Spring things are afoot! Head Gardener Stephen has plenty of advice for you this month, which will help your gardens stay looking spectacular.
March really marks the beginning of the gardening year, with the Equinox on 21st signalling the longer days and shorter nights ahead. It can still be cold at night though, so tender plants may need protection for a little while longer.
Sadly, this month will see the first spring bulbs going over, and Narcissi will need deadheading as the flowers fade. Cutting off old flowers encourages the plant to focus on next year’s flowering: but always leave the foliage to die back naturally, as this will continue to feed the bulb.
It’s also the time to tidy up your early bulb display for next year, while the plants are still visible above ground. Somehow, ‘rogue’ single Narcissus always seem to pop up looking a bit sorry for themselves, so lift them ‘in the green’ and replant together to create bigger clumps which look much better. If some bulbs have begun to get crowded out by surrounding shrubs, again it’s good to lift them and replant in less crowded spaces. This is especially beneficial with shorter-growing bulbs such as Galanthus nivalis (Snowdrops), and smaller Narcissus varieties such as the fabulous star-burst flowered ‘Rip van Winkle’ which deserve to be centre stage.
Perennials can sometimes benefit from support, but it’s best to act early while access to the borders is easier. Putting in some twiggy supports (hedge clippings can be ideal) amongst tall herbaceous plants will give them a framework as they grow – and the ‘props’ will rapidly disappear as foliage takes over.
Now is the time to prune Cornus and Willow if you want encourage colourful stems for next winter. Cut them back hard to around 15cms and they’ll come back brighter than ever. If you didn’t prune Buddleia in autumn, do it now (pruning to about 40cms), and then give them another prune in late spring to stop the plant becoming too leggy.
Increasing light and warmth mean that indoor sowings of half-hardy annuals can begin in earnest. It’s a good idea to organise your seed packets by sowing date (a good rainy day job): this way you’ll always have something ready to sow. My favourite half-hardy annuals include Cleome ‘Violet Queen’, Helianthus annuus (Sunflower) ‘Claret‘, and Amaranthus cordatus ‘Viridus’ – all of which will give you colour all summer long from a single packet of seeds.
It seems it’s time we all dig out our gardening gloves and secateurs!