Although we’re not quite out of the woods yet as far as hostile weather’s concerned, I’ve been taking stock of favourite plants to see how they’ve coped with this winter past, which it has to be said, has been relatively mild near the coast.
We place particular value on a group of artichoke Green Globe, a perennial vegetable that is also a striking ornamental plant with silvery grey compound leaves over a metre long and tall flowering spikes that we eat at the bud stage and bees adore when they bloom.
We have lost globe artichokes to winter frost before, hence the caution. This plant needs plenty of growing space throughout summer but extreme winter cold causes leaves to die down, leaving the crowns unprotected.
At this point, we normally place straw at the centre and heap soil up around it to ensure the plant survives.
This winter it has not been necessary. New leaf growth is well advanced and the one degree of frost recently experienced had no adverse effect. I do believe our group of three plants has survived.
They were started from seed (£2.55 a packet, Suttons) sown in the February greenhouse and transferred to the garden, but can be started in drills outdoors from mid-April onwards or plant a division from an existing clump.
Expect to enjoy the edible flower buds with a knob of butter in the first summer and the sepals of this variety do not terminate in troublesome spikes.
I’m also pleased to see several ornamental plants on my ‘at risk’ list holding their own out in the cold.
In the mixed border there’s a group of verbena bonariensis shoots just peeping above soil level and giving hope. A few potted specimens raised from seed last summer as back-up are on standby in the cold frame just in case.
Similarly, tiny shoots of the perennial lobelia Queen Victoria, valued for border display and vase work, are just visible.
The recently-laid organic mulch should help see them through the next few weeks.
All the hardy fuchsias have survived in the border thus far, but that’s only expected of them.
We tend to leave most of last year’s stems in place as a little extra comfort against frost, just as the faded blooms of hydrangea have protected embryo buds for this summer’s display.
But leaf growth is threatening to start on the old fuchsia stems so now is the time to chop them all down to soil level and encourage shoots from the base.