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  • Writer's pictureFrancesca Sharp

Save your garden from the Beast from the East

Gardening tips for winter from Francesca Sharp Flowers
The Beast from the East hit Hampshire and Surrey hard this week

Protect tender new growth

If you have tender new shoots poking out of the soil following our first taste of the Spring sunshine last week, then you can protect them from the harsh cold of this sudden turn in the weather by covering them with envirofleece at night. Alternatively if you have pots you could also fleece them or move them in to the potting shed temporarily or even in to the house!

Spring Tete-a-tete pots should be protected - Gardening tips from Francesca Sharp Flowers
Spring Tete-a-tete pots should be protected

The same applies to annuals that you have sown as seed ready to plant out when the weather brightens. If you have sown Sweet Peas or Antirrhinums in your potting shed then these may be just starting to peek out of the soil. You will need to protect these at night time with fleece or by sitting the pots on heated matting as even the potting shed will be too cold. This is particularly important for fussy tubers like Ranunculus who will find the potting shed unbearable in these sub zero temperatures. I currently have a row of  Ranunculus on my office windowsill and they are growing quite happily on there ready to be put out in the potting shed when the ‘Beast from the East’ has left us. 

Bulbs that are starting to appear should be hardy enough to withstand the cold and will ride out the storm ready to flower in all their glory when the Spring sunshine finally decides to stay. 

Finding beauty in the storm

Periwinkle is a hardy winter flower says gardening expert Francesca Sharp Flowers
Periwinkle are very hardy and are beautiful against the snow

There are some hardy little flowers that are already happily appearing and will be here to stay for the next few months. Periwinkle are particularly beautiful against the snow and you can use the shorter stems to add to lovely arrangements of spring flowers in jam jars to brighten up your kitchen table or a windowsill. I use the longer, trailing stems of the Periwinkle in garlands for early Spring weddings and they are a common feature in many of my Mothers Day arrangements. 

Another favourite for Mothers Day are Tete a Tete bulbs which are wonderful in pots in the garden or to bring inside to conjure up some sunshine on even the coldest, gloomiest day. These will feature in my newly expanded display of flowers for sale at Applegarth Farm Shop next week, in readiness for the Mothers Day rush. I am very excited to be taking on more space in this fantastic local farm shop that I have been supplying for many years, why not pop in and see the new display for yourself.

If you don’t want to risk missing out on a handcrafted, locally grown flower arrangement for your Mum then you can order in advance by emailing I will deliver your unique arrangement to Applegarth for you to collect on Friday 9th March or Saturday 10th March so you are ready for the big day. You can also collect from Holybourne Shopnear Alton if that is more convenient for you as I have a lovely selection of arrangements available to buy there. If your Mum has a favourite flower that you would like included or if you have a specific arrangement in mind then please email me and I will try my best to accommodate your wishes.

Make the most of the cold snap

This week it will be difficult to do anything outside in the garden other than build snowmen as the ground will be far too hard to plant anything new. Instead, make use of this time to plan your garden for the season ahead. I enjoy nothing more than sitting by the fire with a warm cup of tea and my seed catalogues, pouring over all of the beautiful cut flower seeds and planning what I will sow in April and May to prepare my borders for the summer wedding season. If you would like to grow some flowers for cutting and making in to your own unique flower arrangements this year, then here are some of my favourites:

Antirrhinums (Snapdragons), Cornflowers, Cosmos in all the colours, Calendula’s, Nigella (love-in-a-mist), Orlaya grandiflora, Larkspur, Salvia viridis ‘Blue’, Scabious and Sweet Peas. With annual foliages including Euphorbia oblongata, Bupleurum, Ammi visnaga & majus, Dill, Molucella laevis (Bells of Ireland) and Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’. I also love biennials and always sow additional Hesperis matronalis (sweet rocket), Lunar (honesty), Foxgloves, Anchusa’s and Wallflowers to top up the existing plants I have. 

Francesca Sharp Flowers shares a view of her cutting patch
The cutting patch in my garden

Whilst many of the gardening books and magazines encourage you to sow under cover in March and April, if you have limited potting space you can just sow direct in to flower beds in May. As long as there isn’t one of those late frosts that is good at catching us out and as long as the soil has warmed up sufficiently, you will still get a good crop of cut flowers. If you would like to sow under cover but don’t have a potting shed then simply use a windowsill to start your seeds off and then you can plant them out when the weather brightens. If a windowsill or a balcony is all you have then you can still produce some beautiful cut flowers for your home, don’t be discouraged if space is tight, simply make the most of what you have and you will be amazed at what you can grow.

If you dream of a cutting garden of your own but don’t have the time to dedicate to it then I offer a gardening service in my local area and have created a wide range of cutting gardens for my clients, each one unique to them and their tastes. Get in touch via to find out more.

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