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Talkback: Preparing gardens for spring

Great article. I am sure, mid-January, the thing that keeps us gardeners going is the thought of spring being not too far away so sharing what we are all doing to prepare can only help.

In my garden, on the edge of a town in Hertfordshire, I am still coming to terms with the damage of last month's frosts which have had a terrible effect, especially on any evergreen shrubs and perennials. I have a ceanothus which has lost all its leaves, euphorbias which usually look stately at this time of year but which will have to start again from ground level and a magificent 10 foot pittosporum which looks very much the worse for wear.

What seems to have come through undamaged - wouldn't you know it - are weeds. They are everywhere and the recent mild spell has given them all the encouragement they need to grow ! So I've been out weeding - it is a relentless task but I found them easier to extract with the soil being that much softer. It also stops them getting a head start on everything else.


  • Enjoyed this article. The thought of spring is keeping me uplifted. I want to mulch my borders but it's such wet weather at the moment.I can't wait to start some seed sowing annuals in trays next month. it's the anticaption of what you can grow and create for the coming season.
  • I had a bit of a tidy this weekend, but only picking up the rubbish that had blown into the garden, and had been lurking under the snow which has finally all melted. I did consider starting to cut back the perennials I'd left for the wildlife, but there are only so many I could reach without standing on the waterlogged soil, so decided to leave that for another day.

    I was heartened to see my first snowdrops in flower :-)
  • I have just got shot of a cold in time to tackle the debris, and had a nice surprise viz. my monstrous Yucca gloriosas are quite easy to saw branches off at this time of year. I work from the paths so as not to destroy the structure of my soil and throw well=rotted horse manure over the veg.plot but my snowdrops, cyclamen coum ,winter pansies and early primroses are a sight for sore eyes. My red hamamelis is covered in bloom, likewise my yellow one which had a whole branch cut off by the snow but I have stuck it in the ground and who knows I may have to next year. Good news as well as my flowering quince is breaking buds all over, at least six weeks late, so late I thought it was dead. No chance of the brambles dying however so that is my big task this week. I too love to compare photos, James. It's so helpful that the computer dates all the photos or rather the camera does. It was all such a hassle pre-digital and took valuable tine away from gardening. your lilac irises look superb.
  • It starts with the sad state of the garden as with yours but we can look forward to much better days and give plenty of time to preparing for spring. I like to look forward as the other comments, the pleasant times are just around the corner
  • Ive just come in from a quick tidy up in my dead looking garden. I was overjoyed to see that my collection of bearded iris have survived and the spring bulbs are poking up. Also all my favourite pots are intact after the harsh cold. We had hardly any snow in Peterborough, so the extreme cold killed all my desert plants that i had cosseted away for the winter.
    If I have any concerns its for my Olive tree. Its dropped a lot of its leaves and the bark is a little cracked in places. The branches are about the thickness of my thumb. Hes only about 10 years old and I put him in the border (south facing and protected against worst of wind) late spring 2010. I fleeced the ground around him with left over sheep fleece and crossed my fingers. Then we had the lowest temps in the east. Any advice or positive ideas would be gratefully received regarding my olive.
    P.S Good luck to Happymarion and her brambles, dont go to mad. I did last year (digging) and lost the feeling down my arms for 3 weeks. Not a good experience. The doctor was naturally condescending, and unsympathetic.
  • Thomasina 18 - thanks for the warning but I am just cutting them down to the ground and occasionally digging in with my secateurs and snipping out some roots. I think I am too old at 82 to be digging, but I love using the border fork. I thought I had lost a seven-year-old olive last year and cut it down to the ground. It then grew 4new stems and i was looking forward to my multistemmed olive tree but I think the bad December has done for it. Next one I buy shall stay in the conservatory, but you could try pruning off all dead wood as a ten-year=old tree must have a good root system.
  • I have a big garden full of brown mess but my grandad said to leave it all alone until l8r as it might all grow back.i am in yorkshire. My snowdrops are up and there wer geese going over so spring will cum as it alway doz. I onli came on this site to moan about bbc taking Toby away & so i am not looking forword to spring on tv as i realy dont like monty dum(haha). But i am looking for mi garden to cum bak.
  • Thomasina 18 - I suggest just to wait-and-see for a couple of months. :-)

    A few years ago I was given a small olive tree in a pot for Xmas. So I put it in my unheated greenhouse, thinking that would keep it out of the cold.
    Unfortunately it got very dry - nearly all the leaves crisped-up & fell off...

    I took it outside & watered it & it recovered fully over the next year.

    Since then I have overwintered it under the eaves of the house. It seems not to have noticed the last 2 winters of sub-zero temperatures. Phew
  • I have an allotment in northwood kirby nr liverpool. And the local sclools are coming to the allotment this year. And i whuld like any one out there to give me some advice on how to teach them. The best way to grow plants and veg.
  • I too have very bare olive trees, totally brown ceanothus' and a couple of rhododendrons that have lost all of their leaves, who knows what we will find we unwrap the bananas and palms - mush probably. But all is not lost my winter box is perfuming the whole garden.

    The big question is how long to wait for them all to come back? The rhododendrons will probably never look right even if they do regrow.
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