top of page

I'm starting off writing this month's column in mid March looking at snow that has completely covered the garden! Snow itself doesn't harm plant growth as it's quite warm underneath all that, but the weight of snow can cause damage, so  it's a good idea to shake it off stems and branches as soon as you can. And don't forget to crack the ice in bird baths and ponds with warm, not hot water; all of which is somewhat late advice - unless it snows again in April!

When considering new plants for the herbaceous border, and April is perfect for new planting, take care at the nursery or garden centre and try not to be tempted by plants already in flower as you could end up with a more spring flowering than summer flowering border which, let’s face it, is the glorious culmination of all that hard work!  There’s nothing wrong with spring flowers, quite the contrary, but I think they look their best scattered around the garden rather than in one or 2 beds. 

Summer flowering bulbs, such as gladioli, allium, lilies, crocosmia, etc. should be planted this month in groups rather than singly, taking care to choose corms that will produce flowers of a height suitable for your border and also take into account their eventual height and width – the objective is to see all! Be bold and plant up a dozen or so in one group and make a real statement of colour and form.  Bulbs are particularly good for filling out a young herbaceous bed where you know there will be gaps.  They can be lifted and used elsewhere next year if you wish. 

Climbing plants, such as roses, clematis, jasmine can be planted up in April, choosing a fairly sunny spot as there are few that will do well in shade. Existing climbers need to be hard pruned, although do check which variety of clematis you have as pruning is different for different varieties. Be brave and cut back almost to the ground to ensure a fresh, healthy plant grows during the next couple of months with the reward of stunning flowers in early summer. Mulch around the base, but not touching the stems, will help keep weeds at bay, add nutrients and retain moisture.

For good, instant ground cover, alpines take some beating and are also excellent for a low container that can be placed anywhere.  They must have correct drainage using plenty of gravel or pea shingle mixed in the soil or compost. If using a container, also place a layer on the base before adding the compost mixture.  Alpines, like Mediterranean plants, do not like wet conditions and can withstand really dry seasons, so with our unpredictable weather, good drainage is key.  Plant up your alpines in as natural a way as you can, so it looks like they’ve always been there. Watering for alpines is mostly unnecessary as they will find their own level within our climate.

Peas and beans can be started off either in the greenhouse or on a light window cill, as can some varieties of leek.  If there isn’t room in the garden for growing on, dwarf French beans could be grown on in large pots.  I often use a variety called ‘Delinel’ -  a short bush with abundant crop and very tasty! Perfect for pot growing. Check tomato seedlings and remember to nip out growth between stem and leaf as you want only the main stem with trusses. Unless you are growing a 'bush' variety, there is little point in feeding peripheral stems as it is unlikely they'll produce fruit.

Do remember to keep bird and any other wildlife feeders filled as the forecast is looking somewhat chilly. Keep an eye out for signs of hibernating animals in garden heaps, dense undergrowth, etc. and maybe making sure that hedgehogs have free rein in and out of your garden and into others; once they've woken up, they'll be looking for food!

Nearly time to be sitting out again after a hard day's rewarding toil, glass to hand, puss-kits to tickle, but, sadly, my dog is no more - I miss his constant presence and gentle nature. Tim was a one-off.

bottom of page