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Preparing your garden for spring

Gardening editor LOUISE MIDGLEY soaks up some February sunshine while preparing her garden for spring

There’s a sense of urgency in the garden now the days are longer and one rather irksome job has taken up far too much time over the last few weeks.

Left unchecked, ivy from the neighbouring garden has crept stealthily across the ground and entwined itself around the base of most shrubs in the border and is vigorously strangling the life out of the deciduous hedge on the south facing side of the garden, back and front.

Only in winter when the branches are bare does its presence become obvious and the need to tackle it before the herbaceous border springs to life keeps me busy.

Grown in the right place, this evergreen climber does an excellent job of covering walls, fences and outbuildings as well as providing much needed food and shelter for wildlife. But left to its own devices it can quickly become overly invasive and will colonise areas in the blink of an eye.

Stormy winds hit the country today and I struggled to garden for more than two hours before giving up when the hefty garden rubbish bin was blown across the lawn.

In contrast, just a few days ago, the thermometer reached 17 degrees centigrade and the garden was bathed in a bright golden glow. Unexpected days like this after endless months of drizzle and searing cold frost can’t fail to leave you feeling full of good intent. Such precious days seem to occur randomly during the transitional phase as the seasons begin to change.

Awoken by the sun, a Red Admiral butterfly shadowed me for a while, flitting gently through the borders.

I had several unsuccessful attempts at taking a photograph, until eventually it tired and I captured a slightly shaky shot of its beautifully marked wings.

The sweet scent of Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ has been lingering around the whole garden for weeks now, today it sent the hungry bees into a feeding frenzy.

Under the warmth of the sun, they seemed to be competing for space and boasting to each other as to who had found the flower with the richest nectar. “It’zzz me, no look at thizzz, it’zzz me.”

While ripping out the ivy, I also pruned back the whippy growth of the hedge. I’ve considered creating a foot-wide path between the hedge and the plants to give better access for pruning; something I must do this autumn. As much as I love gardening, I’m increasingly aware that I need to make certain areas less labour intensive and this would ensure cutting the hedge wasn’t so problematic.

I pruned the buddleja with my super lightweight loppers; essential for any tiring jobs that require stretching up to high branches. The late-flowering clematis that blooms from summer to autumn also got a sharp cut, despite the fact all top growth was already alive with new shoots. A judicious cut now, provides a floriferous display of blooms along the length of the stems rather than just the ends.

I’ve delayed pruning back the bright coral-coloured stems of Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ until another week or so, as they’ve given me considerable pleasure throughout the whole winter and I can’t bear to part with them.

On colder days, the greenhouse was given a spring clean and it’s now ready for the big day of seed sowing which will be done during the first week of March.

Plans are still afoot for a new shed. Where to put it, how much to spend and which one to choose are all rattling around in my head. Decisions, decisions but happy ones and that’s all that matters.

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