Posted in gardener's jottings

Some Movement in May

The month of May, And the spring comes slowly up this way ~ Coleridge

After one of the coldest Aprils, this month is loaded with sunny expectation but so far, has mostly chucked buckets of rain in strong, chilly winds. Still it’s early days and I am soon heading South for a welcome 2-week break, although am loath to leave the garden with its attendant needs unmet. The obvious downside of plants in pots is just how much and how frequently they need to be watered, even after rainy days.

Leafing Japanese mountain hydrangea ‘kiyosumi’

It also means I shall miss the stages of plant growth which are unfolding at a fast-forward time-lapse rate. For this reason I have been out with my camera when I can, to capture some plant portraits for the Spring Gallery. Really I should take the tripod for crisp clear images though I do favour a touch of soft blur!

Acer ‘Seiryu’ – April 2020

This is usually the time of year when I can admire my three Acers trees the most. They are some of the last trees to leaf and I enjoy them as much now as in the Autumn. The two larger ones, Acer ‘Trompenburg‘ and ‘Seiryu‘ have already been moved over to the new garden but I have kept back the diminuitive ‘Ukigumo‘ to go when I do. With its white and yellow-green variegation tinged pink in Spring, the translated name of ‘floating clouds’ is most apt.

With age, I have come to like the simpler flowers more and more and after throwing a few woodlands seeds into a large blue pot last year have had the enjoyment this Spring of some tall and honest Lunaria plants. One alas was pole-axed by vine weevil larvae. I had reused some compost in their pot but saw no sign of those dreaded maggoty grubs at the time.

It is entirely possible to reuse old compost: the books tell you not to, but they are assuming you have money to spare/a car/easy access to a garden centre. Certainly, if the plant died from disease or soil pests such as vine weevil, then the compost is best sent elsewhere. But if it just looks very tired, use it as mulch.” ~ Alys Fowler’s Gardening Column. The Guardian

Looking to the few flowering tulips I am again confirmed in my dislike of double blooms. Since the demure ‘Lady Jane‘ has gone over, some pink peony style tulips have come to the fore and every time I look at them, I can almost taste candyfloss ice cream! Suitably named ‘Angelique‘ they romp around displaying all their frilly underwear. Most unseemly – but they were a gift I must be grateful for. It’s doubtful that they will (be allowed to) emerge next Spring!

Two early perennials which do give pleasure are Corydalis ‘purple leaf‘ and Ajuga. They remind me how much I am drawn to blue flowers and in the new garden I will focus as much on palette as plants. Thus blue/purples contrasted with some yellows/oranges or white are in my plan though overall I am aiming for the understated colours of a Japanese garden, dominated by green.

Almost by accident over the years I’ve chosen shrubs bearing the japonica or nipponica ending as well as iconic Japanese plants like hydrangea and hosta so when I move home they will all find themselves in something resembling their original environs – eventually, after a great deal of transformation!

Take a scrolling stroll through the potted garden in May
Posted in plant pieces

Here come the Hostas

As a child I was too impatient to wait and see what the fuchsia bud would reveal and so I would prematurely pop them! With some of that same eagerness in Spring, I’ll scrape the gravel topping in the hosta pots, to seek out the first signs of them putting their snouts above the soil.

purple sheathed hosta ‘snouts’ in mid-April

Once they first appear, hostas soon rush to unsheath their spiral-bound leaves and they do so with a great deal of elegance, which is why I like to keep my few potted hostas within eyesight so I can appreciate the changes.

Another reason to keep hostas potted is that the opportunistic gastropods will find it harder to reach them, especially as mine are situated on gravel. Even early in the year there is one type ready and waiting for hostas to emerge:

In late winter/early spring the keeled slug migrates towards the surface of the soil where it can do untold damage to emerging shoots and leaves. ~ British Hosta Society

I first happened upon Hostas when tending a mostly shade garden and they were an ideal and obvious planting choice. Those with gold pigmentation however tolerate more sun and more sun means more flowers. The glaucous leaved though are bluer in the shade so it all depends on what we want from our hostas. What they want most from us is plentiful, regular, summer feeds and watering. Too often they are relegated to dry shade corners, their tongued leaves full of holes and simply gasping.

Foliage is mostly why we treasure these Plantain Lily plants, although there’s the added bonus of slender spikes of blooms, bell, funnel or star-shaped, in pretty pastels from white through to lilac. And with such accessible stamens, they attract pollen crunching pollinators too.

hoverfly on hosta flower – summer 2020

Before leaving London I cashed up hostas ‘Halcyon’ and H. Fortunei Hyacinthina at a summer fair and replaced them in my new home with the variegated ‘Patriot‘, ‘Dream Queen‘ a tetraploid (double the normal chromosomes) with thicker, tougher, more slug resistant leaves plus a nameless all green one from a local plant sale. And a gardener who was dividing some big blue varieties gave me one that he thought was ‘Big Daddy‘.

There are about 25 species of hostas. Most originate from Japan and are called Giboshi.

Different species grow in different environments – some grow near water around rivers and swamps, some in flat fields, while others find a little dirt in cracks and cling on mountain sides”. Hosta Collecting in Japan

With so much hybridizing since, there are now hundreds of garden varieties with all sorts of fanciful names. My ambition is to try and obtain one or two originals and savour them for my upcoming Japanese style garden. But whatever their species origins, hostas with their restrained colour palette are perfect plants for this theme.

Further Reading:
Hosta species update ~ W. George Schmid