In Praise of Pulmonarias

Plant of the Month: The Humble Pulmonaria

After the ravages of winter, the garden in March can look pretty bleak. But with brighter days and warmer temperatures fast approaching, the greys and browns will soon give way to the vivid greens of spring.

There are a few flowers brightening up the border at the moment. The yellows, whites and creams of daffodils and the pinks of hellebores are certainly making a welcome sight this time of year.

One of my favourites for livening up your early borders is Pulmonaria. Its less glamorous common name of Common Lungwort hardly does it justice. It is a welcome addition to a spring flower bed. Many varieties sport pink funnel-shaped blooms which change to blue as we enter spring. Others, like ‘Sissinghurst White’ are more refined, with white flowers and dark green leaves.

Pulmonarias are semi-evergreen bushy perennials that provide interest well into the summer, even after the flowers have faded. Growing to around 30-40cm tall, the leaves are often heavily spotted with a silvery green.

A particular favourite of mine is Pulmonaria ‘Blue Ensign’. It combines dark green leaves with clusters of blue-violet flowers from March-May. ‘Blue Ensign’ prefers moist, but not waterlogged soil and full or partial shade, so it’s ideal in a north or east facing garden. It’s great in a cottage garden setting, and is equally happy acting as ground cover on a bank or slope.

‘Blue Ensign’ looks really good when grown under deciduous shrubs and the dark plum varieties of Helleborus orientalis. It also gives wonderful colour contrast planted alongside primroses, snowdrops and dwarf daffodils.

Over 5 years it will spread to 0.5m high and wide, and it makes an excellent early pollinator for our native insects. It’s also easy to divide, either after flowering or in the autumn.

We will have a selection of Pulmonaria at the nursery when we open next month.

Turning Home-Made Cakes into Holidays

Chari-Tea Van a Great Success

Regular visitors to the nursery, and anyone who has seen us on Facebook, will know that, this year, we started selling tea and cake for charity from a little caravan. We called it the Chari-Tea Van. We set ourselves a goal of raising £400 for our chosen charity, The Maria Hanson Foundation.

The year started with brisk sales during spring and through the Easter period. But a combination of school holidays and poor weather during August made the prospect of reaching that total look doubtful.

But with the help of some persistent social media pestering, we passed our total with about a week to go before we closed for the year at the end of September.

Yesterday the charity held its 10th Anniversary Ball – its main fundraiser of the year – and we were there. At a gala evening held in the Hilton Hotel at St George’s Park in Burton, we were delighted to hand over a big Chari-Tea cheque for £550 to Maria herself.

Where Does this Donation Go?

As Maria explains on her website:

“If you had a loved one who was living with a life limiting condition, if your family was facing a short and uncertain future together, you would want to make the time they had left together as special as possible”.

This is the purpose of the Maria Hanson Foundation (me&dee registered charity) by arranging holidays at the Mablethorpe seaside in two caravans, along with beach huts, for families in this position and for physically and emotionally injured service men and women where very precious memories can be made together. The charity was formed to create special moments & memories to ensure both children and adults share distinctive experiences when time is precious.

So to everyone who tried our gluten-free carrot cakes and millionaire’s shortbreads this year, and to those who donated cash, we’d like to say a huge thank you!

Veronica, Campanula and Ladies in the Bath

We thought we’d show you a few plants today which you can pop in now, while we’re waiting for the summer bedding season to start.

Everybody’s desperate for a bit of colour in their gardens already, and it’s very tempting to nip down to the supermarket and buy some geraniums and petunias. But really it’s too cold to put them out just yet. Unless you’ve got a greenhouse or somewhere to keep them warm until probably the end of May, you’ll probably lose them and you’ll have to buy them again.

So here are a few plants that are really pretty right now.

We have a Veronica – this is a kind of alpine; low growing and full of lovely bright blue flowers. It will probably last well into April, and if you chop it down it should flower again straight afterwards. This is a ground cover plant, so it should go to the front of the border.

Secondly, we have a Campanula – lovely purple flowers, and everyone loves this one. This will creep along the ground and cover quite a long way. Again, low coverage, so if you have anywhere that collects the weeds, you’re better off putting something like this in, and that will cover up the weedy area with a much prettier colour.

At the back we have something a bit bigger – Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’ – known by us and others as the Lady in the Bath plant. If you carefully pull the flower apart it reveals a lady, sitting in a bathtub. Dicentra is a very early spring flowering border plant, so it has to go into the ground, and it will get to about 70-80cm high in a nice position. It wants to be fairly damp, not soggy, soil but certainly somewhere it’s not going to dry out. You get lovely bright green foliage. There is also a pink version, where the bathtub is pink coloured, and the lady is still white. It’s a really lovely garden plant, so do have a look when you visit us.

We’re open every weekend, 10am-4pm, between now and the end of September, weather permitting. So please come along and support your local nursery – we can’t do it without you.

 

2016 Easter Weekend

Hello everyone and welcome to the 2016 season at Blackfordby Nursery.

We’ve been extremely busy behind the scenes during Autumn/Winter to make your trip to our little oasis of calm that bit more enjoyable.

In case you missed it, our latest addition is our Chari-Tea Caravan – serving tea, coffee, Anna’s home-made cake and other assorted goodies. All profits from the caravan will be going to the Maria Hanson Foundation. We hope you will come down and enjoy a cuppa with us this year.

Quite apart from the caravan, we’ve been cleaning, tidying and nursing our plants through the winter. We’ve also bought in some extra stock for the Easter weekend, as late March is really a bit early.

This weekend’s plant highlights include Hellebores, Euonymus, Early summer perennials, Bay trees, ground cover campanula, Camellias, Hyacinths, Doronicum, Primulas, Salix caprea, Aubrieta, Camassia and Dwarf daffodils (Tete a Tete).

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We’ll be open every weekend between now and the end of September, weather permitting. So please come along and support your local nursery – we can’t do it without you.

The Chari-Tea Vintage Caravan

We promised you a little surprise in our last video, and here it is – our little vintage caravan for serving some tea and coffee!

All the profits from tea and coffee are going to our nominated charity, the Maria Hanson Foundation (or Me & Dee).

We’d love you to come down and enjoy a cup of tea with us. It’s a bit chilly at the moment but hopefully throughout the summer it will be much nicer.

So please come and join us, we’re open Good Friday 10-3; Saturday 10-4 and Easter Monday 10-3.

Hope to see you soon!

 

 

Opening Hours, Easter 2016

Welcome back to Blackfordby Nursery after the winter break!

We’ve got some new plants to show you and lots of hints and tips for over the coming season.

We’re open Good Friday 10-3; Saturday 10-4 and Easter Monday 10-3 as well.

We really hope you come down and visit us as we have a new surprise to show you later…

 

Our YouTube Channel

Hello! I don’t know how anyone has the time to write a weekly blog. It’s as much as we can do to write 3 posts per year at the moment!

If you are a follower of ours on Facebook or Twitter you’ll know that each weekend we post lovely pictures of the up and coming plants. This week we decided to go one better and make a video. Once we created that, we decided to go the whole hog and create a YouTube channel. Now we have no excuse not to keep adding content to it, and so hopefully we’ll keep the blog more up to date as well.

Anyway, enjoy the video, and please subscribe to our YouTube channel.

 

55 days and counting

It’s 55 days until the start of Wimbledon fortnight, and for us gardeners that means making sure we have two of the ingredients of any British summer firmly in hand – strawberries and mint. Because you can’t watch tennis without strawberries, and you can’t drink Pimms without mint!

Luckily for you, we’re fully prepared and have the plants you need to grow a healthy crop in time for the first day’s play.

Strawberries

Famously not a berry (it’s an accessory fruit or pseudocarp if you’re interested), the strawberry is actually a member of the rose family. The woodland strawberry was first cultivated for commercial use in the 17th century, but was replaced commercially by the garden strawberry, which was first cultivated in France in the 1750s. By 2011 there were over 4.5 million tons of strawberries grown worldwide.

If you’d like to add to that total this year, we have two varieties to choose from: Elsanta and Alice.

Elsanta flowers between April and June, and the fruit can be picked between mid-June and mid-July. In the right conditions they can produce 400-500g of fruit. They can be grown in containers or straight into a bed, and prefer full sun.

Alice is one of the best mid-season strawberries available. Flowering in May, it crops between June and July outside, or for longer in a greenhouse or polytunnel. The fruit have a sweet flavour and juicy texture.

Mint

An aromatic, perennial herb, mint will take over if you let it, spreading via underground runners. We find it’s best to restrict it by planting it in a container. Mint grows all year round, and tolerates most conditions, including full sun. As well as for use in cocktails, mint is used to brew as a tea, and also for mint sauce/jelly.

We have three mints to choose from: common garden, chocolate and pineapple. The chocolate mint smells like After Eights!

Do come down and stock up in time for the summer – as well as strawberries and mint we have a wide variety of other herbs and flowering perennials to make your garden look fantastic.

The nursery is open Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays throughout the spring and summer, between 10am and 4pm.

When should I buy bedding plants?

Not in April, that’s for sure.

I’m always asked if we have any bedding plants in April. Even though the likes of B&Q and the major supermarkets are piling them high in their entrance lobbies right now, buying summer bedding in April is a total waste of money.

Why? Because summer bedding plants don’t like the frost – it damages the flowers and leaves and a severe frost will kill the plant completely. And as most bedding plants are annuals they won’t grow back. In the UK, spring frosts are likely through until late May – the image above is from the roof of my car this week.

If you are vigilant and have the time, you can plant them out now and protect them with cloches or horticultural fleece. But forget just once, or neglect to secure the fleece well enough, and your investment could quickly become tomorrow’s compost.

So when should I buy bedding plants?

If you can keep them protected in a heated greenhouse, buy them in May. Pot up baskets or containers under glass, and harden them off (acclimatise them to outdoor conditions during the day while bringing them in at night) after the last frosts have past.

If you don’t have anywhere to keep them warm, don’t waste your money now – hold off buying them until late May/early June. Then you should be able to enjoy a summer full of flowers without the worry.

 

Anna Barker is a garden designer and plantswoman. She is the owner and head grower at Blackfordby Nursery, and also runs her garden design business Lush Garden Design.

It’s been a while

Somehow, Easter 2015 is almost upon us. We’ve been sweeping, weeding, tidying and generally sprucing the place up because we’re opening for the year on Good Friday, 3rd April. We’ll also be open on the Saturday and on Easter Monday, from 10am to 3pm on those days. We have a selection of bulbs, including dwarf narcissus, tulips and crocuses, as well as new peonies, Dicentra spectabilis Alba, drumstick Primulas, Bergenia, Camelia, Pulmonaria, Erysimum and some hardy Palms. We hope to see you then.

Regular readers will have noticed our blog posts rather tailed off last summer. I wish I could give you an exciting reason but no, we didn’t win the lottery or anything like that. We just had too much on to keep it going. 2014 was a great year for us and the nursery was very busy, so writing up the blog got pushed further back down the list of things to do.

2015 is going to be different – we’re going to devote more time to writing and publicising the blog, and hopefully keep you up to speed with the exciting things we have in store.

One of the things we did get finished last summer was the installation of a solar powered irrigation system. We have no mains electricity on site, so we needed to come up with a system that relies on renewable energy. We’re lucky that our son is a keen design engineer and so we put the whole thing in his capable hands.

If you are of a technical persuasion, you can read about how he designed and created the irrigation system on his blog. Without giving away the ending, his system works perfectly and has saved us a 2-3 hours a day during the height of the watering season.