before being made redundant.
The subject of the books included Propagation, Bulbs, Pruning and most recent Botany for Gardeners.
From his product testing he had brought a Burgeon & Ball Transplanting Spade for a raffle prize.
As we do not have a raffle he explained that he would ask a question at the end of his presentation and the spade would be the prize for the first hand in the air with the correct answer and that he would not accept a shouted out answer.
His first slide was of a Rhododendron for which he professed a passionate aversion to the species. In that it did not fit in with a plant that gives of its best for most times of the year.
Also he warned against the ‘impulse buy’ of which most of us are guilty!
His credo - Have a plan:
Choose evergreens and deciduous shrubs in a ratio of 1:3.
Have groups of a) tall plants,
b) infill plants
c) ground cover.
Regard bare soil as a sin!!
One execution of this idea was propounded by Adrian Bloom in his garden at Foggy Bottom when a variety of conifers were planted surrounded by many species of heathers.
(Which heather is the ‘hard of hearing plant’? Answer Erica carnea (carn ear))
Geoff recommended examples of evergreen variegated plants to add further interest:
Group a) Ceanothus ‘Zanzibar’
Eleagnus x ebbengii ‘Gilt Edge’, strongly scented flowers.
Ilex ‘Golden King’.
Despite its name is a female plant which produces berries if close to Ilex ‘Silver Queen’ which is male plant!
(Sex in the plant world can sometimes be very confusing).
Group b) Leucothoe Scarletta
Pieris ‘Flaming Silver’
Silver foliage on plants is very useful to highlight an area and/or accentuate other plants around them.
Plants that offer more than one season of interest, not necessarily the same season can be used in combination or as focal points in the garden.
Examples: Acer palmatum cultivars
If you want long flowering shrubs that will give 365 days of interest choose Viburnum tinus and a selection of roses.
Another long flowering combination would be Fuschia and Penstemon cultivars.
Herbaceous perennials that give long periods of interest at different times of the year that could be included in group b)
Flowering into Autumn Asters
And in group c) Dianthus
Euphorbia characias subsp. Wulfenii
Bulbs and bulbous plants can be used in many combinations.
For example, growing through group c) plants or grown in pots to fill gaps that occur in a border by sinking the pot in the soil.
All bulbs should be cared for after flowering by feeding, removing seed heads and allowing the foliage to die down naturally.
Begonias Summer flowering
Petunias Spring/Summer flowering
Primroses Winter and Spring flowering
Even Ornamental cabbages!!!!!!
Finally containers of any shape, size or material depending on your taste can be filled with any plant which performs for any season.
His last slide showed a combination of pots filled with upturned blue wine bottles to prove the notion that you can enjoy year round colour in your by consuming the contents of the bottles.
He then reminded us that he would pose a question with the spade as the prize.
“If you sat under the leaves of this plant you would surely die”. Name the plant?
After many guesses the audience admitted defeat. The answer:- A Water Lily!
So a second question was required.
What would you do with the seeds of Aesculus hippocastanum?
The answer: Play conkers!
Yours truly is now the proud owner of a B&B Transplanting Spade.