Gardening - Creating spring and summer colour and caring for newly planted shrubs and trees
PUBLISHED: 13:28 08 April 2013 | UPDATED: 15:49 10 April 2013
Dan Booth, head gardener at Brodsworth Hall has some sound advice on caring for newly planted shrubs and trees as well as creating spring and summer colour
Dan Booth, head gardener at Brodsworth Hall has some sound advice on caring for newly planted shrubs and trees as well as creating spring and summer colour.
Its April and spring has well and truly arrived. Our gardens are an abundance of flowers, new shoots and fresh leaves, making winter seem like a distant memory. Work on the restoration of the North Drive at Brodsworth Hall is now complete and all this once neglected area needs now is time. In time the grass will grow and knit together and newly planted shrubs will establish themselves, completing our restoration of views not seen since before the First World War.
While the plants are young they will need more care and the lawns and borders will be regularly checked for pests and disease damage as well as any water and nutrient based deficiencies. It is important that newly planted trees and shrubs are only watered when they really need it. Watering as a matter of course is not only a waste of time and perfectly good water, but can actually hinder the development of a plant rather than help it.
A plant that is used to getting more than enough water from the can or the hose is much more likely to succumb to drought and can have an under developed root system caused by the fact that it has never had to look for water in the first place.
Plants planted in the spring usually do require more help with water than their autumn or winter planted counterparts as they have had less time to bed in before the warm weather and long days arrive. So it is worth making a note of which plants were planted when and then targeting your irrigation accordingly.
Brodsworth Halls trees are gradually weaned off manual watering within a couple of seasons. After that they will only be watered if there is a drought.
Hopefully, with a good sprinkling of April showers, watering wont be too much of a concern for now and we can all concentrate on a few other important tasks.
Much of our time for the next six months will be spent on maintenance duties. We do our best to get the basics right first by keeping weeds under control, especially in the Formal Garden, and cutting most of the grass on a weekly basis. Straight, clean edges always help make the place appear well kept so border and path edges are also a top priority. We start clipping the ground level evergreens (in the Formal Garden first) around this time too, keeping an eye out for nesting birds on the process.
There are also several April specific tasks to complete. Climbing roses need attention as new stems require tying in, along with any strays blown free over the winter. Try not to let the structure (rose arch, pergola etc) get too congested with stems as it makes it difficult to remove any older wood in the winter. If there isnt space for new stems, you may have to prune them off for now until you can take out some old wood later in the year to make room. A simple rule would be that if you cant get to the structure to loop the fastening around it and then around the stem, there probably isnt room; it isnt really a good idea to tie one stem to another.
In terms of feeding roses, it is best to wait until you see the first obvious signs of growth, such as an opening leaf bud. If you put the food down too early and the plant is still dormant, some of the nutrients could be leached away through the soil by rain and irrigation. We use a granular rose food which we sprinkle on the surface of the soil around the rose. This is then raked in with a springbok rake and, if the soil is very dry, the beds are then watered.
Periodically we will also add a winter mulch of composted horse manure too but if you are using fertilisers in the growing season, you dont need to do this every year.
This year we are adding some climbing annuals such as sweet peas to our pergola too. These quick-growing and usually highly scented plants will help add splashes of colour to any bare patches and provide diversity in the floral display. These plants need to be sown now and although you can get away with sowing the hardy varieties in situ outdoors, we will be growing them in the greenhouse for a month first so they are nice and big when they are planted outdoors.
You can also add this type of plant to herbaceous borders and other areas where you dont mind them rambling and weaving their way through other plants - they look lovely in an apple or plum tree for example but might just need a hand up the first few feet of trunk to get going.