As we close one year and start the next, we’re sharing which garden plants and projects got the thumbs up from each of us in 2023.
Luckily for Caroline we’re also prepared to ‘fess up’ about the plants that failed and which projects sank without trace, so she shouldn’t be short of material for this week’s blog.
Success no 1. Growing mistletoe from seed.
It’s lucky that our phone photos carry the date they were taken or I wouldn’t have remembered that it was back in spring 2020 that Elaine gave me some ripe mistletoe seeds from her plentiful supply in Normandy. Smearing them onto the branches of our apple trees they soon appeared to ‘root’ into their host tree. Then nothing, zilch, until now, late 2023 when the first little stems and leaves have popped through. Very exciting!
Success no 2 Sowing a pictorial meadow. This was a project to celebrate the crowning of King Charles III. Choosing a patch of ground which had previously been a soft fruit area meant the soil was too rich for a native wild flower meadow so we went instead for a ‘Pictorial Meadow’ seed mix, consisting of a mix of colourful, pollinator friendly annuals from around the world that bloom in sequence all summer long. Sown over the Coronation Bank Holiday weekend, this little meadow has given us so much joy that I’m planning to put together another YouTube tutorial on how we went about it so others can have a patch of magic like this too. It’s our feature picture at the top of the blog today.
Failure – Growing Clematis armandii in a pot. It all looked so promising for the first couple of years …. always succumbing to frost outside I put two big pots of C. armandii in my glasshouse where they flowered beautifully to start with. But these are real beasts and the watering required to sustain their rampant growth defeated me. I’ve cut the dead top growth to ground level and dropped the roots into a pit behind the garage praying for a resurrection, but as yet my prayers have gone unanswered.
I told Laura that would happen. Would she listen? My Clematis armandii (okay, it is on the balmy south coast) is a monster with ambitions on gardens several doors down and needs a machete job every 2-3 years.
Success 1. A cottage garden that lives up to the name. The cottage garden finally looking like it’s supposed to. Sisyrinchiums, foxgloves, clematis and roses all doing the correct thing in June and July. It probably had much more to do with 2023’s generally soggy climatic conditions than anything I did, but I’ll claim it.
Success 2: A Catalpa to be proud of. A Catalpa tree is most often grown for its magnificently huge leaves, achieving by pollarding it. If you don’t do that, and have the space for a big tree, the reward is a stunningly beautiful summer display of foxglove flowers on every branch, luring bees and other pollinators for miles around. I’m so glad I left the loppers in the shed for this one.
Failures; apples, grapes, wildflower meadow, a particular rose……..
Failures in the garden in 2023 are legion- not a single eating apple produced, and barely a grape (because I didn’t find time to prune them in winter as I should have done).
My ‘wildflower area’ didn’t get going at all really – I hadn’t cleared the ground enough before the seeds and plantlets went in – can you see Laura nodding smugly at this point? Most disappointing of all this year, I’ve tried growing Rose ‘Mutabilis’ in all sorts of places in my garden, and haven’t found anywhere it’s comfortably flourishing yet. Soooo irritating when even Caroline’s is a happy bunny.
I’ll take any plaudits going for my beautiful Rosa ‘Mutabilis’ although in truth I simply stuck it in the ground – the rest is its very own achievement!
I’d also like to cautiously claim a gold star for my ornamental grasses. When the lovely Sue Kent from Gardeners World confided to us last year that she hadn’t, at that time, tried growing grasses because she didn’t know enough about them, I wondered briefly if I should be worried about my own total ignorance. But, never one to allow my cluelessness to hamper my enthusiasm, I’ve been planting them like there’s no tomorrow – Stipa, Calamagrostis, Pennisetum, Miscanthus etc in the hope of achieving some lovely frosted shapes in the winter. So far I’m delighted with them – they’ve withstood Storms A-Z , and do indeed look spectacular with the sparkling rime of a Highland frost on them.
The pride with which I might record another success – my rambling rose ‘Veilchenblau’ – is tinged with anxiety. Arriving as a squashed and tiny cutting in a box of goodies from Elaine in 2021 it has, this year, leapt into action in a wonderful if slightly alarming way.
It’s been flinging out flowers, plus a battery of four-foot stems, like confetti. I cut it back quite firmly in late summer but I can feel it trembling with the anticipation of doubling its size again at the first opportunity. Slightly intimidating for the hobby gardener but really a marvellous performance.…
Finally, I’m 100% running up the white flag with my lemon tree. For three years I’ve moved it in and out of my greenhouse, sprayed it with neem oil, scrubbed scale insects from its leaves, wrapped it in fleece, fed it special food, all but taken it to bed with me… to absolutely no avail.
It hasn’t afforded me bragging rights for a single gin and tonic.
If it sprouts at all in the spring I’ll donate it to a proper gardener (grudgingly I admit this might have to be Laura who is coming down with home-grown lemons 😤), but I fancy it’s already relocated itself to the great compost heap in the sky.
What were your 2023 successes and failures – we’d love to know!
Here’s the video on ‘How to grow mistletoe from seed’ .
And if you wanted to order a starter pack for your own mistletoe project The English Mistletoe Shop is the way forward (they even do gift cards – what more perfect Valentine’s Day present could a gardener wish for?)
Meanwhile Louise is enjoying the winter flowers on a tree she first spotted in a National Trust garden. Click on the box below to find out what it is.
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