Les’ Patch: Look out for those shady characters

Camelia blooms
Camelia blooms
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Think of shade in the garden as an advantage.

Many plants thrive in cool conditions and are under less stress from water loss.

Early spring bulbs are at their best in shade, and camellias prefer shade because frost and then early morning winter sun can damage leaves and petals.

Woodland plants grow best under the cover of trees.

For a good show of spring flowers use primroses, bergenia, hellebore, Solomon’s seal, bleeding heart, pulmonaria and periwinkle which all do well in shade.

Shrubs for shady areas are azaleas, camellias and pieris which are all acid lovers so need acid soil.

Also skimmia, mahonia and floribunda roses all do well in shade.

Climbers and wall shrubs for shady areas include flowering quince, hydrangea petiolaris, winter flowering jasmine, sun flowering jasmine, clematis Nelly Moser, ivies, holly, firethorn and cotoneaster. All give brightness to a dark area.

A good idea is to grow daffodils, tulips and hyacinths in pots and place among other shrubs to add more colour.

It may seem early to be sowing vegetable under cover but there are always too many seeds in a packet so why not use some early on,

I am sure the seeds would be successful but, if not, you haven’t lost much.

The idea is to have vegetables ready to eat throughout the year.

Also now is the time to plant rhubarb roots which are obtainable from garden centres.

Plant three feet (90cm) apart in well manured soil. Set the roots so that the tops are about one inch (2.5cm) below soil level.

Place compost or manure with straw in a three inch layer over each plant and cover with a sprinkling of soil to stop the birds scratching it away. It’s best not to gather rhubarb during the first season.

My growing programme, in which I have been telling gardeners what to do when in the vegetable plot, should ensure fresh vegetable all year round.

You could be harvesting winter greens such as cabbages, savoys and kale. There will also be celery, leeks, Brussels sprouts and maybe winter cauliflower and also maybe digging up Jerusalem artichokes and parsnips.

If prolonged frost threatens cover root crops with straw or peat so that lifting remains possible.

In a heated greenhouse you can now sow onions, leeks and early varieties of cauliflower and French beans. Also it’s a good idea to plant a few potatoes in a tub.

Check over vegetables in store and throw away any which are beginning to rot.

Although the natural way to grow vegetables would appear to be from seeds that are sown where they are to mature, this can waste space and also mean later crops.

Celery and early lettuce are examples of this.

By sowing in the greenhouse or indoors, and planting out later, they mature much earlier than those sown outside.

It is too early to think about sowing outside in this part of the country as the soil needs to warm up first.

This is a good time to open out trenches for sweet peas.

Take out the soil and break up the bottom, incorporate manure and leave everything as rough as possible so that it can be well frozen to help to break down any clay.

Remember that all stone fruits like lime, so apply crushed limestone at the rate of 1lb per square yard over the root run.

Alternatively use a handful of hydrated lime per square yard, but crushed limestone is best.