Geoff Moss

Taming the Jungle | Gardening with Geoff Moss

by Geoff Moss

Gardener’s Diary with Geoff Moss
“The only moss you want in the garden”

We can now look forward to the coming of summer and hopefully some warm sunny weather. While we are enjoying some wishful thinking we mustn’t miss the fantastic show at this time of year of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, which is just one of the many enjoyments of this time of year. However, I have provided this example for a reason which is that we should be careful to enjoy what we create in our gardens but at the same time be mindful of the many tasks surrounding this time of year. So let’s get going!

Geoff MossOne of the most important tasks at this time of year is to ensure that the garden doesn’t get out of control because like us, the plants are enjoying the warmer temperatures (even if there is a late frost or snow fall the overall air temperature will be warming) and beginning to put all their energy into flourishing over the summer months, so we as gardeners need to keep an eye on this surge of growth and manage it accordingly to prevent it getting out of control and ending up with the dreaded ‘jungle.’

There are a few tasks related to this theme such as dividing herbaceous perennials, pruning plants that are grown for their foliage, weeding the borders, preparing supports for tall growing plants; with many more besides. The idea is that using our management lists we can ‘get ahead of the game’ so to speak by carrying out tasks early on in the growth time to prevent any one area of the garden from getting out of hand. This can be done by observing the different areas of the garden and looking at the borders particularly to spot overgrown plants, clumps of perennials which are getting too large, identifying the types of weeds appearing or already in residence, understanding how quickly different plants grow and when the plants in the garden flower. Once this is done, we can get to work on the areas which are most of a problem.

If a perennial clump is too big it is easy to see at this time as the growth has only just started so we can get to work on dividing the clump to reduce it down but also produce more clumps that can be used in other areas of the garden or given to friends. The plants that are overgrown can be cut back to a shape that is manageable provided they don’t flower after the time you want to prune them, if they do, simply prune after flowering (make a note on our ongoing list). Any weeds that are well established should have time spent on them to be cleared out as weed seeds can be removed much more quickly when there is perhaps less time to spend on weeding.

Geoff MossKnowing how the plants in your garden grow and flower is key to managing your garden as you can prune them when they are getting out of hand but at a time after they have flowered or that is appropriate to the plant and you can control them with supports or ties before they grow too fast and get out of hand.

We can now take time to have a look at the monthly tasks that are looming as we move through the season, so here are the top tips for these two months:

Jobs to do April/May
• Lift and divide large clumps of herbaceous perennials
• Plant up patio containers and hanging baskets
• Begin seasonal tasks e.g. staking, feeding, trimming and watering
• Keep an eye on any weed seedlings making an appearance and remove them as soon as possible.

Next we can have a look at another important part of gardening which is to take an overall view of the garden and carry out projects that may require doing at this time of year to make the most of the garden in the summer months. To do this, we need to look mainly at the border areas of the garden and we can use our lists that we developed in the back end of summer last year, although it is the ‘project’ part of the list we need to be looking at.

Last time we looked at moving plants around for a better position or to improve the look of the borders and this was mainly shrubs and sometimes perennials, as late winter is a good time to move shrubs, so let’s build on that and now that we have the shrubs or ‘structure’ plants in the right place let’s focus on the perennials, bulbs and small shrubs or ‘infill’ plants to make sure they are giving the best effect for the border.

This is a great time to lift and divide perennials (e.g. hostas, geraniums, cornflower, lamb’s ears, golden rod, marguerites, etc) that have outgrown their space or are big enough to make two or more clumps which increases the plants in the garden for free, so start with the perennials in the border areas and sort those out first then take a look at the bulbs in the border. Depending on the type of bulbs they may be in flower, dying down, starting to grow or not visible, so if you’re not confident in lifting and dividing without damaging the flowers just make a note of those that have larger clumps. Likewise if they are not visible or are just shooting through.

Geoff Moss

The easiest bulbs to lift and divide are those that are fully grown but not in flower or are dying down after flowering, so start with them if you are a beginner and move on to other clumps as you gain confidence. Once we have moved or planted the smaller clumps of bulbs and perennials, we can then look at the smaller shrubs e.g. lavender, azaleas, some viburnums, potentilla, sweet box etc, which at this point may or may not need moving. If these smaller shrubs need moving they usually have smaller root balls and so are easy to lift. Simply use the same method as for larger shrubs. If the shrub is in a place that it is looking crowded or doesn’t like the position then try moving it to a new position. If the shrub is left in a good space once the other plants have been moved, then leave it where it is and see if it flourishes.

Before we finish, we can look at the easier part of gardening which is getting out and about to gain inspiration and ideas. One of the best places to go at this time of year are parks and public gardens especially if you have children or grandchildren, so go out and enjoy the fresh air but take in the different ideas to be had at these parks and gardens. They can have some of the best bedding displays going, but at the same time they can provide other ways of tackling  borders and planted areas particularly as maintenance can be an issue.

Geoff Moss

Now we have come to the end of our first 12 months together and how it has flown by! Over the next 12 months I am going to explore the possibilities of projects in the garden, so stay with me and enjoy the ride! Happy gardening and don’t forget the other ways to find me:

Listen to Geoff on BBC Radio Lancashire, Gardening and Outdoors Show, Sundays 11am-2pm (usually 3rd or 4th Sunday between 1pm and 2pm) Shackleton’s Home and Garden, Clitheroe Road, Chatburn (usually 2nd Sunday) Look out for my sign written van – Garden Visions.