When co-presenting BBC Radio Norfolk’s Garden Party which is broadcast live every Saturday at noon I always try to encourage the listeners to ring in and tell us about a few of their successes.

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The listeners don’t always comply, perhaps they do not wish to appear smug but I have no such fears so I thought that I might tell you about some of mine. Perhaps this may encourage some of you to share some of your triumphs too.

Outside the office here I have two tiered shelves that were made for me by Gilbert Larter many years ago. These were made from ‘tanalised’ pine, tanalising being a process where the wood is treated with preservative under vacuum pressure thus ensuring long lasting protection against fungal decay and insect attack. My shelves are furnished with my collection of cacti and succulents in summer but the spring time display has been particularly successful this year.

First of all, in January, someone got in touch with me saying that they were getting rid of a patch of snowdrops asking if I would like them. Of course I said that I should love them and duly collected them, fully intending to plant them in the garden. When I got home I walked past my empty shelves and suddenly, wow, I had the idea of planting the snowdrops in little terracotta pots and putting them on the shelves. This I did and they looked very endearing and demure as only snowdrops can. They were followed by alternate pots of Tete-a-Tete yellow narcissi and blue muscari which again looked fantastic, both ingredients being relatively inexpensive.

After these went over they were all planted in the garden but what to follow them with? My prayers were answered when I went to my local farm shop where they had a really fantastic and inexpensive selection of small flowered violas for sale in cell trays. As it was now the middle of March there was not too much choice so I opted for two varieties, a rather good yellow and blue one and one that is really too pink for me but as life is a series of compromises, I had no choice. These have been incredibly good and given us very good value for the past two and a half months but are now looking a little jaded. All is not lost, for if these are cut back and planted out and kept moist, will be flowering again from July onwards.

Euphorbia griffithii ‘Dixter’ is such a good plant that it deserves more recognition by the gardening public. At the moment it really is looking its best with its bright orangey-red colouring. This later fades to shades of soft rose but retains enough definition to still make a statement. A happy accident occurred here where this euphorbia found itself next to a phormium with pink and green leaves; these two plants complemented each other superbly.

However, I notice that when I see it for sale as a containerised plant it does not look at all happy. I think that this is to do with the natural, slightly wandering, habit of the plant. It likes to move around in the garden but it is quite easy to chop around its clumps with a sharp spade to curtail this habit. By so doing you may even sever some shoots that already have roots attached for use as cuttings or to give away. We have a large planting of Euphorbia griffithii ‘Dixter’ in our Exotic Garden where it looks ravishing in May and June. Later, as its colour fades, I plant tall growing annuals through it.

At this time of the year we experience great excitement in the Desert Wash for we never quite know which plants will be flowering. This year we have been pleasantly surprised by a Nolinia longifolia that has two enormous flower spikes each comprising many hundreds of small white blossoms. This grows to a height of two to three metres and is quite a spectacular sight; but, beware, for each of the leaves is edged with very sharp saw teeth that can, and sometimes do, cause horrid injuries. In its native land it is known as the Mexican Grass Tree.

At the Chelsea Flower Show I was bowled over by the planting on the Laurent-Perrier Garden designed by Arne Maynard. The colour palette was in shades of pinks, plums and purples gently enlivened with touches of silver but my thoughts were that it looked really sophisticated and very smart but, more importantly, was achieved using quite easy to grow and inexpensive plants. The best value for the most dramatic effect would have to be the Papaver somniferum ‘Black Peony’ with very glaucous foliage and near black petals. This is a hardy annual that is not that long lasting in flower but we as gardeners can, of course, sow at intervals to get round this.

Centaureas really are ‘good value’ plants. My grandmother used to refer to them as perennial cornflowers. She grew the variety with blue flowers but there are white and mauve ones too. In the garden here I grow all three but, these have now been joined by an exciting new variety called Centaurea ‘Jordy’. This too was in Arne Maynard’s garden and has rich, deep plum-purple blooms and is said to bloom from May to July. I find that when their flowers fade their lower leaves become tatty so I do what my grandmother did and remove the old flowering stems. This also induces them to re-bloom which is especially satisfactory, helped by applying fertiliser and keeping them watered.

The other plants that were used in this garden are what might, unkindly, be termed as common or ordinary. Plants such as foxgloves, linaria and geraniums, often those with a limited season of bloom, however, this could easily be rectified with the addition of some annuals such as purple and pink cleome, cornflower ‘Black Ball’ and cosmos, there is a really luscious one called C. double click ‘Cranberry’ with deep plummy colouring, if you’re quick, it is still not too late to sow some.

There were four varieties of rose included here too. Rosa ‘Reine des Violettes’, ‘New Dawn’ and ‘Louise Odier’ are stalwarts that most of us who love roses grow but there was a newcomer (at least to me) that I rather liked. Rosa ‘Burgundy Ice’ is a floribunda that bears flowers that are loose in form. They have deep plum coloured petals that have a velvety texture. Their backs have a pearl-grey sheen. You should be able to buy it from November at Bill LeGrice Roses, who are based at Wroxham Barns.



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