I think I must start this newsletter with a comment about the weather! I’m sure we all enjoyed the lovely sunshine recently, but of course this comes with some concerns about how it will affect our plants and wildlife. Lots of Queen bumblebees came out early and birds are nesting, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the subsequent storms haven’t wreaked too much havoc. The trees are full of catkins and pussy willow though which is lovely and the fruit trees are starting to blossom.

Now is a good time to prune trees and deciduous shrubs, so here in the garden we have had a blitz (what the wind hadn’t taken down already!). We’ve taken down our salixes – weeping willow, contorted willow an upright willows – which have sadly outgrown their positions and have created too much shadow on the kitchen garden. I have taken hardwood cuttings from them and also bought some lovely decorative salix which we will plant in a more suitable place.

There is still time to cut back Cornus (dogwood) and salix to keep them in check and produce highly coloured stems for the winter.

If you haven’t done so already, prune clematis, soft fruit, top fruit and hardy deciduous shrubs such as buddleia. Prune bush roses before mulching. Evergreens and Mediterranean shrubs such as rosemary should be left until the end of the month or early April, as a cold snap can set them back. Santolina can be cut to a tight knuckle late in the month to encourage new top growth but most evergreens resent being cut into old wood and should be pruned by no more than a third in any year.

Now is also a good time to plant summer bulbs, such as lilies, if the ground isn’t too sodden.

Watch out for emerging hedgehogs!

We have got lots of Dahlia tubers in the polytunnel. I usually pot them up into large pots at about this time of year ready to plant out at the end of May, but I have got so many tubers, I may take a risk and put them out into the garden in mid April and hope that they will be ok. If anyone does this too, let me know how you get on!!

This year will be another exciting one for us at Fieldcrest. In addition to our courses and visitors we have decided to sell some plants. We will specialise in scented plants and herbs, plus flowers for cutting and cottage garden plants so we hope you will call in to choose some for your own garden.

With that in mind we are now seed sowing, dividing herbaceous perennials and ordering some bare rooted plants for what will be our stock beds – April is about the last month this year that you will be able to get hold of bare rooted perennials and Roses and I’ve got my eye on some lovely David Austin ones.

Some more actions you can be getting on with this weekend:

  • Start to sow outside?  Once the soil reaches 6C you can start to sow directly outside. Don’t sow too soon as wet cold soil will kill off the seeds.
  • Salad crops, rocket and broad beans can go in now with a cloche for protection, as can sweet peas.
  • Chit seed potatoes and plant the first earlies.
  • Line out shallot sets and onions.
  • Cover rhubarb to make the most of the first new growth. The new spears are like the first cut of grass, marking the growing season ahead of us.

The nursery part of the garden will be open on a Thursday and a Friday afternoon from the beginning of April, selling plants and cut flowers, with tea/coffee available in the Garden Room.

We are also putting on some new courses this year, and welcome group bookings. Keep an eye on the website for more details or contact me directly if there’s a course or event you’d like me to repeat from previous years.

Camellia in bloom