Green-fingered Cathie Welch shares her tips on getting your garden ready for the colder months
I have always thought this was a strange saying as so much goes on during the winter months. Some plants die down but others are coming up as it’s their season. The animals, insects and birds all still need shelter and food.
Many plants actually need their annual prune in the winter when they are dormant like roses, apples and pears and many other deciduous shrubs and trees. Think about piling up the prunings or making a ‘dead hedge’ instead of throwing them out or burning them.
Cutting back perennials
Many perennials have gone over and look dead at this time of the year and it is tempting to cut them all back for tidiness. Think carefully about each plant as the seed heads that look dead to you can look beautiful in the frost and can contain valuable food for birds. The base of perennials can actually be protected in the winter, particular those that are slightly tender like Penstemon and many Salvias. Perennials at the side of ponds are refuge for amphibians. If you really need to cut them back consider leaving piles so creatures can hide there. Many perennials are best left until the sap is rising in the Spring like Fuschias, Hydrangeas and Perovskia.
Some plants need winter protection as they don’t tolerate the freezing temperatures of recent years. Hardy Fuschias die back but tender ones will die. Dahlias and Cannas really can be put to bed in the garden by covering with a thick layer of straw mulch topped with compost.
I find the thick acrid smoke of a bonfire particularly upsetting if leaves are the fuel. This is especially tedious when leaf blowers are used. Rake the leaves up into a pile for hedgehogs and other creatures to enjoy. Mulch over the top of them on flower beds as they will eventually rot down. Mow them up on a lawn for exceptional compost. Create a leaf mould pile but do not burn!
Meadows and hardy annuals
A lot of our native wild flowers need to have the seed stratified which means they need the cold winter in order to germinate in the Spring. Consider leaving the seeds in the ground rather than collecting them or re-distribute throughout the garden.
Foxgloves, teasels and forget-me-nots need to go through vernalisation which is when the plant is in its first year. It needs the cold to stimulate flowering the following Spring.
Plants are amazing and a little knowledge can transform the way you think about ‘putting your garden to bed for the winter’
CGS Courses Please ask for details as I am now meeting potential students for Spring Courses as well as bespoke workshops and volunteering. I can also come and teach you in your own garden and am happy to chat over a coffee at Ashdene. Consultancy gift vouchers available too. Visit my website or email: [email protected]
I have decided that watering is a very specialised subject and I feel I could run a 10-week course on the subject!
The challenges for getting water to the roots of plants this year and last is off the scale. I remember saying how important it was to harvest the rainwater as it is so precious and would love to know how many of you did that?
Anyone who knows me knows that I champion soil improvement and liken it to the gut biome! My go to compost to improve fertility and water retention is wool and bracken compost. I have covered my garden in it this year and those of many clients. We are reaping the benefits.
Harvesting the rain
We complain about it in the winter but in the last two summers have prayed it will fall out of the sky! I have been like a mad woman filling up water bottles by the thousand and installing water butts everywhere as well as leaving out trugs and trays to put in thirsty plants. I am now watering my plants with harvested rainwater as another hosepipe ban looms!
Watering the garden
New planting will need watering. If you have improved the soil or mulched this will be possible. If it’s just dusty dry soil it will just run off. Mulch now to absorb the water you put on. Spray to wet the mulch and then allow as much water into the soil as you can. If you are not sure just scrape the surface or dig down with a trowel to see if it’s wet. Use spiked bottles or tubes to get the water to the roots, do not just spray the plants.
Watering the lawn
Do not waste water doing this! A sign of a good gardener is a ‘dead’ lawn in the summer. It will revitalise as soon as the rain comes, it’s not dead it’s summer dormant.
Someone once said to me ‘It doesn’t rain in pots’ so make sure you still water. If it’s hot and sunny you will need to water more than when it is cool and cloudy. Do the plants need it? Are they wilting because they are dry, waterlogged or damaged by pests? Is the pot heavy or light? Is it normal multi purpose compost or wool compost? Is it a desert plant or a tropical rainforest plant?
If in doubt stick your finger into the soil!
Please ask for details as I am now meeting potential students for Autumn and Spring Courses as well as bespoke workshops. I can also come and teach you in your own garden and am happy to chat over a coffee at Ashdene. Consultancy gift vouchers available too.
Rose Awareness Week celebrates the beauty and variety of the world’s most popular flower. This is the ideal time to enjoy their glory with beautiful blooms and sensuous scents in gardens near you
Shakespeare said “of all the flowers, me thinks a rose is best” and who can argue with the great English playwright. Roses are rooted in many aspects of life, from literature to history, but did you know:
• The oldest living rose is 1,000 years old, and lives on the wall of the Cathedral of Hildesheim in Germany. • All varieties of rose are edible. Rose petals are often added to jellies and used as a flavouring in Chinese and Indian cuisine. Teas or cocktails are often infused with rose hips, a berry shaped fruit grown from roses packed with Vitamin C. • There are around 150 species of roses across the world, with thousands of hybrids too! Cherries, apples, peaches, plums, pears, apricots and almonds are all relatives of the rose family. • The most expensive rose is the Juliet Rose. It took 15 years and cost £2.3 million. Its colour resembles an apricot and it was first displayed in 2006 at Chelsea Flower Show.
One of summer’s great pleasures is to stroll through a rose garden, breathe in the sweet fragrance and gaze at the pastel colours of the blooms. Whether in a formal rose garden or throughout the grounds, these ones are well worth a visit.
More than 100 rose varieties bloom each summer at Hinton Ampner, Alresford, and the borders are designed so the most fragrant roses are planted close to the path you walk along. Take the rose trail that guides you to the different varieties planted by a former owner, and Hinton’s garden team.
Step into the garden at Mottisfont and be met with unsurpassed fragrance and colour from over 500 varieties of world-famous roses blooming in the walled garden.
The rose garden at Nymans is teaming with delicate blooms and densely-petalled clusters. Make the most of the long summer evenings and experience the roses in a whole new light every Friday in June and July with summer lates at Nymans.
Take in the glorious views across the rolling Surrey Hills from Polesden Lacey near Dorking, framed by Edwardian rambling roses, shrub roses adorning the borders and climbing roses decorating the pergolas.
Started in 2007, the Bowes-Lyon Rose Garden at RHS Wisley aims to inspire visitors with roses planted alongside companion plants.
The two summer beds at the Six Quarters at Gilbert White’s House, Selborne, are home to various species of old roses, all of which look their best this month, nestled among lavender, geraniums, columbines and foxgloves.
Planted with over 1,000 Old English rose bushes and framed by long, low, precisely clipped box hedges, the Rose Garden at Loseley Park, Guildford, is one of the finest examples in the country. Many visit just for the colour and scent of the roses, evoking summer at its best.
The three-day flower show this month, 23rd to 25th, at Blenheim Palace is the ideal time to enjoy the roses at their best in the sumptuous surroundings of the stately splendour in Woodstock. Take a stroll down Floral Street, tour the Grand Floral Pavilion, join the newly-created Insect Trail and generally wallow in all that showcases the best of British gardening.
The Mary Rose Garden at Waterperry Gardens near Wheatley is home to hybrid teas, floribunda, climbers and ground cover roses – a rose lover’s paradise. Visitors in June will find among the many varieties grown there are some which only flower once a year, amid many repeat flowerers.
As part of the National Garden Scheme, The Old Rectory, Farnborough, near Wantage OX12 8NX will be open on June 28th and August 9th. Visitors can admire the collection of old roses and abundantly planted borders while enjoying beautiful views and rare plants and wild flowers.
There are around 2,000 roses throughout the garden at Abbey House Manor Gardens, Malmesbury, with climbers wandering their way through foxgloves and other flowers. Once part of a Benedictine Monastery, the gardens only open on selected dates during the summer months.
The rose arbor provides seating in an avenue of white and mauve alliums and white camtasisa at Rockwood Garden, Newbury where you can enjoy a tour with tea lead by the owners.
The 12 acre garden at Englefield House, Theale, descends from the hill above the historic house through woodland featuring mature native trees. Stone balustrades enclose the lower terrace with lawns, roses and mixed borders.
Greys Court near Henley is full of wonderful sights and scents as the roses come into bloom throughout June. The rose garden traces the history of the rose from the early damask varieties to the modern hybrid perennials.
Through June, August and September, the Rose Garden at Basildon Park is planted with old roses, replicating Lady Iliffe’s original design. Look out for two of the gardeners’ favourite roses: Rosa mundi and Rosa ‘Compte de Chambord’, which is also known as ‘Madame Boll’ or ‘Madame Knorr’.
Take in the scent of the contemporary rose garden at Savill Garden, Windsor, with its viewing platform overlooking the roses and the garden beyond and wander beside borders planted with old fashioned scented French musk roses.
Celebrate all things floral at the Royal Windsor Flower Show on Saturday, 10th June. Led by the show’s Honorary President, Alan Titchmarsh who will welcome a host of special guests and performances, with plant growers, garden designers, artisan producers and top-notch chefs on hand to demonstrate and share their knowledge.
Cliveden’s rose garden features over 900 repeat flowering roses in shades of red, orange and yellow. Reinstated in 2014 based on a 1950s design by Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, you can enjoy them in bloom from late May until September.
Visitors to Waddesdon this month will be able to enjoy the sweet scent of the rose garden as the colourful blooms fill the stately setting. The beds in the Aviary and Parterre are awash with colour influenced by Victorian-inspired planting.
In addition to the stately splendour of Cliveden and Waddesdon, several gardens are opening as part of the National Garden Scheme this month. Overstroud Cottage Garden in The Dell, Frith Hill, Great Missenden, HP16 9QE, is opening its gates on Sunday, 4th June for visitors to admire the rambling roses and their ‘lookalike’ peonies among others. With a plant stall too you may even be able to pick up some specimens for your garden!
Maidenhead Open Gardens will feature about 20 gardens on June 24th and 25th with gardens large and small on display showcasing their blooms. Meet the keen gardeners and pick up some tips as you discover more about the hidden gems in the area. Earlier in the month, on 11th, visit the garden at St Timothee, Darlings Lane, Pinkneys Green, SL6 6PA and take in the sights and scents of the two-acre garden at this 1930s house where, in addition to the rose terrace, a box parterrre, ornamental grasses and wildlife pond add to the delight.
Broadlands in Romsey is the setting for The Garden Show from September 30th to October 2nd
The Garden Show is set to bloom again this autumn at Broadlands and although there will be fewer plants than in the spring and summer shows, it is the perfect time for planting trees, shrubs, bulbs, winter flowering plants as well as finding indoor plants to enhance the winter home.
It’s a great opportunity to source new talent, designers and artisans and browse more than 160 stands showcasing the latest specialist plants, garden and home accessories, art, design, sculpture, fashion, toys and a multitude of lovely goodies with tempting foods and wines in the Country Food marquee. There is something at the show that will appeal to everyone. It’s a good chance to do some early Christmas shopping and support the smaller businesses.
Apart from the extensive selection of retail companies there are many other attractions. Expert advice daily from ‘The Environmentalists, Jules & Lance, who apart from helping gardens thrive will be specifically providing the solution to any pruning confusion plus holding a daily Walk & Talk on The Hidden Life of Trees.
There is something at the show that will appeal to everyone. It’s a good chance to do some early Christmas shopping and support the smaller businesses.
On Friday Dr Ian Bedford, entomologist, will be running the Pest Clinic and can identify any bug samples brought along and how to rid your garden of them in as friendly a way as possible and he will discuss Britain’s Nature Recovery Plan. The show welcomes, Ben Cross from Crosslands Nursery who on Sunday will be extolling the British Cut Flower Industry … British Flowers Rock!
It’s not all about gardening: there are plenty of activities on site to keep all the family occupied including The Giant Tombola, a chance to win amazing prizes donated by The Garden Show exhibitors in support of the show’s chosen charity Jane Scarth House https://www.janescarthhouse.co.uk
There are fun times to be had with the children’s entertainer Crazee Hazee, learning circus skills and watching his hilarious Punch and Judy shows.
There will be ongoing artisan demonstrations along with musical entertainment from The Jazz Trio who will be wandering around delighting all with their evocative music of times past … all this and so much more to enjoy … including Huxley Birds of Prey who will thrill spectators as they soar to the skies.
The Green Hub in Milford, which has just had its first birthday, offers a vital support space for teenagers struggling with their mental health
Just one year ago you‘d find the Green Hub Project for Teens on Facebook looking for local folk to join a DIY SOS-style weekend, to transform their tranquil garden in Milford. This month the garden celebrates its first birthday.
Over its first year Green Hub Project for Teens has transformed from an idea in its embryonic stage into a confident adolescent.
The garden is the vision of local chiropractor Tone Tellefsen Hughes. “I’ve seen so much trauma through my clinic in recent years,” she says. “But since Covid, it’s become unimaginably bad, so many young people experiencing a tough time – it’s heart-breaking. This is why we are reaching out to families with teens struggling with low to moderate social anxiety, stress and overwhelm.”
Tone’s co-chair, local business coach Vanessa Lanham-Day, has been instrumental in creating the momentum behind the project. “The garden and teen volunteering is such a simple concept – it’s all about providing time out in nature and calm.
But, for the teens to benefit from time spent in the garden, there has been a whole machine that needed to be created. We have been busy spreading the word as well as building relationships with GPs, schools and youth organisations – but the most passionate requests come from parents themselves.
Teens spend up to 12 weeks becoming garden volunteers, under the guidance of adult leaders – there are morning and afternoon sessions (all free) each Saturday for up to eight teens. The process isn’t “therapy” problems aren’t discussed, and no advice is given – but the process is undoubtedly therapeutic.
Tone adds: “Science shows that being in nature allows the brain to calm down and settle a little, like a busy snow globe when the snow falls. When you immerse yourself in an activity – especially in nature – your brain is unable to do anything else and this gives the busy teenage brain a chance to rest and make sense of what’s been going on in their world. There are long term benefits after a garden session, as well as finding a connection which has been so sorely missed since the pandemic for so many.”
Tone and Vanessa would also like to find other garden spaces to extend the programme.
Plant or garden dilemma? Grab a free Gardeners’ Question Time Plant Clinic slot with garden guru & Miracle-Gro this week.
999: WHAT’S YOUR PLANT EMERGENCY? From black spot to drooping leaves, now you can self-refer your plant for a live diagnosis at the Miracle-Gro Plant Clinic
Being a plant parent isn’t always easy! Despite our best efforts, our plants aren’t always in their best shape, and there’s always lots to learn about how to care for them – but now Miracle-Gro (www.lovethegarden.com) is offering free virtual Plant Clinic appointments with gardening guru Kate Turner to help bring your plants back to life.
Kate has years of gardening knowledge at her (green) fingertips, with experience on ITV’s Love Your Garden, BBC’s Garden Rescue, as a horticultural tutor at The Therapy Garden and as head gardener at Charterhouse School in Godalming.
Each day of the Plant Clinic will have its own plant-specialism to suit whatever questions you may have.
Plant Parenthood, Monday 29th March:
Whether it’s your first-time gardening and you’re not sure where to start, or you’re going to grow your fruit and veg crop from seed this year, Kate can answer all your questions and give you lots of tips.
Nutritious Growing, Tuesday 30th March:
The second day of the plant clinic is dedicated to all of your grow-your-own needs. Kate will be able to give advice on the best ways to grow your own fruit and veg and diagnose problems that you might have encountered. If your tomatoes caught blight last year or your courgettes didn’t flower, make sure they thrive this year by booking in with Kate.
Showstoppers, Wednesday 31st March:
Some plants are just for show, so get yours looking their absolute best this season. The Plant Clinic is open for anything from how to grow stunning roses and ornamental flowers, to bold, beautiful houseplants that need a little bit of help. Kate can guide you to enjoy your own flower show.
GP (General Plant) Surgery, Thursday 1st April:
If your needs don’t fit within one of the above, or you’re just looking for general gardening advice, then book a GP appointment with Kate for a check-up.
Plant Clinic bookings are now open for one person and their plant-patient to discuss their growing grievances with plant doctor and gardening expert, Kate Turner. With 20-minute Plant Clinic appointments on offer over the four-day period, which can be booked here.
Celebrate gardens of all shapes and sizes with two days of talks, Q&As, interviews and readings… all online, and all for free
‘Get out’ and enjoy Chawton House’s virtual garden festival this weekend on May 30th and 31st at this garden event like no other.
The 400-year-old manor house was owned by Jane Austen’s brother Edward who gave his mother and sisters the nearby bailiff’s cottage, which became Jane Austen’s House Museum.
The event will bring you an exciting programme inspired by the Chawton House gardens and collections. Gardening talks and tips, botanical workshops, discussions with heritage gardeners, and a chance to take part in a virtual ‘best in show’ competition on Instagram will all feature.
Find out more about what it takes to manage a country house garden, the inspirations behind them and the team managing the gardens at Chawton House.
Learn about the extraordinary botanical women such as Elizabeth Blackwell who was also the inspiration behind their herb garden.
Take a virtual walk on Chawton House’s Jane Austen Garden Trail and find out more about Jane Austen and her love for gardens. There will also be plenty of opportunities to ask any questions that you might have as the Chawton House team share tips throughout the weekend to use in your own gardens.
Just register for your free weekend ticket and Chawton House will send you the full programme and line up. All content is free excluding their online creative writing workshops. There is a cost of £5 per session with festival sign ups given priority booking.
With many of us spending more time at home, getting some fresh air and keeping our minds occupied in the current situation is so important.
So switch off from the news and take a break in your garden. Gardening is a great stress buster and it’s a good form of exercise too.
If you’re looking for ideas there are plenty of uplifting projects to get stuck into in your garden. Why not:
> Plant a tree
> Grow your own fruit & veg
> Create a wildlife-friendly garden
> Plant patio climbing roses
> Try growing some plants from seed
> Get the children into gardening
> Create an edible window box
Sarah Squire, Chairman of Squire’s Garden Centres believes escaping into the garden is a great way to lift your spirits to soak in the beauty if the outdoors generally and our gardens.
She said: “In times like this nature and simple pleasures, like gardening, watching the birds and looking out for wildlife, seem all the more precious and a boost to body and spirit. If you need us we are here to help you get gardening and find some outdoor relaxation and exercise.”
She added: “If you are spending a little more time at home over the coming weeks, I hope that the weather is kind and you are able to enjoy your outside space.”
Squire’s also offer a local home delivery service. Simply call your local centre to arrange delivery. Squires Garden Centres
If this gets you in the tidying spirit – why not try our Spring Cleaning ideas? Broken down into five easy days!
While having to stay at home is not ideal for any of us there are lots of things you can do in the garden and what better time than with the spring weather, here are a few more ideas, that will not only keep you occupied, but also mentally and physically active too:
> Dust down the mower and get out and tackle the lawn, not forgetting the edges which you can trim with shears. This simple task will immediately make your garden look tider.
> Welcome the birds into your garden, order some feeders and birdfood to get started if you don’t already have them and the sight and sound of our feathered friends will put a smile on your face.
> Do your bit for wild plants that are under threat by sowing some native plants into a window box, on a balcony or in a corner of your garden and make a mini meadow to encourage nature back.
> Children can join in with nature/gardening-based craft activities to inspire and entertain them to get growing too. Why not make a den in the garden if you have room and see how ingenious they can be.
> Don’t stare at a blank wall or fence, add some colour with hanging baskets or try environmentally-friendly, hessian flower bags filled with compost and planted with flowering plugs.
> String up some garden lights to bring a sparkle to a tree, porch, archway or shrub.
> Don’t neglect the patio or terrace when dealing with the plants, veg and greenery – a blast from the pressure washer will easily give it a new look.
> For a real taste of the summer to come order some strawberry plants and get them in now with some fertilizer to really encourage the juicy sweet fruit.
> Add some sunshine with some cheery sunflowers, sow seeds now, put pots on the windowsill and plant seedlings when frosts are gone.
> Pot up some herbs, salad leaves, spinach, beetroot, dwarf French beans, potatoes and dwarf carrots which will all do well in containers or skip the sowing and go straight to plug plants.
If this gets you in the tidying spirit – why not try our Spring Cleaning ideas? Broken down into five easy days!
A new campaign launched today by The Wildlife Trust and RHS is asking you to pledge some garden space for butterflies and moths
This year’s Wild About Gardens campaign is calling on gardeners to get growing to help the UK’s falling numbers of butterflies and moths.
The new campaign draws inspiration from a new film adaptation of the Frances Hodgson Burnett classic, The Secret Garden, starring Colin Firth, Julie Walters and newcomer Dixie Egerickx as Mary Lennox. The film will be bringing the magic of wildlife, childhood and gardening to the big screen this spring when it blooms in cinemas across the UK from Good Friday, 10th April.
The Wild About Gardens campaign, run jointly by The Wildlife Trusts and Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), looks at butterflies and moths as important pollinators, who, along with caterpillars, are vital food for birds like robins and blue tits as well as bats. However, their habitats have faced catastrophic declines and once-common species like the small tortoiseshell have dropped by up to 80% in the last 30 years in some areas.
An ideal butterfly garden has a wide variety of plants throughout the year to support their life cycles – for butterflies and moths emerging from hibernation, egg-laying females, caterpillars and then as adults. Early-flowering species such as dandelions, aubretia and native bluebells are good sources of nectar; these could be followed by buddleia and red valerian and, finally, ivy flowers which are a great late-season asset in the autumn. Many wildflowers and long grasses are also excellent larval food-plants. Whether your garden is large or small – or simply a flowering window-box – it could throw these declining insects a lifeline, especially in urban areas.
The Wildlife Trusts’ gardening champion, horticulturist and TV presenter Frances Tophill said: “Our garden flowers and plants provide a rich source of rejuvenating nectar for these much-loved garden visitors as they emerge from hibernation to herald the start of spring.
“Go wild in your garden and leave the dandelions and daisies in the lawn to provide a meal, aim for year-round flowers and include a wildflower area for egg-laying females as well as gardeners’ favourites like lavender, nasturtium and verbena.
“The Wild About Gardens website is packed with information and easy actions we can all take to support butterflies and moths throughout their impressive life cycle.”
The Wildlife Trusts and RHS believe every butterfly garden counts and want to know about every new wild area, box or border that’s being grown for butterflies. Each garden contributes towards the network of green spaces that nature needs to survive and they ask you to pledge a bit of garden for butterflies and put it on the map here www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk. In the story of The Secret Garden, the garden eases grief, heals rifts and brings the joy out in all who experience it. Make a special place for wildlife – your very own Secret Garden where you can replenish your soul, reconnect with nature and help wildlife to thrive. You’ve probably noticed how spotting butterflies or birds, or walking through woodlands, or alongside rivers and streams can help to lift your mood. Make some time for nature today and enjoy the restorative benefits!
Download or pick up a booklet The Wildlife Trusts and RHS have published a beautiful – free – booklet with colourful advice and easy tips designed to make our outdoor spaces more attractive to butterflies, moths and their caterpillars. Available here https://wtru.st/butterfly and on the Wild About Gardens website from today, 12th March. These will be available at special events during the spring including the Chelsea Flower Show and promoted through Wildlife Trust events, visitor centres and community action groups including the In Bloom network.
Find the full range of wildlife gardening booklets, advice and inspiration here