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Gardener's Diary                   April

Gardener`s Diary is a regular feature of run by Rosemary Martin, who is semi retired.  She says anyone can enjoy gardening whether they have a large or small garden, can`t tell a dandelion from a daisy, or are aged 9 or 90… Here you will be able to see what jobs you should be doing in the garden month by month, get ideas for spectacular seasonal planting schemes, read previews on new plants and products, find out where to buy them, and get up-to-date news of forthcoming events and places to visit. 

For those of you that have never dabbled in the "black art" of gardening you will first need to get some basic knowledge from a good gardening book. You will find some within this article as examples...


But first an introduction from Rosemary...

I have been gardening now for about thirty years, long enough for my husband to know that it`s wise to bury his head in a newspaper when I get the secateurs out...  I don`t have a favourite style of gardening, traditional is nice but I also think the modern trends work well. Plants in my garden have to be resilient as they get moved around frequently, and my husband has been heard  to mutter  “I don`t remember that tree being there this morning..”

Hobbies have come and gone over the years but only gardening has endured, and now in retirement this column adds a new dimension to the hobby, and will hopefully help others find pleasure in this healthy and therapeutic pastime  ...  

Please e-mail me with your garden problems, comments, or ideas for this section of  laterlife.  Click here for previous editions of Gardener`s Diary..



Twenty fourth edition  - April 2003

How good it feels to be able to get out in the warm sunshine once more and work in the garden without being cluttered up with layers of clothes. March gave us some wonderfully warm Spring days and the gardens are looking very fresh and colourful. Of course there is a danger of quite severe night frosts, when shrubs such as Pieris Japonica that have produced tender new shoots will need night protection, but the bright sunny days more than compensate for that.

This is a time of year to lift and divide perennials that have become crowded or weak, which not only rejuvenates the plant itself but increases your stock. I have just increased my stock of wild mauve primulas, and from three parent plants I now have 30 babies which will in turn spread. Another trick is to layer a few stems of different shrubs whilst still attached to the parent plant. Using this method I have just gained several each of Winter flowering Jasmine, forsythia, dogwood and penstemon that all rooted over winter. It is a nice feeling to have `won` something...


Jobs for the month - April

Garden furniture - (I shall leave this section here for another month)

garden-march03.gif (17773 bytes)Give wooden furniture a coat of paint to freshen it up. I love the job so much that I tend to get carried away and will paint almost anything in sight! (see the summerhouse on the left.) I find that heavy terracotta pots are too heavy for me to lift, so I buy the cheap plastic ones and paint them with the same paint. My favourite tubs cost 1.99 and are filled with Japanese grass, which comes up year after year. (See picture on the left and notice the painted trellis too!) 


Bedding Plants

Now is a good time to start sowing your seeds for a good display of summer bedding plants. When I was younger and more impatient than I am now, I used to start sowing seeds in January. It wasn`t worth it at all, as the seedlings always became very leggy due to lack of daylight and damped off in the cold and moist air. Nowadays I sow seeds in April which produces healthy young plants that romp away and are far superior to my earlier efforts. Although I save a lot of my own seed from the garden I still enjoy growing a few new varieties each year. Last year I grew Verbena Bonariensis and Cleomes for the first time ever and was delighted with both varieties. I also managed to save seed from both types for this year..

Make sure unused potting compost from last year is discarded onto borders or the compost heap and your fresh supply is at room temperature before sowing seeds. Seed trays and pots should be washed and sowing instructions on the seed packets carefully followed, as all seeds have different cultural requirements. After sowing seeds and watering them if required, place the trays in clear polythene bags to keep them warm and humid. I find that freezer bags are ideal and can be labelled too. I`m sometimes a little impatient and put seed trays in the warmth of the airing cupboard to hurry them along, but a conservatory, greenhouse or warm window sill will do as well. Keep an eye on the weather and cover the seed trays with newspaper or horticultural fleece if a frost is expected. Once the seeds have reached managable size, and before they get root bound or a tangled mass, prick them out into bigger pots or plugs, taking care not to damage the roots. Keep young plants watered, warm and fed, much like children, and if treated with care will quickly grow strong and healthy. 



Continue raking out the dead stuff and moss, either with a lawn rake or an electric scarifier. If you have suffered with lawn subsidence and have a few bumps or hollows, now is the time to repair them, before the seasons growth starts. Cut out the square of lawn surrounding the part to be repaired, then either level off a mound or fill in the hollow with soil, finally replacing the turf and watering it in. Apply `Weed and feed` this month for a super, strong lawn, but take care to follow instructions meticulously if you have pets.


Herbaceous and shrub borders

Continue weeding, pruning and tidying up any straggly or frost-blackened shrubs and rake over the compost to give it a fresher look. If there are any perennials starting to come up, such as Delphiniums or Phlox, you could put supports in place now, so they can start to grow through them. I use the metal ones that can be raised higher as the plants grow. I have also placed little wigwams of canes tied at the top over new shoots coming through, so my dogs don`t mow them down. Take care not to disturb any seedlings that may have self-sown from last year. Any that are in the way may be potted up, or moved.

Trees and shrubs

Most trees and shrubs have started into growth now and the blossom is glorious. Watch out for an early invasion of aphids in a warm spell. They will very quickly inhabit tender new shoots of shrubs, but be very careful not to kill off any ladybirds if you are using a spray to eliminate them. I have a couple of shrubs that regularly have the tips eaten by tiny aphids, but they do regenerate if left untreated



The birds are so busy and noisy now and the blackbirds are busy turfing out the soil looking for worms - what a mess they make..  I usually stop feeding the birds about now as there are usually plenty of bugs for them to feed on, which is healthier for them and their imminent young. Take care when clearing out your pond, that you don`t disturb any mating frogs or newly laid spawn.

Plug plants 

Garden centres and supermarkets have been selling trays of plug plants since the first week in February. April is still early to buy them but make sure they are potted up into bigger pots straight away, so the roots don`t get entwined and pot-bound. Keep them in as light a situation as you can, making sure, too that they have warmth, so they don`t dampen off. Have a look in magazines or newspapers for plug plant offers.. 


Some favourite RHS flower shows (Dates taken from their website) 

RHS Plant Roadshow at Bournemouth  -   11 - 13 April 2003
The Spring Gardening Show Malvern  - 9 - 11 May 2003
Hampton Court Palace Flower Show  -   8 - 13 July 2003
Charity Gala Preview of the
Hampton Court Palace Flower Show
 - 7 July 2003
Malvern Autumn Garden & Country Show  - 27 - 28 Sept 2003
RHS London Flower Shows  - Monthly
Wisley Shows  -
April, June and August

And some places to visit... Visit the Eden Project


The living theatre of plants and people
The Eden Project is a gateway into the world of plants and people. A meeting place for all to discover how we depend on plants and how we can help to manage and conserve them for our mutual survival.



Kew Gardens two locations:-

Tel: 020 8332 5655 (24 hr)
Fax: 020 8332 5197

Royal Botanic Gardens

Tel: 01444 894066 (24 hr)
Fax: 01444 894069

Royal Botanic Gardens
Wakehurst Place
Nr Haywards Heath
West Sussex
RH17 6TN


The National Botanic Gardens of Scotland comprise:

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Scotland's Premier Garden

Benmore Botanic Garden, Argyll
Argyll's Magnificent Mountainside Garden

Dawyck Botanic Garden, Borders
Wonderful Woodland Garden

Logan Botanic Garden, Galloway
Scotland's Most Exotic Garden

The National Botanic Garden of Wales

The star attraction here is the 91 metre long domed glasshouse, that houses landscapes normally found in the Mediterranean. This would be a super place to visit on a chilly day...




Keep the e-mails with your gardening problems coming

Have a look at previous editions of Gardener`s Diary



Some websites of interest to gardeners:- 


Alan Titchmarsh MBE, TV gardener, writer, broadcaster and thoroughly nice person. Just a few choice words to describe the peoples` favourite TV gardener. See his website....



Thompson and Morgan: 


A growing resource for gardeners worldwide. The site includes the international online seed catalogues, the young plants catalogue (UK only), the wholesale seeds catalogue, together with the award winning Germination Times and a host of other useful information.


Gardening is an important part of many people's lives. You don't have to give up gardening because of accident or illness, the onset of disability or the problems associated with growing older. The information on their website is designed to provide you with the information to Carry on Gardening.

Carry on Gardening was initiated by the horticultural charity Thrive and is funded by the National Lottery Charities Board.  It brings together information on easy ways of gardening gathered over 23 years by Thrive and research carried out since the early 1970s by Mary Marlborough Centre, Oxford, on tools and equipment for disabled and older people. 







Good reading:-


"The Yellow Book" contains information of all Gardens of England and Wales open for charity, and can be bought priced 5 from National Gardens Scheme

National Trust Gardens Handbook is 6.99 and the new edition is out in May  Telephone 01394 389 950 or see their website

RHS Garden Finder is 12.99 from Dorling Kindersley



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