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1 May 2017 - 12:00am

Euphorbias and the joys of Spring

If you travel round the ring road towards QMC and take the slip round that takes you down to the Dunkirk roundabout, on the island straight in front of you, you will see a large, striking group of Euphorbia characias wulfenii. Or, to use its common name, a spurge! Euphorbia is big family, large and small, shrubby and deciduous. They can add fabulous acid green contrast as well as structure to the clear bright reds and yellows and glorious chaos of the spring garden. They are not always that huge. E. ’Fens Ruby’ is tiny but still makes its presence felt with its pretty bright, deep red leaves . It can be a bit invasive once it gets established, but it is easily dug up. Be careful though when handling as all Euphorbias exude a milky sap when wounded which can give you a nasty rash. The most common and one of the easiest to grow is E. amygdaloides robbiae. It is our native wood spurge and looks lovely here at Charnwood in a woodland setting, setting off the spring bulbs, especially bluebells, beautifully. E. griffithii ‘Dixter’ has been awarded the Award of Garden Merit by the RHS. This is a herbaceous perennial with orange flowerheads in early summer. Euphorbias don’t need staking, they are mainly sturdy upright plants, always a Good Thing in my humble opinion. One of my favourite Euphorbias as it gently seeds around and is a lovely mixer is E. dulcis ‘Chameleon’. It grows to about 40 cm tall with rich purple leaves. Some Euphorbias are quite strongly honey scented such as E. mellifera. This is a large, shrubby plant that needs a warm corner as it isn’t 100% hardy. It is a lovely thing and it will self-seed gently if you find the right spot for it. It really does have a lovely fragrance once established and flowering. We visited some friends in Whitby last month and they have a glorious specimen right by their front door, smelling fab. My usual reminder this time of year – once your daffodils have done flowering, deadhead them and give them a liquid feed if you have time. Don’t tie them up or cut them down, they need at least 6 weeks to feed through their leaves to ensure a good show next year. If they haven’t flowered very well now, it is a good time to dig them up and replant them with a bit more space and depth and with a handful of decent compost. If you bought any in pots for the windowsill you can plant them in the garden: I now have a big group of N. tete a tete at the front of a border created by that method! We are going to the Malvern spring show this month. It is generally regarded as one of the best but we haven’t been before so I can’t speak from personal experience. You can get details and some previews of the gardens on the RHS website, the general RHS telephone number is 020 3176 5800. The show is from 11 to 14 May. I will give the last word this month to Monty Don: ‘It always seems to me that May is like that desiccated paper confetti that you drop into a glass of water and watch it grow out into a full, blossomy underwater bloom. Everything expands in May – light, day length, warmth and above all the sensation of being truly, richly alive.