This Month in the Garden – March 2024

This month, in March, I sing the praises of narcissus – a huge genus with, I understand,  more than 25,000 registered hybrid cultivars. They hybridise readily both among international growers and in the wild.  From tiny miniatures like Minnow which only grows to 15cm tall to Actaea which reach 50cms there is something for everyone.  Tulips, although lovely, do not always fare well after the first year whereas, narcissus will continue flowering for many years, even when planted in pots. 
The narcissus season starts in very early January or even late December with Rijnveld’s Early Sensation a stunning golden yellow variety which has been given an RHS Award of Garden Merit – always a good indicator in that it has earned the RHS seal of approval for reliable performance in gardens.  The last narcissus to appear in my garden, usually in mid May is the Pheasant Eye – pure white with a yellow and orange centre – hence the name I guess.  This is a highly scented old fashioned variety also with an RHS award of garden merit …

So it is possible to have a display of narcissus in one’s garden for almost six months of the year.  Minatures or taller varieties, single or double, pale lemon or brighter yellow, single head or multi-stemmed – I love them all and add to my collection every Autumn.  When the flowers have faded dead head but don’t cut off or tie up the leaves – I know they look straggly but bear with it for a few weeks as they are providing the food for next years’ flowers.  I always throw a handful of blood, fish and bone around the bulbs when the flowers are over – it is slow release and encourages good flower production for the following year.  Lots of lovely places to visit to see narcissus in all their glory but one of my favourites is Chippenham Park Gardens in Cambridgeshire.

Now is the time to start dividing plants.  Snowdrops like to be left undisturbed but over the years the clumps do become quite huge and so dividing them when they are “in the green” ie. when the flowers have faded but before the leaves do so enables one to plant elsewhere.  Plant them in threes and fives and they will soon multiply.  Walking in Darlow Drive it has been lovely to see the pale mauve crocuses planted on the grass verges.  Such a joy to be out and about at this time of the year either in one’s own or other peoples’ gardens however large or small.  This is the year of the mulch in my garden.  This has now been spread and it has made such a difference to the look of my garden not to mention what is doing for the soil structure and the plants.  The stars of my garden now that the snowdrops are going over are the Brunnera macrophyllia Jack Frost and the Hellebores – a stalwart of the winter period and so good for the early pollinators – it is such a joy to see a bee or two buzzing around as one tends the garden at this time of the year.  I am lucky to have pear and other blossom in my neighbours’ gardens by my boundary fences so I can enjoy the borrowed landscape.  I was on a garden visit this week to a beautiful garden and came across a plant I hadn’t seen before.  It was the Japanese Willow Salix gracilistyla Mount Aso.  A most beautiful willow with pinky-red pompoms in place of the usual grey pussy willows.  A couple of days later I received my gardening update email from the RHS and there it was featured as one of the best plants for this time of the year.  I so want one – I am just looking to see where I could shoehorn it in to my garden.

The roses have been pruned and later this month it will be the turn of the dogwoods.  I will also be digging up self sown hellebore seedlings to plant them elsewhere and adding to my collection of cyclamen coum.  In my conservatory the Kaffir Lily is showing its buds, in the next few weeks it will be spectacular again I hope.  I will be starting off dormant begonia and gloxinia tubers, planting sweetpea seeds in root trainers and warming up the soil with a cloche over the vegetable box.  I will leave sowing tomatoes seeds for a while.  I find my Sun Gold do better outside as my green house is a little on the shady side and the plants can’t go outside too early.  Best of all I have just come in from a wander round the garden and there is a white flower on the water hawthorn – the first flower on the new plants in my refurbished pond.  I can’t tell you how excited I am – but then when it comes to gardens and gardening I am easily excited.  I hope your gardens are providing you with great joy at this exciting time of the year.  

Linda Truscott

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