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March

Bursting with life

The air is fresh and crisp, having somehow been cleansed by the cold of winter. The garden is a place full of hope, promise and anticipation and as the buds start to break and the days get longer, the fragrant flowers seem to fill the air with joy. As well as getting outside and enjoying the fresh spring air, there are loads of jobs to be getting on with this month, and the dormancy of winter really seems to turn this ‘outdoor housework’ into a pleasurable list of tasks.

March is a great time for pruning, and its something lots of people are scared about, but it really can be quite simple. Climbers such as Roses and Clematis need to be pruned this month, and as with any pruning, one should begin by removing ‘the 3 D’s’. Firstly, remove all dead wood. This could include any which has died back over winter. Then remove any damaged material, this could be snapped stems, or stems which have crossed over each other and are causing friction wounds where they rub. Finally remove any growth which is diseased. All growth should be cut back to a healthy, outward-facing shoot, where new growth will appear. Because our gardens are maintained as totally artificial environments, pruning is necessary to keep plants at the desired height, or shape. Plants in the wild are often accidentally pruned (either by wind or a hungry animal who may take a nibble) and so the plants natural reaction to this is to put on more growth … bear this in mind and don’t blame the plant for growing twice as big after pruning!

Another long-awaited task, is the sowing of seeds. I say long-awaited, because the process of ordering seed catalogues, carefully choosing the right varieties, ordering and then the delivery, seems to have been going on for months. Now generally, as amateur gardeners, we only sow seeds once a year, in a quick ‘burst’ of energy, in a spare moment, when really we should stagger the sowings in batches. Sow seeds such as Sweet Peas, Tomatoes, Peas, Carrots and Lettuce under the protection of a cloche (covered structure).

A few other jobs for the month

  • There’s still time to plant rootballed / bare root roses, shrubs, conifers and soft fruit
  • Lawns can be given their first cut at the end of the month only if its mild enough
  • Begin sowing lettuce, but keep it under cover as its still chilly at night

Plant of the moment – Magnolia

There are so many plants in flower at the moment its difficult to choose just one, and because its still quite cold most native ones tend to be yellow and white (due to the low light levels at this time of the year – I guess they’re easier to see for the insects who pollinate them!) but many also bear a heavy fragrance. A shrub which is in bloom right now provides stunning large waxy petals which make up the flowers of the Magnolia. M.’Susan’ is a particular favourite, not just because it’s my mums name, but because of the delicate colouring which cheers up the garden.

Magnolias are well known for early flowering, which can soon turn brown and mushy if we have a frost, and there’s nothing you can do about it. For a slow growing version, which wont need pruning for many years is M.’Stellata’, and I’m sure that if you pop down to your local garden centre, you’ll be able to pick one of these beauties up.