Geoff Stebbings: Tips for your week in the garden!

Geoff Stebbings: Tips for your week in the garden!

4 March 2022

Early spring colour

Welcome to the first of our weekly garden posts to mark the countdown to Garden Show Ireland 2022. It is exciting to be planning for the Show after the gap of the last couple of years and it will be great to be back. As usual, there will be lots of exciting events to make each day special and I am looking forward to meeting lots of you at the talks and question and answer sessions.

Each week I will be giving tips on what to do in your garden and inspiring ideas to help you make your own garden more beautiful. In the past two years I have begun my own new garden and have been busy converting a field to a garden so I have been getting my hands, and wellies, dirty.

By the time we get to the Show, spring will be in full flow but just now we are in that strange season when one day spring seems to be well on its way and the next it feels like winter will never end. It is now that I really appreciate tough, hardy plants that can be relied on to make me smile on the roughest day.

We are well into the season of Daffodils and, with luck and good planting, we can enjoy daffodils from now until the Show. There are so many kinds, that flower at different times, and they are so easy to please and grow so well here. If you didn’t get round to planting them in autumn you will find pots in bud, for sale almost everywhere. The chances are that they will be the dainty, but tough ‘Tête-à-tête’, probably the most common daffodil in the world now. It is everywhere, but with good reason and every year I buy a pot for the windowsill and plant it in the garden after flowering so I get more clumps every year. All bulbs in pots are a great way to add colour to patio pots and will bloom in the garden next year if you move them to borders after blooming.

When I started gardening I was considered a bit strange for growing Hellebores but now they are everywhere. They are tough, live for many years and start to bloom in the New Year. The most popular are the colourful Lenten roses (Helleborus hybridus) which have flowers in shades from almost black, through red and pink to white and pale yellow. These thrive in part shade and tolerate most soils provided they are not waterlogged. In full sun they must not be short of water in summer and they are perfect under trees and shrubs. They are also effective in pots on a shady patio but use John Innes compost and not multipurpose compost.

Primroses and celandines are appearing in the hedgerows and primroses and polyanthus are among my favourite flowers of the whole year. With Mother’s Day approaching (March 27) I am sure we will all be tempted to buy the brightly coloured kinds in garden centres and shops with their huge blooms. These are not really suitable for planting outside but those with smaller flowers are and I am a big fan of the Kennedy Irish Primroses which have been bred from traditional old kinds and are hardy and long-lived. They are bred in Ballycastle but now sold all over the world. My favourite is ‘Avondale’ which reminds me of the old ‘Kinlough Beauty’ which was bred in Leitrim.  Look out for these fabulous plants in garden centres now or ask for them!

Forget-me-nots are another old-fashioned flower and they are falling from popularity. This may be because they can seed rampantly in some gardens but more probably because they should be sown in July, when most of us have stopped sowing seeds for the year. They are best planted in autumn but it is nice to treat yourself to a pot in bud now and enjoy the dainty flowers. With luck it may shed a few seeds around too. They thrive in part shade and are perfect companions for all the other plants mentioned this week.

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