Gardener’s Blog – March 2015

Spring is almost upon us and we can’t wait to see the gardens come alive in the March sunshine. (We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed for the nice weather, anyway.) It’s a busy time for our resident head gardeners, Chris and Wayne, as all their planning and preparation will start to pay dividends.

There is a continuous show of spring flowers. Our snowdrops are popping up throughout our gardens. Find them in the Winter Garden, Rock Garden and main lawn. The Eranthis hyemalis is already in flower but the crocuses are coming out. Don’t hesitate to visit our gardens to see these beautiful plants bloom.

Narcissus (daffodils), tulips, Leucojum (summer snowflake) and Fritillaria meleagris will follow on in April. Our trees have now started to bud and we’re all waiting with bated breath to see the beautiful blossoms next month.

The renovation of the Children’s Discovery Garden is progressing well. A new fence has been wrapped around the duck pond. Grass seeds will also be sown to ensure fresh greenery is ready for the garden’s completion by the summer holidays. Chris has been given some money to buy new exciting play equipment, which will include climbing frames, slides and towers.

A climbing tree, complete with a hole in the middle for children to explore, has been given the go-ahead and will be a main feature in the refurbished garden.

The plans don’t stop there! Chris has even bigger ideas such as a secret hideaway in the foliage. The new feature will have a circular wooden door that will create excitement for the children, as they’re curious to see what’s on the inside. Once finished, this will give the gardeners time to expand upon the retreat until there is a miniature village of wooden houses.

Chris will also be working alongside her fellow gardeners this month to finish pruning the roses in the Rose Garden. Vegetable and herb seeds have also been sown in the glasshouses. But don’t worry if you don’t have access to a glasshouse, Chris and the gardeners recommend leaving trays on your windowsill to create a similar effect – they just need lots of light and a bit of water.

It is now the perfect time to plant onion and shallot sets in your garden or allotment. However, you must keep an eye on those pesky green, white and black flies love vegetables as much as we do. A great tip to keep them at bay is to spray them with a water-diluted solution of washing up liquid.

As for Wayne, the decking for the new Plant Evolution Trail has arrived and will be wrapped around the outside of the Sub-Tropical House. It will then be filled with algae, mosses and ferns. Two new genus of cycad plants, which have a fascinating history, have also been researched and ordered from Germany. These plants have been around a lot longer than humans and can be traced back to prehistoric times. There are only 11 genus of cycad, which means that, with the new additions, Birmingham Botanical Gardens will proudly own seven.

The Orchid Case is looking fantastic and receiving a lot of attention from visitors thanks to some new plants that were added in February. Wayne has now received a further 17 orchids from Burnham Nurseries in Devon. They will be placed in the case this month. The gardens have a rich history of keeping orchids and, in the 1880s, the Botanical Gardens had more than 300 types. Since discovering this, Wayne has set himself a challenge to beat that number. There are currently 216 orchids and he is determined to get that number up to 350.

The potted plants in the glasshouses are receiving the Victorian technique of tying them up using green split canes and string. They will then go on display in the Mediterranean House. You will see Schizanthus, daffodils and tulips.

And if that wasn’t enough, the Rock Garden has a new pool and entrance. Irises and hardy cacti are thriving in this location due to its dry condition. The Fern Walk has also been revamped with new ferns one of which, Dryopteris erythrosa ‘Brilliance, has striking red fronds. The Water for Life Garden has been taken apart and planted up with Salix (willow) as willow can help clean up dirty water.

All of our gardeners have favourite plants that either blossom or thrive throughout the year and March’s favourites are camellias and Thunbergia mysorensis.

Chris’s recently planted camellias near the bandstand are bursting with buds. It’s common practice to stop camellias from flowering in the first year of planting in order to create a good sturdy framework. However, Chris couldn’t wait to see how they would flower first! Then she will cut them back once they have finished flowering.

Wayne’s choice is the Thunbergia mysorensis vine, which he calls the ‘rhubarb and custard climber’. It comes from India and produces breath-taking deep red and yellow flower heads. Look out for it in the Tropical House on your next visit. 

This month’s gardening tip is to cut back Cornus (dogwood) and Salix (willows) to achieve a good colour next year. When cutting back dogwood, ensure that you take out a third of the oldest stems for the best results. Remember to give the gardeners a wave on your next visit and, if you have any questions, they’ll be more than happy to share their knowledge.