April in my Garden by Philippa Thomas

Imagine, our days are longer than our nights now.  So our plants are responding with more rapid growth.  Possibly, April is the busiest time of the year in the garden.

‘April prepares her green traffic light and the world thinks go.’

Christopher Morley.

Every day now, there is something bursting into flower and everything else is waking up.  The gorse on Killiney Hill and Vico strip is in full bloom now.

‘April hath a spirit of youth in everything.’

William Shakespeare.

Rose-Breeder, David Austin

Our world lost David Austin in December, 2018.  Some roses such as ‘James L. Austin’, ‘The Poet’s Wife’, have both been awarded five stars in recent plant trials.  Other best varieties mentioned were ‘Claire Austin’, ‘Jude the Obscure’, ‘Grahame Thomas’ and ‘Constance Spry’.

Knowing and understanding your soil affects the way you manage it and determines the type of plants you can grow.  All soils contain mineral particles, organic matter, water and air.  The combination of these determine your soil properties.  Then, scarifying involves the raking out of dead grass called Thatch and any moss that has grown.  It is generally done in Spring when the grass recovers quickly.  A motorised scarifying machine can be hired from some hire shops.  The effect is dramatic.  A feed, perhaps top-dressing up and some re-seeding can soon bring about a beautifully improved green area.

Potting Up

Bamboo pots and seed trays – made from bamboo fibre, rice starch and resin (naturally occurring organic compounds) are now available.  Apparently, they can be decomposed in 6-12 months.  Whether it’s plug plants you’ve bought or seedlings you’ve sown, make sure you pot them up before they grow too big for their original container and start to suffer.  Did you know, apparently, Lily pollen is poisonous to cats?  Some double Lilies are pollen free.  Their lack of pollen may also help hayfever sufferers and flower arrangers, as others can stain badly when brushed off clothes.  …Most of us find Lilies romantic, showy flowers that fill our borders with glamour in Mid-summer.  Intensive breeding has created Lilies of all shapes and sizes and double Lilies with a multitude of petals.

Red Lily Beetle

Lily Beetles are bright red beetles with black heads, legs and undersides.  Adults start appearing in March when Fritillaries provide a food source for them.  They will then move to Lilies as these plants develop leaves.  They eat these leaving unsightly holes but the major damage is done by the grubs, which will munch their way through leaves and buds.  I’m afraid to say the grubs are (who would disagree? ) a disgusting slime-covered dark brown, as they cover themselves with their own excrement to deter predators.  A sunny day is best to spot them.  They may try to drop to the ground and generally lie on their backs, leaving their black belly upwards to avoid being spotted.  Wipe any red eggs from the leaves and any grubs that hatch.  Do what you think appropriate in order to get rid of them.

Now, for my very favourite plant, this month.  I think few plants can match the ability of Epimediums to grow in dry shade.  They form neat, low-growing clumps.  Most of them, their leaves emerge bronze, becoming lime green and then red when mature; their overall dainty appearance belies their resilience.  Believe it or not, I grow at least 12 varieties in pots inside our front gate – they are there for yonks.  I hope they give a warm welcome to the postman and general callers.

Plant Disease Update

The lethal bacterial infection, Xylella Fastidiosa, which has caused widespread losses of plants across Europe, has spread to Belgium.  The infection was found on olive trees imported from Spain.  We have been asked to remain vigilant.

Metaldehyde slug pellet is to be banned from gardens in the Spring of 2020.  It poses an unacceptable risk to birds and mammals.

Might Do, Maybe April Jobs.

  1. Early flowering Spring shrubs, such as Forsythia, Winter heathers and Spirea should be pruned as soon as the flowers fall to keep shrubs a manageable size.
  2. Remember, before clipping ivy and garden hedges, check for birds nesting under cover of the foliage.
  3. Roses: Prune, if not already done, as soon as possible.  Take out any weak or dead stems.  Use a rose food and lightly fork it into the soil.  Apply a small amount of mulch around the base.
  4. Pull up all weeds as this prevents weeds seeding and gives less shelter to slugs.
  5. Hostas in terracotta pots sat on an upturned saucer in a larger one, create an island, hence helping to protect them against slugs and snails.
  6. Apparently, egg shells cooked in a low oven are a valuable source of calcium, magnesium and other essential minerals and then can be added to the compost heap.
  7. Gutters: Sowing peas in gutters makes it easier to plant a whole row in one go.  Once your plants are large enough to go outside, slide them out in one go and firm the soil around them.
  8. Give your plants some T.L.C.   Our warmer weather and longer light hours generally means the plants require more water.
  9. Maybe sow a wild flower meadow to encourage pollinators.
  10. Now, would be a good time to spread the stems of Viticella-type Clematis as much as you can on their support or frame for greater effect.

Sunflower SunBelieveable, “Brown Eyed Girl”.

Sunflower SunBelievable, ‘Brown Eyed Girl’, came 3rd at Chelsea.  It is a bushy variety that flowers for months but that’s grown from cuttings.  It is sterile so produces no seed.  In trials, it flowered from May to November during that time, 1,000 flowers have been counted on just one plant.

 “Spring is nature’s way of saying, let’s party.”

Robin Williams.

“Spring makes its own statement, so loud and clear that the gardener seems to be only one of the instruments, not the composer.”

Geoffrey B. Charlesworth.

“Science has never drummed up quite an effective agent as a sunny spring day.”

Earl Hall.