Gardening tips - herald the arrival of a new season in the garden

PUBLISHED: 00:00 26 February 2014

Snowdrops and purple crocuses at Rode Hall Country House and Gardens  Alistair and Jan Campbell ukcityimages.com

Snowdrops and purple crocuses at Rode Hall Country House and Gardens Alistair and Jan Campbell ukcityimages.com

UK City Images (www.ukcityimages.com)

Slowly the frosts disappear and pretty things emerge from the hard soil

It’s spring and the garden is slowly beginning to emerge from its winter slumber. Lengthening daylight hours and a gradual rise in temperature, teases out the first flush of early spring flowers. Bulbs, buried and forgotten, push their way through the soil and herald the arrival of a new season in the garden.

Scilla, chionodoxa, muscari and crocus are all early arrivals and, nothing signals the end of winter like a carpet of crocus flinging their petals wide in the sunshine. Muscari, or grape hyacinth, are a little more dignified, covering the ground with a river of blue. These flowers look like a myriad of tiny, pixie toadstools and will thrive in partial shade among ferns and azaleas, giving the garden a slightly magical feel.

Coming in with much more pomp and ceremony are the oriental hyacinths. These are the large flowered hyacinths whose intoxicating perfume fills the air. Forced hyacinth bulbs are often grown in pots indoors, over Christmas, because of their incredible scent. To grow them naturally in the garden they must be planted in autumn in well-drained soil in a sunny spot. They come in hues of pinks, purples, blues and white and look best when planted as a single colour block. White is always enhanced by the presence of glossy, green foliage and blue looks striking inter-planted with yellow daffodils. Hyacinths can be planted in pots in gritty compost, plant close to the house where the fragrance can be savoured on a sunny day.

In the edible garden there is much to be appreciated. Rhubarb can be forced by putting a bucket over it. This lack of light encourages the stalks to grow long and tender, perfect for a crumble with custard. Evergreen herbs such as thyme and rosemary will be putting on new growth. Chances are the rosemary will be producing tiny blue flowers which are also edible and look very pretty sprinkled on vanilla ice cream. Rosemary is one of my favourite herbs as it can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes.

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