Spring has been just round the corner now for a few weeks. Snow was often forecast but rarely appeared, though cold rain took its place. There were many dry sunny days, but accompanied by a cold wind from the north, so that sunny day with warm sunshine where the hardy gardener can take his coffee
break outdoors in blissful warmth
was hard to find. Garden flowers are often influenced by day length as well as
temperature, so aconites are all above ground with full buds just waiting on
some sunshine and warmth so they can open up fully. Snowdrops on the other hand
respond to temperature so while the winters have been mild they started to
bloom last December in sheltered spots. Crocus are not far behind with a few in
sheltered areas popping their heads up waiting on a bit of warmth so they can
open up fully. I have a mixed batch planted under a drift of grape hyacinths
hoping they will work in harmony as the crocus flower in early March and the
grape hyacinths a few weeks later. Underneath these two
I have narcissus for
April flowering and deep under them there is my summer oriental lilies. Hoping
this layered planting style will work.
|Aconites push through the snow|
|The first crocus|
The winter border of Cornus, Willow, Kerria japonica Japanese maple and Acer Sangokaku has provided colour all winter from the range of coloured stems, and now the ground around these bushes is getting ready for the spring display as drifts of crocus push up into the sunlight. The coloured stemmed bushed (except the Kerria which flowers in May) get pruned back to ground level at the end of March leaving the flowering bulbs to have their moment in the sun. A few weeks later tulips planted below the crocus will have their moment of glory before the shrubs begin to grow
and produce shoots for next winter’s decoration.
Roses are starting to grow, but not as fast as last years shoots as they got a really mild winter in 2016/17, but keep an eye on them as greenfly are very quick to spot young shoots to feed on.
Daffodils and early tulips are also well advanced and it won’t be long before the first flowers appear. Narcissus February Gold is always my first to bloom and tulip Scarlet Baby is my first tulip in flower in March where I have them planted next to some yellow flowering saxifrages. Hopefully they will all flower at the same time, though sometimes the tulips can be a few days late.
Spring is also a time of activity getting ready for seed sowing, planting and propagation, so once you have read through all the catalogues and checked last year’s activities, sorting out successes and failures if you have not yet done it, buy in your seed requirements, potatoes, onions, dahlias, new chrysanthemums and gladioli. I just love the strongly scented oriental lilies, so these had to be purchased in the autumn, but now I see young shoots pushing up into the light.
|Taking chrysanthemum cuttings|
Once your seed potatoes arrive, place them in boxes, rose end upwards, label them, and put them in a cool but frost free place in the light so the young shoots can grow up without getting leggy and ensure a perfect take after planting in spring.
Order trees, shrubs and roses now from a good source for early planting, so they have the whole season ahead to get well established. I will be planting another Victoria plum tree as the one I bought last year was a complete failure as I had bought mine locally, and though it looked good at the time and the price was in my favour, it struggled to grow as disease ultimately killed it.
Chrysanthemums boxed up last year, and over wintered in a cold greenhouse are now growing strongly so choose healthy shoots and take some cuttings about three to four inches long. Dibble them into pots or boxes containing well drained compost and they will need some warmth to get them rooted.
Choose a sunny dry day and give the greenhouse glass a good wash both outdoors and inside to remove grime, algae, spiders webs and other muck. Clean out the gutters at the same time and check the both doors slide smoothly and windows open and close properly. Check borders for grape vines, remove weeds and add some fresh soil or potting compost to revitalize the soil.