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JOHN STOA: Making the most of spring during lockdown

Emily and Keiran pot up their flower seedlings
Emily and Keiran pot up their flower seedlings

Whether you turn on the television or pick up a newspaper, there is only one topic under discussion, and while we see the bad side of the coronavirus outbreak, a lot of folk are seeking out more positive aspects to keep us amused, entertained and raise our spirits.

The garden is so full of spring flowers just now and the dry sunny weather allows us to enjoy them taking our minds away from the pandemic.

I have been very surprised by seeing so many adults and kids getting involved in gardening.

So many of us are in lock down and isolation, but if we have a garden it gives us a new venture to have a go at gardening.

Anna watering the young crops

We need to be strong to fend off the virus so exercise and healthy food are very important.

If you grow your own crops you get very fresh and chemical free produce.

We tried getting some fresh food from the supermarket, but when you can’t pick your own you risk getting some real inferior stuff.

Anna’s savoy cabbage looked more like a large brussel sprout, the Braeburn apples were as hard as rocks and tomatoes were huge but totally tasteless.

I have been asked advice on how to convert the lawn into a vegetable garden, so fresh vegetables can be grown.

Tulip Carnaval de Nice

Others ask the best seeds to show the kids how to grow vegetables and flowers.

The lockdown affects kids as much as adults now that schools are shut down as they are full of energy and need some activity to keep them happy.

The garden can play an important role to let them see where food comes from, and growing a few flowers that attract bees and butterflies is fun for kids.

At City Road Allotments our communal flower border is ablaze with tulips, daffodils, pansies, and grape hyacinths which is great for plot holders as well as passers-by who stop to admire the show.

The flowers are getting the benefit of the dry sunny weather, but temperatures have been kept low due to a cool easterly breeze, so the show lasts a long time.

Tulip Abba

The wide range of tulips in every colour  came about as many gardeners added a few bulbs as well as those bought by the allotment committee.

Then bulbs planted in our flower troughs for the spring display were added to the border after they finished flowering.

Although the early flowers (snowdrops and aconites) are now finished  the early tulips, white Purissima and Red Emperor and Stressa,  took over then it was the turn of the dwarf doubles Sun Lover, Abba and Showcase.

As these begin to fade the tall Darwin Hybrids Apeldoorn, Golden Apeldoorn and the purple triumph Negrita and single early yellow Bellona have their moment.

Red Camellia in April

Wallflower and pansies are bedded in between the tulips to add depth and the pansies can flower well into the summer.

Spring colour is also appearing on the rhododendrons and azaleas with the dwarf Japanese azaleas (Blaaws Pink) quite early.

Camellias are also flowering with the pink Donation covered in flowers.

Another very bright tall shrub is the Berberis darwinnii with orange flowers, but if left to grow unchecked it can grow into a massive shrub.

However it produces black fruits that keep the birds fed in autumn for several months.

Euphorbia griffithii Fireglow in 2020

The first herbaceous plants to flower include Euphorbia griffithii Fireglow, but these will be

followed quickly by the peonies (my favourite is Doreen) and Oriental poppies which always put on a dazzling show with huge bright red flowers.

This is also the time when the cherry trees, apples, pears and plums all come into bloom, and give us some indication of potential fruit crops to follow.

Some flowering on fruit trees sends us a timely reminder to look out for a few pests.

Azalea Blaaws Pink

Check plum trees as the first leaves appear same time as flowers as they can get devastated by aphids, and gooseberries in flower also need to be checked for sawflies which can devour leaves very rapidly.

Wee jobs to do this week

April has been a very dry month. Not one April shower to be seen, at least up in the north east. No doubt in time the rains will arrive to make up the deficit. Just hope they remember to go off. In the meantime get the hose out and keep the young crops (seeds just germinating and young plants recently planted) well watered. Dry spell however has been brilliant for hoeing the weeds, though it has been so cold that there’s not many around.

Tulip Bellona