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Oak Leaf Gardening Monthly Cuttings
Newsletter 10 - March 2012
What to do now

Ornamental plants

  • This is the main rose pruning season. You can cut back modern bush roses, climbing roses, patio roses, ground cover roses, shrub roses and species roses.
  • Prune back or coppice/pollard buddlejas, dogwoods, willows, cotinus, ornamental elders and eucalypts to control their size or ornamental effects.
  • Prune climbers such as summer flowering clematis. This is also a good time to undertake renovation pruning of climbers.
  • Sow hardy annual and wildflower seeds outdoors.
  • Sow half-hardy and tender annuals in the greenhouse ready to plant out in the warmer weather.
  • Pot up begonia tubers, gloxinia tubers, arum lily rhizomes, canna rhizomes, achimenes rhizomes, lily of the valley crowns, ginger lily rhizomes and dahlia tubers to start them growing in a frost free spot.
  • Plant new perennials and lift congested ones to divide them up (eg hostas, rudbeckias, heleniums, peonies and asters).
  • Plant out gladioli corms and lily bulbs.
  • If you’ve ordered plug plants, pot them up as soon as they arrive.
  • Brighten up your containers and pots with spring bedding, flowering spring bulbs and small evergreens.
  • Scrape the top layer of compost away from permanent container displays and replace it with fresh compost.
  • This is your last chance to move deciduous shrubs/trees and plant bare rooted ones.
  • Top dress the soil in beds and borders with a slow release fertiliser, raking it into the surface slightly.
Fruit and veg
  • As the soil warms up you can sow lettuce, rocket, radishes, spring onions, leeks, onions/shallots (seeds or sets), broad beans, parsnips, spinach, turnips, and early varieties of carrots and peas.
  • Start sowing annual herbs and lifting perennial herbs if you want to divide them.
  • Plant out rhubarb, strawberry plants and pot grown fruit trees/bushes.
  • Protect early crops with horticultural fleece, particularly if frost is forecast.
  • In the greenhouse you can sow tomatoes, chillies, bell peppers and aubergines.
  • Continue chitting early seed potatoes.
  • Harvest sprouting broccoli, Swiss chard and the last of the Brussels sprouts.
General tasks
  • Fork over bare earth in beds, borders and veg/fruit patches, removing weeds and mulching as you go.
  • Make sure you have your slug/snail protection in place to protect new growth.
  • Apply a spring feed (or ‘weed and feed’) to your lawn.
  • Start mowing your lawn as soon as it's dry enough, starting with a longer cut and gradually shortening it (unless you have spring bulbs naturalised in it).
  • Scrub or pressure-wash patios and paths to get rid of the winter muck.
  • Clean your greenhouse out if you didn’t do it in the autumn.
  • Start recycling household rubbish to make plant pots, eg egg boxes, toilet roll tubes or yoghurt pots.
Narcissus 'Jetfire'Plant of the month

Narcissus 'Jetfire' is a relatively petite daffodil (growing to only 20cm) which is useful for beds, borders and containers. It can also be naturalised in lawns.

This narcissus was bred in the USA in 1966 and has been given the prestigious RHS Award of Garden Merit.

It flowers from early to mid spring. Deadhead faded flowers but leave the foliage to die back naturally so the plant builds up enough energy in its bulb for a good show next year.

Find out more...

Problem of the monthLeatherjacket

Leatherjackets are the larvae of crane flies. Crane flies lay eggs under the soil in the late summer. These hatch into larvae which proceed to feed on plant roots in autumn, spring and early summer before emerging as crane flies.

They can be particularly harmful to young seedlings whose roots can be completely eaten away. Lawns can also be damaged by birds pecking the soil to get at the larvae.

Watering and covering lawns can help to bring the larvae to the surface for birds to feed on in the morning. Alternatively chemical lawn treatments can be used. Biological controls are useful for elsewhere in the garden.

Find out more...

In the news

Jamie Oliver focuses on school gardens

Jamie Oliver is turning the attention of his charitable foundation to school gardens, aiming to incorporate growing food into the primary school curriculum. The scheme is being trialled at Orford Primary School in Suffolk and Jamie is spearheading the campaign through his 'Jamie's Kitchen Garden Project'.

Lobelias gain Award of Garden Merit

After their 2011 trials the RHS have given 5 lobelia cultivars their prestigious Award of Garden Merit, recognising a plant's practical value to gardeners. The featured lobelias are 'Lobstrahob', 'Balobwablu', 'Wespurstar' and two as yet unnamed varieties.

Drought spreads as dry weather continues

Due to the unseasonably dry weather, drought conditions are spreading around South East England, with hose pipe bans likely as the year progresses. The South East joins the Midlands and Anglian regions which were already suffering low water levels. The Environment Agency will produce its latest report on the drought situation early this month. Check out our guide to drought and how to cope with it in your garden...


Chelsea Flower Show - what we can expect this year

The Irish Sky garden from the 2011 Chelsea Flower ShowThe RHS Chelsea Flower Show, arguably the most prestigious garden show in the world, is just under two months away now and we've been keeping our ears to the ground to find out what treats are in store this year.

Among the many delights you'll see drought-resistant planting schemes, a 'floating' oak bench, a caravan, limestone pools, copper sculptures and an authentic shepherd's hut.

There's even a fencing display by Hilliers Nurseries, though not the type of fencing you usually associate with gardens!

Designers this year will include Sarah Price (co-designer for the Olympic Park gardens), BBC's Joe Swift, Andy Sturgeon, Cleve West (winner of Best Show Garden last year) and Jo Thompson.

Tickets are going fast so act quickly to secure yours.

Or, if you're in the London area but not going to the show, why not check out the 'Chelsea Fringe' events taking place in late May to early June this year? It's the first year this fringe festival will take place and you can expect garden delights to pop up all around the capital.

Find out more in our Chelsea preview blog...


This is the Irish Sky Garden designed by Diarmuid Gavin at last year's Chelsea Flower Show.
Read our blog of the show
for more photos and details about the 2011 gardens.


What's on this month

As spring creeps up on us, why not go out and about to enjoy the new gardening year...

  • 1st to 31st March - Daffodil festival, Aberglasney House and Gardens, Carmarthenshire, Wales.
  • 13th March - Garden Re-Leaf day, events taking place around the UK.
  • 15th to 17th March - RHS Orchid Show and Botanical Art Show, RHS Horticultural Halls, London.
  • 16th to 18th March - The Edible Garden Show, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire.
  • 16th to 29th March - Green Fingers Festival, Orchard Acre Farm, Irvinestown, Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.
  • 24th & 25th March - Grown your own weekend, RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, Surrey.
  • 25th March - Plant Hunters' Fair, Ness Botanical Gardens, Neston, South Wirral.
  • 25th March - Plant Fair, Holme Pierrepoint Hall, Nottingham.
  • 28th March - 'The gardens in spring' guided tour, Yorkshire Museum, York.
  • 31st March & 1st April - Cornwall Spring Flower Show, Boconnoc Estate, Lostwithiel, Cornwall.


Answers to last month's 'Looking good now' anagram quiz

Here are the answers to our February quiz:

Blunt sharp luxuries (the 'Autumnalis' cultivar is the cherry on top of this plant-pie)
Prunus x subhirtella

Heroines libellous rat (this Lenten lovely comes in purples, pinks and whites)
Helleborus orientalis

Saga villains hunt (pure white delight)
Galanthus nivalis

A racier acne (a lucky charm, particularly the white varieties)
Erica carnea

A mindful juniors mum (a burst of yellow sunshine climbs through the dull winter)
Jasminum nudiflorum

A dahlias extreme minim (such a beautiful scent you'll think it's witchcraft!)
Hamamelis x intermedia

I is curing Sir Luau (this violet-coloured Algerian will keep on flowering well into spring)
Iris unguicularis

Cocoa can focus cars (think of white flowers, wonderful scent and a yuletide package)
Sarcococca confusa

Zen emu hampered (get its conditions right and you'll have a profusion of scented deep lavender-coloured flowers)
Daphne mezereum

A bomb stunned vixen run (bare stems bear sweet-scented pink blooms)
Viburnum x bodnantense