Purple Wellies

One woman's musings of plant lust for intoxicating blooms

Is it Spring Yet?

That depends if you follow the meteorological or astronomical calendar. Either way your garden is starting to reawaken.

Daffodils seem to emerge earlier each year. Some started nosing their way through the soil in November here. I’m drawn to dwarf varieties like Narcissus 'Tête á Tête' or scented N. ‘Minnow’. Narcissus 'W.P. Milner' also works well front of border. Taller candidates include N. ‘February Gold’ with a long flowering period, and N. ‘Cheerfulness’ with its double scented flowers. Whichever varieties you have reward them after their display with a sprinkling of fertiliser and remove spent flowers. They will repay you by returning next year. Leave for at least six weeks after blooming before removing foliage and don’t tie up leaves. Planted amongst perennials such as peony, hemerocallis or hosta the emerging perennial growth quickly covers untidiness from the bulbs.

Varieties of Clematis alpina and C. macropetala flower now. Most are soft-hue tones, but C. macropetala ‘Purple Spider’ breaks the rules with its stunning deep purple-black petals. A fabulous array of newly introduced hellebores, stemming from extensive breeding regimes, has appeared recently. Helleborus × hybridus Harvington double apricot performs very well for me with its warm apricot shades, from December through March, that contrast beautifully with its dark stems.

Keep an eye out for slugs as they are partial to new plant shoots and are active now temperatures are rising. If you don’t like slug pellets and can’t face hand picking them, try using Nematodes. These microscopic worm-like organisms live in water and soil and range from being harmless to parasitic. These parasites aid us in controlling the bane of most gardeners’ lives.  Order online, add to water and apply directly to the soil. Once in the ground they will seek out the ill-fated slugs and reduce numbers. The treatment works for around six weeks.

Make yourself plants for free by dividing established clumps of geraniums, sedums and hostas. Flowering often dwindles over time, so dividing every two or three years maintains vigour. Replant the smaller sections in well-prepared soil.

For the gardener tight on space try evergreen Ribes laurifolium, making 1m high if you are lucky or very slow growing Prunus incisa 'Kojo-no-mai', both blooming February through April.

Ask me which is my favourite spring flower and I’d give you a different answer each time – there’s so much choice.

Article first published in the The Resident magazine Spring 2018 edition
Posted: 09/03/2018 20:50:00 by Pamela Barden