March has been a funny month so far – we’ve had temperature highs in the mid-teens, heavy frosts, gale-force winds and heavy downpours that have lasted for hours but even with all that going on the garden has started to come into bud and bloom. I was a bit concerned at first as I was worried some of it may get knocked back by frost but it seems that having the raised beds has helped to keep the majority of stuff safe.
Grab a cuppa and let’s take a look at my garden this month and see what’s going on!
Ok, firstly I’ll address the bright blue elephant in the
room garden…yes, I have covered the carpet of weeds and moss (you really couldn’t call it a lawn, it was a state) with tarpaulin, this is in preparation for laying artificial grass at some point later in the year. I was trying my best to tackle the ‘lawn’ with long-handled grass shears but it wasn’t making a dent, plus the ground has started to become uneven where weeds are pushing through and mounding up so I decided to go for our tried and tested method of covering the ground to kill off anything underneath.
I realised, after spending ages sourcing a big enough tarpaulin and all the ground pegs, that I probably could have got myself a decent lawn strimmer or shrub trimmer (like these Karcher ones from Spares2You, I love Karcher tools and these are a great price!) and made a bit more of a dent in some of the mounds before doing this as it would have made the job a lot easier but at the time I was just focused on getting it covered up as quickly as possible. The hope is that once we uncover it in a few months time it’ll be a lot easier to take off the top few inches of soil ready for the groundwork to start.
I know it doesn’t look pretty but it is a means to an end for now AND if you relax your eyes and let them go unfocused it almost looks like we have a massive swimming pool in the back garden 😆
Starting from the back of the garden and working forward – there are still wires hanging down from the gym and the side of the arbour (they are all safe) that are waiting for light fittings and outdoor sockets to be wired in, it’s on a long list of jobs to do and we’ve resigned ourselves to the fact that this end of the garden isn’t going to be looking cosmetically pretty or finished anytime soon, it’s all a big work in progress.
My ‘triage’ area for sickly plants…that’d be those 3 pots filled with twiggy Acers and weeds…has seemed to do its job over winter and I’ve got two Acers budding up again, the third one is a goner – I’ve got no idea what happened as it was absolutely stunning and then just dropped it’s leaves one day, it happens but it’s so frustrating as I’d been growing it for nearly 3 years.
I unwrapped the two Tree Ferns Dicksonia antarctica this morning as the risk of frost has mostly gone now and I don’t actually think the straw and Horti fleece I had them wrapped in was doing much, the frosts earlier in the year has caused dieback on the fronds but that’s no shock and I felt like it might have been holding too much damp in around the trunk rather than them being able to dry out in the sun. I’m excited to see new fronds emerge from these this year to see just how big they will spread!
I was a little bit concerned about the rest of my Fern Forest overwinter as all of the filler ferns (a mix of Japanese Tassle Fern Polystichum polyblepharum, Japanese Painted Fern ‘Red Beauty’ Athyrium niponicum and Ostrich Fern Matteuccia struthiopteris) I’d planted back in late August 2019 seemed to die off within a few weeks and I thought it might have been a drainage issue with the planters, turns out I needn’t have feared as they’ve all started sprouting fronds again!
I added in a few more little filler plants (Pony Grass Stipa tenuissima, some Saxifrage and a Sedum) today just to help create some more ground cover and interest, I’m hoping they won’t fill out too much, if they do I’ll just trim them back and take some cuttings.
The largest Acer (Acer Palmatum ‘Summer Gold‘) is budding up nicely, I pruned it back a fair bit in November and it’s responded well so far so hopefully we’ll have a lot more bushy foliage this year.
The Heuchera around its base (Heuchera ‘Melting Fire’ and Heuchera ‘Chocolate Ruffles’) are doing fine, they got a bit of frost damage on the outer leaves but are sprouting new healthy ones from the middle.
The sedum (Sedum ‘Dragons Blood’) is forming some new rosettes and I think it might end up trailing down the side of the planter this year which I cant wait to see.
All of the ‘Red’ Acers are budding up and leafing a lot earlier than the lighter leaf varieties. I’m struggling to remember the exact name of this one but I’ve had it for a few years now and it seems to be pretty hardy.
Moving further along to the corner of the planter where the Golden Larch sits, it’s looking a bit sparse. I purposely didn’t plant that area up too fully as I wanted to see what was going to spread out this spring and its a bit of an odd area to fill. It’s open both sides so I didn’t want to plant too much one side or the other – I think I might look at adding some more low growing and spreading plants but I’ll wait and see what happens over the coming months.
Heuchera and grasses do well in this area, this is a Heuchera ‘Marvellous Marble’, the frost has knocked back and taken the colour out of some of the outer leaves but it’s recovering well and sprouting lots of new ones.
This is the area where the water feature used to sit before I packed it away for the winter (fingers crossed I can look to get it reinstated again over Easter weekend). The fern (Dryopteris filix-mas) and ornamental grass (Festuca Gautieri) has seen a bit of dieback from the frost but the Heucheras (Heuchera Wild Berry and Heuchera Marmalade) and Sedum (Sedum Floriferum golden yellow) barely seems to have been affected at all and are spreading out nicely. The sedum might be spreading a bit too much so I’ll look to trim that back soon. The brown tatty looking stumps at the back are the remains of the Canna ‘Bronze Scarlet’ that I chopped down after it died back, I didn’t lift the rhizomes as I thought they might be protected enough in the raised planters – not sure if that was a wise choice or not but hopefully we’ll find out in the next few weeks.
You’ll notice that the slate chips are looking pretty untidy from this section onwards as that’s as far as I got with lifting them all and laying weed fabric underneath them last year. I stupidly decided that it would be a good idea to start that project in December and I got off to a good start and made it about a third of the way around but then it turned cold and I didn’t finish the job, it’s top of the list to complete in the next few weeks 👍
Moving further across the long stretch of the planter, Heuchera Cherry Cola is getting ready to throw up some flower stems, hopefully it fills out a bit more too as it’s been subject to some munching by slugs/snails.
I planted a small Elephants Ear Bergenia ‘Rotblum’ the other week (usually wouldn’t ever consider planting out at that time of year BUT it was part of a photoshoot for an article I’ve got coming out in the Guardian next week!) which has started flowering, I think I might put a few more bedding type plants around this area in the coming weeks as there isn’t much else there at the moment.
This is an Acer that I have had for years, I’ve grown it on from a tiny bare-root specimen and last year seemed to be the year it hit its stride in terms of leaf production. It still seems a bit susceptible to the frost as you can see from some of the dead ends on the stems but I’ll neaten them up once it starts leafing up.
Alongside that is another Acer which I picked up last year for around £5, it was a bit spindly and leggy but I pruned it back to try and improve the shape, it looks like it’ll be the first one in ‘bloom’ this year so it’ll be interesting to see how it does!
The larger Fatsia Japonica Spiders Web has been pretty much dormant since late autumn, the dead leaves you see here are from last year, I’ve left them on as I wasn’t sure what that top bud was doing…I still dont…I’m hoping it’ll just start sprouting from there again in late spring!
Coming to the end of the planter we have an ornamental grass that’s gone a bit crazy, this is Carex (Carex oshimensis Everest ‘Fiwhite’) and I thought the frost had knocked it back a bit as I saw some browning leaves but it turns out a lot of the browning in the middle is from the grass seeds it’s sending up. Ideally, I want this to fill out a tiny bit more so that it cascades over the edge of the planter but I don’t want it getting too tall, I might have to look at some selective pruning in the coming months.
Finally, we reach the area affectionately known as ‘The Dumping Ground’. The planter sitting on the slabs needs emptying out as it was being used as a nursery/holding station for plants I wasn’t quite sure what to do with, it’s mainly weeds now, I may put some bright summer bedding in there in the next few weeks.
In front of that we have a spikey Christmas Tree looking bush that I can’t remember the name of, that’s there because it doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the garden and I don’t know what to do with it, it’ll probably end up going to my sisters house. Next to that we have the Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ that I nursed back to health after it arrived in a sorry state (a word of warning to everyone, DO NOT use GardeningExpress for any of your plants they are terrible!). It has started to bud up but only at the very tip of the trunk, I think I might be able to use it in the summer when I plant up the Japanese Garden area and maybe group some smaller bushy plants around it to hide its bare bottom.
Those red pots and black planter are full of compost as I’ve had to move one of my Keter Veg Planters as where the water was draining from it (they have a handy drainage system with a plug on the side) it was rotting the decking and I was worried it might fall through, so I had to empty all the compost out and move it to the opposite side of the garden on the patio. I was in the process of moving the second one but it started raining so half of it’s compost is sitting there for now.