Busting out all around us now, spring in all its excitement and hopefulness!
It’s all systems go, go, go in the veg patch (did you see my article in the April issue of Garden Answers, by any chance? We 3Growbags got very over-excited about that!), and a mountain of other tasks such as thinning out perennials, pruning mophead hydrangeas, and tidying up the herb bed………………
If, like me, you have lots of well-established clumps of garden perennials like Hyelotelephium (Sedum), Agyranthemum, Anthemis etc, you may see an absolute forest of shoots coming up through the middle of the clump. These shoots can become very congested, forcing the shoots on the outside to splay out. The inner stems, having competed for light and nutrient with all their neighbours, can become too weak to support flowers properly or at all, and you run the danger of a plant that’s sort of ‘empty’ in the middle, with all its stems flopped outwards.
I find this happens particularly with sedums, in fact. So tackle them now, using secateurs to cut out up to half of the inner stems completely. Sounds brutal, I know! But the ones you leave will be far stronger as a result and yield bigger and sturdier flower-heads on a well-balanced plant. By the way, the Hyelotelephium in our feature pic today is ‘Red Cauli’ and our resident plant columnist Louise talks about this spectacularly good plant in an earlier blog (link at the bottom)- you’ll also find this article in her lovely book ‘A Plant for Each Week of the Year’ in our online shop.
Optimising your shrub potential
Mophead hydrangeas can become very crowded with old stems, and weak twigs in the middle, resulting in smaller flowers at their tips. Have a good look at the centre (the ‘crown’) of the plant now and cut out about a third of the oldest stems at the base – the stems that are three years old or younger will have the best flowers.
Also cut out any feeble, flimsy shoots, which will never come to anything much, and just impede the flow of air through the plant. Poor air circulation can encourage disease.
I always leave the dead flowers on hydrangeas over the winter to protect the new shoots a bit from harsh weather, but now’s the time to snip them off, cutting back about a fifth of the length of each remaining stem to just above a bud.
There are other shrubs that would really benefit from this treatment now – Phygelius, Hibiscus, Olearia, shrubby Phlomis, Potentilla and deciduous Ceonothus will all flower on this season’s wood all the better for a little bit of TLC in early April.
- Once the soil has warmed up in your area, sow hardy annuals just where you want them to flower – I just love the cottage-y ones like poppies, love-in-a-mist, cornflowers and marigolds!
- In the herb bed, cut back sage and thyme plants now to keep them neat and compact. Lavenders that were left unpruned at the end of last summer are starting to grow new shoots – chop them now back to the first point where the new green leaves are beginning to show. Try not to cut into any dead-looking bits at bottom, because they might not re-grow from there. I have a pal who uses a hedge-trimmer for her lovely lavender plants!
- Start popping young tender veg plants you’re growing inside, out in the garden during the day and then bringing them in at night, to harden them up ready for permanently planting outside in May or early June.
On that note, do have a look at the brilliant range of garden tools in our online shop and check out the great £4.99 offer we have got this week on our little veg book ‘Beginner’s Veg’ – don’t be put off by the name, it’s for anyone who wants some nice straightforward and friendly advice on growing for the kitchen and none of the complicated stuff!
You can find out more about the article in Garden Answers here.
Here is the link to Louise’s piece about Hyelotelephium ‘Red Cauli’.
Lastly, remember you have until 10 April to enter the Thompson and Morgan Patio Plant giveaway.
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