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Gardening Spring 2008
A series of articles on gardening in London Colney by Anne Kitchener
It's a lovely time of year in the garden with new plants springing into life almost daily. I really enjoy wandering round the garden to see which plants are beginning to appear. The main focus of my attention as Easter approaches, if I haven't already had the opportunity, is to finish tidying away all the previous season's dead growth to make way for the new shoots emerging.
I have a good look round to see if there are any gaps left by plants that have not survived from last year. I also look to see if there are any self-sown seedlings appearing. I regularly find seedlings of aquilegia, ladies' mantle, lavender, sisyrinchium, and honesty. I like to leave the honesty where they fall and watch them move around the garden year by year. Other seedlings can be moved to fill in any new gaps. Now is also a good time to lift and divide any congested perennials and use these to fill in any gaps also.
I have several small clumps of fritillaria meleagris and these need to be regularly checked for the bright red lily beetles. Newly emerging lilies also need to be regularly inspected and I have found that the most effective method of getting rid of the beetles is to pick them off and crush them. I deadhead daffodils once they have finished, but leave the leaves to die down until they pull away easily; this is usually about early June. This gives the leaves the opportunity to feed the bulbs ready for the following spring. Before all remnants of spring bulbs have died back it is useful to look round and make a note of where new bulbs would look good the following season so they can be planted in the autumn. I am in the process of establishing a group of dogwoods for their winter stems colour. They look particularly good in early spring with snowdrops and crocuses, but when in leaf it is difficult to see the best place to plant the bulbs. Observing now and deciding where to plant bulbs before the dogwoods are in leaf is useful.
As the season progresses arabis, aubrietia and yellow alyssum can be trimmed back after flowering to thicken up the clumps and stop them getting leggy. Leaves of pulmonaria can also be cut back as they tend to look untidy as spring moves into summer. New leaf shoots will soon appear. I now start turning my attention to summer pots for the patio. I tend not to plan in advance what I am going to do, rather see what is available at local garden centres and see what I can make of that. However this year I plan to use any offshoots I have from my indoor growing spider plants to fill out the pots and see how they succeed. I usually plant up my pots over the late spring bank holiday weekend and hopefully the weather stays good for this. To help preserve moisture I line unglazed pots with plastic and to aid drainage and reduce the amount of potting compost needed I put lumps of polystyrene in the bottom. I also added moisture retaining granules to the compost and slow release fertiliser granules. The last few years I have sown cosmos dwarf sonata mixed directly into pots in the conservatory so that they will be in flower over summer and the pots can be moved around the garden to fill in any gaps as summer moves on.
Spring is always a busy time in the garden, but I always find it enjoyable watching plants re-emerge and perhaps new plants and arrangements develop for the first time. I will be developing a vegetable plot for the first time and look forward to eventually eating the results.