A sure sign that the worst of winter should be behind us is the glossy leaves of Camellia being embellished with its rich coloured blooms.
Each corner of the garden produces its own tell tale signs that give away the fact that despite it being freezing cold, nature's mechanisms are still operating and within the structures of most of the plants, things are happening.
As the temperature rises (at least temporarily) and the days lengthen slightly, everything reawakens. Fresh bright green leaves appear at the end of stems, buds swell and change colour, and plants that died back completely during winter poke their finger like stems above the ground almost as if they are testing things out before they decide to resurrect themselves completely.
Some things even flower, and one of the earliest is the Camellia. Ours is quite large now, for a pot plant. It sits inside the front gate, offering (I like to think) hope to all those walking past that spring is here at last. They need acidic soil or ericaceous compost to thrive, so it's a good idea to have them in a pot if you haven't got those conditions naturally in your garden.
GREEN FINGERS TIP: For a good display of flowers in Spring, prune all stems back to a bud in late September and avoid any more pruning until after flowering. The buds develop over Winter so if you do any more pruning late in the year you will be preventing the flowers from reaching their full potential. They can grow at quite a rate, producing long upright stems that stick up and spoil its shape, so it can be hard to resist the temptation!
Finally this week, some advice I learned the hard way trying to pot up this Camellia some years ago:
GREEN FINGERS TIP: Avoid planting larger shrubs in pots with a broad middle and narrower top. Once whatever is in it gets too big it is extremely hard work to remove it from the pot if the rim is less wide than the bulk of the root ball!