LADY PENELOPE’S GARDENING TIPS FOR MARCH

Spring is divine! So much emerging life and energy around the garden from plants and wildlife. It is impossible not to be drawn in and find that the faint rays of sun energise and mobilise us to be outside and doing (reminding me of that wonderful line about how we should take time in our lives to do some human being rather than human doing…but not in Spring!). The wondrous scents from spring flowering shrubs such as Daphne odora, Hamamelis mollis (Chinese Witch hazel) and Sarcococca confusa (Sweet Box) are mesmerising. If your garden is lacking in this area, put some scented shrubs on your wish list for this year and look forward to the heady scents next spring.
We have had many storms during this winter causing trees to come down, and no doubt fence panels. If you have suffered, it is a good idea to think about planting windbreak hedges, trees or plants. This has many benefits, not only providing a permeable filter layer from the wind, but also contributing to a micro-climate in the protected area. A well-designed garden would incorporate this from the start, but it is never too late to add in windbreak planting to already established gardens. Consider a natural hedge containing Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), Dog rose (Rosa canina), Guelder rose (Viburnum opulus) and Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), or perhaps very tall and robust grasses such as Saccarum Ravenna (H9-12ft), Miscanthus ‘Giganteus’ (H8-10ft) or Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’ (H12ft).
Jobs for this month include hoeing weeds off promptly before they set seed; thickly mulching borders to suppress weeds and add nutrition and protection to the soil; sow hardy annuals directly into the ground; tie in emerging clematis shoots and other climbers and wall shrubs; put herbaceous supports in place before they all flop to the ground; cut back older Cornus stems to promote fresh bright growth for next autumn; dead head daffodils but do not cut down or tie up the foliage, it needs to die down naturally to return strength to the bulb for next spring.
Pest of the month: Box blight. This is a fungus that shows as browning leaves and leaf fall, leading to bare patches on infected Box plants. Box blight is always active but prevalent in rainy seasons. The key is to treat as early as possible, by digging up and destroying badly affected plants, and cutting back and cutting it out of lesser affected plants. It is important to remove all the debris and bin it, do not compost it! Then disinfect the pruning tools used to avoid spreading.
Design tip of the month: Try adding height to a garden but without diminishing light or space, by erecting ornamental posts. These can define an area for example a seated area, or they can improve a garden path entrance.

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