The Sight of Spring
Warmer weather is well on its way and we can’t wait to watch as our gardens change and new growth starts to come through. Green shoots and buds are already starting to appear, not only in the Botanical Gardens, but also in gardens up and down the country and we have some advice to help you take the best care of the new shoots.
March is definitely the month for new life, as well as the friendly daffodil, the flower of Wales, which will start shooting up in gardens, parks and grass verges very soon. This little beauty never fails to lift spirits, peppering splashes of yellow across the country like little rays of sunshine. There are a huge number of different cultivars that are available, a couple of our personal favourites are Narcissus ‘Jetfire’ and Narcissus ‘Jack Snipe’, both of which can withstand most weather conditions.
Here at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Daffodils grown in pots in cold frames over the winter will now be brought into the cool greenhouse. We’ll also be using green garden canes and string to support the tall flowers and stop them from falling over and being damaged. We will also be using this method to care for the 21m long floral display in the Mediterranean House during March.
As well as this, buds are growing and bulbs such as Crocus, Iris, Chionodoxa and Scilla are already starting to flower. For maximum effect, why not consider planting them in large drifts? If that is not possible, consider planting them at the edge of pathways or position them in your garden where they can be easily admired from a window.
Don’t forget, if you have flowering bulbs in pots, feed them every 10-14 days with a high potassium feed so the bulbs can replenish their stores for next years blooms.
As well as helping out your bulbs, consider pruning your willows and dogwoods to make way for new growth. Ensure you cut them to a foot from the ground, at least taking out a third of the oldest wood. Other winter flowering shrubs such as Lonicera fragrantissima and Viburnum x bodnantense also benefit from removing around a third of the old wood, encouraging new growth from the base, helping to rejuvenate old shrubs.
In addition to this, the spring equinox is fast approaching, falling on March 20th. The longer days will mean that ventilation, especially on sunny days, will be critical for greenhouses and conservatories. This is important in preventing leaves from overheating and stress for plants, which, in turn, can encourage pests such as aphids to attack. Be sure to open vents, doors and windows if temperatures rise above 13C / 55F, but close them before 4pm to retain some heat before sunset. For the best results, ensure daytime temperature is around 15-18 C (59 to 64 F) without draughts or chilling.
Back in the gardens, our main jobs in the nursery during early spring include potting the Matthiola incana ‘Aida Mixed’ or “stocks”. This amazing plant will bless us with a sweet, spicy, warm scent in the Mediterranean House during April, which we are excited for everyone to come and smell for themselves.
Here are some of our other tips for March to make sure your garden is at it’s best and ready for spring:
- Clean glasshouses and cold frames ready for a busy season of propagating and plant growing
- Wash plant pots and seed trays to prevent pests and diseases from damaging precious young plants
- Sow hardy annuals seeds such as sweet peas, unless you did so in the autumn
- Start feeding houseplants with a high nitrogen fertiliser every 7 to 14 days
- Start encouraging Canna, Dahlias and ginger lilies to grow by placing them in a warm spot in the glasshouse, giving them a good watering