The Joys of Spring

Spring has finally arrived, bringing promises of warmer weather, longer days and sunnier skies. What better way to celebrate than to get out in the garden, enjoy the fresh air and look forward to another gardening year?

Spring bulbs, early flowering shrubs and blossoming fruit trees provide welcome splashes of colour throughout March and April, with the rest of the garden slowly waking from its winter slumber.

Planting hanging baskets and containers with spring-flowering plants is a wonderful way to bring more colour and interest into the garden at this time of year. Garden centres and nurseries stock a fabulous array of spring bedding, with wallflowers, polyanthus, primulas, ranunculus, bellis daisies, violas and forget-me-nots all widely available now, along with pots of flowering spring bulbs including daffodils, hyacinths, grape hyacinths and fritillaries. Do not be tempted to buy summer bedding or frost-tender plants just yet, as temperatures can drop considerably at night, and frosts are a possibility until mid-May.

For a colourful spring display, combine candy pink bellis daisies with daffodils and vibrant violas. For fragrance, freshly-scented hyacinths pack a punch and look wonderful planted alongside pink primulas and delicate forget-me-nots. Jewel-coloured polyanthus can add bright sparks and dazzle when planted en masse or with daffodils and grape hyacinths.

When planting new displays in baskets or containers, it is always advisable to empty out old compost and wash the container inside and out to minimise the risk of pests and diseases. Cover the large drainage hole at the base of the container with a stone and add a layer of gravel to keep roots free from standing water. Fill with fresh peat-free potting compost, arrange plants as desired and then water in. Remember to deadhead faded flowers regularly to encourage further flowering.

There are many other important gardening jobs that need doing at this time of year. Grass is starting to grow steadily, and lawns will require regular mowing in order to look their best. Ensure that lawnmower blades are at their highest setting for the first few cuts. Lawn edges can be redefined with a half-moon edging iron; this not only makes mowing easier, but also really improves the appearance of the lawn which then acts as a wonderful foil for the rest of the garden.

Another hugely rewarding job to carry out on a sunny spring day is to work through beds and borders removing weeds, cutting back faded perennials and applying mulches or fertilisers. Hardy annual seeds can be sown once the soil warms up in March, and this is an easy and cost-effective way to ensure the garden is filled with colour in a matter of weeks. Summer-flowering bulbs such as lilies, agapanthus and gladioli can be planted out now, as can dormant dahlia tubers.

Spring really is an exciting time in the garden, with the longer days and brighter skies filling us with anticipation for the year ahead. So, make the most of the fine weather, get outside and enjoy your garden.

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