Summer arrived in the middle of March and the garden just loved it, bursting into flower way ahead of it’s time. England may have a very serious drought problem, but Scottish gardens are glad to get a rest from two years of dull wet weather. The rains stopped at the end of last autumn allowing land cultivations to proceed in the very pleasant winter. Allotment digging was completed by the end of the year and has weathered beautifully over winter. It is very easy to break down and prepare it for sowing and planting. However it is still hard work in our early summer at the end of March, but we get our rewards with a wee break, sitting in the sunshine and admiring the wealth of colour from our flower and shrub borders.
Spring bulbs and shrubs
Daffodils are at their peak, tulips are well ahead, Anemone blanda is smothering the ground in a carpet of blue, and hyacinths and wallflower provides the scent as well as dazzling colour.
Flower tubs planted with polyanthus are a mass of colour, but my winter hanging baskets filled with pansies have not joined in the fun with hardly a flower to be seen.
My two favourite Camelias, the red Adolphe Audusson and the very reliable pink Donation are a mass of flowers. They like a partially shaded spot with good drainage, but always retaining moisture, and make sure they don’t get early morning sunshine as it can blacken the flowers after a frost. Give them an annual light mulch of compost or well rotted leaf mould.
Kerria japonica is also stealing the show in the coloured stem border as it is the only one that does not get pruned down to ground level, so it has no competition. This border has been mass planted with bulbs, so there is quite a show with tulips taking over from the crocus, now past their flowering period.
The quince, Chaenomeles japonica Crimson and Gold is covered in red flowers. They respond to neglect, so do not feed them or give them any special treatment. They just like to be left alone to flower profusely. I only prune any straggly shoots after flowering to keep the bush tidy.
Swiss chard is looking great with bright red and white leaves, and is one of the few remaining winter vegetables. Still plenty of leeks, but only a few Swedes left. Sprouts, kale and cabbage are all finished. Stored onions are still perfect and plentiful, and there is still one stored pumpkin left.
Figs have started to grow and there seems to be a huge crop of young figs waiting to swell up. Usually after a normal winter a lot of these fall off, but the winter was very kind to them so maybe it will be a good year for the figs. I must look out a good wine recipe in case we get a glut.
Greenhouse grape vines were all lowered to even out bud growth over the whole length of each rod, but can now be tied back onto the framework to keep them secure as bud growth has been excellent.
My new cherry tree has a mass of flower buds waiting to open up, and the peach continues to produce more flowers needing my attention with the sable brush to assist pollination.
The year has started off better than we could ever hope for, let’s hope nothing spoils it.
Geraniums are growing strongly so needed potting up into larger pots. I always remove all the young flowers as I want a strong bushy plant that can put on some decent growth before it gets down to flowering. Busy lizzies also got potted up, as well as newly rooted fuchsia cuttings.
Grape vine eyes (a two inch stem with one bud) dibbled into cellular trays are now all beginning to throw up shoots, but I will wait a bit longer to let them grow a good root system before potting up.
Cabbage and sprouts sown two weeks ago have now germinated and are next to get pricked out and potted up. They are quite happy in the cold greenhouse.
Plant of the week
Kerria japonica has a bright splash of golden yellow flowers in spring. It is very easy to grow as it is not fussy about soils, and propagation is simple as it suckers freely and these can be dug up and replanted in winter. It is quite popular for planting against a north facing wall as it does not need a sunny position. Good companion plants are Pulmonaria and Anemone blanda which are ground cover and flower at the same time but with blue flowers. This shrub grows about six foot tall and although it is deciduous its bright green stems are very attractive all winter.