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The perfect plant

As a plantsman I often get asked to recommend the perfect plant. Now I know the conversation is going to be interesting when I am approached with the phrase ‘do you know anything about plants?’ This phrase is usually accompanied with a quizzical scowl, and completed with raised eyebrows.

“Now, we want it to flower for 12 months of the year, produce scent in winter (but not too heavy), be available in purple, blue and White, with a splash of pink around mother’s day. It must be evergreen, fast growing, tall enough to block out the view of the neighbour’s garage, but not large enough to block out light. It should be able to grow in our heavy clay soil, not require feeding and will never need pruning. It should absolutely not shed leaves onto my husband’s impeccably manicured lawn, and must be able to withstand rabbits, provide a home for birds and ladybirds, but not be susceptible to diseases or pests. The flowers should be self-deadheading, and should provide sweet nectar for bees, but not wasps. Oh, and it must be 2 metres tall when planted, and not be expensive. Can you recommend a few?’

This could be April fool, but it’s not: it’s a common request. They want me to give them a long Latin name (the plant, not the enquirer!) but it doesn’t exist, and I’m rather glad. Plants are like friends, they all have different personalities, different requirements and different strengths and weaknesses but it’s that very variety which makes gardening (and friendship) so rewarding.

April is a very busy month for most people in the garden, and one of my favourites. The clocks have changed, the days are longer and warmer and plant growth is rapid. There are still some major tasks which can be completed at this time of year, such as cutting back evergreens. Cut back hard, feed and the plant will regenerate over the next few years.

If you didn’t feed your plants last month, now is the time to do it. If you are an organic gardener, a handful of chicken manure pellets or blood, fish and bone, are great tonics for your plants. It’s also the time when potatoes can be planted.

Some years ago, a very helpful guy at our local garden centre demystified the whole potato planting schedule for me and in essence all potatoes are planted right now- traditionally Easter Sunday I think. The first earlies, second earlies and main crop tubers are planted together, it’s just that they are harvested at different times. The instructions on the packs are usually pretty clear.

Other jobs to do this month include:

  • Deadhead faded flowers from bulbs
  • After flowering, prune back forsythia shrubs
  • Prune Buddleia and Lavatera and hardy Fuchsias

Happy Gardening