Kalettes or ‘flower sprouts’
As I was walking this morning, the sun was shining and I could definitely feel the gentle warmth of its rays, which was fantastic. We have had a very mild winter so far, with a few sharp frosts and snow further north, but here we have the treats of winter flowering Jasmine and the first display of daffodils February Gold outside Notcutts, to welcome everyone to Cranleigh! Also, the gorse flowers are out early, as they normally flower in April and their scent is a distinctive coconut and vanilla smell, said to be quite pungent to some individuals, but weak to others.
The bare branches of deciduous trees add stunning colour to the winter garden and the bark literally shines in the sunlight and these are some of my favourites:
- Prunus serrula with chestnut bark – Tibetan cherry – see below
- Acer x conspicuum ‘Phoenix’Betula utilis sebsp. Albosinensis ‘Red Panda’
- Cornus sericea ‘Cardinal’
Now is the ideal time to plant trees, as long as hard frosts are not forecast but you must dig a square hole that is twice the size, in depth and width, of the rootball, to allow the roots to spread out. Do tease the roots out so they can grow outwards rather round in a circle, sprinkle Mycorrhizal fungi powder on the roots and fill the remaining hole with good peat free compost, firming it down with your foot, to protect the roots from frost penetrating down.
I have been buying a number of new helibores, as a treat to flower on the patio , which I will plant out into the flower beds later on in the spring. I also cut off the leaves of the established helibores, so the downward facing flowers are in full view. Later this month I will start to cut back the old stems and seed heads of the perennials and clear the leaves to allow other bulbs to poke through the soil. Once the spring bulbs start to emerge, I top dress the beds with a layer of compost to enrich the soil. Also this year I have decided to add a layer of fine bark chippings, which will suppress the growth of weeds. It really is such a lovely treat watching the garden come to life again. However, it is best to avoid walking on or cultivating wet or frozen soils, particularly clay soils, as this can lead to compaction. Also walking on frozen lawns can damage the grass – so use the paths instead for now!
My indoor plants are struggling, as I failed to feed them sufficiently during the winter. So, I use good peat free compost mixed with slow release granules. I remove the plant from the pot and shake off the soil, clean the pot and put a layer of compost in the bottom. If the plant has become compacted, I get a bucket of warmish water and give the roots a good wash before placing it in the pot, firming cosy new soil around its roots, firming the surface down gently, then watering it and it’s ready for a healthier life again and I will remember to feed them weekly too!
It is also time to pot up bulbs that have been stored over the winter months. The best way to pot up dahlias is to use good peat free compost enriched with slow release fertiliser. First put a layer of compost into a pot, which is large enough for all the branches of the tuber. Then pop in the tuber and firm more compost into the pot around the tubers making sure that the top of the tuber is level with the soil and the old stem pokes out above the surface. They should be kept in daylight and watered regularly but allowing the water to drain through, so it does not become waterlogged, otherwise the tubers will rot. Dahlias are a magnet for slugs, so they will need a scattering of slug pellets once the new shoots emerge.
Now the fun in the veggie patch can start too by sowing some of the hardy varieties of leeks, onions and brassicas. I have been sowing Kalettes or flower sprouts for a number of years and they are really delicious. They have a more delicate flavour than normal sprouts and they if you take the flowers off the stem gently, produce more flowers and you can eat the leaves and flowers from the top. The seeds germinate well and can be obtained from Chiltern Seeds and Sarah Raven.
Do enjoy getting back out into the garden and seeking out the spring bulbs and delicate scents.