GINA PARKINSON finds that a sunny April morning is the perfect time to admire the photinia she is growing as a hedge.

Facing east a length of evergreen hedge is in its full glory in our garden at the moment. Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’ isn’t an unusual shrub, but like all garden plants placed in the perfect spot there is nothing to beat it at a certain point in the year.

A sunny April morning is the time for this specimen.

The gorgeous new red leaves catch the early sun that appears to filter straight through them on to older leathery foliage, where the beams sit and shine. It is a lovely sight and worth sparing a few moments to seek it out should the weather be kind.

Although spring provides a large flush of colour on ‘Red Robin’ it will produce new leaves throughout the summer to giving the hedge a glow of almost continuous colour for months. The soft new leaves appear at the end of each stem and should pruning be necessary will emerge again a few weeks after trimming.

Given a sheltered site in sun or partial shade, it is a plant that needs little attention and once established can grow three metres or so tall with a similar spread making an ideal hedge or focal point.

Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’ Growing Notes.

Site: sheltered sun or partial shade.

Soil: fertile, well drained but not dry.

Pruning: this shrub can grow up to 30cm a year. Cut stems back by 15cm or less to an outward facing bud to keep them under control and encourage new bright growth. Avoid trimming after August as new growth may be damaged by autumn frosts.

Problems: young shoots can be damaged by cold winds and later frosts when grown in an exposed position. Photinia leaf spot can sometimes occur. This is purple-brown marks on the leaves and is usually an indication of stress often in young specimens after a cold winter especially in an exposed site. A good spring feed with a general fertiliser should help the plant produce healthy new shoots.

In the veg garden

The potatoes were put in our veg garden last Sunday and compared to the planting this time last year it was a very different experience.

The sun shone and the soil was warm and it was a pleasure to be outside getting stuff done. Last April it was still cold, we had had a long winter and it was set to continue for a few weeks longer, and as I finished getting the last of the potatoes in the heavens opened and snow fell.

I thought the spuds unlikely to survive but they began to poke through once the weather warmed at the end of May and they eventually produced a good crop.

This year the seed potatoes have been given a good start in this mild spring so it won’t be long before they get going. We could do with a bit of rain though...

Plant fair

Flower Power Fairs are holding a spring plant fair at Newburgh Priory, Coxwold tomorrow from 11am-4pm. Held in front of this beautiful Hall there will be 25 nursery and accessory stands from the North with a large range of plants and garden essentials.

Those new to the show include Harespring Cottage Plants from the Pennines, the North of England Bonsai Nursery and A C Wrought Iron with a selection of rose arches and decorative planters. Like last year the emphasis will be on insect friendly plants and each nursery stand will have a ‘Connoisseur’s Corner’ with very unusual plants.

Entrance to the garden fair is £3 with plenty of nearby free parking. Tickets include access to the 40 acres of gardens and parkland that surround Newburgh Priory. Refreshments will be on sale in the Rectory Kitchen and the house will also be open (additional charge). Visit for more information on Newburgh Priory.

Open Garden


In aid of the National Gardens Scheme.

Ellerker House, Everingham, YO42 4JA, 15 miles south east of York. Five acre garden on sandy soil with spring bulbs, mature trees, lawn and grass area, woodland walk around the lake, rose archway, herbaceous borders and many seating areas with views of the garden. There will also be a rare plant fair with a number of different stall holders and a treasure hunt for children. Open 12pm-5pm, admission £4.

TV & Radio


7.30am, BBC2, Gardeners’ World. Monty Don looks at climbing plants. (repeated from Friday).

8am, BBC2, The Beechgrove Garden. Advice on what to prune.

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

9am, BBC Radio York, Julia Lewis. Out and about in North Yorkshire countryside and gardens.

9am, BBC Radio Leeds, Tim Crowther and Joe Maiden.

2pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. Panellists Chris Beardshaw, Pippa Greenwood and Bunny Guinness advise gardeners from Eccles, Greater Manchester.


8pm, BBC2, The Big Allotment Challenge, below. The eight remaining pairs of allotmenteers are judged on runner beans, roses, relish and a summer wreath before one pair has to leave the competition.

9pm, BBC4, British Gardens in Time. Biddulph Grange in Staffordshire is one of the best surviving Victorian gardens in which visitors are taken around themed gardens linked by tunnels and subterranean passageways.


9pm, BBC4, The Magic of Mushrooms. Professor Richard Forley explores the world of fungi looking at their evolution, life cycle and their value to the planet and to humans.


3pm, BBC2, Gardeners’ Question Time. Chairman Peter Gibbs and his team of gardening experts advise the audience at the Nissan Car Factory in Sunderland. With Matt Biggs, Bob Flowerdew and Anne Swithinbank. (Repeated on Sunday at 2pm).

8.30pm, BBC2, Gardeners’ World. Monty Don starts planting a yew hedge at Longmeadow while Carol Klein meets a plantsman obsessed by the dog’s tooth violet.