Win­ter work­ing

A lit­tle gen­eral main­te­nance and prepa­ra­tion now will pay div­i­dends when spring ar­rives

Bath Chronicle - - YOUR GARDEN - With Diar­muid Gavin

Some gen­eral main­te­nance and prepa­ra­tion now will pay div­i­dends when spring ar­rives. A spell of clement weather ear­lier this week prompted me to pull on my wel­lies and get out in the gar­den.

It marked the be­gin­ning of my 2019 gar­den­ing year, and as I started pot­ter­ing about, a sense of well­be­ing and op­ti­mism emerged – gar­den­ing was work­ing its magic as usual.

As I cleared de­cay­ing leaves from the beds, I could see the green shoots of early bulbs start­ing to push through. This is al­ways a thrilling mo­ment as one wit­nesses the be­gin­nings of a new growth cy­cle that will take us through to next au­tumn.

Alas, it’s not just the bulbs grow­ing – there were plenty of weeds emerg­ing as well, en­cour­aged by milder tem­per­a­tures.

ev­ery year a dif­fer­ent weed species dom­i­nates my gar­den and it looks like petty spurge (eu­phor­bia pe­plus) is tak­ing that ti­tle al­ready. It’s easy enough to pull out but it’s best to wear gloves as, like other mem­bers of the eu­phor­bia fam­ily, the stems con­tain a burn­ing milky sap.

There are lots of un­wanted grass seedlings in the bor­ders as well, and much as I’d like to dec­i­mate them quickly with a hoe, I don’t want to dam­age emerg­ing tips of bulbs so this has to be done by hand.

It’s a job I’ll have to re­turn to over the com­ing weeks.

of course, tem­per­a­tures could, and prob­a­bly will, plum­met dur­ing Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary so if you haven’t wrapped up ten­der spec­i­mens, now is the time to do so.

my tree ferns are sev­eral feet in height and this gives them some pro­tec­tion as the grow­ing point is well off the ground, but I will put some straw or fleece in the crown to make sure the new fronds will not be killed off by sus­tained low tem­per­a­tures or snow. my Aca­cia deal­bata is cov­ered with masses of yel­low buds which I look for­ward to see­ing open soon. The very good sum­mer of 2018 will have boosted flower bud de­vel­op­ment in shrubs and trees so, fingers crossed, they make it through to flow­er­ing and don’t get dec­i­mated by heavy frosts.

I took the op­por­tu­nity while it was dry to start dig­ging over the veg­etable patch in prepa­ra­tion for spring plant­ing. It wasn’t long be­fore I was joined by our res­i­dent robin, hopping about in the hope of a few worms com­ing his way. Next job will be to visit the lo­cal sta­bles which sup­plies well-rot­ted horse ma­nure, and start spread­ing it in the potato patch and through the mixed bor­ders.

I was also de­lighted to see the helle­bores wak­ing up and start­ing to flower. A lit­tle main­te­nance is re­quired now which in­volves cut­ting away last year’s de­cay­ing leaves while tak­ing care not to snip away any new shoots of buds.

If you don’t have any, this is a good time to pur­chase them and they will keep go­ing un­til April or even may – it’s hard to think of an­other plant that gives such good flow­er­ing value.

If you are out and about, there are some choice plants to ad­mire at the mo­ment – the witch hazels are pro­duc­ing their spi­dery flow­ers and Chi­mo­nan­thus prae­cox’s waxy le­mony blooms emit a beau­ti­ful scent at this time of year.

So, when­ever the weather per­mits, get your­self out­doors and en­joy na­ture’s re­ju­ve­nat­ing pow­ers!

Win­ter­sweet (chi­mo­nan­thus) would cheer any­one in win­ter’s darker days

Helle­bores are among the first flow­ers to brighten a gar­den

This year’s gar­den scourge – petty spurge

Witch hazel flower in full bloom

A flow­er­ing mi­mosa (aca­cia deal­bata) in all its glory

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