What to do
* April is a good time to plant conifers, but in exposed areas, protect newly planted specimens with a windbreak until they are established. Water well in dry spells.
Summer flowering bulbs, such as camassia and galtonia, are on sale now in nurseries and garden centres. Both are well worth having. Camassia will naturalise in grass, sending up thick blue spikes of flower in June and July. They are happiest in heavy, damp soil. Set the bulbs 10cms deep. If you are planting in grass, the easiest way is to start the bulbs off in pots and transplant them when the green shoots are growing strongly. Chop out turfs, about a foot square and plant the bulbs in the spaces, topped up with fresh earth.
* Galtonias need more mollycoddling. These summer flowering bulbs send up thick, stiff stems at least 90cms high, covered with white flowers rather like enormous hyacinths. The bulbs need to go in about 15cms deep and 30cms apart.
Trim winter flowering heathers as flowers fade, taking care not to cut back into old growths. Heathers will not break from old wood. Shears are the easiest tool for this job. Low growing branches can easily be layered to produce new plants. Scoop out a little hollow under a likely-looking growth and bend the branch into it, securing it with a hoop of wire or a small stone.
* Continue to plant vegetables, where the soil is dry and easily worked. You could try the handsome radish 'Amethyst' (Marshalls £1.75), baby leeks such as 'Edison' (Marshalls £2.95), and a new lettuce called 'Dazzle' (Marshalls £1.85), like 'Little Gem' but red rather than green.
Cauliflowers are more difficult and here, I've finally admitted defeat. I never raised a cauliflower that I could be proud of. The heads remained small and the curds too open. The plants need plenty to eat and drink. You also need to move them fairly speedily from the seed bed to the place where they are going to grow on. But there we are. I comfort myself with purple sprouting broccoli instead.
* Caerhays Castle in Cornwall has long been known for its astonishing camellias, but a recent survey of the estate has revealed other, less well-known surprises. Even owner, Charles Williams, was astonished to discover that 80 champion trees, (the biggest of their kind) grow in the Caerhays grounds. To celebrate these living treasures, he is leading a guided walk around the champions on Friday 25 April (10-1). Tickets cost £15. For more information or to book call 0845 612 1253 or visit the website at www.caerhays.co.ukReuse content