In the garden this week: Friday 15 April, 2011

A little attention now will ensure a better winter display from hellebores

A little attention now will ensure a better winter display from hellebores

* It is time to give hellebores (winter roses) a little attention. We go through at this time and cut all the old leaves off, removing them to the compost heap. This gets rid of any aphid infestations, allows the flowers which will start emerging in a few weeks to be visible and the fresh foliage is much more attractive than tired old leaves. You can go through with a slasher if you wish. A weedeater is faster but tends to leave chewed looking stems. Feed and mulch the crowns.

* Most hellebores, particularly the common H.orientalis, are not the most amenable plants to divide. They take several years to build up to a good size so if you plan to divide a clump, make them large divisions. We prefer to go through and remove all the seedlings to prevent too much competition, leaving the large plants alone.

* Autumn is a good time for pruning and shaping most woody trees and shrubs.

* Sow lawns without delay while the weather is still mild. If you don’t do it straight away, you will have to wait until spring because grass seed won’t grow in winter.

* In response to phone calls, the pumpkin crop we grew for hull-less pumpkin seed was called Austrian Oil Seed and we bought it from Kings Seeds. Only the seeds are edible although the pumpkin may be suitable for stock food.

* In the curious world of vegetables, Sydney daughter reports that amongst the various bok choy/ pak choi variants at the market, she found a different veg called kang kong which she thought looked like a weed so she bought some to try. She says it was “quite nice”. Upon looking it up, she worked out why it looked like a weed. It is a convolvulus. I have yet to see kang kong offered here. Most Asian green leafy vegetables are quick maturing so ideal for a short term crop.

* While on the topic of seeds, the new autumn catalogue from Franchi Seeds is available on line at These are predominantly summer crops but you may like to browse the traditional tastes of Italy in anticipation of sowing seed later in the year. Mark is planning to try some of the tomato crops and I am encouraging him in this because the most delicious tomatoes I have ever eaten were in the south of Italy. By no means are all tomatoes equal in the flavour stakes. Make the most of the pleasant autumnal weather which is brilliant for gardening. We frequently get the first wintery blast over Easter. No matter when Easter falls, the weather gods spy the event, not the date.