Herbaceous Perennials, All you wanted to know but were afraid to…

Speaker: Richard Thornton
Date: 28th February
Year: 2007

HBG

Richard Thornton was introduced as being “besotted about gardening” and having travelled in China and Europe. He has given talks on Gardens in China, Italy and France, on Alpine plants to say nothing about gardening in his own garden near Grayshott and generally in the UK.

He put our minds at rest immediately by saying that Herbaceous Perennials were one of the most labour intensive group of plants to grow successfully but the answer lies in good preparation. Get rid of the weeds, fertilize and water the soil, provide support with canes or rings or his preference, mix the plants in with shrubs.

He noted that with perennials the growth dies down annually but the roots survive, some are short lived and others last for years if treated correctly. He personally does not cut back the old growth in the autumn but prefers to leave it and the seed-heads for the birds. The old growth also protects the new growth from frosts.

Richard then provided us with a magnificent slide show of herbaceous perennials
through the year and some of his favourites with many useful comments on their cultivation, soil, situation and aspect needs.

He is particularly keen on Primulas and Lilies and has managed to eradicate the lily beetle from his garden. Geraniums are another of his loves. He advised when growing Meconopsis to pinch out the flower bud in the first year so that the rosette of leaves can get established.

Tips on when to split up and when to allow to self seed or sow harvested seed in what kind of compost were also given. Most should be split up annually or at least every two years to prevent the plants from getting woody or congested.

He recommended visits to RHS Garden, Wisley to view the herbaceous borders there and also to visit the trial grounds which are helpful for picking out the best specimens to purchase later. Excellent slides of these areas made his points well.

Richard then went on to illustrate other plants in alphabetical order with tips on dealing with slugs and snails which dine on Hostas and Day Lilies (use grit) and gave us some instructions on how to take root cuttings. He advised that Phlox and Delphiniums must be sourced from a really good supplier and treated against eel worm.

It was an inspiring talk and very well illustrated from a knowledgeable and as he said, besotted gardener who knew his subject from A to Z.

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