Saturday 18 November 2017

True colours

As your garden explodes into spring, plant varieties to catch the eye, says Marie Staunton Light plays a huge role in the garden at this time of the year. Unfortunately, there has been a decided lack of bright sunshine in the last couple of months to help even the most enthusiastic of gardeners break out of their hibernation. We grow quite a few evergreen trees and shrubs in the garden here, mainly for privacy, but more importantly for a bit of variety. The ones that catch the eye, even if the weather is particularly dreary, are the ones that have a slightly blue-green hue. Whether they are large and wonderfully majestic, like the Pinus montezumae or the slimline Juniperus scopulorum 'Blue Arrow', they add a bit of diversity and a lot of interest when the garden is just on the cusp of exploding into full-on spring colour. Evergreens require a number of things to grow successfully and one of the major considerations is space. They do not like to be squashed into a busy border, preferring to be more centre stage. If you don't afford them enough space with plenty of light, then the needles tend to die and are almost burnt-looking. If space is limited, then steer clear of the very large varieties and consider the tall and slender Juniperus scopulorum 'Blue Arrow'. If you are after an evergreen plant that will give a nice bit of ground cover, then have a look at the Juniperus squamata 'Blue Carpet'. It is a very slow-growing conifer with a nice fragrance and needle-like blue foliage. I like this one because it hugs the ground, smothering out those pesky weeds. It will spread a couple of metres without any problem. Another worthy conifer to suit a small garden is Picea pungens Glauca Globosa, the blue spruce. It will only reach a modest 1.5m in its lifetime. I'm just like the rest of you – slopping around in water-logged, soggy vegetable gardens certainly doesn't float my boat, but I can't really wait any longer to start tackling major jobs in the garden.

I will just have to grit my teeth and get on with it. Short of starting off a paddy field and growing my own variety of long grain rice, I may just have to reconsider what I can grow in my veg patch, which is looking more like a duck pond, than productive ground.

The secret of successful vegetable growing in your average back garden is just to be patient and wait until the soil has heated up enough to accommodate new seedlings.

Otherwise, they will just sit in the ground doing nothing until they get the nod from Mother Nature to leap out of the ground.

From the beginning of March, it will be time to get begonias out of hibernation.

The slightly hollowed side is the one that will face upwards in the compost.

Start by filling trays with good-quality moistened compost and lay the tubers flat – six is about the right number per tray.

Don't cover the tubers; just push them into the compost leaving the top exposed. Keep them in a nice bright warm place.

Once the new shoots reach around 5cm, or a couple of inches, just pot them up into individual pots.

Irish Independent

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