Gardening for current times

So, we now have this time to get the garden straight, but our first thought is – where to start?

In this blog post I hope I can give you a few ideas for tackling your garden with confidence.

I am going to concentrate here on general tidying up and making space and how to sort out your planters and make the most of what plants might be available at the moment.

Making space

Whether you have an overgrown garden, or it has just not been a priority this year, looking out on a mass of vegetation and seeing new shoots burgeoning can be a little daunting.

The key is to divide up the area into manageable blocks, completing tasks in each section before moving on to the next one. Quick wins will encourage you to keep going and a more organised approach will pay dividends in the long run.

So, if you are tackling overgrown borders, divide them into 2 metre long blocks. Take a good look. Very often the main issue is that shrubs which were planted on the boundaries of the garden at the back of borders have got unruly and over-grown. They now hang forward, covering everything and look out of balance in the space.

You need to restore the balance and this means cutting back each shrub. Using shears and/or secateurs, you should cut back each shrub by up to two thirds-yes, two thirds! Take off dead wood, cut back to an open framework-be assertive! If the shrub is flowering now, or about to flower, (eg Ceanothus, Forsythia or Lilac) you can delay until after flowering, but otherwise you should be aiming to get the space and shape right this year. Once cut back, if you have it, give the plant a feed with a good multi purpose fertiliser. This will encourage it to put on new growth.

Now move to the front of the border where you may have a selection of more ornamental shrubs and perennials.

Tackle the shrubs if they are unruly; if you have topiary you can lightly shape it now but may have to cut again later in the year.

Perennials will be starting to put up new growth, but there will probably be a layer of brown, dead vegetation on each plant, the remnants of last year. You need to remove this and allow the new shoots air and light. Clear any weeds from around the plants and fork over the soil.

Right at the front of the border where it meets the lawn is where you can make a fantastic difference to the overall look of the garden. Take a spade and cut a clear line along the edge of the lawn. Remove any grass tufts from the border, so that the edge is clean and this will do much to make the garden look controlled.

Finally, if you have access to it, mulch the border with a 5-10cm layer of compost, well rotted manure or finely shredded bark. The mulch will suppress weeds, retain moisture and help support a good soil structure so that the plants can thrive.

Stand (or sit) back and admire your work…and think about how you might fill any gaps with new plants.

Pots and planters

If you have a mismatch of pots and planters in your garden, all with leftovers from last year’s annuals, have a clear out.

First review any broken or damaged pots. They can be broken into pieces to use as crocks for drainage in other planters. You can reuse old compost as a mulch on the garden borders, just make sure you remove most of the dead vegetation.

Once you have a selection of pots, try out different groupings, maybe of a similar material or colour, and in small groups. Try new combinations and new locations.

Then you can consider what to plant. The best plants to create long lasting dis-plays over the summer are mainly annuals: consider Cosmos (Purity, Rubenza, So-nata), Nicotiana, Salvia, Verbena, Antirrhinum and Sweet Peas. They all need a sunny spot, but will provide a long flowering display all summer long.

You can either buy annuals as small plug plants, available now, which can be planted out directly, or you can sew seeds directly into the pots as it is now warm enough to do so. You should plant seeds as per the planting instructions on seed packets.


Of course at the moment a trip to the local garden centre is not possible. Howev-er, there are a number of online plant retailers who are still operating, albeit the situation is fluid and there are delays and changes to normal ordering and deliv-ery times. You could try the following:

Thompson & Morgan:
Sarah Raven:

Offerings include annuals, plus some will also sell perennials and shrubs and may still have some seeds too. Take a look at their websites for up to date information.

For compost and tools, you may have to try various sources. Compost direct online is still taking orders but delivery may take a little longer.

Enjoy your garden!

Sarah Speller
April 2020

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