As spring begins, it is not just the borders that need a boost – it is the wildlife too. Monty gives tips on what to do now, as well as planting a tree to provide a nectar source for bees and other insects. 

In Cornwall, Nick Bailey revisits a first love as he celebrates the fleeting beauty of one of the most ancient flowering plants. With champion-sized trees and goblet-shaped flowers, magnolias are one this season’s star performers. 

And we meet a woman who has maximised the growing space available in her small garden and created her very own piece of prairie-inspired planting. 

It is now officially Spring and time to get gardening.

Pruning Red Currents, Black Currents, White Currents and Goesberries.

The programme starts with Monty pruning a red current bush. Red Currents, Black Currents and Gooseberries are all pruned in the same way.

You need to prune the bush so that it’s open in the middle like a goblet so that light and air can get in and you get good ventilation. This helps to prevent Saw Fly because they don’t like laying their eggs in an open space. So take out all inward heading branches.

Summer Flowering Bulbs

Now is a good time to buy and plant summer flowering Lilies. They are happy in their pots over winter and will flower well in summer.

Monty grows lots of Lilies but this year he wants to try some alternative bulbs which are just as easy and as available.

The first is Gloriosa Superba, Rothschildiana. Click here to see more details on Amazon.

It’s a climber reaching 2 or 3 meters flowers in late summer.

WARNING – be very careful when handling these bulbs. They are poisonous if eaten but also an irritant to your skin. They may not affect your hands if they are tough but if you then touch your face it could be nasty! So ware gloves and wash hands after handling.

Hymenocallis x festalis Peruvian daffodil. Click here to see more information and suppliers.

Needs to be planted so that the tip is showing in the pot.

Amaryllis belladonna – click here for more information and suppliers.

Wants as much sunshine as you can give it and good drainage. Plant shallow in the pot but needs to be covered. This will flower late summer into autumn.

Nick Bailey visits Caerhays St Austell Cornwall to look at the magnolias

Magnolias are one of the most ancient flowering plants, fossil records suggest they existed over 25 million years ago. They were one of the first flowering plants on Earth.

They evolved before there were flying insects to pollinate them so their flowers are tough and leathery so that they can be pollinated by beetles instead.

Most only flower this time of year for two weeks. You may wonder if given the short flowering season if they are worth investing in, Nick assures us they are because of the richness and colour they bring this time of year.

Magnolia campielli Alba, produces flowers the size of your head. It can grow to over 15 meters tall. I could only find this in seed form, which would be interesting.

Magnolia sergentiana var. robusta. Grows to over 15 meters.

Magnolia x loebneri ‘Ballerina’ is better suited to an average domestic garden. It is compact in nature. It has a longer flowering run than many other Magnolia. It can even be grown in a container. Click here for more information and suppliers.

Now back to Long meadow

Fritillaria meleagris Snake’s head fritillary. It’s a bulb that actually likes damp soil. Click here for more information and suppliers.

Now Monty is planting a new Magnolia in his wild garden.

This is Magnolia Black Tulip. Click here for more information and suppliers.

Monty says that Magnolia like acidic soil. Don’t let them dry out in summer and keep them watered once a week in a hot summer.

Small Garden Feature

Michaelmas Daisy Mönch can flower right up to Christmas. Click here for more information about Michaelmas Daily and suppliers.

Indigofera himalayensis, produces lovely pink flowers in Spring and then sporadically throughout summer. At the time of writing this is available from Cross Common Nursery for £15 – click here.

Jobs for the weekend

Monty starts by talking about mulching. He says to make it at least two inches deep. It’s great for retaining moister and keeping down weeds.

  1. Prick out seedlings – Monty pricks out the chillis he planted a few weeks ago. Always pick up the plan by a leaf and never the stem.
  2. Plan shallots, plan the sets, 8 or 9 inches apart so they are half submerged. They are known as the cooks’ friend because they store so well. Once they start to grow they need little attention other than to be kept weed free.
  3. Pot up Dahlias. If you’ve been storing them over winter now is the time to take them out. Check them carefully and cut back dead stems then pot them up in pots full of compost to get them started. Put them somewhere frost free to get started. They can be planted out after the last frost in May.

You may also like to checkout my Monty Don gift guide and reading list.