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Longer Days and Daffodils – March in the garden

Chanomales

Plants are bursting through the soil all over the garden, I love walking round each day, ignoring all the jobs, just to see what has developed overnight. As the days become longer and with luck the soil begins to warm up it is amazing how many plants are in flower. We keep bees and it is important to have plants in flower in March when the bees need pollen to build up the colonies. If you have room willows are very useful and are covered with pollen, we grow several and I especially enjoy Salix kinnyangi which has long pink woolly catkins and when the sun shines are covered with bees. We also grow Crocus tomasinianus in parts of our avenue, these are early flowering and again are loved by the bees, the added attraction is that flowering early means you can cut the grass by mid-May if you want a neat lawn! While talking about bees do remember that single flowers are best for bees and bumble bees, so try not to grow too many double flowers.

When I started gardening I planted masses of large flowered Daffodils and Narcissus all over the garden. I soon realised that they did not work in borders, they are too large and out of scale when there are no other plants around them. Now they are only allowed down the side of our drive and under the apple trees in the orchard where I can cut them for the house. Instead I grow smaller Narcissus such as February Gold, Jack Snipe or Thalia which are better in scale in the borders. We also grow Narcissus pseudonarcissus in our meadow, it is the nearest to the wild daffodils that grow in Farndale in the North Yorks Moors. They are small flowers and are expensive so I plant a few every year and they are establishing and give me great pleasure in March.

One of my favourite winter foliage plants is Arum italicum pictum. It is a form of our native Lords and Ladies which grow in hedgerows all over but this form has leaves marbled with white. The leaves appear in late autumn and become larger throughout the winter, it is excellent to pick, thrives in dense shade and then disappears in late spring so you have space to plant a later flowering plant.

There is still time to plant and this year I have added a yellow fruited holly (Ilex aquifolium Bacciflava) to our winter garden. For anyone thinking about planting a hedge one of our favourites is Ilex aquifolia Argentea Marginata which has cream edging to the foliage and I have mixed it with purple leaved beech so we have a solid hedge with added winter interest.

If you have dug up your Dahlias in the autumn keep an eye on them to make sure they are not wet and that the mice have not discovered them, we have a constant mouse problem even though Donald our cat, does his best.

My potatoes are all chitting in egg boxes, this year I am growing Aran Pilot as my first early and will plant them at the end of March and cover with fleece, we also grow Ratte and for main crop Sarpo Mira as it has proved to be blight free here.

Take a look here at the interesting courses coming up in April.