Last autumn, we took some hardwood cuttings of Berberis thunbergia ‘Atropurpurea Nana’, a fabulous small berberis which forms a fine square-sided, small hedge around 2 feet high, ideal for edging a parterre or vegetable garden. We now have over thirty young stock plants and these will supply us with further cuttings with which to bulk up enough plants to plant a hedge around the Vegetable Garden this coming autumn.
The spring bulbs are out now; Fritillaria, Anenome blanda, Narcissus and even a few early Tulips. In order to bulk these up, it is important to take off any seed heads, which form as the flowers fade, (a waste of the bulb’s energy) and at the same time to feed them with Ammonium Sulphate in a neutral or alkaline soil such as there is at Glenarm or with Bonemeal on the much more common acidic soils of Northern Ireland. A dusting of these two fertilizers makes all the difference at this time. It allows the bulb to assimilate theses nutrients into the bulb and form the flowers for next year.
The Woodland Walk – now open to visitors – is starting to look beautiful as woodlanders start into flower. The most striking is Rhododendron ‘Altaclerensis’ and old hybrid circa 1825, between Rhododendron arboreum, ponticum and catawbiense. On our neutral or just acid soil, the leaves often exhibit the tell-tale signs of Magnesium deficiency, the leaf veins are green, but the lamina of the leaf yellows. A dressing of Epsom salts, Magnesium sulphate sprinkled around the roots can be of great help, but you have to wait until the root plate starts to develop ephemeral or feeding roots, from mid-July onwards. A mulch applied now of poultry manure mixed with composted conifer chippings can be help the plants conserve water as often, there is a drought in Ireland over these forth-coming spring months and mulched plants are much less likely to suffer water stress.
Elsewhere in the garden, blossom off all sorts are beginning to break out. There is lovely old Prunus x yedoensis at Glenarm which must be one of the best plants in the garden and the Magnolia x veitchii ‘Peter Veitch’ has a stunning flower, the flowers resemble smaller, neater versions of one of the parents, Magnolia campbellii. M x veitchii is much hardier than either parent, (M. campbellii x M. denudata) and flowers from a young age.