Saturday, 30 December 2017

My garden in 2017 - the best and worst plants of the year

wisteria garden review of 2017 Green Fingered Blog
What grew well in 2017, and what didn't? Read my 
review of the gardening year to find out the biggest successes and failures in my garden and on my allotment, then tell me yours.

We gardeners know that you can rarely guarantee success with plants. Particularly in the UK, the weather changes constantly and varies from year to year. Spring in any year might be warm or cold, dry or wet, and followed by an equally variable summer.
 
All of this is notoriously difficult to predict and means some plants do well one year and less well the next when conditions favour something else entirely. Different conditions will also favour different pests, further complicating the challenge we face to get the most out of our gardens.
 
As gardeners we do our best to adapt to whatever weather comes our way, looking after our gardens the best we can, but we're also learning all the time. Each year we'll try something new as the process of gathering knowledge about how things grow goes on.
 
Gardeners across the country are experimenting all the time and sharing hints and tips about what works and what doesn't. So here are my successes this year, and a few disappointments too.
 
I'd love to hear about yours, especially if you have any advice on how I can avoid repeating my failures. Use the comments section below, or my facebook page, to share what went well, or not so well, in your garden this year.
 

My most successful plants of 2017

Grapes

Last winter I pruned my grapevine much earlier than I had done before (before Christmas). I concentrated on cutting back to buds along the main stem, aiming for fruiting side shoots to grow out from it. Later in the summer I thinned the number of fruit carrying stems, and limited bunches to one per side shoot. I also thinned individual bunches considerably, removing all the smaller fruits to boost the size of the grapes that remained.
Grapes Grapevine garden review of 2017 Green Fingered Blog
The vine was dripping with fruit this year - maybe too many?
 
The pruning regime certainly worked as I ended up with a bumper crop of 50+ bunches. I was still too restrained when thinning because the individual grapes were still not as big as I wanted. In 2018, I plan to have no more than about 30 bunches and hopefully this will mean bigger grapes to pick next autumn. 
 

Wisteria

We had a short cold spell in late April here and it came just as the wisteria was preparing to flower. It is such a majestic looking pant when in bloom that I panicked, worried that we might miss out on the display. Despite the late frost, all turned out ok, and the arch was covered in long blue racemes. Even better, the wisteria had a  second flush of flowers in July, which looked even better set against the green foliage than the first flush had against almost bare stems. We were enjoying the look, and smell, of wisteria well into summer.
wisteria garden review of 2017 Green Fingered Blog
A second flush of wisteria flowers in July

Ammi Majus for texture

Ammi was a plant I had never grown before and I grew it this year from seed. I wanted the umbels of small delicate white flowers to add a frothy effect to the more naturalistic areas of the garden in the way that cow parsley dots the wild hedgerows. Overall I was pleased with it and ended up using it in several areas to add texture, including one or two containers. I like that it could be used in combination with a range of other plants, contrasting with either larger leaved or more colourful specimens.
Ammi majus garden review of 2017 Green Fingered Blog
Ammi majus with ferns
 
 
GREEN FINGERS TIP!

GREEN FINGERS TIP: I found when I transplanted Ammi into position early it grew spindly and leant towards the light, so this year I'll be potting it on and leaving it longer before planting in its final position. This will reduce it's exposure to slugs as well as lessening any leaning habit.
 

Sanvitalia for late summer colour

After the initial explosion of colour in May and June, it can take some good planning or additional planting to maintain the vibrancy of borders into late July and August. Often the garden relies on grasses or bedding to fill it out in late summer.
 
This year I found that Sanvitalia "Golden crown", planted at the beginning of August, did a wonderful job of filling the front of a flowerbed with bright yellow daisy type flowers right through until the frosts of November. It gave colourful ground cover to complement the Rudbeckias and Achilleas behind it, meaning that this end of my border at least looked great all summer long. 
Sanvitalia garden review of 2017 Green Fingered Blog
Sanvitalia "Golden Crown"

Eremurus for dramatic impact

I tried to grow Eremurus in 2016 in a border but it was a failure. I decided the spot was not sunny or well drained enough for it but was determined to have another go. So this year I grew it in a large container. This means I could keep it in a sunny  spot and control the watering more, and didn't it work a treat!
Eremurus garden review of 2017 Green Fingered Blog
Eremurus towered above everything else!
Towering above everything else it made for an impressive specimen, the downside being in a pot it was more difficult to use it to offset other plants around it, which in a border would add to the effect. It is already emerging from the compost again, and it was so striking that I have planted two more, also in pots, and come summer 2018, the front of the house should have an imposing display! 
 

Verbena bonariensis and Miscanthus sinensis

This was one of my favourite combinations this year. I've had Verbena bonariensis for years (once you have it you are unlikely to get rid of it, whether you want to or not). It's a reliable and hard working plant, adding colour and height to the summer garden, and seeding itself around so is effectively a low maintenance perennial. It's a question of what to pair with its high clusters of pink purple flowers, and this year I added Miscanthus sinensis "Yoka-jima" which turned out to be a perfect match.  It's own late summer flowers are a warm bronze colour with a subtle pink tinge that compliments the verbena beautifully. 
Verbena Miscanthus Plant combination garden review of 2017 Green Fingered Blog
Verbena bonariensis and Miscanthus sinensis

Watercress in guttering

This was my most successful grow your own project this year. I used some guttering that had been a kid's water play feature to create favourable conditions for watercress with gently sloping channels of wet soil, attached to the fence! It worked really well and produced a great crop. It's also a great way to grow something edible in a small space.
 

Watercress grown in guttering garden review of 2017 Green Fingered Blog
Watercress growing on a fence!

Carrots in containers

It was my third year on the allotment. I had my best ever crop of onions and parsnips, my first ever purple sprouting broccoli and decent harvests of a range of veggies, and plenty of strawberries. But the most satisfying was probably the carrots, since the ones at the allotment finally grew straight (most of them anyway), and the ones in containers in the garden although smaller, got to a good size, were a good shape, and were delicious, again proving you can grow your own even in a small space.
Carrots grown in containers garden review of 2017 Green Fingered Blog
These carrots grew in a small trough of compost outside the back door.

My least successful plants of 2017

Now for the failures. Not everything can work all the time, and every bit of spinach I sowed this year got mildew almost as soon as it emerged from the ground. I had very few broad beans this year, as a combination I think of blackfly and fungal disease ruined most of them. I had a great crop the year before and I'm not sure what the difference was so any advice on these will be greatly appreciated.

Broad beans pest eaten garden review of 2017 Green Fingered Blog
Broad beans - eaten or diseased, or both, not sure
My pear tree remains an enigma. It's very old as far as I can tell so may never be very productive. I have pruned it significantly ever since we moved here, perhaps it needs a rest. It did produce some blossom this spring but only a few fruits. By the time autumn arrived only a solitary pear remained. Having reduced it in size this year I don't plan to prune this winter. I'm hoping this will allow it to recover and be more productive but time will tell. 
 
Pear garden review of 2017 Green Fingered Blog
A pear. Just one.
We had no sunflowers to enjoy this year. They were all eaten after planting out. One had a half hearted attempt to flower but looked pretty sorry for itself. The others were sheared off at the stem by slugs or snails. 
 
It was also a very poor year for Clematis in my garden. The large Multi Blue variety on the obelisk did well as usual, as did the wild version growing through the woodland area. But the others in the borders all got eaten by slugs and snails before they got going. Perhaps a lack of vigilance on my part or perhaps just poor timing on theirs, or a combination of both, but there were no flowers to enjoy on the C. viticella and only one on this unknown, inherited variety (possibly Nelly Moser).

Clematis garden review of 2017 Green Fingered Blog
Clematis flower. Just one.

So that was 2017. Some failures, but plenty of successes. Nature usually finds a way even when the gardener gets it slightly wrong. What went right for you in your garden this year? 

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2 comments:

  1. Lovely post :) That's the thing about gardening is sometimes you never know how good it'll go. Guess that is the fun !

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    Replies
    1. Thank you :) Absolutely, and one thing you can be sure of, is it will be slightly different every time - even more fun!

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