Snowdrops at Glamis by Des Cotton (Head Gardener)

Blue sky days with frost in the morning suits me for this time of year. Cold enough to stop new growth from running away with itself and becoming vulnerable to those late frosts, also ensuring many of the pests and diseases get knocked back hopefully making for a healthier summer in the garden. Can be nippy on the fingers first thing in the morning but nothing a bit of hard work won’t solve.

Looking back at last year’s photos of snowdrops in the gardens here at Glamis it’s clear we are a little behind  but only by a week or so, I guess this is down to the colder weather. To celebrate the humble snowdrop we are planning a snowdrop celebration for 2019 which will include family trails in the garden and a chance for visitors to plant their own snowdrops to help ensure great displays for years to come.

Writing this column does help remind me of jobs I need to be getting on with that I have in the past slipped my mind until too late. One such job I am reminded of for this coming month is ordering plug plants for summer bedding displays. They can be ordered this time of year as small plugs that are cheap, from as little as 12p each and save on the sowing, germination and pricking out process. Our 12 large beds in the Italian Garden will be planted up with over 2000 bedding Begonias and Dahlias.

Another job we are doing this week is making a ‘hot bed’ This is a good process for those of you that have no power in your greenhouse or cold frame or just want to cut the cost of heating a greenhouse space. You do need to have a supply of fairly fresh straw based horse manure. Local stables are often more than willing to sell or even give away horse manure. First I will make a neat pile of the manure about 1m x 1m x 1m, this can be smaller. Then top the pile off with homemade compost and a wood pallet on top. Finally I have some homemade cold frames that I place on the pallets. You can buy cold frame kits from the garden centre for upwards of £20 or make one yourself with an old window, just make sure the lid is a good fit. The idea is the rotting down process of the manure, especially with straw in it, creates heat that travels up through the heap into the frame to supply a good germinating temperature. Boards can be used around the heap to retain more heat and after building its good to leave for a few weeks to let the heat calm down. After seed sowing in spring, pumpkins or courgettes can be planted in the compost for an early crop.

In the coming weeks we will start to put out our plant supports, I’ve learnt the lesson in the past to support the plant before they need it as it never looks great propping plants up after they have fallen. We use a mixture of wire rings and birch twigs to support our perennial plants.

A lot of our grass is looking rather yellow, but there is signs of new growth and before we know it the mowers will be out and I will be enjoying the smell of freshly cut grass. Before then however the garden team will be cutting back the grass edging with half-moons to sharpen up the look.

Jobs in the Gardens for March

  • March is the last chance to plant up bare root trees and shrubs.
  • Perennials can be lifted split and moved now, even if they are putting on new growth. Remember to keep watered if it’s a dry spring.
  • This is a good time to put up wires on wall for climbers such as roes before the growing season.
  • Start with mower blades high for the first few cuts of grass.
  • Plant up summer flowering bulbs now such as Lilies, Alliums and Gladiolus.
  • Remove old leaves from Hellebores to show off their spring flowers.
  • Dead head Hydrangeas and on older bushes remove to the base one third of the branches to encourage new growth.