Snowdrops in abundance, daffodils blooming and the hedgerows starting to green up - the signs of spring are everywhere. Richard Orton reports on preparations for the new season at Lewis Cottage.

This weekend I heard the first of our woodpecker’s familiar rat-a-tat-tat as it bored a hole into the trunk of an old oak and noticed that it was 5.30 before dusk began to draw its curtain of darkness across the day.  This tells me it’s time to get a move on and start preparing the garden for a new season.

In the Greenhouse

Beds in the greenhouse replaced and repaired

We’ve already repaired and rebuilt the beds in the greenhouse and filled them with fresh soil enriched with organic matter. While it waits for the tomato plants I sowed last week to be big enough to plant out, we will make good use of the space for bringing on last year’s cuttings and nursery plants. It’s always a game of ‘wait & see’; of excitement as you watch the naked pots of soil erupt into life and of disappointment when the odd plant clearly hasn’t made it through the winter months.  

More dahlias and roses

Michael is always keen to see if there are new plants that I’ve sourced as it will mean any spares will be set aside for the garden. I know there are more dahlias on the way after last year’s success and an old favourite of Michael’s, the Plume Poppy (Macleaya Kelway’s Coral Plume) is to make a welcome return this year.

Michael did question though why I had ordered more roses. With over 40 different types in the garden he thought we had enough. I disagreed: these are all roses that have fabulously striking hips making them ideal for our winter garden. Some are black (R.pimpinellifolia), some huge (R.rugosa), some bright red (R.canina) and others purple (R.spinosissima). Not only will these extend the gardening year but they will also provide much needed food for the local wildlife as well.   

Rose hips extend the gardening year

R.Pimpinellifolia rose hip
Food for local wildlife

Outside in the garden proper, there has been plenty of tidying up to do, more composting and bonfires aplenty.

Whilst we can reasonably take our time to get the garden ‘NGS ready’ for our first opening in May, there are some gardens around the county that are already opening their gates to the more intrepid gardeners amongst you, particularly the Galanthophiles. All of course abiding by government rules, both Higher Cherubeer Farm and The Mount, Delamore have already had their first NGS open garden weekend. 

Bird of Paradise blooms for the first time

In last month’s article I made passing mention to our hope that a mature (but thus far, non flowering) Bird of Paradise plant might decide to get 2021 off to a flying start by gracing us with a flower. Hey presto! – as if by magic two weeks later we have our first bloom. On further investigation we found the original label which said that seed was sown in September 2005; let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 15 years for the second flower!

Top tips for March

●      Sow leeks, salads, spinach, chard on a sunny windowsill indoors. Use modules to make planting out easier.

●      Prune bush and climbing roses.

●      Top dress planter and containers with fresh compost.

●      Put in plant supports before the growing season begins in earnest.

●     Treat your borders to a 2” layer of well-rotted compost or manure. You could also use a general pelleted fertiliser or fish, blood & bone. The same applies to your veg          garden.

●     Cut back plants grown for their coloured winter stems such as Cornus and Willow. Be brutal  and cut down to their base to stimulate growth for next year.

●     Plant native hedging to encourage wildlife.

●     Dig in green manure if grown in your veg garden.

●     Cover your vegetable beds with plastic sheeting to keep them dry and warm them up.

●     Cut down autumn fruiting raspberry canes to encourage new ones to fruit later this year.

Gardens open for the NGS during March

Please check for cancellations due to Covid-19, pre booking essential. 

13 /14 March   Haldon Grange Exeter

14 March           Bickham House Exeter

22 /23 March  Houndspool Dawlish

Further information on the garden and plant sales can be found on the
Lewis Cottage Website.

Mar 5, 2021

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