SPRING is off and running and so is the Royal Horticultural Society’s National Gardening Week (April 14-21) that aims to get people gardening and into horticulture.
In fact, April is the perfect time to ‘revisit’ your garden and start getting it ready for the summer months ahead. For seasoned gardeners, this month is one of the busiest in the gardening year.
It’s also the month when some of the most vibrant flowering shrubs and plants come into bloom, such as the ever popular rhododendron.
A fan of the beautiful plant is professional gardener and co-presenter of ITV’s Love Your Garden, Frances Tophill.
“Rhododendrons have had a bad press in recent years with Rhododendron Ponticum being an ever increasing problem in our countryside due to its effect on native habitats," she said.
"Despite this, there is no reason to avoid planting rhododendron species in the garden. On the contrary, if you chose carefully, this plant can brighten up the darkest shade, which can be the most problematic spaces in the garden," she said.
"These stunning and perpetually cheerful shrubs flower in all sorts of vibrant colours during spring when we tend to think of most of the colour coming from bulbs. So why not extend the flower power of your garden from ground level to head height and beyond."
Rhododendron will survive in most acidic soils and need hardly any pruning, but don't be fooled into thinking that they provide spring flower and nothing more - most species we buy for the garden are evergreen so even in the depths of winter their deep, glossy leaves will provide colour.
Another colour splash for the garden, seeded now for summer flowering, is the stunning long and leggy poppy. There is a special limited edition poppy National Garden Gift Voucher being launched this month that supports the Real Poppy Campaign, encouraging people to plant poppies ahead of the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I.
Anyone buying a poppy voucher will be given a free packet of Thompson & Morgan red Flanders Poppy Seeds to scatter in their gardens, along hedgerows or pathways.
Alternatively, you could sow poppy seeds (and sweet pea seeds) in a container and have a colourful display in your garden, whatever its size.
If new to gardening, then pop down to your local garden centre for planting tips and advice on how to care for pots and plants - it’s all part of a nationwide ‘It Starts with a Pot’ campaign running through Spring and Summer to encourage everyone to give gardening a go and enjoy their outside living space.
With so much to do, it’s just as well the days are getting longer and warmer, although there still could be the odd frost around, so be careful about planting out seedlings too soon.
Here are some top jobs for this month from the Royal Horticultural Society and National Garden Gift Vouchers:
1. Plant evergreen shrubs and pot grown climbers out in the garden
2. Tie back climbing and rambling roses
3. Watch out for sudden frost and fleece plants if necessary
4. Keep an eye out for pests – snails and slugs love new foliage as do aphids
5. Keep weeds under control
6. Start feeding plants in the garden from now to the end of the summer
7. Start to feed citrus plants
8. Sow seeds directly into the soil so they can flower in the summer
9. Sow vegetable seeds directly into prepared beds
10. Plant summer flowering bulbs
11. Sow new lawns or repair bare patches
12. Prune shrubs and trees
13. Apply mulch or manure to flower beds and pots
14. Prepare hanging baskets
15. Add new plants to ponds