Grown in Wales

Grown in WalesGrown in WalesGrown in Wales

20

October

Colder days

Charles Warner

Yesterday was a day of rainbows and squalls. dark shredded clouds and bright blue sky. Overnight the wind died and we were left with the first of the cold days. I find that the cooler, drier weather, especially at this time of year brings out the best in the plants. There is hardly a flower to be seen but the leaf colour intesifies as they toughen up and prepare themselves for winter.

The ornamental plants that we grow are cold hardy. Some of them are not too keen on very wet periods but they seem to relish the cold. Plants that are grown outside and with no artificial heat are shorter, tougher and more able to take the rigours of life out in the garden. I think that you get more flower too.

It's more difficult with the herbs. All the perennial varieties that we grow are hardy, but what does that mean ? last year we had temepratures on the nursery down to minus 15 but a few weeks after that the garden centres were beginning to be full of customers eager to replace plants that they had lost. If we fail to have plants ready then there are huge growers out there on the continent just waiting to fill the space. That's our challenge. Last year we had successes and failures

Rosemary is a good case in point. Rosemary is a shrub and a very popular herb. There are quite a few different varieties available and they have various attributes. There are Italian nurseries that produce millions of Rosemary plants per year. they are very good. They choose a nice looking variety that branches well and makes a superb plant in a 1litre size pot or larger. They are trimmed by machine and look perfect. We bought some of their plants as our stock plants and we took cuttings from them and cuttings from the cuttings etc and in this way increased our own stock. Last autumn I was proud to say that we had some of the best Rosemary plants anywhere in the UK. We knew that Rosemary can be susceptible to the cold but under a poly tunnel with horticultural fleece at the ready we thought that they would be ok.

We were wrong......

Minus 15 degrees for succesive days was too much for them. As the spring approached it became clear that we would have no Rosemary to start the season and the benches soon filled up with Italian plants.

 Ok so you learn by your mistakes.

 On the nursery we had a small number of Rosemary plants of a different variety . These were the only ones to survive the cold. So we took them as our stock plants and we took cuttings like they were going out of fashion. Once we started to get enough plants to sell a few, it was difficult because all of the garden centres wanted them because the foreign ones that they had bought were hit by frosts in February and March and looked terrible. But we had to hang on to them until we had enough so that we had plenty of the hardier ones ready to overwinter. And that is where we are now. We don't grow the Italian variety any more but as we head towards the winter we have good stocks of the most wonderful Rosemary plants standing like soldiers in the tunnels. We have done everything we can to make them tough enough to survive the worst a British winter can throw at them. I think that they are up to the challenge.

Just a quick note. Once established in the ground plants are much better protected than in a pot. This is because although the first few inches of the ground may freeze, below that it will remain cold but unfrozen. In a pot the whole of the root area is surrounded by cold air and so the rootball can freeze solid. Rosemary is just fine and dandy outside in most conditions and if it's a sheltered spot even the Italian stuff will be ok. It's only the extremes that will put it's hardiness to the test.

Charles

October 21, 2011
8:20 pm
Hi Jen as yet we do not supply any garden centres in your area however I am hoping that the centre in Mitchell troy near Monmouth will take our plants next year and possibly Raglan garden centre too. We would encourage gardeners to ask for Welsh grown plants when they go to the garden centre or at least to find out where thier plants have come from
 

Jen

October 21, 2011
2:17 pm
I bought several herb plants from a nursery in Llandovery last year and they did really well despite the bad winter, but I have since moved to the Forest of Dean/Monmouth area. Do you supply nurseries around here?
 

Charles

October 21, 2011
11:41 am
Hi david, thanks for your question. I am afraid that it's hard for me to give you a proper answer without knowing some more detail. Firstly my decision would be based on how much of the hedge you have lost, how much you want to keep the hedge andd how tall the remaining plants are. Assuming that it's just a few gaps I would say that you need to get to a garden centre and choose a Rosemary of the same variety as the rest of the hedge otherwise it will look odd. Choose plants that are as near to the size of the remaining hedge as you can find. Dig a nice big hole where you want to plant and backfill with some compost mixed in with the soil that you removed. Firm it down well and water really well. Water again the following day. I am afraid that without seeing the plants I can't tell how cold hardy your particular variety is likely to be but in less sheltered areas I would choose Miss jessops upright which is the one that we grow or Arp if you can find it. I think that if you replant now then they will have quite a good chance of establishing but don't leave it much longer.
 

David

October 20, 2011
6:39 am
I have a Rosemary hedge in my front garden. Last winter some of the plants died and so we have gaps. Can I plant new ones in the gaps and if so where can I buy the plants
 
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