Gardening: Reaping the colourful benefits of a mild winter

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The days are beginning to lengthen and bringing with it more glimmers of sunshine. We all definitely need it, as I have got webbed feet with the amount of rain we have had over the winter.

If you’re like me, then I am sure you will be drawn outside to see all the lovely snowdrops, winter aconites and iris all flowering their little hearts out, as a result of the mild winter we have experienced so far. Let’s hope it will continue to warm up and be mild! I have to say it does lifts one’s spirits to see these little gems in flower.

My favourite Iris has to be ‘George’ as it has such a deep dark rich purple/blue flower. It really is striking particularly under planted with Cornus ‘kesselringii’ and the contrast of Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’. I have to say Iris reticulata species are really good stocky, sturdy little plants and stand up well to the strong winds. When planting the bulbs in the autumn, make sure you plant them deep to ensure successful flowering year on year. Winter aconites (Eranthus hyemalis) or Iris danfordiae also look great and work well with Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’, picking up on those fiery red and yellow stems. This is a really striking and a brilliant combination. Planting winter bulbs with Cornus works really well adding to the continuation of colour from winter to spring. This can be seen on the Winter Walk at RHS Garden Harlow Carr.

My colleagues and I have been working in the old winter garden tidying, weeding and cleaning through the beds, including removing the old hellebore leaves followed by mulch. As it has been mild, this has been perfect conditions to mulch, to help get ahead of the game before the growing season really starts, helping suppress those weed seeds from an early stage. I am sure this will save us valuable time later in the season. I have to say the colour really does jump out at you, and with a little sunshine even better! Doing a job like this is really rewarding and satisfying.

Removing and cutting the old leaves off your hellebores does help to see and appreciate the wonderful flowers, and if they are under attack from ‘hellebore leaf spot’. This is a black fungal infection on the leaves. By removing the leaves this helps to reduce the spores spreading, helping to maintain the plant’s health and vigour and also minimising this spreading to neighbouring hellebores. It is however very common and stimulated by excessive moisture and wet conditions, therefore stimulating the spores to spread more rapidly. It can weaken the plant but is not devastating and will recover. It is quite a common problem due to wet winters; hellebores will live for many years with the infection. It is best to remove and destroy all the infected foliage. This is less damaging to those hellebores with a tougher waxy leaf such as Helleborus argutifolius.

With spring just about here, we all look forward to being lured back out into our gardens, if you already have not done so! If we do get a cold snap, I am sure it will not hang around for long, let’s hope it will be short and sweet! Enjoy your garden.

Double Cotton Hammock with stand by Vivere.

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