March brings it’s usual share of changeable weather – “les giboulées de mars” – but spring is definitely here; many shrubs and perennials are starting to flower, the grass needs cutting and the weeds are growing so there is plenty to do in the garden.
• Continue to tidy up foliage on perennials, and cut back perennial and sub shrubby plants to the base – they will regrow with greater vigour and better shape Any plants which flower on the current year’s growth can be pruned. Spring flowering shrubs should be pruned after flowering.
• The weeds will be growing even faster than the flowers so do keep on top of weeding and do try to remove annual weeds such as speedwell and chickweed before they have a chance to set seed. Think about mulching to suppress weed growth later in the year and to help conserve moisture.
• If you have botanical (ie species) bulbs in the garden don’t dead head them and they should reseed, Anemone blanda and coronaria seem particularly happy to self seed around and some tulips and crocus will also. Other bulbs can be dead headed, as can pansies
• Planting – April and early May are excellent planting times and most nurseries will have plenty of stock available. When buying plants it is easy to fall for the “achat de coup de coeur” and buy plants which are in flower now; do try and plan for colour and interest in the garden later in the year or else the garden can be sadly lacking in colour during August!. Check also on drought tolerance and winter hardiness of plants that you are interested in buying. Try and improve the soil where you plant, many local soils are a limy clay that can be improved by the addition of some organic material and some clean sand (sable de la riviére) and/or gravel for better soil structure and drainage (never use builder’s sand). Plants planted this spring will need watering during the first summer while they become established, even if they are drought resistant varieties.
• Apply a balanced general purpose fertiliser to borders and beds and also to trees and shrubs
• If you have a lawn then now is a good time to reseed any scruffy patches.
Spring is a time for many lovely shrubs to flower in our gardens. Three that I am going to mention this month are Xanthoceras sorbifolia, Ceanothus arboreus Trewithen Blue and Solanum crispum Glasnevin (see the image above). The Xanthoceras makes a large deciduous shrub and can even be trained into a small tree, it likes full sun, reasonable soil and some supplementary water during summer. The Ceanothus can also be formed into a small tree but is evergreen and will tolerate more drought. Solanum crispum Glasnevin is evergreen or semi evergreen and is part shrub, part climber – if allowed to it can send out long shoots up to 4 or 5 metres and can be trained through trees etc. It likes a little water during summer and will reward you by flowering from April until October!