Category Archives: Winter colour

Keeping Slugs Away !

We all fight what is normally a losing battle against slugs and snails.

Whammy them with nematodes, but new generations keep rolling (slithering) in !

So how about a rethink ?

How about planting your garden to make it very unappetising for slugs and the like (does anybody like slugs ?)

Where to start, well how about alphabetically, original huh !

Astrantia isn’t just a lovely, delicate plant, its a plant that really repels slugs. In fact if it didn’t grow so high, about 70 cm, I would suggest it as a protective border against the things.

Astrantia

This is Astrantia ‘Ruby Wedding’.

Plant them in soil which is not too dry, and preferably in a light or lightly shaded area.

They are not really fussy, but much prefer damp to dry conditions

How about Alchemilla mollis , ‘Ladies Mantle’

Ladies Mantle

Particularly if you like a green ‘spread’, although I think their small yellow flowers really offset the dense green of their leaves.

Not the slugs idea of breakfast at all, although the plant itself is not fussy.

It is fully hardy, likes being moist but well drained and prefers sunny or lightly shaded areas. It will grow to about 50 cm up and round.

Fancy something a little more colourful ?

Aquilegia_columbine_magpie_cultivar_2

How about an Aquilegia ? This is ‘Columbine.

Again not really a fussy plant, happy in sunny (but not to hot) or partially shaded areas.

Weekly watering should do, but I add some wormcast extract to the water to really keep their colours bright.

They can get a bit tall, although 50 cm is normal, but they do look lovely gently swaying in the breeze.

Do you like flowers looking softly elegant in a gentle breeze ?

Well I do, and so I love Astilbes.

astilbe

We have quite a moist bit in the garden, not sure why, but these plants are perfect and so easy to grow !

All they ask is never to be dried out and then they will gracefully grow to about 1 metre.

There are Begonias which I could have included, lovely plants but a bit tender I think.

I prefer plants that stand up for themselves, so I’m going straight to the lovely Crocosmias.

Crocosmias

These lovely plants are happy in partial shade, and just ask to be kept moist.

(Although starting them off with some biohumus rich soil would give them a real treat !)

They welcome being divided each spring, and can grow over a metre tall.

Can anything look more delicate and dainty than a Fuschia ?

Fuchsias

Although these are really shrubs , they are quite small shrubs being only 50 cm high and wide and could give you colour throughout the Summer and early Autumn.

Keep moist and well drained, mulch in winter, and these lovely plants will really give you a a long lasting display, just nodding away to the humming of the bees.

Now I just have such a soft spot for Hellebores.

Hellebores 2

Their shy bobbing heads come out in the darkest months, just when you’re really in the dumps !

There are so many different colours, and so many self seed.

Cannot remember ever having to look after them,  but there they are, just cheering me up every year.

If you can bring your self to cut them, float the upturned heads in a glass bowl.

It makes a beautiful centre piece !

Another lovely plant that just gets on with it is the Japanese anemone ‘Praecox’.

Praecox Anemone

So long as you do not let it get too wet in the winter, it will pop up again in the Spring to give you colour all late Summer and  Autumn.

Divide it in the Spring though, it spreads by suckering and growing to over a metre you may like to tame it a bit.

(But I think a large patch of these Anemones looks absolutely beautiful.)

Simply couldn’t exclude from these suggestions for keeping slugs away without including Penstemons.

Penstemons

Delicate, beautiful, lady like flowers which will repay a bit of feed with lovely flowers from Summer to Autumn.

Just give them a good start with good soil (recommend some biohumus again) in a sunny, or partially shaded position then let them get on with it.

They do not like the cold mind, so mulch well in the winter. Also after the frosts have gone  late April or May say – cut back the old woody stems a bit.

Lastly, because I suspect your getting bored now, there is Lavender.

Particularly god old English Lavender Lavandula angustifolia

(Because it puts up better with British weather !)

English Lavender

It loves the Sun, but does not like heavy soil much so get that compost well dug in !

Prune in late Summer, or early Spring if you like, and enjoy that lovely, genteel fragrance  all summer long.

This is definitely not an exhaustive list of all plants that slugs will try and avoid.

They tend to hate plants with hairy or bitter leaves, they don’t like waxy or glossy ones much either.

(Roses in particular I could have included. Even a Hosta, the ‘Blue’ types, are said to be definitely not on a slug’s menu.)

There are other defences too, all organic.

I have mentioned Nematodes, but  coir mulch mats work wonders for my brassicas

( and my Cosmos come to that, no idea why slugs seem to love it so.)

And how about a small pond ?

It doesn’t have to be big, get a few tadpoles in there and they will really get stuck in when they grow up.

common-frog-

Encourage those endangered Hedgehogs, perhaps with a ‘des. res’

and perhaps a little cat food at night, just to wet their appetite.

DSC_0002Hedgehog 2

Loads of things we can do, but perhaps in the end we are just going to have to accept slugs

need if not TLC at least a bit of supper, just don’t let them be too greedy !

Wonderful Winter Smells

We have a pretty small front garden, basically only about 15′ wide down to the lane, but the size doesn’t stop it giving the most wonderful fragrances even at this time of the year.

These are the shrubs whose lovely smells really cheer us up every time we go out into the cold.

This is Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’

Viburnum 'Dawn'

This lovely shrub grows over the years to about 2.5 metres, but long, long before that it will be giving you lovely fragrant flowers right through the winter. Very tolerant of all soils, just likes a bit of drainage and will even tolerate a bit of shade.

The next shrub is which really cheers up each winter’s morning is a honeysuckle,  Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty

Lonicera purpusii

Again this lovely shrub, which also can grow over 18 years or so 2.5 metres, is not very fussy in liking most soils.

Will also put up with some shade too.

It flowers from about January to April, and it never fails to surprise with its lovely fragrance – even on the most miserable day !

Witch hazels are lovely veratile shrubs, and we are lucky enough to have a mature Hamamelis mollis to cheer us up right through these long, cold mid winter months.

Hammelis mollis

These lovely shrubs can grow up to about 4 metres though, our mature one is about that. Although as the branches are quite delicate it certainly will not be overpowering.

They are pretty tolerant, though prefer acid to neutral soils.

Lastly we have two lovely Box’s in our small front garden, both giving colour and the warmest of fragrances on the coldest, greyest of a winter’s day.

The first is Sarcococca confusa.

Sarcococca

It will grow eventually to about 2 metres, and its small creamy flowers have such a cheerful, almost sweet, smell (and I think the really shiny black berries are attractive in their own right.)

Again pretty tolerant, although tends to prefer shade over bright sunshine, although prefers a bit of shelter from harsh winter winds.

The other Box we are really chuffed about is another ‘Sweet’ Box Sarcocca hookeriana

Sarcococca hookeriana

We have this planted next to the ‘confusa’ and both are now mature at about 1.5 metres. They are pretty similar and tolerant in requirements, but are not very happy in full Sun.

With all these shrubs, happily sitting amongst the snowdrops, the long, essential (but to me sometimes frustrating) dormant period of winter seems a bit more bearable.

Also don’t forget how you will be helping those early rising bees – they will be even happier than you with your oasis of winter colour and fragrance !

Take some cuttings from amenable gardeners in the Spring or Summer, and in a couple of years you could have a fragrant garden on the darkest of days !