New growth is popping out on all our shrubs and trees giving a real feeling of spring when we have hardly had any winter yet other than a couple of really nasty windy spells. So, the new growth reminds me that it really is time to tidy up some of these shrubs that will need a little help.
Today I want to start with some potted hydrangeas, they have lots of dried twiggy bits that will never grow a new shoot so they are best carefully snipped off. There are many gardeners who would love to be able to nurture those wonderful hydrangea shrubs we used to have in our northern gardens but the truth is, they just do not like the soil here and the hard water.
The best way to overcome this is to plant the shrubs in large pots with bought soil or your own compost and never add any soil from the garden. Watering can eventually build up lime scale but one can overcome this by watering with rain water, when it does rain!! or should you have a rain water tank under the house use that water. This brings to mind several other favourite shrubs that suffer the same if planted in the garden so are best kept in pots. To name a few I will start with azaleas and rhododendrons, camellias, gardenias and magnolias even the holly bush, probably the reason we don’t see it around for a Christmas decoration because it just does not like the alkaline soil.
There is little point fighting with it outside in the garden, the plants will just turn yellow, lose their leaves and then die off.
If you really want to nurture these shrubs keep them strictly in their own pots and soil, they can survive happily by planting them up that way.
I have frequently seen hydrangeas in the garden shops so don’t feel that they won’t grow at all, they will, you just have to supply them with the conditions they like ie. their own soil, in fact some bags of soil actually have pictures printed on them showing the types of plants it is best for.
Spring bulbs are really at their best now with jonquils, daffodils, crocus, hyacinth and tulips all making the garden look its very best just like spring should. I am a great believer in leaving them just where they are and they never fail to come up year after year.
The jonquils are in fact a wild flower of this island and have been all of 40 years in the same patch under the lawn increasing every year. There is a lot to be said for letting nature have its way by allowing these bulbs to flower naturally rather than a regimented row that are then dug up and put away for the summer, that’s when they can get forgotten! The next bulbs to be coming along soon are fresias, there is a wild one of these on the island which comes with a cream coloured flower where as the cultivated ones come in several colours but all do well here in this climate.
Now if you have a vegetable patch in the garden now really is the right time to get down to planting up early vegetables. Potatoes are a must if you want an early crop. Marrows, aubergines, red and green peppers tomatoes garlic and leeks all like to be in the ground at this time of year. There are those gardeners who like to adhere to the phases of the moon, a growing moon for growing plants. Old customs do die hard and you may well find local farmers transplant their orange and lemon trees now so should you be thinking of adding such trees to your garden, now is the time. When buying young citrus fruit trees be sure they are old enough to have started bearing fruit, a reputable co-op will be able to guide you there because they do need several years before fruiting and I know we all seem to want the instant garden. As for all tree transplants, prepare a hole in the required place large enough to take the whole of the root ball of the young tree. Settle this well into the ground and as mentioned many a time, a couple of good supporting stakes to tie the tree to are adviseable to help avoid wind rock which could well come about when the March winds start to blow again.