Spring gardening tips: from our garden to yours
Spring is an uplifting and hopeful time of year for many of us as we watch the natural world burst into life.
The arrival of blossom is one of many things we love about spring, so our gardeners are sharing their tips to help you create your own blossom display at home.
We're also sharing tips on container growing, attracting pollinators and more, so you can make the most of the season in your own garden.
As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, many gardeners will be busy sowing seeds and preparing their flower borders and vegetable patches.
Late May is a good time to prepare your beds by removing weeds and digging and raking the soil to create a fine tilth. As daffodils and other spring bulbs die back you can start dividing crowded clumps to help spread them out next year.
Rising temperatures accelerate growth in borders and vegetable beds, so it's important to keep on top of weeds with regular hoeing. During dry spells you should water plants at the beginning and end of the day. This is especially important for young and recently transplanted plants that won't have developed root systems. Now is also a good time to install a water butt.
Even if you have a small garden you can create an eye-catching display of spring blossom. The key to success is choosing the right trees or shrubs for the space you’ve got. Unless you’re planting your tree during the dormant season between November and March, it’s best to buy container-grown plants.
How do I choose the right tree?
Personal taste, colour and smell are obvious criteria for selection, but remember to check the plant’s soil preferences and most importantly its final growing size (see tree types below).
Do I need a big space?
Even small spaces can accommodate a container shrub but remember this will need regular feeding and watering.
If you’ve got space for more than one tree, think about how they will complement each other: flowering in sequence or contrasting colours. You may want a tree with multi-season interest or one that produces fruit.
Do I need to use fertiliser?
There's no need for fertiliser, it will just feed the weeds. Regular watering is good for your tree as is a layer of bark chip or other mulch that will suppress the weeds.
Do I need a stake?
It's best to avoid a stake unless it's a large tree. This is because trees can become dependent on stakes rather than supporting themselves.
Choosing the best blossom tree for your garden
Are you inspired to plant your own blossom tree? Our gardeners have come up with a list of their favourite blossom trees for home gardens.
Manchurian Siberian crab apple (Malus baccata var. mandshurica)
This small to medium-sized (up to 12m) apple tree flowers from late April into May and is known for its fragrant white blossom and delicious autumn fruits. Another advantage is that it requires only basic tree husbandry with little or no pruning. This tree, native to eastern Asia, can also be used in orchards as a pollinator.
Dwarf Russian almond (Prunus tenella ‘Fire Hill’)
Suitable for even the smallest gardens and growing spaces, this low-growing and spreading shrub has the most beautiful, bright rose-pink blossom in April. Its Siberian origin also makes it very hardy in even the coldest areas.
Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum)
A large shrub or small tree with a big reputation for bountiful, pink pea-like flowers. This is the perfect choice for a small garden, although its history is at odds with its beauty. This is reputedly the same species of tree from which one of the 12 Apostles, Judas Iscariot, was hanged.
Cultivated pear (Pyrus communis)
There are around 1,000 cultivated varieties of the common garden pear. The flowers appear in April and don’t vary greatly from one variety to another, so base your choice on the size or quality of fruit. Pruning in summer and winter helps the tree keep its shape and improves the blossom and quality of fruit.
Kanzan cherry (Prunus 'Kanzan')
Prunus Kanzan (pictured left) is the most popular and readily available of the Japanese flowering cherries. This vigorous and wide-spreading tree grows quickly to over 10m in height. Its abundant flowers are the sweetest sugar pink and it also displays dazzling marmalade-orange autumn colour.
Discovery apple (Malus domestica ‘Discovery’)
Best known for its rosy-red apples, this small tree has the added benefit of lovely pure white blossom from late April. For small garden spaces, choose one grown on a small rootstock to reduce the need for drastic pruning later on.
If you have a small garden, patio or terrace then container growing could be for you.Our gardeners have come up with the following tips to help you make the most out of container growing.
- Plants in containers are a bit like pets – they need regular care and attention, especially feeding and watering and a helpful neighbour to take care of them when you’re away.
- Spring bulbs are great for growing in containers because they can be replanted each year with complementary colours.
- Herbs such as parsley, basil and thyme can be placed near the kitchen door for easy access.
- Perennials and even small shrubs and trees can be grown in containers, but species choice is important so make sure you do your research before you buy.
- Using the right soil or compost for container plants is important.This varies depending on the type of plant but most perennials thrive in a peat-free compost mixed with grit or sand to improve drainage.
What insects other than bees pollinate flowers?
The UK has at least 1500 species of insect pollinators, including bumble bees, solitary bees, hoverflies, wasps, flies, beetles, butterflies and moths.
How many different bees are there?
There are around 270 types of bee in Britain. Among them are 24 species of bumble bee, including red tailed, common carder, white tailed, buffed tailed, garden and tree bees. The white-tailed bee likes to live in old rodent holes, while tree bees often set up home in bird boxes.
What else can I do to help pollinators?
Grow more flowers, shrubs and trees that provide pollen and nectar. Leave patches of land to grow wild, avoid disturbing nests and use less pesticides.