Timeless beauties of the garden

Primroses

Pulmonaria

First published in Gardening by

Gina Parkinson gets to work breaking up the concrete patch.

The primroses are now putting on a good display in a sunny spot in our garden after opening the occasional flower since Christmas.

The earliest are almost always the pale yellow wild primroses that look so good with spotted Pulmonaria officinalis, two unassuming plants that, at the height of their blooming, produce a wonderful display of spotted and crinkled foliage intermingled with yellow, pink and lilac flowers.

The primroses we have are divisions we brought with us from our last garden as a reminder of where they came from, while the pulmonaria was already established in this garden, although they have yet to meet and star together in a spring show.

These two old-fashioned plants are as beautiful as any of the more showy species of their individual genus, the former seen in damp places under hedgerows and grassy verges, the latter used medicinally by monks hundreds of years ago. They have come through time unchanged and still have a quiet place in our gardens today.

Indoor decorating projects at our house are completed or put on hold as the year reaches March, to make way for the garden plans made in winter when it was too cold/dark/miserable to go outside.

We usually take a week’s annual leave at the beginning of the month, and we are often lucky with the weather at this time of year as the gardening calendar starts in earnest. The first of these tasks is, to use that dreadful but appropriate description, to give our house more ‘kerb appeal’.

The area to the front of the house is a decent size with space for a car and a small bed running from the house to the wall that separates us from the pavement.

The rest of the space is thick, grey concrete that I have been itching to get up since we moved here. The concrete is not uniform, a large triangular shape by the garden wall looks to have been filled in at a later time and my neighbour told me it used to be a flowerbed. So earlier in the week, together with my 75-year-old parents, we smashed up the triangle of concrete with a pickaxe and sledge hammer.

At the start of these jobs, the area seems immense, going from that little bit of concrete to a heavy expanse that could take days to sort out. In fact, helped out by a simple lever dad has used for years, we cleared the area in a morning.

The idea is to lift the concrete, even a couple of millimetres will do, by clearing a small area underneath with a pickaxe then inserting the lever.

The lever balances on a brick placed near its base.

Someone puts their weight on the other end of the lever while a second person hammers down on to the concrete about a foot away from it. This breaks up the concrete remarkably well, and the job becomes easier and easier as more is broken up.

Later in the day, I dug over the exposed soil and tipped on barrow-loads of compost and the soil and grow bags from last year’s tomatoes. This shady bed will be perfect for a clump of primroses and pulmonaria to get it started.

Weekend catch-up

It is time to do the final clear-up in the flower beds and get rid of all last year’s dead stems and seedheads. Some will pull up easily, while others will need careful snipping with sharp secateurs if the new growth at the base of the plants isn’t to be damaged.

At the same time look out for weeds. They are already growing and can be pulled out while the beds are reasonably clear of growth from the perennials which are beginning to stir beneath the dark soil.

Gardening talk

Askham Bryan College Gardening Club will host an illustrated talk entitled The History And Renovation Of A Great Estate, by Michael Klemperer, who is the estate manager of Wentworth Castle Heritage Trust.

The estate is in the countryside at Stainborough near Barnsley and is a work in progress with much having been done in its renovation and still more to do.

The talk begins at 7.30pm on Tuesday in the conference hall at Askham Bryan College, Askham Bryan, York, and is free to ABC gardening Club members, £5 on the door for non-members.

Gardening TV and radio

Sunday

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

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

2pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. Panellists Chris Beardshaw, Pippa Greenwood and Bob Flowerdew are with members of the Wolverhampton Horticultural Society. Eric Robson is in the chair and there is also a guide to gardening in March. (Repeated from Friday).

Friday, March 16

3pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. Bob Flowerdew, Bunny Guinness and Christine Walkden answer listeners’ questions sent in by post and email. There is also a guide to propagation and at 3.40pm the gardening weather forecast. (Repeated on Sunday at 2pm).

8.30pm, BBC2, Gardeners’ World. Monty Don selects some climbing roses, Carol Klein how some plants have adapted to survive in very dry conditions and Joe Swift continues his series on garden design.

Saturday, March 17

7am, BBC Radio York, Julia Booth. Julia holds her weekly plant surgery.

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