Sarah's weekly blog: Benefits of birch, hazel and willow

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Our bundles of silver birch are stacked up by the polytunnel now, some harvested from the wood here and some bought in from a man who supplies birch to fill the jumps for three day eventing.

Birch

This just arrived today, and we’ve added it to a good stack of already cut hazel, straight stems thinned from the stools we’ve coppiced round the car park. The thicker bottom sections of the harvested hazel make great uprights for the sweet pea and bean arches, and the twiggier tops are ideal for making branch domed supports for things like Alchemilla mollis and perennial geraniums to keep them off the floor.

You have to cut all these coppicable trees in January and February when the sap is starting to rise — which makes them pliable — but before they have come into leaf. Otherwise, as the leaves die off, they look a mess in the garden.

The birch, hazel and willow will all be used for natural plant supports and climbing frames. It’s good to use local wood, which fits in immediately and has a real architectural presence, beating imported bamboo canes hands down. The oast garden is already filling with beautiful woven baskets, waiting for the clumps of phlox, macleaya, euphorbias and lupins to emerge. The sweet pea arches and delphiniums frames in the cutting garden will be next. That’s the main job for the next couple of weeks.

Hellebores

Planting bulbs in the green is also at the top of the job list here. It’s the moment for snowdrops and aconites, and we’ll be adding British bluebells in about a month’s time. We have lifted and divided some snowdrops from the garden this year, and we’ve bought some in to add to the nascent woodland garden. They arrived looking slightly forlorn, but within twenty four hours in the ground — planted at the same level as they had been when they were lifted — they’d completely recovered and are now looking very perky (see my pic of a single snowdrop).

It is SO worth planting drifts of very early spring bulbs. Lace them through clumps of hellebores and marvellously scented shrubs like daphnes and sarcococca. Then you’ll have something to go and visit when the year is at its very worst. Every year I plant more and make a resolution to double even that the following year. You just cannot have enough February flowerers. That’s when we gardeners need all the help we can get to keep our spirits high. 

Thanks for reading!

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