GARDEN BURSTS INTO LIFE
There is a flurry of activity all over the garden as plants leap into growth taking advantage of any sunny days. The ground has dried up just fine and now allows seed sowing and planting of a whole range of plants. Spring flowers are now brightening up the gardens with daffodils and narcissi at their best. The early tulip Scarlet Baby is one of my first to bloom, and although it is a dwarf variety the intense red colour is very dramatic. Hyacinths left over from tubs planted up in previous years and planted in my herbaceous border and where ever I find gaps are now in full flower and fill the air with their scent. Some of these were planted in my coloured stem winter garden in between the Kerria, Cornus and Salix. The latter two have started to grow so now is the time I lop the shoots down to ground level so they can grow again from the stool. This clearing of the winter garden allows the hyacinths and tulips to develop and flower without competition from vigorous tall shrubs. Last year the Cornus and Salix put on excellent growth, so I now have great sticks to support my pea crop on the allotment.
On a larger scale the bright yellow Forsythia and the scarlet flowered quince Cydonia japonica are putting on a great show, but my Camellias are not far behind as both the pink Donation and red Adolphe Audusson have opened the first flowers.
Ornamental cherry trees are also creating a great display and my dwarf dessert cherry Cherokee is bursting with blossom, promising an excellent crop.
My outdoor peach Peregrine has plenty of strong flowers this year so I will have to hand pollinate them as there is not too many flying insects around. The tree has had two sprays of copper fungicide last month so I am hoping peach leaf curl can be kept at bay.
Outdoor grape vine buds are swelling up ready to start growing. However my Black Hamburg, Flame and Perlette are sulking a wee bit while they await a greenhouse replacement to warm them up. I pruned them in January just after the gales wrecked the greenhouse and had to be demolished.
The existing vines were well established years ago so I think they will be just fine.
Walking around the garden it is not just the plants that are putting on growth but the weeds have also started to gain strength. The first ones on my garden are usually the speedwells and pennycress left over from last autumn as it was too wet to hoe them successfully. It is still too damp to hoe so hand weeding will have to be done. These weeds are all annuals so perfect for the compost heap.
Plants all have their season, so sowing and starting off plants has still gone ahead as normal, but not having a greenhouse has put a huge strain on windowsill space. The tougher plants such as geraniums, sweet peas, broad beans and fuchsias have been outside on every opportunity to harden them off. This leaves windowsill free for my tomatoes, lettuce, beetroot, spring onions and a batch of forty chrysanthemum cuttings. The stools have been outdoors since January but did not suffer in our mild winter, so they are giving me plenty of cuttings. However once the chrysanthemums root they will need potting up into bigger pots and require more space.
To be on the safe side I decided to construct a temporary cold frame.
I turned and flattened my compost heap to help generate some heat, covered the surface with a membrane and erected polythene sheeting over it raised a couple of feet. It is now full of very happy plants. I am hoping my new greenhouse comes soon as tomatoes have been pricked out into cellular trays and will soon grow too big for my windowsill.
Tuberous begonias have been boxed up and placed on polythene in a light warm room. They grow quite slow at first so should be happy for the next few weeks.
Plant of the week
Puschkinia, the striped squill grows naturally in the eastern Mediterranean. Although it likes a moist but well drained soil rich in organic matter while growing and flowering, it prefers a hot dry summer to ripen off the bulbs. These lie dormant till the following spring when the pale blue flowers emerge in March. They can be grown from seed or bought in as bulbs in autumn.