Death hits us hard when it calls. It has brought disappointment and annoyance because plants I bought, which were frost-tender at lower degrees, could still be expected to survive if protected, instead they have given up the ghost. I checked out the descriptions of the plants before I bought them and made sure they were reasonably hardy, but unfortunately this has been one of the harshest and probably the longest winters we have had for a long time. Whilst the south of the UK was roasting with hotter weather than usual, Scotland shivered with one of the coldest, wettest summers which I can remember and here we are at the beginning of spring again and it’s still winter.
Some of the tropical plants I bought at the end of the summer last year and over-wintered in the greenhouse may not have survived, however, the two Trachycarpus fortunei, I got as a free gift from the tropical plant suppliers continue to grow, so I probably won’t need to worry about what else I can plant.
Snow is falling as I write. This is not good news when I am trying to clear up the small patch I have as a garden, in readiness for the summer planting.
I did like my hosta by the pond, it always looked healthy for a few days at least, until the snails sniffed it out, then virtually overnight, it became a skeleton. I have not uncovered the Lime Caviar tree. Buying that might have been an expensive mistake, but it looked interesting and I looked forward to trying those strange fruits it should have produced. It needed winter protection, so the first winter it spent in the greenhouse. However, moving the tree was dangerous, it was covered with lethal thorns at least an inch long. I did not relish the fact I could be punctured by it again, or even worse, impaled on it, so I believed what the ‘experts’ said about covering it with fleece. I bought a large fleece jacket for it, which reaches down to the ground and without even uncovering it now, I would say it’s a tree deceased.
Putting a sensible hat on, the two new shrubs I have for this year are ‘Hibiscus syriacus’ Starburst Chiffon, with it’s 10cm exotic blossoms and the calyces which can be used to make tea, is hardy down to -25°. The other shrub is ‘Leycesteria formosa’. Although I know it as pheasant berry, it’s fruit is edible, apparently it tastes a bit like treacle, but I haven’t tried it. I have grown it before elsewhere and it surprised me how tolerant it was to difficult conditions. These two shrubs tick all the boxes for a tropical look, good for birds and pollinators, are edible and very hardy.
I think my best plan is to try to work with what I have already. The tall sunflowers, climbing plants such as achocha, sweet pea, cocktail kiwi, tromba di Albega and tree spinach add height. The colourful red orach, the large, lush leaves of the tromba and other courgettes along with the soft, velvety yacón. Of course there needs to be nasturtiums as well. It may not be enough to feed the world but it should supply a few meals for both humans and bees, providing the slugs don’t get to them first.
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