Musings of a Plant Centre Manager: Spring SplendoursTuesday 6th March 2018
What a dramatic week we have just had; snow drifts, roads blocked and biting easterly winds. Now we have the thaw is setting in (hopefully) we can look forward to warmer spring days and plants of interest unfurling their leaves and producing intricate flowers. This month we look at six favourites for March with my top tips for planting for each plant. Don’t forget we have our Spring Open Weekend March 24th and 25th so hopefully the garden will be looking great and we’ll have a full range of activities and plants in stock.
1) Coronilla glauca ‘Citrina’
This has to be one of my favourite spring flowering shrubs. It is a slightly lax habit and therefore often needs support. The photographed Coronilla g. ‘Citrina’ is growing through a 1.2m (4ft) obelisk. This helps to stop it flopping across the ground. It looks great tied in along a low wall and I have even seen it planted at the base of some old rambling roses to hide their old stems to good effect.
The primrose scented, pale lemon, pea-like flowers are produced from March until June and then again from September until November. Although my one has been in flower for most of the year.
Planting Tip – They like a well-drained soil and sheltered site, out of the cold winter winds, which can chill exposed foliage. Like Cistus it dislikes being cut back too hard, so I prune mine back to the last leaf along the stem which then encourages the plant to produce new shoots from further back in older wood. It seems to work for me!
2) Iris unguicularis – ‘Algerian Iris’
Iris unguicularis is a tough little plant, nothing seems to prevent it from growing. It likes a well-drained site and is ideal planted at the base of a wall in very shallow soil. Throughout the late autumn through to the spring it produces delicate pale blue flowers which have a bright yellow stripe.
The flowers appear in flushes during mild weather conditions but March is when it reaches its peak. It has a close relation which it is often mixed up with called Iris lazica, this has slightly shorter leaves and a darker blue flower.
Planting Tip – I find that both forms grow well at the bases of light canopied trees such as Birch or Rowan.
3) Lathyrus vernus ‘Alboroseus’
Lathyrus vernus ‘Alboroseus’ is very early flowered perennial pea. It produces delicate nodding flowers during late March. These flowers are pale pink in colour and have a darker pink stain towards the base of the petals.
Is this is too pale for you? Lathyrus vernus, the straight specie, has deep maroon-purple flowers which look great in full sun at the front of a border.
Planting Tip – Only growing to 15cm (6 inches) in height, this is a great plant for the front of borders especially those in dappled shade.
4) Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’
Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ is beautiful plant and you can expect deep cerise pink buds to appear in bunches above the foliage this month. These buds open out to pale pink flowers with the deep pink stain on the back of each petal and to top it off, each leaf has a fine gold rim. This highly fragrant plant makes a great addition to any garden. It’s a slow growing evergreen that only produces about 15cm (6 inches) of growth each year.
Planting Tip – Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ prefers dappled shade and a cool root run that does not dry out in summer. With age it can become a bit bare at the base and so I suggest that you under plant it with a shade loving clump forming perennial such as a Campanula or Geranium.
5) Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’ (AGM) – ‘Daffodil’
There are so many Daffodils to choose from at this time of the year so I thought I’d mention one variety that is an absolute must in any garden. N. ‘Ice Follies’ is an old favourite having been bred in 1953 and been popular ever since. Like most Narcissus, this is deer and rabbit proof and the flowers have a light fragrance. ‘Ice Follies’ are quite tall, growing up to 40cm and will clump up quite quickly.
Planting Tip – Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’ will clump up quickly so it’s a great choice for creating a ‘natural’ look especially in a new garden.
6) Akebia quinata cream form – ‘Chocolate Vine’
In sheltered spots this climbing plant is evergreen but in a more exposed position it is often semi-evergreen. In March through to April hanging bunches of scented flowers appear. These have cream petals with maroon-purple stamens and stigma. The scent is lovely being a sweet almond and honey with a hint of chocolate. The leaves have 5 lobes and it is quite vigorous in growth. It can grow 3m (10 feet) in a season!
Planting Tip – I cut mine hard back each year so that I can see the flowers when they appear. When training it against a wall you need to get the growth as horizontal as possible which helps to slow the plant down and encourages more flowers. The normal specie Akebia quinata has flowers that are completely maroon-purple and are very conspicuous, especially if grown against a pale wall.
Jobs for March:
Moving Plants – if you have to move a plant because it is in the wrong position then now is the time to do it. If you make sure that you leave a good root ball at the base of the plant then you should get good establishment. If you move the plant during March then you have the whole of the growing season for it to root in to its new position. Make sure that you plant it to the same depth as it was planted before, any deeper and there is the likelihood that it will rot off and too shallow means that the roots will dry out and be less likely to grow away well. Make sure that the plant is fed and watered well for the whole of the growing season.
Seed Sowing – March is probably the busiest month in the seed sowing calendar. There are so many things to choose from. Quite a few will need heat to germinate well such as Tomatoes, Begonias and Cucumbers. If you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse then this is made easier but if not then a good lit windowsill will work just as well, just remember to turn your plants once a day so that they grow nice and straight.
Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th March Spring Open Weekend. Come and see our range of lovely plants in the Plant Centre or browse the garden sundries and gifts in the shop. Why not have a stroll around the beautiful garden and then pop into the Café and have a coffee and indulge yourself with one of our delicious cakes, some of which are gluten free. We look forward to seeing you.