Bright splash in a shady patch

Gar­den­ing ex­pert Lucy Hewett gives her bam­boo a tidy, chits her spuds and is thank­ful for helle­bores in her gar­den

Kentish Express Ashford & District - East Kent Property - - OUTDOORS -

Helle­bores are such a wel­come sight through the win­ter and early spring months. They brighten the shady ar­eas of my gar­den and their flow­ers cope well with the worst of con­di­tions.

Com­ing in a range of colours to suit all tastes the full hardy helle­bore is com­monly called the Christ­mas rose but isn’t ac­tu­ally re­lated to the rose fam­ily at all.

They pre­fer rich, well-drained soil in dap­pled shade and don’t need a lot of main­te­nance but their sub­tle flow­ers can be hid­den by their large leaves, so to help show them off and en­cour­age in­sects to pol­li­nate the flow­ers, re­move old leaves.

Make sure you dis­pose of any leaves that have black blotches, as this is a symp­tom of the fun­gal dis­ease leaf spot. Deadhead flow­ers as they go over.

Cut off the flow­ered stems of stink­ing helle­bore (the green helle­bore) to ground level af­ter flow­er­ing.

Time to tidy up your bam­boo, re­mov­ing any whiskery shoots be­fore the fresh shoots start to come up from the base. Use se­ca­teurs to re­move side-shoots as close to the canes as pos­si­ble and the old­est canes at the base to let in light and air and to show off the ma­ture canes.

I have a black bam­boo (phyl­lostachys ni­gra) and it’s def­i­nitely worth do­ing this to re­veal the shiny black canes. You can use the fo­liage that you have re­moved as a mulch to pre­vent weeds around the base.

Give your spuds a head start be­fore plant­ing by plac­ing your seed pota­toes in a brightly lit, frost free place where they will start to de­velop knob­bly greeny/pur­ple shoots or ‘chit’ like they do when they are left in your cup­board for too long! Chit­ting is rec­om­mended for first and se­cond ear­lies, as it will bring your har­vest for­ward by a cou­ple of weeks. I find an old egg box the per­fect ves­sel for the seed pota­toes to start off, they will grow away fast when they are planted out in four to eight weeks. Make the most of the first sunny day to give your green­house a good clean if you plan to start sow­ing seeds soon.

A clean green­house means plants will be less vul­ner­a­ble to pests and dis­eases and, if you zap them now, it won’t be­come a breed­ing ground for nui­sances.

Be­fore you start, take out as much as you can and turn off the power to elec­tric points, cov­er­ing them to stop any wa­ter splash­ing them.

The best tools for clean­ing the out­side are a hose and a long­han­dled soft-bris­tled brush for tack­ling the roof glass, us­ing a large sponge. Give it a good rub to re­move al­gae and then rinse the area with a hose. Re­place cracked or bro­ken panes or get a pro­fes­sional to do it.

Clear green­house gut­ters, re­mov­ing de­bris which could end up in wa­ter butts or block your drains. Get a long-han­dled brush to get rid of the rub­bish be­fore it en­ters the down­pipes.

Once the green­house is empty, give the floor a good sweep and get rid of clut­ter like bro­ken pots, out- of-date feeds and other junk.

Wipe down sur­faces with a scour­ing sponge and wash flower pots and seed trays with dis­in­fec­tant be­fore thor­oughly rins­ing.

Hor­ti­cul­tur­ist Frances Tophill, right, co-pre­sen­ter of ITV’s Love Your Gar­den and guest speaker at the forth­com­ing Ed­i­ble Gar­den Show, says: “The art of a good green­house is to have a more or less con­stant tem­per­a­ture.

“In the win­ter, a heater might be re­quired or a lit­tle bub­ble wrap on the glass. Plants will suf­fer most if their fo­liage is in di­rect con­tact with the cold glass, so move them away dur­ing the win­ter months.”

The warmth will help a mul­ti­tude of in­sects to over­win­ter and come back with gusto in the spring to at­tack your plants.

“To avoid that hap­pen­ing, give your green­house a big win­ter clean-up, pay­ing par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to any stand­ing wa­ter where lar­vae may well be mul­ti­ply­ing.”

Pic­ture: PA Photo/think­stock­pho­tos Pic­ture: PA Photo/ITV/Spun­gold Pro­duc­tions (in­set right)

Give your green­house a good clean

Re­move blotchy leaves from helle­borus; helle­borus x hy­bridus and helle­borus ver­boom beauty

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