MY GARDEN by Phillipa Thomas

April is a Showy Month with many Spring Shrubs and Flowering Trees in bloom, including Magnolias, Cherries and Rhododendrons. Our days are now longer than our nights and our light intensity is greater too and as a result, our plants take their cue and up their cycle, accordingly.  …. So with our longer evenings and warmer temperatures, it is a time of excitement, adventure and colour.  Our spring is revealing its fresh Irish beauty.  Everything is waking up ….. Everyday, plants are bursting into flower.  This is the perfect time to start growing new plants from seeds, bulbs, tubers and seedlings.  April really is the time to re-invigorate existing garden plants by pruning and feeding to help stir up new growth and encourage early flowering.  Maybe, grow a tree to mark a special occasion.  Flowering trees can be a living symbol of a special occasion or person.  Now, is the time, to apply the likes of organic matter around your perennials, trees and shrubs before our hot weather arrives.  Feed trees, shrubs and hedges with a balanced slow-release fertilizer by lightly, forking it into the soil surface.  Roses are greedy plants and will greatly benefit from feeding as they come into growth.  Honeysuckle and Clematis will now be putting on growth, tie in new stems to train the plant along its support.

To Lift or Not To Lift

Some people hold that Tulips are the Queens of Spring. Did you know that early tulips tend to be short in size while later flowering tulips are generally taller.  All tulips need to be planted in a depth of roughly three times the height of the bulb and all tulips need lots of light and well drained soil.  Even after one year, flower quality is depleted if bulbs are left in the ground.  Lifting or left in the ground, deadhead after flowering and allow the foliage to die back naturally.

Don’t we all like to, after a damp cold winter, get out and snatch a few golden moments on a warm patio. Well, our houseplants are really no different.  They just love to sit together, even to be bathed in a mist of a warm misty rain shower ….. it’s almost like natural vitamins for them.  Most houseplants originate from tropical like regions so if night temperature forecast is low, they will need to be brought in.  Too much water or food is just as bad for houseplants as too little, so water according to individual needs.  Moving an indoor plant from an indoor environment and exposing it to outside elements too quickly, can make it become stressed.  ‘Hardening them off,’ is the best way to lesson the stress.

A Touch of Glass

I have a pretty disjointed collection of old glasses and bottles, anything really, that I simply like. Sometimes, I display one single flower in each.  A flower worthy of your favourite movie, person, whatever!  Sometimes, the most ordinary flower can seem too pretty to be real, especially when isolated in a suitable container/bottle.  Succulents, too, have such curious shapes, they with some sphagnum moss, make a fresh alternative to flowers and being compact won’t get in the way of trays of food or a good conversation!

Scented Plants

Scented plants have the power to change your mood. Philadelphus or Mock-orange has one of the strongest scents.  A friend of mine planted hers beside her back door where her various bins are.  Best to choose a compact variety as some can grow very large.  Jasmines, top the pole for me.  There are so many worthwhile varieties and some of them have the most gorgeous scents.

Herbs

I think the key to a successful salad is its simplicity and quality and of course this is where the home-grown leaf will always triumph. I can never get enough rocket, basil, parsley, chives, watercress and little gem (lettuce).  Rosemary, too, is such a valuable culinary herb.  Maybe, plant it so that you touch its aromatic leaves as you pass by.  It tolerates sea winds and draughts.  The prostrate group trails beautifully down rocks and retaining walls.  Remember, most herbs hate waterlogged soil, so the first thing to do when planting up a herb pot is to put adequate drainage material in the bottom.  Sometimes, potted plants from a supermarket are a group of seedlings crammed in, rather than single plants.  So, here’s your chance, divide these clumps, and pot divisions to grow, separately.

Might Do, Maybe Do, April Jobs

  1. Check for root-bound plants in containers. Gently, remove the root ball from the pot and don’t worry if some roots are lost in the process. Then, re-pot in a container that is one size larger.
  2. If your houseplants are sitting on saucers remember that the water collecting them is perfect for mosquitoes to breed in, so maybe get into the habit of draining them after watering.
  3. An upside-down used orange half, left in the border overnight will collect slugs and snails.
  4. Chunks of broken oasis are a good way of providing drainage for your pots.
  5. Epimediums are some of the best ground cover for dry shade. They are slow to establish but generally, unstoppable with any other competition within their boundaries.