Sunday 11 December 2016

Glam up your garden

Model-turned-gardener Marie Staunton on how to make your spring garden glow

Published 12/03/2011 | 05:00

Marie tends
to her garden
Marie tends to her garden
purple hellebores help to create a woodland feel
crocuses inject colour to a spring garden

Beautiful, glorious spring -- how I have waited patiently for the dreariness to be overtaken by the ever-optimistic, humble daffodil. Even if the sun is nowhere to be seen, they are my little rays of sunshine.

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My energy is renewed and I am bursting with enthusiasm for all the hard graft ahead -- work hard now and enjoy the rewards later is my motto, because by July I intend to sit back, glass of vino in hand, and enjoy all that is good about being a gardener.

My garden is in north Co Dublin, so the soil is a good loam and I dig in the contents of a very big compost heap every year to ensure that I am rewarded with plenty of very happy plants.

A friend of mine brought over a couple of tonnes of horse manure last week and, I have to say, I never thought that I would get so excited about the prospect of receiving a trailer full of horse manure!

As the snowdrops go over, this is the time to lift and divide them (lifting them in the green). I am trying to place them around the garden under trees and shrubs to create a natural drift effect.

This is the ideal time of the year to look at where the gaps are in terms of spring-flowering bulbs and plants. I will take photos now so that I have a reference as to where I need to add in or divide plants later in the year.

I'm not a plant snob -- the humble daffodil has a place in my heart alongside the wonderfully scented Daphne bholua, 'Jacqueline Postill', which is greatly coveted by my gardening friends. This plant comes into flower around Christmas and fills the garden with the most beautiful scent. Plant it close to the house, because the little pink clusters of flowers and their perfume will gladden your heart on cold spring mornings.

Although colour is uplifting, some of the most interesting types of plants in the garden now are those with bark appeal. Acer griseum is just one of these -- its glorious, cinnamon-coloured paper bark is followed in the summer by a green backdrop then, in autumn, wonderful red leaves. This is a tree that deserves a place in any garden as it pays good rent, rewarding you every season.

Everyone will consider Forsythia, a typical spring flowering plant, but it's only for large gardens. This doesn't mean that those with a small garden cannot benefit from one of the best-flowering spring shrubs, as there is a mini version. Forsythia is one of those shrubs that your gran would have had in her garden, so these types of plants have a habit of transporting you back in time.

Cherries are a garden favourite for spring flowering. When we think of cherry, we tend to think of a large, pink flowering tree. However, there is a wonderful miniature species called Prunus incisa 'kojo-no-mai, a perfect plant for every garden as it doesn't take up much space, it flowers in March and has very pretty, delicate, lime-green leaves for the rest of the summer season.

My friend Joe and husband Christopher have decided that we need to introduce other hellebores into the garden if we are to create a more woodland feel, although they cost a fortune, so more lifting and dividing for me in spring or autumn. Propagation can also be done by collecting the seed. The plant won't be true to type but beggars can't choosers, so I will give both options a try.

I'm a great believer in having a stash of plants for filling gaps during the spring and summer season, so I pot up lots of tulip bulbs and miniature daffs in the late autumn, ready for slotting in when and where they're needed -- or indeed as little pressies for good friends or family. Who could resist a little pot of sunshine for their birthday?

As I have mentioned, we have a rather large vegetable patch into which I have been digging a lot of manure lately, in order for it to be ready before St Patrick's weekend to sow my seed potatoes. A little hard work every day won't kill you, but attacking a large area in one day just might, so take it from me that pottering is the best way to insure that you don't give up before you even start.

A little potter every day, even an hour, will make such a difference to the garden and to your back. You've heard of the slow-cooking campaign -- well, this is slow gardening. It is my type of gardening -- you've just got to love it!

I have acquired a few hens lately and they are just the best. Not only do they provide me with my breakfast every morning, but they are great little foragers and eat up all those nasty little vine weevil that attack my plants in the polytunnel -- and, of course, they add lots of lovely manure to my compost heap.

Yes, gardening might be a far cry from the catwalk, but I wake up every morning feeling very happy to enjoy the simple things in life! Lucky old me!

email your gardening questions to: mariestaunton@irishindependent.ie

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