March can still bite like a lion. Frost and snow is not uncommon. The photo showing the fat flower buds of a morello cherry against a background of threatening clouds and rainbow is fairly typical of March conditions. In spite of spells of cold or rough weather, it’s a rich month for the first flowers of the year: from hellebores to camellias, tiny primroses to early dwarf narcissus, blackthorn blossom to the white stars of Magnolia stellata. Providing a treat to the eye, and essential foraging for bees. What ever the weather, wrap up well and force yourself outside because this a busy month.
Spring equations: Cut last year’s growth from grasses such as miscanthus. Tidy up herbaceous plants by taking out the dead stalks and seed heads which have survived the winter. The loss of all those buff stems can leave the garden looking rather bare for a while, but it won’t be long before it is replaced with fresh green.
Subtraction: Cut back dogwoods and willows, either by removing everything to ground level, or if you feel this is a bit too drastic, renew the plant by taking one third of the oldest (most branched) growth down to the ground. This will encourage the growth of a mass of thin, shiny, colourful, new shoots. You can do the same thing to hydrangeas, take out the oldest growth to let light and air into the shrub, but leave a good framework to bear flowers this year. Fruiting blueberries can be treated in this way too. Prune roses just as they come into leaf, hopefully this will happen during this month, dependent on the weather. Trim back lavenders, taking care not to cut into old wood as they tend to regenerate only from the newer growth.
Addition and Division: Split up big clumps of perennials and replant the rooted sections, discarding old woody bits. This is an opportunity for new planting too. Once you have weeded and cut back dead growth, you will get a better feel for how the plants can work together and be able to choose some plants to give new colour or structure to the border. Then water, feed and very importantly, mulch. I can’t emphasize this enough, mulching is the secret to a successful garden. This is also a great time to plant or move evergreens, don’t forget to water them in, even in the rain. Finish up with planting snowdrops ‘in the green’, you will be very pleased you did when they come into flower next February.
Multiplication: Sow tomatoes and peppers and aubergines indoors on a window sill. Sow spinach, radish, lettuce, carrots, beetroot, under cover, wherever you have room and when ever you have time. Before sowing peas or beans outside, do a spot of preparation. If your soil is sandy and poor, trenches can be dug, put old newspaper and compost in the bottom, ready for planting of peas and beans.