April is the month our Armandii clematis flowers, and it's a wonderful sight. I'm told it gets its name because it has an almond fragrance, but the smell reminds me more of nutmeg. Whatever, it's a good smell and its pale pink (it also comes in white) flowers cover the plant which reaches almost the top of our house. What is great about this early flowering variety is that if it gets too big, you can cut it back a little or a lot after flowering, but its not necessary otherwise. Many folk worry about pruning clematis, but you can't go far wrong if you cut back the later flowering varieties to a fat bud about now and give them a good feed, mulch (incorporating a handful of wood ash) and water. That way you won't get all the flowers at the top where you can't see them, leaving you looking at a bunch of brown stems. If its a viticella, the smaller flowered sort that look good clambering through shrubs, you can cut all growth back now to about 30 cm. Clematis like a cool, damp root run and decent soil for best results.
Having said that, I can't always remember exactly what I planted where (I had 15 at the last count), so I usually cut the late spring and summer clematis back to a bud about knee height and hope for the best; I don't often get failures. The worst than can happen is you lose flowers for a year. One that this works well for is 'Marie Boisselet' which has a large, white flowers and scrambles over a pyracantha. It flowers for ages in summer and really brightens up a rather dull shrub.
April is also snakes head fritillery month in our garden. We have small but growing group of them planted in grass in a damp patch next to the pond. They gradually increase each year by self seeding and are beautiful in a subtle sort of way. You have to get down on your knees to their level to appreciate them properly, but it's worth it. They belong to the lily family and have little bell shaped, nodding heads of purple and white. They are susceptible to the red lily beetle, so keep your eye out from now onwards for these on your lilies, Solomon's' seal as well as fritilleries. The little devils can do no end of damage – you can't miss them they are really bright scarlet. I'm normally a peace loving vegetarian, but I have no compunction to squashing them with my boot.
Now is the time to deadhead your daffodils and give them a feed. They will take back the food into their bulbs and give you another great show next year. Don't be tempted to tidy them up by tying them into bundles or, worse still, cutting their leaves off. It's equivalent to starving a living thing, so take pity on them and think of the flowers next year.
If you missed last month's Shires Plant Fair in the Central Avenue West Bridgford, the next is on 3 May. Its a good one, with specialist nursery women and men selling plants they have grown themselves. This means you get some interesting and unusual plants for sale and good advice on how to grow them well. Our gardens are often so pretty in April, so let's all make sure we take time out to appreciate them. If you visit a garden and have enjoyed it, please let me know so I can pass it on to the good folk of Tollerton.
In the meantime, happy gardening and watch out for those beetles!