- The common daphne is odora and does not appreciate hard pruning. Dainty Daphne x burkwoodii can also be touchy. Keep pruning to a light haircut each year rather than a major cut-back. The Himalayan Daphne bholua has a more robust constitution and can get rather large, scruffy and leggy if left to its own devices. This one you can cut back hard. Now is the time to prune those daphnes which are finishing their winter flowering. The beautiful blue Daphne genkwa will be coming into flower soon – don’t even prune this one. I killed a splendid, established specimen last year by cutting it back after flowering.
- If you can reduce your number of slugs and snails now, you will be reducing the breeding population when they get frisky as spring temperatures warm up.
- Keep an eye on emerging hostas because you can be sure that all slugs and snails are watching closely for this manna from the soil. Jenny Oakley from Manaia swears by the use of crushed eggshells sprinkled on the crown of the hosta before the leaves unfurl to deter early munchers though she also follows up with bait later. Ringing the plants in sand, coffee grounds, sawdust or anything gritty is said to discourage some slimy predators though Mark is sceptical of this claim. However, the bakers bran liberally sprinkled around plants under attack worked a treat and is an environmentally friendly technique – the birds eat the bloated slugs and snails.
- It is the last chance to get a crop of late broad beans sown. If you leave it any later, it won’t be worth the effort and space. Get carrots sown soon. Don’t fertilise carrots but they need well cultivated soil to get their roots down. Fresh animal manure is a particular no-no for carrots and causes forking of the carrot and too much leafy top growth.
- If you want to plant yams, you can be setting them to sprout in trays now. Yams are frost tender but need a long growing season (five to six months) so you want to get them started as soon as the danger of late frosts is over.
- You can continue lifting and dividing perennials as they come into growth because they have the energy to overcome the havoc and destruction you wreak on their root systems and crowns. If you have many to do, prioritise the spring perennials and then follow up with summer ones like coreopsis, asters and chrysanthemums.
A daphne with no scent? What sort of plant is that? So asked a weekend visitor but we all agreed here that any plant that can look like this is worth its weight in gold. It is completely deciduous so flowers with no leaves at all and every arching branch is smothered in pure lilac blue flowers and has been for a good couple of weeks now. There are not many relatively compact shrubs that mass flower in late winter, let alone in blue. It makes such a statement in the garden that we are resolved to propagate more to use.
Genkwa is an oriental species, native to China and long prized in Japanese gardens. It can be a touchy character to get established. This specimen is our third effort but it is worth persevering. It is available on the New Zealand market though you may need to find an obliging garden centre to order it in for you if they do not have it in stock.