What’s Monty Don’s favourite flower? It’s the pretty perennial that celebrates the coming of spring – Daily Mail


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I pick primroses! What’s Monty Don’s favourite flower? It’s the pretty perennial that celebrates the coming of springMonty Don says his favourite flower is primrose because it celebrates springBritish gardening expert reveals the plant thrives in the lee of a hedgerow He adds that now is the time to plant potatoes in dry soil, that is cold to touch By Monty Don For Weekend Magazine Published: 18: 30 EDT, 26 March 2021 | Updated: 18: 30 EDT, 26 March 2021 Monty revisits one of his classic books, Gardening at Longmeadow, in an occasional series.   British gardening expert Monty Don shares his advice for growing primrose. Pictured: Monty with his primrosesPeople ask me often what my favourite flower is. The truth is that it depends on the season, the situation, on what I am doing – and even who I am doing it with. There are lots of favourites.But whenever I’m forced to stump up one floral treasure above all others, I go for the common, humble primrose. No other plant so perfectly celebrates the coming of spring or does it with such gentle charm and beauty.Primroses are woodland flowers, loving cool, damp banks and glades and thriving in the lee of a hedgerow or in coppiced woodland, in particular hazel. The native primrose is Primula vulgaris and although the name describes a distinctive pale yellow, they occur in every shade from almost pure white to a distinct orange.Primroses like wet soil best, with summer shade. The drier the local climate, the more they need shade and heavy soil that will hold moisture. So add plenty of organic material to help conserve moisture for the roots. Summer drought is not really a problem as long as they get plenty of moisture in autumn and the first part of the year. They will spread steadily, especially if exposed to light every few years, so if they are in a border make sure that they are underplanting shrubs that can be pruned hard every now and then. HOW TO GROW PANSIES I grow pansies in terracotta pots, although they can be planted in any moist, rich soil.They hate dry conditions but should not be in a bog, so plenty of compost or leaf mould in the ground is ideal.It is best to plant pansies (below) in autumn, although I often leave it until March.Whenever they’re planted you should pinch out all flower heads to give the plant a chance to establish roots before putting its energy into the flowers. As a result you’ll have many more flowers for much longer.Regular dead-heading will increase the length of display.As spring progresses the plants will grow increasingly leggy and as the supply of flowers diminishes the entire plant should be cut back to one joint above soil level. However many of us treat pansies as annuals and consign them to the compost heap at this stage. Primroses are perennials that will last for a number of years but will spread quite fast by seed. I underplanted the hazels in the Coppice with a few dozen primroses (bought very cheaply as small plants) and these quickly spread to form great pools and clumps of yellow flowers nestling in their bouquet of lime-green leaves.The date of this flowering is very variable, influenced both by weather and the gradual changing of our seasons. Some years they are at their very best at the end of February but after a cold winter I expect them to be perfect for the last couple of weeks of March.Cowslips, Primula veris, are primulas whose coronets of small flowers are borne on single long stems. They are superficially similar to the primrose but very different in their preferred habitat. Cowslips are plants of open downland and meadow. However, they can easily be grown in a garden if you have a sunny patch of well-drained grass that can be left uncut long enough for the flowers to set seed – which effectively means the beginning of July. I planted some on the sunny side of the Coppice and they have flourished, even though my soil is rather heavy. I bought my cowslips as a tray of plugs, which is a very good way of buying wildflowers cheaply.They have cross-pollinated with the primroses, which produces sterile hybrids known as false oxlips that have the tall stem of the cowslip with the larger flowers of the primrose.All these primulas can be divided and moved, and the best time to do that is immediately after flowering so that they can be ready to regrow for as long as possible before flowering again. YOUR KITCHEN GARDEN: POTATOES Monty said there are more than 400 varieties of potatoes and the vegetables are best planted in dry soil One of my first jobs around now is to plant potatoes. The soil must be dry and not cold to touch. Farmers of old would drop their trousers and sit bare-cheeked on the soil to test the temperature – but that might not go down too well on the allotment.There are more than 400 varieties of potato divided into three groups: first earlies, second earlies and maincrop. First earlies mature after about 100 days, second earlies between 110-120 days and maincrop after 130 days.Potato planting must be done with rhythm and concentration, but it is simple: stick a tuber in the ground, cover it and wait.The ground should be well dug and richly manured, preferably a few months before. If not, add garden compost along the bottom of the planting drill or hole. Make a drill or shallow trench about 15cm deep and put the tubers in the bottom, 30cm apart. Draw the sides back over the line of seeds to make a low mound – a mattock is the ideal tool. Each row wants to be 90cm apart to allow room for earthing up, which means drawing soil up over emerging foliage to protect it from late frost and make sure the tubers have a decent covering.In anything other than a large garden, it makes sense to stick to earlies or grow a really special maincrop variety like ‘Pink Fir Apple’ or ‘Ratte’.

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