Spring is here, and good times in the garden are coming. Don’t you just love the first days of early Spring when the windows can be flung open, and the breeze can blow through the house after all the rain and cold of winter? It enlivens the senses and makes you feel good, especially on sunny days.
Spring holds such promise for gardeners with no time for idleness. Now is the time for a flurry of activity to prepare for the long hot days of summer, entertaining in outdoor spaces and enjoying our gardens; blossoms, bulbs, flowers, fruits, fresh vegetables, herbs and of course roses.
Spring for me, means revitalising garden pots after the frost, repotting ferns and herbs, and placing the container plants that have been under frost protection in a good position for summer. Adding annuals to the base of any container grown roses, eco rose management, clean up old pots and debris after winter, and finalise any last minute pruning.
Before we head out to dig and play in the dirt, it is worth picking up a handful of garden soil and squeezing it into a ball. If it can be moulded like play-doh, it is still too wet after all the rain and winter chill. Soil should be a bit crumbly and not too full of water. If digging, walking on or turning over garden beds is done too early, it will compact the soil and damage the structure. Best to be patient and wait until it dries out after heavy rain.
The first sign of Spring is usually the Galanthus flowering, commonly known as Snowdrops. These delicate white bells are part of a small genus of bulbous perennial herbaceous plants in the family Amaryllidaceae. The plants have two leaves, and a single small white bell-shaped flower that hangs down with two green markings inside. The name is derived from the tendency to flower occasionally, weather dependant, in winter. Although, most likely in the very early stages of Spring.
Our snowdrops this year have finished long before any sign of Spring. But they are always a welcome sign that winter is almost over and things are starting to come out of dormancy. The next to bloom will be the Banksia Climbing Rose, and then we are certainly on the way towards full Spring bloom.
-‘Galanthus’ is a Greek name that translates as ‘milk flower’.
-There is a group of Snowdrop enthusiasts known as ‘Galanthophiles’ who trade, and collect snowdrops
-Galanthophiles meet at galas and special events worldwide, and the craze of these enthusiasts is known as Galanthomania
-Although a common sight in gardens Galanthus are not easy to propagate, hence why new bulbs are expensive.
-In some countries it is considered a crime to engage in the international trade of many Snowdrop varieties. They are banned from being collected, or sold including bulbs, dead or alive plants.
-Some of the collectable bulbs are so precious they are kept locked up, and have their own security. New ‘mutant’ varieties are sold for large sums of money. There is one bulb called Gallanthus plicatus ‘Golden Fleece’ that was sold for £1,390 pounds sterling in the UK.
-Inside the snowdrop is a natural substance called galantamine, that is used to help treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. But the bulbs themselves are poisonous.
-Snowdrop’s contain a natural anti-freeze habit, and even if they collapse in extreme cold weather they will recover once the temperature rises.
-Snowdrops were introduced to the UK before 1600, but are native to large sections of Europe from the Ukraine to western Turkey, and towards the Middle East.
-Snowdrop bulbs are small bulbs that are sold green or undried. So, plant them as soon as purchased to ensure they don’t dry out.
-Snowdrops ideally should be planted in early autumn in groups of 10-25.
-Plant Snowdrops in a moist well -drained soil in semi-shaded spot along a border, under a tree or shrub. Because they flower early, it is nice to view them from inside. So, perhaps plant them along a path you can see from a window for example.
-Snowdrops will multiply by offsets which are new bulbs that grow attached to the mother bulb. After a couple of years, the clump of bulbs becomes dense. So, if you wait for the flowers to fade but the leaves are still green and vigorous, you can dig up the clump, separate the bulbs, and replant them in the new spot that has been prepared.
Because I’ve worked all winter in the garden, although there are still many things to get done, I don’t have the sense of urgency, this spring as in previous years. But, there are always general tasks to get done, such as
- Check the garden for pests
- Clean up the garden and verandah pots
- Mulch the soil
- Add Seamungus to the garden beds as a soil conditioner
- Fertilise all the roses
- Start the eco-management program for roses.
- Check the climbing plants and standard roses are tied securely
- Deadhead any finished winter bulbs
- Prune any shrubs or winter salvia
- Fill any spaces in the borders with annuals and plan the flowering times so they bloom in succession
- Paint or refresh verandah furniture
- Plant summer herbs and salad greens
Another plant I’m highlighting in the garden this season is Cosmos. These light and pretty flowers are native to Mexico, blooming widely in patches of pink, white and orange through the scrub and paddocks. Cosmos is a Greek word meaning ‘beauty and harmony of the universe. It was a name adopted by the Spanish missionary priests in Mexico, who loved the flower’s even circle of petals.
Cosmos Bipinnatus variety will be planted once the seeds arrive; Cosmos bipinnatus Cupcake White, Cupcake Blush and Purity. There are three varieties of cosmos; two are annuals, and one is a perennial. The annual ones are Cosmos bipinnatus, and Cosmos sulphureus are pinks and whites that are half-hardy, so they must be planted after the frost has finished. Having just one year to set seed, they will bloom with great abundance. The Cosmos sulphureus is yellow, red, or orange blooms, and the tuberous perennial variety is a chocolate-scented burgundy Cosmos. atrosanguineus, which is grown like a dahlia. Cosmos are like sweet peas; they will flower the more you cut them. The bees will be over the moon this year with so much variety to choose from.
Title quote by Terri Guillemets
Photos by Pexels.com or as cited
Content Di Baker 2022