February and March are the times of the year where everybody gets busy in the garden and excited about the new seasons to arrive. How exciting to see the first blossoms of early cherries and daffodils. Photinia red robin sends out bright red shoots to greet spring combined with flower heads on older plants which have been left unpruned.
I have been busy mulching borders, either using my all time favourite well composted stable manure or strulch, a straw based mulch which I had no idea it existed until my client pointed it out to me. This is great stuff, easy to handle, easy to open, no mess, no broken backs and easy to spread! It is used by the RHS, but sadly not widely available in garden centres. It can be purchased directly from strulch.co.uk in bulk or per bag via crocus. I have mulched 220 sqm of borders last week, using a pallet of 50 bags. It is meant to last up to two years, deters slugs and snails, keeps moisture in and suppresses annual weeds.
Cutting back of ornamental grasses is a vital task in March as it is warm and new growth is starting soon. I have attended a great day in March with Chris Marchant from Orchard Dene Nurserys, a wholesale nursery who shared a great plant knowledge. One grass I like using again is Anemanthele lessoniana, pheasant tail grass which is evergreen and spreads a good meter across. Following Chris advice I cut it down completely this spring for rejuvenation, hopefully I haven’t killed it, it is one of my favourites in my garden growing in a hopeless, dark spot of the garden.
Grasses like Stipa tennuissima and Carex testacea have had a cut of 1/3 of their leaves. Minscanthus, Calamagrostis have been cut down to about 15 cm above ground level.
Cornus can also be cut back severely every 2-3 years which encourages new shoots with good winter colour.
Now is also time to assess the planting stock after our long wet winter and make a plan how to develop the garden with new plants this year.
Solanum crispum had a good prune after a season of extremely vigorous growth. Snowdrops need dividing now and replanting ideally in corners of the garden where they can naturalise. They are best planted under trees or along edges where not much else will grow.