Once again John Negus blossomed like a hardy perennial as he returned to enthral us with his encyclopaedic knowledge of flowering plants to add flair to our borders. His entertaining and inquisitive style combined a mix of practical tips with recommendations for less well-known plants to provide year round interest in our gardens. We were challenged to identify a specimen flower of Melianthus major (also known as the Blood Flower), originating from South Africa, which is drought resistant and to be recommended as our summers become drier. Another less well known plant, also from South Africa, is Crinum album which produces pure white flowers on leafless stems that flower from spring to autumn.
Having spent a lifelong career as a horticultural journalist and broadcaster John shared his wealth of knowledge about plants and gardens including visits to the Chelsea Flower Show, the garden of Alan Bloom and Water Perry Garden near Oxford which he strongly recommended. Such tricks of the trade such as how to produce perfect stems of lupins without seed heads was revealed, achieved by growing them in polythene tunnels devoid of insects to prevent pollination.
Controlling slugs is a challenge for many gardeners made more difficult now that environmentally unfriendly products are no longer available, so a suggestion that WD40 is an effective alternative was just one of his snippets of advice together with recommending the inclusion of garden ornaments to add interest all the year round. Winter flowering evergreen shrubs such as Sarcococca and Garrya eliptica were recommended to ensure our gardens remain of interest on the dullest of winter days. Practical as ever, John reminded us that to get the best results from our gardens they should receive a top dressing of bone-meal in spring and autumn.