1 March 2013 - 12:00am

Daffodils in March?

I can’t write about the March garden without mentioning daffodils; such easy, generous plants. There is a daffodil to suit more or less every taste from the big, bold and blousy to the small and sophisticated. ‘February Gold’ is one of the easiest and most reliable, it stands about 1.5 feet tall, increases and naturalises well and never fails to flower. ‘February Silver’ is a paler version, comes a little later. Despite their name neither actually flower in February here but no doubt they do further south. ‘Tete a tete’ is a small, dainty daffodil, perfect for a pot or a rockery. It lasts for ages and multiplies well, so if you buy a little pot of it from the garden centre for your windowsill, plant it out afterwards and it will appear every spring for you. ‘Thalia’ is a beautiful and elegant white daffodil, at its best in April. We have it growing under weeping pear trees with bluebells. Another elegant variety is ‘Hawera’, arriving even later. It is really pretty, soft yellow, only about 12” tall and a bit prone to disappear, but it is so lovely it is worth persevering with. After care of daffodils is easy. Deadhead them so they don’t waste their energy setting seed. Don’t cut down the leaves or tie them up, they will be feeding the bulb for next year. Give the leaves a little feed and leave them for at least six weeks or until they go brown. If they have not produced flowers, they may be congested. Dig them up and replant them good and deep in fresh, well -drained soil; most bulbs like good drainage. If you have snowdrops that you would like to make more of you can dig them up now and replant ‘in the green’. Opinions vary as to whether this is the best time to plant them, but it does have the advantage of you being able to see where the gaps are. If you wait until the leaves die down you may be planting them in the wrong place. We have big groups of them here planted with the variegated arum lily, a well tried and tested combination. Both disappear by late spring and other plants then take over their space such as peonies, ferns and day lilies. Talking of bulbs it’s not too late to plant summer bulbs such as lilies. I tend to grow them in pots so I can move them to where I want them but they make decent border plants is you can keep the red lily beetle off them. Keep an eye out for them – the little critters will soon be munching away your prize lilies and the best control is to get to them good and early and dispatch them under your boot! Now is a good time to tidy your borders. Time spent in March and April digging up weeds and giving the soil a good mulch can pay real dividends, saving you time and energy later in the year. It’s much more satisfying than going to the gym! Summer flowering clematis can be cut back to a fat bud and given a good feed in March. If you don’t prune them now, all the flowers will tend to be way above your head where you can’t see them! More detailed pruning information for different varieties of clematis can be found on the RHS website.