The mild, but wet weather during February and March is the cause of many plants flowering much earlier than normal, the blackthorn and pussy willows that are growing on the verges of the North Syston bypass were in full blossom during the first week in March. I have also noticed Forsythia’s in flower during mid March, whereas in the past we always expected them to put on a glorious show of golden flowers in April.
In my own garden Pieris japonica ‘White Pearl’ started to produce its sprays of white flowers during late February, see our picture above. I expect Daphne odora ‘Walberton’ to flower during late March, but this year its tight clusters of fragrant white-lilac backed flowers were a month earlier and these look delightful sitting in the centre of a rosette of gold variegated leaves, see picture below right. Many of the Magnolia x soulangeana hybrids were starting to open their flower buds during mid March; I can only hope that late frosts during April do not turn these flowers into a brown mush, My Helleborus hybrids start to flower during early March and these will continue to give me a lovely
show of colour until late April. Most of my Helleborus hybrids originated from Ashwood Nurseries, Kingswinford, West Midlands, we were there, some twenty years ago, filming a gardening program for Central TV. After filming, I was given ten different coloured hybrids and these have produced numerous seedlings in a wide range of colours.
I am very fond of Polyanthus and must have around 50 dotted around my garden, which give me a brilliant splash of colour throughout the late winter months. Polyanthus are available in a wide range of colours, and when visiting Churchview Nursery in Barkby I came across two, which my wife Vi said we must have. One being deep orange red, but it was the other that caught my eye, as its flowers were an outstanding royal blue with a deep red and yellow centre, pictured below. I have planted both where they can be seen from my kitchen window and so far the birds have not started to pull their petals off.
On the 8th March, I went along to the Alpine Garden Society’s Spring
Show, not to look at the plants on show, as most of these are grown in alpine houses, but mainly to look on the nursery stands to see what they had to offer. There were many superb plants offered for sale, but I had to keep saying to myself ‘No you are running out of room to plant it’. Even so, I did finish up with six plants and as I am very fond of Saxifrages, I spotted Saxifrage ‘Gloria’, which forms a tight mound of small grey leaves and white flowers. I also purchased a plant of Soldanella ‘Sudden Spring’, an alpine with small dark green leaves and 2-inch (5cm) stems that are topped with small blue, fringed, thimble-shaped flowers.
Moss, due to the very wet winter, has spread very quickly over most surfaces, not only in my lawn, but also on rockery stones, pathways and driveways. If you mix 20z of Sulphate of Iron into a gallon of water in a watering can and water this over moss it will kill it within twelve hours. However, although you can treat lawns, paths and driveways with Sulphate of Iron, you cannot water this over plants and as moss has invaded many of my clump forming Saxifrages and Sempervivurns, I have had the tedious job of kneeling down and trying to extricate moss from out of the alpines.
During mid March I sowed my runner bean seed in multipurpose compost using cell trays. I place the cell trays in my small heated propagator where the temperature is only set at forty-five degrees Fahrenheit, the seed usually takes two weeks to germinate and when the beans have grown their first true leaves I shall take them out of the propagator and pot them up into 9cm pots. They will remain in my cold greenhouse and then I shall pot them into 1-litre pots; I shall cover the plants with horticultural fleece during cold weather to prevent frost damage.