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GARDENING Think about summer colour

Outdoor Living
Ranunculus flowers resemble cabbage roses or peonies and provide a good show for an extended period.
GENEROUS FLOWERS Ranunculus flowers resemble cabbage roses or peonies and provide a good show for an extended period.

Think about summer colour

Patsy O'Sullivan

We have had a good run of weather for the last few weeks and the ground is drying out. Gardeners now have a chance to identify those plants that have not survived the winter, and some are a very sorry sight.
Ceanothus, Caryopteris and many of the brooms (Cytisus Scoparius) have succumbed in my garden. I am not worrying about the brown looking Fuchsias yet, as they are often late to shoot from the base. However, I have tidied the Fuchsia plants and will wait until next month before I do anything drastic with them.
In general, this is an ideal time to tidy and weed the garden. Trim back the dead parts of perennial plants and remove the stems and roots of those you are sure have gone. When the ground is clear and weeded it is easier to see the gaps that need to be filled.
I have vigorous young plants of Michaelmas Daisy, Campanulas (Canterbury Bells), Sweet William and Wallflowers that I planted last autumn, which are now ready to fill these gaps. I also have healthy young perennial plants of Monkshood (Aconitum) and Lavender that have grown over the winter from some softwood cuttings that I took in August. All these cost next to nothing and will bulk up the show of plants in the flower border.
Many bulbs are frost hardy and resilient as we can see from the great displays of daffodils and tulips in numerous Mayo gardens this year, so they are a good choice if we are to allow for inclement and unpredictable weather.
Now is an ideal time to plant some summer-flowering bulbs, such as Ranunculus. There is a particularly lovely purple variety of Ranunculus available in nurseries now. It is very attractive when planted in a group of 9/10 bulbs in the border or in a large pot. The generous 8cm flowers resemble cabbage roses or peonies and provide a good show for an extended period.
Choose a free-draining soil in a sunny site and plant the bulbs (which look like bunches of bananas), with the ‘banana’ side facing downward. Plant them 5cm deep and about 10-15cms apart. Water well and wait for the impressive show. The flowers have straight stems and make good long-lasting cut flowers. Other bulbs and tubers to plant now include Gladioli, Crocosmia, Begonias and Dahlias.

Garden Tasks for April
  • Weed early before the plants get a chance to make seed heads. Mulch the ground around plants with 7-10cms of bark mulch or well-rotted compost and this will help to keep down weeds.
  • Sow Candytuft, Cosmos and Marigold seeds. Its now too late to sow most other annual seeds but these three are both quick to germinate and grow. There are even more lovely colours available in addition to the white Cosmos this year including a purple one that should make a great show and last all though the summer.
  • If you have left it too late to sow other bedding plants then wait until May to buy them from the garden centre, as we can get late frosts and its easy to loose a whole batch of plants.
  • Cut back old stems of Buddleia, Lavatera (Mallow) and Ceanothus (if yours have survived the frost).
  • Trim off the dead heads of spring flowering heathers.
  • Remove the flowers of daffodils and tulips and other spring bulbs when they whither but allow the stems and foliage to die naturally as they provide nourishment to the bulbs that will produce next years flowers.

Patsy O’Sullivan
is a member of Ballinrobe Garden Club, which meets on the first Tuesday of the month at 7.30pm in Gannon’s Hotel, Ballinrobe. Next meeting is tonight, Tuesday, April 5, and Paul Kirwan, Connaught Gold, will discuss ‘Organic Growing Methods – Pest and Disease Control.’ New members are welcome.