Amidst the doom and gloom we as a nation face at the moment, with the imminent battle against the coronavirus becoming more real by the day, and the subject having replaced the weather as the only topic of conversation that us Brits talk about it is hard to find much solace. However, yesterday afternoon I took myself outside to clear away some of the remaining ‘winter’ still in evidence on a few of the beds as we get around to doing the last of the spring tidy up. The weather wasn’t great, no sun, a steady breeze and a few spits and spots of rain in the air, however as I moved amongst the plants on my knees, cutting back, weeding and digging out a few unwanted self-seeders I realised several times that my mind had totally switched off from the coronavirus, and had been wandering off on tangents considering what additions I might make to the planting and watching the friendly robin who was keeping me company. I was snapped back to reality when one of my sons who is up at university announced on the family ‘group chat’ that he was going into self-isolation having woken this morning with a cough, nasty fever and headache. It was not totally a surprise having been exposed indirectly to someone who tested positive last week. The university has shut down, along with many others, and goodness knows what state the country will be in by the time this goes to print, but whatever it is, we are in for a long haul. Families are going to be staying at home together and the elderly about whom there is most concern will likely become isolated and lonely. Normal forms of entertainment as we know them will be off limits, cinemas, theatres, pubs, restaurants, concerts, etc. Children are going to spend even more hours glued to screens as schools likely close, they cannot visit friend’s houses and sporting events are cancelled. Thank goodness we are going into spring and summer when the weather should allow us to at least get out into the garden and so I would urge everyone to see this time as an opportunity to get to grips with their gardens and make them a place of escapism from the grim reality of the real world at the moment.
The majority of visitors I meet in the gardens complain to me that they do not have enough room in their garden to add plants that have taken their fancy in the nursery. I never allow this to be the case. If there is a plant I want to add then I will make room for it, admittedly easier in my 20acre site than in many small gardens, however too many people are guilty of moving into a property and just ‘keeping the garden’. No consideration is given to whether the garden works for them, all plants seem to be considered sacred and to be saved at all costs, even if this means preserving an overgrown shrub border with multiple forsythias, which have hung down and layered multiplying themselves and taking far more space than they should be allowed by rights. “Oh, but they have such lovely yellow flowers in spring” their owner will say to me! “But what about the rest of the year?” I will challenge. They are scruffy and do not add anything in terms of attractive foliage or form. Too many plants are just allowed to stay, rather than a considered judgement being made about whether they are worth their space. People are generally loathed to restrict the size of mature shrubs, often allowing the more vigorous to out compete smaller more desirable plants. This spring will provide an ideal opportunity for gardeners to get out there and overhaul some of their borders. Be ruthless, my motto is always “If in doubt, have it out”. This should allow for a few desirable additions. Try and select some shrubs that are going to give multiple seasons of interest, so for example if you want an evergreen, choose one with scented flowers, such as Daphne odora, nice coloured foliage such as Loropetalum ‘Black Pearl’, or even good autumn colour such as Viburnum awabuki, or what about an evergreen climber that has all three….. Trachelospermum jasminoides! Try and encourage the children to help with the physical tasks and get involved in the selection of new plants…they might even find they enjoy it!
Trachelospermum jasminoides Loropetalum ‘Black Pearl’
Having sorted the structure, try and add some perennials for long flowering season such as penstemon or alstromeria which will flower from June to December, and finally some summer flowering bulbs. It’s the right time to plant them now, so go online or visit a specialist nursery and stock up. Alliums, Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’, Acidanthera murielae, Nerines, Amaryllis belladonna, and Galtonia would all be good choices.
Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’
Have a go and see if you can resist the temptation to fill any corner of are earth with annual bedding plants which require daily watering in summer and die at the end of the season. See this challenging situation we find ourselves in as an opportunity to sort out those tired looking overcrowded borders and plant for future years, and at the same time reducing the maintenance your garden required going forward, because once we are given the green light to travel and resume our normal lives we are not going to want to be forced to stay at home to tend to our annuals!
All the above plants can be seen growing in the gardens and purchased in the nursery at Green Island Gardens.