A Sev­en­ties shrub re­vived

Your ques­tions an­swered

The Daily Telegraph - Gardening - - Front Page - He­len Yemm

A low hedge

We want to plant a low-ish hedge, waist-high max­i­mum, on two sides of our sunny south-fac­ing front gar­den and would like it to be quite low main­te­nance. I want to plant Os­man­thus x burk­woodii but my hus­band is con­cerned that it will be too ram­pant. JILL THOMPSON, VIA EMAIL A south-fac­ing site for a hedge is a bit of a gift. There are nu­mer­ous other flow­er­ing ev­er­greens that would fit the bill: per­son­ally, I would be strongly tempted to for­get for­mal­ity and uni­for­mity and go for a dizzy Mediter­ranean/ New Zealand ev­er­green mix­ture in­volv­ing phlomis, Bu­pleu­rum fru­ti­co­sum, Olearia ili­ci­fo­lia, some up­right rose­mary, cis­tuses, small pit­tospo­rums, Ozotham­nus ros­marini­folius and your sug­gested os­man­thus that would be guar­an­teed to make passers-by smile all sum­mer, and each could be quickly shaped and pruned af­ter flow­er­ing to cre­ate a fab­u­lous lax hedge.

How­ever, if for­mal­ity is what you crave, then re­mem­ber that all ev­er­greens can be pruned to a re­quired height once they have be­come es­tab­lished. Since Os­man­thus x burk­woodii is springflow­er­ing, you would have to cut back a year’s worth of growth im­me­di­ately af­ter it flow­ers in late spring. A fur­ther cut in late sum­mer or au­tumn (to cre­ate a more for­mal hedge) would in­ter­fere with the fol­low­ing spring’s flow­ers if too dras­tic, and should be avoided if pos­si­ble.

New fence cov­er­ings

In April I bought three peren­nial sweet­pea and two camp­sis plants to help cover a new and rather ugly wooden fence. The sweet­pea plants have grown well and are still bloom­ing. Do I have to cut these back or will they just keep go­ing? And what of the camp­sis? Have you ad­vice about their fu­ture care? WIL­LIAM PETRIE, VIA EMAIL Your peren­nial peas are hardy and herba­ceous; that is, they have soft stems that will die back at the end of the grow­ing sea­son and new ones will emerge early next spring that will flower later in the sum­mer. There are two com­monly grown herba­ceous peren­nial peas, Lathyrus lat­i­folius and Lathyrus gran­di­florus, known as the ev­er­last­ing pea, be­cause of its rather thug-like qual­i­ties. If you have three of the lat­ter you may find their growth, once they are es­tab­lished in a year or so, some­what over­whelm­ing. The camp­sis is a woody-stemmed self­cling­ing climber that may be shy to flower un­til it has es­tab­lished a ma­ture frame­work. I should warn you that camp­sis climbs best on stone and brick­work and may have dif­fi­culty cling­ing to your wooden fence. If/when it gets es­tab­lished, prune the pre­vi­ous sum­mer’s shoots back a lit­tle in late spring, and it will flower on the tips of sub­se­quent new growth.

Over to you…

I love it when you dis­agree with me – it means that at least some of you are pay­ing at­ten­tion. An in­creas­ing num­ber of you have dis­cov­ered the late sum­mer de­lights of aci­dan­thera, the re­fined “glad­die” that has such an in­tox­i­cat­ing scent – and you clearly find grow­ing them eas­ier than I do, so emailed in droves (with pic­tures) bragging. Sev­eral did agree with me, how­ever, that the size of the corms you buy is key. Mrs M. Hutchin­son, from Newquay, is wor­ried about in­sects mak­ing nu­mer­ous holes in the dry, sandy soil in her gar­den. She is sure they are wasps and is con­cerned for her Jack Rus­sell’s wel­fare. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, when wasps nest un­der­ground they usu­ally do so in a dis­used vole tun­nel or some such. These are most prob­a­bly miner bees, im­por­tant pol­li­na­tors. They are not par­tic­u­larly ag­gres­sive, rarely sting and I am sure the in­quis­i­tive Mas­ter Rus­sell will steer clear.

It pains me to have to say that the squishy but ob­vi­ously sweet fruits in a plas­tic bag that I re­ceived from Mrs Joan Rigby, from War­ring­ton, were too far gone to iden­tify. The branches (also en­closed) had thorns, from which I de­duce that they were ed­i­ble wild plums – not bul­laces, sloes or wild damsons, which are all sour, even when ripe.

(As a PS: wild plums like these are ex­cel­lent pricked with a bod­kin, crammed into jars with sugar and cheap su­per­mar­ket brandy and stored for a year.)

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