Gardens Blog – March 2019

This month the horticultural team is starting with the spring maintenance of the Gardens: pruning winter flowering trees and shrubs, dividing herbaceous plants, sowing seeds and proceeding with the first cut of the lawn. Very exciting!

In the Winter Border (long adorned with a constellation of early-flowering bulbs and perennials), it is now the time to prune many different woody species. Willows and stem dogwoods (Salix and Cornus species respectively) are cut down rather severely, so promoting a new growth of brightly coloured stems. Lonicera, Viburnum, Mahonia and Camellia species can also been pruned, after the flowering flush is over. Such practice is important in terms of rejuvenating the plants, as well as maintaining the right balance and height in the border.

In the Grass Garden and Cameron Path, a number of herbaceous species have been divided and moved to different positions. The importance of dividing herbaceous perennials shouldn’t be underestimated: it ensures health, vigour and longevity of plants. In addition to that, it is an opportunity for multiplying the stock, and increasing the collection. The task is usually carried out in spring or autumn, preferably in a gloomy weather (but this is not a problem in our British Isles!). Spring is certainly a best time for tender or half-hardy species; therefore, since we grow many exotics and Southern Hemisphere representatives in the Gardens, March is a perfect month. This year the garden team is particularly keen on rejuvenating some mature clumps of Chionochloa rubra (the red tussock grass from New Zealand).

Talking about grasses, In the Grass Garden the several ornamental species are all starting to come back from dormancy. After the very prolonged winter display of flower heads (we all felt in love with the rustic colours and sense of the winter frost on them), it is time for cutting the old stems down.

In the Terrace, the team has been making plans for the summer display. Dahlias will once again be making their welcomed return to the terrace. The box and beech hedges will be lowered down a little bit, so allowing a more open vista of our “Oasis of Delight”. (This is how some of our gardeners like to call the grounds, after the title of the Birmingham Botanical Gardens book; check this link, if you want to know more: ). Always on the Terrace, the box hedges will need to be sprayed monthly against blight, and the paths kept weed-free during spring and summer.

Some of the Garden’s areas have been improved over the winter months. The Bamboo Corner has been cleared from some unwanted hard-landscaping material and top dressed with woodchip, which blends beautifully with the golden-coloured bamboo canes. In the Kitchen “Scarecrow” Garden some raised beds have been repaired and are now ready for being cultivated with a variety of vegetables and flowers. In the Herb Garden, the display will be implemented with new plants acquired from various nursery (our Plant Sales included!) or grown directly from seed. In the Rose Garden, eight new Victorian-style obelisk have been positioned in the centre of the beds: climbing roses will be trained on the obelisks, so adding structure and colour in one of the most prominent and beloved area of the Garden. The Alpine Yard is still undergoing major renovation; while preparing for the kick-off of the construction phase, several different plants have been dug out and “heeled in” in the border. This is only a temporary home for them, as we aim to reuse the plants in the new planting scheme of the area. Watch this space!

Meanwhile, the indoor team will be busy changing the displays in the cool glasshouses. The daffodils grown in pots and cold frames over the winter are now ready to be brought in. Green garden canes and string will be used to stake the tall flowers to stop them from falling over. These will also be used in the 21m long floral display in the Mediterranean House during March.
In the Tropical and Subtropical Glasshouses, the increasingly warm temperatures will lead to flush and floriferous growth of plants. There will a lot of colour and botanical interest here over the next months.



If you aren’t sure of what needs to be done in your own garden, why not follow our seasonal tips for March below:

  • Give any bulbs that you have in pots a high-potassium feed every 10-14 days to prolong the display, as well helping the bulb replenish it stores for next year.
  • Lift and split herbaceous perennials and ornamental grasses. Not only does it increase your stock, it also allows you to fill up any bare areas in your garden. If you only re-plant the younger growth and discard the old material it will also provide the plants with renewed vigour to grow.
  • Turn your compost heaps. On a cold day this job will warm you up and it will allow the layers of material to mix together, letting in air and helping material to rot. This gives you a much better chance of making high-quality garden compost.
  • Start planting summer flowering bulbs such as Lilles and Gladiolus for a summer display or to use as cut flowers for your house.
  • As Rose buds are fattening up, it’s the perfect time to prune your roses to an outward facing bud.
  • It’s important to clean glasshouses and cold frames ready for the new growing season.
  • Wash plant pots and seed trays to prevent pests and diseases from damaging precious young plants.
  • Sow hardy annuals seeds such as sweet peas (if you didn’t get round to doing it in the autumn) – remember that April will be too late to do this.
  • Start feeding houseplants with a high nitrogen fertiliser every 7 to 14 days to encourage growth.
  • Place Canna, Dahlias and Ginger Lilies in a warm spot in the glasshouse and give them a good water to encourage new growth.