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
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.”
Give your greenhouse a good clean
Remove blotchy leaves from helleborus; helleborus x hybridus and helleborus verboom beauty