Snowdrops, Helebores and weeds
Snowdrops are so lovely, and so welcome this time of year. When time and energy allows we have very gently been increasing our coverage here by lifting and dividing a clump or two at this time of year and establishing them in another part of the garden. This is usually called ‘planting in the green’, meaning while they are still in leaf and it is the accepted way of planting snowdrops. A small clump can be divided into several smaller ones and will cover a wide area. This has the advantage of you being able to see clearly where the best spot is; for example you don’t want to put them on top of other emerging spring bulbs. In all honesty it is probably not the absolute best method for the plant, as it is a bit brutal to dig them up at this stage. As a result they take a year or two to settle down but that’s not the end of the world is it, and you will have them exactly where you want them. Buying the tiny bulbs and planting in autumn hasn’t worked for me. They are often dried out and don’t do very well, and it’s easy to forget where they are later on!
There are many, many different kinds of snowdrops and you can pay a lot for some of the bigger varieties which are very lovely. My personal preference is for generous sheets of the common, single version best, Galanthus nivalis. There is a double version of this common snowdrop which is also very pretty. There is loads of information on the internet – this is a good site to start: http://www.galanthus.co.uk/
Hellebores should be strutting their stuff now. If the old leaves are looking a bit scruffy, or have brown patches, cut them off and burn them or pop in the green bin. The spots are a fungal disease called hellebore leaf spot so it’s best to keep it in check, and you will be able to see the lovely flowers much better. A mulch of leaf mould will make them very happy. Now we have a good number of established plants at Charnwood we do get a lot of seedlings, they are promiscuous! It is fun to see what comes up – the new plants will be a mixed bag of flower colour.
Some weeds seem to grow all year round don’t they? We have a problem at Charnwood with both creeping buttercups and nettles. Digging them up tests the back and the patience and getting their long roots out can take an age. It is worth keeping on top of it at this time of year though. Don’t put perennial weeds on the compost heap, they will love it and carry on growing!
I didn’t get around to sowing sweet peas in the autumn so I will be getting on with it soon. They are really easy to get going and such lovely flowers, I plant 3 seeds to a small pot and keep them in a cool greenhouse: they don’t seem to be that fussy. Keep an eye on them a bit, the mice love the new shoots, and give them an occasional water and they will grow away quite happily.
Spring is on the way – hooray!