The named storms have been coursing through the UK, but spring is on its way regardless and there are jobs to do, like pruning winter-flowering jasmine, choosing some slug-proof plants, and dividing snowdrops……
Jazzing up Jasmine
It’s usually a cinch to grow Jasminum nudiflorum, and it’s a bright and pretty thing to see when covered in its starry yellow flowers in spells through the winter.
But it can become horribly straggly if it’s left to its own devices with masses of twiggy bare stems and dead branches.
The thing to remember is that it flowers on the previous year’s growth, so definitely the best time to prune it is now, as it is finishing its flowering for this year. This is what to do:
- Chop back those long unbranched stems that are springing up, right back to side shoots i.e. take out the top ‘apical’ bud to encourage it to send out lots of ‘lateral growth’.
- Thin out all the stems growing in the wrong place (crossed, crowded or that just look feeble etc.) – it’s a tough plant, so there’s no need to be namby-pamby about it.
- Haul up any remaining trailing shoots and tie them in, or they’ll root where they touch the ground.
If it’s a total overgrown mess, or outgrown its space, I suggest you chop the whole lot down to 2′ (60cm.) Let the best shoots form the new framework. You’ll miss a proper flowering for 2-3 years, but it’ll be worth it not to see that depressing eyesore taunting you all summer for the sake of its winter cheer!
Fooling the Gastropods
If there’s one topic that is an eternal matter for debate, it’s how to deal with slugs and snails. We know we shouldn’t be using poisons on them which can so easily go on to poison birds, hedgehogs, etc., so we try beer traps , copper tape, grit, eggshells, Sluggone mats…….a whole panoply of remedies to save our flowers and crops from them, with varying degrees of success.
Another approach is to grow things they don’t like, and over many years of gardening, I have come to rely on a list of perennials that these beasties will largely ignore, and thus need no protection from them.
I know there are many other such plants, but these are the ones I have personal experience of, so I offer these as a list for you, if you are thinking of stocking up your flower-borders this spring:
Achillea, Alchemilla mollis, Aquilegia, Bergenia, Calendula (marigolds), Corydalis, Crocosmia, Crocus, Cyclamen, Digitalis (foxgloves), Erigeron, Erysimum (Wallflowers), Eschscholtzia (Californian poppies), Euphorbia, ferns, (most of the) geraniums (cranesbills), hellebores (in our feature photo), Heuchera, Inula, Anemone japonica, Lamium (Deadnettle), lavender, Leucanthemum (daisies!), Lychnis coronaria (rose campion), marjoram, mint, Mysotis (forget-me-nots), Nepeta (catmint), Nigella (love-in-a-mist), Osteospermum, peonies, Pelargonium, Phlox, Pulmonaria, roses, Hyelotelephium (sedum), Sisyrinchium, Stachys byzantina (lambs’ ears), Tellima, Thalictrum, thyme, Verbena bonariensis.
Phew! You must admit that’s quite a list, and I could probably add dozens more, like Alyssum, Solidago (golden rod), and Fuchsia, but I don’t have direct experience of their lack of appeal to gastropods.
So how about stepping back from the ‘war’ a little, and putting in some plants that slugs and snails will bypass in favour of more tempting fare?
Pruning the Rugosas
If you have a windy spot to contend with, there are few shrubs more up to the challenge of providing shelter for your garden than Rosa rugosa with its spiny rugged stems, thick disease-resistant leaves and slowly thickening suckering habit.
But if if you want to have plenty of summer flowers and rosehips as well as preventing your shrub or hedge becoming bare (and draughty!) at the base, you need to cut it back now.
With our stretch of rugosa hedging, we are not delicate about this task, I’m afraid, and just run a hedge cutter along the top, chopping all the stems back to about a half/two-thirds. We don’t delay this pruning, because if we leave it any later, we run the risk of disturbing nesting birds.
One more nugget of advice – if you are having anything to do with R. rugosa varieties, wear thick long gloves! They fairly bristle with fine thorns, and hurt like billy-o if they stick almost invisibly in your skin.
Nothing prettier than clumps of snowdrops in short grass in very early spring, and once they have finished flowering, it is great time to dig up the groups of bulbs, while they are ‘in the green’, pull them apart into smaller clumps and replant to make even bigger sheets of flowers next year.
Cut back the coloured Cornus (dogwood) stems right back to their stumps now, to encourage bright new shoots to develop from the base.
And if you have any spare time after all of this, It’s time to start potting up dahlia tubers and lily bulbs in pots of good compost.
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