March in the garden – The first sight of spring
It’s often the homeowner’s love of nature and their garden that compels them to choose an orangery or garden room over a traditional house extension. The amount of glazing and wide opening doors really allows you to bring the outside in, and enjoy your garden in a way that you never have before.
As the first delicate shoots of spring begin to show, expect to see your garden come alive with an array of vibrant spring florals. Coming into bloom is the charming Daffodil Narcissus and Snakes Head Fritillary Fritillaria Meleagris, their complementary colours of yellow and purple signal warmer days ahead. Supplying the scent of spring is the mild and sweet perfume of Lily of the Valley Convallaria Majalis, and fresh floral fragrance of Hyacinths Hyacinthus. Both excellent additions to enjoy from your spring patio.
But that’s not all this March.
The arrival of spring brings with it the start of a full calendar of gardening opportunities, our ‘In the Garden’ Series provides a comprehensive guide to your evolving garden. Highlighting a sample of what perennials, shrubs and trees are showing throughout the year and providing tips on how to make the most of each fascinating species.
THE FIRST SIGHT OF SPRING
Emerging from the warming soil are the delicate shoots of herbaceous plants such as Larkspur Delphinum, Transvaal Daisy Gerbera and Tulip Tulipa. But the warmth of spring also begins to awaken the well-rested garden gastropods – or slugs and snails – hungry and ready to make a meal out of these new arrivals.
Gaining a head start to control their populations now can save much heartache later. Planting deterrents, like Geranium Pelargonium, disliked for their ciliate stems that create a furry barrier that is uncomfortable and dehydrating for these small molluscs to endure. Or consider the wild Foxglove Digitalis Purpurea. A beautiful option for attracting the welcome attention of bees, all parts of this fascinating species is highly poisonous and deadly when consumed by any leaf-munching pests.
Other natural remedies for controlling the destructive visits of slugs and snails are coffee grounds, eggshells or diatomaceous earth – the fossilised remains of tiny aquatic organisms called diatoms. All of which creates an abrasive surface atop any beds and borders. Alternatively, mulching and turning over the soil can encourage birds who will make a feast of any slugs and snails and prove excellent garden companions throughout the season.
Further arrivals of Siberian Squill Scilla and Winter Aconite Eranthis can also be enjoyed. In addition to Camas Camassia, and the early showings of Spring Starflower ipheion uniflorum, a hardy star-shaped flower that is easy to naturalise due to its grass-like foliage. Creating wild and organic variation across the lawn to be admired form your orangery window. Also making an appearance are the similar but more clustered blooms of Striped Squills Puschkinia – also known as the Russian Snowdrop – that bare silvery-blue blooms which will flower until April.
Appearing from often more shady areas and beneath large trees, are the spring flowering Grape Hyacinth Muscari. A bulbous perennial with deep violet blooms and a sweet fragrance. These perennials are best suited to more free-flowing and loose gardens as they grow quickly and may be considered invasive when planted in organised beds and borders. Tall and unusual is the M. Paradoxa variety, native to the middle east and showing blooms of teal that evolve into a deep and dark inky-blue. Their colouring and size, of around 12 inches in height, make them an excellent choice for underplanting any white Tulip Tulipa, for a remarkable and dramatic display. Due to their height and fullness, they are magnificent florals to frame doorways or patio corners.
WHAT TO-GROW IN MARCH
The wisdom is in the timing this March, do not be fooled by the warming sunshine one weekend which can easily turn into a sudden frost the next. But those of us who are intent on making a start, keep an eye on the forecasts and be ready with fleece or cloches for any cold snaps. Particularly those in northern UK counties who may experience the effects of winter for longer than those down south.
Seeds to sow this month are Cosmos, Chillea Achillea Millefolium, Coneflower Echinacea Purpurea, Snapdragons Antirrhinum or Morning Glory Ipomoea Purpurea. Plant out any Lupin Lupinus or Tickseed Coreopsis ‘in the green’ and make a start on any Dahlia tubers. March also brings with it the last chance for starting Sweet Pea Lathyrus Odoratus, and a variety of Lily Lilium for late summer blooms.
Perhaps the most easily cultivated is the L. Regale variety, which can grow up to around 4-6 feet tall. Each of their stems supports multiple highly fragrant flowers which make them excellent patio plants to enjoy from a seating area or even an open window. Planting in groups of a minimum of 3 bulbs, in neutral or acidic soil, will have the greatest visual impact and a well-balanced cluster of flowers.
Other popular varieties are Tiger Lily L. Lancifolium a taller variation that will benefit from staking and feeding with high potash feeder, typically using a nutrient ratio of 5-10-5 to stimulate flowering. Or the beautiful Turkscap L. Superbum with small downward flowers, these early bloomers are ideal for sunny spots that are dappled in shade or pots in well-draining, neutral or alkaline soil.
Another favourite is the Madonna Lily L. Candidum, ideal for those in Southern UK counties. The spirally leaves and trumpet-shaped flowers are often highly fragrant. Native to the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean, they were first known to grow over 4000 years ago having featured across many ancient Cretan, Greek and Mesopotamian artefacts. These plants grow best in south-facing gardens under full sunlight and sheltered from strong cold winds. Growing to a height of around 3 – 5 feet and enjoying neutral or alkaline soils.
Northern counties can delight in the growth of Asiatic Hybrids, look out for varieties such as L. Gran Paradiso or L.Brunello. Cold hardy lilies that grow to around 3-4 feet in height and display a long blooming season of up to 1 month, can thrive in full sun or part shade areas. Be sure to plant at least 6 weeks before your last frosts to prevent any new growth from being picked off by a drop in temperature.
When planting Lilies in March, expect to see a mid-late summer bloom and consider planting companions such as Asters Asteraceae to provide shade at the base during the warmest summer days. The pairing will also display lush fullness and bursts of colour once the Lilies begin to fall out of season while hiding any undesirable stems as they die away. These can be sown as seeds now or planted ‘in the green’ between March and May.
Complimentary to the large ornamental Lilies is a variety of Dahlias. Start them off under glass this March to get a head start on their growth, ready to move out into the garden to harden off in May – sign up to our monthly roundup to receive our ‘May In The Garden’ edit, straight to your inbox for more on flowering Dahlias.
The opening and closing of Snapdragon flowers make these blooms endlessly fascinating to enjoy. The most popular choice is the A. Majus Variety. Extremely easy to grow, preferring cooler climates. These brightly coloured flowers will continue to bloom right up until Autumn and have even been known to continue into winter. Making them an ideal seed to sown across the UK. Their highly saturated colours are best grown in full sun or partly shaded areas in rich and well-draining soils. Start them off in March under glass and bring them out only after seeing the last frosts to protect their delicate growth.
Some names to look out for are Rocket or Snappy tongue which are taller and require staking. Growing up to 4 feet. Or the smaller Liberty which only reaches 30 inches. Some shorter and trailing options for baskets and flower boxes include the aptly named Tom Thumb, Floral Carpet, Luminaire or Cascadia.
MORNING GLORY IPOMOEA PURPUREA
Early risers and self-professed ‘morning people’ should sow the seeds for Morning Glory Ipomoea purpurea in March to enjoy their summer flowering. A hardy annual climber that is native to South America, it grows quickly and easily. Great for growing up walls, obliques, or even through shrubs and trees. They make a great solution to filling gaps while other perennial climbers such as Chocolate Vine Akebia or Potato Vine Solanum Crispum, can become established. Ensuring the perfect fullness and backdrop to any property. Preferring full sun, south, or west-facing areas, they are also beneficial to attract bees and other pollinators due to the nectar-rich flowers.