Gardener’s Blog – April 2015

As April begins, the gardens will continue to flourish with pink and white blossom. It’s a very beautiful time of year for our visitors as the gardens come to life and everything starts to look fresh and healthy.

Speaking of blooming, the Fuji cherry (Prunus incisa) a Japanese tree was the first to show its flowers last month. The other trees will follow this month and Chris, a senior supervisor is particularly looking forward to seeing the blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) come to life. This shrub has star-shaped white blossom that will now be lighting up hedgerows in the countryside and producing purple and black fruit, which is used to make sloe gin.

Chris will also be planting three more cultivars of Pulmonaria in the Japanese Garden. Although they are not native to Japan, these plants will cope well with the low light in the summer as they flower earlier in the year. Now is a good time to spot them opening to reveal their striking colours.

A few years ago, the Japanese bed was very densely shaded with numerous unnamed Japanese acers. The gardeners made the decision to thin them out and replant the bed with more choice Japanese shrubs. However, the gardeners weren’t aware that it was already richly planted with spring bulbs! The first spring after the clear out came as a big shock to the team as flowers appeared and stretched back about six feet into the bed. There’s Muscari (grape hyacinth), Chionodoxa (glory of the snow) and Scilla bulbs to enjoy, so come and take a look this month!

Wayne, who looks after the plants in the glasshouses, will be focusing on the Plant Evolution Trail this month. The new feature will be wrapped around the Sub-Tropical House and will feature algae, mosses and ferns. It is expected to be completed just in time for summer, keep an eye out on our monthly blog for updates.

He will also be ventilating the glasshouses more this month and using the ‘damping down’ technique. This means the floors will be covered with water to increase the humidity. This is also a handy way of keeping red spider mite away. This is also a good tip for your greenhouse at home!

And if that wasn’t enough, 4,000 young plant plugs have now arrived and will be used for the summer bedding, planters and hanging baskets. Geraniums, Begonia, Cosmos and Calibrachoas are all now being planted, to name just a few. The features in our summer bedding change each year. It’s always fun choosing our themes for the year. This year look out for our Ornamental Millet.

Spring is a busy time for any keen gardener. If the soil in your own garden has warmed up, you’ll be able to prepare outdoor seed beds in time for annual seed sowing. Remember to touch the soil to make sure it’s warm enough. The gardeners at the Botanical Gardens will be sowing wild flower meadows and grass seeds this month.

You will also need to prick out seedlings that have been sown indoors as seed compost has little food and this will deplete quickly. Each seedling will also need more space this time of year. However, don’t be tempted to put them outside too early, as there can still be frost on the grounds, particularly on those cold mornings! Harden them off in a cold frame or a well lit shed.

It’s your last chance to plant shrubs and evergreens before the autumn. Start thinking about spring bulbs for next year. They may need dividing once they have finished flowering. Think about where you would like to see more flowers in your gardens and go from there.

Up until recently, snowdrops were split in the green, however recent research suggestions that it is more beneficial in June, just before they start growing new roots in July. This, of course, means that you’ll need to mark where your snowdrops are.

When you’re not tending your own gardens, remember to come and visit ours! Senior supervisors, Chris and Wayne, have picked out their must sees for this month. Chris recommends seeing the Spiraeas in the bed behind the Lawn Aviary. Some start into growth with orange leaves, that will soon be followed by multitudinous star-like small white flowers

Wayne’s indoor favourites this month are the citrus plants in the Mediterranean House. The orange and lemon trees have started to flower and will soon turn into the fruits that we all know and love. They’re currently emitting a beautiful jasmine scent that would rival any designer perfume. The Daphnes are still smelling wonderful this time of year. Make sure to give them a sniff on your next visit before they’re over.