Expert January garden tips from Keith Clouting

A beautiful Iris, Iris unguiclaris. Photo: Keith Clouting

A beautiful Iris, Iris unguiclaris. Photo: Keith Clouting - Credit: Archant

New skimmia, nandina and fatsia varietes for your winter garden

Fatsia japonica 'Murakuma Nishiki'. Photo: Keith Clouting

Fatsia japonica 'Murakuma Nishiki'. Photo: Keith Clouting - Credit: Archant

At the start of a New Year it seems a good time to look at some exciting new plants recently introduced to nurseries which will add colour an interest to our gardens for years to come. One of these, Skimmia japonica ‘Perosa’, is a perfect plant for this time of year, with its multi-coloured leaves from shades of light green through cream to almost silver and its dense panicles of pinkish-red buds which are held on the plant all winter opening to star shaped creamy-white fragrant flowers in spring.

S.J.’Perosa’ makes a compact plant to around 75cm and grows best in shade or part shade. A new Nandina has also been released to add to the fabulous selection of these delightful and useful evergreen shrubs,

Nandina domestica ‘Curly Obsessed’ which has the same bright red-purple new shoots as N.d. Obsessed but with tight curly foliage which gives the plant an interesting new texture. This Nandina grows well at the front of a sunny border and due to its compact habit also make excellent container plant. Another plant with colourful foliage is Fatsia japonica ‘Murakumo Nishiki’. Its large palmate leaves have splashes of gold and yellow with green edges; in autumn it also has round clusters of small cream flowers followed by black berries. It’s a fabulous plant to brighten up a shady corner and, growing to around 2m, it adds some outstanding exotic-ooking structure to the garden.

Nandia domestica 'Curly Obsessed'. Photo: Keith Clouting

Nandia domestica 'Curly Obsessed'. Photo: Keith Clouting - Credit: Archant

Plant of the month

Iris unguicularis

Although this plant may not be a thing of beauty for some of the year it is one of the must have stars of the winter garden producing its scented blue–violet flowers with exquisite veining and a deep yellow centre splash borne on 45cm stems from late autumn to early spring. Coming from the Mediterranean area it likes a sunny well-drained spot, a warm position against a wall is ideal as this helps ripen the rhizomes and encourages the production of more flowers. Tidy in late summer removing dead leaves and trimming back others to allow in light and reduce hiding places for slugs and snails which may nibble the leaves and flower buds in the winter. Top dress with a high potash feed in spring after flowering.

Peacock spot on olive tree. Photo: Keith Clouting

Peacock spot on olive tree. Photo: Keith Clouting - Credit: Archant

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Question time

Many of the leaves of my olive tree have developed spots. The leaves then turn yellow and fall; is there anything I can do to revive the tree?

This sounds like peacock spot, a common fungal disease on olives, which spreads in wet weather in spring and summer but is present on the trees all year. It causes brown-purple spots, sometimes with a yellow ring round them, and causes the leaves to yellow and fall early reducing the vigour of the tree. To control it collect any fallen leaves to reduce the chance of reinfection. If the tree is grown for ornamental purposes only it can also be sprayed with a fungicide in late autumn and again in early spring to keep the tree healthy. Always read the instructions carefully before applying any chemicals.

Skimmia japonica 'Perosa'. Photo: Keith Clouting

Skimmia japonica 'Perosa'. Photo: Keith Clouting - Credit: Archant

Catch up with Keith

If you have trouble with box blight, rake up any dead leaves under the plants to help prevent reinfection in spring.

If there is severe cold container plants such as olive and bay trees should be given some extra protection.

Plan your crop rotation in the vegetable garden to avoid the same plants growing in the same position and avoid a build of up pests, diseases and plants using the same nutrients from the soil.

Keep a check on indoor and greenhouse plants for pests such as aphid, mealy bug and scale insects and treat accordingly as soon as seen.

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