The best of the garden and what to do this week

Daffodils are synonymous with early spring. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

Daffodils are synonymous with early spring. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos - Credit: Archant

Spring is on the horizon so now is the time to prepare your autumn-fruiting raspberries and enjoy the season’s favourite flower – daffodils.

Now is the time to prune your raspberry plants. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

Now is the time to prune your raspberry plants. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos - Credit: Archant

Narcissus (Daffodil)

For me, the narcissus evokes the bright, cheery optimism of spring, in shades ranging from zingy yellow to cream with deep orange cups, in a variety of shapes and sizes from hoop-petticoats to trumpets, double-flowered and fragrant. Even just a small tub of narcissi near your patio door can brighten your mood in spring. Most large types naturalise well in grass and look more effective when planted en masse as single varieties. Smaller ones are ideal for pots, as varieties with heavy double blooms often flop and break when grown in containers. In pots, go for types such as ‘Bell Song’, which has 20cm stems carrying two or three delicate blooms with ivory-white petals and short, soft salmon trumpets, or the sweetly scented ‘Minnow’, a multi-headed type with lemon-yellow flowers, which goes well planted with forget-me-nots. Daffodils should be planted in autumn in soil with good drainage at three times the depth of the bulb. If you have heavy soil, add horticultural grit to the planting hole. They will last longer in light shade, but they will also thrive in full sun.

Pruning raspberries

It’s now time to prune autumn-fruiting raspberries. Canes need cutting down to a few centimetres above ground level in late winter and early spring. The plants produce their fruits from August or September onwards on canes that grew in the summer. Once you’ve cut the canes to ground level, watch for new shoots appearing in late spring and tie them in to the supporting wires without thinning. Burn the prunings to stop the onslaught of fungal disease such as cane spot. New plants should be cut down to 25cm (10 inches) after planting. While it may not be technically correct, autumn raspberries could be grown back like a hedge in a bed 30cm (12 inches) wide instead of keeping them correctly spaced. That way you should get large crops from a very limited space if you feed and mulch generously, although you will need to thin them out after a few years. Good autumn-fruiting varieties include ‘All Gold’, a yellow type, and ‘Joan J’, a spine-free variety which freezes well.

What to do in the garden this week?

:: Sow seeds of summer bedding indoors, including pelargoniums, nicotiana, petunia, salvia and verbena.

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:: Prune large-flowered clematis in Group 2 by shortening long shoots down to a pair of swelling leaf buds.

:: Remove badly placed, damaged or diseased branches of apple and pear trees.

:: Continue to order summer-flowering bulbs, tubers and corms.

:: Prune any remaining winter-flowering shrubs which have finished blooming.

:: Have the lawn mower serviced ready for the new season.

:: Ensure that tree ties are secure but not too tight.

:: Continue winter digging if weather permits.

:: Sow tomato seeds for growing in a cool greenhouse.

:: Bring strawberries in containers into the greenhouse for early fruit.

:: Prune the old flowering heads of hydrangeas, left on through the winter to give some protection against frost.