Warmer weather, longer days and April showers all come together to herald the time of year when we naturally head towards the outdoors. In the last few days of March, flowers started to appear in abundance – particularly magnolias, one of my favourite spring flowers. I have a personal theory that if magnolias can flower without being hit by frost then we are going to have a great spring. As I type – one-handed, as the other is touching my wooden desk – the blooms are gorgeous and completely frost-free.
Jobs for this month include cleaning winter moss and algae off patios, paving and decking. It is worth investing in a bottle of patio cleaner as it will do a good job and not damage any plants adjacent to the cleaned area. Tidying up plants in the garden is another, very satisfying job at this time of year.
Cottage garden plants will be starting to reappear in borders so remove old growth and even consider lifting plants like hostas and splitting them before replanting in two locations. Splitting is easily achieved with two garden forks. Dig up the hosta then push two forks, back-to-back, into the centre of the plant. Pull the forks apart and this will split the plant in two.
Replant and water well.
Climbers, such as many clematis and roses, can be pruned now. Early flowering clematis can be pruned as soon as they have finished flowering. Summer flowering varieties can also be pruned now but leave the late spring flowering ones until after they have flowered. Pruning and shaping roses now will encourage strong, healthy growth and an abundance of flowers.
As fruit starts to blossom it is really important to protect the flowers from late frosts. If you don’t then you are at risk of a heavily reduced crop. A layer or two of fleece is usually enough to protect the flowers. Good friends have a vineyard in Wiltshire and it is this time of year that they spend many nights lighting torches to protect the vines from late frosts. Without this dedication, they would never produce a drop of their delicious wine. I recommend the Bacchus, perfect after a day in the garden www.whitehallvineyard.co.uk
I had a wonderful day at RHS Wisley recently, www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/wisley. Starting with a guided tour of the garden, which makes a wonderful difference compared with ambling around on your own. I then had the opportunity to hear the curator, Matthew Pottage, speak of the journey they have been on in the last few years. If you find yourself in the area, I thoroughly recommend a visit at any time of year.