Spring is a busy time in the garden and almost every gardening column is packed with advice and checklists of what you should be doing at this time. It’s easy, even for seasoned gardeners, to feel overwhelmed by it all. However, it’s just as important to enjoy the season and put the old adage of taking time to smell the roses into practice.

While it’s a little early yet for the roses to bloom, several shrubs such as corylopsis glabrescens are at their best now, and close inspection of the pale, primrose yellow flowers will reveal a delicate, sweet perfume reminiscent of cowslips. If you enjoy scent, make sure to find a spot in your spring garden for the double-flowered gorse, ulex europaeus ‘Flore Pleno’. Its rich yellow blooms will fill the air with their delicious, sweet smell of coconut.

Lawns will soon start growing at pace and instead of bemoaning the chore of grass cutting, cherish the time to relax, tune into the rhythmic thrum of your lawnmower and let the aroma of freshly-cut grass transport your thoughts to summer days ahead.

Understated beauty

Spring is my absolute favourite time in the garden, full of promise and fresh new life and beauty. Every day there is something new to see as I go on a wander through my garden, revelling in each new discovery. Observing the understated beauty of unfolding leaves or sunlight streaming through the translucent petals of golden daffodils are just some of the simple pleasures to be enjoyed.

Unfurling fronds of the royal fern, Osmunda regalis.

I look forward to taking a few minutes each day to observe the triffid-like unfurling of new fronds on the royal fern, osmunda regalis. Their daily expansion from tightly-scrolled croziers through a range of transient shapes is truly captivating.

Spring sunshine illuminating the blooms of Camellia ‘Freedom Bell’.

It’s always a joy to see the first extravagant blooms emerging on the camellias too. One of earliest is camellia ‘Freedom Bell’ with exquisitely crafted, coral red blooms that shine out against a backdrop of glossy, dark green leaves. Silky willow catkins may not be as flamboyant, but they are irresistible to touch and invite interaction as you pass by.

The tactile, velvety buds of many magnolias are equally as enticing to touch as they get ready to burst open into elegant goblets of blooms. You may also enjoy the feel of the soil on your fingers as you sow seeds.

Curious flowers of the mouse-tail plant, Arisarum proboscideum.

Mouse-tail plant

Drifts of blue and pink-flowered pulmonarias are also beginning to open in our shadier borders. Heavily spotted with silver, their leaves make a cheerful, ground-covering tapestry with epimediums, lingering hellebores and other spring flowers. The experience of kneeling and gently pulling back the arrowhead-shaped leaves of the aptly-named mouse-tail plant, arisarum proboscideum, never ceases to evoke a child-like pleasure for me, revealing the curious-looking, chocolate maroon and white flowers, each with a long, curling tail.

If your mind is busy, allow yourself to stop, listen, close your eyes for a few minutes and be soothed by melodious birdsong. It’s not only birds filling the air with sound. Many pollinators make an appearance in spring, especially on a sunny day. Often you can hear the buzz of a bee before you see it, as it flits through the air looking for nectar. When digging, stop to converse with the robin who inevitably appears at the first sign of someone disturbing soil. Pause to breathe in the freshness of the air. Admire the abstract artistry in frog spawn on your garden pond. The message is to take time. You’ll be refreshed for the busy period that lies ahead.

Plant a tree

Don’t forget to plant a tree for National Tree Week, which takes place from 3 -10 March. Planting trees brings so many benefits. They can help manage water run-off and reduce flooding, which we have seen so much of in recent years. They clean the air and provide food and habitats for birds, small mammals, insects, fungi and other plant life. Spending time walking among trees, or even having a view of trees, has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, and improve health and wellbeing.

Whether in your own garden, on the farm or in your local community, a suitable space can always be found for more trees. With so many options to choose from, including native, ornamental, coniferous and fruit trees, make sure to find the right tree for your space.

We like to mark National Tree Week each year by planting a new tree in our garden or on the farm. This year’s candidate, pteracarya fraxinifolia, or wing nut, is something a bit different. A majestic relative of the walnut, it is a large, fast-growing tree with ash-like foliage, deeply furrowed bark and very long, drooping, racemes of small, green flowers in summer. A damp site suits it best, and so it’s being planted this week at the edge of our wildlife pond in one of the farm paddocks.

For more information about tree planting and educational events taking place in almost every county for Tree Week, visit treecouncil.ie

1 Feed acid-loving plants, such as camellias and rhododendrons, with a special ericaceous plant food. It helps to prevent and correct leaf yellowing, usually caused where plants are growing in soil too alkaline for their needs. One application per year, ideally in spring, is usually adequate.

2 Weeds are back in growth so deal with them now and try to prevent them from setting seed. Keep in mind the old gardeners’ saying: ‘One year’s seed is seven years’ weed’. This doesn’t only reflect the amount of seeds produced but also their longevity and ability to lie dormant in the soil.

Out and About

  • Sunday, 3 March. Ceremonial tree planting to launch National Tree Week at Heritage House, Abbeyleix, Co Laois with special guest, Dr Niamh Shaw. From 2.30pm.
  • Sunday, 24 March. Plant Fair at RHSI Bellefield, Shinrone, Co Offaly. R42 NW82
  • Easter Sunday, 31 March and Monday, 1 April: Plant Fair hosted by Irish Specialist Nurseries Association (ISNA). Venue: Farmleigh House, Phoenix Park, Dublin.
  • Mary Keenan and Ross Doyle run Gash Gardens, Co Laois open to the public. Check out gashgardens.ie

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