Ask the Experts | Living North

Ask the Experts


Green Garden with garden seat
Don’t know your buddleia from your elbow? Never fear: we’ve asked some of the best gardeners and garden designers from across the region for their top tips this spring
‘At this time of year the late frosts should have passed and we are now focusing on our herbaceous borders. Late flowering perennials such as Michaelmas daisy, rudbeckias and coneflowers can all be planted out’
Pink flowers in season
Garden greenhouse surrounded by plants

What big trends are you seeing in gardening?
There are two main focuses this year: the first is herbaceous perennials. We’re seeing a big shift to them, replacing bedding plants: you come in, buy a plant, plant it and forget about it. It’ll flower without having to replace it twice a year. People are too busy now to deal with plants. Herbaceous perennials are a low-maintenance thing. The second trend is grow your own. It’s something people can do as a family. There’s nothing better; you get a huge amount of satisfaction from it. Growing your own isn’t as complicated as it may first seem. You can grow salad crops in containers in your patios; it doesn’t mean you have to take on a huge great allotment.
Nigel Lawton, Horticultural Manager, Wyevale Garden Centres

We are seeing a continuing move to outdoor spaces which can be used for entertaining. Including outdoor kitchens, fire pits and fireplaces in the garden are all high on people’s wish lists, even in Yorkshire! Add to this plants which can deal with all the conditions that the great British weather can throw at us: it has become more of a priority for us designers to ensure a garden continues to look great all year and in all weathers.
Annabel Bridge, North Leeds Garden Design

How can I attract wildlife into my garden?
First, do no harm. Avoid harming wildlife with pesticides or herbicides – say no to slug pellets, weed-killers, and insect sprays, which will poison creatures by getting into soil, worms, insects and plants which are the natural foodstuffs of wildlife. There are other ways than poisons to deal with problem areas. When changing anything in the garden, think of how it will affect the existing wild habitat.
Chris Pearson, Chief Gardener, Shandy Hall

For pollinators try to grow a variety of plants to offer a long season of food sources. Amongst the earliest are flowers attractive to bees are snowdrops, ribes speciosum, hellebores and crocus. There are plenty of beautiful late season daisies (rudbeckia, symphyotrichum, and so on) which will flower well into autumn. Birds can be given supplementary feed and enjoy shelter and plenty of nesting sites, so don't trim hedges early in the year whilst this is taking place. An absence of predators (including cats!) is also beneficial.
Alastair Gunn, Head of Landscape and Gardens at Castle Howard

What should I be planting this time of year?
At this time of year the late frosts should have passed and we are now focusing on our herbaceous borders. Late flowering perennials such as Michaelmas daisy, rudbeckias and coneflowers can all be planted out. It’s also the perfect time to split any established late-flowering perennials in your garden – you can lift, divide and replant now, giving the plants enough time to re-establish and flower this year. Most importantly, anything that you plant at this time of year must be thoroughly watered to help it establish itself.
Phil Cormie, Senior Gardener, Himalayan Garden & Sculpture Park, Ripon

Can I plant veg at this time of year?
In April you can plant onion sets, asparagus crowns, and chitted potatoes. You can also think about sowing seed directly outdoors, such as beetroot, lettuce and peas. Warming the soil for a few weeks with horticultural fleece or black plastic will help germination. It’s also a good time to plant pot grown fruit trees and bushes. By mid-May, I am thinking about planting out half hardy annuals that I have grown from seed, and dahlias that were potted up in late February in the greenhouse.
Tom Longridge, Senior Gardener, Beningbrough Hall, Gallery and Gardens

How can I develop a low maintenance, high impact garden?
The selection of plants – particularly when considering size and spread – is dependent upon how much space is available in the garden. Select suitable plants, whether trees, shrubs or herbaceous perennials that are more compact in growth. That reduces the need for regular pruning. If you’re using herbaceous perennials, select those that don’t require staking. Pick plants to create focal points, then interplant low growing, ground covering shrubs that have interest over a number of seasons. Then make use of weed-suppressing membranes laid over the soil and secured into the ground at the edges. Cut slits into the membrane and put your plants through it. A mulch of small shingle, gravel or composted bark chippings spread on top completes the job and reduced weed growth.
Lady Ropner and Terry Exley, Thorp Perrow Arboretum

As time is always in short supply, using plants that offer architectural form and stunning foliage can be an easy way to create a low maintenance, high impact garden. Japanese acers have fabulous foliage and breathtaking autumnal colour. To extend the season of interest they can be underplanted with interesting foliar perennials, like hostas and ferns, then inter-planted with different types of primula to give a dash of vibrant colour to contrast all the foliage from early spring through to late summer. Underplanting with evergreen ferns and hostas helps to suppress the weed, giving you more time to sit back and enjoy your garden.
Phil Cormie, Senior Gardener, Himalayan Garden & Sculpture Park, Ripon

What’s the best way to keep pests and aphids at bay?
Generally aphids are not a problem for long if there are plenty of other insects and birds present as they are a good source of food – and this is true of many nuisance pests. However, should aphids build up quickly, some people use a slightly soapy spray using water and washing up liquid, an environmentally one being preferable. 
Alastair Gunn, Head of Landscape and Gardens at Castle Howard

What can I plant to keep interest in my garden throughout the whole year?
Flowers often have a short season. Leaf colours and contrasting foliage shapes can give more prolonged interest: think of the amazing range of colours just in heucheras, for example. Underplant your garden with bulbs for each season: nerines are a joy in November – elegant and bright when all else is dying down. Berries, coloured stems and bark enliven the winter. Bird feeders near your windows will provide endless entertainment through the winter months, and on through the nesting season.
Chris Pearson, Chief Gardener, Shandy Hall

One great choice is sarcococca confusa: a low maintenance, evergreen shrub that will give you blackberries in the summer and during winter will fill your whole garden with the most delightful scent from dainty white flowers. It will grow in any conditions, from full sun to deep shade, and in any soil.
Chris Baker, Head Gardener, Kiplin Hall

Published in: April 2018

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