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Garden Life – Gardening Tips for March 2021

Bush of Crocus Sativus

March is the first month in the Roman calendar, and it is named after Mars, the God of War. This month tends to start off windy but in the end, when spring is in sight, the weather should start to warm up – which is great news after the cold blasts and snow of February. Also, welcome news for our beloved but declining bee population, who can emerge after the cold winter months, to collect pollen again. This month we can plant lavender, dahlias and scabious, or sow seeds of calendula, sweet peas, foxgloves and cosmos all of which are ideal for a number of other pollinators as well. This year I am extending my wildflower meadow and sowing the whole area with varieties that attract pollinators too.

Some early flowering crocus have already started their bright displays and they are my favourite flowers this month. I have just discovered that Crocus Sativus, from which saffron is produced, is being grown in Cornwall again, as the crop has not been grown there since the turn of the 19th century. Saffron is a highly prized spice and is used in Cornwall mainly to make Saffron Cake and Saffron Buns. In 2014 Brian and Margaret moved to Rosevine on the Roseland and decided to work the land to grow saffron. The whole family plant, pick, pluck, process and post the crop with their fingers, how about that for an Eco-friendly business! Only the tiny, orange stamens are used and each 1g jar sells for £35 plus p+p or 0.5g, so it’s to be used sparingly!

I must admit that my garden looked rather dull over winter this year, so I have decided to add in more evergreen shrubs but with lots of different shaped and coloured leaves, to make it more exciting. Unfortunately some species may not be available yet because there are new restrictions on importing plants from the EU because of potential risks of introducing new pests and diseases. Also, plant material arriving into GB from the EU must now have a phytosanitary certificate and the UK has a new plant passport system! Apart from that life is easy! So, here are some lovely varieties: Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Golf Ball’, which is a nice compact variety; Ilex altaclarens ‘Golden King’, with wonderful variegated leaves; Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ with dark green leaves and wonderfully scented flowers; Choisya ternate ‘Sundance’, with its wonderful golden yellow leaves and finally Crinodendron hookerianum, or Chinese lantern tree, which bears multitudes of dangling, pale to deep crimson dangling flowers – they can grow up to 8m tall, so not ideal for a small garden.

Lots of seeds can be sown now and kept frost free in an unheated greenhouse, or conservatory. I have already grown up a number of hardy perennials, which I will plant out in April, when the danger of frosts should be minimal. Again, I have decided to aim for high impact colour, by planting in groups of 3 – 5 plants, rather than scattering them amongst existing plants and I hope you will like the results in my July article!

I really do feel that gardening is a wonderful, healthy activity, so do enjoy your garden.

Gill Ford

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