Garden Blog | March 2020
Here we are in March already, when the long dark days of winter give way to the abundant optimism of spring.
William Wordsworth was a man who famously conjured up the joys of the season in this very familiar passage from ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ as he happens upon a beguiling sight:-
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Furthermore, his lengthy yet unfinished poem ‘The Tuft of Primroses’ begins with another floral reference:-
Once more I welcome thee, and thou, fair plant,
Fair Primrose, hast put forth thy radiant flowers,
All eager to be welcomed once again.
We have masses of both daffodils and primroses in the gardens and grounds. Wordsworth would no doubt have approved.
Another spring arrival, though as far as I know not immortalised by Wordsworth, is the rather unusual looking butterbur. This lover of damp waterside locations has formed a dense mat on the banks of our lake, next to the Chinese bridge, which is quite apt as Petasites japonicus to give butterbur its botanical name, is native to China, Japan, and Korea. It’s interesting to note that in Japan, where it is known as ‘fuki’ it’s eaten as a vegetable. The leaf stalks are cooked somewhat like rhubarb, or preserved, and the flower head when in bud and once suitably prepared is regarded as a delicacy with a slightly bitter flavour. In the summer, once fully grown, densely packed large leaves held at waist height smother any weed that even attempts to grow in its shadow.
Spring is of course a time synonymous with renewal, and a great deal of renewal work takes place in the garden just now. Pruning shrubs such as coloured stemmed Cornus and Salix, and herbaceous perennials such as Penstemon, will stimulate and invigorate them to perform at their best throughout the coming summer.
Penstemons must be cut hard back to within a couple of inches of ground level when new shoots appear to be growing vigorously from their base. Stems of Salix, Cornus, and Budlejia should be pruned to within a couple of inches of their base. For Salix and Cornus this will ensure that their coloured winter stems will be as vibrant as possible. Budlejias flower on this season’s growth, so a hard prune in spring produces strong stems with larger flowers.
Having had a very successful ‘Snowdrop Sunday’ on the 23rd February, our thoughts immediately turn to making next year’s display even more appealing to our visitors. We are now in the process of lifting and dividing our snowdrops to extend their range and coverage in our borders and wild areas. This is a process that we undertake every year at this time, and has resulted in a progressively more spectacular show. If you have snowdrops at home, why not give it a go for yourself?
As the snowdrop flowers fade, larger clumps can be lifted and divided into smaller clumps of half a dozen or so bulbs, and replanted at the same depth over a larger area. After three years or so these clumps will have bulked up and be ready to lift and divide again. Snowdrops enjoy a shaded spot beneath trees or shrubs that shed their leaves over winter, but are not particularly fussy where soil is concerned, as long as it doesn’t suffer extremes of dryness or waterlogging. After just a few years, that initial clump of snowdrops will have given rise to masses of new plants to beautify your garden.