Weekend columnist Graham Richardson is head gardener at Grappenhall Heys Walled Garden

HOW different this spring has been to last year.

The brief spell of warm weather at the end of February brought everything into bud and despite a stormy period everything has now come in to leaf and flower quite early.

And what blossom! With very little frost magnolias, camellias and particularly cherries are looking magnificent.

At the walled garden we have now completed our winter project of removing rhododendron ponticum and these areas are ready for planting.

Unfortunately, when we planted a similar area last year we went straight into drought and it is only now that we can assess what has survived – as trees and shrubs come back in to leaf.

It is looking good so far but it is a timely reminder that the same may happen again and we will continue to water newly planted specimens as well as mulch.

Meanwhile the dry, settled weather at the end of March enabled us to prepare the kitchen garden for planting and sowing seed and we have already planted some first early potatoes (Lady Christl recommended), onion sets and garlic, as well as sowing broad beans, parsnip and some beetroot, all well ahead of last year.

If you are lucky enough to own a greenhouse you will hopefully be busy sowing and transplanting now but it is worth remembering that the nights can still be quite chilly if you have no heat source.

Tomatoes can be sown if you haven’t already done so but it is still a bit early for the likes of cucumbers and peppers.

I like to start the brassicas off under glass in modules.

This gives them a head start and they can then be hardened off before planting out in May.

Kohl rabi is one that I sow quite early.

This is worth considering if you haven’t grown it before.

It has a mild flavour, is easy to grow and doesn’t take up much room.

Some pruning and tidying jobs at this time of year could include giving winter flowering heathers a trim and pruning the old flower heads off hydrangeas.

Prune to just above the first set of opposite buds which should be showing now.

Spring flowering trees and shrubs such as forsythia and kerria can also be pruned once the flowers begin to wither.

Mature specimens of forsythia can be pruned quite hard back to encourage the growth of new replacement shoots.

Happy spring time