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Top Tips for April Gardens

During April gardens spring into life; blossom on the trees, the fresh bright greens of new growth, tulips, daffodils, euphorbias and wallflowers, herald the start of the new growing season.

Once the risk of frost is over, evergreen shrubs and hedges can receive their first trim of the year. If possible, large leafed shrubs such as laurel are best pruned by hand to avoid unsightly tears through the leaves.

A helpful guide when pruning flowering shrubs is to consider when they flower. For early flowering species such as Weigela florida, prune after they have flowered as they produce their flowers on the previous year’s growth, whilst later flowering shrubs such as Buddleja davidii, flower on the new seasons growth, so they need pruning hard in February.

Getting on top of the weeding at this time of year will pay dividends, particularly annual weeds such as hairy bittercress and cleavers which have several life cycles in one season and so will seed everywhere. A 2 inch mulch of compost, manure or bark after weeding will prevent the annuals from reappearing, as well as help to retain moisture in the soil during the dry (we hope!) summer months and, with the exception of bark, add nutrients to the soil.

Once the temperature rises plants seem to grow before your eyes. Now is the time to stake, to ensure plants grow in the desired direction. There are loads of different plant supports on the market, and these can be used year after year if stored correctly over winter. Alternatively have a wander through any wood or hedgerow for hazel twigs (pea sticks) and a framework of these will soon be hidden from view and won’t cost you a penny.

By May the soil is warmer and it’s the ideal time to sow hardy annuals directly in the ground where they are to flower. Easy to grow are Calendula officinalis (Pot marigold), Eschscholzia californica (California poppy), Nigella damascena (love-in-a-mist) or a Chelsea Flower Show favourite Orlaya grandiflora.

 The mention of Chelsea brings me to the ‘Chelsea Chop’, so named as it’s a task carried out around the time of the famous show. Later flowering perennials that have a habit of getting leggy can be pruned by a third to a half to reduce their eventual height and reduce the need for support. They will flower slightly later but it’s an excellent trick for sedum that flop from the centre, Shasta daisies and Phlox, to name but a few.

 After all those jobs, don’t forget to make a brew and take a minute to sit down and enjoy the results of your efforts, resisting the urge to leap up again when you spy a weed you missed!