Rip Van Winkle and Crimes against Magnolias.

Ribes and Forsythia classic spring.

Tis the season of Pink and Yellow, most months in the garden have colours and March is definitely Yellow and Pink, everywhere from Primula through Hyacinths and Daffodils to Ribes and Forsythia, which I am convinced at some point in the 80’s must have been a 2 for 1 offer in the garden centre as more often than not when you see one you see the other. It is a dreadfully clashing colour combination but somehow nothing else says spring in quite the same way. A lovely co ordinated pot of blues and purples is soft and appealing but will never have the zing of pink and yellow.

Rip Van Winkle daffodils, picture top left above, are a beautiful soft and showy dwarf Daffodil. An old variety from around 1884 it is named after an old American tale by Washingon Irving, about a man called Rip Van Winkle who fell asleep for 20 years and missed the revolution. Whilst Tete a Tete and Jetfire are popular dwarf varieties today there is something so undaffodil like about RVW and I think that is what appeals to me.

Can you see the flowers on your evergreen perennials ?

Epimedium, Bergenia and Helleborus species like orientalis, (not those that grow like Helleborus niger with one main stem of flowers) all have a rather annoying habit of overpowering their flower stems with leafy growth. Clear away the leaves that are impeding your view and make sure you appreciate these hard working foliage plants for their other attributes. Remove any remaining leaves on your Helleborus now to reduce the risk of leaf spot.

Epimedium flower spikes emerging so cut the leaves off carefully if you’ve left it this late.
Please forgive the slightly blurred photo of this variegated For Get Me Not. I only had chance to take a very quick snap.

The speed at which I grabbed the camera for a shot of this variation and also the mutation in one of my hyacinths that opened with green edges got me thinking the other day about how much gardeners celebrate different. One stem on a Cornus variegata ‘Elegantissima’ opened with pure white leaves last year and my client and I swiftly tried to take some cuttings at the end of the year to try and get a whole plant to grow the same. We covet the mutations and clamour for the latest tulips that have derived from a virus they are not cast aside as things we should pretend don’t exist. We have female plants with male names and vise versa in the case of Ilex ‘Silver Queen’ and ‘Golden King’ but they are both still found being cherished in gardens up and down the country. We have plants that have both male and female ‘parts’ on the same plant but these are not shunned and not spoken about again. Maybe there are lessons here we could all learn from our attitudes to plants.

Celebrating the one bulb out of 3 that has green edges to its flowers. the other two are pure pink.

If the area of the space you want to put your Magnolia soulangeana in is not greater than 8m x 8m please do not plant one. The only thing sadder than a dead daffodil is seeing the Magnolia’s in the pictures above. They are a shadow of their potential glory and once pruned never really do recover their beautiful shape. Instead of committing such a heinous crime, plan a blossom celebration like they do in Japan, make a special trip every year to see one planted in enough space and enjoy it there. At least you won’t have to sweep up all the debris 3 times a year! Magnolia stellata, is I know a very different shaped flower to the elegant goblet shape but it is an excellent compromise plant and can take a little pruning for shape.growing to 2.5m x 4m it needs much less space and is still a welcome sight in early spring.

Make sure you are checking on your seedlings, potting them on once they get their first true leaves and keeping them watered. Standing by with fleece for chilly nights. Deadhead your bulbs as they go over to allow the energy to go back into the bulb for next year. Empty the compost bin on to the borders before they get too leafy. Top dress and feed you more permanent pots as plants start to try and grow again. Take the very last opportunity to cut any stems off hedges and Pyracantha that may be getting in the way, the birds are starting to nest and then you won’t be able to touch them til July time, if all the birds have gone.

Was a beautiful Spring day today, fitting for the vernal equinox, I saw lots of butterflies and bees including a yellow brimstone butterfly and also caught a Goldcrest rummaging around in the herbaceous border. Roll on the rest of a beautiful Spring and many Happy days in the Garden. x

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