The first signs of spring are under glass in the Long Range glasshouse. The peach and nectarine trees flower in February and March, before the plants growing outside and before pollinating insects are about. Each flower has to be hand-pollinated, transferring pollen to the stigma with a sable-hair brush to ensure the flower develops into a fruit. Potted bulbs in the Conservatory provide early colour, including scented hyacinths, daffodils and tulips. April sees the tulips in the herbaceous borders in the garden coming into bloom and, towards the end of the month, the apple blossom produces a beautiful spectacle in pinks and white.
The list of March jobs is a long one and includes fruit trees to prune, vegetable beds to manure and rotovate, clumps of herbaceous perennials to lift and divide and beds to cover with a mulch, which will help keep weeds in check and retain moisture if the summer is hot and dry. In April, provided the soil has warmed up, early sowings of vegetables can be made.
It's also exciting time in March as the earliest varieties in Clumber’s National Rhubarb Collection will be showing above ground. ‘Early Victoria’, Holstein Blut’ and ‘Grandad’s Favourite’ are the first to show, their stalks ready for their first harvest in April and always proving to be delicious.