At long last Spring has arrived - Don’t forget to take a few moments to sit in the sun, listen to the birds, and admire any colour you have in the garden! Now is the time to prepare for summer, but keep a close eye on the weather, a frost at this time of year is not uncommon. One genus of plants that are at their peak in April are Euphorbia (pronounced yew-FOR-bee-ah) or spurges. Euphorbia are the plants with everything: evergreens for winter structure, spectacular coloured foliage and frothy flower-bracts all summer. The genus is extremely varied in its plant forms and habitats, ranging from large, succulent trees and tiny, compact succulents to herbaceous perennials and semi- or evergreen, herbaceous shrubs. But what really sets spurges apart from other plants is their very unusual flower structure – called bracts.
Euphorbia’s are a very easy to grow plant, they are almost impossible to kill and are a perfect choice for the novice gardener. Euphorbia are not at all fussy about soil condition, they thrive in poor soils and, once established, can tolerate periods of drought. Euphorbia are easy to propagate from cuttings. In fact, there is really only one ‘bad’ thing about spurges, and that’s their milky sap that may cause irritation to skin. Wear gloves when handling euphorbia, and be careful not to touch your face or get it in your eyes.
Euphorbia myrsinites is a silver-leaved, succulent-like low growing euphorbia that is perfect for the front of a sunny border, alpine bed, or container. The spidery arms loll over the ground and produce acid-yellow flower bracts in April. Tasmanian Tiger is a variegated leaf euphorbia. Rather than acid-yellow flowers this variety has cream and grey-green flowers. Tasmanian tiger makes a wonderful addition to mixed planted containers. Our native wood spurge, Euphorbia amygdaloides, loves a dark woodland setting, there is a form called ‘Purpurea’ that will provide a sorbet of lime-green flowers and maroon leaf in spring. Euphorbia griffithii 'Fireglow' has stiff, dark green leaves that are edged orange-red and are topped with bright brick-red summer flowers. This fabulous spurge is a perfect addition to a vibrant planting scheme in a sunny border. Did you know the very popular Christmas house plant Poinsettia is also part of the euphorbia genus.
Popular plants to grow alongside euphorbia include Tulips, Erysimum ‘bowles's mauve’ (perennial wallflower) which produces spires of deep mauve scented flowers, the dark leaves of Geranium Phaeum and the blue-grey spikes of Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ contrast superbly. In woodland areas ferns, hostas, dicentra (bleeding hearts) and astilbe all make perfect planting companions. Here are my other Top Tips for April: • Protect tender new shoots from slug and snail damage. • Sow seeds of beans, sweetcorn, marrows, courgettes, and squashes in 3 inch pots full of seed compost. • Stake plants now to avoid damaging fragile shoots and the ‘bundled up’ look later on • Feed, Weed & Mosskill lawns. • Apply mulch to soft fruits. Whatever April brings I hope you get a chance to step out into the sunshine and enjoy the season as you tackle this months gardening jobs. Rachel Sobiechowski BSc (Hons) P&R Garden Supplies, Fengate Drove, Brandon 01842 814800 www.p-rgardensupplies.co.uk