Hannah Genders

Spring Isolation Gardening

You can’t stop spring from coming!

There is something very comforting about the rhythm of nature and her seasons when we are living through such uncertain times. Night follows day, spring follows winter. I was reminded of a spring at the Chelsea Flower show several years ago now when I was doing a garden there, one of the large gardens on main avenue, being built by Adrian Dowle, had numerous irises in the design. It was a very warm spring and the team were desperate to stop the irises flowering too early so they wrapped the flower buds in cling film, really tightly, but to no use, the power of the spring pushing forwards meant nothing could stop those irises opening too early for the show!  Spring wouldn’t be controlled.

I was in my garden at the weekend and with this warm weather all the spring flowering plants are in full bloom. Pulmonaria and primulas are now out fully, and the bees are loving it. As I took photos and enjoyed the sunshine, I am aware of how lucky we are to have a garden to go into. At a time when many of us are in isolation, for a few weeks or several months, here are some ideas of things to be getting on with in your garden.

Planting up pots

I know some garden centres and nurseries are delivering, but one idea is to plant up your pots this year with edibles. I’ve planted up some pots with the red flowered broad bean, it’s a very attractive plant and you’ll be picking the beans in June. Put in some pea sticks to hold the plants as they grow and add some well-rotted home-made compost on the top. Remember to use a peat free compost, we still need to be mindful of saving the planet and more of us need to use and order peat free compost to get the nurseries to stock it.

  Herbs and salad crops also grow well in pots, the mixed salad leaves that you plant as seed and cut off every time you need them are ideal. Like the bag of mixed salad from the supermarket, but without the bag and fresh from your garden. Chard comes in many colours and is an attractive plant and I love to cook with spinach, so the perpetual spinach is also a good one to consider growing.

If you want flowers instead of edibles, try and order plants that can be re-used in the garden, bulbs are an obvious choice, but also primulas, ajugas and most perennial’s, will give you a good summer display, after which they can be planted out in the garden in the autumn. Or do this in reverse if you can’t get the plants you want, dig up some perennials from your border, split them and plant some into pots and enjoy the flowers on the patio where you sit.


There are a number of early flowering shrubs and climbers that can be pruned this month. Forsythia is an obvious one, just as the bright yellow flowers have faded this is the time to prune. On a mature shrub, cut at least one-third of the oldest, thickest branches close to the ground. If you’ve let a plant completely go and want to do a rejuvenating prune, cut the plant hard to the around 10cm from ground level. You’ll get no flowers next year but in two years you’ll have a whole new plant.

The evergreen clematis, Clematis armandii likes to be pruned after it has finished flowering this month. The stems that have flowered can now be cut back by around 50cm. If there is any dead or diseased wood, cut out these stems completely.

Tidying up

With all this time on our hands, here is just one plea, don’t tidy up your garden too much. Most wildlife likes a messy corner with a few rotting leaves and wood piles and the best way to ensure your soil stays healthy is to mulch the bare soil with well-rotted compost, manure or soil improver.

Happy gardening and stay safe.  

Hannah Genders, April 2020