Spalding Guardian Gardening 22 September 2011
I got more questions on greyhounds than gardening at the Celebrate Surfleet Fete last Sunday. However, there was one interesting gardening query from a gentleman who had recently moved to this area from Derbyshire and wanted to know what plants he could grow here.
Now, this question surprised me Ė I would have been less surprised if I had been asked by someone leaving this district what they could grow in Derbyshire. Iíve never really thought South Holland to be a difficult place in which to garden, but as an Honorary Member of Darley Dale Horticultural Society, an honour bestowed on me many years ago during my Gardenersí Question Time era, I would find the difference in conditions quite taxing were I to move over there (Iím not, incidentally).
The only real difference, and this doesnít apply to all areas of Derbyshire, anyway, is that lime-hating plants, like azaleas, rhododendrons, summer flowering heathers, pernettya, camellias, blueberries and similar subjects, donít really thrive round here as they cannot absorb some nutrients properly unless the soil is acid. Of course, many of us get round that by growing them in containers in lime-free compost, and providing you have an adequate supply of rainwater, as most ericacous plants cannot tolerate dry roots and cannot cope with the lime in the tap water in this district, you can get a reasonable result, at least for a year or two.
On the other hand, lime tolerant and lime loving plants really flourish without all the fuss you need to give rhododendrons and the like if theyíre not to sicken slowly and die.
Members of the carnation family, most garden and native trees and shrubs, clematis, chrysanthemums, wallflowers, stocks, dahlias, most spring bulbs, lilac, philadelphus, buddleja and nearly all vegetables thrive in a soil which is neutral or slightly alkaline, although the more alkaline the soil, the fewer the species that are really happy in it, although adding regular dressings of organic material such as garden compost or farmyard manure will gradually make the soil less alkaline.
I am a great believer in going along with conditions as you find them, rather than attempting to alter them to suit your taste. After all, isnít it far better to have a garden burgeoning with health with a minimum of interference, like the gentleman who asked me the question last Sunday wanted, than spend a fortune trying to get something that really doesnít like the area to look less sickly?
This piece originally appeared in the Spalding Guardian