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Perennials For Every Season - November 12th 2019

By ticknallgc, Jan 9 2020 11:41AM

A perennial is a plant that grows continuously throughout its life. Therefore grass, ferns, bamboo and even shrubs and trees are technically perennials. Steve Lovell, who came to talk to us at Ticknall Garden club in November, concentrated mainly on what would be classed as herbaceous perennials. Steve travelled from Lincolnshire to pay his return visit to Ticknall. With considerable experience as a landscape gardener a one time president of the Lincolnshire Hardy Plant Society, he is always full of practical advice and illustrates with superb photographs. His inspiration as a young boy were the magnificent twin perennial borders at Arley Hall in Cheshire which have been in continuous cultivation since 1867 and are the oldest in Britain. Also, a big influence were the well known gardeners Geoff Smith and Geoff Hamilton. He admired their practical, down to earth approach to gardening which is very much reflected in his own philosophy.

In planting herbaceous perennials, he advised starting with thorough preparation of the soil and allowing plenty of time to make sure no troublesome weeds remained in the ground. He makes copious use of recycled waste local authority compost by digging it in, for aeration and for mulching. Plants need to be chosen to suit their location. He quoted Essex as having on average 18cms of rain annually compared to Snowdonia experiencing as much as 64cms each year. Dry, sunny conditions suit plants with grey, silver and felted leaves. But Rodgersia, Aruncus and Ligularia need wet ground. Bear in mind that generous spacing needs to be taken in account, whilst close planting for instant results was not recommended. Supports need to be in place early in the season whether it be chicken wire, canes, twiggy branches or commercial supports. Steve loves to grow plants to attract wildlife. Allium, Phlox, Veronicastrum, Eryngium and Achillea for bees and butterflies were all suggested.

Steve reviewed some of his favourite perennials that can be planted throughout the year; all illustrated with his own beautiful photographs. Epimediums and Hellbores need an early cutting back of leaves to show off their flowers in Spring. Erysium 'Bowles Mauve' gives a continuous display of flowers for months. Dicentra is a very early flowerer in the year but needs marking as the leaves die back in the summer. Lungworts attract bees and if you cut back after first flowereing, it will reward with a second flowering. Peony, Astrantia, Lupins, Delphinium and Scabious are all summer favourites. The vast range of colours found in Heucheras, made possible by advances in tissue culture in America, give their foliage the chance to shine at the front of the border. Late season plant suggestions included Echinacea, Rudbekia, Helenium and the Kaffir Lily. They will all attract insects and the seed heads, and if left over the winter, will also provide shelter for them. Thyme, Oregano and Thermopsis are also indispensible as ground cover to attract insects and butterflies.

Steve Lovell's love of plants and wildlife was infectious. To add to his talents, he now leads mini-breaks which would appeal to anyone with a love of nature and bird watching.

Find out more at www.stevelovellgreenspaces.co.uk

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