27: Spring 2011

Author: Compo Steep

Fatal attraction

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Fatal attraction
Compo Steep

Having emerged from a hideously cold winter that started earlier than a person of my tender years can recall, it was great to get amongst so many fellow members, at the spring plant sale at Lenham, to get the gossip over the hellebores, and find out what was the feedback on the ‘big freeze’. It did seem that there had been a fair number of losses, much to the benefit of the attending nurseries, and I wondered if this was due to some of us being less than Hardy Planters as we try to push back the boundaries of the plants we grow. I hark back to a previous comment I made, I believe last year, about ‘buy to die’ plants, one of which was Echinacea. I felt a little silly when the next RHS ‘The Garden’ showed vast swathes of them at one of their gardens. Yet again, this year, I was indebted to Echinacea as the predictable expiry of the plants I had propagated gave me space to put out this season’s erysimum cuttings after Echinacea ‘Fatal Attraction’ had lived up to its name. I’ve struggled with these for the last five years. I can hear you saying “How long?”, but I really like them! I even followed Toby Buckland’s advice on Gardeners’ World, to cut back as soon as it’s planted. However, I have to report that after rummaging around the label (the writing still legible -felt-tip marker!) this afternoon – not a sign. Whilst I was looking however, I noticed that the neighbouring Gaura lindheimeri, which I always considered to be borderline hardy, has a substantial supply of new shoots, so it’s not all bad news.

What always surprises me is that the vast majority of plants that have been in pots and have been frozen solid for days still manage to survive. What is even more surprising is that so too do vine weevils. I found this out after repotting my Heuchera ‘Snowflake’. This is a conservation plant and I can see why – its dead leaves are quite prominent. The advice of Rosy Hardy at the Kent Group Heuchera workshop a few years ago, to check the stems has proved useful; as I bisected the main stem I found the little beggars had burrowed all the way to the tip and seem to have backfilled with sand. They were short-lived on discovery!

It’s amazing that the half-dead looking plant could still be alive after the double onslaught – Echinacea could learn a lesson or two!

First published in the Kent Group Newsletter, Spring 2010
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 27.
© Copyright for this article: Compo Steep

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2011. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.

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