Colours in the spring garden come in many forms. From fresh shoots poking through the warming soil, such as the peony Paeonia officinalis 'Rubra Plena' on the shrub rose border to the delicate blue shades of Brunnera macrophylla that have happily seeded about, intermingling with yellow Narcissus ‘Peeping Tom’ with which they combine beautifully.
Underneath the oak at the low pond we can just start to see Anemone blanda in shades of white and blue, of which I cannot choose a favourite and also there are still some grape hyacinths, Muscari azureum, which have been flowering for weeks by now and show no signs of slowing down at all.
The much needed task of deadheading daffodils has begun in full force, those that flowered early have finished but there are still more to come; remove flowering stems by cutting them right down as far as possible but leave the leaves to die back naturally for about six weeks, because this will ensure that the bulbs retain all the energy they need for next year’s display.
Our clay soil here at RHS Garden Hyde Hall can prove to be challenging for our tulips bulbs during the winter wet and there are far too many for us to lift them every year; however we will replant more of them if they fail. A particular favourite is Tulipa 'Ollioules' in the farmhouse garden, tall, strong and statuesque, their apricot pink shades are as enchanting as ever.
This time of year our tasks include pruning back the dogwood Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire' and willow Salix alba var. vitellina.
We do the dogwood every three years to promote fresh new winter stem colour, and the willow we prune back hard every year as they are strong in growth.
This is one task that visitors often ask us how to tell the difference; it’s in the buds we tell them - Salix have alternate buds and Cornus have opposite, the clues are in the letters.
The cutting back of last year’s plants is still in full swing, chopping down the old woody stems of the herbaceous or woody perennials, removing old plumes from the pampas grasses on the dry garden, which children love to pretend they are sword fighting with. By the end of April we hope to be ready to start planting throughout the garden, implementing new planting plans which have been patiently waiting since the winter months and increasing groups of real favourites or simply replacing the tired.
We are always busy here, from one task straight onto the next, month after month the garden changes and develops and we are here to manipulate it and make it work, this is the time when friends ask me what I have been doing during the winter when there are no flowers to tend! If only they knew....