One of my tasks (pleasures) this week will be to go round the garden and give all the summer and autumn flowering clematis a prune. I often think it’s all made unnecessarily complicated with talk of flowering groups etc. Basically, if its going to flower in the next few weeks leave it alone (prune after flowering if it needs restricting). For all the rest, cut back to a pair of strong buds about 20cm from the ground and mulch with well-rotted compost. It works for me……
Everywhere I look in the garden the ground is thick with hellebore seedlings – I can scarcely credit there was a time when I really struggled to grow them, now I have to treat the majority of the seedlings as weeds or they will crowd out everything else and never amount to much themselves. So, I will transplant some into the shady areas where there is still space for a few more, pot some up to grow on and give away and hoe up the rest. It seems sacrilegious, but it is also an example of how, if you get the conditions right, a plant will thrive and multiply. Our light sandy soil is not their preferred habitat, but over the years I have mulched the woodland areas with shredded bark that retains moisture and adds organic matter. The other way to keep hellebores happy is to make sure that they are not too closely overhung by shrubs or trees in the summer – they like light dappled shade, not Stygian gloom.
With the welcome arrival of spring, it’s not just the beds and borders that are bursting with life – ponds and water features where nothing much seems to have happened for the past few months – are showing signs of returning plant and animal activity. Before everything grows to the point where interference would be harmful, it is a good time to do some watery housework. If leaves and debris are lurking, lift them out of the water as gently as possible (to avoid the primordial soup effect) and leave them near the pond margins to drain and also allow time for any creatures to make their way back to the pond. Tidy up marginal plants and, if they are overcrowded, now is a good time to divide them and replant the fresh young growth from the edge of the plant. Similarly, if waterlilies are taking over, they can be divided and repotted once they show signs of new growth, but be sure to use an aquatic compost to avoid making the water too nitrogen rich. Check pond pumps to make sure they still work after a winter’s rest, make sure the electrics all appear sound (water and dodgy electrical connections do not mix). If you need to upgrade your equipment, need advice, or are thinking of installing a pond, visit Swell UK (they’re experts on all matters pond-related.) And don’t forget to clean the filters before starting the pump working.
It’s not just me who is enjoying the newly arrived and glorious spring weather – as I type this sentence, a butterfly has flitted past the window. And earlier as I did my morning patrol to see what new delights are on offer I watched a bumblebee foraging in the pussy willow. The most exciting discovery of the morning was the peach blossom – I cover the tree in January and February to help keep peach leaf curl at bay – today seemed a perfect day to uncover it and there was the blossom. What a treat.
Happy St David’s Day
Elka is my new favourite miniature narcissus. With a lovely subtle colour and delicate flowers, it is perfect for pots and I’m sure that it will also naturalise harmoniously amongst the other early spring bulbs where bright yellow can sometimes be too strident.