Gardens: Beautiful spring blooms

Cream tulips
Cream tulips

With May a day or two away we’re entering the most colourful few weeks of the gardening year for most people, says Dave Darwent, of Ansell Road, Ecclesall.

There is such a wealth of flowers around in May that it’s also most like being let loose in a branch of Thornton’s, where you are able to have as many different chocolates as you like but you are being completely over-faced.

Crown imperial (red)

Crown imperial (red)

Tulips, muscari (grape hyacinths), hawthorn, early roses, late anemone (especially anemone blanda), some fritillaria still, rhododendrons, the list could go on almost forever.

Of course, with the lengthening days and (hopefully) increasing warmth which brings the flowers out in such profusion, we also get the perennial increase in slug visibility and activity. Slugs are incredibly clever creatures and are highly adept at finding the foods they crave.

My fritillaria imperialis (crown imperial) have suffered huge amounts of slug damage and when one gorgeous bloom suddenly toppled over for no apparent reason it didn’t take long to find that slugs had eaten through the stem at soil level and then gone inside the stem and were busily munching their way up and down the hollow stem to reach the inside of the corm and the soft juicy flesh at the flower-head. I’ve given up on slug pellets – the expense, the lack of efficacy, the risk to avian, amphibian and mammal life and the hassle of repeatedly applying them just doesn’t seem worth it.

My grandfather had a much more effective method: a bucket of hot water, a pair of coal tongs and a torch. He walked round the entire garden after dark each summer evening, plucking slugs from the ground and from plants with the coal tongs (by torchlight) and plunging them into the bucket of water. The next morning he would pour the ensuing foul mess down the yard drain followed by some Jeyes Fluid. I’m afraid I don’t use this method either. I have opted for a liquid slug killer solution – readily available in many shops. It has the advantages of simply being watered on, therefore reducing risk to other creatures and the main attraction is that it kills slugs under the soil too. In fact the only disadvantage is that it is not safe for edible crops.

There’s such a wealth of flowers in May it’s like being in Thorntons

My own garden is open on Sunday and Monday, April 30 and May 1 (and again six more times later in the year) and there are several others nearby in the next few weeks. You can get more details of each NGS garden at www.ngs.org.uk website.

Crown imperial (yellow)

Crown imperial (yellow)

Pink tulips

Pink tulips