The vaguely green-fingered thoughts of a rambling rose.

Where did Spring go?

Ok, so the flowers say it's Spring. The 'May Blossom' says it's May, even the dandelions have exploded into action, but oooh it's been so cold! There have even been reports of snow over the higher ground! Actually, it's not all that uncommon to have snow this late. I can even recall snow in June!

I would imagine the power suppliers are rubbing their hands in glee as people up and down the country reach for the thermostat. What better time to get out into the garden to keep warm. There's still digging to be done, raking, mowing, hoeing. Phew!

I say mowing, but this week we haven't been able to mow our lawn. In the mornings we've had frosts, followed by some pretty sharp showers. The best place to be is in the greenhouse. Nice and dry, nice and warm. When the sun breaks through the clouds, it's warm enough for the automatic window opening gadget to do it's thing.

I've been nipping the plants in the hanging baskets as they want to flower. Of course this encourages them to become bushier plants, so that when they actually do make it out to their summer spots, they will be smothered in blooms.

Everything wants to be outside, but of course you should never ever trust the British weather. She always has one last trick up her sleeve. Something that the garden centres, DIY stores and supermarkets hope for. Traditionally, these places start to proffer their bedding plants from the Easter Bank Holiday. These lush gems with the promise of summer-long colour for your garden draw us in, seduce us, and before you realise it you leave with a boot full of goodies. Of course there's nothing at all wrong with that, if you have a sheltered spot, cold frame, greenhouse or conservatory to cosset them in.

In my youth, it probably took me a couple of years, and some hard-earned cash wasted before I realised that the stores were in it for the money. You see you buy these lovely promises, plant them out one sunny weekend in March or April, and wait for summer. Along comes a chilly night, and bang! All your beautiful plants pop off, and you have to return to buy some more! Kerching!

These days I'm far more fastidious. I do still buy bedding plants if something catches my eye like these coleus below, but they go into my greenhouse for a wee while for a bit of protection. I may well pot them on if they need it, or even make up containers if it's required, that way on milder days they can come out of the greenhouse, and go back for the night. This is known as 'hardening off', and once all danger of frosts has passed you should harden off all of your plants whether ornamental or edible, or they'll snuff it from shock.

I always begin by checking them over thoroughly for any signs of pests that may have avoided my scrutiny in the shop - I don't want an infestation of aphids in the greenhouse. Next I will nip out all the shoots. This not only makes for a bushier plant, and thus more flowers, but I use the tips of the shoots for cuttings to make more plants for free. Lastly a really good watering. How often do some of these stores end up slinging plants away for the want of a good watering? It's so wasteful.

A quick nosey around the garden between showers reveals flowers forming on my summer-fruiting raspberries, blackcurrants, and strawberries, these ones below are growing in a hanging basket, away from any slugs.

This little gem is a lilac 'borrowed' from the garden below ours. It drapes gracefully over our fence like a boozy bar singer over a piano, and just as perfumed!

The bulb-filled containers have a little respite. The tulips and fritillaries have now been cut back, leaving their leaves to absorb what nutrients they can to feed the bulbs for next years' display. Although at present no floral display, there is still interest in these containers from the various shades of green and differing shapes and forms of the foliage from the passing bulbs and the bulbs of yet to come, notably one of my favourite Summer blooms, the lillies. I can't wait!

Elsewhere in the garden, the ferns are unfolding their fronds. It might not look much right now, but in another couple of months, this little patch will turn into something out of Jurassic Park!

And finally back into the greenhouse. The removal of our neighbours holly 'tree' has afforded many more hours of sunlight...ok daylight...reaching our little growing space. This has really improved the plants within. I did briefly contemplate removing the upper sections of the bubble-wrap. Given the night-time sub-zero temperatures we've had this week, I'm so glad I didn't!

Of course with the warmer temperatures within the greenhouse, you're bound to come across the odd pest. I've hung up sticky yellow traps for any aphids. Damping down the floor is important as the temperature rises too. This helps to keep the humidity up, a condition that red-spider mites dislike. And finally, a good rootle around your plants as you water (from below if possible to help prevent scorched leaves) will show up any bugs that may have found their way into this protective home.

Now before you begin screaming at me about the sticky traps being non-selective, I have an insect screen that fits over my window, and once I begin opening the door for extra ventilation in the event of summer happening this year, I have a screen for there too. This prevents beneficial insects such as ladybirds, hoverflies and lacewings access to these alluring death-traps.

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