Verbena is looking so good this year

Verbena bonariensis, seen on the right with the switch grass, Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’

Verbena bonariensis, seen on the right with the switch grass, Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’

First published in Gardening by

GINA PARKINSON welcomes the cheering sight of the tender penennial Verbena.

LAST winter was so mild that slightly tender perennials such as Verbena bonariensis survived and have been looking good now for weeks in the garden.

These tall, delicate plants look lovely in any sunny spot in the garden, their slender stems giving height to a bed without adding too much bulk making them perfect for large and small plots.

I like them best grown through tall, airy grasses, the movement of the two plants in the breeze adds another dimension to the garden and although these tall plants would normally be advised for the back of a border I prefer to have them towards the front where other plants can be viewed through them.

The Verbena bonariensis pictured on the opposite page is growing with switch grass, Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’, which will eventually grow to a metre or taller in good soil.

The flower spikes of the grass began showing a couple of weeks ago and have a purplish tinge which reflects the colour of the verbena very well.

The label describes this variety as having reddish brown leaves although at the moment they are bright green, this will perhaps happen when the plant is older, ours is a baby and only planted this summer.

Both the verbena and panicum like to be in full sun in soil that doesn’t become waterlogged in winter. Well-drained sandy soil with annual mulching of well-rotted compost or leaf mould is ideal as it gives them a better chance of surviving a cold winter. For many plants low temperatures are not necessarily a problem, it is having their roots in cold, water logged soil that kills them off.

Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ has good autumn colour and will turn shades of yellow and gold as the weather gets colder.


In the veg garden

THE potatoes were lifted last Saturday with all hands on deck as husband and daughter lent a hand.

The haul was disappointingly small although we had expected it, blight has been a problem for us this year. Luckily almost all the spuds are fine and they were left to dry out overnight in the shed before being put into a paper potato sack to store.

The wind on Sunday almost caused another disaster in the veg patch. Our lovely sweetcorn plants caught the full blast of the strong gusts and I feared the worst when I saw the poor things lying on the ground. None had snapped thank goodness and they are now supported individually on tall canes.


Flower Power plant fair

Flower Power Fairs will hold a Bank Holiday plant fair on Monday at Newburgh Priory in Cotswold so if you are looking for garden inspiration why not pop along to check it out. This late summer plant fair has become a North Yorkshire regular at Newburgh Priory where the peaceful setting in a picturesque village and lovely countryside makes it a good day out.

This year there will be more than 17 nurseries at the fair with a wide range of perennials, trees, shrubs, cut flowers and climbers on sale together with items to attract wildlife from Gardening with Wildlife and information and advice from The British Trust for Ornithology. Garden accessories will also be on sale including ironwork from Simon Allan.

Entrance to the fair also includes access to the Priory gardens which extend over 40acres and include walled and water gardens, lakeside walk, ornamental avenues, topiary and ancient woodland. Refreshments will be served by friends and members of the Wombwell family who own Newburgh Priory.

The fair is open from 11am-4pm and entry is £3 per person, children under 15 years are free, which includes the fair, grounds and gardens. Dogs are welcome and there is plenty of free parking nearby. Newburgh Priory will also be open to visitors (separate entry charge).


Taste and flavour show

YORK Organic Gardeners Association (YOGA) will hold its annual show next Saturday, August 30, at Brunswick Organic Nursery in Bishopthorpe. The show is open to all organic gardeners with exhibits being judged on flavour foremost and appearance secondary. However, as a judge I would ask that the produce is washed, freshly pulled carrots are delicious but not with soil still attached.

Entries need to be received between 10am-midday but allow a bit of time to set them up as the exhibition hall is closed from 12pm-2pm for judging. 3pm-4pm sees public viewing followed by prize giving then plenty of tasting as the show closes.

Homemade lunches will be served in the Brunswick cafe and the nursery carries a wide range of plants for sale. There is also a well-stocked shop and it is worth allowing a little time to have a walk around the nursery site.

There are lots of classes to enter including a section for children. Members and non-members of YOGA all welcome. Visit www.yorkorganicgardenersassociation.org.uk or contact Sue Bond 01759 302147 for further details.


Open garden

In aid of the National Gardens

Scheme Cold Cotes, Cold Cotes Road, near Kettlesing, HG3 2LW, seven miles west of Harrogate off the A59. Large garden planted for year round interest with Oudolf inspired borders at their peak in late summer. There is also a Chatto influenced woodland garden, formal and bog gardens and streamside walk. Open every Saturday in August and September 11am to 5pm, admission £3.50.


Gardening TV and radio

Sunday

7am, Alan Titchmarsh’s Garden Secrets. From the gardens at Sissinghurst, Kent.

8am, BBC2, Gardeners’ World. Monty visits RHS Hyde Hall and carol can be found at RHS Wisley.

8am, BBC Radio Humberside, The Great Outdoors. With Blair Jacobs and Doug Stewart.

8am, BBC Radio York, Julia Lewis.

9am, BBC Radio Leeds, Jake Katbourg and Joe Maiden.

2pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. Panellists Matt Biggs, Anne Swithinbank, Christine Walkden and chairman Eric Robson are in Cheshire.

Friday

3pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. Chairman Peter Gibbs is at RHS Wisley, Woking with panellists Pippa Greenwood, Bunny Guinness and Matthew Wilson.

9.30pm, Gardeners’ World. Monty Don, left, livens up the ornamental grass borders and Carol Klein visits a helenium enthusiast. Meanwhile Joe Swift is at Moor Green allotments in Birmingham.

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