Oak Leaf Gardening Monthly Cuttings
Newsletter 46 - March 2015
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.
Plant of the monthBergenia cordifolia

Bergenia cordifolia is in flower now with long spikes of rose-pink flowers. The rounded, evergreen foliage makes good ground cover and turns an attractive purple/bronze colour in the winter. It will grow in most locations and requires little maintenance. Find out more...

Problem of the month

Stem eelworms burrow into stems and bulbs before moving around the plant and feeding on it. They can affect fruit, vegetables and ornamental plants. The symptoms vary greatly, often being mistaken for other problems. For example, symptoms can include a swelling at the base of onions or carrots, a softening of ornamental bulbs and brittle leaves on fruits such as strawberries.

The eelworms themselves are only 1 to 2mm in length, so you won't know they're there until the symptoms start to show. They will remain dormant in dry soil for years, so can be a persistent problem. Find out more...

In the news

More Chelsea revelations

Sarah Eberle has released the design for her Artisan garden at this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The garden, created for the breast cancer support charity The Haven, will centre around an oak leaf 'nest' created by willow sculptor Tom Hare, which will sit under an oak tree. Inspired by existing Haven gardens in London, Hereford and Leeds, Eberle intends that the garden will provide "a place to connect with nature and to relax in comfort". After the show the garden will be moved to a new Haven location in Hampshire.

Meanwhile Marks and Spencer have announced that they will be displaying at Chelsea for their third year in 2015. Their Great Pavilion exhibit will be themed "Blooms of the British Isles". It will feature seasonal flowers grown in Hampshire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk, including heritage varieties of peonies, stocks and orchids.

New woodland meadows to be created at Trentham

Work starts this spring on a new international woodland meadow at the Trentham Estate gardens in Staffordshire. Designer Nigel Dunnet, who co-designed the Olympic Park flower meadows, will create drifts of perennials and bulbs inspired by woodland wild flower displays from around the world.

Chester Zoo's Nepenthes achieve National Plant Collection status

The Chester Zoo collection of carnivorous Nepenthes (pitcher plants) has been awarded National Plant Collection status by the plant conservation charity Plant Heritage.

The collection, which was originally privately owned, includes 129 of the 150 known species of Nepenthes, some of which are now extinct in the wild. Part of the collection is on public display within the zoo, the full collection can be viewed by special arrangement.


Plants for a difficult spot - dry shade

While there are plenty of plants happy in moist shade or sunny, dry spots, finding plants which are happy in the combination of both shade and dry soil can be a challenge. These conditions are common in the garden – at the base of north facing walls, under shallow rooting trees or along hedges.

But don't lose heart! There are plenty of plants which will cope with these unfavourable conditions and still provide you with colour and interest.


Sarcococca confusa
Prized for the fragrance of its winter flowers, the Christmas box is a dense, evergreen shrub growing to about 2m tall by 1m wide. The flowers are followed by glossy black fruits. It can be grown as a shrub or trimmed back as a hedge.Camellia japonica 'Madame Haas'

Camellia japonica
Camellias are a great choice for shade as the shelter will help protect the delicate flowers from late frosts and morning sunlight which can 'burn' the petals. There are many cultivars of Camellia japonica, so you can find the perfect size and colour choice for your garden.

Camellia japonica 'Madame Haas' is shown here.

Herbaceous perennials

Iris foetidissima
Although it doesn't have the most attractive name, the stinking iris only smells unpleasant if you crush its leaves. It bears purple flowers in early summer above the long, evergreen leaves, growing to 90cm tall. For yellow flowers try I. f. var. citrina.Asplenium scolopendrium

Asplenium scolopendrium
The hart's tongue fern (shown right) takes its name from the shape of the long, evergreen, tongue-like, bright green leaves. The edges of the leaves, which arch out from the base, are often rippled and mature foliage will have dark red spore cases on the underside, arranged in a stripes.

Try cultivars from the Crispum Group for more wavy leaf margins.

Ground cover

Geranium nodosum and Geranium phaeum
These deciduous geraniums will thrive in dark, dry conditions. Geranium nodosum has purple-pink flowers from spring to autumn and grows to 50cm height and spread. For a larger plant try Geranium phaeum, which grows to 80cm tall and 45cm wide and has dark violet flowers. Both species have a range of cultivars available with flowers in shades of white, pink, purple or blue.Pachysandra terminalis

Pachysandra terminalis
The Japanese spurge (shown here) is an evergreen, bushy plant which will grow to only 20cm tall but will spread much further than this, providing excellent year round ground cover.

In early summer deep pink buds appear followed by small spikes of fragrant white flowers.


Read our blog for more suggestions.


What's on this month

As gardens are starting to wake from their winter slumber, get some fresh air at one of the many garden events around the country:

  • 8th March - Early Spring Tour Of The Botanic Garden, University of Bristol Botanic Garden, Stoke Bishop, Bristol.
  • 14th March - Saxifrage Day, Waterperry Gardens, Nr Wheatley, Oxfordshire.
  • 16th March - 'Behind The Scenes At Great Dixter: March' Workshop, Great Dixter House & Garden, Rye, East Sussex.
  • 20th to 22nd March - The Edible Garden Show, Alexandra Palace, London.
  • 21st March - The Big Dig, events around the country.
  • 21st March - Compost And Veg Event, Martineau Gardens, Edgbaston, Birmingham.
  • 21st & 22nd March - Spring Flower Show, Falmouth, Cornwall.
  • 26th March - 'Did We Really Dig For Victory?' Talk, University of Oxford Botanic Garden, Oxford.
  • 26th March - Spring Propagation Workshop, RHS Garden Hyde Hall, Chelmsford, Essex.
  • 28th March - NGS Charity Open Day, Hatfield House, Hatfield, Hertfordshire.
  • 28th & 29th March - Cornwall Spring Flower Show, Boconnoc, Lostwithiel, Cornwall.