Spring is nearly here and it’s time to get out in the garden. Now is an ideal time for planting shrubs while the soil is damp, so long as it’s not frosty.
If your garden needs a boost of colour, stock up on spring shrubs to add interest to your garden.
How to plant a shrub
Preparation is everything. With a little effort, your shrubs can flourish and give you many years of pleasure.
- Before planting, give the shrub a long soak while still in its plastic pot.
- Check the size guide on the care instructions and make sure the space you’ve chosen is suitable for its eventual size.
- Follow the planting instructions. As a general rule, dig a hole slightly deeper than the root ball and twice as wide.
- Break up the soil below where the shrub will go, so the roots can penetrate.
- Add a thick layer of fertiliser and some water.
- For ericaceous plants such as rhododendrons and camellia, add a generous base of ericaceous compost – available at the Garden Centre – and surround the shrub with it.
- Ease the plant out of its pot. If it has visible roots, gently separate them, then place in the ground.
- Fill in around the shrub with compost, firming it down and ensuring the plant is standing up straight.
- Firm down the top layer to fill air pockets and stop the shrub moving around in strong winds.
- Water well and add a thick layer of mulch. Keep watered during dry spells through its first season and you will ensure it has the best possible start.
With a little care, roses bloom for a surprisingly long time – they peak during the summer and can keep going until it turns cold in winter. They are sometimes considered as high maintenance plants, which isn’t really the case.
Plant roses in March to get them established for the summer; just make sure the frosts are over. When planting your rose, follow the shrub planting tips above. Newly planted roses need to be pruned hard, you can go as low as 8-10” from ground level – don’t worry, new shoots will emerge.
In early spring, get your existing roses ready for the season. Pruning helps give you bigger and more prolific blooms and it’s much easier than you might think, so dust off your secateurs! Secateurs should be sharp enough to cut cleanly through the stems because ragged cuts might encourage disease.
For established roses, cut off about a third to a half of the length of each branch. This encourages healthy new growth and a well-shaped shrub. Little or no pruning is needed on miniature or shrub roses.
Having pruned your roses, apply a granular or powder rose feed around the base of the plant. Roses are quite heavy feeders and signs of lack of nutrients will soon show with discoloured leaves and poor blooms. A mulch layer such as chipped bark around the plants will improve the soil as it breaks down and keep soil moist in the summer.
Roses are known for being susceptible to pests and diseases, but don’t be put off. If the plant is cared for and any problem treated, it should bloom healthily. We recommend the Rose Expert book by Dr. Hessayon. You can also ask for advice in the Garden Centre.
Make your garden a wildlife haven
Choosing the right plants can attract wildlife. Many flowering plants are a draw for bees, butterflies and other insects. Butterflies and bees love nectar-rich plants, including lavender, buddleia and hebe. Mixed into your borders, these plants give a natural cottage garden effect.
Hedges and dense shrubs provide shelter and hiding places for wildlife, along with food if they are berry varieties. Remember to check the eventual size and spread of plants such as buddleja – also known at the butterfly bush – so they don’t outgrow the space. With a little thought, your garden can become a complete eco system.
We all know the wildlife we don’t want in their garden – slugs, snails and aphids. However, these garden pests are a food source for birds, frogs and toads. There are various protection methods for your plants that won’t interfere with wildlife or pets.
Keep your garden a little messy as it allows critters to go about their business undercover. And in springtime, birds take advantage of garden debris when nest building.
A bird bath or bowls of water are a welcome addition for the wildlife in your garden. It’s great to encourage wildlife, including birds, hedgehogs and frogs, and it’s so easy.