Spring gardening

Award-winning garden designer, Geoff Stonebanks reveals what spring means to him.

The garden looks good with the bulbs coming out
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For me the month of March sets the scene for the start of the busy gardening year here at Driftwood. It’s the calm before the storm and usually the first month when the weather starts to improve, allowing me to get out and start to prepare the garden for opening in June. It’s usually a reasonably calm time, building up to the manic weeks in late April and May, when I am planting annuals and getting it looking good for the 1st of June.

Spring delights

March certainly hails the start of 12 weeks of hard graft. Some years I think I should open in the spring, as the garden does look lovely with all, the bulbs coming up. I was extremely fortunate to be given nearly 1000 bulbs last year by Bakker, which are really bringing the garden to life this year. So there are masses of spring flowering bulbs to see this month, from tulips to daffodils and narcissus and a few crocus, hyacinth, muscari too. There’s so much colour heralding the beginning of spring. At the front of the house in the beach garden there’s a large bergenia that’s looking wonderful too.

Wind control

In March I remove all the fleece from the plants in the garden. They are not protected from the cold but from the wind. The gales we have had this winter have been the worst we have experienced since moving her in 2004. I invested £75 in a mammoth fleece to cover the jelly palm (Butia capitata) in the centre of the garden and amazingly it survived with just a few small tears. It is so refreshing to get the covers off and see the garden in all its glory again.

It’s time to take the covers off the plants

Spring clean

Inevitably though, March means the start of an annual regime, a week of deep cleaning all the hard surfaces throughout the garden. It always amazes me how much dirt builds up on the pathways and what an incredible difference pressure cleaning makes to the garden’s overall look. Some of the hardest areas to clean are the brick paths and steps, which have so much dirt ingrained in the gaps. It is always a job I hate, but well worth the effort when I see the final result.

Spring friends

The summerhouse, which is always crammed with garden ornaments, furniture and the like for the winter, has been emptied and cleaned ready for visitors. It is always a surprise to rediscover “old friends” each spring and place them out in the garden again. The same is true off the many agaves I have in pots. I over-winter them in an alley at the side of the house. They don’t mind the cold but they do not like getting wet, so undercover is a good plan to ensure they all survive the wet from November to March.

Emptying out the summerhouse always uncovers things I have forgotten about.

Finally, spring would not be spring in my garden without an appearance by Hector the tortoise. We inherited him back in 2004 from my aunt who had had him since the 1950’s. I’ve no idea how old he was then but he’s got to be at least 70 to 80 years old now. He’s quite an attraction for garden visitors too and it’s always a relief when he emerges in spring from his winter slumber.

Geoff Stonebanks

About Geoff Stonebanks

Geoff Stonebanks lives in Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex and spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden - Driftwood - he has raised over £114,000 for various charities in 8 years, £66,000 of that for Macmillan. The garden, which first opened to the public in 2009 has featured on BBC2 Gardeners' World, Good Morning Britain and in many national and local media publications. In his spare time, Geoff is also the National Garden Scheme's Social Media & Publicity Chair as well as an Assistant County Organiser & Publicity Officer in East & Mid Sussex.
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