Highdown Gardens is looking at its very best now, says Highdown’s Gary Prescod, …

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Highdown Gardens is looking at its very best now, says Highdown’s Gary Prescod, and with the Easter holidays behind us, it’s a little bit calmer and more peaceful! Keep reading for the latest from the team including tidying up bamboo island and getting lost in honey scents…

Some of the larger jobs we’ve tackled over the past couple of weeks are paying dividends. We worked as a team last week to thin and tidy the island of bamboo by the nature pond. It was a complete thicket of bamboo stems, so we cut down all stems hanging over the pond, thinned the remaining clumps and cleared the leaves from the base of the stems to allow the stems to be the star of the show. In doing this, the bamboo becomes a screen you can see through and that flexes gently in the breeze, rather than being a solid mass of leaves and stems. It’s useful to do this at this time of year, even if you grow bamboo in a container. The bamboo stems we’ll use as stakes and to build small decorative fences around certain borders.

The wallflowers that we sowed from seed last June are all coming into flower now. Many people like to combine wallflowers and tulips, but I think they deserve to be planted independently where they add some vital colour to gaps in the borders at this time of year. And of course when warmed in the sun, the flowers have a beautiful honey scent.

It’s unfortunate that we only had one packet of mixed colours to hand when we sowed the biennials last June. I find that the majority of wallflowers from mixed packets tend to be golden yellow which isn’t a useful colour at this time of year given the forsythias and daffodils in flower. It’s much better to choose a single colour that’s more unusual in the garden. When I grew them for cut flowers in France, my favourite varieties were ‘Blood Red Covent Garden’, ‘Fire King’ and ‘Ivory White’. There’s also a new series of individual colours called the Sunset series – beautiful purples and apricots are colours to look out for, and because the seeds are F1 hybrids, the resulting plants will very strong and will give excellent performance in the garden, and in the vase once cut.

One of the star performers in the garden this week is Cyclamen repandum. I hadn’t come across this cyclamen before Highdown; the standard two species we see for sale are the autumn-flowering Cyclamen hederifolium and the early spring-flowering Cyclamen coum. In my opinion, the latter isn’t a patch on C. repandum, which at Highdown seeds itself freely around into large groups. The flowers are relatively large for cyclamen, and are a beautiful shade of pink that shines out of the shade. It’s quite hardy, but I think it is the well-drained nature of our calcareous soil that allows it to thrive. It’s definitely one worth seeking out if you like to grow things different from the norm.

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