Since returning home at the beginning of January from a three month travel adventure my eagerness to get back to horticultural work has been somewhat challenged. For the most part the continuous wet weather has been against any sort of ground work and a nasty bout of cold and throat bugs has not helped when rarely the skies have cleared.
January – when weather and health permitted, fruit trees were pruned, last years autumn raspberry canes cut down, and armed with protective long gloves spiny gooseberry bushes were pruned shortening side shoots to create short fruiting spurs on an open framework to increase yield and make for easier picking. Work started in the borders when conditions allowed mindful of the still hibernating insects. In one garden a robin looking very worse for wear was my constant companion.
February – Wisterias had a second prune to two or three buds on stems already shortened to five or six leaves back in August. Roses were pruned and towards the end of the month late flowering Clematis were cut down, already sprouting long shoots in their race for the skies. Buddleja were cut back to strong growing side shoots.
Here in my own garden the back lawn has been mostly underwater with the constant run off from the adjacent field that slopes directly down to ours and our neighbours gardens. The service path alongside has turned into a fast flowing surge of water that feeds into our already rushing stream.
The front garden and the meadow fare much better drainage wise. The meadow now into its third year looks promising with all the naturalised bulbs that are multiplying every year pushing up from below. Crocus are out in abundance but some more early Narcissis need to be added, a note for the Autumn bulb list.
The prairie border edging the meadow has looked particularly striking on the rare occasion when the low sun has streamed through the grasses and set the stems of Cornus ‘midwinter fire’ off in a blaze of orange and red lifting the spirits if only briefly before the cloud and rain return.
March – Yesterday officially the first day of spring and finally a break from the February rains – apparently the highest recorded for the month since records began. Coinciding with a Sunday meant I was free to tackle the first of the March jobs in my own garden.
The Prairie border was ready for its annual cut. Amazingly the deciduous grasses – Miscanthus, Calamagrostis – had stood up well to the frequent battering from recent storms and were still looking good. Only the perennials had suffered and their dead stems were pointing in all directions other than straight up!
I like to get this job done in early March especially the grasses before the new growth starts in earnest. With the exception of the evergreen grasses – Carex testacea and Anemanthele lessoniana, these are combed out by hand rake or gloved fingers – everything else was cut to ground level with a quick weed to finish off.
Some more jobs for March…Keep on top of any weeding – milder weather/rain will provide favourable growing conditions. Divide herbaceous perennials that need rejuvinating – dig up the whole plant discard the woody centre and split the rest into good sized pieces, replant to the same depth as before. Cut back Cornus for next winters stem colour, ornamental Elder and Cotinus. Regularly check and tie in new growth on Climbers to avoid a tangled mess later. If not already done make ready vegetable plots and cutting gardens for the new growing season.
Finally take time out to just wander and enjoy the delicacies that spring has to offer…