Spring has Sprung!

Last week’s weather (I hope it was equally lovely where you are!) had me getting that feeling that I get every year as spring arrives, desperation to get into the garden. It’s been a while since I’ve covered any garden tips on the blog but that is definitely going to be changing over the coming weeks. There is loads to do right now and lots to think about in preparation for the (more consistent) warmer weather coming, so have a read and start thinking about what you want from your garden this year.

Today I’m focusing on the back (or front) garden and some spring plant suggestions as it’s a little cold to be getting stuck in at the allotment still, but keep your eyes peeled for more on that soon.

  • Now is a good time to have a really good clear out in the garden. Clear away any leaves from your flower beds and pack into bags or even better start thinking about making a compost heap for all your garden waste. Leaves make fabulous compost so it’s worth doing.
  • Lots of people prune in the autumn but I love seeing the frost on the dried seed heads and leaves so leave them. I also think it protects the plants well over the harsher winter months. Now however you should be starting to see signs of life out there and can tidy the plants too. Pull away the dead leaves from the bases of perennial plants, taking care not to damage any new shoots and leave them looking bare apart from the plants ‘crown’ – the base of the plant with its shoots etc. It will soon come to life with new growth.
  • Pruning is a bit of a mystery for some people, but it’s really not difficult and it’s hard to damage the plant unless you’re too aggressive. Remember, the plant always needs new leaves to start collecting energy to grow more so if you cut it right to the ground and all the new shoots are gone, it will struggle to re-grow. Always cut away any diseased or dead branches first.
  • Top Tip: If you’re not sure what is dead, (and let’s face it everything looks like that right now,) try bending the stem or branch. If it cracks easily and is dry inside it’s dead. If the branch is bendy and feels soft or starts to split but with green inside then it’s just dormant waiting for spring.
  • When you are pruning look at the stem or branch first. At intervals along its length you will see pairs of buds. Look for a really fat healthy pair and using secateurs, cut a couple of centimetres above the buds diagonally. You can trim most plants this way now with a few notable exceptions. Hydrangeas, some early flowering Clematis and Buddleias flower on ‘last year’s wood’ which means if you trim them now you’ll miss out on this year’s flowers. Wait until after they have flowered and tidy them up then. I also do my roses, including climbing ones, and anything that is getting out of hand really. Don’t be scared of pruning – as long as there is always a bud below where you have cut, the plant will come back. At worst you’ll miss a season’s flowers.
  • Lastly, get planning. Spend the few remaining dark nights with a book or the internet as a reference and start thinking about what you want from your garden. Will you be building a patio? Where is the best place for it? Or maybe you’re thinking about vegetables, patio varieties (more to come on that soon) or a whole allotment. Maybe you’re planning a cutting patch or new flower bed? Sit down, make lists and draw it out. It’s tempting to just get going but you’ll benefit from a bit of planning now.

Plants for spring.
Now is a great time to think about plants to give colour in the early spring months. Buying them now may seem boring as they often don’t have much to show for themselves, with just a few bare branches, but it gives them time to settle in while the ground is wet before the summer. You might get a few flowers this year but the real benefit will be next year and you can see where the colour is missing from your garden as you plant them.

As I get older I feel I’m turning into my Dad… my only interests in years gone by were big showy flowers and shrubs were considered boring, but now I see they form the backbone of a well stocked garden, provide shape and colour when the summer flowers have died back and are also usually low maintenance. I’ve compromised here with some favourites that also provide flowers and colour if you’re looking for some spring additions to your garden.

For early colour and spring time cheer you can’t beat a Forsythia. A hardy shrub, the flowers come before the leaves in February to April, providing much needed garden colour. Another really beautiful flower, although far more showy is the Camellia.

Forsythia bush and Camellia flowers.

One of my favourite flowers, the Magnolia is actually a tree and a large one at that. One of my pet hates is people chosing plants they like that are too large for the space and Magnolias can really take over, albeit over many years. If you have a small garden try the Magnolia Stellata instead – more of a bush and not quite as pretty, but still spectacular in its own way.

Magnolia and Magnolia Tree

I saw my first bit of blossom bursting forth on the trees last week and immediately wanted some in my garden. If you would like some blossom in your garden, it’s possible to time it right so that you have a succession from now right through to early May by using different trees.

Images via Crocus.co.uk

Try looking at fruit trees, hawthorn, ornamental cherry, (in a smaller garden look for a weeping cherry,) and crab apples.

Acers are known for their fiery red leaves and vibrant autumn display but one variety wows me year after year in spring when its new leaves emerge a vibrant shrimp pink colour before turning their usual pale yellow for the rest of the year. Look for Acer pseudoplatanus ‘Brilliantissimum’. Pieris is another one that rather than being known for its pretty bell flowers that appear in summer, its main display is the pink leaves that precede it in April. It’s quite compact and perfect for a smaller garden

Images via Crocus.co.uk

More to look at…

  • Flowering currant – a good shrub with pretty pink hanging clusters of tiny flowers in April/May.
  • Ceanothus – a larger shrub that can be trained to climb up walls, along the floor or just as a normal bush, this becomes covered in cornflower blue blossom in late April/early May
  • Philadelphus – a white flowered shrub with fragrant flowers, Philadelphus is another garden standard, also known as ‘mock orange’. This and the Ceanothus grow fast, so are great for filling an empty space in a few short years.

I hope I’ve got you thinking about all the things you’ll be doing in the garden this year. I’ve got loads of posts coming to share with you on everything from pots for your front step or patio vegetables, to my allotment diary and back garden tidy up.

What’s your garden project this year?


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17 thoughts on “Spring has Sprung!

  1. Great. Thanks for this, Rebecca. Last year (the first year in our new house) was spent getting the inside in shape. This year, I get to focus on the garden. This advice is exactly what I need.

    I’m quite taken by your forsythia idea – so may well incorporate some yellow. I planted a camelia in a pot outside the front door which looks just like the one in your pic. I’m also very excited with the hyacinth that are coming up. i don’t know where they have come from, but the builders recycled some soil to plant a raised bed int he fron garden. Lo and behold, they’ve inadvertently planted some hyacinth bulbs!

    Anyway – my weekend plans are now sorted!

  2. Oh this is so timely as I spent last weekend clearing both my gardens!
    This year im trying my hand at growing some veggies. I figured I’d start with tomatoes and also some herbs. I was going to research at lunchtime about what other veg to plant. Courgettes maybe? Or spuds.

    The actual plant advise is good as both my front and back garden are covered in stones, so we want to have loads of potted plants and flowers over them. How exciting!


  3. Morning! Gosh I’m glad I didn’t get carried away and write this about sowing seeds as I wanted to, as I knew it was far too early and lo and behold, there was a thick frost this morning!

    Mahj this is a perfect post for adding some structure to your garden with a few statement plants, (see how I can work a ‘statement’ anything in somewhere!) There is loads more to come though… hang fire on your veggies and I’ll address them soon!

  4. Great timing on this post! We’re going to tackle the garden this weekend, although living in Scotland, we don’t get as good weather up here!

    Mahj – I would totally recommend courgettes. We had hundreds last summer from only a few seeds. I had to made courgette cake, muffins, risotto, pasta, frittata, the list goes on!

  5. Love this post, thanks Rebecca! Last weekend we got out in our new garden and hacked back two whole car loads of overgrown ivy (seriously, did the previous owners ever go outside??). Then my mum helped us plant up a whole range of bulbs and cuttings from her garden – the hydrangea we used in our wedding flowers, lilac from my Granny’s garden, all sorts. I genuinely can’t wait until they flower!

    Thanks so much for the gardening posts, I think they’re pitched at just the right level for people like me who know what we want, but don’t know how to get there (and the gorgeous photos don’t hurt either).

  6. I was just thinking I need to clear my garden and start pruning. Our goal this year is to make our garden more of an entertaining space. Like a garden ‘room’. Ours is only fairly small so we can’t get away with huge shrubs, but in my dream garden there is a huge magnolia. I just love them!
    I want my beds to be a riot of colour this year so I need lots more ideas!

    • Not all shrubs are huge Alex, the trick is making sure when you buy them you space them according to what they will grow into – the labels usually say, and look for one that are the right size for your garden. They do provide low maintenance structure.

  7. We moved into a new build house last year, and so far have managed to plant a line of fruit plants up the length of the garden (hoping for strawberries/rasberries/gooseberries/rubarb/blackcurrants..), lay a patio and some turf. Now its time for pretty plants to go along the back of the garden so I can look out of the patio doows and see pretty flowers rather than fencing and to blend in with the woods behind the garden. Love the forsythia and camelia- will definately look for these at the garden centre.

    How well does hydrangea’s grow- as I love these and really wanted some- any one had any experience of growing these? I also wanted some rose bushes- anyone got any tips?

    • Hydrangeas grow really easily into quite big bushes, they need some sun, but not necessarily loads, a few hours will do.

      There are so many Rose buses and I had in mind to do a post on this soon so keep an eye out for it. 🙂

  8. Great advice as ever Rebecca. We are fairly poor gardeners, so are currently considering getting chickens and letting them have the run of the majority of our (very small) garden. We figured that we’d enjoy the eggs and the entertainment from them more than we would the garden itself. However, that means that anything we want to grow will have to be in pots, so any tips on good things for planting in pots now would be welcome!

    So glad Spring is well on the way! x

  9. Love the gardening posts Rebecca!

    We have a small back garden, which mainly consists of stones, but we have lots of pots filled with colourful plants-and this post is great inspiration.

    Would love to see some pics of your garden and the fruits of your labour-you are so knowledgable about plants 

    Also cannot wait for an update on the allotment xx

  10. We definitely have too many shrubs in too small a garden (in our defence most of them were here before we were & I can’t bear to sacrifice them)

    My favorites at this time of year are the flowering currents which are just outside the kitchen window and are beautiful to look out on when its still a bit too cold to spend much time outside.

  11. We have so much to do on the garden I cant wait to get out there – just waiting for the weather to warm up!! We do have a camelia bush though (left from the old owners!) its beginning to bud and it is so beautiful for those short weeks its out… Thanks so much for the tips – I loved this post! xx

  12. Totally late to the party on this one but wanted to say thanks for the tips! Very informative 🙂 We just did a big clear out of our garden last weekend and this weekend, we’re building a shed!! Oh I live such a rock and roll lifestyle!

    I have been looking for some ideas though of plants I’d like to see and this has been a great help. We actually have a forsythia bush in our garden, I just had no idea what it was called! lol 🙂 Definitely adding the Ceanothus as well, love the blues in that one! xxx

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