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What to do ......in April

If you haven't done so already, cut back buddleja stems to within 30 - 60 cm of the ground. This will ensure good strong growth to carry this year's flowers.

Feed early bulbs that have finished flowering, with a general fertiliser to help build up strength for next year.

Mulch the ground after a heavy rainfall. This will conserve moisture in the soil and also help to warm up the soil. Before mulching, be careful you don't cover up any self seeded perennials. Leave these where they are, move them to a more suitable location, or pot them on and give them to friends.

Stake taller growing perennials. Use the prunings from the buddleja, after letting them dry out for a couple of weeks. Buddleja cuttings have a natural candelabra-like branch structure that is useful for supporting taller growing perennials such as Anenome japonica. Just stick 90 cm tall buddleja branches in a circle all around the perennials. The new growth of the perennials will soon disguise the branches.


Planting snowdrops "in the green"

Planting snowdrops "in the green" is the most successful way of ensuring a quick build up of new colonies in a new area. Mature clumps are subdivided immediately after flowering and while the leaves are still green. Dig up the mature clump and divide it up into smaller clumps of two or three bulbs each. Replant these smaller clumps as soon as possible and about six to eight inches apart in your chosen area. They do best in light shade and are particularly successful in moist heavy soil.

Uses for Buddleja prunings

After pruning Buddleja the prunings are too woody to use on the compost heap, although they could of course be added to the compost heap if put through a mulching machine first. I, however, leave the cut branches to dry out in a corner of the garden. After about a month, when any buds and foliage have died off from the prunings, I then use them as supports for the Japanese anenomes, Lysmachia and the taller growing hardy geraniums. The growth habit of the Buddleja ensures that you get a good "Y" shaped support from the cut branches. If you use the cut branches as plant supports immediately after pruning, you may find that they will take root and that you will very soon have a garden full of Buddleja plants.

Removing last year's growth from Stipa tenuissima

Never ever cut this grass back to the ground in spring in an attempt to get rid of the last year's growth. You will inevitably end up cutting off the new emerging growth as well. Instead, comb the old growth out by hand.

No tools are required to do this. Palm upwards, spread your fingers wide and put them into the growth at the base of the plant. Close your fingers until the grass stems are caught between them, and pull your hand up through the growth. The old growth will easily come away from the new growth, and you can remove most of it after several attempts. Don't worry if you leave a few of the old leaves. These will quickly be disguised by the new growth. Some of my Stipa tenuissima plants grow around the cobbled circle and I always leave a few seed heads lying on the granite setts . The seeds invariably sprout in the sand between the setts, ensuring a new supply of fresh young plants which can be lifted the following spring.

Removing BindWeed

Although neither are a major problem in my garden, bindweed and ground elder are the only weeds which I am quite happy to treat with a glysophate weed killer if I have to. All others can be grubbed out by hand.

With the bindweed, I train it up a bamboo pole when the growth starts in spring. When there is sufficient growth, (in May or June) I remove the pole and place as much as possible of the top growth in a plastic bag. I then spray the weed killer into the bag. This prevents the spray contaminating nearby plants. The plant growth can be left in the bag, and the bag tied. The combination of the weed killer, no rainwater to wash it off, and the heat generated by the plant inside the bag ensures the demise of the bindweed with only one application of weed killer.


Copyright A Walsh 2002-2007