Rain, lots of rain. Good for the garden, if not the spirits. March heralds the official start of spring and it's also the month to start sowing seeds. A rewarding task, especially if you can do it inside in the dry. I have a small potting shed for the actual seed sowing but I move the pots inside onto my sunny windowsills so that they get the heat required for germination. So far I've sown sweetpeas, calendula 'Orange Flash', larkspur and a mix of colours of cornflowers. I'll sow more hardy annuals over the next few weeks.

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The cutting beds are full of emerging bulbs and I've been cutting some spring flowers to make tiny spring posies. Grape hyacinths make wonderful cut flowers-  having a surprisingly long stem and a delicate scent. I grow the bog -standard blue form and also dark blue Muscari latifolium which has just 2 sheaf-like leaves rather than the sprawling leaves of the common form. Another well-behaved grape hyacinth is 'Siberian Tiger', a white form which isn't as invasive. Baby's breath is a gorgeous pale, powder-blue variety (pictured above).

Other flowers for picking this month include daffodils, primroses, scillas, species tulips and pulmonaria. Pulmonaria is a great spring flower to tuck under a hedge or in a shady spot. Its blue and pink flowers work well in a tiny spring posy.

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Spring posy of grape hyacinths, primroses, tulip turkestanica, scillas, wall cress and pumonaria (just out of shot)

My dark purple trailing pansy has been flowering ever since October when I bought it from Beth Chatto's garden nursery in Essex. Pansies aren't everyone's cup of tea but they do make great winter flowers and I think they look lovely displayed in a terracotta pot.

We have a table in our courtyard which can be seen through the pation doors. It's an ideal spot for displaying pots of seasonal flowers and I aslo keep some pots of herbs on it (mint, tarragon and purple sage).  At the moment, we have pots of grape hyacinths, crocuses, a hellebore and a primula. Anything that is in flower at the right time can be displayed in a pot and then either planted out into the cutting garden or moved out of sight once it's past its best, ready for another year.

Pots of winter flowers
Pots of flowers on our courtyard table.

I hosted my first 'Grow Your Own Cut Flowers' workshop of 2019 and we had a dry, if very cold day, on which to pick our flowers from the garden. We picked and displayed white and dark red hellebores, Viburnum tinus for its white flowers and glossy green foliage, a few stems of flowering currant, some trailing stems of Trachelospermum jasminoides, rosemary in flower and some annual stocks which had survived all winter in the cutting garden.

March flowers
March flowers from workshop

My student, Patsy wasn't keen on the idea of growing tulips as you have to put up with their rather unattractive foliage after flowering but I think I sold her on the idea of edging her cutting beds with the species tulip Tulipa turkestanica. This variety has small, twisted leaves (which don't take up a lot of space) and beautiful pale yellow star-shaped flowers. If you leave some flower heads on, they form beautiful seed pods which are decorative in their own right.

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Snow On Bird Table
Snow on our bird table

The 1st March signalled the first day of spring (according to the meteorological calendar) but here in Norfolk and most of the UK, it was also the 2nd day of deep snowfall which closed the schools and created havoc on the roads.

The first crocuses, narcissi and Iris reticulata were merrily doing their thing and brightening up the garden but ended up under a cover of 10 cm thick snow for nearly a week.

Just a week beforehand, I had hosted a 'Grow your own cut flowers' workshop and we found lots of lovely greenery and flowers to pick to make the lovely display pictured below.

February flowers
February flowers

The flowers above include trailing rosemary, Daphne odora, Viburnum tinus, Hellebores, and some early flower heads from the perennial wallflower Erysimum 'Bowles' Mauve'. Winter-flowering shrubs have strongly fragranced flowers as they need to attract pollinators and they don't always have large flowers. This is a bonus when cutting as the fragrance of some flowers can scent the whole room.

Once the snow finally cleared it was a relief to see the spring bulbs still in full flower despite their blanket covering of snow. We are now experiencing milder temperatures and, with it, rain (sigh).

Hyacinth
Hyacinths. A taste of spring during the snow

Rainy weather stops any flowers that there are from being cut but I do still have some pots of bulbs in the potting shed that I bring out a few at a time into the house where the higher temperature causes them to come into bloom. I have also started sowing some hardy annuals. The hardest part is deciding what to grow this year from the numerous packets of seed that I seem to collect each year.

Cherry blossom
Cherry blossom

March is a good month for sowing hardy annuals. By the time the seedlings are ready to plant out in about 6-8 weeks time, at the beginning of May, the soil will have warmed up and frost risk will be minimal. Hardy annuals can cope with some low temperatures but I leave the half-hardy annuals like Cosmos and Zinnias until April as I won't want to plant them out until the end of May when all frost-risk has passed. The exception are any that have a long growing phase before flowering such as Antirrhinums which should be sown in March with their fully hardy counterparts so that they will come into flower in June/July with the rest of the hardy annuals.

 

 

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The festive trimmings have been taken down, the Christmas goodies have been gobbled up, the children are back at school and there is a way to go before spring. I have to confess that I do find January and February gloomy months and there aren't a lot of gardening jobs that need doing. Rather than sink into a pit of doom, I try to keep busy and do find a certain excitement in planning for the year ahead. There are some flowers that can be cut in the depths of winter, my favourite being Hellebores. These are stunning flowers and all the more useful for flowering in January and February. Once you have an established clump, you can cut a few blooms and enjoy their beauty up close.

Hellebores
Hellebores

Use these winter months to plan ahead - browse the numerous seed catalogues, clean your pots and tools in preparation for more busy periods and look back at what worked for you last year and what you can improve upon this year.

By spending a bit of time last autumn potting up spring bulbs, you may even have some pots of small bulbs like Crocus, Iris reticulata and Paperwhite Narcissi to bring into the house to cheer up the winter months. Seeing those little green shoots poking out of the surface is very encouraging on a cold, grey day.

Another way to banish the winter blues is to look back at pictures of your garden from the previous year and remind yourself of things to come. Just starting to peep up from under the soil are bulbs waiting to spring into action, perennials, that are no more than twiggy tufts at this time of year, will flower and bloom again and buds are forming on trees and shrubs, reminding us that they will once again be clothed in foliage and flowers.

Here's a review of just a few of the flowers I have grown in 2017. If you'd like to get the most out of your garden this year and have flowers to cut and bring inside, then please check back here for advice throughout the year or consider a 'Grow Your Own Cut Flowers' workshop to get the most out of your garden.

 

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