GINA PARKINSON says it is time to make the most of the new season.

THE garden is beckoning us outside as spring begins, the pace quickening as the days pass into March.

Spring fever has already begun in our house, with me waking in the early hours of last Sunday morning planning what to do outside and praying the weather would hold for the morning.

And indeed it was kind, almost balmy early on before the temperature dropped and rain and sleet arrived after lunch.

There was another first of the year last weekend when I went for a good spend at a local nursery.

As the owner of a large garden with limited time, I have learnt to focus on one task at a time.

And so it was the turn of an area in the centre of the garden to be attended to.

This once housed a shed but now there are shallow steps leading to a gravelled area which is surrounded by trees and shrubs.

We’ve lost a couple of trees from here, possibly due to honey fungus, so it is gappy and missing the cool shade they used to provide.

The nursery trip saw the car loaded with variegated holly, dogwoods and heavenly bamboo.

I had done some research on what to choose because of the possibility of honey fungus in the garden, but the information has been contradictory.

The three species of plants are listed as being resistant or susceptible to the problem depending on which article is read, so fingers will be crossed for a few years to see what happens.

The dogwoods are to be used to create an informal hedge between a flowerbed and the trees.

Two are the popular red-stemmed sort with a third the lovely Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’.

This really is a beautiful plant with bright gold and red stems that glow in early-year sunshine. Like many members of the family, it likes reasonably moist soil and although it will grow in shade, a semi-shaded position is a good choice where the stems can be lit with sunshine at some point of the day. Ours is under planted with purple and lilac primulas creating a startling pool of colour in contrast with the whites and creams often seen in the garden at this time of year.


In the vegetable garden

February is a good time to plant new fruit bushes such as red and blackcurrants, gooseberries and raspberries.

Our old gooseberry bush is being joined by a blackcurrant this year and the one that has been chosen is ‘Ben Connan’.

This is described as a high-yielding variety; a single established shrub can produce up to 5kg of fruit, with an RHS award of garden merit.

This is a good indicator of proven reliability as plants with this award have to perform well under a range of different conditions.

Blackcurrants like to be in sun or light shade, ‘Ben Connan’ is a compact variety and can be grown as a single plant where space is limited or in a row with plants 90cm apart if several bushes are needed.

The best fruit is produced on the previous year’s growth so the plant needs to be cut hard back after planting.

This is the hardest thing to do but the plant will benefit in the long run.

Before that, give the plant a good soak before planting then put it into a hole that is twice the diameter of the pot.

Mix general fertiliser and well-rotted compost in with the soil and fill around the plant pushing the soil down every now and again to get rid of air pockets and to secure the plant.

Keep the base of the plant at the same level it was in the pot, gently firm down the top of the soil then water in.

Cut back all the stems to within two or three buds and keep an eye on the plant over the next 12 months.

It will need watering during dry spells until the roots are established.

The shoots that grow this year will carry fruit next summer.


Gardening TV and radio


6.15am, BBC2, Great British Garden Revival. The spotlight is on irises.

7.15am, BBC2, Glorious Gardens from Above. Christine Walkden, pictured right, catches a hot air balloon to Crathes Castle in Aberdeenshire.

8am, BBC Radio Humberside, The Great Outdoors. With Blair Jacobs and Doug Stewart.

9am, BBC Radio York, Julia Lewis. News and features from the gardens and countryside of North Yorkshire.

9am, BBC Radio Leeds, Tim Crowther and Joe Maiden.

2pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. Eric Robson and his team of horticultural experts advise gardeners from Preston.


3pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. Pippa Greenwood, Chris Beardshaw and Christine Walkden answer questions from an audience in Wellesbourne, Warwickshire.

8.30pm, BBC2, Gardeners’ World. Today marks the day the horticultural trio are back on our screens. Monty is tackling urgent pruning at Longmeadow, Carol pokes about in the borders at RHS Wisley and Joe makes a start on his design master classes. This week he looks at how to make the most of a modest town garden.