In a garden there is always something to look forward to, and something good to believe in. Now is the time to start observing and planning again …
It was with a great sense of relief that we said goodbye to January 2021. The shortest days and long nights are behind us now. While spring has not yet fully announced herself the signs are there. Perhaps more than ever we need signs of hope, signs of renewal and green shoots. The first of the snowdrops and hellebores started popping up on Instagram weeks ago. If you listen out carefully, blackbirds, along with the robins, are setting out their stalls with late evening and early morning performances. Of course if you are to believe the forecast we are not out of the woods yet, the weather has plenty to throw at us still. Nevertheless we can look forward to more hours of welcome daylight with hopefully rising temperatures.
With the exception of planting up some bulbs which I found in the boot of the car (bought with good intentions last autumn) I haven’t done any real gardening so far this year. Now is a good time to start, the right time to venture out. Ease yourself into the process with some tidying up, gather any remaining leaves or debris from the borders. If you haven’t already done so you should cut down the last of the herbaceous plants and taller grasses. Evergreen ferns, hellebores and bergenia will look better and benefit from having their brown, untidy or damaged leaves removed. When you are cutting back plants you are bound to see the first signs of new growth, try not to remove those early shoots but if you inadvertently break off some of them, you need not be too concerned, they are fairly robust. I am regularly asked what to do with lavender: is now the right time to prune it or is it too late? If you missed out on pruning it in the autumn, you can of course cut it back now, however if it’s not overly woody, a light trim now will help to keep it neat and it will flower away as normal during the summer months. Large shrubs like Buddleia and Sambucus do require a good hard pruning before the new growth takes off in March and when I say a hard prune, I mean removing at least half of the older woody branches.
Other than the aforementioned snowdrops there is a surprising number of plants already in flower in the garden. An absolute favourite of mine is the Algerian iris (Iris unguicularis) For more than six weeks now it has been steadfastly rewarding me with delicate flowers of pale purple streaked with yellow. Among many of the best performers in late winter, you will also find those that are not only grown for their displays of subtle blooms but as much for their much welcomed scent. Look out for Sarcococca and Daphne along with Lonicera standishii. This trio of early-flowering gems will enhance and greatly improve any garden. The evergreen Sarcococca, also known as sweet box, in particular has the most distinctive delicious scent. When planted near the front door or under a window, its sweet fragrances on a still day will catch you off guard as you pass, in addition it is a great foliage plant and very useful for adding to a small vase of hyacinths or tulips.
Last year will be remembered as a tough year. It was also the year when many people started back or took up gardening for the first time. Connecting with nature through our gardens taught us a lot and helped many of us to cope with our current challenges. We should build on these lessons, by continuing to take time and by being in the garden we can continue to grow as people. In a garden there is always something to look forward to, there are always flowers about to open and something good to believe in.
Sign up to our MAILING LIST now for a roundup of the latest fashion, beauty, interiors and entertaining news from THE GLOSS MAGAZINE’s daily dispatches.