News - Page 79

Get ready for sowing vegetables

Get ready for sowing vegetables by making a 'stale seedbed' – an area of ground which you've prepared and then covered with clear polythene to warm it up ready for your seeds. It's an old market gardening trick which gets your seedlings off to a flying start.

Start by digging over the area to a fork's depth, bashing any clods with the back of your fork so they break up. Then rake the area thoroughly in two different directions to create a lovely crumbly bed f...

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Start dahlia tubers into growth

Start dahlia tubers into growth this week. Overwintering dahlias in damp-ish sand under a bench in a frost-free greenhouse or conservatory is a wonderful way to keep your favourite plants growing from one year to the next. If you didn't get around to it last year, your favourite garden centre has new dahlia tubers in stock at the moment: look out for 'Black Narcissus', a deep wine-red cactus type, 'Twynyngs After Eight' with white flowers over deep bronze-purple fol...

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Give your grasses a haircut

Give your grasses a haircut and a general tidy-up ahead of the new season. Many grasses hold their shape beautifully over winter, their seedheads and arching leaves making architectural sculptures rimed with frost: if you're looking get the look in your garden, good varieties to choose include Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster', Miscanthus sinensis 'Kleine Fontane' and the evergreen golden oat grass, Stipa gigantea. All are available from yo...

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It's Valentine's Day

It's Valentine's Day this Thursday and there's no better way to say 'I love you' than with flowers. You'll find a wonderful selection of cut blooms in your favourite garden centre to choose from, whether it's the traditional dozen roses you're looking for, or something more unusual. Look out for seasonal flowers with a romantic meaning: they include camellias (pink for longing and white for adoration), forget-me-nots for true love, and if things are...

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Deadhead orchids

Deadhead orchids as soon as they finish flowering to encourage them to send up a new spike of those luscious, tropical blooms. Phalaenopsis (moth) orchids, available in your favourite garden centre, are by far the easiest to grow, and flower for months right through winter. But once the flowers die down, snip back the stem, cutting just above a swelling around 10cm from the base. A new flowering shoot should spring up soon after.

Water only when the pot feels...

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February's plant of the month is the camellia

February's plant of the month is the camellia, a real garden favourite at this time of year for its colourful, showy blooms in every colour from pure white 'Alba Plena' to the deep red of 'Crimson King'. The flowers look rather like flattened roses, single, cup-shaped and about 7cm across. They're often scented, too – cut a few to perfume the house when there's little else around.

Camellias are evergreen, making big, handsome shrubs up to 3m tall, so give the...

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Force rhubarb

Force rhubarb any time from January onwards for the very earliest fruit in the garden – and one of the best. Forcing (excluding light from growing stems) encourages shoots to grow much earlier than they usually would, sending up growth that's very tender, delicate and sweet.

Start any time between late December until early February by covering the whole crown so that no light can get to the emerging stems. Traditional terracotta forcing jars look lovely and a...

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Get to know your snowdrops

Get to know your snowdrops at one of the many garden openings taking place this month and next which focus especially on this most welcome of late winter flowers.

You'll find snowdrop days all over the country, from the Snowdrop Exhibition, currently open at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens in Hampshire, to Dungannon's snowdrop walks in Co. Tyrone, and open days at Colesbourne Park in Gloucestershire, nationally renowned for its collection of 250 varieties.

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January's plant of the month is the primula

January's plant of the month is the primula - and no wonder. This is one of our prettiest spring flowers. You can see its delicate pale yellow petals spangling hedgerows and grassy banks from March until May.

The wild primrose, Primula vulgaris, and its close relatives the cowslip (Primula veris) and oxslip (Primula elatior) are all delightfully natural-looking and not difficult to grow. They prefer a damp, shady spot – in the dappled shade of a tree is perfe...

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Happy National Potato Day!

Now is the time for stocking up on seed potato tubers, ready to start chitting from February onwards. Choose a mixture of first earlies, second earlies and maincrops to stagger your harvest. First earlies are dug up from June onwards, and have a superb, delicate flavour – mouthwatering steamed with melted butter and topped with a sprig of mint. Reliable, fast-maturing second earlies keep you well-fed all summer, while maincrops bulk up ready for storing through wint...

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