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The Gardening Coach: April

PUBLISHED: 13:52 14 April 2015 | UPDATED: 13:52 14 April 2015

Clematis come in shades of dusky blue, pink, white and even deep purple

Clematis come in shades of dusky blue, pink, white and even deep purple

Archant

RHS award-winning garden designer Judy Shardlow gives her top tips for April

In April it’s not just bluebells that provide a splash of life-enhancing colour. Early-flowering clematis alpina and clematis macropetala also burst on the scene with their delicate ‘ballerina skirt’ petals, which come in shades of dusky blue, pink white and even deep purple (clematis macropetala Purple Spider). Clematis alpina has four petals and the macropetala has, as the name says, many petals.

Whatever your preference, both species are an asset in any garden. These ethereal-looking beauties have a touch of fairyland about them, with pointy downward-looking petals that create a sea of spring colour in April and May, followed by pretty fluffy seed-heads. Their delicate beauty belies a tough constitution. They come from mountainous areas of Europe and Asia, so windy, cool conditions and a shady spot will not faze them. What they do need is moist well drained alkaline soil. So if you garden on heavy clay soil, horticultural grit added to the planting soil is essential to ensure that roots do not sit in cold wet clay through the winter months.

A gentle hand with pruning is also important, a bit of light shaping and tidying after spring flowering will keep them in good shape.

April gardening tips

Sow something new, like Rudbeckia hirta Cherry Brandy. Sow indoors now. It’s half-hardy and will flower all summer until the first frosts. It loves a hot dry summer in full sun and is great for bees.

Sow salads outdoors. Salads leaves are easy to grow outdoors and taste great. Look for ‘speedy mixes’ which are ready to eat within 25 days of sowing.

Feed lawns with a slow-release organic fertiliser high in nitrogen and tackle any thin patches by over-sowing with grass seed mixed with good quality compost.

Clean paths, paving and decking, which can all dirty and slimy over the winter months. Treat with a paving or decking cleaner than will kill algae and then scrub or pressure-wash clean.

Know your onions. Try planting sets of the attractive shallot ‘Vigarmor’. It produces firm, delicious bulbs with a pink flesh which can be stored for up to six months.

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