Gardening in early April: Setting Magnolia | Cutting back Apple trees | Wild flower meadows
Common Question: Top soil or compost for beginning plants?
If you have good top soil, go with that. And if you have a combination, use both mixed together. In general, good quality top soil is best.
Q. from David in mount merrion avenue blackrock.
"I have it in mind to purchase a few different varieties of Magnolia and I would love to set them permanently in the garden.
My question is, is it now too late? Any tips or insights would be appreciated."
Hi David. You'll be pleased to know that now is a great time to plant.
A bit about Magnolia: They are large shrubs or tress that come in many different varieties and colours. The flower can be white / pink / mauve or two toned. Many have a beautiful tulip shaped flower which enhances any garden once in bloom. The most popular variety here in Ireland is 'magnolia soulangeana'. It can grow to approx 14 feet high and quite wide. It becomes covered in flowers when its season beckons!
Originally was first flowered in Paris in 1826, and it is suspected that it originates from the Orient or the Americas.
There is a beautiful one called 'magnolia leonard messel'. It grows about one meter wide by two meters high, so is good on space. Has a lovely pink flower which buds deeper and opens paler.
Other varieties to look for:
Magnolia stellata; a favourite of many gardeners. Often called 'Star Magnolia'. This is the best one to go for if space is an issue. Has a lovely star shaped white flower. It can grow quite wide, but not very tall.
And lastly I would like to mention 'Magnolia sunrise': This type has a 'standard' magnolia look, but with a red colour at the tip of its flower. Magnolias in general lasts around 6 or 8 weeks (with good weather) once in bloom. So set them and enjoy for many years to come. Hope this helps.
Q. from Mary in Stillorgan.
"Can I cut back apple trees that are shapeless and now budding (early April)?"
Hi Mary. Yes - its important to do it, and can help the plant to a large degree. It doesn't harm them just because the sap is rising.
Ideally, it would be done already. In general, once it begins to bud, then flower (and the flower has started to open) it is pretty much too late at that stage. So just keep in mind, once the flowers have appeared and have started to open, this means NO cutting and you should Leave them! But, if the flowers are not yet out and opening, you should be OK.
Q: from Kelly in Sandyford Dublin.
"I haven't pruned my roses! Is it too late to do so?"
Kelly, you can still do it. Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to be as fussy about rose pruning. It can be done now, and you don't have to go exactly to the bud at a slope etc. Also remember to take out the dead wood / tidy it up. It will thrive and look great.
Q. Tony in Deansgrange.
"I have new Laurel hedging. What is the fasted way to grow them and get it up to speed?"
Hey Tony. Like all foliage type shrubs, they need good nutrients. Laurel relys on nitrogen in the soil in order to get that lovely dark green leaf. Better to put in a slow release feed (link). You can get them in pellet form, and some can last for up to 6 months, so you can do it two to three times a year and get the gains you're looking for.
Q. James in Dalkey
"Hi, is it too late to prune a beech hedge?"
No worries James, you can still do it. Beech isn't fully out just yet, so its a good time to do so.
Q. Sinead in Stepaside
"How do I grow a lot of blueberries?"
Hi. Ye, blueberries need 'ericaceous' or lime free soil. Onceyou can supply that, they are easy to grow. When you have a few established, they pollinate each other so you get a gift that keeps on giving! Hope this helps.
Q. Anne in Wicklow
"We have a field at the back of our house with fertilised grass. How do we return it to a wild flower meadow?"
Hey Anne. So you don't require fertiliser for this. Make sure the soil is well drained and that there is not too much competition with the grass etc. Just scatter out your flower seeds and they should establish themselves in no time. For inspiration, a visit to Kilmacurragh Arboretum - National Botanic will get your imagination stoked. Talk to the curator Seamus O'Brien for advice on creating native wild flower meadows.
Q. Aine in Ballsbridge
"Have two Hellebore plants. They are around 10 meters apart. One is deep purple, the other is a faded pink / white colour. It used to have a purple flower. Is there something missing in the soil?"
Hey Aine. There are many types of colours that they producer. 'Hellebore picotee' for example have a beautiful edge to the flower - so it depends on the different varieties. But there is no reason as to what the dark colour flower would change. It could be that a seedling has dropped and sprouted, and that is why you have a pink / white colour. It may be a different plant altogether! U could have a cook-coo in the nest (so to speak!).
Q: Kaitlyn in Stillorgan
"Any advice on lifting and dividing Crocus and Snowdrops that have finished flowering? Also moving Agapanthus and Lillie's that have about 4 inches of green shoots?"
Hi Kaitlyn. Agapanthus has a very strong root, so you will have to take a lot of the root out with it. You can pot it on, or move it to a new spot. It loves sunshine and good drainage. Crocus are different. You can lift and move AFTER they flower, but never before. So it sounds like you are good to go!
Q: Colin in The Coppins Foxrock
"Whats the best time to put tomatoes into the garden? I have them in the house at the moment?"
Its all about heat for tomatoes! Heat and the absence of frost. April can be too early for moving tomatoes outside as we can still get ground frost. So timing is everything.