Saturday, 13 February 2016

What to do now in the garden

If you are anything like me you are itching to get in the garden. As soon as the new year starts I pace the garden every day looking for new growth. This year the unusually warm winter has produced quite a few surprises. Some of our Hellebores and Eranthus (winter aconite) started flowering before Christmas and the snowdrops and crocus are in full flower several weeks earlier than normal.
Snowdrops in front of white-stemmed birch trees Betula jacquemontii Doorenbos

Even more surprising are the flowers on Geum, Leucojum aestivum Gravetye Giant (summer snowflake) and Astrantia, which don’t usually flower until April or May. All of these plants are pretty tough, so even if a frost damages the current growth they will be fine, but it does make you wonder what will be flowering in May!
Leucojum aestivum Gravetye Giant

Crocus tommasinianus in our little wildflower patch

Eranthus hyemalis (winter aconite) 

If you didn't plant early-flowering bulbs in autumn, you can buy them now in pots and plant them out in the garden. It’s a good excuse to get out to the garden center or nursery, or to find an early plant fair. You will pay a little more for potted bulbs, but at least you get to choose them in flower and they should establish well to flower again next year.

This is also the time to order snowdrops and winter aconites in the green. They will be dug up after they have finishing flowering and sent to you in clumps to plant. They will settle into their new home in your garden much better than dry bulbs. You also have the bonus that it is much easier to see where best to plant them before everything else starts to grow.
Galanthus nivalis, the common single snowdrop

We have been on our annual pilgrimage to Herts Hellebores and acquired three more beauties to add to our collection. Hellebore Hill is pretty much full, so they are now spreading out into the rest of the garden. I recommend choosing Hellebores in person if you can, as every plant has different markings and a different habit. Hellebores give tremendous value: the flowers last for weeks and can be cut to bring into the house, the foliage persists all year and is a good backdrop for later-flowering plants, they don’t seem to mind being crowded by other plants, and they cope with shade and sun. If you don’t own any you really must get some!

If the weather is nice enough I start to tidy the garden ready for spring. Some of the stems that we left for winter interest are beginning to look tatty so they will be cut and composted.

When the weather is too bad to get out in the garden I spend hours looking through plant catalogues and websites, seeking out new and exciting plants to acquire and dreaming-up new planting combinations. I try very hard not to order too much, but as a plantaholic I am fighting a losing battle.
Frost on ivy leaves

Frozen surface of the pond

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