Gar­den­ing

Bray People - - NEWS - WITH ANDREW COL­LYER Andrew Col­lyer pro­vides a gar­den de­sign, con­sul­tancy and plant­ing ser­vice. He can be con­tacted by email­ing an­drew­col­lyer@eir­com.net

I WAS watch­ing the Masters golf tour­na­ment a cou­ple of weeks ago and was mar­vel­ling at the mag­nif­i­cent land­scape that has been cre­ated at the course in Au­gusta, Ge­or­gia. Ap­par­ently it was built on the site of an old plant nurs­ery hence the plant names that are given to each hole. With Aza­leas, Amer­i­can flow­er­ing dog­woods, Camel­lias and Mag­no­lias grow­ing on the course it would sug­gest that the soil there is on the acid or er­i­ca­ceous side. This means it has a low soil pH read­ing, prob­a­bly be­low 6.5. With a neu­tral soil be­ing 7.0, any­thing be­low 6.5 makes it suit­able for grow­ing these acid lov­ing plants. A pH of over 7.0 means the soil con­tains lime which can ren­der some nu­tri­ents un­avail­able to er­i­ca­ceous plants caus­ing yel­low­ing - lime in­duced chloro­sis- on the leaves. This can be reme­died by care­ful plant­ing and ap­ply­ing sul­phur or iron.

I have never gar­dened in an area that is to­tally suit­able for grow­ing er­i­ca­ceous plants but with so many of this type be­ing so de­sir­able I have tried to cre­ate lo­calised con­di­tions that en­able me to do so. This year has been par­tic­u­larly tempt­ing as the Camel­lias, Mag­no­lias and Pieris have been par­tic­u­larly spec­tac­u­lar in flower.

The first step to at­tempt­ing to grow these plants is to get some idea of what the pH of your soil is. You can send sam­ples away for anal­y­sis but this seems to be a lit­tle overkill for the aver­age gar­den. You can also buy sim­ple kits from gar­den cen­tres that will give you a ball­park read­ing. They work on a colour chart and only show in­cre­ments of whole units, 4.0, 5.0, 6.0 etc. I think this is ad­e­quate for the home gar­dener, to be hon­est. Also look around at what is grow­ing in other peo­ples' gar­dens, this will give you an idea of what is do­ing well in your own lo­cal­ity.

I'm work­ing on the ba­sis of be­tween 6.5 and 7.0 at home which means I have to put a lit­tle ef­fort into plant­ing er­i­ca­ceous species which would pre­fer 5.0 to 6.5 al­though any­thing be­low 7.0 and you are on the right side of the chart. When plant­ing any acid lov­ing plant I al­ways go to the ef­fort of cre­at­ing an ex­tra large plant­ing pit, one me­tre across. I then dig out thirty cen­time­tres depth of soil and dig over the bot­tom of the hole an­other fork depth in­cor­po­rat­ing two buck­ets of er­i­ca­ceous com­post, a slow re­lease er­i­ca­ceous fer­tiliser and a hand­ful of sul­phate of iron. I then mix the same again into the ex­ca­vated soil and back­fill the hole. Once planted, I mulch with a fine bark, this helps stop weather com­paction of the soil which er­i­ca­ceous plants dis­like. These plants like their roots in moist cool so this also does the trick.Top dres­song an­nu­ally with a hand­ful of each fer­tiliser again each April will keep the ph down.

Lime hat­ing plants fall into a var­ied spec­trum of lime tol­er­ance even within their gen­era. Camel­lias tend to be quite lime tol­er­ant com­pared with many other acid lov­ing plants. Good choices are C. 'Spring Fes­ti­val' semi dou­ble flower, shell pink and C. japon­ica 'Adolphe Audus­son which is an ex­cel­lent red.

Mag­no­lia's lime tol­er­ance varies a lot. M. stel­lata [Star Mag­no­lia] with its starry white flow­ers seems happy every­where as does the om­nipresent M. x soulan­giana, with its can­dle flame shaped flow­ers in white or pinks. This is the plant I most get asked for in my gar­den de­signs. The awe-in­spir­ing M. macro­phylla is more choosy but with leaves at 60 cen­time­tres in length and large white flow­ers it is worth the ef­fort for the en­thu­si­ast. It needs a very shel­tered spot to do the leaves jus­tice. Mag­no­lia x gran­di­flora is a favourite of mine. It was tra­di­tion­ally grown against a warm wall, it is ever­green and has large fra­grant cream flow­ers in Oc­to­ber.

Rhodo­den­drons and Aza­leas are an­other rea­son I try my best to ac­com­mo­date some er­i­ca­ceous plants in my gar­den de­signs. They are so stun­ning in flower. R. 'Cun­nigham White' is do­ing well for me in my own gar­den too. There are new va­ri­eties of Rhodo­den­drons that claim to be lime tol­er­ant. I would take that with a pinch of salt or should I say sul­phate of iron. I tried some a few years ago with­out great suc­cess so un­less they have im­proved I would plant them as lime hat­ing to be hon­est.

Other mag­nif­i­cent acid lov­ing plants that are wor­thy of the ef­fort in­clude the Eu­cryphias. E. cordi­fo­lia which is the most lime tol­er­ant and one of the loveli­est. Also our very own E. x ny­ma­nen­sis ' Mount Usher' raised in the fa­mous Wick­low gar­dens. Pieris

“With a lit­tle bit of care and at­ten­tion these lovely plants will re­pay you for years to come.”

are very pop­u­lar as well- P. 'For­est Flame' with its dis­inc­tive red young growth and clus­ters of droop­ing white flow­ers is de­servedly much planted. Var­ie­gated cul­ti­vars like P. 'Flam­ing Sil­ver' are equally beau­ti­ful.

Fi­nally get­ting back to Au­gusta and the flow­er­ing dog­woods, while they are not strictly er­i­ca­ceous they don't like very limey soils but don't mind the acid lov­ing treat­ments. Of these, Cor­nus kousa is a lovely species from Ja­pan with creamy bracts and C. florida 'Chero­kee Chief' is of Amer­i­can ori­gin with pink bracts. Both have good au­tumn colour. If you are in the mar­ket for some­thing ad­ven­tur­ous look out for C. cap­i­tata which is ever­green and has yel­low green bracts and comes from the Hi­malayas.

With a lit­tle bit of care and at­ten­tion these lovely plants will re­pay you for years to come.

The won­der­ful golf course at Au­gusta, Ge­or­gia. In­set: Flow­er­ing dog wood, Cor­nus kousa

Eu­cryphias

Rhodo­den­drons

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.