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Welcome to this column, it is designed to help to encourage and inspire you in your gardening endeavours.

At Last! Despite the bitter cold winds, grey skies and rainy spells, colour is finally returning to our gardens. Don’t know about you but I always find that the first signs of spring never fail to brighten my heart!

With the onset of spring come more jobs to do, Find out how to create plants from prunings. The plant profile is about summer bulbs and corms. Make sure you check out Events and Hot news!

Jobs to do

In the flowerbeds; cut back Willow and Dogwood stems grown for their colour in the winter to within 5 cm of the old wood. Weed with a hoe and mulch to slow weed growth. Plant summer bulbs (see plant profile). Prune rose bushes and, if the soil is not frozen or waterlogged, plant hedges, shrubs, roses and trees. Deadhead daffodils as flowers fade but retain foliage to die down. Cut off the dead flowers from winter flowering Heathers. Lift and divide Helleborus niger (Christmas rose), Snowdrops and Ornamental grasses. Take cuttings of Delphiniums and Lupins.

In late March sow hardy annuals such as; Calendula, Cornflower, Larkspur, Lavatera, Nigella and Californian poppy into borders.  Read the column in April for ideas for a wildlife border. Make sure you protect new shoots from slugs and snails!

Lawn care; remove any large weeds and use a spring-tine rake to remove moss and thatch. You can use turf to replace bare patches but don’t sow grass seed until April.

On the vegetable patch; protect early sowings with a fleece or cloches. Harvest forced rhubarb and prune old raspberry canes down to the ground level when new shoots start emerging. Harden off and plant broad beans, lettuce, radish, spinach and spring onion. Put up the supports for peas and beans. At the end of March plant early varieties of beetroot, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and turnip. Stagger sowings to prolong the harvest.

In the greenhouse; sow hardy annuals, leeks, lettuce, onions and peas. Check for greenfly, whitefly and scale insects. Ventilate on sunny days and keep glass clean.
March is the ideal time to construct a new garden pond or bog garden. Frogs, newts and toads will be searching for new breeding grounds.

Plants from prunings
Many of the shrubs that need pruning in spring will easily root when simply pushed into the ground. What an easy and fantastic way to get free plants! Instead of throwing away your prunings, prepare a patch of ground or fill some pots with compost. Cut stems 5cm – 10cm and just push them into the soil. Water if needed. Evidence shows that 80% - 100% will root.

Shrubs to use;

  • Buddleja
  • Clematis orientalis
  • Dogwoods
  • Elder
  • Fatshedera
  • Forsythia
  • Hydrangea
  • Hypericum
  • Lavender
  • Leycesteria
  • Lonicera
  • Phygelius
  • Potentilla
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Willow
  • Winter jasmine

Plant profile
Now is a good time to plant summer flowering bulbs and corms. Many come from as far afield as southern Africa and the Americas. Sold dry in their dormant state, once planted in spring they will start to grow and come into flower from June.

The ideal place for summer bulbs and corms is the border where they can get suitable nutrients and space. Many will flower better the following year if left undisturbed. Choose big bulbs, they won’t take as long to flower, buy in March and store frost free until you plant them.

Plant hardy varieties directly into borders as soon as the soil warms in late March or early April. They need reasonable drainage and give them a thick mulch to keep them moist in summer.

Alliums and Eremus originate from the Middle East and Central Asia and grow in rocky places. The colours of Alliums range from pinks to deep purple and size varies from 10cm – 45cm diameter spheres. Eremus or foxtail lilies with golden apricot flowers, tower at head height and enjoy sandy soils.

Crocosmia flower in fiery scarlets, oranges and yellow ochres. They will quickly form clumps and most are reliable hardy. Zantedeschia aethiopica is the hardiest calla lily and enjoys wet boggy areas although it’s safest grown out of water in the UK. Nerine bowdenii are best planted at the front of the border. Unusually the leaves disappear prior to the vibrant pink flowers in autumn. Although best planted in Autumn, Lilium need sun or light shade, well drained soil and avoid placing them where they can be buffeted by the wind.

The easiest way to grow tender varieties such as dwarf Dahlias and Begonias are in pots. Plant corms just below the surface and leave dry and cool in a frost-free shed for a month before watering.  Agapanthus flower from August to October and although hardy, are best planted in a pot, they flower better if the roots are restricted.

Larger tender varieties should be planted in the border at least 1 month before the last frost date. Eucomis bicolour or pineapple flower, last through July and August, the fleshy leaves create an exotic look at the front of the border. Tigrida pavonia, tiger flowers, have vivid orange, yellow or pink flowers that last just a day or so and only open in the morning. Tropical bulbs like Cannas have bright orchid like blooms and banana like leaves; but hate to be cold and wet and need open space. Gladiolus communis, flower from May to July in warm spots.


1 March 2.30pm – The Walled Garden in Winter, A guided walk. Norton Priory Museum and Gardens, Tudor Road, Manor Park, Runcorn, Cheshire WA7 1SX Tel: 01928 560 895

7 March 10.30am – 3.30pm - Apple tree grafting workshop. Acorn Bank Garden & Watermill

18 March 10am – 12pm or 2pm – 4pm, Propagating Plants & Cuttings workshop. Cost: £6.50 - Biddulph Grange gardens, Grange Road, Biddulph, Cheshire ST8 7SD 01782 517 999

22 March 1.30pm – 3.30pm – Mother’s Day afternoon tea, Sizergh Castle & Garden, Cumbria Afternoon tea cost £7.50 per person. Booking is not needed for this event. For more information please call 01539 560 951.

28 – 29 March Ambleside Daffodil and spring flower show, More information call; 01539 432906

29 March ‘The Painted Garden’ a lecture about the ways that gardens has been depicted in art. Also plant fair. Ness Botanical Gardens, Cheshire 01513 530 123

Hot News

As mentioned in last month's column, Buckingham Palace is opening the 16ha walled garden to visitors on selected dates in April, May and June. Tickets are £20.00 Call 020 7766 7333

The column in April will provide a guide to planting a wildlife border and a guide to trees for the garden. All items mentioned are available in most garden centres or look on the Internet.

Photographs are taken by Pam Pickard
© Pam Pickard 21/2/09



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