Think Garden, Think Richard: How To Use Plants – When to Plant

Happy New Year! In my new series of articles for 2020 I want to explore how to use plants over the year. For success in the garden it really is best to have a planting plan as part of your garden design. Then working with nature and the seasons will ensure the plants selected can thrive. Here are a few things to be thinking about for the New Year.

Bare root is a great way to buy nursery stock during the winter. The plants are lifted from the ground and delivered without a pot. When planning the structural layout of a garden design I will consider hedge positions to delineate space, tree and rose positions. All these plants and many more are available bare root. This is how in generations past plants were supplied. Generally speaking the plants will also be cheaper leaving more in the budget for flouncy flowery herbaceous perennials, some of which can also be available bare root too. With a good planting plan as part of your garden design all this can be planned in advance.

Root balled is another way of buying plants during the winter months. This, as the name suggests, is where the roots have been wrapped up into a ball. I like to use root balled shrubs in my planting plans as it is a great way to plant larger more cost effective plants. The end of last year I used many root balled shrubs in my last large project of the year and this really helped boost the maturity of the newly planted garden. Plants such as Corylus, Elaeagnus, Ilex, Kolkwitzia, Prunus, Taxus and Viburnum all went in as root balls. Trees are also available as root balls too and help offer an instant feeling of maturity to a newly planted space.

Planting p9’s is worth considering for hardy perennials. A p9 is a small pot size that hardy perennials can be bought in. We are so conditioned to buying 1 litre or 2 litre pot size hardy perennials but all the plant has been doing is filling the space in the pot when really it needs to be in the ground. In my experience if the ground has been prepared with organic compost smaller plants will grow away quickly as the soil temperature rise in the spring and easily fill the space. It comes back to working with nature to get the best results. If all the elements have been planned out then the planting will be a success.

Bulb planting is a good way to introduce drifts of colour into the garden. This does require careful planning in the planting design as traditionally bulbs are available in the Autumn. Naturalising daffodils in grass can produce a lovely effect, but remember to put a note in the diary to order the bulbs in late summer for autumn delivery. It can be difficult to set out the plants in a new scheme knowing that some of the items will not be available until a later date. The best way to overcome this is by marking out the positions with a cane so that you allow the space. This way you will still have space to fit the Alliums or tulips into the layout despite potentially a season’s growth. One of my earliest professional gardening memories is being sent out with a sack of daffodils by the head gardener to plant up a glade. I threw the bulbs out by hand and planted them where they fell. The effect in the spring was awesome.

Specialist pruning to make space for new planting needs to be considered at the correct time of year. Winter is a busy time in the garden for pruning deciduous shrubs before the spring. Regenerative pruning where you cut into the old wood to reinvigorate shrubs in a neglected garden can be very beneficial. Structural pruning of Wisteria, vines and climbing roses will help set the scene for planting beneath.

If you are thinking of making changes to your garden this year why not plan over the winter to implement in the spring and to enjoy this summer!

For more in depth advice or garden design help please get in touch to arrange a consultation.