5 tips for a glorious garden this year - from Suffolk experts
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Some of Suffolk's top gardeners share their favourite plants and impart their expert wisdom to help get your garden in top condition this season.
If it’s cheery, bright and sunny shrubs you’re after this year, Caroline Peecock of Swanns Nursery in Bromsewell says you can’t go wrong with a forsythia.
“My favourite variety of forsythia is the forsythia spectabilis. It’s a lovely yellow colour and the beauty of it is that you can plant it at any time of year - but it’s flowering now during and is incredibly easy to grow.”
Forsythias are known for being reliable, easy to take care of and eye-catching. Their peak bloom season is from March to April, and they should be pruned between May and June. It is recommended forsythias are planted in the sun or partial shade, in moist but well-drained soiled.
“My top tip for gardeners – which a lot of people forget – is to make sure you water your plants every day, and make sure you’re keeping your ground moist.”
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Sara Eley, co-founder of The Place for Plants, loves flowers so much that three varieties make it into her top spot.
“My favourite flower at the moment is either a primrose (primula vulgaris), or one of two camellias. I love the alba simplex variety, while the E.G. Waterhouse is another beautiful one. The E.G. Waterhouse is the most amazing double pink – it’s absolutely perfectly formed.”
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Primroses are small, perennial woodland flowers that can bloom anywhere from as early as late December until May, whereas alba simplex and E.G Waterhouse carnellias flower between March and April.
“Primroses can be planted pretty much anywhere in your garden - camelias however need neutral soil, and to be planted in the shade ideally. My general tip though, for whatever plant you’re growing, is to feed them – whether that’s mulch or any form of compost.”
For anyone looking to bring a tropical touch to their garden this year, hardy exotic trees are the way to go, according to Andrew Brogan. Owner of Henstead Exotic Garden, he’s a big fan of palm trees that are able to thrive in Britain’s climate, with his favourites being trachycarpus fortunei and trachycarpus wagnerianus.
“The trachycarpus fortunei is a hardy palm from the Himalayas, and is relatively easy to grow. It’s a beautiful palm tree that doesn’t mind the shade, and is actually a woodland palm, strangely enough. People always think of putting palms on the beach, but we actually have 125 large palms in my garden, backing onto an ancient woodland.”
For anyone hoping to grow their own exotics, Andrew suggests planting them in a bit of shelter. “They are hardy, but they’ll still want a little bit of shelter. The trachycarpus fortunei doesn’t like the wind, whereas the trachycarpus wagnerianus doesn’t mind it,” he says.
In terms of general gardening, Andrew is a big fan of making your own compost, regardless of what you’re growing. “I tend to find that the compost available in the shop is so poor quality now that it’s definitely worth making your own. Save your vegetable peelings, lawn cuttings and twigs and mix them up. It’s so satisfying and you’ve now got your own free compost.”
“My favourite plant is our native harebell, Campanula rotundifolia, which is a beautiful wild flower but equally at home in the mixed border, container or naturalising in long grass,” explains Sue Wooster of Bellflower Nursery & Garden Design.
Harebells can commonly be found growing throughout East Anglia, on heathland, along wood margins and at the coast.
"I love its graceful vivid-blue nodding bells, held on slender wiry stems. Bees and hoverflies particularly love it, which is all the more reason to include harebells in the garden. I also love the fact that so many gardeners have fond memories of harebells, which often evoke happy times in childhood.”
Harebells germinate from fresh seed sown in August, or alternatively started off as the days lengthen in March. “When seedlings are large enough to handle, prick out into a cluster of three or four seedlings into plug-size modules, then transplant into pockets in the lawn, border or a large clay pot. Best grown in well-drained soil in sun or part shade, harebells will reward gardeners with a mass of iridescent-blue bells in high summer. Deadhead regularly but leave the last flush of flowers to go to seed,” Sue adds.
For general garden maintenance, Sue suggests keeping a small pair of scissors with you whenever you walk around the garden. “Use them to snip off faded flowers or, later in the season, to gather seedheads.”
Perfect Perennials' Darren Rice's favourite bloom is unsurprisingly long flowering perennials. “Related to the Scabious family, they have beautiful burgundy, pin cushion flowers. Butterflies absolutely love them,” he explains.
Perennials seeds should be shown in spring - alternatively, plant an established plant in spring or autumn. “They will happily grow in any well-drained soil in a mostly sunny position,” he adds.
“My top tip for when planting perennials is to try planting them in threes - this will give a more solid effect in the border, as single plants often just get lost.”
Have you got a favourite plant or flower to grow at this time of year, or a gardening tip you'd like to share? Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org to share your tips and photos.