Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Neat Shoots and Leaves; Crack on with the Clearing Up This Spring and Tick a Few Jobs off the List - You Will Soon Make Your Garden the Only Place You Want to Be

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Neat Shoots and Leaves; Crack on with the Clearing Up This Spring and Tick a Few Jobs off the List - You Will Soon Make Your Garden the Only Place You Want to Be

Article excerpt

Byline: With Carol Klein of TV's Gardeners' World

SPRING is, practically speaking, the most productive time of the year. What we manage to accomplish during the next few weeks will set the tone for the whole growing season.

Even if time is limited, there are a few simple jobs we can all carry out that will make our gardens more desirable places. I'm not one for garden housework or for prissing and preening but clearing up properly after winter's dishevelment really pays off.

We leave many of our perennials with stems and seedheads, providing food and shelter for birds and small animals.

At this time of year, though, to leave them longer would be counterproductive. New shoots need space, light and air to develop and leaving soggy detritus around their crowns can lead to rotting.

It's time, too, to cut back stems of evergreen perennials, such as penstemon.

We leave their top growth all winter to protect the emerging shoots. But if you leave them too long the plant can expend energy, getting the old growth to reshoot rather than putting all its oomph into the new shoots that will create a well-formed plant with loads of flowers later.

We've a big Penstemon 'Osprey' in a small south-facing bed beyond the shed. This is the bed where we have conducted our plants-that-slugsdon't-like experiment.

The penstemon must be nearly a metre across but is looking decidedly dishevelled now so, using sharp secateurs, all those old woody stems are cut down to the ground, exposing new shoots.

Within a few weeks they will have grown enough for us to harvest cuttings.

New, fresh growth always makes the best cutting material.

Weeding has to become a priority as soon as the weather warms up. Annual weeds grow exponentially, many of them seeding again within a few weeks - bittercress is probably the worst offender. …

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