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Spring is always an exciting time in the garden, there’s so much happening and the whole gardening year to look forward to Autumn plantings of spring bulbs such as Iris, Crocus and Daffodils should by now be beginning to stir, and there are few more welcome sights than the first flowers from these hardy staples of the spring garden.

Many of us leave the ‘skeletons’ of last year’s perennials in place through winter to allow beneficial insects like ladybirds to seek shelter. However, as the chance of frosts diminish, it’s a good time to start work tidying up last year’s displays ready for the new season, before you risk damaging fragile new growth doing so.


Weeding wisdom

One thing that never seems to stop growing are weeds! While some may argue that “there’s no such thing as a weed,” few of us would appreciate a border filled with ‘ephemeral’ weed species like hairy bitter-cress or broad-leaved willow herb, both specialists in colonising bare soil, flowering and setting seed whatever the time of year. They may have been laying low through the darkest, coldest days of winter but now days are lengthening they will leap back with a vengeance. Now is the best time to weed out all that you can and apply a suppressing mulch. Mulching will also help improve soil quality and give better water retention in hot, dry weather. Choice of mulch varies depending on situation; garden compost is great for greedy plants and for improving poor soils, leaf mould is wonderful at lightening heavy soils without boosting fertility and wood chip is a good choice under shrubs as it is long lasting and strips the nutrients from the surface soil layer, preventing weed growth in two ways.

Pruning tips for late winter

Late winter is a good time for pruning shrubs and climbers. Wisteria are a highlight of the May garden and February is a good time to tame what is a very vigorous plant. Tie in any new growth from last summer that you want to retain with soft string and cut back any extended ‘whippy’ growth you don’t, along with any dead material. Prune healthy growth to a couple of buds all over to promote good flowering this year.

Clematis are beginning to come back to life and while popular spring flowering species like Clematis montana only require pruning to keep them under control, summer flowering varieties such as Clematis viticella need pruning back to a pair of buds around 30cm above the ground to promote new flowering growth.

Hydrangeas are a particular highlight of the summer gardens here at Roseland Parc and late winter or early spring is the time to prune these. The classic ‘mop-head and lace-cap’ varieties flower mainly on last year’s growth, so be careful not to be too brutal. Reducing your plants into an open ‘goblet’ shape and removing any crossing or excessively woody old growth should promote strong new shoots and good flowering this year. Hydrangea paniculata varieties such as ‘Vanille Fraise’ and ‘Limelight’ have gained huge popularity in recent years for their striking but more subtle displays. These plants flower on this year’s growth so can be cut back hard to suit their site, or simply left until they become too big. Lots of small shoots with give lots of smaller flowers, while pruning to just a few will give you less, but far larger flowers – the choice is yours.


2024 is my seventh with Retirement Villages at Roseland Parc, and I’m proud of how the gardens have developed and extended during this time. Restoring the historic gardens and blending them with the new developments has been my main goal, and I hope we’re beginning to see the results of this work. We’ve improved accessibility for our residents, as well as providing a varied selection of garden styles so that there really should be something for everyone to enjoy. It’s clear that the gardens are a big attraction to our residents. While some don’t actively garden, they still get huge pleasure from walking or sitting in them, soaking up the colour and scent and enjoying the varied wildlife they attract. 

Blooms and benevolence

This spring I’m looking forward to once again competing in the RHS Camellia shows, where Roseland Parc pits itself against some of the ‘Great Gardens of Cornwall’, as well as King Charles himself in the form of the Crown Estate Windsor. We have over 100 Camellia varieties on site, so we certainly have plenty to choose from. In July we have our third open garden event which is a lovely way of sharing our gardens. Our residents are wonderful at helping, selling tickets, stewarding parking and most importantly baking and serving cakes and other refreshments. Last year we raised over £800 for the National Garden Scheme’s chosen charities, and we look forward to trying to better this total in 2024.


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