If ever there is a sight to lift my heart, it is seeing the mimosa tree in full bloom against a cloudless blue sky – and as the air warms its unmistakeable fragrance drifts in the breeze. It is a particularly welcome sight this year because last year’s relentless winter winds withered the buds before they could open and left the tree looking very sorry for itself. A late spring prune removed all the damaged wood as well as giving the tree its annual haircut to keep it looking dense and bushy.
Now that it is feeling more and more like spring, I decided the moment had arrived to cut the old flowerheads off the hydrangeas. Getting the timing right can be a bit tricky – too soon and a frost can damage the new emerging buds, too late and there’s a risk the old flowerheads will get entangled with the new leaves and damage them as they are removed. I cut the stems back to a strong pair of buds, remove any weak and spindly growth, and remove the oldest stems close to the ground so that they are replaced by strong new growth – these new stems won’t flower in their first year, but it does mean that the plant is constantly regenerating. Hydrangeas love our garden and grow very tall, so most years (not this year because I’m opening the garden for our local hospice in June) I will choose one to cut right back to close to the ground and sacrifice a year’s worth of flowers to open views through the hydrangea forest!
Every now and again I do manage to follow my own advice and get things done at the right time of year. Last autumn I took cuttings from my increasingly leggy scented pelargoniums and overwintered them in the greenhouse. Nearly all of them have rooted, so I have potted them on into their own pots so that they can get established before I need the space for seedlings. I’ve also cut their leggy parents right back, given them a soak and a liquid feed to encourage new growth – one way or another the garden will be very fragrant this summer.
Having the heated propagator in the greenhouse has made all the difference to my seed sowing. No more lanky seedlings grown on the kitchen windowsill. As soon as they have germinated, they come out of the propagator and onto the bench. After a few days there, they are moved into the coldframe where they will stay until they are ready to be pricked out into individual cells or planted out.
Sifted potting compost with added vermiculite
Freshly sown seeds in the propagator
Newly germinated seedlings on the greenhouse bench
Growing on in the cold frame