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Gardener's Diary            May

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 fifth edition  - May 2003

April brought us a mixed bag weatherwise.. It seemed to be continually blowing hot and cold, which was hard on the seedlings in the greenhouse that had to endure extremes of temperature. But they are thriving and I do make sure they have a good through draught during the day if the weather is hot and are covered with horticultural fleece at night if a frost is expected. 

Each year I try to choose something new for the garden and this year I have taken a fancy to some of the new lavenders, having looked at the catalogue from ... I had not realised there are about 150 varieties. I am particularly taken with the butterfly lavenders and the pale pink and white varieties which seem so delicate, and the scent of course is heavenly.. Lavenders are becoming very fashionable again. 

I have made a stand this year and decided not to do hanging baskets.. As I am striving for a maintenance free garden I cannot see the point of tying myself down to twice-daily watering.. Retired people can plan their days as they wish therefore it does seem rather perverse to tie oneself to the house or ask neighbours to do the watering if one is not there. I know I shall feel guilty and the house will look a little naked, but I am sure I can live with that! I shall let you know if my resolve weakens..

Your gardening queries are coming in on a regular basis and will be published on a separate page so readers will have the benefit of some solutions to common problems. See below:

Some of your recent gardening queries


Jobs for the month - May

Bedding Plants

With our fickle British weather, it really is best not to put your bedding plants out in the garden until the end of May, in case of late frosts. Make sure they have been pricked out into containers that are large enough to allow their roots to continue to grow without getting rootbound. If this is allowed to happen your plants will never be any good. Make sure they are hardened off outdoors, either in a cold frame or just in the open air, but do keep an eye on the weather forecast and any pets who may decide to play in the compost.. Make sure the plants are kept well watered and have support if they are climbers. When it is time to put them out into the garden, give them a good soaking before planting and make sure they are well firmed in. Finally give them another another watering to get them started. If the ground is very dry you will need to continue watering the plants until it can be seen that they are growing away on their own. Some bedding plants will need more water than others so check instructions. It is usually pretty obvious however, if a plant is not happy.. 

Hanging baskets and tubs

Planting up can begin at the start of May as long as you have a place to keep the baskets and tubs that remains frost free.. Ensure that all the containers to be used are clean and in good condition. Part fill big containers with broken crocks or polystyrene, which saves on compost and makes the container lighter to move around. Line baskets with one of the many liners available at garden centres and supermarkets, or just use tough black plastic bin liners cut out to the required shape; the flowers will soon hide it. Mix a good quality potting compost with a slow release fertiliser and water retentive gel granules. These gel granules will swell in size when wet, so don`t overfill the containers as I did one year, resulting in a mass of slimy substance oozing over the edges of the containers! Having filled your baskets and containers with plants and given them a good watering, they can be left outside in a sheltered spot, out of strong wind, until the end of May when they can be put in their permanent places. But do take care to bring them inside or cover them if a frost is forecast. It is such a shame to lose plants after so much hard work.  



Continue raking out the dead stuff and moss, either with a lawn rake or an electric scarifier.  `Weed and feed`can be used from April until September in case you have missed out applying it.. It is not too late to have your lawn mower serviced, which will give you better results and of course you will have the satisfaction of knowing it is safe..




There seem to be lots of casualties in the bird kingdom this year as the weather has been so dry and worms, grubs or aphids are in short supply, which is not good for the birds trying to feed their young. Last month I recommended that you stop feeding the birds at this time of year, but I have to admit I am still putting food out rather than see the young birds die.


Ponds and water features


Clear the debris and moss from water features and change the water if necessary, taking care not to disturb any wildlife that has made it`s home there. Check the electrical system is safe. Make preparations for new aquatic plants in the pond,  taking care not to disturb any fish that may be getting ready to spawn. Remove any unwanted frog or toad spawn.  



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

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
RHS Flower Show at Tatton Park  - 23 - 27 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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