APRIL is a good time to plant conifers, but in exposed areas protect new specimens with a windbreak until they are established. Water well in dry spells.
Summer-flowering bulbs, such as camassia and galtonia, are now for sale in nurseries and garden centres. 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 4in deep. If you are planting in grass, chop out a turf about 1ft square, plant the bulbs in the space and top up with fresh earth. Galtonias need molly-coddling. These summer flowering bulbs send up thick, stiff stems at least 3ft high, covered with white flowers rather like enormous hyacinths. The bulbs need to go in about 6in deep and 1ft apart.
Trim winter-flowering heathers as their flowers fade. Heathers will not break from old wood, so take care not to cut back as far as that. Shears are the best tool. Low branches can easily be layered to produce new plants: scoop a little hollow under a likely-looking growth and bend the branch into it, securing with wire or a small stone.
Continue to plant vegetables where the soil is dry and easily worked. I have just put in radish 'Flair' (Johnsons, 85p), leek 'Autumn Mammoth' (Thompson & Morgan, pounds 1.19), a new F1 hybrid calabrese called 'Eusebio' (Johnsons, pounds 1.79), and the cauliflower 'Fortuna' (Johnsons, pounds 1.25).
I have never yet raised cauliflowers I can be proud of. The heads remain small and the curds too open. The plants need plenty to eat and drink, and should be moved fairly speedily from seed bed to plot. But they are one of my favourite vegetables, so I will have another try.
ANY gardener seeking unusual varieties of vegetable to grow needs a copy of the Vegetable Finder, which gives sources of supply for almost 3,000 varieties. Published by the Henry Doubleday Research Association ( pounds 5.99), this invaluable reference book includes vegetables from the splendidly esoteric list from Future Foods, 3 Tai Madog, Stablau, Llanrug, Gwynedd LL5 3PH.
A SPIRITED defence of de Jager's mail-order firm (Weekend, 13 March) comes from Betty Verrill, of Guisborough, Cleveland. She feels it has 'the personal touch' that many others lack, and she has been impressed with the quality of its plants. But Audrey Glauert, of Cambridge, thinks that mail-order problems are 'far more widespread than de Jager admits. I have not ordered from them since receiving poor plants some years ago'.
Diana Shamash, of Wantage, Oxfordshire, says the mail service itself gives most cause for complaint. 'I have just (15 March) received a large box of plants from Bressingham nurseries, clearly marked 'Perishable' and posted on 18 February. It was labelled Parcel Force Standard Plus. I hate to think what service plain Standard provides.'
The parcel, she adds, 'looks as if the Post Office has been playing football with it. It says a lot for Bressingham's standard of packing that the plants have all survived, albeit blanched and leggy.'
CAROLINE HOLMES, garden historian and horticulturist, has organised a series of 9am-4pm courses on how to plan, plant and maintain a parterre: on 22 April at Hintlesham Hall, nr Ipswich, Suffolk ( pounds 40); on 17 May at Wimpole Hall, Arrington, nr Royston, Hertfordshire ( pounds 40); and on 7 August at Pitmedden Gardens, Ellon, Aberdeenshire ( pounds 30). Further details from Ms Holmes, at Denham End Farm, Denham, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP29 5EE (tel: 0284 810653).
THE versatility of glass houses is tantalisingly displayed in Jeffrey Gold's new brochure of one- off designs for conservatories and extensions. The brochure is available from Glass Houses Ltd, 53 Ellington Street, London N7 8PN (tel: 071-607 6071).
A green arena
FOR the first time, Wembley's vast exhibition space is to be devoted to gardening. The International Spring Gardening Fair (from Thursday until 12 April) will include several specialist shows, such as the International Camellia Society's exhibition, which fills one hall on its own; a camellia clinic will be held in the conference
And the biggest conservatory ever constructed indoors will be open to visitors. It is an exact replica of one built in 1905. The interior has been modelled on a Tissot painting, incorporating varieties of palms, and masses of lilac. The show is open Thurs-Sun (9.30am- 7.30pm) and Mon (9.30am- 5pm). Tickets at the gate cost pounds 12 ( pounds 5 for pm only); and an all- day ticket, booked in advance, costs pounds 9 (tel: 081-900 1234).Reuse content