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June 2006

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Daffodil foliage, Veratrum viride, sun-burned saxifrage and hand-weeding

I just recently removed the last dying leaves of the daffodils. It seems such a long time since they gave some golden cheer to the spring garden but its absolutely necessary to let them die down naturally if you want to keep them flowering and increasing over the years. Because of the way this foliage lingers in recent times I've favoured the smaller types except in the large beds where the foliage is relatively quickly hidden by the fast-growing perennials. Daffodils in lawns can be glorious in their flowering season but you have to hold off from cutting the grass until June. They will grow and flower very well in shade and in my woodland garden they make a good impact after the snowdrops are over.

Daffodils in lawns can be glorious in their flowering season but you have to hold off from cutting the grass until June.

The trees in this area are mainly deciduous and therefore in the early part of the year there is a lot of light to show off the early bulbs and primulas. Even into the summer when the light level is very much lower than in the open garden many choice plants will do well. One of my favourites is the fashionably green, and certainly elegant, Veratrum viride which grows and flowers well, while the stunning leaves remain a healthy green throughout the season. Its cousin Veratrum album thrives in the open garden but the leaves have always turned brown at the edges. I moved this - with some trepidation as it is not an easy plant to get - into the gloom of the woodland and hope to see an improvement this summer.

Most alpines like an open sunny position and in this garden I'm lucky as all my raised beds get good exposure to as much sun as is available in County Wicklow. I have often remarked how in their natural habitat many get so much more light intensity than they can ever expect in Ireland. It is easy to generalise, and particularly with saxifrages, sunburn can spoil a good plant when you least expect it. I have a very large mat of Saxifraga oppositifolia which has flowered spectacularly for years in March. Last year a hot dry spell in early summer rather spoiled its beauty. Large patches turned brown and the once-lovely green did not regenerate. There was nothing to do but dig it out and replant the bits. They may someday mat in together again.

In spring I hand-weed. There are always perennial weeds and some scutch grass to be dealt with and I find it better to get right down on the job. In June the hoe comes into play and I use it right through the summer to keep the beds clean. Its a gentle, satisfying task and even an hour's hoeing can accomplish much - the weed population is controlled and at the same time the soil is loosened-up improving the overall look of the beds.

 

 

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