Snowdrop time... and think about planting trees and hedges too

In her weekly gardening column Olive Ryan looks at the jobs we should be doing in the garden right now
Snowdrop time... and think about planting trees and hedges too

THE arrival of February always heralds the start of spring, with St Brigid’s Day bringing longer days and the arrival of new life all over the countryside.

Lambs can be seen kicking up their heels, and the Snowdrop Gala is taking place in Carlow today. The writing is on the wall, Spring is upon us!

This is good news, it does not mean however that all the adverse weather is over so it is advisable to keep an eye on lower night time temperatures before sowing too many seeds or removing protection around tender plants remaining outdoors.

Snowdrops. 
Snowdrops. 

The Snowdrop Gala marks the start of Snowdrop Month in Carlow, where there are events and tours of gardens to celebrate the little gems. Altamont gardens are synonymous with snowdrops, having over 150 named varieties. The gardens, the creation of Corona North, are now run by the OPW and open daily from 9am to 4.30pm.

Advance booking of snowdrop tours is needed, throughout February on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

There is a garden centre, Altamont Plants, within the walled garden with a great range of perennials, roses, trees and shrubs. If you are considering purchasing snowdrops, then now is a great time to do that and Altamont Plants is a great place to start.

Snowdrops are small perennial bulbs that are sensitive to drying out, so it is recommended to plant them ‘in the green’, which means when they still have visible foliage.

Dry bulbs planted in the autumn can produce disappointing results so get planting this spring to provide a flower display next year.

It may take a few years for snowdrops to clump up, but once they get going they will reappear every year no matter the weather.

Other gardens offering snowdrop displays include Huntington Castle in Clongal, Carlow, Shankill Castle and gardens, Paulstown, Kilkenny and Burtown House, Athy, Kildare.

Check out www.carlowtourism. com for more details of events throughout the month.

Plans are now being hatched for the growing year ahead, gardens redesigned, seeds ordered, soil prepared, compost at the ready... There is lots of activity behind the scenes preparing for the time to be right.

All we need to to is wait until weather and soil conditions are favourable for us to get on with the work of growing.

One job that can be completed now is tree and hedge planting of dormant deciduous plants in particular. Bare- rooted plants can be purchased now and are more affordable than potted ones and easier to plant as their root ball is not as sizable.

A few nurseries in the Cork area supply whips for hedging and shelter belts and standard trees of different sizes, among them Future Forests in Kealkill and Fermoy Woodland Nurseries, based just outside the town. Local garden centres will also stock bare-rooted material now.

This is a great time to clear briars and tackle areas that may have become overgrown with weeds that are choking newly-planted trees or shrubs. With many trees and shrubs stripped of leaves, it is clear to see where stems are arising from. If clearance is done now, before growth begins, then the plants we want to grow and prosper can do so once temperatures rise.

Newly-planted young plants need to be kept free of weeds in the first few years to allow their roots to establish and become independent. 

Weeds compete for light, water and nutrients and can make it difficult of plants to thrive and establish well.

When you clear an area of briars, it is thrilling to see the space uncovered, light and air reaching the soil once more. A hedge cutter can be a useful tool in getting to grips with such an area and thick gloves are advisable to avoid as many thorns as possible, but I am afraid thorns are an inevitable part of such a job!

It’s a great time to get inspired by attending the GLDA annual seminar, which is online this year and is all about trees: ‘Plan Trees, Plant Trees, Planet Trees’ is the theme of the day with an international panel of speakers. Instead of feeling helpless about the climate crisis, we need to be more proactive, pull together, and do our bit to redress the situation.

Planting trees is a very positive step we can take to improve air quality, enhance biodiversity, stabilize soils, prevent erosion and create a healthier environment. The seminar is on February 26 and will be live streamed , or the recorded speakers’ talks can be accessed over the next 12 months.

For booking details, see www.glda.ie and get inspired about all that tree planting.

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