The longer mild sunny days this week have brought on the urge for a spot of spring cleaning in the main borders. I like to work through all my borders in March, cutting back any remaining perennials, finishing the rose pruning, taking last years heads off the hydrangeas and pruning back the fuchsias. This is followed by a good weeding session and a feed for roses, peonies, shrubs and topiary.
This week I have started with the main borders that wrap around two sides of the house. The house is set above the level of the land at the back, with a large terrace that is edged by a deep border. When we moved in these borders were much narrower and consisted of a few shrubs and much bind weed. The first gardening job here was to dig wider borders, remove the aged shrubs and dig out the bind weed. It makes a reappearance every spring, but as long as I am vigilant early in the season it seems to be under control.
The borders have been replanted in a country house style with roses and perennials such as phlox and delphiniums. I keep quite a few spaces for tulips, annuals and dahlias as I like to keep it colourful for as long as possible. Above you can see a small section of the overall border.
I have spent a whole day this week clearing this border and still have to work my way around the other side. When it is all done I can see the tulips clearly and look forward to the show which should start in early April!
Looking back across the empty border I know that it will not be long before this is full of roses, peonies, delphiniums, phlox, echinacea, echinops, asters, astrantia and fuchsia to name some of the plants that give a succession of flowers in these borders. Having tidied these borders so well I now need to make sure I stake the peonies and delphiniums in April and do the “Chelsea Chop’ on my later flowering perennials in May. If I then fill any gaps with annuals and dahlias and keep on top of the weeding, the borders should look fantastic throughout the summer and autumn – thats not much to do then!
Above you can see my only tree peony, planted 3 springs ago. I am quite excited this year as she looks to have lots of shoots so hopefully lots of flowers. I had three flowers last year, one the spring before. She normally flowers the week before the Chelsea Flower Show and is a beautiful shade of pink. Please do not ask her name though – Nelson will be two later this month and Golden Retriever puppies and plant labels do not mix. In his first few months he managed to remove and destroy every label in my borders, so I am very hazy with plant identification!
With a face like that though it is hard to get angry.
Other jobs this week have included repotting my blueberry bushes. They have been living in much smaller pots for the last two years, so should appreciate the extra root room in fresh ericaceous compost.
I have also been moving pots of bulbs out of the greenhouse to make room for trays of seedlings. Last year it was nearly April before I was able to do this so hopefully I will not feel as short of space this year. March is my biggest month for trays of seeds – after that I start to plant out so there is not such a demand for greenhouse space. In April I will bring my dahlia tubers in from the potting shed and start them into growth.
The bulbs I planted in my outdoor pots are just coming into flower. It is lovely to have fresh iris reticulata flowering as the iris bulbs in the borders are going over. Once this lot finish flowering they will be moved out into the garden for more flowers next year. In borders which already have a lot of bulbs I find it easier to plant bulbs at this time of year when I can see the gaps rather than risk disturbing older bulbs in the autumn.
I think that Hardy looks his best in the sun – it really highlights the beautiful colours in his coat.
Finally regular readers will remember that this was the base of an arrangement of narcissi Paperwhites that I made for ‘In A Vase On Monday’ way back in January. This base has been sitting outside since then and the Euonymous Emerald Gaiety has thrived sitting in the floral foam for all these weeks. In fact there are even a few new leaves, so it might be taking root!
Whlist this lovely weather lasts any more time I find for gardening this week will be spent on border clearing – next week I will be back to seed sowing.