Clumber Gardener: Now is the time to start planning your summer garden

Chris Margrave, head gardener at Clumber Park
Chris Margrave, head gardener at Clumber Park

Plantings which produce a tropical, jungle-like effect during the summer are very much in vogue at the moment.

Large leaved banana lookalikes, like the purple leaved Abyssinian banana, ensete and the Japanese banana, Musa basjoo are good choices for such schemes.

Equally effective, although, smaller-leaved, are the cannas, which bring an exotic, tropical feel to planting schemes, both through their foliage and their flowers.

One of the most striking varieties is Tropicana with striped green, cream and pink foliage and orange flowers.

Striata also has orange flowers, and has green foliage with strong yellow veining, while Wyoming has huge dark bronze foliage and large orange flowers.

Lower growing varieties include the amber-yellow flowered Louis Cottin and the orange-flowered Delibab, which both have purple-bronze foliage.

Cannas are usually available as dormant rhizomes at this time of year and need similar treatment to dahlia tubers, that is, potting into a suitable sized pot, thoroughly watered and grown on in a heated greenhouse.

From mid-May harden them off by gradually exposing them to cooler conditions and plant them out when the danger of the last frost is past – usually around the end of May.

A sheltered spot in full sun will suit them best and they also like a rich soil, so add organic matter to the area where they are to be planted.

Water and feed them throughout the summer, especially in dry weather, and cover the soil around the plants with a mulch, such as bark chippings, to conserve moisture in the soil.

March is one of the pivotal gardening months of the year.

There is still time to plant bare-root hedging plants, such as quickthorn and beech, and bare rooted fruit trees and flowering shrubs.

Divide hardy herbaceous perennial plants such as delphiniums and hostas while they are still dormant.

Prune roses and apple and pear trees before buds start to burst into growth.

If you have a light, sandy soil, make the first sowings of broad beans and a first early variety of pea in the vegetable garden.

If annual weeds such as groundsel and chickweed have started to germinate, it is a good indicator that the soil is warm enough to sow seeds outdoors.

If you have a heavier clay soil, and want to make early sowings, soil can be covered with clear polythene for three weeks or so.

This will act as a mini greenhouse and prevent cold winds and rain from cooling the soil.

In a heated propagator, summer bedding plants, such as busy lizzies, can be sown under glass.