PUBLISHED: 09:00 16 February 2014
Toby Buckland delivers some sound practical and seasonal advice
Plant of the month: Daffodils
Daffodils aren’t just for Easter, there are many varieties that flower from late December to the end of May. We’ve had the dainty Tête-à-Têtes blooming in pots since early January and this month it’s the turn of small but quick to bulk-up, ‘February Gold’ and ‘Jack Snipe’.
Some gardeners say you shouldn’t mix varieties, particularly small and large-flowered types but I love to blend as it’s the look of the Devon hedgerows where I grew up, a mixture of what you’ve planted and what’s escaped from next door! The key with daffs is to give them five to six weeks after they finish flowering to build up the bulbs for next year’s show before cutting down the strap-like leaves.
We’ll be getting ready for spring at our next Gardeners’ Coffee Morning at the Plant Centre when I’ll be focussing on all the jobs you can do to ensure your garden looks its best this year. Tickets cost £7 each or 2 for £13 and include light refreshments. It’s at 10.30am on 11 and 12 February. To book call 01626 891133.
Hello! As the sun gets higher in the sky spring arrives, moving at a slow stroll from west to east across the Devon countryside. The signs may be small but they‘re everywhere - from the reddening of willow and birch twigs in the hedgerows to the fattening of fruit buds on the apple trees. Plus, there’s the welcome appearance of the green shoots of bulbs heaving through the soil.
These first stirrings are a cue to take action and repair the soil by feeding and mulching, and while you’re at it have a good tidy through for a garden that’s ship-shape and orderly for when the real rush of spring starts. Of course you have to wait for the weather but at last there are meaningful jobs to be done, whether it’s starting off your early potatoes or pruning your roses.
What to do now
Service your secateurs and get them cutting how they should by oiling the spring and blades with 3-in-1 and sharpening the bevelled side of the blade only – never the flat side – with a diamond sharpener. If you do lots of pruning, wash with disinfectant to avoid spreading diseases and re-oil to protect the steel.
Mild weather will start roses into growth only for a frost to come along and brown the tips. It doesn’t do this hardy vigorous shrub any harm as new buds will break from the wood. Now is a good time to prune to tidy up climbers and bushes, cutting just above an outward-facing bud (one that points away from the centre of the plant) to avoid congestion.
Feed soil. Around spring-flowering shrubs like camellias and rhododendron I scatter a slow-release feed of fish, blood and bone tickling it into the soil surface with the tips of a garden fork so it has time to work down to the roots form when they really need it. I also spread a 5cm mulch of compost over the bare earth as this not only makes a tidy backdrop for spring bulbs but encourages worms that open up rain-battered borders with their tunnelling.
A word to the wise – never mulch when the ground is frosty as you will trap in the cold. However iron-hard soil offers a different opportunity as it means you can walk over it without damaging its structure while pruning roses and trimming out all the old and tired foliage.
Don’t forget to trim all but the fresh central leaves from your hellebores so they don’t mask the beautiful cup-shaped flowers.
Start early potatoes and shallots on windowsills and indoors so they sprout ready for planting outdoors from the end of March. Other good seeds to start include early salads like rocket, broad beans and parsnips.
This article was first published in the February issue of Devon Life. To get the magazine delivered every month to your home, subscribe at www.subscriptionsave.co.uk/dev or 08448484217