Trugg and Barrows Garden Diary May 2012

Don’t knock the weather: nine-tenths of the people couldn’t start a conversation if it didn’t change once in a while.”
This time last month the ground was bone dry after months of below average rainfall, we were basking in unseasonably warm weather and were concerned about how to keep plants healthy in drought conditions. April certainly lived up to its tradition of unsettled weather. In fact, there has been so much rain, in the last week especially, that water-logging is now becoming an issue. My advice at the moment is to stay off the soil as much as you can. Walking on wet soil undoes all that hard work you have done trying to create a good structure. For a gardener the soil is your best friend; the importance of good soil management is often overlooked. Keeping off the soil when it is wet is essential for healthy plants (unless you’re cultivating a paddy field).
Two of Wales’ Finest Gardening Destinations.
There has been plenty to do in the garden this month. The drought may have abated but the weeds are certainly benefiting from all the rain as much as the plants are. We are also just discovering a few things that have turned up their toes, probably because of the drought. Principally, some Lacecap Hydrangea that are always a little behind the mopheads in coming into leaf have failed to do so and will have to be removed.
I don’t want to give the impression that I lead a lifestyle that would put Judith Chalmers to shame but I made another visit to other peoples’ gardens this month.
The trip was organised by the Shropshire branch of the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens (now known as Plant Heritage). The group embraces all those interested in plants and counts some very experienced people among its members. The aim of the NCCPG is to preserve special collections of particular plants as ‘National Collections’, plants which might otherwise be lost to cultivation. Collection holders agree to preserve and propagate these plants for the future. It is an organisation that I would encourage any interested person to join!
The trip embraced two destinations, firstly Crug Farm Plants based in Caernarfon and latterly Bodnant Gardens.
Crug (pronounced Creeg) Farm is a former beef farm that its owners, passionate plants people the Wyn-Jones’s have turned into one of the most exciting nurseries in the world. 2011 was their first time exhibiting at Chelsea and not only did they scoop a gold medal but were also awarded best exhibit! The owners are modern day plant hunters and have the enviable lifestyle of going into the wild, principally in southeast Asia and collecting seed which they bring back to propagate and sell. They also have a delightful woodland garden which gives some spectacular views over the surrounding mountains! The nursery benefits from a mild coastal climate, so some of the more exotic or low elevation plants you find might need careful sighting. But anyone with a touch of shade will surely find something here for even the driest patches. In short VISIT THIS PLACE!
Luckily for our visit the sun was shining. In fact I think that it was the only sunny day we had this past week! Bodnant is always full of changes, particularly since the Head Gardener, Troy Scott-Smith took over. A large amount of cutting back had been done to overgrown Camellias and Rhododendrons. The camellias had been cut to ground level beginning in spring last year. These had made plenty of bushy new growth, though at the expense of flowers. Some of the oldest plants showed a notable lack of vigour which is only to be expected so I expect some will have to be replaced.
If I could sum up the day in one word that word would be emergence. Fresh foliage was everywhere particularly on the Acer palmatum. The long borders looked wonderful and chief amongst the early showers were the euphorbia. E. charicas was prominent by the entrance displaying wonderful heads of green whilst E. griffithii showed contraSting heads of orange and tawny brown.
For those with sunny well-drained spots Helleborus argutifolius revealed its charms, blasting the myth that hellebores are for woodland shade only! Also basking in the sunshine were Paeonia delavayi and Clematic ‘Francis Rivis’ and a delightful montana.
There was plenty of early flower from the rhododendrons and azaleas. The bark of R. ‘Schilsonii’ showed that there is more to these plants than a few weeks of spring colour, though trees like this Sequoiadendron giganteum planted in 1876 stole the show.
In the Kitchen garden
The Met Office is predicting an unsettled and cool May, so keep this in mind when sowing or planting out tender plants (such as french beans) or those that have been grown indoors and have soft delicate growth. Due to long term illness of one of the staff I am behind with many of the jobs in the kitchen garden. Hopefully most of you have already earthed up your potatoes at least once, mine are not even in the ground, but it’s not time to panic yet!
If you have not done so already get on with sowing your summer salad crops! Sow seeds of produce such as celery, beetroot, lettuce, salad leaves, and rocket. Once the growing season is in full swing sow small amounts of assorted salads every couple of weeks. This early in the season I sow/plant out at three to four week intervals. This will mean that a succession of fresh provisions will be available throughout the summer; remember to water regularly. If ground space is limited, aubergines, chillies and sweet peppers are ideal plants for containers.
Over the years I have increasingly sown vegetables in small pots or cells. This gives several benefits, including getting plants off to a good start, easier initail weeding, more efficient use of seed and cutting out the need to thin. I have found growing ‘sellected’ vegetables in cells gives a more efficient use of space and time. If growing plants in cells like this, it is important take care in looking after them until they are transplanted into their summer growing position. Make sure that you keep them properly watered and fed (with a liquid feed). The big draw back in using this method is the extra costs involved. This applies whether you buy them in or whether you grow your own. Not all plants are suitable for starting off in cells or small pots. Lettuce, sweetcorn, cabbage, sprouts and broccoli all do well using this method.
Over the next month I will continue to plant out and sow veg and keep a watchful eye out for pest problems.
Please note: images have been removed from this pages because some of them may have been used without permission.