Tulip service... a riot of colour in our gardens

The spring sunshine is bringing a riot of colour to beds and borders. says Echo gardening expert OLIVE RYAN
Tulip service... a riot of colour in our gardens

Creative supports for sweet pea at Hillsborough walled garden in Co Down last summer

THE recent rain has pushed on growth in all plants, as the sap starts to rise and swelling buds burst into leaf, producing fresh new foliage in varying shades of green, bronze, red and pink - and that is just the leaves!

It is interesting to observe each year that once the natural growth kicks off, seeds sown when conditions are just right for germination simply take off and can overtake seeds planted a few weeks earlier when it was that little bit colder, even with a heated bench. There is no substitute for heat from the spring sunshine to spur plants into growth.

Tulips abound in the garden right now and the spring sunshine is bringing a riot of colour to beds and borders. Spring flowering bulbs are a great addition the garden early in the year before foliage begins to appear, adding pops of colour in a riot of different colours.

There are several gardens open to the public with terrific tulip displays in April, including June Blake’s garden in Wicklow, which is well worth a visit at any time, but particularly when tulips are in flower, as this garden works really well with colour and different combinations.

See www.juneblake.ie for details of opening times and tours, and the good news is there are plants to purchase now also when visiting.

Patthana Garden in Kiltegan, Wicklow, is opening this weekend to the public. The garden was recently extended and is full of inspirational planting combinations with artistic touches everywhere to delight the senses. Tulips abound in this garden at the heart of Kiltegan village. See www.patthanagardenireland.com.

As night-time temperatures improve, now is a good time to apply some sort of feed to more permanent plantings in the garden like hedges, roses, herbaceous borders, trees and shrubs.

There are many options, homemade garden compost can be applied, chicken manure pellets or, for a richer feed, farmyard manure.

There is an argument that plants should not need this feeding ,but as gardeners, if we are constantly raking and tidying, we are removing naturally recycled organic material like leaves and grass from the top of the soil, so to keep plants healthy and growing well, we do need to give back from time to time - and plants will reward us with healthy vegetative growth and good flowering.

Time now to get legume seeds like runner beans and French beans into the soil. I prefer to germinate the plants and grow them on for a few weeks before planting out into the open ground when the risk of frost has passed.

There is the option of seeding directly a little later in the year also. Getting supports in place before planting out is advisable and bamboo canes can be used or hazel rods may make a more sturdy support.

Creating archways and tunnels using these supports along paths can be a bit of fun and create temporary enclosure and shelter in different areas of the garden, changing the feel of a part of the garden for a season.

Dahlias are starting to push through now also, and if they were dug up for the winter, they would need to be potted and grown on before planting them out at the end of May, where they will go on to produce excellent late summer colour.

As the new shoots emerge from the tubers, it is a good time to take cuttings as this fresh new growth will root readily, producing plants that will flower this year.

Simply slice off the emerging new shoots near the base of the stem, remove some of the lower leaves, then, using a pencil or dibber, insert 5 or 6 cuttings per pot, using a mix of potting compost and perlite. Water well and place in a ziplock clear plastic bag and place on the window sill or glasshouse bench. These cuttings should root in a few weeks with roots emerging at the end of the pot, indicating they are ready to be moved on.

A good time now to give snowdrops that have finished flowering a liquid feed of a seaweed-based fertilizer. This will help the bulbs to bulk up and flower well next year.

It is also a good time to divide larger clumps and spread them to other parts of the garden. Bulbs can get crowded, which affects flowering, so dividing every few years is good for the plants.

It is a busy time of year with lots of jobs to tick off of the list. Happy Spring Gardening!

Plant of the Week

Daffodils put on a great display this year, it is so enjoyable encountering all of the different varieties at different stages during spring.

One of the earliest variietes is Rijnvelds Early Sensation, appearing around Christmas, and one of the latest is the pheasant eye daffodil, which flowers in April and May. Essentially, we can have daffodils flowering for nearly six months of the year.

Narcissus 'Avalon
Narcissus 'Avalon

A great task to undertake each year if there is space is to plant a different variety of daffodil in autumn, then just watch it appear and expand every year.

A new addition for me this year was Narcissus ‘Avalon’ (right), a large cupped daffodil that opens yellow and fades to a two tone soft creamy yellow. A very attractive bulb as an addition to a bed or border or to naturalize in drifts in an area of grass.

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