The work of cutting back herbaceous plants in the borders went on apace this week. Some of the ‘pinch points’, where the grass always becomes worn, were re-seeded. The bare patches were pointed over with a fork and grass seed sown and then covered with netting, as there are pheasants around. Himalayacalamus falconeri ‘Damarapa’ a large, clump forming bamboo has been sourced. This bamboo has beautiful plum-coloured culms (or stems), if it can get adequate sunlight to ripen/colour the culms. The trick with good bamboo is to thin out the branched culms in early July and generously feed the clump with a nitrogenous fertilizer such as pelleted chicken muck. Then, mulch with reasonably fresh manure, at least a foot thick. This creates a favourable moisture gradient which the bamboo needs to generate a good supply of fresh culms.
Another fine plant grown from seed is the striking Schefflera macrophylla, with tough, large leaves capable of withstanding wind and salt remarkably well for a plant recently discovered in northern Vietnam. It needs a little shelter at first but does not need direct sun to establish, so a very useful plant for the shade of a north-facing wall. Schefflera are best planted out in the autumn as they make their roots then.
Glenarm is right on the coast looking north towards Islay and Jura. There are winter storms which can be salt-laden. Many plants get burned by the caustic salt as it dries on the leaves or needles of evergreen trees. Two remarkably tolerant small trees, ideal for large pots or containers are Myoporum laetum and Pinus densiflora ‘Umbraculifera’. Myoporum, the ‘Mousehole’ tree from New Zealand is a tough evergreen with long, glandular tapering leaves and exquisite bell-shaped speckled white flowers in June and July, which are followed by shiny round pink fruits. In a container, the plant will form a dome-headed small tree about 3m in height and spread. The Japanese Red Pine is the most salt resistant of all the Pines. Where our own native Scots Pine will lose its needles after an aerosol of salt laden air, Pinus densiflora will be unscathed. The name refers to the clusters of creamy flower spike it carries each summer, some of which will develop into cones. The form, ‘Umbraculifera’, literally means like an umbrella and this grafted form is worth seeking out for its near perfect rounded crown.