March in the garden

March

The promise of Spring has been early to arrive this year, with a very warm late February. It means we are already seeing blossom on quite a few trees, especially Magnolias and our Spring bulbs have been popping out of the ground for the last few weeks.

March jobs to do in the garden:

Order your annual seeds

This is always a fun late Winter/early Spring job, and a very good way to beat the winter blues, thinking ahead to all the potential flowers to be sown and grown for the year ahead. Trying to narrow down our annual seed selection is always a tricky job… The temptation is to buy all the beautiful blooms, but as we have limited space it’s important to exercise a little bit of restraint!  

This year we will be successional planting in our annual beds (this means doing multiple sowings of each flower, spaced out every few weeks, in order to prolong our flowering season and get the most out of our space).

Along with firm cutting garden favourites such as white corncockle, helianthus ‘Ms Mars’ and phlox ‘Creme Brulee’, some new varieties that we are excited to be trialling this year are larkspur ‘Smokey Eyes’ (a beautiful, glowing, lilac-grey colour flower) and cosmos ‘Cupcake’ (an unusual type of cosmos in which the petals are fused together to form a cup shape). All very exciting and we can’t wait for things to start warming up!

Roses

Another good job in the garden for this time of year is to order your bare root roses. This is a much cheaper option than buying them later in the year, when they will be sold as a potted up plant at a higher price. We have a shady wall in the cutting garden and have decided to try some new shady climbers this year in order to fill that space. We have chosen ’Claire Austin’, a beautiful climbing rose that should grow well on a north- facing wall (fingers crossed!)

Tips on planting bare root roses:

  • Rehydrate your rose in a bucket of water for 30 minutes before planting.

  • Dig over the soil thoroughly and remove and weeds or stones. This allows the new roots to grow freely.

  • Dig a hole big enough for the rose’s roots and break up the soil at the base of the hole with a fork.

  • Mix a spadeful of well rotted manure at the bottom of the hole.

  • Sprinkle the roots with Mycorrhizal Fungi, as well as the sides and bottom of the hole. This will encourage new growth.

  • Place the rose in the centre of the hole, the bottom of the stems should sit 2” below the top of the hole..

  • Fill in around the roots of the rose, then firm the soil really well around the rose with your foot. (Make sure there are no air pockets)

  • Water the rose well.

Wait and see your rose bloom in a few months time!

February/March is also the time to prune your roses. Here are some general tips on pruning your roses.

  • Strip any of the old leaves that are left on the plant.

  • Cut out any dead stems, spindly or crossing stems. (You are aiming for a nice opened up plant!)

  • Cut remaining stems back by about a half to a third.

  • Cut back to an outward facing bud.

  • Your cut should be no more than 5mm above the bud and you should always cut on a slope facing away from the bud. This is so water doesn’t collect on the bud.

 
‘Claire Austin’ image © David Austin

‘Claire Austin’ image © David Austin

 

Flower of the month

Hellebore

We love the dainty hellebore, it is one of the only things to continue flowering even through the coldest snaps. However, we do have to admit that they are sometimes a little tricky when it comes to using them in arrangements… Sometimes they stand up to the test and sometimes they are tricky little things that droop no matter what you try!

We definitely haven’t totally cracked it when it comes to these delicate beauties but here are some of the tips we’ve learnt along the way for using hellebores as cut flowers:

For the sturdiest and longest lasting flower, wait until the pollen has dropped before you cut.

You’ll be able to tell when the seed heads start developing on the flower, like in the image below…Here you can see the pollen has dropped and the seed heads have developed, a good time to cut.

 
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In this next image the stamen is still intact, the pollen hasn’t dropped.You can still try and pick them earlier when the stamen is intact, just be prepared for them to be a bit temperamental!

 
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You can still try and pick them earlier when the stamen is intact, just be prepared for them to be a bit temperamental!

Plunge freshly cut flowers into boiling water for 20-60 seconds to sear the ends. You can also score down the stems with a craft knife, before plunging them into warm water. (We have to admit that this method is a little bit too faffy for us if we’ve got a busy day on!)

Finally if using them in a bouquet, always support their delicate, hanging heads by arranging sturdier flowers and foliage around them.

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