Plant of the Month – Fritillaria melagris

Daffodils brightly herald the start of spring, but the subtle charm of the Snakes head Fritillary is hard to outdo. Each slender stem of this spring bulb carries a hanging bell-shaped bloom, heavily chequered with dark purple and white squares, an effect rarely seen on petals.

Also available is a sub-species with pure white flowers (FRITILLARIA meleagris ssp. Alba).
Unfortunately these hardy wild flowers are becoming increasingly rare in the countryside due to modern farming methods, but the few protected sites in Britain really are a wonderful sight in April.

They are easy to grow in a border or pot, and look stunning naturalized in grass, either in sun or partial shade.

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Plant of the Month – Euphorbia amygdaloides 'Purpurea'

A striking architectural perennial is a good choice for a large winter or spring container, and this bushy euphorbia is perfect. 'Purpurea' has lovely purple tipped foliage that contrasts with the lime green flowers that appear in spring. These last into summer when you can prune the whole flowering stem back to the base to tidy the plant.

If your garden soil is poor or dry and in partial shade, this hardy euphorbia will cope! It makes a good evergreen backdrop in the shady garden and reached 60cm high. Try with phormiums for contrasting shapes, or with alchemilla mollis for similar coloured flowers in early summer and contrasting foliage.

One note of caution for all euphorbias, they have milky white sap, which is poisonous and a potential skin irritant so always wear gloves when working near them.

What soil do I have?

Every garden soil is different. All are mixtures of sand, clay and silt, but in differing quantities.

To determine what your soil is, take a piece of soil about the size of a golf ball and roll between your fingers removing any large stones. Now try to roll into a ‘worm’ shape.

A sandy soil will not form this shape, it simply falls apart. If you can form this shape easily and when rubbed, the surface turns shiny, this is clay soil.

However, if the ‘worm’ can be crushed in the palm of your hand, then you have a loam soil, perhaps the most desirable of soil types. Very similar is a silty soil, which possesses a silky feel.
You can improve every soil by adding organic material such as compost or manure. This helps bind particles together in a sandy soil, or helps clay soil become more workable.

Knowing your soil will help you choose the right plants for your garden and enjoy more success growing healthy and happy plants.

Plant of the Month – Dryopteris filix-mas

The native Male Fern is an elegant addition to the winter garden. It serves as a green backdrop to flamboyant summer flowers, but comes into its own during Autumn and Winter, with its structural shuttlecock shape. It has robust mid-green foliage and can withstand drier soil and sunnier spots than other ferns, although equally happy in damp shade.

Its foliage lasts well into late winter, when at some point the leaves will fold down, forming natural protection for the crown of the plant during the wet and cold winter months. Its best to leave these until early spring, when they can be removed completely to make way for the fresh new leaves (known as fronds) to elegantly unfurl.