14 March 2012
A trained horticulturist, keen organic
gardener and qualified Medical Herbalist. Jackie Power lives in Bankside
Growth in the garden has been delayed by the extreme cold weather which occurred during early February.
March brings a distinct change with warmer day time temperatures although it is still cold at night. The increase in day-light hours helps to give the impression that spring is edging closer - although the weather in March can be unsettled, with strong winds and heavy showers.
The change to milder weather and increasing day length means work in the garden begins apace. Pruning of established fruit trees and shrubs needs to be completed before the end of the month. If rose bushes were not pruned last autumn this needs to be done now, although rambling roses (distinct from other types by their small blooms) are pruned in September. If unsure when to prune a particular variety of rose check the gardening books - it is easy to interrupt flowering or damage roses if pruned at the wrong time.
The Magnolias start flowering during March; the first is usually Magnolia stellata a compact tree (also designated a shrub) producing pure white fragrant flowers, it is ideal for a small garden. Another spring flowering plant is Cornus mas (Cornelian cherry). It has clusters of yellow spidery blooms just before the leaves appear.
Cornus is an easy shrub to grow and produces berries in late summer. Crocuses and Daffodils have made their appearances a little later than usual. Snowdrops have hardly been seen this year.
The gardener is always working with the next season in mind and looking to ensure flowers for the months ahead. Summer flowering bulbs are planted during March such as Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis); this is an old fashioned garden favourite – it has dainty little white bell shaped flowers that have an intoxicating perfume.
Lily-of-the-Valley has a rich history of folklore and is a medicinal plant still in use by Medical Herbalists, principally for heart problems. However, the herbal tincture is only available to, and for dispensing by a professionally qualified herbalist. The plant must not be ingested as all parts are toxic.
But this should not deter the enthusiast from growing Lily-of-the-Valley it has been enjoyed as an early summer flowering plant for hundreds of years. In the Victorian era the ‘Language of Flowers’ (a way of communicating secret meanings through flower names) Lily-of-the-Valley signifies returning happiness and humility.
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