Feed bulbs just after they have flowered in the spring.
N.B. Remember not to cutdown until six weeks after flowering.
Go to reliable garden centres for plants. The ones in the centre of towns tend to be more expensive, but ask around to find out the best in the area.
Cut lavender back in spring but never cut into old wood.
Cut nepeta in autumn or spring and it will flourish again in the summer. If you wish, cut after flowering to keep them busy. Water and feed to help regrowth.
When planting under established trees the ground will be poor due to the tree’s greedy roots. So double-digging for each individual plant (twice the width and depth of the normal size) is essential to improve theand give the plant a chance. Replace the old soil with well-rotted organic compost (with organic fertiliser) before planting, so each hole has mostly new soil. Suitable plants for these conditions under trees are Aucuba (spotted laurel), Skimmia (male and female). Viburnum tinus (laurustinus), Euphorbia robbiaie, Fatsia japonica, Garrya elliptica and hostas. Once all the new plants have been planted liberally sprinkle slow-release fertiliser round the base of each plant. Use calcified seaweed, bone meal, blood and bone.
Remember to water regularly during the first summer until shrubs and trees are established.
Protect new plants against cats with sticks saturated in Renardine
Mulching. When the garden is completely planted lay a thick layer of mulch, preferably in April when the ground is still wet, so that it will retain the moisture in the drier weather and help the new plants to get their roots down. This can regularly be topped up with grass clippings put directly on the bed so long as the clippings are no more than 2 in (5cm) deep and they are kept well away from the stems of any plants as they (the stems) may rot away. Also if the cuttings are too dense over the roots of a plant, the heat created by the new grass rotting down will burn the roots.
Make a plan of the planting areas and write down what has been planted and where -especially the plants that die down each winter like Alchemia mollis, geraniums and hostas.
Remember the most innocuous little tree could grow to 60 ft (18 in). So check the size of tree-before buying or planting.
Before each winter, clean, oil and put away all garden tools.
Get lawn mower overhauled before the grass starts growing in the spring when everyone else-is needing the mower checked.
Label and put into screw-top jars screws and nails so they are not lying about to give rusty cuts and grazes.
If a branch, twig, stalk, stem or flower is diseased or has died, remove it with secateurs to give the rest of the plant a better chance.
Transplanting. Water well for at least a week (three weeks if it’s in the summer when you shouldn’t transplant!) before transplanting.
Before planting the garden contact the local council to see if you need permission to reduce the canopies of trees so as to get more light. Do not cut down trees without checking with the council, as the trees might be protected by a tree preservation order. You will also need permission if your house is in a conservation area.
Reducing the canopy of trees is a skilled job and if it is done by someone who docs not know the subject and just lops off branches, this can produce an ugly mess of regrowth. So contact a tree surgeon and ask to see examples of his work, as some tree surgeons are better than others. It takes minutes to cut a tree but it may never regrow into an attractive shape again if it has been brutally cut back.
When starting a garden from scratch, build the hard landscape features such as paths,, raised planters, fountains and ponds first.
When using wood for the garden only use pressure impregnated wood which will not rot and can be stained to the colour of your choice; ordinary soft wood will not last. There are many new paint-on wood treatments but nothing is as good as pressure impregnation.
Wear leather gloves if you use a bow saw as the blade is very sharp and can cause a severe cut if it jumps on to your hand.
Wash cuts and grazes thoroughly and use a disinfectant cream. Use sterilised needles to remove thorns and splinters. Clean the wound afterwards and use disinfectant cream.
Wear gloves when picking up branches, twigs and rose cuttings.
Keep knees bent and back straight when lifting heavy gardening gear to avoid back strain.
Don’t prune camellias. Cut back the odd branch if you wish to reshape them. N.B. Both camellias and azaleas benefit from a top dressing of peat round the roots before the winter to protect their roots.
Don’t cut hydrangeas uniformly hard back, just about 8 in (20 cm) in the spring plus any dead wood down to the ground.
Don’t cut daffodil foliage down for at least six weeks after flowering.
Don’t buy a lot of ‘pretty looking’and trees without knowing what conditions they like, how big they grow and so on. Aim for flowering evergreens, shrubs and perennials, otherwise you will have to be planting continually season after season.
Don’t pull out potentillas that ‘look dead’ in the winter. They are not and they will flower again next spring.
Don’t transplant deciduous shrubs when they are still in leaf.
Don’t listen to well-meaning advice (regarding the garden) if you don’t like it. People tend to give more unasked for advice in the garden than anywhere else. Firstly their advice may be incorrect and secondly it may not be suitable for your low maintenance garden. So ignore ‘Oh wouldn’t lots of annuals give the beds colour?’ (Yes, they would, but you would be forever gardening!)
Don’t accept plants for the garden and feel you have to plant them if they are not suitable for your planting scheme. Encourage people to give you the trouble-free plants you need, such as perennials or evergreen flowering shrubs.
Don’t plant too many dark-leaved plants such as laurel, azalea and camellia together. Try to vary the planting with plants with differently shaped and coloured foliage, grey and variegated. It is easy to make the mistake of planting a lot of dark greens together as many of the trouble-free evergreen flowering shrubs have dark green leaves.
Don’t plant wisteria to grow up the side of the house if there is any danger of it growing near the roof and under the slates. Once wisteria is mature, it can cause thousands of pounds worth of damage to guttering, slates and tiles. So watch it!
Don’t plant vigorous climbers such as Russian vine, honeysuckle and Clematis montana on a flimsy structure. These climbers can get very heavy and need strong support. So make sure you have a solid wall, trellis or frame before planting such robust climbers.
Don’t start planting up a bed unless it is completely cleared of weeds, especially such persistent ones as ground elder and couch grass, otherwise you will never get rid of the weeds and they will take over the plants.
Don’t assume a plant is dead just because the twigs look dry and there are no leaves. Before removing the plant check to see if there is still sap in the shoots or stem by scratching the surface with your thumb nail. If it is green beneath the bark then the plant is still alive. If it is brown or beige beneath the surface when scratched or cut back, the plant is probably dead. If you are not sure, just cut the plant hard back and wait to see if new growth appears.
Avoid digging soggy clay. Dig this type of soil when it is almost dry.
Don’t overload your car with more bricks orstones than it can safely carry.
Don’t start work on the garden construction without first getting several estimates, preferably from landscape contractors who have been recommended and you have seen examples of their work.
Water and Drainage:
Water has to go somewhere, so don’t direct the water off your paving without a drain or soak-away, otherwise the water will go into your house!
Ladies, don’t try and work with men’s heavy tools. Buy a light weight spade and fork, they make garden work so much easier.
Don’t try and prune trees without wearing glasses. Protect your eyes with sun-glasses or goggles. Many accidents involving eyes happen in the garden each year.
To avoid back problems when digging:
Don’t use tools that are too heavy or dig over wet soil.
Don’t dig non stop without standing up straight and stretching and having a break. Keep stretching.
Don’t twist when digging, lifting or loading into a wheel barrow. Turn the whole body the same way as the feet and the object to be lifted.
Don’t wear flipflops in the garden; wear practical shoes and comfortable clothes. Flipflops are dangerous as you can not only cut your feet but also trip over paving or roots of trees.
Don’t wear flowing or flapping clothes; they can be dangerous when working in the garden. They can catch in machinery such as hedge trimmers and chain saws and also catch on branches, twigs or garden gates and can throw you off balance.
Don’t use bare hands when working in soil in a new garden where there may be broken china and glassware left by the previous owner. Wear gloves. (The tetanus bacteria lives in the soil and if you have a cut or graze and are not immunized against it take care as there have been cases where it has been fatal.)
Don’t get your fingers trapped in the deck chair or folding chair. Approximately 2,500 gardeners each year find themselves in the casualty unit. Check the chair is in good condition before sitting down as you don’t want to fall through rotted material and hurt your back by landing sharply on the ground.
Don’t leave obvious signs of being away such as milk bottles outside, drawn curtains and six house plants sitting in the kitchen sink. An empty house is easily spotted by potential intruders. Leave easy, long-suffering plants like grape ivy and spider plants on window sills at the front and back of the house.
Don’t leave the garden looking a mess (when away) if it is normally tidy. A tidy garden makes a house look occupied. A low-maintenance garden will not go wild while you are away, but if you have grass try to persuade your neighbour to cut it.
Don’t leave tools, especially ladders and hammers, outside the house at night or when you are away. Lock them up as they are just the thing to help intruders into your house.
Don’t forget to turn on the security light at the back of your house at night or when away for the weekend.
Don’t leave unlabelled jars with poisonous substances in the shed or greenhouse. Always label materials clearly.