A few sunny days remind us that spring is here, although it is still pretty cold I must admit! However, there are a number of plants that brighten up the spring garden that I wouldn’t want to be without.
Floral & Hardy’s Top Ten Plants for March
A commonly grown plant I know, but when you see sheets of it in full flower cascading over a sunny wall, it really does impress. There are lilac, purple, pink and red varieties, just cut them back after flowering to stop them getting untidy.
A really useful, ground cover perennial with large, leathery evergreen leaves and spikes of pink or white, bell-shaped flowers. It will grow almost anywhere and is very easy to look after.
There are many different varieties ranging in colour from purest white to deepest red. This is a large shrub with wonderful glossy evergreen leaves that make a wonderful foil for other plants later on in the year. Grow these if you have acid soil and some shade. (You can test your soil by buying an inexpensive kit from your local garden centre).
A slightly more unusual March flowering plant commonly known as the ‘Dog’s Tooth Violet’ – so named because of the shape of its tubers. This is a really stunning flower and is available in various colours ranging from white to lilac to yellow. Plant in a shady spot and enjoy.
A fairly common, grow anywhere plant, but along with the daffodil, nothing epitomises the coming of spring better to me than the sheer exuberance of its stunning show of bright yellow flowers.
HELLEBORUS ORIENTALIS –
An evergreen perennial ranging in colour from white to plum-purple. Plant them in shade in a raised bed or on a bank to take advantage of their large, slightly downward facing flowers.
MAGNOLIA STELLATA –
A medium sized shrub with pretty star shaped flowers in white or pale pink. Don’t try to grow this plant if you have very chalky soil, or if your garden is very exposed, otherwise it’s an easy shrub to grow.
Nothing is more cheerful at this time of year than, in Wordsworth’s words – ‘a host of golden daffodils’. There are so many different varieties, ranging from the obvious bright yellow to whites, apricots, bi-colours and now even pinks. They are easy to grow – just make sure you plant them deep enough and that you leave the foliage on for at least six weeks after the flowers have faded, so that the goodness goes back into the bulb for next year.
PRIMULA VULGARIS –
The common primrose – such a pretty wild flower with its pale yellow blooms, it has always been a cottage garden favourite. It will thrive best in partial shade.
I couldn’t end this list without mentioning Cherry blossom. There are so many varieties flowering now, from those with delicate single blooms to those big, blousy, tutu-like confections. Some are scented, some have purple foliage, and some, of course, have the added advantage of producing fruit at the end of the season. All are very beautiful and guaranteed to raise the spirits after a long, cold winter.
March Tips and Advice
1. Prune summer-flowering shrubs such as Buddleia, deciduous Ceanothus, Lavatera, summer-flowering Spiraea and Caryopteris if you didn’t do it in November. The same goes for roses.
2. Winter flowering jasmine can be pruned now, by cutting back all side shoots which have flowered and any old branches.
3. Prune summer flowering Clematis by cutting back to pairs of plump buds about 60cms from the ground.
4. Cut back coloured stemmed Cornus (Dogwood) to a few inches above the ground to ensure colour next winter. The same goes for Fuchsias.
5. Trim over winter flowering Heathers once the flowers have faded to prevent the plants becoming leggy.
6. Move any shrubs and perennials that need relocating, making sure you dig around the rootball carefully.
7. Dead-head daffodils as they fade (but leave the foliage in place for at least six weeks).
8. The dead heads of hydrangeas can be removed now, taking care not to damage the new shoots beneath.
9. Generally tidy up planting beds and remove any emerging weeds.
10. Give the whole garden a feed with a fertiliser such as blood, fish and bonemeal.
11. Mulch acid-loving plants such as Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Pieris and Camellias with ericaceous compost.
12. Sow hardy annual flowers straight into prepared ground outside where they are to flower.
13. If you have a greenhouse you can also sow vegetables such as cucumbers, melons and tomatoes now. You can also start off Canna, Begonia and Dahlia tubers now by placing them in shallow trays of compost with just their tops showing.
14. Prick out any seeds you may have sown earlier, following the instructions on the packet.
15. Your lawn may be treated now for moss following the instructions on the packet and, on a dry frost-free day, mown on a high blade setting.
16. Finally – watch out for slugs around your precious emerging perennials and take the necessary action!
So……… plenty to do!
By Helen Ellison, Garden Designer