Spring clear-up?

17 March 2017

In the autumn (http://www.linsladememorialgardens.uk/2016/11/10/ready-for-remembrance-day/) we explained that we leave stalks and seed heads over the winter for insects and other wildlife, and we mulch the ground, to protect the soil over winter. Usually we look forward to clearing all the dead growth away in spring, and removing the mulch, and someone walking through the gardens last week when I was working there asked me when this spring clear-up was going to happen. I must admit I’m itching to get on with it, but we’re being very cautious this year, as last year in our zeal to tidy up, we cleared away a lot of shoots of perennial plants we didn’t recognise, like this bee balm (Monarda didyma). It’s a very handsome plant, with bright red flowers later in the summer that bees just can’t resist.

Photo wplynn, reproduced under creative commons license

Unfortunately, new bee balm shoots look very much like self-heal (Prunella vulgaris), which is very attractive to bees, but it’s also very invasive. When these beds were first dug, volunteers were asked to leave any self-heal we found, because it’s so good for bees – but within a few months, many of the other plants we wanted to keep had been completely choked by it, and nowadays we leave it in the grass, and keep most of it out of the beds. We’ve now learned the difference between bee balm shoots and self-heal seedlings …

There are many other perennials just coming through, as well as seedlings of flowers like California poppies that were very popular last year (with bees and passers-by alike), so we’ve decided to postpone tidying up for a couple more weeks. We’ve cleared away a lot of the conifer twigs that were blown down by the storm a couple of weeks ago, and we’ve cleared some areas between plants that we do recognise. So we hope the beds don’t look too untidy, and we hope you’ll just enjoy the pulmonaria, currant, red deadnettle and primulas, and turn a blind eye to emerging weeds for just a little while longer!

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