The first week of April is when fools rush in and plant warm- season crops and flowers outdoors much too early. Wait until mid-May, when all danger of frost has passed, before letting heat-loving tomato starts, squash, coleus, marigolds and impatiens spend the night outdoors.
The beginning of April is the perfect time to add bare-root berry bushes, new trees and shrubs and some very proper new roses named in honor of television characters and famous show gardens in England.
I’ll be hosting a “Downton Abbey” garden party this spring in honor of a group tour to enjoy the gardens of England, and so I’ll be planting these for an English-themed garden:
New roses celebrate ‘Downton Abbey’
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The British period drama “Downton Abbey” has finished up its spectacularly popular run, but gardeners can still enjoy reminders of the characters with two new roses introduced by wholesale grower Weeks Roses and offered this spring at retail outlets.
Pretty Lady Rose Bud, a hybrid tea that will turn heads
This hot pink rose has more than 60 petals per bloom giving it the double flowering, old-fashioned charm of an old English rose. It also comes with the intense pink color of the young and carefree character, Lady Rose, who added plenty of drama on the “Downton Abbey” TV screen.
Tip: Plant a dwarf clematis such as Cezanne, a lovely lavender repeat bloomer, at the base of Pretty Lady Rose and let it twine through her tall stems so they can flower together. In the television series, Lady Rose had plenty of suiters entwined within her arms — and she preferred the artistic type.
Anna’s Promise — a gold and peach grandiflora rose
The character of Anna in the “Downton Abbey” series is loyal, hard-working and dependable. This new rose with a peaches and cream color combo was bred to be much the same. Large blooms mean Anna will show promising summer color and flowers perfect for bringing indoors. And as a lady’s maid in the big house, Anna the TV character would have made sure there were fresh flowers on m’lady’s dressing table.
More plants with names that honor English gardens
Lavender “Hidcote Blue” is named after the Cotswold show garden of Hidcote, still visited by throngs of tourists to view the garden rooms of this estate garden, each with its own color or flower theme. Today you can still find Hidcote blue lavender at local nurseries, as this compact but colorful lavender variety is used as a drought-resistant perennial to form hedges and provide fragrant blooms. Tip: Do not water your lavender plants once established. They do best in dry soil with good drainage.
Artemisia “Powis Castle”: This silver foliage perennial is named for an ancient castle with show gardens in northern England that showcases terraced garden beds overflowing with color. The gray foliage offsets the bright blooms of red, orange and purple flowers at the real Powis Castle but you can use this same design trick to highlight colors in your own humble garden. Just plant this drought resistant artemisia in bed with geraniums, salvia or petunias and see how it amps up the color tones of anything blooming nearby. It’s a bedmate to make any royal matchmaker proud.
Sea Holly Giant Eryngium ‘Miss Wilmott’s Ghost’
“Miss Willmott’s Ghost” is the name of this prickly, gray-leaved but astonishingly beautiful blooming perennial that blooms late with conical flower heads of pale green turning purple and surrounded by outlandish silver bracts.
The plants are short-lived, but they reseed readily. The name honors the crusty and often prickly British millionaire gardener who was insulted by the British Royal Horticultural society when told that, as a woman, she was not allowed to join their prestigious club. (This was more than 100 years ago.)
Legend says that to get revenge on the “old boys” network she spread the seed of sea holly into the tightly controlled beds of her would-be colleagues, and thus this unusual flower pops up and haunts the gardens of English estate properties still today. The silvery white foliage is a ghostly reminder of Miss Willmott and the fury of a woman scorned.
Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at binettigarden.com.