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It feels like the spring flowers are having a race to bloom first this year. Whereas there is usually a recognisable flowering rhythm and order, this year we have had spring aconites, snowdrops, crocus and wild violets all vying simultaneously for our attention. Narcissi are not far behind and even hyacinths are already in bud. It is wonderful to have these harbingers of spring creating little splashes of colour in our gardens and hedgerows, but it is a little disconcerting. Many gardeners are poised with their secateurs, wondering if this is the right moment to prune and cut back plants which would normally wait another month. We share their confusion!
When we set up the Norfolk School of Gardening we made a series of environmental promises which we published on our website. These included things like not buying plastic plant pots, minimising our use of mains water, growing our own plants or buying locally, not using any chemicals to control pests or kill weeds. We also said we would not use any peat-based compost products. We have stuck to all these promises and do strongly believe we gardeners should all do our bit, however tiny our contribution to conserving and protecting resources may seem. The environmental impact of horticultural practices such as the use of countless plastic plant pots and the depletion of peat bogs to make compost has been talked about widely for years, so it was surprising and really disappointing to hear garden designer Bunny Guinness on the radio last week defending the use of peat-based compost. She claimed the impact was a drop in the ocean and that the alternatives were not any good. I think we could take her to task on both claims, but certainly Sylvagrow compost which we use is producing excellent results and contains no peat at all. It is true that not all peat-free products are as consistent, so we would love to hear from you if you are using peat-free compost and what you think about it.
The next couple of weeks see the first Caring for Fruit Trees, Lawn Care & Maintenance and Shrub & Rose Pruning courses of the year. We do have some spaces left so get in touch if you would like to join us on these very topical days which will get you going with key jobs in your own garden over the coming weeks.
Upcoming courses with availability:
Pruning Shrubs & Roses 24th October
Renovation Pruning 1st November
Caring for Fruit Trees 11th February
Lawn Care & Maintenance 14th February
Pruning Shrubs & Roses 25th February
Gardening Under Glass 6th March
Plants for Free - Propagation Workshop 13th March
What Needs Doing Now 14th March
Certificate in Practical Horticulture (10 week course) starting 29th April & 2nd May
Plant of the Week
Helleborus x hybridus
This is a semi-evergreen perennial with divided, glossy, dark green leaves and branched stems bearing bowl-shaped flowers at this time of year. The flowers can be white, pink, green or smokey purple and are often speckled or spotted inside.
The hellebore or Lenten rose grows best in moist but well-drained neutral or alkaline soil in sun or semi shade. If you remove faded or damaged foliage as the flowers appear the flowers will appear much more prominent. Mulch annually in autumn.