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Last Month in My Garden: March 2012

‘Jottings from Bolam’ March 2012

>Being a member of an HPS group has great benefits, not least for the collective knowledge and experience on tap! Our NE group has a wide cross section of members, from tentative ‘green’ gardeners eager to learn, to those with a lifetime’s experience of plants, more than happy to share their knowledge.

When I was looking to grow more interesting shrubs (just a few!) I asked several members for their favourites, and Margaret’s was Ribes laurifolium.

It was unfamiliar to me so I was fascinated to watch a well rooted cutting develop into a small shrub, with fat flower buds appearing very early in the year. When there is little happening, watching these buds opening in early February is a treat. It flowers generously from a very young age and the large racemes of fresh greeny cream flowers, seen against the evergreen, matt green leaves, are a welcome sight. Sadly, no perfume.

I was surprised to find that it was a low growing shrub, with branches growing almost horizontally and therefore best suited to growing over a low wall or on a bank. I had tried tying up the branches like a topknot to teach it more upright habits, but it would have none of it.

It is easy from cuttings just stuck in the ground – no sophisticated stuff here, and I have now found two, more appropriate sites where it can grace edges of walled beds, planting 2 or 3 well rooted cuttings at a time for a speedier effect.

The woody stems seem vulnerable to breaking in a strong wind, so I push a few stout sticks in amongst the stems, to prevent them being twisted around. This is a trick I use with many vulnerable plants, bedding too, utilising apple tree prunings which actually last very well.

Looking rather effective this month are the various combinations I have using black Ophiopogon nigrescens- one with Chionodoxa forbesii ‘Pink Giant’, and one with blue C. luciliae. Both have Cyclamen hederifolium as earlier partners, and they all seem to get on famously. I now pull spent flowers off before seed is dropped, as enough is enough!

The mild weather has brought out fat bumblebees, numerous ladybirds and the odd butterfly, all accompanied by inspirational birdsong – spring has sprung!

Heather Russell

Text and photographs by Heather Russell of the HPS North East Group.
You can visit her own website at


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