Posted on | July 21, 2012 | 2 Comments
Firstly I must apologies for only including two photographs this week. As you will see from the following blog, I have been getting the garden ready for the annual NGS opening and I have been working late into the evenings over the last few days so no time to sort out pics though they will be back with a vengeance next week – enjoy…
Did someone just say rain? Absolutely no mention of the wet stuff this week – it’s now getting rather boring! At least it’s starting to warm up a bit here in Norfolk thanks to the ‘Jet stream’ moving further north (at last) which is absolutely perfect as the garden is flinging its gates open for the (NGS) National Garden Scheme tomorrow July the 22nd. Rain is the last thing we need on an NGS day! It is also the 23rd year the Exotic Garden has opened for such an august charity.
Of course, there will be plenty to see here at the Exotic Garden as the milder weather is bringing everything into bloom and all the jungle foliage is fattening up nicely to add to visitors exotic experience. There is also a new vegetable garden and tropical Polly tunnel where you will find plants for sale.
Thinking of flowers, the Lily season is now upon us and so are those pernicious little critters ‘the lily beetles’ which chew those horrible unsightly serrated holes in foliage and flowers much to the vexation of us avid gardeners. The adult beetles are very noticeable being 8mm long and bright red with a black head and legs. Over the years I have grown many containers full of these highly floriferous plants, but despite rigorously removing the bright red beetles as soon as seen, many still get through.
If you purchase container grown lily’s that are just about to come into bloom and are beetle free, it will be because growers use a powerful systemic insecticide named ‘Exemptor’ which is mixed with the growing medium when they are planted – this chemical is not sold to the general public as it needs a licence to use it. For us mere mortals though, the best way to slow Lily beetle populations down is to literally pick them off as soon as you see them, being careful not to shake the plants too much as they tend to fall to the ground on their backs hiding their bright red carapace and only showing their dark undersides. They are quite difficult to see on the ground unless you put something like white paper or a sheet underneath to catch them as they fall and once caught they must be squished immediately!
This year, I am trying a new introduction from Thompson & Morgan, an Oriental Lily named ‘Defender’ which consistently avoided lily beetle attack over 2 years of extensive trials at their headquarters in Suffolk. They claim with much confidence that this is the most lily beetle tolerant variety they’ve ever seen. I have two large containers of ‘Defender’ which are now 90cm (36”) tall with large, very attractive soft pink flowers complete with the ever popular oriental fragrance that makes lilies such alluring and essential garden plants. I have seen the odd beetles walking over them but thankfully they don’t seem to nibble the foliage or flowers so I will definitely be growing more ‘Defender’ next year.
It is also the season for those wonderful South African plants – Agapanthus, which thankfully don’t seem to suffer from insect problems. They can be shy to flower though if potted on to often as the most prolific number of flowering stems are produced when they have constricted roots. Up until two winters ago I had a good collection here at the Exotic Garden, but alas all my containerised ones surcame to the sub-zero conditions, though most of those planted permanently in the ground survived the big freeze well. I have been building up new collections which are now coming into bloom in their many shades from deepest blue to purest white. These will be overwintered in a greenhouse under the staging and kept just above freezing during the coldest months of the winter.
One plant that always captures visitor’s attention in the garden is Phytolacca acinosa or Indian Pokeweed. It is a perennial with bright green foliage, growing to around 5-6ft tall with a similar spread when mature. In its first season from seed it is a single stemmed plant though after 2-3 years it becomes multi-stemmed with thick pinkish-purple stems. About a month ago mine started to come into bloom with bright pink spikes of well packed small flowers. As the individual flowers go over, bright green seed pods start to form followed later in the year by rich purple-black fruit. It produces masses of seed which germinates readily forming quite a thicket around the parent plant which has to be weed regularly or they will take over the garden! Another Phytolacca I am growing for the first time this year has the rather intriguing name Phytolacca Laka Boom. It is far daintier in all its characteristics, growing to about 4ft tall with beautiful purple tinted foliage and thin red stems, bearing congested spikes of purple-pink flowers followed by dark berries. This is a selection from a wild tropical species found on high volcanic slopes of Sumatra so as yet, I’m not sure of its hardiness. I am also growing another new form, Phytolacca americana ‘Silberstein’ also known as ‘Variegata’ from seed I was given when I was giving a talk at a seminar Philadelphia earlier this year. So far the seedlings are only 6ins or so tall, but have almost yellowy-white leaves with random green markings which is very exiting indeed!
Thinking of more exotic looking plants, nothing can beat growing bananas in the garden for a truly tropical effect. I have been growing the root hardy banana Musa basjoo in the garden for a quarter of a century which must be almost a record for growing bananas permanently outside in the UK. My biggest clump is now ten feet across at the base though the original stems have been replaced by pups (new shoots) many times over the last decade or so. Even with such a cool summer the canopy is over 17ft across and with warmer weather will become even wider by the end of the summer season. The poor things have had a struggle this year producing new growth as they hate wind as it shreds the 6ft plus leaves often breaks them off. Thankfully though, if well fed Musa basjoo produces new leaves rapidly giving a fine canopy of foliage well above head height. Another fine banana, though not quite as hardy is Musa sikkimensis. It produces more upright leaves than M. basjoo which are also more wind tolerant. However, the most noticeable thing is that M. sikkimensis can be extremely colourful. Each plant varies, but generally there is a mauve sheen on the underside of each leaf surface. The green upper surface can sometimes have brown banding on each leaf which is very attractive indeed.
Have a great weekend in your garden and if you’re not too far away why not support the National Garden Scheme and visit the Exotic Garden this Sunday …