Making a plan
PUBLISHED: 09:00 20 March 2014
Life begins in March when it comes to the garden, writes horticultural specialist Paul Prové, so go out and plant... but make a plan first
With the approach of longer days and warmer weather, we all start to take a fresh look at our gardens, be they new or well established. It is a pleasure to go out at this time of year and see things happening. While everyone is admiring the spring bulbs, I want to give Hellebores a mention because they should feature in every garden. They have the virtue of being very hardy and easy to grow in virtually any soil, so long as it is not waterlogged. Leaves are evergreen providing good groundcover in the winter.
The flowers last a long time, resist the cold and are beautiful, providing colour well ahead of most perennials. The main flowering season is from January to April. The plants will grow in stature over the years and if allowed to go to seed, produce seedlings; look out for these when weeding or mulching and pot them up. A bit of cross pollination goes on and the young plants you get this way may well look different from their parents. This variability is part of the fascination of Hellebores. With the basic varieties the colours are known.
Helleborus corsicus and foetidus have greenish flowers. With Helleborus Niger (also known as ‘The Christmas Rose’) the flowers are white. My favourites are the hybrids of Helleborus orientalis. The controlled hybridisation of the orientalis varieties has produced a rich variety of colours and patterns. Look out for the Harvington Hybrids. Colours include pink, red, yellow and white. There are also some excellent named varieties such as ‘Smokey Blue’, ‘Pink Spotted’, ‘Picotee’ and ‘Shades O’ Night’. Because they are in flower, now is a good time to buy them, as you are able to check the colour. Hellebores will do well in sun or shade. They look good under trees, next to shrubs or at the base of a wall. With deciduous shrubs as neighbours, they are easily seen when at their best. Then when the show is over, they disappear from view as the surrounding plants come into leaf.
Having distracted you from the spring bulbs, I should now remind you that there are also ‘bulbs’ for the summer. Dahlias continue to be very popular because they are easy to grow, provide a spectacular show, come in a huge range of shapes and sizes and have a long flowering season, which continues into autumn. Many good garden centres will also have a good range of miscellaneous bulbs, where there is treasure to be found. Do not forget that this is the time to buy Nerines as bulbs if you want to enjoy their blue or white flowers at the base of a sunny wall in late summer. Agapanthus can also be bought in packets at this time, and they are a lot cheaper than those sold in pots during the summer.