So, we have struggled through The Beast II: ‘Fright From the Right’ and are now hopefully on the sunny uplands of early spring when we can realistically be getting some proper work and planning done in the garden. It’s Elaine here with a few ideas for you:
BEING BOLD WITH BUDDLEIA
One of the loveliest things to grow in the garden if you want butterflies is buddleia. On a warm July day, this shrub can be simply shimmering with them as they drink the nectar from the blossom, but to get the best and biggest flowers, it is imperative to prune all those with conical flowers hard right now. Don’t fiddle-faddle around just cutting off spent flowers, get right in there and lop out every stem made last year all the way back to the tough woody framework. It won’t matter at all if they already have a few new leaves on them – trust me, sometimes to be a good gardener, you have to harden your heart!
HOLDING THINGS UP
It is important that you get your tall-plant supports in early, to avoid
the ‘hauled-back-up-and-hung-by-the-neck’ look, but have you been shocked by the eye-watering prices that many places charge for them? You don’t have to blow the children’s inheritance on something that you hope won’t even be visible by mid-summer. Order some steel rods from a builders’ merchant and make them yourself, like we did last week (our order was from a really helpful national company FH Brundle 12 each of 12mm and 8mm diameter, 3m steel rods and they cost us about £86 including delivery. The thicker ones are for tougher things like tree-peonies and crocosmias.) Persuade a handy partner or pal to help you, or just do it yourself. They make super plant supports at just the height you want them, and at a fraction of the price for the ready-made ones.
This is a great job for right now, so you’ll have them stacked and ready to pop in the ground soon; and they’ll last you for years.
* We are reaching prime seed-sowing time, and you can get cracking with all sorts of fab flowers and veg now. Follow the advice on the packet , especially the bit about not sowing too thickly, or you can run into all sorts of ‘damping-off’ problems, when your dear little seedlings all start distressingly collapsing in a heap.
* If birds drive you a bit bonkers by pulling up the shallot sets you planted, like they do with me (I think they might be after the papery
tops for their nest-making actually), plant them in trays of compost first to develop a few roots before you plant them outside at Easter.
* Grab your last chance to prune bush roses by about a third ready for a flower-feast in the summer. Leave it any later, and you risk weakening the plant by cutting too many new shoots and forcing it to start all over again. Give them a boost of rose fertilizer and a mulch of rotted compost while you’re about it.