April is one of my favourite times of the year when it comes to getting outside and gardening; it’s the wonderful moment when nature really wakes up.
Furzey Gardens is no exception. As we move through the month, the colours running through the garden will get bolder and brighter. Trees are bursting into life and plants are flowering, sending strong scents across the paths.
In particular, we’re currently seeing amelanchier lamarckii (sometimes called juneberry) in full bloom – with their floating white flowers – and a range of flowering apples, including the malus robusta. This deep red fruit tree was awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit back in 1984: it’s worthy recognition for this excellent tree, which adds a rich note to the garden (plus, the birds love eating the berries).
You’ll also find rose pink corners at Furzey with our rhododendron racemosum, violet blue thanks to our augustinii rhododendron (named after the Irish author and botanist, Augustine Henry) and blood red elements in the rhododendron thomsonii. The latter are a favourite of mine, as their translucent leaves look like stained glass when the sunlight hits them.
Whether you’re in Furzey, on a walk in the park or sitting in your own garden, keep your eyes (and nose) open; every day, spring is showing itself more and more. Luckily, the opportunities to get outside and explore are only growing. We’re enjoying more daylight and warmer temperatures – now is the perfect time to go and gain inspiration for your perfect garden.
Something I’ve taken to doing, is snapping photos of anything I see that takes my fancy. They say that all gardeners are terrible idea thieves, and I personally think this is a good thing; it’s all about inspiration. Whenever I see a plant that I particularly like, or an interesting plant combination I take a photo and write down the species name. Then, when I’m sitting indoors on a rainy afternoon or a cold evening, I scroll back through the images and see which ones particularly shone throughout the months. Why not give it a go?
I am sure making a start on your garden for the new season is on your mind and there are some key things to remember. While now is the ideal time to buy and plant hardy plants – including most trees, shrubs and perennials – many other plants will still need to wait a few months.
Saying that, there are plenty of other jobs you can get your hands dirty with. For starters, now is your prime opportunity to finish up your pruning. Here, you want to prune for shape, flower or fruit. Every single plant will have its own unique pruning requirements, and it’s important that you identify these and approach their pruning in the right way. Ultimately, you are trying to encourage the very best shape, flower or – you guessed it – fruit. The RHS website is a good resource for finding out how to prune your particular plants.
Ensure you deadhead spring bulbs and bedding through April to keep your garden looking good and keep a keen eye out for slugs and snails looking to eat new leaves of hostas, delphiniums, lupins and any other vulnerable plants.
Looking to add a splash of colour to your garden? Now is a good opportunity to plant primulas and polyanthus in pots; these will give you an instant splash of colour.
You can also sow sunflowers in light, open places (as long as these too are protected from snails and slugs). If you have a pond in your garden, why not start to add more aquatic plants, such as water lilies and irises?
I would also encourage you to get mulching: you can use compost, wood chips and well-rotted manure. By adding the mulch after planting, you will:
This is something we’ve been busy working on at Furzey. Alongside mulching, we’ve also been getting in some of our final planting opportunities (with April really being our last chance for many plants). There’s been a lot of pruning and even more raking; it’s important to us that Furzey look as pristine as possible. However, we also strive to maintain a real sense of wild nature: one of our big projects right now is renovating our wildflower meadow. The Furzey team has been prepping the ground and introducing native wildflower seeds to the meadow. It will all be surrounded by a locally grown chestnut fence. We can’t wait to see how it all comes together and what materialises.
As we’ve been working, we’ve been joined by a few friends. A tame pheasant has taken up residence at Furzey and will often rear their head to see what we’re getting up to, alongside a tame baby squirrel who we saved a few months ago. The squirrel – with its brothers and sisters – fell out of their nest on a windy day. We warmed them up, and when they were feeling friskier we placed them at the base of the tree, where their mother quickly came to collect them. This particular little one hasn’t forgotten us, and comes to say hello while we’re on our tea break.
In addition, bird song is now picking up – morning and night we are treated to their songs. Listen out for it; the skies are full of those lovely sounds. Watch out as well for blue tits checking out their nest sites (the gardens are a popular spot for them, so you’re bound to see a fair few fluttering around on your next visit). It’s still a little early for migrant birds, but we’re looking forward to welcoming them back soon enough.
If you have any gardening questions that you would like me to answer next month, please do write in and I’ll try to cover them in the May edition. By this point, Furzey will be in peak season and full of new surprises.
This article originally appeared as the monthly In The Garden column in the Lymington Times, buy the paper on the second Friday of every month to read the next column first.
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