Get growing in the garden this Easter!

The long Easter weekend conjures thoughts of Easter egg hunts, family roasts, and the promise of warmer weather. But Easter is also the beginning of the gardening year for many, as they make use of the bank holidays to get the garden sorted – before things really get out of hand!

Easter egg hunt

©Sue Sanderson. Set up an Easter egg hunt for the kids in your garden.

Get mowing!

If you haven’t started already, then it’s definitely time to get the lawnmower out. Your first cut of your grass is probably overdue, so raise the blades to their highest setting and get mowing. While you’re at it, give the lawn a feed to set it up for the season ahead.

Mow the lawn

Begin mowing the lawn again this month – set the blades to their highest setting.

Divide and conquer!

By now, most perennials have poked fresh shoots above ground and new growth is well underway. Now is a great time to tidy up any remaining plant debris from last year and have a good tidy up. Borders that looked tired last year can be given new life with a spring redesign. Lift and divide overcrowded clumps of perennials before they put on too much growth, and then fill any gaps with new plants.

replant perennial borders

©Carly Holloway. Lift and divide perennials now, before they put on too much growth.

Don’t forget that they will need watering while they establish. It’s worth installing a seeper hose now if you live in a dry area – you’ll be glad you did by the middle of July! A layer of mulch will also bring dividends later in the year, providing nutrients and retaining moisture in the soil – as well as making the whole border look much smarter.

Grow, grow, grow!

April is the month for potting up and potting on! Plug plants are the perfect way to get a head start on seasonal bedding. Make sure you have plenty of pots and fresh compost to hand, so that you can get them potted up as soon as they arrive. Never use up half used bags of last year’s compost as this is the perfect overwintering site for pests and diseases. Old compost is best used as a mulch on your borders.

pots of plug plants and seedlings

Pot up plug plants and keep on top of seed sowing throughout this month.

While you’re at the potting bench, it’s time to take out those Dahlia tubers that you were storing overwinter, and start them into growth. Use decent sized pots (2-3 litre) to allow the roots to develop well. If you’ve lost some then there’s still time to replace them with some new Dahlia tubers. Dahlias are having a surprising resurgence in popularity, with events such as the Anglesey Abbey Dahlia Festival which are always popular. Why not create your own festival in your flower borders this summer!

Dahlia flowers

©Sue Sanderson. Create your own Dahlia festival for a fabulous display of colour.

The next 2 months will see a peak in seed sowing – especially for the vegetable growers out there! It’s a good idea to take half an hour to put your seed in order. Keep them in a storage box, ordered by sowing period, with dated dividers. Week by week you can see exactly which seed needs sowing, and this should prevent any being missed.

A breath of fresh air!
Greenhouse with door open

Open greenhouse doors and vents to prevent plants overheating on warm days.

With so many young plants crammed into the greenhouse, it’s important to ventilate, especially as you may well still be using a greenhouse heater at night. An automatic greenhouse vent opener makes a great investment at this time of the year, reducing the risk of your young plants overheating in a hot greenhouse. Open the greenhouse door in the morning, but remember to close it by late afternoon as there is still a nip in the air at night. If you are visited by cats then it’s a good idea to fix a mesh across the door to prevent them snuggling up on top of your new plants!

And relax…

With the garden tidy and everything in order, you can bring out the garden furniture, sit back and relax. Don’t forget to set up that Easter Egg Hunt for the kids. There’s nothing more satisfying than watching the whole family enjoying the outdoor space that you’ve created!


Scent-sational Spring Flowers!

As I stepped into my garden earlier this week, I was captured by a breath-taking fragrance.  I went in search of its source – and there on the other side of the fence was a magnificent Sarcococca! I love this reliable evergreen shrub.  It has an intense (but not overpowering) perfume. Better still, it’s spidery, creamy white flowers are always busy with bees and other insects in early spring.

Sarcococca confusa flowers      ©Thompson & Morgan Sarcococca confusa

Last month was the mildest February since records began, and it seems to have brought out a flurry of early blooms in the garden. A walk around our plant nursery is a treat for the senses!

Old favourites like Mahonia aquifolium and Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ are in full swing. It’s easy to understand why they are so popular. These reliable shrubs are undemanding and their rich perfume will make you want to linger outdoors, even on a chilly day.

Mahonia aquifolium flowers

© Thompson & Morgan Mahonia aquifolium

Now maybe it’s just me, but I have never noticed so many Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ as I have this year – they seem to have taken a real surge in popularity! Not that I’m complaining – they make a handsome shrub, all year round, with their glossy, evergreen foliage.  At this time of the year, they are in their prime. Clusters of sugar pink, star-shaped flowers make an elegant display. Their powerful fragrance fills the garden with a rich, perfume.

Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata' flowers

© Thompson & Morgan Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’

One fragrant shrub that deserves to be more widely planted is Edgworthia chrysantha. While wandering the nursery the silky flowers stood out against its bare stems, releasing a gentle scent on the spring breeze. It’s a good choice for a sheltered position in the dappled shade of trees. An absolute treasure in spring!

Edgeworthia chrysantha flowers

© Thompson & Morgan Edgeworthia chrysantha

Spring perfume doesn’t need to be reserved for the garden. There are plenty of bulbs that will deliver a powerful punch indoors each spring. Fragrant Narcissus are some of my favourites. The scent is subtle with a delicate floral note, and the flowers are relentlessly cheerful!

Double Narcissus flowers

© Thompson & Morgan Double Narcissus

Hyacinth bulbs make a showy display indoors too, but I do find that they suffer from the Marmite effect. Love them, or hate them – you will definitely notice the powerful perfume if you welcome them into your home. Personally I will be leaving my Hyacinths just outside the back door for now!

Hedge Funds!

After a frozen start to the month, this week has brought sunshine and birdsong – spring is definitely in the air! As the weather improves, the sap begins to rise, and before you know it there will be a new flush of foliage everywhere you look!

This signals that the bare root season will soon be drawing to a close. But there’s still time to plant bare root shrubs and trees if you’re quick about it.

Hedging plants

©Thompson & Morgan Hedging plants

Bare roots are often far cheaper than potted plants. These young ‘whips’ establish quicker than more mature specimens, and will soon catch up in size. Bare root hedging is by far one of the greatest savings you can make in the garden.

Given the quantity of plants that are normally required to create a hedge, it’s a ‘no brainer’ to buy your plants as bare roots. Time to spend that hedge fund!

I often think the value of hedging is overlooked by many gardeners. Hedges provide the bare bones of the garden creating structure, securing boundaries and providing a backdrop for your borders. The right hedging plants will attract wildlife and create wind breaks in gusty locations.

Beech is one of my favourites – it forms a dense deciduous hedge that stays neat and manageable, but retains its tawny brown autumn leaves for months over the winter. So you are never faced with completely bare branches.

Fagus sylvatica f. purpurea

© Shutterstock Fagus sylvatica f. purpurea

If you prefer an evergreen hedge then Yew is the traditional choice for a formal look, or try Privet for a quick growing, trouble free hedge that will thrive in most conditions. Box is always a popular choice, but in recent years the fungal disease Box Blight has decimated Box hedges up and down the UK. A good alternative, with a similar growth rate and appearance, is Ilex crenata or Euonymus japonicus.

Euonymus japonicus Jean Hughes

© Shutterstock Euonymus japonicus Jean Hughes

Wherever possible, choose species that will benefit wildlife. Hedges are essential wildlife corridors allowing birds, mammals and insects to travel freely between areas. Hawthorn and Blackthorn both provide berries for birds, nectar for insects, and shelter for many different species. Better still, these thorny plants also make very effective security hedges too.

Prunus spinosa

©Shutterstock Prunus spinosa

Whatever type of hedge you need, there are plenty to choose from at Thompson & Morgan. Take a look at our range of hedging plants online. For advice on how to plant a hedge, check out this helpful guide

Pumpkin update: Tackling Powdery Mildew on Pumpkins.

Pests and diseases on crops are always a problem in the garden – and my Pumpkin crop is no exception, in the last few days, the leaves of my plants have unfortunately developed Powdery Mildew.

Powdery mildew is easily identified by the powdery white spores on the surface of the foliage, severely affected leaves will quickly shrivel and die back. The spores of this unsightly disease are air borne so it can spread quickly and easily where plants are growing close together.

Powdery mildew is particularly prevalent during humid, wet summers like we’ve had this year, where the spores are spread from leaf to leaf by rain splashes.

powdery mildew on pumpkin leaves

If you notice powdery mildew appearing then you’ll need to act fast to stop it spreading: You can remove and destroy infected leaves to control its spread. Put them straight in the household waste – never compost the leaves as this will simply spread the problem again next year. Keeping the roots evenly watered will also help to prevent the problem.

If the infection is over a wider area then you may have to use a chemical control; there are lots of fungicides available to pick up at your local garden centre. Just be sure to check that you choose one which is suitable for use on edible crops. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and spray the plants evenly, both above and beneath the foliage.

Hopefully that will solve the problem, but if necessary then you may need to repeat the treatment in a few weeks time.

Check out my other videos on growing pumpkins here :

How to grow pumpkins. Part 1: sowing pumpkin seeds

How to grow Pumpkins. Part 2: Planting out Pumpkin plants.

How to grow Pumpkins with Thompson & Morgan. Part 3: Feeding and pollination

I hope you enjoy pumpkin growing this year – who knows, you might grow your very own giant!


Trailing Fuchsias

Trailing fuchsias come in every colour combination imaginable. There are so many choices, from elegant single flowered fuchsias such as Fuchsia ‘Mandarin Cream’ to flamboyant double forms with carefree, ruffled blooms such as Fuchsia ‘Quasar’. They are particularly useful for bringing impressive displays to summer hanging baskets, window boxes and containers. Their lax stems gently cascade over the side of containers, allowing the dangling blooms to be viewed at their best. These versatile plants cope equally well in semi shade as they do in full sun. This makes them an ideal choice for brightening up those shadier corners of the patio.

trailing fuchsia

Some forms can produce colossal blooms reaching up to 10cm (4”) across eg Giants Collection.

Fuchsias are superb value too, flowering over a long period from early summer right through to September.

Growing trailing fuchsias really couldn’t be easier. Plant trailing fuchsias directly into baskets, window boxes, Flower Pouches™ and containers, in any well drained compost.  Grow them on in warm, frost free conditions.  Pitrailing fuchsianch out the growing tips of each plant while they are still small to promote bushier growth and more flowers. When all risk of frost has passed, gradually acclimatise fuchsia plants to outdoor conditions over a 7 to 10 day period, prior to placing them in their final positions in sun or semi shade.

Throughout the growing season keep them well watered. It’s well worth feeding them every other week with a fertiliser such as Incredibloom® to promote an endless supply of flowers. Deadhead faded fuchsia flowers to prolong the flowering period.

These reliable plants are stalwarts of summer garden, bringing colour and movement to hanging baskets whether grown individually or as part of a mixed container.

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