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To keep your ornamental borders in peak condition you have to make sure you are carrying out the right maintenance at the right time of the year. Doing so, your plants will remain healthy and vigorous and the more you work in your garden, the more you will understand how plants grow and how to help them to grow well.

Year-round Border Maintenance

Early spring

Plant autumn flowering bulbs. If the soil is not frozen or waterlogged you can cultivate new areas for planting. Prune foliage effect shrubs back to a framework and coppice or hard prune ornamental hazels every three years. Prune deciduous winter flowering Viburnum by removing up to a third of the old flowering wood. Prune stem color shrubs by hard pruning to within 20 cm of the ground. Prune Buddleja species and cultivars back hard to a framework between 20 cm and 1 m from the ground. Prune group 2 and 3 Clematis. Deadhead early flowering Mahonia by removing the flower spike back to the previous season’s growth. If the plant is overgrown you can cut it back hard by removing up to half of the growth. Cut back the spent flowering stems and foliage of perennials and grasses. You cold have done this in autumn but by leaving them until spring you offer food and shelter for mammals over the winter.

Mid spring

Divide overgrown clumps of perennials and grasses and replant or pot on. Erect support systems for tall growing perennials by using birch or hazel poles and twine but make sure you put these in place before any major growth take place in order to achieve a natural effect. Mulch borders with composted organic matter taking care not to mulch over the crowns of perennials. If you use chemicals in your garden then now is time to apply spray for blackspot and mildew on roses, before the leaf buds fully burst. Test your soil and apply the correct fertilizer if it needs one. After all risks of frost have passed you can start pruning: Caryopteris clandonensis cultivars and Ceratostigma willmottianum and plumbaginoides back to a framework but not into the previous season’s growth; Perovskia Blue Spire to within 20-30 cm from the ground; silver foliage effect Artemesia by trimming it lightly.

Late spring and early summer

Plant out hardy plants including perennials and shrubs and once the risk of late frost has passed you can also plant out annuals and half hardy perennials. Tie in the growing stems of climbers like clematis and climbing roses. Keep on top of weeding especially perennial weeds. If any frost is likely, protect the flower buds of wisteria with horticultural fleece. Monitor the new growth of shrubs and perennials for aphids and apply chemicals or wait for the natural predators to arrive, meanwhile you can rub them off using thumb and forefinger. After flowering prune group 1 clematis. Deadhead early flowering bulbs to prevent too much energy being expended on setting seeds, but leave the foliage to die back naturally. Remove the dead foliage of early and mid-season flowering bulbs and feed with a balanced fertilizer.

Mid to late summer

Collect ripened seeds from border plants for sowing. Increase the height of staking or plant supports to accommodate tall perennials as they develop. Clip box hedges. Prune early flowering deciduous shrubs after flowering, including forsythia and flagrant winter flowering Viburnum. Prune evergreen shrubs and begin trimming evergreen hedges and topiary. Prune mid-season deciduous shrubs like Philadelphus. Trim back the current season’s growth of English lavender before the flower buds form for the following season in late summer. Remove the spent flowers from French lavender as they go over. Deadhead Euphorbia. Deadhead early flowering perennials like Geranium and Nepeta, by cutting back hard then water well and apply a balanced liquid feed to encourage a second flush of flowers later in the season. Deadhead repeat flowering roses to ensure they continue flowering and remove leaves that are affected by blackspot.


Lift and divide perennials, replant existing plants that are not in their right position and plant spring flowering bulbs and perennials, grasses, shrubs or trees, particularly are root ones. Collect late ripening seeds for sowing. Check staking and trees ties on recently planted trees to be sure that they are not tight. Before soil become damp and cold apply the second mulch of the year. Reduce shrub roses and Buddleja by up to one third to reduce wind rock. Trim deciduous hedges that are not being grown for wildlife benefits, like the ones that produce berries and nuts. Prune wisteria.

Early to mid winter

Continue planting especially bare root trees and shrubs, until weather conditions allow it. Crown lift trees and shrubs. Begin pruning roses. Remove dead, damaged and diseased wood from woody plants.

Late winter

At this time of year you will still be able to plant bare root roses. Now is time to prune native hedges that have provided fruits or nuts for wildlife over the winter months. Continue pruning shrub, bush, climbing and rambling roses. Tie in ramblers and climbers to a climbing support. Spur prune fruiting vines and foliage effect vines. Remove suckering growth from trees and shrubs such as Tilia cordata and Cornus mas. Remove the dead and diseased foliage from Helleborus orientalis and Helleborus x hybridus. Remove the old foliage from Epimedium cultivars to ensure the flowering stems show through. Harvest hazel and birch poles for use as border plant supports. Always ask permission from he land owner if you harvest these from the countryside.

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