Friday, 6 February 2015

Winter garden interest and plant health

Winter Interest and Healthier Plants

Betula jacquemonti showing off their bark
     It never ceases to amaze me when the snowdrops and daffodils heave their leaves through the frosty ground for their first look round of the year. A friend living further south (Maldon, Essex) was telling me three weeks ago that the primroses were already up and flowering, though they're still laying low in my Manchester garden.

      A recent visit to the Winter Gardens in Dunham Park reminded me that there are plenty of interesting alternatives to flowers at this time of year: the grove of maturing Betula pendula Jacquemontii flashed their amazing bark in an eye-catching display while the flaking, paper-like covering of Acer griseum caught the light from the low winter sun, imbuing the tree with a warm glow. Contrasting interest was to be found in the growth of Corylus avellana 'Contorta' as the stems spiralled their progress in a way guaranteed to make flower arrangers drool. Another shrub, Cornus sanguinea 'Winter Flame' has become popular relatively recently and deservedly so. With its yellow-based stems travelling towards red tips it is easy to see reasoning behind the variety name. To get the full benefit of this growth it is advisable to prune hard back to a stool in March.
Acer griseum
      On a slightly different tack, I was reading recently about research into plants and aspirin. Most people are aware that willows and poplars produce salicins which, broken down in the human digestive system, become salicylic acid, or aspirin. This explains why the traditional cure for a head-ache is to chew a poplar bud. Taking this a step further though, it seems that plants attacked by disease will produce salicylic acid to combat the ailment. This has led to experiments whereby a plant is watered with dissolved aspirin (one and a half tablets per gallon of water with a bit of soft soap to enable it to stick to the leaves). The results seem to indicate that this has the effect of strengthening the plant's immune system and you end up with a more vigorous, healthy specimen. And, even if it isn't more vigorous, it doesn't get head-aches.
Cornus sanguinea 'Winter Flame'

1 comment:

  1. I'm afraid that the only thing showing in my miniscule border is a couple of bunches of snowdrops. Lovely to see another of your posts John. I do so enjoy them. I am glad to see that my friend Elizabeth found you. I sent her over as she is a keen gardner and I know she will enjoy your blog.