Growbag Blog

How ambitious are your garden plans?


Our gardens are like empty stages at this time of winter, poised, ready to be shaped by your plans for the coming year. Regrettably my two sisters often show a lack of ambition in this respect: Caroline’s prepping for spring will likely stretch as far as flicking through the ‘Crocus’ catalogue and ordering their ‘yellow collection’. Elaine will still be scrubbing the names off old plant labels and making lists.

What they both should be doing is rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck into some new high leverage infrastructure tasks.

I’m a great believer in taking on a new project each year and this spring it’s gonna be a dry stone wall. My raw material was delivered back in the summer (see our feature picture above) and now finally there’s time to get on with the job. I’ve watched a couple of YouTube videos – how hard can it be?

The first job (apparently) is to sort the stone into base slabs, walling slabs, through stones, corner stones and fillers.

Done. Now we have to dig out a shallow trench where the wall is to go…..

We’re hoping that we’ll encourage a community of the little native lizard to bask on our sunny stone wall this summer. But I also wanted to provide more habitat for a different more shading loving reptile, the slow worm. Happily Storm Ciara provided just the opportunity when she felled a rotten oak into our front garden last weekend.

Luckily the old boy is still quite handy with a chain saw…..

A little bit of stacking has provided a wonderful log habitat which will rot down and keep our insectivorous herptiles and garden birds supplied with food for years.

Turn a negative into a positive with wind blown trees

Honestly, Laura really should have been a civil engineer, shouldn’t she. Drawing up complicated plans and macro-projects for the garden, and have you noticed that although the Royal ‘we’ is referred to there is very little evidence of anyone but her long-suffering husband Tim doing any of the actual work? No in my book all you really need to do to your garden at this time of the year is to put more plants in it……Let me help you out here……..

Viticella and texensis clematis. This is the perfect time to plant (or move) clematis. They are such wonderful plants – generous with their flowers, kaleidoscopic in their colours, vast in their range of forms and flowering times….oh yes, I really like clematis.

The only slightly dodgy thing about them is the whole ‘when to prune’ rigmarole: Group 1, Group 2, Group 3 etc. In a nutshell, if your clematis says that it’s a Group 1, it needs very little attention beyond a little tidying-up, actually; ‘If it flowers before June, don’t prune’ just about covers it in fact. Group 2s are fussier – light pruning in spring and cutting back after flowering to get more blooms…..all a bit more of a worry about whether you’ve got it right.

But the Group 3s are EASY – all the lovely viticella and texensis varieties simply need the whole kit-and-caboodle chopped down to 18″ in late February/early March. I grow lots of them and don’t even bother to cut above green shoots on the bundle of old stems. I just grab and hack through the lot. Boost the roots with some fertiliser, and if snails and slugs are a problem among the new shoots, surround the plant with sharp grit or Sluggone mats.

Clematis ‘Polish Spirit’ – a fabulous Group 3 that is a piece of cake to care for……

Taylors Clematis have lists and lists of fabulous varieties. I’ve just ordered two more from them, ‘Maria Cornelia’ (white) and ‘Etoile Rose’ (pink) and received them in perfect condition the very next day – impressive! As long as I plant them with the rootball at least 4″ below the soil surface and keep them well-watered, I know they will strut their stuff as gorgeously as all the others (AND…. Taylor’s Clematis agreed to give our subscribers a special offer this week – did you spot it in your email this morning?)

Veg. I was recently upset to discover the number the pesticides we eat on our shop-bought fruit and veg. Purportedly harmless but we’re eating chemicals we know nothing about. So make this the year when you DO grow something to eat, even if you’ve never done it before.

Only got one pot? You can use it for potatoes, or carrots, or tomatoes, or almost anything. Micro-greens in modules indoors, pea-shoots in a piece of drainpipe, beans up a little bit of trellis……….loads of possibilities.

Only got a small pot ? – grow some peas in it!

Resolve that you will eat at least one thing this summer that you grew yourself, and that you know to be completely untouched by chemical nasties – it will taste like the sweetest nectar to you, for both reasons.

I have a feeling that Caroline has some rather more frivolous suggestions for your summer pots, in keeping with her frothier approach to horticulture…….


Yes like Mole sensing the arrival of spring and digging up to the surface, so I sniff the air around now and think – ‘I must go to Dobbies’.

It’s because I’m metropolitan and dynamic; I have a busy social life, just like you I imagine. For us, preparing for spring doesn’t involve the domestic equivalent of HS2 or nerdily obsessing about clematis (although that Taylor’s discount offer is very tempting).

No, we keep our gardens up to date by seasonally adjusting the contents of our pots.

People with a life have proportionate plans for Spring ……

Out go the berried skimmia and ornamental cabbage and in go the brightly coloured primroses, sage and tete-a-tete daffs. Google ‘Bob Purnell’ for some great ideas on container planting but I do hope you’re not waiting for your ‘bulb lasagne’ to emerge. Been there, done that. What a mess.

NB Who wouldn’t want a pot of Louise’s Great Plant this Month on their doorstep? Stunning!

More NB If you’d like a bit more gardening chit-chat from the3growbags, just enter your email address in here

By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

3 replies on “How ambitious are your garden plans?”

Hi Sue, Elaine here. I think basically the answer is nothing. Skimmias grow very well in pots of fairly acidic compost in shade or semi-shade. If it has berries then it must be a female plant. They are generally pretty easy to care for, and they can be very long-lived if they are happy. I think your plant would appreciate some ericaceous feed over the summer – otherwise, just enjoy your lovely gift!

It was Audrey Hepburn who said “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow” although I’m sure she looked a lot more elegant than I do when gardening! I’m feeling sorry for myself kept in by the bad weather, although I have sustained no damage or flooding, so I will look through the box which serves as mu mood board and get planning. I always enjoy reading your blog which inspires and motivates me.

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