I’ve been staring out of my window (or when putting out bird-seed) at the emerging signs of spring since Christmas, but there’s one definitive element that, to me, sends the first message of the year that says “DO SOMETHING!”, and it’s the simple little pulmoniaria:
After the primroses, these are the first proper flowers to open. In the next few weeks, the earliest species of bee will emerge: first the small, frantic carder bees that are so hard to photograph, then the honey bees and hairy-footed flower bees will follow. All of them use the pulmonarias heavily.
Opinion on rose-pruning differs, and I suspect that it’s for the simple reason that roses grown in different conditions require different approaches. In the end, you have to figure out through painful experience what works for your roses. In my dry, shady little cave of a garden, what works is a medium prune the minute I see these little pulmos open their faces to the sun. Since I was determined to make some use of myself today, I have been out with the secateurs and done the pruning.
While I was at it, I took my young clematises back to about a metre from the root, taking off just the long stems from last summer – they already had young leaf growth on them (this pleased me: they have survived their first winter!). I don’t want to take them back to the recommended 60cms until they are very firmly established next year. You have to think of clematises in spring a bit like an army that’s still conquering territory – if you let your supply lines get all long and straggly early in the campaign, the campaign will fail. Keep the growth tight and lushly supplied early on, and once the sun really starts to shine they’ll conquer the fence in no time at all with a thick net of stems and flowers.