If you are about to design a new garden, a new bed, or just thinking of filling in some gaps when winter ends, here are a few useful tips.

Cover v smother

If you have bare earth between shrubs and would rather it wasn’t all dandelions, the idea of ground-cover plants seems a good one.
Which it may be, if you don’t mind something amazingly invasive that you have paid for, rather than something horribly invasive you haven’t.
Muehlenbeckia complexa, for instance, forms a tight mat across the ground, and over anything that gets in its path, like your shrubs. You can see it in the foreground of the ‘featured image’ at the top of this post.

Does it bite?

berberis
Berberis is lovely, from a safe distance

A plant like berberis will keep out intruders, and has attractive flowers in spring. Try and prune it, pick up wind-blown litter beneath it, or go anywhere near it without a suit of armour on, and you’ll be saying ‘ouch’. See also holly, pyracantha….

Love me tender

Plants labelled ‘suitable for a conservatory’ are probably suitable for a conservatory. Growing a fruit tree on your bathroom window sill probably isn’t a good substitute.

It’s so tempting to buy the plants you want to grow, rather than the ones perfectly suited to the climate of your little patch. Taking a chance on ‘may need protection in winter’ can mean rushing around frantically in fast-fading light on an autumn afternoon, with yards of fleece and wire and stakes, because you’ve heard there’s going to be the first really bad frost that night.

Your garden will then look weird until the end of April.

garden fleece
Fleece adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the appearance of the garden in winter

Seeds law

Sow 12 seeds to get 12 plants, and you will likely end up with none. Or, with three seedlings that won’t make it to maturity. Sow 100 seeds to get 12 plants, and you will end up with 100 thriving plants.
My rule of thumb is to sow three seeds for every plant I hope to end up with. Or, plant 100 and prepare to give lots to friends.

The grass is always greener

I love bluebells and have planted lots of responsibly sourced, native bluebells in my front garden.

Last April, I admired drifts of bluebells thriving and flowering… in neighbours’ gardens, on verges, on pavements… While by the start of May, I could count the flowers in my garden on my fingers and only taking one sock off.

bluebells
Bluebells growing on the pavement (sidewalk) outside someone’s house

My advice on this one: shrug it off and enjoy what does work on your plot.

You can find more tips here and here.

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