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.
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.
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
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?