Spring is within reach as March brings visible changes; leaf buds look ready to open and daffodils are in flowery abundance. The sun is higher in the sky and daylight hours are increasing. Once the clocks go forward on March 29th winter will be over!
Magnolia Soulangeana was in full bloom at the beginning of March with gorgeous large upright pink flowers clothing every leafless branch. Less common and perhaps more beautiful are the white or purple varieties. Magnolias are a welcome opening to spring. Cornus mas – the Cornelian cherry has produced clusters of small yellow flowers – that will be followed by red berries; and later in the year – purple leaf colour in autumn. Cornus is versatile – it can be used as a hedging plant or in the borders and beds.
If roses were not pruned last autumn this needs to be done now; excluding rambling roses which are distinct from hybrid and shrub types; ramblers have masses of small, short lived flowers; pruning is done in September. Many plants are waking from their winter sleep, although some – notably Geraniums and Marguerites – flowered all winter long.
Planning for next season is always part of the gardening schedule, to make sure there is something flowering and the vegetable patch is producing crops each season. This month it is time to think about planting summer flowering bulbs and there are many to choose from. They help to fill in any gaps that occur as main seasonal favourites come and go.
Bulbs to consider are Crocosmia (Monbretia) with their striking red flowers and long sword shaped leaves – they bring some drama to the borders in July. The delicate Summer Hyacinth (Galtonia) is useful planted in beds or containers. It has white flowers and is a slender version of the spring Hyacinth but with a more delicate perfume. Sparaxis has jolly flowers in a range of colours: pinks, purples, white and orange – all with yellow centres. The common name is Harlequin flower which suits its multicolour appearance. And finally, Triteleia has mauve star shaped blooms – it looks good anywhere but especially in window boxes and containers.
The cottage garden perennial Lily-of-the-Valley (a type of bulb) is worth introducing for the dainty, white bell flowers which have an intoxicating, sweet perfume, although the flowering period (late spring) is short. Lily-of-the-Valley looks perfect planted against a backdrop of Lilac and pastel coloured roses.