AS we move into the Easter weekend it’s nice to see some warm weather, though a bit cold at night! However, the warm weather has meant some great gardening!

I have now prepared quite a large patch of the veg garden and looking to plant quite a few early-sown seedlings over the Easter weekend, such as my cabbages and cauliflowers. You may recall that Easter is the time for planting potatoes, although with Easter being a bit later this year I planted my first early potatoes about three weeks ago as they had been advanced chitted and to be honest were in need of planting.

I can now say that the potatoes’ sprouts have just emerged through the soil and over this weekend I will look to give them their first earthing up. This is where I will cover the emerging shoots gingerly with soil between the planted rows, to help protect the shoots from any late frosts or strong cold winds – the emerging potato shoots may look blue if the weather is cold and the young leaves may be scorched from the cold winds. However, they should recover if they are earthed up. I normally earth up the potatoes on three occasions. Earthing the potatoes also helps when coming to harvest as you can get well below the potatoes as they develop underground.

My autumn-planted onions, shallots and garlic have established well over the winter and are actively growing away, which means it’s time to apply an onion fertiliser to help sustain the growth. They will be ready to harvest around four to six weeks earlier than spring plantings of onions, shallots and garlic.

The flower garden is also beginning to colour up, especially the seasonal bedding – my primroses, polyanthus and pansies are giving a very cheerful show. Most I have underplanted with double early-flowering tulips which are also beginning to show colour, and being double-flowered they have opened to make quite a large flower during the warm days.

Have you noticed the roadside verges? The attractive wild primroses and cowslips are brightening the countryside and the verges and woodlands are taking on a distinct shade of blue as our bluebells begin to bloom. Hyacinthoides non-scripta, the English bluebell to you and me, are putting on a fantastic show, particularly when walking through some of our woodland areas and of course the bluebells are enjoying much of the sunlight before the canopy makes full leaf.

Although the English bluebells are now blooming, in some cases they might not be as English as you think! In some locations it may be Hyacinthoides hispanica, or Spanish bluebell, that is blooming, although these tend to be more on the roadside verges rather than our woodlands. Spanish bluebells were sold (and still are) for growing as garden plants, but being an invasive species they have established in some of our more natural locations. Be careful when planting!

At a glance, the Spanish bluebell looks very similar to our native English ones but there are some noticeable differences. Firstly, the flowers of the Spanish bluebell are paler blue than the English. Secondly, the flowers on the Spanish ones are produced on all sides of the flowering stem which gives an upright look, while the English bluebell flowers on one side of the stem which gives them that distinctive nodding look.

To add to the confusion, both English and Spanish bluebells are not always blue! They can be seen with blooms of shades of violet through to pink – and as you can see from my photograph even in white! Still, the most common colour is blue and when in bloom en masse they are still a sight to behold.

If you have a few bluebells in your own garden, when they have finished blooming, you can lift them in the green, split the clumps and replant around the garden – this way they will colonise more quickly. However, please do not lift bluebells from the native environment, or indeed any plants growing naturally – however tempting it may be.