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Touch of the exotic
12:03pm Saturday 19th May 2012 in Gardening
GINA PARKINSON welcomes the bright shades which captivated gardeners of old.
MAY IS a good month for tulips as they take over from faded daffodils in the garden. They can be planted in large clumps for dramatic effect where space allows or crowded into terracotta pots on a sunny patio for a bright splash of silky colour.
Ours are dotted about the garden in threes and fours and seem to do well even in semi-shade, where their rich colour is a welcome sight among forget-me-nots and spotted pulmonaria. They are a mixed bag in shades of yellow, orange and red, some plain colour and a few streaked and feathered.
They were planted last November and pushed into odd spaces about the beds. I had almost forgotten about them. All of a sudden they seem to appear, large leaves from which the long flower stems emerge topped with a perfectly formed green bud. As the days pass the bud swells and colours, until it opens into the tulip. It is easy to see why gardeners from the past became obsessed with this plant as their impatient wait was rewarded by such beauty.
Although we have so many more plants to enjoy in our gardens than those gardeners had, tulips still carry an exotic mystery that can catch the gardener out as we walk by and glimpse them standing elegantly among the rest of the bed.
Tulips generally prefer a sunny spot, although as I have discovered it is possible to have them in slightly shadier corners. Their main requirement is well-drained soil; they hate to have damp feet and cold, wet, winter soil may rot the bulbs.
Planting is done in November and even December if the weather is fairly mild and soil workable. Because tulips tend to deteriorate, the usual practice is to lift the bulbs once the foliage begins to fade after flowering and store the bulbs in a cool, dry place indoors until putting them back outside in November.
However, it is possible to leave them in the ground if the soil is well drained and if the bulbs are planted fairly deep. Deadheading as soon as the petals drop will divert energy down to the bulb for next year.
Lawns are enjoying the rainfall and are growing at a fast rate and will need cutting at least once a week. If the day is dry, take the opportunity to get the mower out and keep the growth in check; it might rain tomorrow.
In the veg patch
There is an overwhelming amount to do in the vegetable garden this month, with seeds to be sown outside and small plants to be planted out in the beds.
Courgettes, pumkins, squash, sweetcorn and tomatoes can be planted out once the danger of frost has gone. We are in a frost pocket here so I won’t be risking this until at least the end of the month. For the moment our small plants are spending the day outside and coming back in at night.
Seeds to sow include beetroot, French beans, pumpkins, squash, sweetcorn, runner beans, spring onions, salads and parsnip. Again, if the garden is cold or pigeons are a problem eating new shoots, the seeds can be germinated and grown on in trays and pots by the house or even indoors, before being hardened off and put in the bed later. I’m going to hedge my bets and do some in trays and other straight out into the garden.
In aid of the National Gardens Scheme
Beacon Garth, Redcliffe Road, Hessle, HU13 0HA, 4.5 miles west of Hull. South-facing garden set in 3.5 acres with a sunken rock garden with bulbs and specimen trees, hostas, ferns, lawns, herbaceous borders, gravel paths, topiary and views over the Humber. Open 10am-5pm, admission £3.50.
Hillbark, Church Lane, Bardsey, LS17 9DH, four miles south west of Wetherby off the A58. Award-winning one-acre garden on three south-facing levels with formal topiary, specimen yew, perennials, gravel, rock and stream gardens, large natural pond, marginal planting and woodland area. Open 11am-5pm, admission £3.50.
Jackson’s World, Sherburn, YO17 8QJ, 11 miles east of Malton. Two-acre garden with views over the Vale of Pickering, walled garden with mixed borders and old shrub roses, woodland paths leading to further borders, a lime avenue, wild flower meadow, vegetable garden, Victorian greenhouse and nursery. Open 1pm-5pm, admission £3.
The Ridings, South Street, Burton Fleming, YO25 3PE, 11 miles north east of Driffield. Tranquil cottage garden designed by the owners in 2001 on a reclaimed site with climber-covered arches leading to a secret garden with lavender-edged beds, colour-themed mixed borders, paved terrace with a water feature and farming bygones, potager and a new border for 2012.
Open 1pm-5pm, admission £2.50 adult.
Vicarage House, Kirkby Wharfe, LS24 9DE, one mile south of Tadcaster. One-acre garden surrounded by mature trees with a colour-themed border, herbaceous borders, raised beds, species primula and aquilegia, new ‘jewel bed’, vegetable plot, vine shaded terrace and gravel paths. Open 1pm-5pm, admission £3.50.
Whixley Gardens, Whixley, YO26 8AR, eight miles west of York off the A59 to Harrogate. Three gardens open in this rural village on the edge of the York plain. Ash Tree House has a small cottage garden on a steeply sloping site with an extensive rock garden and borders with herbaceous plants, shrubs and roses giving a tapestry of soft colour. Cobble Cottage is a plantsman’s and flower arranger’s garden with views to the Hambleton Hills. The Old Vicarage has a walled garden with mixed borders, climbers on walls and garden structures, mixed borders, old roses, topiary and gravel and old brick paths leading to hidden seating areas. Open 11am-5pm, combined admission £5. Also open Sunday May 27.
Gardening TV and radio
8am, BBC Radio Humberside, The Great Outdoors. With Blair Jacobs and Doug Stewart.
9am, BBC Radio Leeds, Tim Crowther and Joe Maiden.
2pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. Chris Beardshaw, Bob Flowerdew and Bunny Guinness join chairman Eric Robson to help gardeners from Thornbury in south Gloucester-shire. Anne Swithin-bank revisits a listeners’ garden and the gardening weather forecast is at 2.40pm.
5pm, BBC1, RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Alan Titchmarsh, Carol Klein and James Wong begin a week of programmes with a preview of the show. Joe Swift is missing from the usual line up of presenters as he is on the other side of the garden fence exhibiting his first Chelsea garden.
12.30pm BBC1/8pm BBC2, RHS Chelsea Flower Show. News from the show continues throughout the week.
3pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. Panellists Bob Flowerdew, Anne Swithinbank and Matthew Wilson together with chairman Eric Robson are also to be found at the Chelsea Flower Show.
Saturday, May 26
7am, BBC Radio York, Julia Booth. Julia and gardening expert Nigel Harrison hold their weekly plant surgery.