PUBLISHED: 05:29 13 April 2015
Plant specialist Keith Clouting, from Taverham Nursery Centre, brings you his guide to getting the best out of your garden.
Many plants in the garden are starting to awaken from their winter slumber – some early flowering shrubs are already showing some colour, and many of these also have deliciously scented flowers.
Daphnes certainly fall into this category. One of the first to bloom is Daphne mezereum, a small, deciduous shrub with sweetly scented purple-pink flowers which open in late winter and early spring. Planted by a path or doorway, the scent can be appreciated when passing by. The flowers are followed by scarlet berries which are poisonous if eaten. One of the hardiest and easy to grow Daphnes is the semi-evergreen D x Burkwoodii Somerset. Flowering later than D. mezereum, it forms a small shrub to around 1.2m high, with delightfully scented pale pink flowers in spring and often again in autumn. Daphnes prefer soil with plenty of organic matter incorporated for good winter drainage and to help retain moisture in summer.
Another early blooming shrub with scented flowers is Abeliophyllum distichum, related to forsythia but with white or pale pink flowers on bare stems in late winter. Abeliophyllum will grow in most ordinary garden soils but need full sun to ripen the wood. The added warmth of a warm wall will help protect the early flowers from frost.
Plant of the month
Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii.
This sun loving Euphorbia would be a fabulous addition to any garden; its upright stems reach a height of 1m or more in favourable conditions. In spring these are topped by lime yellow flowers with bronze eyes. Coming from dry areas of the Mediterranean it will tolerate drought conditions once established. In summer the stems which have flowered should be pruned back to new growth near the base; wear gloves when pruning Euphorbias as the milky sap is poisonous and a skin and eye irritant.
My Arum italicum Mamoratum had a fabulous crop of berries last year. If I plant them, will they come true from seed?
A.i. Mamoratum is quite easy to germinate from seed. Wash off the red pulp from the seeds and sow outside or in a cold frame, and cover with coarse grit to prevent moss and algae growth. It’s best to sow lots, then pick out the plants with the best veining in the leaves, as this will vary with seedlings. Don’t be too hasty though, as it can take two to three years for the marked leaves to develop. A quicker way can be to lift and split an established clump.
Catch up with Keith
Plant onion sets from mid-March to mid-April. These should be ready to harvest in August or September.
If you have a warm greenhouse or propagator, half hardy annuals such as petunias, marigolds and lobelia can be sown now.
Lift a few rhizomes of lily of the valley and plant in pots to force into bloom for early scented flowers in the house.
Taverham Nursery Centre, Fir Covert Road, Norwich< NR9 6HT; 01603 860522; www.taverhamnursery.co.uk