Traditionally March is said to “come in like a Lion and out like a Lamb” Whether this is true or not, it does bring with it longer daylight hours and an increased chance of warmer weather. With this more and more plants will begin to start into growth and the garden begins to fill with the promise of Spring.
There are a number of plants which, to get the best out of them, would benefit from pruning this month. Click here to see our range of pruning tools on our webstore from leading brands such as Felco, Kent & Stowe, Wolf Garten, Burgon & Ball and Wilkinson Sword.
Cornus & Dogwoods
Cornus or Dogwoods have vibrant colourful stems in the winter, to keep them producing these stems cut back to a low framework every year at this time. If they have not been pruned regularly be cautious of cutting too low into very woody growth, taking one or two of the very oldest stems out near the base should instigate fresh colourful growth from the bottom, you can then cut back the rest of the stems by a half to two thirds. They should then start to fill out from the base.
Be more cautious with Cornus ‘Midwinter fire’ This is best left to grow on for two or three years, then prune back just a quarter of the stems every year.
Buddleja can be cut back as hard as they are very willing to grow back from woody growth. They will soon send out new stems.
Perovskia the Russian Sage
Perovskia the Russian Sage will have been providing winter interest with its ghostly white stems, now is the time to cut these back to a low framework approximately 10cms from the ground. The higher you cut the taller the plant will be. On older plants remove the very woodiest stems at ground level. If you do this you will reap the reward of attractive stems again come winter.
Pruning back Lavender twice a year in March then again in late August will prevent the plants becoming woody and bare at the bottom over time. At this time of year remove around 5cms of top growth. Then in late August trim off the flowering stems and a little of the foliage below. Both the March and August cut will encourage new bushy growth from the base of the plant and keep it looking full and healthy all year round.
Ornamental grasses can be cut back this month. Deciduous grasses like Miscanthus, Calamagrostis and Panicum which have turned pale brown over winter should have all last year’s growth removed, before this year’s start to grow too high.
Evergreen varieties can have any tatty blades removed. This is also a good time to lift and split grasses to keep them vigorous.
Taking care of your borders
In the border you can continue cutting back last year’s growth on perennials such as Salvia and perennial Geraniums, Verbena bonariensis can be cut back by half to above a bud, to keep it bushy and viable. Gaura cut back by half and Penstemon low to the crown once you can see new growth coming from the base.
This is also a very good time to lift and split perennial plants. Geum really does appreciate being lifted and split every 3-4 years they can lose flowering capacity over time and this re-invigorates them. Lift them out with a garden fork and they are usually surprisingly easy to gently pull apart. You can then re-plant around the garden.
Your lawn will be in need of a haircut this month. Keep the blades high to allow the grass to fill out after winter and to help prevent the damaging effects of compaction.
Click here to see our range of lawn care products on our webstore from leading brands such as Westland Gro-Sure, Solabiol, Evergreen and Miracle Grow.
Feeding your plants
Top dress your pots and containers this month adding a fresh layer of compost on top.
March is the month when we can begin feeding if required. Plants are starting into growth and will be able to take up feeds now. Roses, Camellias and Rhododendrons all benefit from a feed at this time to get the best flowering and general plant health. Use feeds which are specific to the plant, ericaceous for the Camellias and Rhododendron, a Rose feed for the Roses. Take care to follow the instructions and be careful using pelleted feeds in pots as it is a more concentrated area than in the ground, meaning excess is not dispersed. Over feeding can lead to problems like bud drop and leaf discoloration.
Shrubs can also benefit from a broad spectrum feed like Vitax Q4.
If you have Apricot or Peach trees coming into blossom it is well worth protecting with horticultural fleece, if night time temperatures drop.
Box caterpillar moth
The caterpillar’s will start to become active this month. The damage caused can be extensive, occurring as the caterpillar feeds on the plant within the webbing it creates, stripping the plant completely of its leaves if left untreated. The damage is more apparent in trimmed plants, showing patches of die back which should not be confused with box blight.
Click here to read more about managing this pest or pop into the outdoor plant information office at our Great Shelford store for further advice.