True fact: although we both met before we qualified as lawyers, my husband and I have since both gone through career changes into our new trades. We had no idea when we met that this would happen, funny how life works out isn’t it! Being a florist married to a gardener is amazing. Not only are we surrounded by flowers and plants at home and at work, but my husband is also an incredible sponge for random (and less random) facts. This makes him my very own walking & talking encyclopedia on flowers & plants, which as you can imagine, comes in very handy!
I’ll come home from the market with some new finds, generally picked for looking beautiful / unusual / simply amazing… and my husband will proceed to give me its’ latin name, origin and much more… It’s a talent!
Feeling generous, I’ve decided to share his talent & knowledge with you all, with a new monthly feature.
Garden Jobs for the Month
- Give lawns their first cut of the year, if you have not already done so. Resist temptation to cut too short for the very first cut and use a higher mower setting initially. Reduce height over the coming weeks to your desired height.
- Reshape and tidy any eroded lawn edges with a ‘half moon’ lawn edging tool. For a smart, professional finish, add finesse also trim excess grass growth hanging over the edge of the lawn. You can find additional information on this here.
- Apply a combined weedkiller and lawn feed to clear any weeds that have colonised the lawn over the mild winter and encourage strong grass growth. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions concerning the amount to apply to the letter: over generous application can damage, or even kill, a lawn.
- Feed plants with an application of general purpose fertiliser, such as a granular Fish, Blood and Bone or liquid seaweed. The theory goes that healthier, stronger, plants will be more resistant to attack from pests and diseases, but don’t overdo it; you can kill plants with too much kindness! For those with pets, try applying Growmore, instead of Fish, Blood and Bone. I find that the latter tends to intrigue pets who dig the ground for the apparent source of the smell, uprooting your plants in the process!
- Apply a mulch to the soil surface, such as well rotted manure, about 5cm thick. This has several benefits, such as
- it will suppress/weaken perennial weeds and make removal of annual weeds far simpler reducing garden maintenance time
- it looks nice
- it preserves moisture in the soil during the drier summer months
- it will increase soil fertility and
- it will help increase drainage in heavy clay soils/retain moisture in sandy soils. Do not dig the mulch in – leave it on the surface and let the worms do the work so you don’t have to.
- To achieve a strong flowering next year, deadhead daffodils. This prevents them wasting their energies producing seed and instead forces the plants to put that energies back into the bulbs for next year. Do not cut or tie back flower stems: the plant is likely to be unable to store energy for next year’s bulbs if you do so.
- If you want to increase the number of snowdrop clumps you have in the garden, lift and divide the existing clumps and redistribute the smaller clumps throughout the garden as desired.
- Tidy ferns battered by the worst of winter weather by removing the old fronds. The view of the new fronds unfurling will not be obscured by the old growth.
- If you have not already done so, stool/coppice Hazels and Cornus shrubs back to just above a few outward facing buds above a stout framework between 10 and 20cms high. Hard treatment of this kind will force the plant into making colourful, strong, and upright, new growth. Read more on this here.
- Winter and early spring flowering shrubs, such as Viburnum and Forsythia, can be pruned once flowering is over.
- Early spring flowering shrubs flower on the previous year’s growth, so pruning now after flowering gives them the maximum period of growth over the remainder of the coming year to produce a fantastic display of flower for next winter/spring.
- First, prune out any dead, diseased or damaged branches.
- Second, prune any branches to remove any oddly shaped growth or improve the overall shape.
- Finally, to achieve a range of flowering from the base of the plant through to the tips, remove one third of the branches by pruning them at the base; simply pruning the tips will lead to an unsightly ‘blob’ shape and will result in flowering at the tips only. If the shrub is not yet done and is still flowering strongly, why not prune just a few branches and use them as a backdrop to a flower arrangement?
- Get propagating. The choice is almost endless and is an activity that children love getting involved with. Most seeds should be sown in March and April. You don’t need a greenhouse to do this, and a cheap windowsill-style seed tray will suffice. We have one on the windowsill behind the sink in the kitchen window.
Events to look out for:
- RHS Flower Show Cardiff – 7th to 9th April 2017
- National Gardening Week – 10th to 13th April 2017
- RHS Garden Rosemoor, Devon – 1st April 2017. Unsure of what to plant in your garden that will give you flower during spring? The RHS is offering this invaluable, yet entirely free, demonstration at their plant centre.
Seed swapping events will be taking place all over the country (a simple online search will tell you of where in your area and when). These are a great way of adding something new to your garden for very little outlay, is a fun way of getting out of the house, and as good an excuse as any to talk about plants with like-minded people.
Gardens to visit:
This is the month for bluebell spotting. See: avonwildlifetrust.org.uk, woodlandtrust.org.uk, or nationaltrust.org.uk for details of events near you.
Barry Watton, RHS Qualified Gardener at BlueSky Landscape Design & Build