In the garden

PUBLISHED: 08:39 24 February 2014 | UPDATED: 08:17 25 February 2014

Dwarf irises add a stunning splash of colour in the spring

Dwarf irises add a stunning splash of colour in the spring

Archant

Horticultural specialist Paul Prové is beginning to feel a spring in his step, in the garden and in the greenhouse

Paul Prové is a horticultural specialist primarily involved with maintaining clients gardens.

He has experience in many areas of horticulture (including retail, commercial and amenity) and specialises in garden design and landscaping projects.

Oak Gardening Services

01726 252153 / paulprove@sky.com

Christmas and New Year celebrations have faded, and many of our gardens are storm ravaged and looking in need of a lot of TLC, but this month means spring and summer - and warmer weather are on their way. I always feel that this time of year is one of excitement and optimism. Life is visibly returning to the world around us. We can enjoy the annual treat of snowdrops, crocuses, dwarf irises and even some early narcissi and species tulips and hellebores are starting to add their own special interest to our borders. The orientalis hybrids have a particularly good range of colours, going from white through pink, red and purple to almost black. There also yellow and green ones. They all have attractive markings and are best purchased in flower as colour can vary significantly from plant to plant.

Late flowering shrubs that flower on this year’s growth need to be pruned about now. These include Buddleias (Butterfly Bush), Leycesteria (Pheasant Berry), Caryopteris clandonensis, Tamarix and hardy Fuchsias. Do not be frightened to have a good go with your secateurs, as you are unlikely to do the plants any harm and will probably succeed in producing a really good show of flower later on. Similarly Clematis that flower in the second half of the year can be cut back to within a few centimetres of the ground. Anything is possible with our English climate, but I generally think of February as a cold month with a few clear sunny days. A heated greenhouse can make a pleasant retreat at this time for both gardeners and plants. If you have one, start using it now with early sowings of both flowers and vegetables. Your greenhouse is an investment that should justify its existence.

If you only use it to grow tomatoes in the summer think about adding other produce such as sweet peppers, cucumbers and aubergines. Although it is far too cold to plant dahlias outside it is worth starting the tubers in boxes. Cover them in moist (not wet!) compost so that the stumps of last year’s growth are just above the surface. Soon shoots will start to appear. These can be used to make basal cuttings enabling you to increase your stock of plants at very little expense.

Dahlias are well worth growing. Many varieties have not only wonderful flowers, but attractive coloured foliage as well. Bishop of Llandaff with its red flowers and dark purple leaves is well known, but good garden centres will have a fantastic range. Dahlia flowers come in a huge range of sizes and colours from those with tight Pompon flowers to the huge Dinner-plate varieties. It won’t be long before they can be cut and enjoyed in a vase on your windowsill.

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