Expert advice from top gardener Chris Beardshaw

If you saw garden designer and horticulturalist Chris Beardshaw present at the Chelsea Flower Show you’ll know he’s got wheelbarrow-fuls of insight on what makes a great-looking, productive garden. ACHICA Living catches up with Chris to find out how to get our gardens looking Eden-like this summer. Check out his savvy garden tips...

Make a colourful impact

Alliums have become the flagships of our borders and are often seen in many a Chelsea Flower Show garden. The architectural plants have clusters of many flowers atop a leafless stem that grow to 1.5m in height depending on the variety. Their umbels of stellar beauty make a marked and colourful impression while taking up minimal room among the borders. Try growing A ‘Gladiator’ for large spherical blooms or A. Christophii for short-stemmed explosions of colour.

Get a great harvest

Harvest your crops of salads and vegetables such as corguettes, peas, beans, and lettuces regularly - the more you harvest the more you get, so pick every few days and use up quickly.

Sow Basil, Rocket, Parsley, and Coriander every fortnight from now onwards to keep regular supplies of herbs this summer. You can also try sowing Borage and Nasturtium for their pretty flowers and, as they’re edible, they can be thrown into the salad bowl or used to decorate your summer dishes.

HOT TIP: They can be sown directly outside at this time of year but choose a warm, sunny position and make sure the ground is raked over and, if necessary, improved with grit for good drainage.

Grow beautiful looking beds every year

Now the danger of frosts has passed (in almost all parts of the country) it’s safe to head to the nursery or garden centre in search of bedding plants. These exotic species are usually treated as annuals due to their natural desire to inhabit warm and glamorous climes, but if you choose carefully, you won’t need to buy new plants every year. Choose:

Papaver croceum, the Iceland Poppy - usually grown as an annual it produces paper-like orange and yellow blooms on plants that, if left in the ground, will last for several years in addition to producing a generous supply of seed.

Rhodanthemum hosmariense – this may be more at home in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, but given a well-drained soil and plenty of sun it will over-winter in all but the coldest of UK gardens. It will provide a mat of ferny silver leaves and clear daisy blooms almost throughout the year.

Swan River Daisy, Brachyscome angustifolia – this is an ideal for growing through gravel paths, paving and in wall cracks and crevices in a sheltered sunny garden. It produces a matt of basal foliage above where soft-toned blue or pink daisy blooms are held.

Protect garden berries

If you’re growing soft fruits such as currants, gooseberries, raspberries and strawberries take precautions - net and protect from birds who can be known to take the entire harvest before the fruits have even ripened.

Encourage bats!

These little creatures are very helpful to the gardener as they eat midges and other insects that can often spoil summer evenings in the garden. Give them a helping hand by putting up a bat box on a sunny wall, close to hedgerows, woodlands or ponds. Be patient as it can take the bats quite a while to find and use the boxes regularly.

Protect your roses

Be diligent in controlling pests this month. Aphid populations can explode rapidly, but can be treated with soap and pyrethrum based organic pesticides. These are best applied late in the evening as beneficial insects such as lacewings and bees tend not to be on the wing at this time and so avoid being hindered by the sprays.

Put your houseplants outside

Don’t forget the summer is a great time to give your houseplants a holiday outside as they love the fresh air and soft rainfall to clean them – just keep them out of direct sun in case it scorches their leave.

Chris Beardshaw is the author of How Does Your Garden Grow?, by Dorling Kindersley and has appeared on The Flying Gardener, Hidden Gardens and Great Garden Detectives. Chris is leading UK ambassador for the International Year of Biodiversity and will be running the London 10,000 run on 31st May on behalf of The Alzheimer’s Society.

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Emily Peck, Editor

View all posts by Emily Peck, Editor

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