30 April 2014 - 1:35pm

Messy gardens rule

It’s the middle of March as I write this and I have just had a smashing day pottering in my very messy garden. Why messy I hear you say? I’ve been so busy lately I haven’t had chance to spend time in it, and, on the odd occasion when I have, the weather has been awful. Fortunately I’m not an obsessively neat gardener, quite the contrary. So now I have got around to it, I have found some lovely little surprises under all the dead and manky stuff. A few self seeded crocus, honesty seedlings (most weeded out); violets in abundance, both white and purple and some lovely hellebores whose old leaves I have now cut off so I can see them at their best. The endless wet weather doesn’t seem to have harmed anything in the garden as far as I can tell so far and the spring bulbs have been fabulous. You can lift and divide snowdrops clumps now they have finished flowering. Opinions vary as to whether its best to do it ‘in the green’ or when dormant. But if you do it now you can at least see what you are doing and where the gaps are. Plant them good and deep and in generous drifts. Self seeders can be a real asset in the border as long as you don’t let them take over, they can fill in early gaps and hold your planting together. Forget me nots are an obvious choice and are also a culprit for colonising; sow a packet and within a couple of years you will have thousands. If you thin them out well, they will grow better and are less likely to succumb to that horrid grey mould as the air can circulate better around them. Poppies are another love of mine, I mean the annual ones that are cheap to buy and easy to grow. There is a big choice from the little Californian poppies that usually come in reds and yellows to the huge, voluptuous opium poppy that reminds me of a party frock and here at Charnwood sows itself around in various shades of purple and pink. I’ve also got some treasured seed from Great Dixter of Poppy somniferum ‘Danish Flag’ that are a striking red with a white cross. I will sow those directly into a sunny spot. I have also sowed some poached egg plant which I love, but so do the rabbits; I hope they don’t notice them before they get going! Seeds to sow for filling gaps later on can include tender plants such as Tithonia, cleome, tobacco plants and cosmos. If you dug up your dahlia tubers last autumn and they are sitting around looking sad and a bit shrivelled, cut out the soggy bits and pop them into an old pot to get them going a bit before you plant them outside. You will give them a head start and get earlier flowers. Don’t be fooled, keep them frost free, they quickly go to mush if it gets chilly. I have a bit of horticultural fleece or an old curtain at the ready to throw over tender plants if a frost is threatened. We are having a year off from opening our garden this year, so I’m hoping to find some time to do some more garden visiting. If you do the same, let me know where you’ve been and I’ll spread the word. If you are planning a new garden or replenishing your old one and want inspiration there is no better place to start than in local gardens where the conditions will be similar to your own. Amateur gardeners are a mine of useful information and they will always be happy to share their successes and failures with you. April is a lovely month in the garden, so full of pretty, early flowers and leaves and much promise. Keep weeding and watching out for those bloomin pests (it’s red lily beetle alert time) and pray for sun in the day and gentle rain at night when we are tucked up in bed. Sweet dreams!