Spring has Sprung!
Updated: Mar 30
Spring can creep up on you. It sometimes feels that whilst it was winter last week it is now spring. There is a Chinese proverb that says: ‘Spring is sooner recognized by plants than by men.’ It’s true. Long dormant plants seem to sense before we do that the nights are getting shorter and the days warmer, and now is the time to start thrusting new shoots through the soil and letting buds burst from their casings.
What a joy to see crocus out. Also out and about are queen bumble bees, emerging from their hibernation, looking for pollen and nectar to get them ready for the maternity task ahead.
But bees aren’t the only creatures up and about in spring-time: that perennial of all specimens emerges, bleary-eyed from looking at all those seed catalogues - the gardener. So, where do we begin? It’s totally weather-dependent, of course, but one thing we can do is visit the local nursery.
Visit Your Local Nursery
Although all manner of containerized, hardy, woody and herbaceous plants can be planted at any time of year (unless the ground is frozen or there has been heavy rain – mmm, that sounds like a typical winter here in Lancashire!), spring is a good time to visit your local nursery to stock up. Nurseries will have a top-quality collection of plants which have weathered the winter or new season plants that are raring to go. And don’t be tempted to just go for ones that are already in flower otherwise your garden will look a little forlorn later in the year - do a bit of homework before you go so that you know what you’re looking for. If you can’t find exactly what you want, be guided by the nursery owner who will be able to recommend close substitutes. Look for plants with strong new growth and with a root system that fills the pot but is not pot-bound. Knock the plant out of its pot and have a good look - any nursery owner worth their salt won’t mind you doing this.
Do Some Pruning
Early Spring is also the time to prune some shrubs, particularly those that flower in late summer. I am thinking of Buddleja sp (butterfly bush) for example. If left unpruned, Buddleja will quickly grow lanky and, since it produces flowers only on new season’s growth, it will soon become ‘top-heavy’ with flowers. Even if we have an early spring and new growth has already started to appear you can still prune the branches hard back, leaving only 5cm or thereabouts of last year’s growth. This not only keeps the bush tidy but you will also be rewarded with a plethora of large flowers - many more than if you had not pruned. And don’t forget to cut out any dead or diseased wood.
Spring is a good time to plant perennials. Planting them now, when new growth is just emerging, gives them an excellent start and in no time at all they will get their roots down into the ground, and form a goodly mass of leaf and flower buds above ground. It is as well to give tall-growing perennials support before they actually need it. A circle of canes with twine criss-crossed between them, pea sticks, or specially made wire frames will all do a good job, and by the time the flowers have grown through them the supports will be all but invisible.
There are loads of seeds that can be sown now - flower as well as veg and salad – to give a good crop later in the year. I’m thinking of sweet peas (unless you sowed them last autumn), pot marigold, cornflower, antirrhinum, cosmos; salad leaves; peas and beans, courgettes, the cabbage family, tomatoes. Some will need a bit of protection, either in a greenhouse or on the window sill, to get them going, but other can be sown straight into the soil, as long as the weather is favourable. Check on the seed packets to see what the best method is.