Action for April Borders
Reshape silver-leafed shrubs such as lavender, curry plant and cotton lavender.
Trim off 2.5-5cm of growth – use shears if you have lots of plants. This helps plants retain a good shape, and prevents the middle from opening up. Don’t cut into old wood.
Keep flowering currant, forsythia, Kerria japonica and winter jasmine neat by pruning them after flowering. Cut back a third of the oldest stems to just above ground level. If the plant's too big, shorten flowered stems to just above a strong side-shoot.
Cut off dead hydrangea flowers
Shorten thin or old shoots of mophead and lacecaps (H. macrophylla) to their lowest bud. To get larger flowers on H. paniculata, cut main branches to within two buds of their base.
Cut back lavatera hard
Lavatera benefits from cutting back hard in April. Cut all last year’s shoots back to the base of the plant; new shoots will soon appear which will carry this summer’s flowers.
Deadhead spring-flowering plants
Do this as soon as the flowers fade but let daffodil leaves die off naturally. Don’t cut them down or tie them up when flowering is over – when they turn brown, they should pull away easily.
Check roses for suckers
Tear off (don’t cut) shoots growing from below the point where the variety is grafted onto the rootstock to prevent weakening of the plant.
Keep a lookout for self-sown plants
Aquilegia, alchemilla, foxgloves, primroses and bronze fennel tend to pop up everywhere. Move them to where you’d like them to grow, or, if you have too many, pot them up and give them to friends and neighbours.
Also look for self-sown tree seedlings, especially native trees such as hawthorn, blackthorn and spindle – these can be transplanted and made into a native hedge that will help create a habitat for wildlife.
Continue to rejuvenate clumps of perennials and grasses
Established plants can become congested which will make them flower poorly. To prevent this:
Lift them and divide the clump, discarding any old growth and dead material.
Replant the healthy sections in well-prepared soil.
Either chop the clump with a spade or cut it with a garden knife or old kitchen knife.
Plant out hardy annuals raised under cover
Plant them in drifts or shapes. They will flower earlier than seeds sown now. Plant out sweet peas sown in autumn and tie them in to supports.
Top five weeds to look out for now
Weeds will be growing faster as the weather warms up. The following weeds are worth dealing with now, before they take hold:
- hairy bittercress
- creeping yellow cress.
Weed borders little and often, and hoe weed seedlings on dry, sunny days so that they shrivel and die and don’t re-root. For problem weeds such as couch grass, you’ll have to dig down with a trowel or hand fork and follow their spreading roots, teasing out as much as you can.