Moe's Spring Newsletter
"April is the cruellest month" T.S. Elliot
After having weathered storm Ciara in mid - February and further strong gusts o wind later in that month (I do hope your gardens have not been flooded with water) the plants in the garden are a testament to how resilient they are and how wonderful nature is. The wind played havoc with man-made structures in my neck of the woods. Broken fencing, smashed roof tiles and uprooted fence posts littered some gardens but the plants were fine!
After the winter solstice most of us probably wouldn’t have noticed the lengthening days in December and January. However, the clocks will go forward this month (MARCH) which will give us all valuable extra evening light that is very noticeable.
We won’t get extra time really but it will feel that way. Late afternoon and evening are good times for me to be in the garden because I’m definitely not a morning person - I’m hopeless in the morning! When I had to get up in the dark hours to go to work it was drudgery. As I have aged it has taken me longer to get going in the early hours. I can’t see where they are coming from when I hear the ‘a.m. people’ extol the virtues of being early risers. I suppose, for some, watching the sun come up can lift the spirits. However, for me there is a big difference between watching and being outside to be part of the experience. As a gardener, I like to look at the morning dew (from my cosy armchair) but certainly don’t want to be gardening in it. No - it’s the evenings I like! Of course whatever time of day we choose to garden, this is the time of year to be clearing the borders and mulching with manure or compost to replenish nutrients needed by plants and to suppress the weeds. When I’ve finished all the borders, it is up lifting to see it so tidy. After all is complete the last task is to position the garden stakes that keep everything in place during the growing season. Life without the garden stakes is inconceivable now! With the exception of the Dahlias, which I like to stake with canes when I put in the good sized plants in late May that have grown on in the greenhouse since mid- March, most of the garden
has some form of stake supporting the plants. There is less likelihood of them blowing over or losing their precious stems to the wind when they can grow through supports. There is nothing more demoralising than trying to tie up a plant or its stems that have succumbed to the ravages of wind. It is far better to get all the supports in early in the season.
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Another task for spring is the enjoyable one of planting and I am looking forward to doing some in the little woodland garden this year. The tree surgeons have done their work pruning the laurel hedge which had grown significantly due to all the rain suffered over the winter months. Now, well - structured and several feet lower the
area will receive a little more light during the year whilst still remaining a shaded garden space. I intend to introduce some additional swaths of colour (white, green) to the borders and am considering a number of species that will cope with these conditions admirably. The first is Aruncus ‘Guinea Fowl’ which prefers moisture -
retentive soil. Its flowers, born above beautiful ferny foliage open creamy white in June and then fade to buff. With a height of 45cm high and spread of 30cm, three plants should make a really nice textural contrast to white edged or plain green leaved hostas such as Hosta ‘Patriot’ or ‘Devon Green’. At a similar height (but greater spread) is Teucrium scorodonia ‘Crispum’ which will give a very different textural appearance. It has distinctive, but simple lime- green flower spikes that stand for many weeks above leaves with very attractive tightly crimpled margins. Other species I would like to use in greater quantities are the pulmonarias and the lime green heucheras that both do well in shade. Pulmonaria ‘Lewis Palmer’ has electric- blue flowers and handsome silver- spotted foliage and the beautiful Pulmonaria ‘Mary Mottram’ has silver leaves. These need trimming off after flowering to stimulate new leaf growth. They are happy in reasonably moisture retentive soil. I will be coming along to club on March 17 th to hear what Neil Huntley has to say when he talks about Woodland plants and primulas. He will no doubt have plants for sale from which I could choose. If you have a shady part of the garden then come along as Neil’s talk will be of interest to you as well.
I am also intending to give one large sunny border a real ‘make-over’ this year.
There will be new plants to put into the virgin earth in late March and early April, now cleared (in autumn) of all perennial weeds. Here, I’ll be considering leaving some space for plants in the Euphorbia family because this genus seems to do really well in the garden. I have a number of varieties. Euphorbia Pasteurii (a cross between Melllifera and Stygiana ) is still looking good after the winter. Its honey scented flowers (bracts) will be showing in a month or so. Don Witton will have plenty of varieties to show us all when he gives his talk Euphorbias and spring flowering perennials at club on May 19 th so I will save some space and wait until then to make my choice.
Apart from clearing borders, planting and staking there will be our greenhouses and
kitchen gardens to sort out as the weather improves. For my part, I did not relish
putting all the succulents and tender perennials in their protective space of the
greenhouse in October and November. Each had to be wrapped with bubble wrap
and fleece to keep them snug and relatively warm during the winter months. Now
after all the cold days and nights fending for themselves I will start to unpack them
and count the casualties. I am always aware at these times that if I am not careful I
will kill them with kindness instead of their enforced neglect! However if I resist the
temptation to water too much all will be well. They won’t be put out into the garden
until May but I’ll be able to manoeuvre them to make way for the pots of Eucomis,
Agapanthus and Cannas that will need topping up with compost for the coming
season. As I appear to have optimistically bought a lot of seeds this year, sowing will
be started in late March and go at a pace for many weeks.
In the kitchen garden mulching and feeding will be an essential task outside. I do
count myself lucky to have the space in the garden to be able to grow a good range
of fruit and vegetables. There is nothing like picking your fresh produce for the table
straight from the garden. However, if you haven’t a great deal of garden to give over
to growing crops then why not come to club on April 21 st and listen to Anthony
Norman talk about Growing vegetables in small spaces. I am sure he will be very
enlightening and give us all food for thought!
In my spring newsletter last year I included tasks to be getting on with in the garden
for the whole season. I don’t want to repeat these here again but I know that there
will be a new and regular feature in the Advice Corner every month. There will be a
printed reminder of what tasks need to be undertaken in the garden during the month
of our meetings. This will be duplicated on the noticeboard for you to take advantage
of. I am sure these will be most helpful to everyone, so please come and have a chat
to one of the committee in the Advice Corner or have a gander at the noticeboard!
Please make a note in your diaries of our Annual Plant Fair to be held in Chorley
Town centre on May 9 th . Also our visits programme has been finalised for 2020 and
during our spring ‘term’ there is a visit organised to Hazelwood garden booked for
21 s t May. The cost will be £7.50 members and £9.00 non – members. Booking
for this trip will start at the March meeting. All these attractions will be on our
noticeboard so keep looking.
As I write my concluding sentences I am aware that the sun has appeared through
the clouds giving a little respite from the rain. I’m looking forward to enjoying a tad
more of it in the coming months!