Roger's Top Ten
To help you in your garden, Roger has put together his top ten tips for gardening success.
Planning a garden
When planning a garden or part of a garden, consider the priorities and keep the design simple. I start with the obvious and practical elements such as the positioning of paths, steps, seating areas and the shape of the beds. Specific features and the planting detail will then fall into place.
Ground preparation is key to the success of planting and 45 – 60 cm of topsoil with free drainage is the aim. Relieving compacted ground must be carried out in dry conditions and you should also avoid walking on heavy soils when it’s wet. Lawns, when turfing or seeding, should have equally good ground preparation. Grass roots will grow to a surprising depth.
On heavy clay or light sandy soils it is better to improve it by using soil conditioner, either garden compost or bagged improvers, rather than replacing by bringing in new topsoil. This should be carried out before planting and topped up by annual mulching.
Choosing your plants
Make your choice based upon sound research when first planning the structural planting and consider how long you may be prepared to wait for results. For instant screening consider faster growing varieties that can be kept under control by pruning. Where there is a lot of hard structure, walling, steps, paths etc then the more structural plants such as yew, holly, box, and laurels will be required. The planting infill such as perennials and small shrubs can follow later.
Buy and plant in groups rather than one at a time. This way you can group your shrubs and under plant with perennials which compliment both in colour and texture. Do not be afraid of repetition planting, which can, if carefully executed, achieve better unity.
When planting roses ensure they are deep in the ground. The knobbly bit between the stem and the roots, which is called the hypercotyl, should be covered by about two centimetres of soil. Do not plant roses in ground which has recently had roses growing there, either change the soil by about 45 centimetres in depth or choose a different site for your new roses.
Climbing and Rambling roses
For walls and fences, climbing roses such as Compassion and Danse de Feu may be used. However, rambling varieties like Seagull, Rambling Rector and Wedding Day, should be grown on an open trellis or pergola allowing good flow of air around the stems to reduce the likelihood of diseases such as mildew and black spot.
Pruning early flowering shrubs
Shrubs which flower before mid June are flowering on last year’s growth. Therefore, in the spring and early summer when shrubs such as Forsythia, Spirea, Philadelphus, Escallonia and Deutzia have finished flowering, thin out all the branches which have flowered by reducing the stems to within a few centimetres of last year’s growth. This will result in strong new growth during the summer months, which will carry a mass of flowers for you the following year. Remember to ‘thin, not trim’ and repeat this routine each year.
Whether potted or plants in the ground watering is one of the most important aspects of gardening. Learn to recognise when a plant requires water and give it a good soaking occasionally rather than a daily light sprinkling. This better for the plant and a more efficient use of water. If water or time is limited give priority to evergreen plants because, in extremes of drought, deciduous plants can shed their leaves to conserve moisture and may recover later. Ensure that roses do not dry out otherwise they are more susceptible to disease.
Mulching on an annual basis using well-rotted organic matter such as garden compost will not only suppress weeds and retain moisture; it will also improve the soil structure as the worms take down the fibrous compost.