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Notes from the Nursery gardens - April

“Sweet April showers, do spring May flowers.” From a poem penned in 1610 apparently. Not sure if there is one for 6 months of persistent rain. As gardeners we know of the difficulties a dry spring can bring, especially if there is a hose pipe ban. So, we should be grateful to have full water butts, reservoirs, and ample rain to make our gardens sing. But then again. It seems extremes of weather are the course we are on and as gardeners we can only try to adapt and prepare for whatever they may be, rain or shine.

I planted up a load of tubs with mixes of tulips for a spring display. The idea being that I could keep them under cover from the worst of the rain and plunge them out in pots when they come into flower. This has worked well, and despite the weather have been a cheery sight flowering earlier than if they had been out all winter. Not so the species Tulips planted in the car park beds. They certainly have not enjoyed the rain and any survivors of the wet have been devoured by mice, voles and squirrels. Need to rethink what to do here.

We have created a new flower bed in front of the Café terrace. Having a south facing aspect and the shelter of the Café, it was an opportunity for a Mediterranean style planting that can bask and flower in the hot summer sun. It was a grass bank before and by putting a sleeper wall along its edge we have been able to raise the soil level and get good drainage. Even so, planting med plants in this weather seems foolhardy. One thing that is worth doing when planting most plants is a bed of grit or sand in the bottom of the hole. Even those that enjoy a moist soil will resent sitting in water. This practice has two benefits. The extra drainage stops the roots from rotting in the wet weather but also makes the roots grow stronger and deeper as they search down through the soil, giving the plant more resilience to any drought that they may experience. Taking these principles to the next level is the Swedish plantsman and nursery owner, Peter Korn. A pioneer of growing in sand, Peter found that plants grown this way produced large root systems, that are slower to establish but more resilient to drought, need less staking and less prone to pest and disease. Even short-lived plants were living longer by being treated to this slower but tougher growth. Many notable gardens are installing sand beds to grow plant displays this way now, in response to the more extremes of weather.

So, with buckets of grit the planting continues, taking advantage of the rain to settle in the plants, and the imaginings of how they will look basking in the summer sun.