Exiles Forum

Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland




Time to tidy up

IT'S great to get out on a fine day and enjoy a tidy up around the garden in preparation for spring.

Drains may be dug to cope with waterlogged areas and repairs to outdoor structures and pathways can be carried out. Remove seedling weeds in flower beds and borders and apply a top-dress of home produced compost or wood chipping to improve the soil condition and reduce water loss later in the season.

Prepare seed beds in the vegetable garden when conditions permit for early sowings and prepare early potatoes such as Dunluce and Concorde for chitting.

Most shrubs require regular pruning in order to remain healthy and evenly shaped. Shrubs are grown for their flowers and foliage and in some cases for their fruit. Appropriate pruning will make all the difference. Not all shrubs require yearly pruning, especially those grown as single specimens. Over crowded shrubs require fairly drastic pruning to prevent them growing into each other, leaving them weak and misshapen.

The most important aspect of pruning is to remove all dead or diseased wood, otherwise the risk of disease spores multiplying and spreading to healthy wood may cause extensive damage and in some cases death of the whole shrub. Pruning cuts should be made cleanly, leaving no ragged edges or crushed bark. Thin out weak growths, leaving only well ripened healthy branches, which will carry this year's flowers, foliage, etc.

Bulbs that have been forced for Christmas can be saved when the flower and foliage fade. Remove them from the house and keep somewhere frost free to allow the foliage to completely die back. Then they may be planted outside in April where they will flower again next spring.

The Hamamelis or witch hazels are one of the most popular winter flowering shrubs or small tree. These deciduous plants are grown for their autumn leaf colour and their sweetly scented winter flowers. They flourish in full sun to part shade on a peaty acid soil. Their spidery like yellow, orange or red flowers are thickly clustered along leafless branches from December to March. Some exquisite varieties to look out for include Hamamelis Mollis pallida, Jelena and Diane.