March - hooray, Spring is here at last!
We certainly have had every kind of weather thrown at us last month.
Make the most of longer days and warming soil to prepare your garden for the growing season. It's all systems go!
Get cracking and complete any jobs that had to be abandoned last month due to bad weather.
Now is a good time to move evergreen shrubs such as Choisya, Hebe and Pittosporum. As the soil begins to warm up, roots will be able to re-establish quickly.
Most evergreen shrubs can be pruned just before growth starts in mid-spring. Delay pruning spring-flowering evergreen shrubs until after they have flowered, otherwise this year's display will be lost.
Winter flowering Viburnums such as x bodnantense cultivars can be pruned now or when they have finished flowering. Cut out up to one in three of the oldest stems to the base.
The best time to prune shrubs grown for their stem colour such as Cornus (Dogwoods) is just as they come into growth in March to mid April. Known as coppicing, cut the stems of new specimens down to no more than 6 inches from the ground to achieve a stubby framework. This encourages new brightly coloured leafless stems for winter interest next year. You can do the same treatment with Salix (Willow). Then each year cut back to the previous years stubs. On old specimens that haven’t been pruned its best to cut out one in three stems each or every other year.
If you have deciduous shrubs that flower from July – October, you can prune these plants now if the weather is warming up. Examples that need regular pruning each year include Buddleja davidii, Caryopteris, Ceratostigma, Hibiscus, Hydrangea paniculata, Leycesteria, Lavatera, Perovskia, hardy fuchsia, and deciduous Ceanothus species.
March is the last and best time to plant bare root roses in heavy soils or in cold areas. Avoid planting in areas where roses were previously grown, otherwise new introductions may suffer from replant disease. However, if you dig out all the old soil and replace it, this should avoid the problem.
Modern bush roses tend to be grafted onto vigorous stock so do not be shy about giving your rose quite a severe haircut. It will redouble its efforts for you as a consequence. Thin out the centre of the plant if it is looking too busy because the better the shape and the space within the plant, the better your display of flowers and the healthier the plant.
Cut back ornamental deciduous grasses left for winter interest, if you have not already done so (such as Miscanthus), down to ground level before their active growth in spring. Evergreen grasses such as Stipa Gigantea do not need a complete prune, just pull away any dead material from among the better looking growth and remove last year’s oaty fronds. Pennisetum is a warm season grass and starts to grow later in spring so leave the trimming back until mid-April.
Cut off old leaves of hellebores that produce flowers from ground level (including Helleborus x hybridus and H. niger ) to expose the flowers and remove possible foliar diseases such as hellebore leaf spot. Divide if required after flowering.
Continue to divide bulbs-in-the-green, such as snowdrops and winter aconites, if not done last month. Lift and divide overgrown clumps of perennials and those that are flowering poorly or have lost their shape. Examples: Sedum, hardy geraniums, crocosmia, hemerocallis, agapanthus, rudbeckia and michaelmas daisies. Divide hostas before they come into leaf. Divide polyanthus-type primulas after flowering.
Caring for Daffodils
Deadhead Daffodils as the flower heads fade by cutting or pinching off the old flower head and the seed capsule behind the flower. This redirects energy back into the bulb, not the formation of seed.
As soon as you notice that your lawn is becoming a little shaggy start your regular mowing regime again. Keep the blades high to begin with. Little and often is recommended if you are to achieve a manicured lawn.
It’s good idea to mulch bare soil in borders with a thick layer of compost, this will improve the soil, keep down the weeds, as well as giving the plants a boost.
Protect new growth on lilies, delphiniums, hostas and any other plants affected, from slugs and snails.
Sally Watts is a Professional Garden Designer who has been featured in national magazines for her fabulous work on plots throughout the country. For more tips and inspiration go to her website: sallywattsgardendesign.co.uk