With Aileen Atcheson

For most people, March and springtime are synonymous with bulbs. Still, there are lovely small herbaceous plants which no garden should be without.

Toothworth appear early in spring in grand colours, shades of pink, mauve and purple. Pulmonaria or lungworts are small, early flowering perennials with leaves like the herb borage. Rough to touch. Pink and blue flowers at the same time and heart shaped spotted leaves.

There are more to herbs than parsely too, you know. Try sweet and lemon basil. The winter savory is good in casserols and is perennial. The annual summer savory goes well with beans.

Lemon verbena is another worth a try. English mace will grow almost anywhere, in most types of soil and looks well in a big pot. Use the leaves in soups, to flavour rice and pasta dishes when young and tender.

Thymus Officinalis is an essential ingredient of bouquet garnii. Grow from seed and put on the surface of a pot of soil in early spring.

Plant out your early potatoes which you have sprouted on the warm kitchen window sill, before St. Patrick’s Day. Early potatoes need fairly high temperatures to make strong early growth. That is the reason for growing on raised drills. When setting chitted potatoes remove a few of the sprouts. This will reduce the number of potatoes on each plant. Then they should reach a good size more quickly.

March is a yellow month in the garden. If your forsythia has got tall and straggly it needs pruning. Cut back fairly hard now and it should grow back over the next few years. This will probably prevent it flowering for about two years but it will be better when it comes back. Better I always think to prune a bit each year, taking out some of the old branches after flowering. This will keep the bush small and tidy. Pruning any kind should be done on forsythia straight after flowering in about a fortnight’s time.

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