Waiting for the real spring


During the last few weeks my garden has finally burst into spring colours. All was looking magnificent until the wind and rain this week, which has battered the daffodils and is trying to finish off the camellias and crocuses. At this time of the year we have to relax and prepare, with hope, for the balmy weather to come. So out come the tempting mail order catalogues, the scrutiny of seductive websites and the list of where to put plants to improve the borders for summer. Then comes the reality check and the problems to solve.

As the garden is fairly small the first decision is how many self-seeded and spreaders should be dug out. A forest of hellebore foetidus, euphorbia wulfenii seeded in paving cracks, but also already flowering in just the wrong place, creeping potentilla, looking pretty but advancing menacingly, a sea of grape hyacinth leaving bare earth from June – do I leave many of them in or replace them with plants which fit into my ambitious scheme?

Primroses emerging from the winter heather

The next dilemma is where to spread the enriched soil or compost which is needed to boost growth in some parts of the garden. As the primroses, aquilegia, nigella and spring bulbs have been encouraged to spread, the amount of bare earth is fast disappearing and there is a risk of drowning the many emerging seedlings. Of course, a really competent gardener would have thoroughly mulched her garden last autumn, but much advice recommends a double mulching, autumn and spring. I will probably spread the mulch with a tablespoon!

Then comes the battle with the slugs and snails. We seem to have enough blackbirds and thrushes to deal with the snails but we do not have the reptiles or hedgehogs to eat the slugs. Copper rings seemed to work for dahlias last year so they are already in place even though there will be no growth here for at least six weeks. Organic, ferrous based slug pellets do help and don’t seem to harm birds or cats. Handpicking in the evening and killing – by whatever gruesome method you can devise – is really the best solution.

After two years in this garden I am still relieved that I no longer have to deal with rabbits, squirrels and badgers. These battles were never won and slugs seem almost benevolent in comparison. Now I am waiting for the weather to improve and trying not to be too impatient about planting, hoping the results will match up to my plans. I’ll let you know.

Photos: Linda Harland

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  1. Slugs love beer. If you buy a few cans of the cheapest type and leave them open in the garden – or pour some into bowls in key spots – they will dispatch themselves while enjoying a drink. No poison and no harm to pets.


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