Sue is a passionate gardner
There is a definite Buzz in the air as spring is springing up all around us. This is a perfect time of year in the garden. I just love seeing what has survived over winter and enjoying the fresh air.
Over the last 13 years I have planted so many different varieties that I have lost count with what and where they are, so I will be in for a few surprises when the shoots push through. I usually buy bulbs in bulk online as I prefer large quantities for maximum impact.
One of my favourite tulips, Gavota (left), is a perfect companion for the Cotinus which is commonly known as the Smoke bush. Incidentally, as some tulips are classed as annuals make sure you are buying perennials if you want them to appear next year.
Cheerful narcissus provides excellent perfume in the garden. I tend to plant them in pots so they can be moved around, and also underplant them in a large barrel with Hosta. The bulbs fade just as the Hosta start to appear and there is no need to cut off the foliage, just give a good mulch at the end of the season.
If you are thinking of a greenhouse, place it on a concrete floor. It makes keeping it clean much easier, reduces the number of insects, and watering by hose (when permitted) is more effective. Our polycarbonate greenhouse has certainly paid for itself in raising our own plants from seed.
Early March is a good time to start sowing seeds, either in the greenhouse or on your windowsill. It really depends on the weather but if you have a few propagation units, or even some heat mats, it is possible to achieve the correct temperatures for germination.
I often find I have too many seedlings for my own garden but I can usually find a friend to swap seeds with. A group of friends could even sit down at the start of the season and agree who is sowing what and then share.
We recently joined a local Seed Association where they offer a free plant and seed swap three times a year. It’s a great way to meet French neighbours and learn what they like to grow and eat. We had no idea what to expect at the first session but we set off with a car full of seeds that I had collected at the end of summer, plus some plants that had been divided, and cuttings from shrubs. We came back with a similar amount, having found homes for our offerings and some new interesting plants in exchange. Your local Mairie should have details of the Associations in your department.
Pruning and Mulching
Roses can be pruned after the frosts by taking out any diseased stems and cutting those that are thinner than a pencil down to one bud. As a general rule the weaker the shoot, the harder the prune. If you are in any doubt and feel a bit nervous, find a step-by-step guide online. Summer flowering shrubs (those flowering after June) can also be pruned at this time.
Now is the best time to mulch, preferably with your own compost (see the September/October issue for the recipe). Top dressing or lightly forking in around shrubs, trees and perennials will put nutrients into the soil and suppress weeds, as well as making the borders look neat and tidy.
Check out your tools and book that mower service. Look out for promotions on compost at your local stores and buy in bulk when it’s on offer. Now is the time to weed and feed your lawns. Rake up those few leaves, sow bare patches and make those edges straight. Make the first cut just a tidying up session to avoid frost damage on new growth.
Think about pots and containers too and look out for inexpensive Pansies and Primulas in local markets. I love to find something different to plant up. This year I found an old ladder at a Vide Grenier and attached some small plastic containers to each rung to make a garden feature. Summer Geraniums can also be bought as plug plants ready to brighten a shady corner.
The Open Gardens season will soon be with us. If you are interested in finding out more about gardening in France please take a look at www.opengardens.eu
First published in the March/April 2019 issue of The Local Buzz
Images: Sue Sargeant and Shutterstock