IN MY GARDEN by Philippa Thomas

Spring is Our Time for Fresh Beginnings and for trying something new. Yes, it is tempting to stay with the same old reliables – the same tested seed/varieties but then, isn’t it exhilarating and so exciting to dare something new, weird or unique.  All that bare space we see now will not be there in a few months time.  Having a tiny garden, obviously, everything has to earn the space it occupies over and over again.  Evergreens give brilliant structure but some of us, dare to want flower, berry, scent/perfume, sparkle, movement, etc.

Meanwhile, those north-easterly winds can charge through our gardens, especially at night and with most leaves and foliage gone and our soil bare, it can be sobering to see the state of our garden – to see again, the bare bones of our gardens. Then, aren’t we truly compensated with the wonderful winter green foliage around our unique Dalkey.

On the other hand, the occasional burst of sunshine may put the gardening bug in you, ‘put pep in your gardening step’. However, do remember, winter is far from over, nevertheless, your garden starts in earnest, at the very beginning of March when light levels, temperature increases and wildlife wakes up.  Honestly, anyone can be a gardener and create a super looking garden.  You do not need to be an expert or be able to pronounce big Latin names.  I have picked up most of what I know, from experimenting, going to garden club meetings, garden books, magazines, TV programmes, the radio and charity plant tables.

So, just around now, some of us are already itching to choose the right seeds and get stuck into the greenhouse as well as our garden. At this moment, preparation is the key.  Maybe, Carmen, Nabucco, Heavy Metal ‘whatever’, can lend more heat to your February and help refresh your sense of wonder, appreciation, scope and opportunity.

Our house plants may be noticing our longer days now and begin growing, we can start feeding them again but only using half a strength solution until the growth is robust. Then, isn’t it so thrilling, when we see white roots pushing through the drainage holes of the pot into which we put our cuttings, just weeks before.  Later, if you nip out the growing tip of the shoot, you should end up with a bushier plant – This could be your Eureka Moment!  If, too we continue feeding our feathered friends, we’ll have them stick around to help us in the insect control when our weather warms up again.

Did you know that Spring Flowering Bulbs can slow down their growth in colder weather?

Might Do, Maybe February Jobs for 2017

  1. Tease soil, fork over, weed and mulch, if it means crawling on clay to save and rescue a plant, then obviously worth it.
  2. Maybe, if your beds are overshadowed by small trees, remove the lower branches, (limb up!) in order to let as much rain and light as possible.
  3. Some shrubs in containers can suffer from root death and dehydration in freezing weather. Better to move into an unheated greenhouse.
  4. Deciduous shrubs and trees are still dormant enough to transplant this month. Once their buds have begun to swell, it is too late.
  5. Spike lawns to aid drainage.
  6. Cut away offending Hellebore leaves, doing this will not only help you enjoy the emerging flowers but those that have Hellebore leaf spot, (rounded brown spot in the leaves).
  7. Alpines will die if left in icy cold, soggy conditions. Better to cover their bare patches around clumps with gritty compost in order to encourage new growth and retain dryness.
  8. If, exceptionally cold weather is forecast, provide protection for tender plants by covering them with some type of cloth material.
  9. Did you know that adding sweet Cicely when cooking rhubarb, gooseberries or currants means that you need to use far less sugar?
  10. If you feel like being adventurous, maybe consider planting a blackcurrant bush. I had a big chat with a specialist about such, yesterday. He advised, Ben Hope, Ben Tirran and Big Ben as the best buys. Their amazingly productive soft fruit can be cut back regularly, keeping them small.
  11. Remember, shrubs have their own uses, such as hiding next door fences, etc.

Roses

Try and prune roses to do what you want them to do, don’t let them bully you, too much! A lot of roses can be trained by cutting back side spurs as you would a climber and tying it in.  So, best to prune before they come into growth which seems to be earlier each year.  Remove any cross, especially spindly or dead branches.  I planted a few new David Austin roses early last summer, scattering some Mycorrhizal Fungi at the base/roots of each plant.  These granules contain fungi that coat the roots, helping them absorb minerals and water.

To extend the vase life of cut flowers, re-cut the stems under water and remove any stem foliage that is under water. Flowers like a cool spot away from direct sunlight.

Bunches of Pussy Willow, Quince, Crab-Apple, Forsythia, Pear and flowering Cherry may be forced indoors. Place cut stems in a vase of water and change water every four days.

Carpe diem

Carpesse vitam”.