Win­dows dis­tress­ing

The Daily Telegraph - Gardening - - Front Page -

We have just moved to a house on a fairly open-plan es­tate and feel very ex­posed with large win­dows look­ing into our neigh­bour’s equally large win­dows. We would like to grow non-in­va­sive plants with a min­i­mum height of 5ft to 6ft with a sim­i­lar spread as a screen. Can you rec­om­mend a few that would fit the bill?

Jill Furneaux, Devon What you are talk­ing about is a hedge, re­ally, isn’t it? But the word hedge in the con­text of an es­tate gar­den is per­haps not an ex­cit­ing one, im­ply­ing reg­i­mented ev­er­greens and te­dious, very pub­lic Sun­day morn­ing snip­ping. But in fact hedges can be ab­so­lutely lovely, par­tic­u­larly if they con­sist of a mix­ture of flow­er­ing ev­er­green shrubs with coloured/tex­tured leaves, with the ad­di­tion of the odd de­cid­u­ous shrub or hedg­ing rose for good mea­sure. This kind of in­for­mal hedge forms an in­te­gral part of a flow­ery gar­den as well as pro­vid­ing pri­vacy.

Try to put aside your knee­jerk need to achieve the height and pri­vacy you need al­most “in­stantly” by plant­ing a mass of bam­boo: even the non-in­va­sive bam­boos such as Far­ge­sia murielae – per­haps the most gar­den-friendly – can look bor­ing and alien planted in a row. How­ever, one clump as part of a mixed hedge would add to the va­ri­ety of tex­ture and de­serves a place in the short­list be­low. You will get 5-6ft or more out of the fol­low­ing shrubs within about three years, and then will have to prune them se­lec­tively (ab­so­lutely not as you would a con­ven­tional hedge) to keep them per­form­ing well at the height you need. Here are some sug­ges­tions:

Ev­er­green: Vibur­num ti­nus, Pho­tinia ‘Red Robin’, Rham­nus alater­nus ‘Agen­teo­var­ie­gata’, Pit­tospo­rum tenuifolium (tall va­ri­eties, es­pe­cially those with coloured leaves, e.g. ‘Ab­bots­bury Gold’ or ‘Pur­pureum’), Ar­bu­tus unedo, Crin­oden­dron hook­e­ri­anum (needs neu­tral/ acid soil), Far­ge­sia murielae.

Roses: Rosa ru­gosa (es­pe­cially tall ‘Roseraie de l’Hay’), Rosa glauca.

Other de­cid­u­ous: Eleag­nus ‘Quick­sil­ver’ (very fast-grow­ing, al­most tree­like), Cot­i­nus cog­gy­gria (green or red leafed). Emailer Roger Pin­ner has a 15-year-old ev­er­green Mag­no­lia gran­di­flora that has not yet flow­ered, grow­ing in “good soil” with “plenty of sun and mois­ture”. He asks if I have any ideas why this is, and what I sug­gest he does about it.

This is one of those emails that prompts me to re­mind read­ers to give me as much in­for­ma­tion as they can in their com­mu­ni­ca­tions. A lot of you send dig­i­tal pic­tures, which is a great help. The best of you send more than one – a close-up of the prob­lem and another to in­di­cate the size/site of the plant/prob­lem in­volved. But pic­tures or no pic­tures, I don’t mind wad­ing through longish emails if they give me a clear idea of what you are up against.

In this case, there are one or two ob­vi­ous things I can say, the most im­por­tant of which is that Mag­no­lia gran­di­flora trees very sel­dom flower be­fore they are at least 12 years old. So it may sim­ply be a mat­ter of Roger wait­ing for another year or three. Frus­trat­ing, but that’s gar­den­ing for you.

Other fac­tors may be partly to blame for the flo­ral no-show. This ex­oti­clook­ing ev­er­green, beloved for its big glossy leaves and huge, le­mon-scented flow­ers, was orig­i­nally brought here in the 18th cen­tury from the south­ern states of Amer­ica. It was of­ten planted against west­fac­ing house walls, which gave de­vel­op­ing flower buds the best pro­tec­tion against the dam­ag­ing com­bi­na­tion of frost and early morn­ing sun. Newer va­ri­eties are less ten­der but, even so, should never be planted in a very ex­posed site. With no in­for­ma­tion as to where Roger’s tree is sited (apart from that it “gets plenty of sun”), I can’t say whether or not cold and frost play a part in the lack of flow­ers. The “good soil” re­ferred to, how­ever, should be slightly acid, and not dis­turbed by be­ing un­der-planted with any­thing sub­stan­tial, since this mag­no­lia has shal­low roots that hate dis­tur­bance.

So: Roger shouldn’t just twid­dle his thumbs while he is wait­ing-and-see­ing. He can feed his tree with a gen­eral fer­tiliser ev­ery spring and per­haps feed again with some­thing suit­able for acid-lov­ing plants in late sum­mer that may en­cour­age the pro­duc­tion of flower buds. And he should keep it well mulched with leaf mould. If his soil is known to be al­ka­line (if the tree’s leaves are slightly pale, and other acid-lovers – rhodo­den­drons and so on – don’t thrive in his gar­den), Roger could also give it Se­questrene (se­questered iron and other trace el­e­ments) in the spring.

Worth the wait: mag­no­lias can take 12 years to flower

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.