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Herbaceous Plants Hints and Tips

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Jan

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Dec

May

Herbaceous plants should now be growing rapidly. Continue to keep weeds down. Stake and tie in plants as required, especially delphiniums and hollyhocks, to avoid wind damage. Plants which grow too tall can have the tips pinched out which will encourage a more bushy growth. To encourage growth on plants which are several years old, where they have lots of shoots, these can be thinned out. Remove the weakest and preferably, those on the inside. Water newly planted beds with a watering can fitted with a hose. Remember that water should be concentrated at the base of the plants, to reach the roots.

Buy bulbs, seeds and plants from Thompson and Morgan.

June

Where plants have already flowered, cut them back to within 3-5in. of the ground and remove supports. Most will produce new foliage, giving ground cover throughout the summer. Divide and replant primroses but don't forget to keep them watered. Remove most aquilegia stems but leave some to set seed which you can store in paper bags or envelopes once they have turned brown. Weed between plants and apply a layer of leaf mould or peat to retain moisture.

July

Continue to cut back early flowering varieties and deadheading where flowering is ongoing. An exception to this is peonies which should be deadheaded but not pruned as they need to die back naturally at the end of the season. Now is the time to plan and prepare any new beds or borders for autumn planting. Open sites are best if possible and think about access – an island bed provides access all round which is obviously ideal. Other factors to consider are mature trees near to a bed will dry the bed out significantly and have a corresponding negative effect on your plants – likewise an established hedge will take moisture from the bed and any new bed should be planned at least 3 or 4 feet away from the base of the hedge if possible. To give the new plants the best possible start when they are planted later in the year incorporate as much organic matter into the bed as possible during this preparation stage – well rotted manure is the best which should be dug deep into the bed as early as possible.

August

Continue the general maintenance tasks such as dead-heading and the removal of tall flowering stems and their support as they finish their display. Old beds in need of a makeover can now be dug over and manure or other organic matter dug in. Now is the time to make plans for new beds to be planted in the autumn – visit garden centre and nurseries for plant ideas to help the planning process.

Buy bulbs, seeds and plants from Thompson and Morgan.

September

Once plants have finished flowering, continue to deadhead and cut back. Keep up to the weeding and finish your planting plans for any new beds or revision of old ones.

October

One of the most exciting and indeed challenging aspects of gardening is planning and planting a new herbaceous border - to do it right takes a lot of hard work in preparing the site and a lot of meticulous planning of the planting in order to achieve the effect you desire. Think about what you would like and try to develop a theme, for instance is it continuous colour you are looking for all year round or is interesting foliage just as important; what about height of the plants and the shape of the border; should your theme contain just one or two colours etc? As well as all these factors you will, of course, also need to consider the position of the new border, the soil you have to work with and how well it drains, how sheltered it is and the proximity of large trees which will seriously affect the moisture content of the soil. If there is a large country house with gardens open to the public in your area go have a good look at what the professional gardeners have achieved with their herbaceous borders and give yourself something to aspire to.

November

Tidy borders, storing canes for use next year. Tall plants can be cut down and composted after cutting with secateurs into smaller pieces. New plants can still be planted but watch out for slugs. If you have heavy soil, fork over between plants and leave rough for the frost to break down. Annual weeds can be buried as you do this but perennial weeds should be removed and destroyed. Mulch the roots and crown of tender plants, to give some winter protection to plants such as agapanthus and arum lilies.

Buy bulbs, seeds and plants from Thompson and Morgan.

December

Continue to keep beds tidy, digging or hoeing between plants, dependent on space. Some trees, such as pine, birch and beech have invasive roots that can be trimmed back from shrubs. Use a sharp spade to sever the root; there is no need to remove it as it will die back naturally. Top up gravel paths and replace worn turf or leave until Spring. Prune overhanging branches of deciduous trees and bushes. Continue to plan beds for Spring and place your seed orders.

January

Tidy up beds, removing dead branches, stalks etc on perennial plants. Lightly hoe the beds to remove annual weeds. If you have heavy soil it is worth getting beds dug over as soon as possible as the winter frosts will help to break down the clay. Remember to fully dig out perennial weeds such as dockleaves and destroy.

February

Unless your border is newly planted on a well prepared bed then the border will benefit from a top dressing of fertilizer - use a fertilizer high in phosphates and potash but low in nitrogen. Dig the fertilizer in between the plants down to a depth of 2 to 3 inches.

Buy bulbs, seeds and plants from Thompson and Morgan.

March

Fertiliser can be applied in dry weather to ground which has been dug over. New plant roots will benefit from being soaked in water prior to planting. If the ground is not ready for your new plants, bed them in boxes or pots ready for planting out later on. Seedlings which have been hardened off can be planted out. Plants which need repositioning can be moved this month. If you have a choice plant overrun with weeds, dig it up, remove the weeds and replant. Renew any plant labels which are being obscured or have faded.

April

Late-flowering plants and any slow to make new growth should be planted now. Lift, divide and replant old clumps such as helianthuses and michaelmas daisies. Keep beds hoed to reduce weeds. As plants grow, provide support and start to tie in tall plants such as delphiniums.

Gardening information, hints and tips on how to get the best from your herbaceous borders throughout the gardening year including planning and preparation of new beds and general care advice.