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Spring Gardening

Get your garden ready for spring by attracting bees and preparing a cutting garden. Words by Harriet Rouse


Hear that noise? That is spring. The familiar sight of birds carrying improbably large twigs, the blossom on the trees, and the lengthening days mean we can finally return to the garden.


Alongside general maintenance such as weeding, checking on fence panels after the storms, jet washing the patio and tidying up, there are some great spring projects that you can get involved with that will ensure optimum enjoyment of the garden in the coming months (by which we mean the bit where you sit down with a glass of something chilled and look at your handiwork!)


Welcome The Bees

Whilst some pollination is wind-born, bees are crucial to our gardens. The good news is that it's straightforward to make your garden welcoming to bees and other pollinating insects, and – the more you encourage them – the better your garden will look.


Why not put out a bee hotel? If you try it, opt for the smaller versions that encourage solitary bees, as honeybees are content in their hives.


Alongside spring bulbs, there are some other great early pollinators that not only give colour and interest to your garden but also encourage bees and insects.


Why not try planting out some Broom? With its delicate early flowers readily available in light pink and yellow varieties, it is a hardy evergreen that continues to give structure throughout the year. Skimmia is another excellent addition to any garden. It smells incredible and flowers early. It's also great for winter foliage, with the clusters of red buds being a great addition to any winter wreath.



Prepare A Cutting Garden

There are very few people who don't like bringing the outside into their home with flowers, plants or foliage displays, be they real, faux, or a mix of the two. One way to do this and keep your costs down is to plant a cutting garden. It might sound like you need a lot of space, but you don't. You just need time and a little bit of planning and preparation. It would help if you also kept cutting, as the more you cut your blooms, the more they'll come. Here are some ideas that can work for your space, be it a window box or an unloved bed.


It's worth remembering that while the rest of your garden might be designed to look nice all the time, a cutting garden is intended to be, well, cut. It will be functional and pretty, but not to be used as a border for displays.


First, choose a spot, ideally sunny, and perhaps a bit tucked away so that it's not the first thing people see. If you're lucky enough to have room for a veg patch, you can borrow a couple of rows of that to try out a year of working on a different crop. If space is limited, then a couple of small planters can be surprisingly productive; just ensure you keep them watered and fed.


You need to plan

Group plants by height so they all get sun. Group them by when they start flowering, and ensure you have access by planting them in rows.


Whether you opt for a couple of window boxes or have a larger area, preparation is vital. Weed thoroughly so your flowers don't have any competition, and mulch at least twice - once at the start of the planting and once halfway through the season. Mix in some organic fertilizer and compost, and you'll be giving your blooms the very best start in life.

Choose your flowers

Choose what you love. There's no point in putting in Dahlias if they leave you cold. Likewise, if you're all about modern striking arrangements, go big - foxgloves (biennial) or alliums (bulbs). Remember, though, that if you go tall, many plants will need staking to support their growth.


Traditionally, cutting gardens use annual plants, though bulbs and biennials are also suitable. An annual is, quite simply, a plant that completes its life cycle in a year: from seed to flower to seed again (and because they want to go to seed, the more you cut, the more flowers and seeds they produce, which makes them the perfect plant for cutting).


Remember that a cutting garden is all about the flowers… foliage can be cut from elsewhere in the garden or purchased inexpensively in the market. The main thing to do is plant what you will use. If you're fond of a small, country-style arrangement in a small vase, anemones, sweet peas, poppies, and other short stemmed plants are a great place to start –though poppies do not last more than two or three days in a vase.


One of our favourite plants is a sunflower – they look gorgeous, and you only need one or two to make a real impact. They're also a great way to get the kids involved with your planting (or to give them something to do in their own pot!). Choose a variety with multiple heads to get as many as possible for your displays – you can find the details on seed packets.


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