Erase tulip snobbery

Tulips bring plenty of variety and colour and colour to your garden, says Charlie Wilkns

A blue river of hyacinth runs between red tulips and yellow daffodils.

Beautiful but deadly: the convolvulus is one of the most pernicious weeds in the garden.

TULIP snobbery is most often directed at the strongly coloured early varieties which will make their appearance in a few days. Councils seem to favour these, and whilst splendid at their peak, they expire with little grace, leaving unsightly bare stems. Only for the under-planting of wallflowers or pansies the sight then would be a sorry one.

And yet, these same tulips are one of the mainstays of the garden here at Villa Marie. They are used among forget-me-nots and wallflowers, in pots and containers and odd corners where spring colour is needed.

So I find it sad to see them out on roundabouts and the like taking on the faded air of old troopers who have seen better days. Spring I must argue would not be the same without these and the dainty anemone ‘blanda’.

SILVER BIRCH: If you have a specimen of silver birch, one that’s now maturing and developing a white trunk and branches, then give it a clean-up before the leaves arrive and see it sparkle for spring and all of summer.

Use a solution of warm water to which has been added a squirt of washing up liquid and a dash of bleach. Apply to the trunk and as many branches as you can reach using a sponge or soft cloth. Hose down with plenty of water once finished.

WEEDS: Persistent weeds such as bindweed (Convolvulus) and ground elder growing between shrubs and other plants, should be spot treated now with the likes of Roundup.

This must be brushed on to the weeds or applied through a small sprayer. I would emphasise the importance of choosing a still day for drift could easily kill any decorative plants growing nearby. You will have to wait as much as six weeks for the Roundup to visibly show signs of killing so don’t be tempted to re-do any application. Horsetail has deep fragile roots, which means that attempts at digging it out are usually a waste of time and effort for the tiniest piece left behind will re-sprout again. The alternative chemical treatment is once again glyphosate (Roundup) but sprayed in late summer when the weeds have made maximum leaf area and not now.

At that time, bruising the plant by walking or dragging a heavy object over it will break the waxy leaf coat and assist the penetration and the effectiveness of the chemical but, even so, more than one application will be necessary for complete control.

SPRING BULBS: Gardeners often expect miracles for nature obliges with a willingness that stuns. Spring flowering bulbs can almost be left to their own devices and where they have been naturalised this is often the case. However, lend a hand if you can and feed all bulbs during the coming weeks to provide the nutrients they need to build themselves up again.

Any general purpose fertiliser will do. Sprinkle it over the grass or soil around the bulbs, or mix up a solution of Phostrogen or Miracle Grow to give the clumps a soaking.

DROUGHT: Protect your plants from drought. We have had a very dry winter and spring and with summer ahead, any really dry, hot spell could cause havoc.

Soil cultivation is of key importance. Gardeners should dig in large amounts of garden compost, manure or other organic matter. This will help improve soil structure and in turn will help water retention and water availability to plants. Plant new stock whilst they are still small. Planting in autumn or as early as possible in spring could also be beneficial. Mulching after planting can help limit water loss from soil. This will help the retention of moisture while plants establish. All new plants should be thoroughly watered and kept watered in the first season in dry periods, to ensure they establish well.


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