Weekend Work: Early flowering Iris reticulata and crocus

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The Independent Online

What to do

Spears of early flowering Iris reticulata and crocus are already spearing through the ground, with scillas and grape hyacinths. If the earth looks sour, tickle the ground up around the bulbs and remove any seedling weeds.

* Continue to mulch thickly round herbaceous perennials, such as hosta and rodgersia, both of which are quite greedy plants. The mulch feeds, but it also suppresses annual weeds and, as it is drawn down by earthworms, gradually improves the texture of soil.

* Keep greenhouses well ventilated so that air constantly circulates through it. There is a difference between circulating air and icy draughts. A temperature as constant as possible is what you are aiming for. Winter sun can build up a surprising amount of warmth in a greenhouse. If you close the vents in time at the end of the day, you can trap some of this warmth and keep down the amount of artificial heat you use through the night.

* Gently force batches of early spring bulbs by bringing pots of them into a cool greenhouse. Dwarf narcissi, hyacinths, crocus and iris all respond to this kind of treatment. When the flower buds begin to colour up, you can bring the bowls into the house.

What to see

Earlier this year, when she was preparing for her Chelsea show garden, I wrote in this column about the young designer Sarah Price. After a competition, Price has now been chosen to redesign Thrive's garden in Battersea Park. Thrive is a horticultural charity set up to help and support disabled people by giving them gardening skills. If you'd like to help raise funds for the garden, call 0118 988 5688 or check out the website at www.thrive.org.uk

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