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Published on April 8th, 2022 | by The Town Crier


Town Crier gardening

Colourful evergreens

As April is probably the peak plant buying and planting month for many gardeners, I thought that I would give a shout out for a category of garden-worthy plants sometimes overlooked in our quest for flower power – evergreen shrubs.  That label certainly sounds more ‘worthy’ than exciting but, of course, evergreen does not have to mean green. There are many shrubs that retain their leaves and provide colour all year round, and quite a few that have flowers as well.  Unless you are creating a purely herbaceous border, shrubs are a great addition to any planting scheme.  They provide height and structure and this is especially valuable in winter and spring when the top growth of many herbaceous plants has died off and been cut back.  And an evergreen shrub gives a real sense of fullness in the sparse months as well as anchoring the planting scheme to the ground.

A common complaint about evergreens is that they are boring.  Well, then you are choosing the wrong ones!  I generally prefer plants that have either flowers or variegated leaves but not both as it is rare to get a really good colour combination.  My personal worst-case scenario is a yellow variegated leaf with pink flowers – but this is just my taste.  Of course, we all know Rhododendrons and Camellias and probably regarded them as ‘flowering shrubs’ rather than evergreens in the first instance, but they still provide that winter bulk and structure that is so valuable.  It is really the coloured-foliage evergreen shrubs that I want to highlight here and some that may be less well known.

As light relief from dark and dull green, look at Griselinia, a medium size shrub very tolerant of wind and coastal areas, has soft green leaves and the variety ‘Variegata’ is edged with cream.  Some evergreens take on a reddish tinge when temperatures drop, livening up a winter border, such as Nandina and especially the dwarf form ‘Firepower’.  Finally I love the almost black, shiny, ruffled leaves of the dwarf Pittosporum ‘Tom Thumb’.   There is plenty of colourful choice in evergreens..

Alison Marsden lives in Southborough providing advice to gardeners onsite and online. She teaches Adult Education gardening courses and gives talks to clubs and societies.  There is no long-term commitment – just all the advice you need an hour at a time.  Find out more at www.gardeningbydesign.co.uk or call 07803 045327

Spring clean your Greenhouse

The start of April is a good time to clean out your greenhouse after it has been shut up all winter.  Many plants can be moved outside permanently and the more tender, still requiring overnight protection, can start hardening off during the day.  The point of cleaning out a greenhouse is to remove plant debris that might have been collecting under the staging to remove sources of fungal infections and also to maximise the light to plants.

Ideally you would take all plants outside before starting, so that they are not at risk of being tipped over or sloshed with a bucket of water.  But if your greenhouse is big enough, then just moving plants around should suffice.  Brush or wipe the surface of staging and shelves to clear up any old leaves and spilled compost – this can all go onto the compost heap.  Wash the glass, inside and out, removing the green algae that tends to develop, especially at the edges of the panes.  There are many products offered for glass cleaning, if you use one, make sure it is suited to greenhouse use and follow the instructions.  Finally, remember to clear leaves from the gutters and your greenhouse will be ready for the new season.

Happy Gardening from Alison

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