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March gardening highlights

LOUISE MIDGLEY enjoys spring colour and the promise of things to come in her garden

In March, no two days are the same. Growth is rapid and a shrub that’s in bud one day can be in full flower the next.

Yesterday I noticed the Sophora microphylla ‘Sun King’ had finally surrendered to the warmth of the sun and was dripping with a mass of golden yellow blooms.

Planted at the front of the garden, it’s a shrub that stops passers-by in their tracks and I’m regularly asked its name.

Unlike the more widely grown yellow Forsythia shrub that flowers at the same time, ‘Sun King’ is evergreen and doesn’t need reigning back with a hard prune each year, its growth being reasonably slow.

You could describe it as a shrub that’s fallen through the net because despite the fact that it is stunningly beautiful, exceptionally low maintenance and fully hardy, it's rare to find one for sale in a garden centre.

I bought mine from RHS Wisley Plant Centre about 10 years ago as a two-foot high spindly shoot. All these years later it has bulked out and formed the shape of a small multi-branching tree, no more than about five feet in height. It’s one to bear it in mind if you are looking for something unique to fill an empty space.

The sunny herbaceous border in the back garden is now, for the moment at least, weed free and neatly mulched.

The few empty spaces will be filled with dahlias and cosmos over the next few weeks but I’ve already managed to squeeze in some recent impulse buys of Verbena bonariensis, brightly coloured Geums and deep pink Lychnis coronaria, all of which will provide untold pleasure later in the season.

Canada Geese have amassed in the field adjacent to our back garden. They arrived a few weeks ago and the males have been noisily competing with each other for the female’s attention, aggressively chasing each other, necks low to the ground, making an awful din.

Interspersed between this cacophony is the high-pitched shriek of male pheasants as they pause from confidently strutting up and down the garden, checking out their reflection in the greenhouse glass, a harem of nervous females in tow.

You would think the neighbourhood cats would see them as fair game but incredibly they seem to have a mutual respect for each other. 

Other local birds are frantically gathering material from the garden to make their nests. I’ve been watching them flying to and fro, beaks crammed with garden debris and a look of determination to get the job done.

The crows are particularly ambitious collecting overly large bundles of heavy twigs and managing to hold on to them as they fly off across the field.

The garden is home to two eucalyptus trees, which get reduced in size every alternate year.

There isn’t enough space for mature specimens but by cutting them back hard in spring when the sap is rising, a fresh flush of silvery foliage is produced and light streams back onto the borders.

The clocks go forward this weekend and that feeling of being trapped in the house every evening will slowly lift as longer daylight hours give way to warmer temperatures and allow for more time to be spent outdoors.

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