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March 2009

February 2009

Carpets of Snowdrops

This week has seen the first of the spring bulbs in full bloom.  Snowdrops as an real galanthophile will tell you come in many different varieties, but I have to be honest that to me the common snowdrop (galanthus nivalis) on mass beats any fancy flower with yellow of green petal patterns, so this week it's important that you note and maybe mark the biggest clumps of your snowdrops. - I know they look great now, but in a couple of weeks time, they will just be green floppy leaves getting hidden by everything else that is growing away, and that is when you want to know where they are, so that you can split and propagate each large clump into 4 or 5 sections (not individual bulbs) to give you even more of a carpet next year. - Check that any large clumps hidden under hedgerows or behind bushes are noted, so that you can give them pride of place for next year.

Can I still plant spring flowering bulbs now?

Bulbs being planted I was asked this question this week, and the person who asked me, had been a bit over enthusiastic at the end of season bulbs sell offs.  I had to admit that I had too, and still had bulbs to plant, - so will they still flower now this season?

Well this isn't the first year that I've gone overboard with buying bulbs, and run out of time and energy to plant them before the Christmas onslaught.  I've normally planted them in pots in the greenhouse at the beginning of January (it's usually my post New Year overindulgence head clearer!) but last year, January was a nightmare in this household with tradesman everywhere, and I didn't get round to planting out the last of my tulips and narcissus until the last weekend in February. March last year was warm, and a lot of tulips came up early, but my pot planted ones came up later than most, and were flowering at just the right time for a client that needed them in Mid May. The Tete a Tete daffodils gave me a show of yellow by the front door after i'd finally got rid of the workman, and the remainder of the tulips were planted in a container on the patio, - these are now poking up again for this year, - i've just spent a while planting up some of this years extras, so i'm hoping for a continueing show of tulips, muscari, crocus and tete a tete, from my pots, when those in the ground have gone over.

So if you've still got bags of bulbs lurking, - as long as they are still firm, and havn't dried out or gone mouldy, plant them in pots and enjoy the display this year, - and let me know how you get on.

Back in the fresh air

I've done the first full day of gardening today after the snow has finally melted, there was just a large melting snowman on the lawn of the garden I was in today.  I was doing more pruning today, - Roses, a vine, Autumn fruiting raspberries and Clematis. The Clematis were both late flowering viticella types, - they need pruning to buds only a couple of feet (60cm) from the ground removing all the dead top growth.
Raspberries must be cut right back to the base as the new shoots will form from beneath the ground.  The roses remarkably still had leaves on them, despite all the weather has thrown at them recently, but I've pruned them well back to outward facing buds - taking off the leaves, to encourage strong new growth.

Hellebore flowers, spring joy

When I worked at Wisley, the Hellebore specialist weekend, was billed as Hellebore Heaven.  The Staff christened it Hellebore Hell, as we had so many Hellebore enthusiasts descend on the plant centre, it made the day a little hectic!

Now I no longer have to worry about how many members of staff are needed to advise about growing and showing these spring beauties, i've really come to appreciate why so many gardeners pack out the specialist events that happen across the country at a cold and stark time of year.  I have to admit to having quite a few Hellebores in my garden now, and i've used them as early season cheer in a lot of borders that i've planted. The variety of types of flowers are amazing and with new types being bred each year, and their ability to thrive in shady woodland borders meaning that they are suited to a lot of gardens.            
The other plus point is that their flowers look lovely when floated on a bowl of water.

Floating hellebores

Search and destroy, February slug and snail hunt

If the wet weather last year had you plagued with molluscs, then February is the time to seek out the surviving generation from last year, and stop them from multiplying to destroy this years crops. 

Often snails are the easiest to find, - Past experience has told me to hunt them down under unused terracotta pots, in the centre of Phormium or Cordyline plants, or in the corners of steps and patios, - particularly if the grass is long and covers them up. 

They can also be found traipsing across footpaths at dusk, - easy pickings for the salt pot.

Slugs are more tricky to spot, but if i've overwintered any pot plants in the greenhouse in plant trays, I can be sure to find at least one stuck to the bottom of every pot, trying to fool me into thinking my seedlings will be safe in there.

I'm against using slug pellets, as I really want to enjoy watching the birds in my garden, (and even more so if they are helping me by eating the slugs,) so I use a mixture of vigelence then popping slugs and snails into a pot of salted water, or bran and grit to keep them away from my newly planted treasures.  There are some bird and pet friendly slug pellets, - i've used them, but with limited sucess, so my plan of action is to seach and destroy before they multiply.

Snow snow and more snow

Wow, the world outside is white, the schools are closed, and the Landrover is under more than a foot of snow.  William and I have just been outside to clear off the birdfeeder, which  has already been visited by a robin and the fatballs hanging from the apple tree have been visited by several different types of birds this morning (i'm not a twitcher, so there were 2 types I couldn't identify).

When the garden is like this, theSnow picture for blog emerging plants and bulbs are safe under the insulating snow, and it shouldn't be cleared from the borders, and needs to be left to melt naturally.
The only place to clear snow away is if there are any boughs on trees that might break under the weight of the accumulating snowdrifts.

Have fun watching the falling snow