Monday, 11 March 2019

THE FIRST SPRING FLOWERS APPEAR


THE FIRST SPRING FLOWERS APPEAR

Spring arrived in February with record high temperatures following a very dry and mild winter. The garden plants just loved it. Crocus bloomed from mid February onwards. Over the years, crocus have given a very bright splash of colour heralding the end of winter, though usually from mid March onwards. They take over from the drifts of snowdrops and aconites which this year started the show in December for the early snowdrops then in
Tulip Scarlet Baby and yellow Saxifrage
January and February for the aconites. I can always find another corner to brighten up with more crocus ordered in the autumn. It was great to have afternoon coffee break on the patio in the sun at the end of February surrounded by huge drifts of crocus.  Looking ahead, the drifts of flowers can be enlarged with careful planning. Thick clumps of snowdrops can be lifted and transplanted in the green, but water them in if weather is dry and sunny. With aconites it is best to collect the seed and scatter it where ever you want more plants, but take care to check them out once the seeds germinate.
Naturalised narcissus
In the first year they only produce a pair of seed leaves, then in the second year you get the first true leaves but no flower. This comes along in the third year, but well worth the wait.
As the crocus display comes to an end along comes the other spring bulbs such as the blue flowered Chionodoxa and Anemone blanda followed by drifts of grape hyacinths. These just seem to love our soils and can be a bit invasive as they establish very easily. I underplant the grape hyacinth drifts with narcissus and oriental lilies. The narcissus flowers at the same time as the grape hyacinths, but then in summer when the spring bulbs are going into dormancy the Oriental lilies take over with massive scented flowers in white and pink. I tried planting crocus into this scheme, but the foliage of the grape hyacinth emerges in autumn and is too strong for the crocus to push through. In a normal winter, snow and frost help to flatten this foliage so the crocus can be seen, but not this year.
Narcissus February Gold nearly made flowering in February this year, but at least it is very welcome
Spring crocus under the apple tree
in early March as one of the earliest narcissus, and then all the other daffodils and narcissus follow on. Now we can have scent as well as colour, especially with the Cheerfulness types and the Jonquils as well as the large white trumpets of Mount Hood, but the bold colour of Golden Harvest is very hard to beat for sheer impact in large drifts.
Saxifrage is one of the earliest dwarf rock garden plants to flower, but plant the dwarf Tulip Scarlet Baby along side it and in most years they will flower together, though this year the Saxifrage has run ahead with the mild weather, and the dry soil has held back the tulip. Sometimes you just cannot win with our unpredictable climate, but we keep trying.
Pulmonaria started to flower from the end of February, but like the saxifrage it is ahead of the early tulips Monte Orange and Red Revival chosen to accompany it. The Pulmonaria is underplanted amongst my apple trees to add colour and give a display while the apples are coming quietly out of their winter dormancy period.
Coming up the scale my first Rhododendron praecox has started to flower, so fingers crossed that there is no late frosts as often happens as the blooms are too tender to with stand a cold snap.
Planting polyanthus
Forsythia, however is quite tough though it usually flowers at the end of March and into April, but this year flowering is well ahead with a good show in mid March.

Wee jobs to do this week

Check over tubs, pots and hanging baskets planted last autumn with spring flowers and replace any losses. Sometimes vine weevil maggots are a nuisance with polyanthus and over wintered pansies are prone to greenfly and leaf spot disease. Garden centres are well stocked up with spring flowers, so replace losses now while plants are thinking now is a good time to flower. Many of my tubs and hanging baskets are planted up with pansies which I grew from seed harvested early last summer from the best blue, mauve, yellow and lemon colours I could find. However most have ended up in deep blue shades and only the occasional lemon.

END

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