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  • Debi Holland

Garden News 10 May 2022



Garden News 10 May 2022 What to do in the garden this week?


Create a plant theatre


Create a plant theatre and make a fabulous focal point in the garden. Theatres were traditionally planted with Primula auricula but auricula can be hard to source so try a simple alternative, viola. Inexpensive and easy to buy at a nursery or grow from seed, a viola plant theatre gives an impressive display.


Plant theatres are tiered units that house a series of identical terracotta pots with a single collection of plants.


They became popular during the Victorian era providing joy through the industrial revolution to people who didn’t have gardens. Displayed at eye level, these wall hung boxed shelves were admired and cherished but the plants required attention and regular watering so fell out of fashion.

To house your pots you need a theatre; an old kitchen unit, shelves or even wooden or metal steps are ideal. Three or four tiers are perfect to display pots. Theatres are normally hung on a wall but could be free-standing. Keep the natural wooden frame or paint it antique green or dark grey to contrast against the pots for maximum wow factor.


Plant theatres suit drought tolerant plants so why not try a herb, succulent, pelargonium or alpine theatre? Make seasonal changes, replant them to suit spring, summer, autumn and winter. Whatever plants you choose, they are sure to grab attention!


Step 1 Collect together your materials. You will need a number a similar sized terracotta pots, ideally nine or 12 identical pots.

Step 2 Place a croc in each pot and mix peat-free compost, gravel, perlite or vermiculite together for gritty free-draining soil.

Step 3 Divide violas into individual plants. Fill pots with the gritty peat-free mix and firm in one plant per pot. Water.


Step 4 Ta-da! Your viola theatre is complete. The uniformed repetition of pots is a simple but affective design. Sit back and admire!

Remove frost covers (tree fern) 


Remove tree fern frost covers and reveal these impressive trunks. Be mindful of your specific localised weather but once the risk of frost has passed carefully unwrap fleece. Wear a mask whilst unwrapping as the spores can irritate your throat. Old fronds will be brown crisps; snip off these fibrous stems with a strong, sharp pair of secateurs. New fronds, crosiers, will be emerging; feed and water at the crown.


Tasmanian tree fern, Dicksonia antarctica and Cyathea cooperi, Australian tree fern love damp shade, slightly acidic rich soil and are capable of withstanding low temperatures down to -5° and briefly -10°.


Prune Clematis montana


Clematis montana will no doubt have put in a dazzling show once again but as the pale pink or white flowers fade give this plant its annual prune. Clematis montana, a long with C. armandii, C. alpina and C. macropetala flower on the previous season’s growth so get them cut back as soon as flowering has finished and it will give your clematis the maximum possible time to regenerate for next year. Generally only a light prune is needed to retain the overall shape and promote vigorous growth. They are tough plants; a hedge trimmer or shears will do the job nicely.


Protect crops from carrot fly


Carrot fly larvae feed on carrot, celeriac, celery and parsnips, tunnelling through roots. How do we deter these little flies? Make early sowings to avoid first generation carrot fly, Psila rosae. Sow in May; grow resistant varieties like ‘Flyaway’ or ‘Resistafly.’ Avoid thinning seedlings by sowing sparsely; harvest carefully as the scent of carrots attracts carrot fly.


Cover crops in a fleece like Enviromesh to prevent females laying eggs. Carrotfly are low fliers so construct a mesh wall 60-90cm high around crops to offer protection.


Try companion planting; strong scented plants like chives, onion, leeks and garlic will mask the scent of carrots.

Tie in roses


Cascades of blooming climbing roses or ramblers are a spectacular summer sight but roses need a little coaxing at this time of year to achieve this idealistic English garden look. As new shoots grow tie them to your supporting structure, whether that is a trellis, fence, obelisk or arch.

Encourage growth to cover your plant support by training stems in the direction you want them to grow. Loosely tie in stems with garden twine to allow space for the stem to expand without crushing or restriction. Alternatively use reusable flexi-tie which allows you to adjust gap as stem grows. Avoid cable ties.


All photos © Debi Holland 2022


All photos © Debi Holland 2022