Gardening: The best of the garden and what to do this week

Jerusalem artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes - Credit: Archant

The beauty of the paper birch (Betula papyrifera) is its white bark which peels off in large sheets to reveal the new, pale orange-brown bark underneath.

Paper Birch

Paper Birch - Credit: Archant

Yellow, hanging catkins appear in spring, while green leaves turn to pretty shades of orange and yellow in autumn. The white bark is shown off to its best against a warm brick wall or dark background of evergreen shrubs. These trees should be grown in full sun or light shade in fertile, moist but well-drained soil.

Kitchen garden: Jerusalem artichokes

These knobbly, nutty root vegetables can be blitzed after roasting to make a delicious puree or added to a soup. Plant tubers from late February to April in a sunny ro partly shaded spot in the garden in well-drained soil, placing them in holes 10cm deep, 30cm apart. When stems reach around 30cm, draw soil around them to around 15cm, as you would when earthing up potatoes, to stabilise the plants as they grow.

Stake them to prevent the tops being blown about and damaged. As well as tasting good, they also look good, their tall stems topped with pretty yellow flowers which compare with heleniums or rudbeckia at the back of a border. Harvest the tubers in autumn when the foliage starts to turn yellow. Like potatoes, they can be invasive, so make sure you remove all the tubers to stop them spreading.

What to do in the garden this week

:: In the greenhouse, prick out seedlings and space them in bigger trays when they are big enough to transplant.

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:: Sow broad beans in pots under glass for planting out later.

:: Place cloches over vegetable patches to warm the soil before planting.

:: Plant new roses before spring.

:: Plant new bare-rooted hedging plants from specialists for large areas.

:: Continue planting new trees and shrubs.

:: Dig up and store remaining parsnips in dry sand.

:: Lift and divide established clumps of rhubarb which need rejuvenating.

:: Prune summer-flowering shrubs.

:: Keep topping up bird feeders and baths.

:: Feed fruit trees with a fertiliser high in nitrogen.